the swedish invasion: round 2.

well, as i mentioned in yesterday’s post (the last nyc post), we made it back to asheville from the big city. all four of us. that’s right, lina’s brother, jonas, and cousin, peter, from sweden met us in new york and flew down from nyc the same day we flew back. so, we spent 4 days in nyc together, and now we had about 5 days in asheville together! this, of course, was now our second round of swedish visitors after lina’s mom and aunts were with us one week before. basically, lina and i are professional tour guides for the asheville area now. hehe.

well, what to do with jonas and peter was quite easy to figure out. they are both so laid back and relaxed – and they were excited to do whatever. so, here’s what we planned: good food. good beer (it just so happened to be beer week in asheville – a really, really big deal in beer city, usa). some nature time. some family & friends time with our family & friends here in asheville. a little shopping – souvenirs and stuff. and lots and lots of laughter and fun. i mean lots.

it pretty much was an amazing few days with the guys, and we did not want to see them go. i think we got them hooked on asheville – they even bought t-shirts that say “keep asheville weird” and beer paraphernalia to take back to sweden. i am certain they will be back as soon as they can, which makes lina and i very, very happy. because we dig those guys so much – love them to pieces.

it was super special to have them meet my brother, so the last photo touches my heart so much – me & my brother, and lina and her brother – and our brothers were born the same year, a few months apart.

well, that’s it for our swedish visitors until the end of july – we will be bringing lina’s cousin and our niece back from sweden = two teenage swedish girls in the usa! before then, though, we will see everyone again pretty soon, since as we leave for a month in sweden in just 4 weeks. woo hoo!! for now, though, here’s a look at the latest invasion of the swedes in asheville:

morning balcony highway 209 up max patch halfway max patch top max patch panorama max patch boys max patch panorama view max patch appalachian trail max patch us me max patch top view max patch downtown avl asheville the wedge avl beer week 2014 family home marshall train marshall siblings

amazing family = amazing moments. and how cool was it that we got to vacation in nyc together, travel to asheville together, spend time showing them around our home, and blend our families together?! gaaah. i am so blessed.

hug your family. peace & love. xx

nyc: the people of new york city (day 3)

“but i always felt free in [new york city]. i found safety in its enclosures. the city let me relax into being myself. being who i am in new york didn’t feel like an action i took – it just felt like living.”

– Melissa Febos in Goodbye to all that: Writers on loving and leaving New York

it may be true that i did not wake up at 5:30 am on the third day in nyc ready to hit the streets of nyc with the joy of a kid on her birthday. it may also be true that it was because i was quite tired from the previous day’s adventures all over manhattan. nevertheless, the excitement was still there, even if the energy level had waned a bit. and even though we didn’t leave the apartment at the crack of dawn, we still got moving pretty fast. this day we had a plan. ok, not so much of a plan, but an idea and some goals of places we wanted to see. the only thing we actually knew, though, was that we were going to meet jonas and peter (lina’s brother & cousin at 1pm in chinatown) and we are going to meet laura, a long-time blogging friend of mine who i’d never met face to face, at 7pm for dinner in west village. so, lunch and dinner were covered. now, what about breakfast?

lina and i decided we’d head south toward the financial district and just see what pops up along the way. it had worked wonders the day before. so, we strolled south down avenue c toward houston street. on the corner of avenue c and houston we noticed a little market. or, i actually thought of it more like a convenience store. but, we needed coffee – big time – so we went in to adinah’s farms.

we found the counter with the coffee stuff, and in slow-motion due to lack of caffeine, we filled our cups. i grabbed some cream to put in my coffee, then set it down, as lina was doing something else. in the meantime, a 20-something chick came in, clearly a very cool local, and did her thing: cup. ice from a cooler. coffee. cream. lid. time to pay. i think i stood their with my mouth gaping open, admiring her ease and flow at following her morning routine. here we were fumbling around with our coffee stuff, not wanting to look like tourists, but clearly looking like we didn’t know what we were doing, and she whizzed in and out. but, not before lina had an little encounter with her and the cream. a funny little misunderstanding, miscommunication, but once again, another new yorker who was just as kind as could be.

we grabbed two chocolate croissants (not exactly the same level as the day before at the cafe), but they’d do. paid at the front. then hit the streets of the city again, walking, talking, and sipping.

fruit stand lower east side coffee lower east side

just across houston street there was a cute little park, hamilton fish park, where we decided we’d have a little picnic breakfast. so, we grabbed a bench and enjoyed the morning. the parks are totally amazing throughout the city. of course, you can hear everything going on outside of the park, but for an instant it feels like you can breathe – no people rushing, just a moment of stillness and peace. little children and their teachers walked through the park as we way, waving hello to us – and lina and i reflected on what a different kind of childhood they have when compared to our childhoods in more suburban-ish areas.hamilton fish park lower east side

when we were good and ready, we picked up our coffee cups and walked toward the subway station that would take us to the site of the september 11 memorial and the freedom tower. as we emerged from underground onto fulton street, there was the tower right in front of us – easy to see even as we walked up the stairs. i had no idea what to expect around the site and on the ground. i don’t think i was even thinking about it, like i couldn’t wrap my mind around it all.fulton street subway

before we reached the tower and the memorial, we reach st. paul’s chapel, the oldest surviving church building in manhattan. which, in and of itself is amazing. but, when you arrive at the church, you see how incredible close it is to where the world trade center towers were, and i wondered how it is still standing. but, it is. and not only is it standing, but it was, and continues to be, a place of respite, care, and worship for any- and everyone who comes through its doors.

inside, it looks a bit like a museum, with chairs in the center to allow for worship services. but along the outer walls, exhibits and memorials have been placed to allow people to grieve, learn, and grow. it is powerful. very powerful.

right after 9/11, the church was a place that volunteers found a little bit of rest. it became a kind of center for volunteers to receive food, rest, and help. outside, on the iron fence, people left mementoes and photos of people who were lost. the graves outside are left over from the 1700 and 1800s, and clearly people are working to replace and repair headstones.

