Featured Photo: Berkeley, California

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They told me to go to California, and they told me to look for the big trees, and I know these aren’t ~the~ big trees, but they are still giant trees, and I like them, so I took a picture.

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Photoessay: (Delicious) Things I Ate in Pittsburgh

I’m sure you’ve already picked up that I’m a little bit of a foodie. Sometimes I truly do live to eat, like the time I devoured soup dumplings in New York’s Chinatown, or the time I spent hours on the bus just to eat a burrito in Seoul or maybe that other time I digested mass amounts of cake while in Germany. If you’ve ever even glanced at my Instagram account, you’re fully aware that good food is one of my favorite things. Ever. (And I may or may not have even made an Instagram account solely out of a desire to post pictures of food. May or may not.)

Sometimes I get a little restless living in Pittsburgh. But there’s one thing that hasn’t disappointed me yet about being here: the incredible variety and quality of food, everywhere. And much to my delight, that includes lots of ethnic food.

Can you spell “nom?” I believe it goes like this: P-I-T-T-S-B-U-R-G-H.

I’ve been in town for five months now and eaten a lot of great food, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll stick to food found outside of my house. Even though I’ve become quite the capable cook, lately. Fasten your bibs, folks.

Let’s start with the obvious:

So #Pittsburgh.

A photo posted by ▪ s a l l y ▪ (@sallyinplaces) on

I’d be the worst kind of Pittsburgh-er if I didn’t flaunt our cultural pride and joy, the deli sammich with fries and ‘slaw in da sammich. (That’s “in the sandwich,” for those not fluent in Pittsburghese.)

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I’d also be the other worst kind of Pittsburgh-er if I didn’t include Pamela’s AMAZING crepe-like pancakes with bananas and walnuts inside.

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Also burgers. Pittsburgh has some great burger joints that really go all out. Pictured above is an Angus beef patty with brie cheese from BRGR. I’ve also had an incredible burger at Legume/Butterjoint, in Oakland. Fatheads, formerly THE Pittsburgh burger restaurant, officially has serious competition all over town.

Yes, I am blessed by burgers.

Now that I’ve got my bases covered there, we can move on to the ethnic food.

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The color balance on this picture is THE WORST but the taste of this sushi was literally THE BEST. Thank you, Little Tokyo, for making my sushi dreams come true.

A new French pastry shop opened up in my suburban town. And much to my surprise, an actual French lady runs the place. And not surprising at all, all of the above was incredible. Apparently also healthy, because “butter isn’t bad for you,” according to this French woman. Right.

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Are these Pittsburgh or ethnic food? Both, really. Pierogi Fest was a little like taking a trip to heaven, and then eating little pieces of it. Over. And over. These two types of pierogis: hot sausage and pesto ricotta. Let me know when you’ve finished drooling and we can move on.

Maybe Mulled Wine is more of a thing you drink, but I’m going to throw it into the “nom” category anyways. A German friend of mine went all out recently, and made the real deal, Bacardi-and-sugar-fire and all. Authentic German Glühwein? It looks like I don’t even have to leave town. (And then this was accompanied by authentic, catered German sausage. Boom.)

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Indian food is my biggest weakness. Nobody try to bribe me into doing terrible things, because spicy dishes from Mintt would probably do the trick.

This is what dreams are made of. // #cannoli #pittsburgh #uncommonmarket #dessert #food #noms #italian #sicilian #sobadsogood

A photo posted by ▪ s a l l y ▪ (@sallyinplaces) on

Yes, you can find authentic, incredible and high-quality Sicilian cannoli in suburban Pittsburgh. It’s weird. (Actually in two places!)

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Something, something, Venezuela and the Conflict Kitchen. Also incredible.

I might have occasional (…or frequent) longings to see new countries and spend more time abroad, but I certainly can’t complain about my stomach not getting an international experience it craves. Pittsburgh, you’re doing something right.

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For a more in-depth look at Pittsburgh’s food scene, my blogger friend Julie’s stomach gets around. Check her out.