what a miraculous, amazing testament to time, humanity, and the spirit of love…st paul's chapel world trade center st paul's chapel sad st paul's chapel oklahoma sign st paul's chapel frontwe had to walk a couple of blocks to get to the 9/11 memorial, which is at the base of the freedom tower. it is free to walk up to it and gaze into the deep hole. it is also eerie and creepy and scary. i felt such a heaviness there, such a sense of loss. and the abyss in front of us… it made the sense of loss seem even more profound.
freedom tower memorial freedom tower water freedom tower memory

freedom tower

lina and i realized after standing in silence for a while, that we needed to make our way to chinatown for our lunch date. but, it felt weird to just turn and leave. still, we did it any way. time to move and and move forward…

we went back down into the subway and we knew which train to take. there were even signs directing us to the train we wanted, only they directed us down some stairs, then around, then up again, then down a hall, the down the stairs again, then up. it was ridiculous. we couldn’t find out train. dammit. we were tourists. a nice young woman saw our frustrated faces and asked if she could help. she tried. but she got confused as well.

now we were late for lunch. and the whole 9/11 memorial/church/tower thing had put us in a weird mood. and we were just wandering in the underground corridors. we gave up and decided to get out and hail a cab – no walking because we didn’t have time. and what do you know? there were no cabs in sight. at. all.

finally, after speed-walking a block or two, irritated, depressed, and hungry, we caught a cabbie’s eye and high-tailed it across the street to jump in the cab. i sat in the front – don’t ask me why and told the guy where we were going, the address and everything. whew. pro-status back (minus the sitting in the from crap. hehe.). we were let out in the middle of canal street in the middle of chinatown – and let me just say this: it was pure nyc chaos and craziness everywhere around us. not in a scary way, but in an exciting way.

we had finally removed ourselves from that depressing area around the memorial, survived our subway confusion, and made it to lunch – only to find out jonas and peter were running late too. haha! so, lina and i just sat and relaxed. talked some. reflected a little. and, you know it, people-watched.

after a while, it was time for some food. now, remember our street corner friend from yesterday who gave us lots of tips? well, this is that to-die-for vietnamese restaurant that he suggested, thai son. we went it, sat down, and ordered exactly what our new york businessman friend told us to order: spring rolls and cab canst street nyc canal street chinatown asian man nyc thai son me ego and lina chinatown spring rolls thai son jonas thai son DSlina thai sonC_0806

after our late lunch, it was time to wander again. no real plans, we just knew that we needed to be in west village at 7. so, we walked. and walked. and walked some more. first, we wandered through little italy. if i hadn’t just eaten, i would have sat down at one of those red and white checkered tables on the sidewalk and ordered a big bowl of pasta and a slice of pizza – and i’m not even a huge pasta fan. it just smelled and looked that damn good. music was coming from speakers everywhere, i heard people actually saying, “fuhgettaboudit”, and fire escapes were decorated with italian flags, flowers, and banners. it was a friendly, boisterous, over the top place – exactly how it should have been.little italy nyc little italy sign nyc fire escape me and jonas nyc

we left the working class neighborhoods and made our way to soho – the place where all the coolest people shop (i say that with a little bit of sarcasm). it is a cool place, but a bit more pricey with high end shops. however, lina and i do love some shopping, and while we don’t have any specific places we neeeeeed to shop, we have some favorites. we didn’t really do too much shopping, but walked through soho to feel the vibe and experience the area.

somehow we quickly made it back to the west village neighborhood and my funky soul did   a little dance. we found a bar that was opening up and snagged two little tables and four stools outside – the perfect place to drink beer and sip wine. i have no idea how long we were there, but it was just perfect. just spending time together was worth every second. but, the drinks came to an end and we decided to move on. after walking and exploring a few more blocks. we saw a little underground bar called bobo. they were advertising happy hour, we had an hour before dinner, so we felt it was a sign.

what a cozy place this was! dark, warm, inviting, and great prices for cocktails. after a little toast, we continued our conversations and laughs, enjoying each others’ company.
bobo bar ladybug cocktain at bobo west village

i had been excited about dinner all day, and it was finally time! many of you who have been readers of this blog for a while, know that i love blogging – and one of the things i love most about it is “meeting” people, creating new friendships, even just through the blog. i have had the pure joy of meeting another blogging buddy face to face earlier this year, and now i consider her family. but, with this trip to new york city, i was given another chance to meet another blogging buddy!

laura, the blogger at german-american abroad, and i have been reading and commenting and chatting with each other for about 3 years now, i believe. we have followed a lot of each others’ lives, so when i knew i’d be in nyc for a week, i let her know when – and we planned to meet up!

laura chose the restaurant for our meeting and brought along a friend – and, of course, i had my posse including my wife and brother- and cousin-in-law with me. so, it was gonna be a great dinner party!

we met at diablo royale, a mexican restaurant in west village. the atmosphere was so great – western, cozy, warm, and fun. and, of course, mexican is my favorite food. we sat down at the table and immediately starting chatting away – i love it when things just click like that. after getting some of the beginning chatting underway, it was time for food and drinks – laura and shubhra, laura’s friend, suggested that we try the diablo ricky – a mix of light mexican beer and margarita. sounds weird, but it was soooo yummy. so, food order received, drinks in hand, the rest of the dinner was just getting to know each other, laughing, chatting, and catching up.

at some point, i realized that my entire day had been focused on people – from the lost souls at the 9/11 memorial and st. paul’s chapel, to the ethic neighborhoods south of canal street, to hanging out with our swedish family all day, to meeting new friends and an old blogging buddy. the presence of relationships, the interactions that i shared with everyone from strangers to family members, these are the things that give spice to life. these relationships are what make full it color and meaning – and just spending time with each other, could there be anything better than that?!

diablo royale west village laura and me nachos diablo royale mexican food diablo royale guacamole diable royale girls at diablo west village devil antlers diable royale diablo royale outside

during dinner, shubhra and laura started giving us lots of insider tips and suggestions about what we should do on our last full day in new york – they suggested so many fun, off the wall, amazing things. one of them mentioned eating banana pudding at magnolia bakery. that was the place lina and i discovered accidentally yesterday! turns out, it was right around the corner from where we were, so after dinner, all six of us walked to the bakery and ordered banana pudding at 10:30 at night. it was delicious – just like my grandma used to make. what kind of place sells banana pudding late at night? it was crazy fun.magnolia's bakery banana pudding IMG_2929banan pudding west village

shubhra needed to head home and the rest of us started walking that way too. actually, laura and i got caught up in conversation about all sorts of things, so the other three led the way – though i think they just walked and talked. which was absolutely no problem since the weather was fabulous and warm and amazing. as we headed down south, we decided that we’d just go ahead and walk on one of the three bridges connect manhattan with brooklyn and whatever else is to the east – i’m not great with what’s across the river from manhattan.

we happened to be very close to the manhattan bridge, the center bridge, so we started walking – deciding that we’d go halfway, so we could look back and get some good views of manhattan. it was a tiny bit creepy, but when i saw a young woman jogging at 11pm by herself, i figured it must be semi-ok. in any case, there were four of us – laura and i had said our goodbyes before we got to the bridge.

we walked slowly, just feeling the breeze and the intermittent shaking of the bridge when the subway raced past us. and then, once in the middle, we looked back – it was breathtaking, magical. here we were… all alone, in the middle of a bridge over the east river, looking back at the city with the pulse and vibe and heart and soul.manhattan bridge empty financial district nyc nyc financial district manhattan bridge lina on manhattan bridge deserted manhattan bridge

the days were so packed with excitement and fun, that it was hard to believe that there was only one day left. we made a few plans to meet up with jonas and peter so we could could celebrate in style during our last night, then we hailed a cab to our alphabet city apartment.

peace and love. xx

find other posts in my  NYC 2014 series:

day 1day 2.1 | day 2.2 | day 4

nyc: walk-eat-drink-repeat. and a broadway musical. (day 2.2)

“new york city is filled with random, quirky moments like this, chance collisions that just might change your life.”

– hope edelman in goodbye to all that: writers on loving and leaving new york

tummies full from chocolate croissants and coffee, we hit the streets again. it was still early in the day – mid-morning, perhaps – and we still had no plans. we were just going with the flow, deciding from block to block whether to continue straight ahead or turn down a new street.

as we came to the 1st avenue intersection, we stood waiting for the light to turn (ok. honestly, waiting until there was no traffic because we thought ourselves real, amateur new yorkers. uh huh.). suddenly a thirty-something year old man, dressed in khakis, a polo shirt, and a jacket asked us if we wanted any tips. he took off his designer sunglasses and told us that he lived in the area, had been out of the country for a few months, and was more than happy to let some tourists in on a few tips. he also asked if we could move into the shade, as he had been out late drinking the night before to celebrate his arrival back to the city that he clearly loves. he did not smell of alcohol, but was a tad bit slow in processing information – a little bit still hungover, we all three surmised and laughed together as he scribbled out some silly maps on his moleskin pocket notebook.

he proceeded to tell us about a bookstore/cafe/bar that helps the homeless and low-income housing market, a quirky little street, and a to-die-for vietnamese restaurant in chinatown. he even went so far as to write down what we should order there. needless to say, lina and i were keeping it cool on the outside, but jumping up & down inside from the awesome insider info we were getting. this is exactly what we wanted this trip to be about – little, unknown (to tourists), funky, amazing places that locals haunt.

after about 15 minutes or so – seriously folks, we became buddies, though i cannot remember his name to save the life of me – we bid farewell to our new new yorker friend, and headed off to find this bookstore he mentioned.

the first intersection that we came to, which was only about 2 blocks from the street where we were staying, was houston street (pronounced HOW-ston, not Hew-ston). this is big, main thoroughfare running from west to east across manhattan. the eastern half is eclectic, with old immigrant tenement buildings, little local shops, bakeries, and restaurants; while the western side is undergoing massive development – new store, high end stores, luxury apartments, and so on. i believe that all of that development is pushing east as well… but i’m not so sure that’s so good. in any case, this street, where the numbered streets begin that lead up to central park and beyond, is a big one. and now we were gonna walk it.


it took us forever to get anywhere because we took photos of everything. but, since it was my love’s 30th birthday, i wanted to get a cool portrait of her at some point during the day. we passed this amazing graffiti wall, and i knew it’d be the perfect backdrop for lina’s impropmtu 30th photo shoot. she’s gorgeous.
lina 30th

we carried on, matching our steps to the steep of the bustling crowds, feeling energized, not overwhelmed. peaceful and calm, even in the midst of homing horns from yellow taxis, music blaring from cars and storefronts, and the endless shuffle of feet. we ducked into my love’s favorite store for a little shopping excursion and emerged ready to find that bookstore again. but, not by taxi. oh no. we were going by foot. all day long – it was the challenge we’d promised ourselves – that’s how we’d find and experience all of those unexpected, beautiful

following the scribbly map that our street corner friend – matt, perhaps his name was matt – gave us, we found crosby st. an alley lying off of houston and between layfayette and broadway. and, sure enough, the bookstore was right there. so we climbed the stairs, opened the door, and found a funky little slice of two-story book heaven. tucked in the back left corner was a bar/cafe. hanging from the ceiling were filming and stage lights. and flanking the shelves were books of every genre. i think we could have parked ourselves here for a while, but we decided to move on after about 20 minutes.

the housing works bookstore cafe is only one part of an amazing organization. everyone who works in the bookstore cafe is volunteer. all of the materials/books/merchandise is donated. there are events with celebrities that fill the calendar. all of the money made goes directly back to the main housing works organization. their mission statement, posted on the wall of the cafe, reads:

Housing Works is a healing community of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Our mission is to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain our efforts…

In 1990, four members of the legendary AIDS activist group ACT UP—Keith Cylar, Charles King, Eric Sawyer, and Virginia Shubert—decided to dedicate themselves to serving one of New York City’s most neglected populations: the tens of thousands of homeless men, women, and children in New York City living with HIV and AIDS. The activists called their new group Housing Works because they believed that stable housing was the key to helpingHIV-positive people live healthy and fulfilling lives and to prevent the further spread of the virus.”

bookstore on crosby bookstore

while we didn’t stay very long, i felt touched and inspired by such a fabulous organization- and then i felt overwhelmed when i thought about how many organizations aimed to help people existed in nyc. i thought about our street corner friend, who has worked for the housing works organization, i thought about all of the smiles and hellos and tiny human connections made on the streets, and i thought: people are good.