What makes your mouth water? Does your hometown kill it when it comes to food, like Pittsburgh does?

You can also find me on the ABOFA Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter. There’s also an email list, if you’d like to subscribe.

Photoessay: Argentinian Desert

This trip to Jujuy and Tilcara was my first solo travel trip. There were friends made, buses ridden “black” (past the destination on my ticket), hills climbed and cacti gawked at, as they towered over my head. I came home with sandal, necklace, sunglasses and earring tan lines. The bus ride from Tilcara to Buenos Aires took a full 24 hours.

The national park full of cacti remains one of my all-time favorite places I’ve ever been. I’d kill to go back with a DSLR.

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Where did you take your first solo trip? Have you ever seen this area of Argentina?

You can also find me on the ABOFA Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter. There’s also an email list, if you’d like to subscribe.

Photoessay: Córdoba

I have an old friend that lives in Córdoba, Argentina. We met when I was 17 and both studying abroad in Austria, and almost five years later, we finally met up again. I couldn’t stay very long on my short pass-through (was it just one day?), but she took me to a party with traditional bailando. I have a blurry photograph that contains a lot of snapping fingers held up in the air. That was one of the times I was especially grateful to have not just friends all over the world, but wonderful ones at that.

The other memory I have of my time in Córdoba involves the first time I asked strangers if I could take their photograph, HONY style. I was pleasantly surprised when they said yes. It’s one of my favorite photographs from that semester abroad.

Photos were taken in October 2011.

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squiggle3Do you have old friends in foreign places? How about those old men?

You can also find me on the ABOFA Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter. There’s also an email list, if you’d like to subscribe.

Photoessay: Bariloche the Beautiful

No, I haven’t up and traveled to Argentina without telling you. But I have gone through my photo archives and found some photographs definitely worth sharing, even if my camera was nothing fancy. The gorgeous scenery of Bariloche made up for that and more.

Photos were taken in November 2011, during my month of Couchsurfing through Argentina.

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Lovely place, is it not? Have you ever been?

You can also find me on the ABOFA Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter. There’s also an email list, if you’d like to subscribe.

Round Up: Five Months in Europe

Seeing as I’ve been home for several months, it might be time to do a little round-up of my trip through Europe. Probably.

Spain

(Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante, Almería, Granada, Cádiz, Seville, Madrid)

How long? Four weeks.

Favorite Memory: The moment I discovered that space heaters underneath tall, round and tableclothed tables was a thing. My feet were overjoyed and warm.

Another Favorite Memory: Becoming best friends forever with my Couchsurfing hosts in Madrid. I love it when you just click with strangers.

Notable Blog Post: Photoessay: Carneval and Cádiz

If I could go back to Spain, I’d… see what Northern Spain is all about and embark on a Camino de Santiago.

My favorite photograph:When you're driving somewhere and the road is blocked... goat figure.

When you’re driving somewhere and the road is blocked… goat figure.

Ireland

(Dublin, Galway, Aran Islands)

How long? One week in Dublin, one day in Galway, two weeks on Inishmore.

Strangest Moment: Um, that moment I woke up and had a buzzcut? Or maybe the time I became best friends with a donkey. Or maybe the time a sheepdog actually guided me to one of the old forts on Inishmore, by leading the way. A lot of strange things happened in Ireland and I liked it.

Notable Blog Post: The Ridiculous Story of My Buzzcut

If I could go back to Ireland, I’d… just road trip around the entire coastline, since I’m obsessed with coastlines and rock beaches, and then end with some time in Belfast and Northern Ireland.

My favorite photograph:

UK

(London)

How long? Four days.

Favorite Place: I really loved the cafe at the top of Tate Modern Museum (and the Afternoon Tea that came with it!).

Notable Blog Post: On Falling in Love With London

If I could go back to the UK, I’d… probably still spend the entire time in London despite any efforts not to.

My favorite photograph:
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France

(Paris)

How long? Four days.

Favorite Memory: My friend and I snuck into a long-term Catholic hostel, stealthily climbed five or six flights of stairs and sat on the roof. We watched the sun set over the city and Eiffel Tower. Fo free ninety nine.