back out on the little street named crosby, i lost lina to a furniture store that had mid-century mod chairs sitting on the sidewalk. she perused the store, drilling all over the place, and i perused the street. standing in front of a pole, i looked up and happened to notice a sign that announced that they had been filming a movie right were i was standing about 3 hours before that moment i was there. then, recalled someone somewhere telling us that crosby street is a famous street for filming nyc street scenes. and, we just stumbled upon it.crosby filming

we finally tore ourselves away from the furniture and book stores, crossed over houston st. again, and headed north toward greenwich village: a place i had never, ever been, but had been on my nyc bucket list for an eternity. i needed to get to this hippie, artsy, classic new york area. of course, now, east village (where we are staying) is the more bohemian area and greenwich village has become a bit more exclusive, home to mostly upper middle class residents. everyone cool wanted to be there. and while i love cool, what i crave is authentic and artsy and boho. think: the musical “rent” – which was based on the neighborhood where we are staying in east village. in any case, greenwich village, aka the village, was the home of the poets, writers, and beat generation, alternative lifestyles/counterculture movements of the mid 20th century… so, for history’s sake (and being a girl who should’ve been born in the 60s), i couldn’t wait to be there.

passing brownstone building with fire escapes and front steps, i knew i had arrived… and then, straight ahead: washington square park and new york university to the right. i was where writers dream of living, where i had dreamed of living and writing and sitting at coffee shops and going to poetry slams. a felt a twinge of nostalgia for a place i’d never been, and yet felt so connected to, well up inside me.

we meandered through the park and plopped ourselves down on the dewy grass to cool off and soak all in. the stimulation and inspiration was overwhelming – in an “i need to write and photograph everything i am feeling and seeing down… right now” kind of way. overwhelming in the best kind of way. fire escapes washington square park panorama washington sq park washing square monument musicians washing square park me ego and lina relaxing washington square park rhododendron nyc

drunk on beauty and high on life, we moseyed on deeper into the village, heading toward west village. pangs of hunger began to remind us to stop and eat a bit, that it had been a while since breakfast. almost immediately a tiny little pizza shop appeared on the street where we were and, without discussing or thinking, we let our guts guide us.

and we shared a little slice of new york city, cheese pizza heaven. there just happened to be a few stairs right beside the cafe, so we sat down as if we did this right here every single day. and then… the people watching. oh, it was the perfect spot to watch people. funnily, double decker, open air tour buses passed constantly; and a few times, people snagged photos of us “those real, live new yorkers eating pizza on their front steps”. hehe. ny pizza pizza lina ego me pizza nyc

we had no idea where we were, but we weren’t lost. we were just walking. and looking. and looking. and walking. down one street, there seemed to be a gathering of people = something is going on. so we turned to see what the fuss as all about. it looked like a regular street (see below) with regular (amazing!) homes. a few pole milled about, though taking photos. as we walked up, we saw that one of the buildings had flowers leading up the stairs. my first thought was: funeral. how sad.

i asked one of the ladies who was taking a photo what was going on, and she squealed, “it’s carrie bradshaw’s home from sex & the city!!” ohhhh…. well, when in rome… i figured i’d take a few shots of it – to say we’d been there. though we had never planned to visit. but, whatever. that was cool. actually. not to mention the house was freaking amazing.brownstone homes greenwich village sex and the city carrie bradshaw house greenwich village

i think we walked one more block, and while we waited to cross the street, i looked up and saw a sign above my head that read “magnolia bakery”. that rang a bell in my head somewhere, so i mentioned it to lina. lo and behold, we are standing beside the famous magnolia bakery that has killer cupcakes and desserts. like, it’s a west village must-visit. again, we’d not added this to our itinerary, seeing as we had no itinerary, but there we were. so, of course we went in. cupcake time!magnolia bakery greenwich village magnolia bakery birthday cupcake magnolia

from the cupcake place we now had a destination – almost the first time all day. sweet holly, a blogger friend, and a few others recommended that we go to the spotted pig for food/drinks and then walk the high line. so, since we were now only a few blocks away, that’s what we did!

the spotted pig is famous for… i don’t know what. but their burgers looked amazing. they also have bbq, british, and italian dishes. it all smelled and looked delicious. but, we had now had pizza and cupcakes, so we decided it was birthday cocktail time. yes!

we snuggled up to a counter by the window and continued our people-watching entertainment while we sipped cosmopolitans. high alcohol content cosmos. but, they were yummy. and we were satisfied. sitting there, together with my love, celebrating her life, feeling so alive myself, i was simply overcome with joy. what an amazing little quiet moment to share with the one who completes me – and in the middle of such an incredible city.spotted pig west village spotted pig selfie ego me cosmopolitan west village

a few more blocks and we were ready to walk the high line – a favorite for tourists and new yorkers alike. the high line is a park in the sky. ok. not really. it is an old railroad that went from south to north on the west side of manhattan, providing transportation for the warehouses and work yards and industrial areas on that side of the island. however, the railroad close down, and the city transformed it into a park. it a huge “natural” space that runs one mile from Gansevoort Street, three blocks below west 14th street, in the meatpacking district, to 30th street, through the neighborhood of chelsea. and guess what we did? we walked the whole freaking, amazing thing.

it gives you a different perspective of the city, a chance to slow down, and snap some pretty fun shots of streets and buildings. plus, it’s just amazing that it’s an old railroad, with part of the tracks still winding through the park.the high line brick high line nyc high line nyc relax high line nyc high line panorama

my love and me high line high line view

finally, we made it up to times square. yes, we had walked from the lower east side, through soho, greenwich village and west village, up to the high line to chelsea and all the way to times square. by then, we were hot and tired. we actually were running out of time, because we had a broadway musical to get to in about an hour, so we went down into the subway and rode it 2 stops to 5th avenue and central park.

we’d been to this area of the park before on a previous trip to new york, so we are familiar with the area, which helped since we didn’t have much time. but, we wanted to soak up central park, if only for a few minutes. like i always say, “there is no time like the present.” and the weather was gorgeous that day, so we sat in the grass and just rested our now-weary feet. central park nyc uptown from central park central park

a short while later, we were on the move again. the work day was coming to a close, so we crammed ourselves on the subway with five million other people and rode the 2 stops back to times square so we could make it to broadway on time. we were meeting lina’s brother and cousin, jonas and peter, just outside the theater. pushing our way through the crazy times square crowds, feet throbbing, we made it just in the nick of time. we slid into our seats, after purchasing a water (or was it a coke?) to share, with about 10 minutes to spare. one quick group selfie = an us-ie and the lights dimmed.

it was time for the amazing les miserables to begin!sunset times square les miserables broadway imperial theater family

tears streaming down my eyes, i followed my love out of the theater and onto the street. once we all four were out, we began taking about the play. all we could repeat was, “amazing. amazing. amazing.” geez that play is so powerful. wow. go see it, people. wherever you can. just do it.

it was still my love’s birthday and only about 10 something, so we all hailed a cab, crammed in – me in the front seat because i knew the address – and headed back down to alphabet city (where our apartment was) in east village. time for some bar hopping and a little night life in the funky boho neighborhood.

broadway night

first stop: edie and the wolf. of course we did not plan that. we just walked and came across it. went it and ordered some beer. it was cozy and dark and not too crowded. the windows and doors were wide open because it was amazing out – warm, but not humid. just perfect. we sipped and laughed and toasted my love before leaving and heading to one more bar for another beer and some snacks.  edie and the wolf nyc

soon, we all decided it was time to call it a night. the day had been extraordinary – a top day in my life, i do believe. and to share it all with my love, indescribably perfect.

it was a short walk back to the apartment, a tough walk up the five flights of stairs, and then a quick thud into the bed where i was asleep within 10 seconds. tops. now, that’s the sign of a well-spent, amazing day.

peace and love. xx

find other posts in my  NYC 2014 series:

day 1 | day 2.1 | day 3 | day 4

nyc quotes

one of the reasons i love nyc so much is because of the inspiration that i feel from the people that have lived here. there is that beat generation, do-your-own-thing, challenge the status quo, live on the fringes of society group of artistic people that is always present in the city. and these people, from john lennon to patti smith to jack keroauc and so many more throughout history and today… these people inspire me to follow my dreams. to embrace who i am and every single moment that i am alive. their words and their lives remind me that there is no one, correct way to live, except from your soul. and the way to live is to suck the marrow out of life. to dance in the streets and sing from the tops of buildings.

nyc is an artist’s city. a place of images and words and feelings. and the city itself inspires those words and images and feelings in me.

so, while i am here this week, i am one of the artists living in the city. i have claimed my place as a person who has a story to tell, and this city inspires me to find the words and the courage and the joy to share those words and thoughts and feelings with the world.

yes, this week, i am a new yorker. my feel pound the street while my heart pounds in my chest. the lights and sounds energize me. the people – all of the people – move me and touch my soul. and, while i feel like a tiny fish in a big ocean, i also feel completely connected to everyone. i don’t know, it’s something magical. but, i am swept up in it – the magic and beauty and pulse and vibe of this amazing, free-spirited place.

since i’m filled with inspiration, i thought i’d share some amazing quotes with you – what a few others have to say about the incredible, insane, inspirational place called new york city.


One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years. – Tom Wolfe


The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world. – F. Scott Fitzgerald


The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding. – John Updike


I love New York, even though it isn’t mine, the way something has to be, a tree or a street or a house, something, anyway, that belongs to me because I belong to it. – Truman Capote


New York is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition is murderous. But there is one thing about it – once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough. – John Steinbeck


London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it. – Dorothy Parker


This is the city, and I am one of the citizens/Whatever interests the rest interests me. – Walt Whitman


There is no place like it, no place with an atom of its glory, pride, and exultancy. It lays its hand upon a man’s bowels; he grows drunk with ecstasy; he grows young and full of glory, he feels that he can never die. – Walt Whitman


I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month. – Joan Didion


My advice for aspiring writers is go to New York. And if you can’t go to New York, go to the place that represents New York to you, where the standards for writing are high, there are other people who share your dreams, and where you can talk, talk, talk about your interests. Writing books begins in talking about it, like most human projects, and in being close to those who have already done what you propose to do. – Walter Kirn


I regret profoundly that I was not an American and not born in Greenwich Village. It might be dying, and there might be a lot of dirt in the air you breathe, but this is where it’s happening. – John Lennon

peace and love. xx

| avl –> nyc |


I can’t even begin to describe how excited I am! Right now, my love and I are on our way to NYC! It’s my 4th or 5th trip to the city that never sleeps, but it’s the first time I’ve stayed for longer than 2 days – that’s right, we’re living in the Big Apple (in Alphabet City!) all week long! And Lina’s brother and cousin are meeting us there from Sweden – crazy awesome. And I’m going to have an Instagram/blogging buddy meetup – I’m meeting German-American Abroad! And I have fika plans for drinking coffee all over the city. But, one of the biggest parts of the week is that my love turns 30 tomorrow, so we’re celebrating her by going to a Broadway play and then out for drinks. For real. So exciting.

The rest of our time in NYC, will be all about exploring, being, photographing, eating, and getting inspired. My plan is to soak up the vibes of the bohemian atmosphere of the city, while taking in a few of the touristy sites. We’ve done most everything already that you “should” do when you visit NY, so this time were just gonna let the moments come as they wish. It’s all about feeling and finding the heartbeat of different places in the city. Does it get any better than that?

I’ll be sure to check in with you every now and then – and share some pictures too! Feel free to follow me on Instagram (@_belovelive_) to keep up with our big adventure. In the meantime, some words from one of my favorite travel writers – who also lived in and loved NYC:


Wishing you days filled with adventure… wherever you are! xx

sensory overload. part 15.

oh friends, i think i am dying to take a trip. i’m pretty sure that my weird mood this past week (which seems to be hanging with me even through today) is partly due to the fact that i need a change of pace. my wanderlust is in overdrive right now. i’m restless and antsy and i do not feel grounded at all.

luckily and amazingly, i’ve got a trip to NYC planned in may. woo hoo!! so, that will take care of my wanderlust. we are actually going to meet lina’s brother & cousin in the big apple and spend 5 days, 4 nights in the city – eeek! we’ve rented an apartment in alphabet city/east village on airbnb – that has rooftop access! we’ve gotten tickets to see les miserables on broadway – i’m dying. and i’ve made note of lots of coffee shops i need to visit during my stay – that’s right. just like my 40 days of fika last fall, the fika girl (me), is taking fika to nyc and i’ll have a whole nyc fika section on my fika blog!

anyway. the trip takes care of part of my restlessness. the other part of my ungroundedness (i just made up that word) is going to be solved through a 21 day meditation challenge – which begins today. i need to get in touch with my soul. i need to relax and meditate. and while i try every single day to live in the power of the present moment, soaking up every little thing, if i am not meditating, then i am not as deeply connected as i can be. i am observant, but i am not living from deep within my soul. and i am missing a certain sense of calm and inner peace when i don’t make time for candles, breathing, and “om”‘s.

so, for the next 21 days, the mediation in on! 20 minutes every single morning. and i can’t wait. i need it so much.

of course, posting my sensory overload posts every monday morning is a very good practice of living with gratitude and presence. when i select my photos and go through them, i am aware of the beautiful moments that i have experienced throughout the past week – and i am reminded that, even if i feel unsettled and blah, that i have so much for which to be thankful. and usually, it is people and nature that seem to lifting my spirits and provide me with inspiration & peace.

so, here you go. the moments of beauty and peace from last week, in the midst of a weird, strange, disconnected, restless week. you know, we all have them. and it’s so good to look back and realize that things are not as bad as they feel. it’s so good to reflect and redirect my thoughts and attitudes – from grumpy irritation to calm, grateful peace.

meditate french press coffee balcony white tree spring IMG_1131 coffee work green sage green trees willow trees sunshine balcony sunrise moon sunset nighttime pink trees sunshine balcony wine bottle grilling out bbq

happy mid-april week, my friends! hope you have lots of fun plans in store for the week ahead!

sending you lots of love and peace. xx

Christmas to Me.

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book of all time, so, back in September, when I ran across this essay that she had written, I knew that I would use her words as my Christmas greeting to all of you this year.

My dear blogging friends and family, thank you for reading and for supporting me throughout this incredible year – a year where I saw writing dreams of my own come true. Thank you for following along and for journeying with me. Merry Christmas to you all! 

Christmas to Me: an essay by Harper Lee 

Several years ago, I was living in New York and working for an airline, so I never got home to Alabama for Christmas—if, indeed, I got the day off. To a displaced Southerner, Christmas in New York can be rather a melancholy occasion, not because the scene is strange to one far from home, but because it is familiar: New York shoppers evince the same singleness of purpose as slow moving Southerners; Salvation Army bands and Christmas carols are alike the world over: at that time of year, New York streets shine wet with the same gentle farmer’s rain that soaks Alabama’s winter fields.

I missed Christmas away from home, I thought. What I really missed was a memory, an old memory of people long since gone, of my grandparents’ house bursting with cousins, smilax, and holly. I missed the sound of hunting boots, the sudden open-door gusts of chilly air that cut through the aroma of pine needles and oyster dressing. I missed my brother’s night-before-Christmas mask of rectitude and my father’s bumblebee bass humming “Joy to the World.”

In New York, I usually spent the day, or what was left of it, with my closest friends in Manhattan. They were a young family in periodically well-to-do circumstances. Periodically, because the head of the household employed the precarious craft of writing for their living. He was brilliant and lively; his one defect of character was an inordinate love of puns. He possessed a trait curious not only in a writer but in a young man with dependents; there was about him a quality of fearless optimism—not of the wishing-makes-it-so variety, but that of seeing an attainable goal and daring to take risks in its pursuit. His audacity sometimes left his friends breathless—who in his circumstances would venture to buy a townhouse in Manhattan? His shrewd generalship made the undertaking successful: while most young people are content to dream of such things, he made his dream a reality for his family and satisfied his tribal longing for his own ground beneath his feet. He had come to New York from the Southwest and, in a manner characteristic of all natives thereof, had found the most beautiful girl in the east and married her.

To this ethereal, utterly feminine creature were born two strapping sons, who, as they grew, discovered that their fragile mother packed a wallop that was second to nobody’s. Her capacity to love was enormous, and she spent hours in her kitchen, producing dark, viscous delights for her family and friends.

They were a handsome pair, healthy in mind and body, happy in their extremely active lives. Common interests as well as love drew me to them: and endless flow of reading material circulated amongst us; we took pleasure in the same theatre, films, music: we laughed at the same things, and we laughed so much in those days.

Our Christmases together were simple. We limited our gifts to pennies and wits and all-out competition. Who would come up with the most outrageous for the least? The real Christmas was for the children, an idea I found totally compatible, for I had long ago ceased to speculate on the meaning of Christmas as anything other than a day for children. Christmas to me was only a memory of old loves and empty rooms, something I buried with the past that underwent a vague, aching resurrection every year.

One Christmas, though, was different. I was lucky. I had the whole day off, and I spent Christmas Eve with them. When morning came, I awoke to a small hand kneading my face. “Dup,” was all its owner had time to say. I got downstairs just in time to see the little boys’ faces as they beheld the pocket rockets and space equipment Santa Claus had left them. At first, their fingers went almost timidly over their toys. When their inspection had been completed, the two boys dragged everything into the center of the living room.

Bedlam prevailed until they discovered there was more. As their father began distributing gifts, I grinned to myself, wondering how my exceptionally wily unearthments this year would be received. His was a print of a portrait of Sydney Smith I’d found for thirty-five cents; hers was the complete works of Margot Asquith, the result of a year’s patient search. The children were in agonies of indecision over which package to open next, and as I waited, I noticed that while a small stack of present mounted beside their mother’s chair, I had received not a single one. My disappointment was growing steadily, but I tried not to show it.

They took their time. Finally she said, “We haven’t forgotten you. Look on the tree.”

There was an envelope on the tree, addressed to me. I opened it and read: “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.”

“What does this mean?” I asked.

“What it says,” I was told.

They assured me that it was not some sort of joke. They’d had a good year, they said. They’d saved some money and thought it was high time they did something about me.

“What do you mean, do something about me?”

To tell the truth—if I really wanted to know—they thought I had a great talent, and—

“What makes you think that?”

It was plain to anyone who knew me, they said, if anyone would stop to look. They wanted to show their faith in me the best way they knew how. Whether I ever sold a line was immaterial. They wanted to give me a full, fair chance to learn my craft, free from the harassments of a regular job. Would I accept their gift? There were no strings at all. Please accept, with their love.

It took some time to find my voice. When I did, I asked if they were out of their minds. What made them think anything would come of this? They didn’t have that kind of money to throw away. A year was a long time. What if the children came down with something horrible? As objection crowded upon objection, each was overruled. “We’re all young,” they said. “We can cope with whatever happens. If disaster strikes, you can always find a job of some kind. Okay, consider it a loan, then, if you wish. We just want you to accept. Just permit us to believe in you. You must.”

“It’s a fantastic gamble,” I murmured. “It’s such a great risk.”

My friend looked around his living room, at his boys, half buried under a pile of bright Christmas wrapping paper. His eyes sparkled as they met his wife’s, and they exchanged a glance of what seemed to me insufferable smugness. Then he looked at me and said softly; “No, honey. It’s not a risk. It’s a sure thing.”

Outside, snow was falling, an odd event for a New York Christmas. I went to the window, stunned by the day’s miracle. Christmas trees blurred softly across the street, and firelight made the children’s shadows dance on the wall beside me. A full, fair chance for a new life. Not given me by an act of generosity, but by an act of love. Our faith in you was really all I had heard them say. I would do my best not to fail them. Snow still fell on the pavement below. Brownstone roofs gradually whitened. Lights in distant skyscrapers shone with yellow symbols of a road’s lonely end, and as I stood at the window, looking at the lights and the snow, the ache of an old memory left me forever.

This essay was originally published in McCall’s in December 1961.

peace and love to you and yours.

travel confessions from a pilgrim.

the other day (ok. the other week.) laura over at german-american abroad, surprised me & tagged me to do a post revealing my most secret travel confessions. i’m sure she thinks that i’ve completely forgotten about this little challenge. but i haven’t! i’d never forget something that encouraged me to talk about one of my favorite things in life. thanks, laura, for choosing me! so, here come my deepest, darkest, inner thoughts about the joy of travel.

oh yeah. first the rules, of course.

  • Post a photo (or photos) and description(s) of your confession(s) in a new post.
  • Tweet your post with hashtag #TravelConfession and follow/tweet @Traveling9to5
  • Tag 3-5 other travelers you’d love to see confess and tag them on Twitter.

1. go local.

our friends’ home in dublin.

the best kind of travel is the kind that allows you to stay for free. agreed? whenever i meet people, i actually think to myself, “if we become friends perhaps i can travel to his/her country/city and stay with him/her for free while i explore a new place. is it wrong that i think like that? i loooove visiting friends, and i love having friends come & visit me. too bad i’ve lived in sweden for almost 2 & a half years and only 1 person has taken advantage of the free lodging i have to offer to anyone wanting to visit sweden. perhaps i should try couch-surfing… so i can travel and so i can offer my home to others. have you done couch-surfing? how was your experience? right now, my love & i are in the process of planning a trip to peking, hong kong, & macau. why there? because it’s freaking cool & (here it comes) because we have a friend living there for a year. see how that works out?!

2. pubs are the shit.

i prefer to find out what a city/country is really like. i like to hang with the locals. that means avoiding big shopping areas (though i do frequent those too. a healthy balance of travel experiences is a good thing, right?), and focusing on pubs, little hole-in-the-wall cafes, boutiques, and bars. then i can try local beer, see local styles, get a feel for local ideas/beliefs, and hopefully hear a little local music. it could be a little scanky or scary, but totally worth the stories i get to tell later.

3. speaking of scary…

the wrong side of the tracks in memphis tennessee.

i will always, always, always end up in the most unsafe area of a city/place. it’s like i have some sort of radar or something. i don’t mean to end up in these places. it just happens. and, yes, i am usually frightened for my life for at least one brief second. my wife, of course, has just accepted that these “little adventures” are part of traveling with me.

4. on the road again.

somewhere out west where the road never ends.

my favorite mode of transportation is by car. i freaking love to drive. capital l.o.v.e. the open road, snacks in the car, music blasting, singing along, tapping the steering wheel, left leg up, windows down, sunglasses on, and no real idea where i’m gonna end up. that’s the perfect road trip.

5. it could take more hours than it should.

this is a genetic defect i’ve inherited from my dad. at any given moment, i could see something – like a barn, or an animal, or a pretty tree, or something weird or amazing, and stop the car. yep. i will pull over in order to get THE picture.  if you travel with me, you WILL have to wait for me at some point. just sayin’.

6. i’m all about inclusive.

i could get used to this. a pool & the mediterranean sea. all day. every day.

i admit it. after traveling to rhodes, greece, last year for a week at an inclusive resort, i fell in love. to be honest, i was very skeptical. i usually travel in order to experience  a culture: people, food, anything different from the life that i know. that’s the point of travel for me… to expand my horizons and touch my soul. staying at an inclusive resort, laying by a pool, being served by scandinavian people (not greeks!) in greece all seemed wrong to me. but, i loved it. i’m ashamed to say it, but i loved the luxury. the doing nothingness that everyday consisted of… well, we did see rhodes old town one day & toured an acropolis another day, so we got a little culture. bottom line: i want to go on one of these kind of resort, all-inclusive trips for one week out of every year. one word: heaven.

7. location. location. location.

camping on the hottest night in the summer of 2010. oklahoma, usa.

found a great hotel right in the middle of times square. crazy.

out in the wild or smack in the middle of everything. i’m a little bipolar when it comes to travel. i love to be in the middle of the woods, camping & roughing it. i have never camped in anything but a tent. no rv’s or campers for me (as of yet). on the other hand, i love to be right smack in the middle of manhattan, or any other big, global city. i’d rather pay nothing & sleep in the woods, or pay extra & stay right in the middle of everything. see what i mean? i’m all over the place.

8. nerd alert.

the temple of isis on delos (greece).

i love history. thanks, mom & dad. i love to find out the why’s, who’s, and what’s of an area. museums are great, filled with history & art. a perfect combo. and historical ruins and other places. does it get any better than that? i’m a sucker for anything that sheds a little light on what it means to be part of the human race, how we got where we are, how the past has influenced us today, and any stories & experiences of people who have made a difference. history inspires me & gives me this feeling of connection to all people, through all times.

9. light a candle.

i want to travel the world. i want to see everything. i want to experience everything. i want to meet all different kinds of people. but, there is one thing that i, as a student of theology and a lover of spirituality, am really drawn to… holy places. churches, mosques, synagogues, cathedrals, memorials, secular places, pilgrimage places, abbeys, monasteries, convents, outdoor places – including all of nature. the holiest places on earth are both human-made buildings and naturally created places on earth. when i travel, i have to go there. everywhere. anywhere. i must light a candle in a cathedral, or dip my toes into the ocean, or stand in awe of a forest. these places all ground me. i feel something there. something powerful. something beyond me & yet a part of me at the same time. these are the most important places to visit. most of the time i have no idea they are holy places until i stand there & breathe in everything around me. and then, i just know. i just feel it.

traveling is like breathing. i need it to survive. i am not ashamed of my wanderlust. i embrace it, and as soon as i return from one trip, be it across the world, or just to the next city, i begin preparing for my next adventure. i believe that travel has a direct connection to peace. when we travel & experience something new, when we are willing to get out of comfort zones & meet new people, see new places, taste new foods, cross boarders, and explore new cultures, we open ourselves up. we add new memories and make room in our lives, our hearts, and our minds for new thoughts, new opinions, and new friendships. to travel is to educate. and to educate is to promote acceptance, respect, and peace.

so, my dear friends, get out there and travel! do something new. go somewhere new. be bold. set sail. wander around. soak it all in. and live life!

now, my love at, ashley paige at for the love of wanderlust, and dace at the long way home… go! give us all your travel confessions. i’m dying to know!

thanks for the little challenge & tag, laura! it’s been fun!

peace in all your travels.

where i stood.

day 1: where i stood

today was my day off. (liz does a happy dance). and guess what i did today? i stood in the kitchen various times throughout the day, in my pj’s (yes all day) and slippers, and made multiple cups of coffee. that’s right. why so much coffee, you ask? well, mostly because it’s cozy & i like the taste of it. but, also because it sat beside my computer on my desk as i typed & planned away practically all day. yes, i was lazy, yet productive, at the same time…

i worked on lots of little writing projects i am beginning now. and it was so much fun. i have most definitely decided that i’m gonna use my mondays for my writing and photography. i like to think of it as my inspiration/creative day. so, it’s all set. i have set a goal, disciplined myself, and now it’s all about the follow through. so far, so good.

the theme for the photo challenge today was “where i stood”. i’ve been thinking about that all day, and realizing all of the places i have stood. i have met so many people. had so many experiences. stood in so many places that lead me to where i am today. i feel crazy blessed to have walked in so many different places…

as a minister in a church in canton, north carolina.

with my dad on the top of a mountain.

in a park in the middle of brooklyn, new york (where i was working with teenagers).

i walked, stood, & sat in the middle of ancient corinth, greece. overwhelming.

in the florida keys for my brother’s wedding.

in the atlantic ocean.

12 days later… at the pacific ocean.

in a gospel choir in denmark.

at the grand canyon with my love

 you know, you don’t have to travel all over the world in order to experience holy, sacred, amazing ground. no. i believe that all ground is sacred. all places have something to offer us. i suppose it’s up to us to slow down a little and soak it all in. the bus stop, the grocery store, the gas station, the hospital, our homes & schools. wherever we stand, is one more experience, one more opportunity, one more place of beauty in our lives. and wherever we stand right now, is the place preparing us for the journey & the steps that lie ahead.

so, where are the places that you have stood in your life? where have you been? what have you seen? what have you experienced? where are you standing now in your life? and where are you going?

well, wherever you are right now, i wish you peace.

polar music & patti smith.

it all started with the morning news. i was doing something in the apartment, and just letting the swedish language  in the background keep me company, when i suddenly realized i was hearing english. it usually takes a while before i realize that there is english somewhere around me. i looked at the tv and saw paul simon doing an interview with some swedish person. huh? then i realized that he had been the recipient of some award, the polar music prize, and they were having the award ceremony on tv here in sweden tonight. i had never heard of this award, but got busy on google and i now know that it is an award, begun by a famous swedish musician (someone behind the work of ABBA or something), and it is given to a musician every year to celebrate his or her contribution to the music world. cool. paul simon this year. not my absolute favorite artist, but i do love me some simon and garfunkle. some seriously classic american 60s/70s music.

the interview was over on the morning news, and it was time to move onto something else. i remembered that last night my love told me that patti smith had a new album, so i thought i’d check it out on spotify. and the verdict is, i love it. and then i decided i’d hunt down some images of her on pinterest. well, that led to a whole mess of fun, resulting in me tagging image after image. god, i love her style & her look.

last year, or earlier this year, i read a memoir she had written. just kids. i wrote a blog post about it here. it was amazing to read about her crazy younger years in nyc… broke, sometimes homeless, sometimes unemployed, but always living the journey of an artist. and she is truly an artist of all sorts, taking an interest in photography, poetry, and music; and combining them all in unique ways. she definitely has had her own path, and has followed it for all of her life, listening to her heartbeat & her soul. searching for intellectual, spiritual, and artistic inspiration all over the world. fighting for civil and equal rights. protesting in word & in song. patti smith is an inspiration for me. rough around the edges, punky, tough, and yet vulnerable, drawn to beauty, a lover of nyc, inspired by the world, dramatic, androgynous.

pics from pinterest.

after my little patti smith tour on pinterest, somehow i ended up finding out that patti smith was the recipient of the polar music prize last year. how weird is that? how random? crazy connection! feels like my little patti smith tuesday was meant to be.

so, all day, i’ve just been in a little patti smith world… feeling her desire for art to permeate every breath she takes. and she has inspired me today to always remember what it means to be my own person, to follow my own path, to never give up on that pull that i feel towards living life on my terms… making a difference, discovering my way to give back to the world, but doing it on my terms. and what i mean by that is constantly living with passion.

you know, there is something happening with my love & me in life right now. we’re trying to grab life in ways that we never have before. we’re talking all the time about taking hold of life, being dramatic, and letting what touches us most drive our life. i guess i can describe it that way. well, it’s hard to explain. but, it feel amazing. and to have people who inspire me is even that much better. and hey, after dropping everything & moving to another country, now i believe that i can do anything. i’ve got the power. power to change & live my life from my soul; & power to share life with others, as we work together to create a better world.

do you have someone who inspires you? an artist? a writer? an actor? a person… living or not. tell me about him/her, why you are so inspired by that person? i’d love to find someone to add to my list!

hope you’ve had a great tuesday! peace & love.