Notable Blog Post: Photoessay: Paris in Spring

If I could go back to France, I’d… not have a fever and maybe budget a million times more money so I could enjoy all those expensive things the city has to offer.

My favorite photograph:Poor Oscar Wilde.

Poor Oscar Wilde.

Germany

(Berlin, Dresden, Halle an der Saale, Leipzig, Munich, Nuremberg, Weimar, Munich)

How long? A week in February, three weeks in April, one week in July.

Strangest Moment: Seeing my mom speak German was pretty strange. Seeing my dad jump on a street car. Basically just the whole thing with my parents being expats was strange at first. (Now it’s gloriously wonderful!)

Notable Blog Post: True Life: My Parents Are Expats

If I could go back to Germany, I’d… I AM! Over Christmas. Bring on the frozen cobblestone streets. I plan to wear a lot of scarves. It just feels kind of German to me.

Also: One of the most interesting tours I’ve ever taken happened in Nuremberg. I toured the secret tunnels underneath the castle walls, where soldiers hid out in case of attack, and as a bonus to my pride, understood the entirely-in-German tour.

My favorite photograph:
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Poland

(Szczecin)

How long? One glorious, pierogi-filled weekend.

Favorite Food: Pierogis.

Second-favorite Food: Umm… Pierogies.

My favorite photograph:
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Switzerland

(Geneva, Lucerne, Basil, Brienz, Interlaken, Thun)

How long? One week.

My favorite photograph:
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Austria

(Graz, Bad Radkersburg)

How long? Not nearly enough. One week.

Favorite Memory: All of the old friends I was reunited with and the hugs that came with them. I know those are technically multiple memories. But they all lump together into a big happy feeling for me.

Notable Blog Post: My Austrian Homecoming

If I could go back to Austria, I’d… stay there longer.

Also: If you get the chance, go to the Zotter Museum outside of Graz. Best. (Most Chocolaty.) Tour. Ever.

My favorite photograph:
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Croatia

(Zagred, Zadar, Split, Dubrovnik)

How long? Ten days.

Favorite Place: A certain beach on the island of Hvar, between Split and Dubrovnik, comes to mind. I biked down the coast and found a beautiful, quiet place to lay out by myself and fall asleep to the sound of waves rushing over the rocks.

Notable Blog Post: Photoessay: Ugly Beautiful Zagreb

If I could go back to Croatia, I’d… pick an island and stay there for a while. And eat less pizza. I ate way too much pizza.

Also: When I got off the bus to Dubrovnik, I listened to the first old man trying to sell me accommodation and got into his car to see the rooms. They were perfect. I ended up staying another two nights, making friends and enjoying the incredibly beautiful back patio area when I wasn’t in the city. Trust.

My favorite photograph:
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Montenegro

(Budva)

How long? One limp-tastic day. (Got sea urchin in my foot while swimming in Dubrovnik.)

Strangest Moment: Relying on a German guy I’d just met to help me limp to and from the restaurant. He told me about the time he biked from Germany to India. It was strange in a cool way.

If I could go back to Montenegro, I’d… visit Kotor. We drove through it on the way to Budva and it looked breathtakingly beautiful.

My favorite photograph:
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Albania

(Tirana, Saranda, Girocaster, Dürres)

How long? One month.

Favorite Memory: It took me a while to get used to the cold water (which warmed up later in the season and wasn’t actually that cold, I’m a wimp) but once I did, swimming in the ocean felt amazing, especially once I built up a little strength and could stay out for a while.

Notable Blog Post: Photoessay: Albania Blooms

If I could go back to Albania, I’d… try to volunteer somewhere. I’d love to hang with Albanians more.

My favorite photograph:
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Italy

(Bari, Rome)

How long? Barely a day in Bari, five days in Rome.

Favorite Food: Gelato. I was skeptical of everyone saying the gelato in Italy was soooo good, but my first cone turned me into a believer.

Notable Blog Post: iPhone Photoessay: Giovanni’s Mother’s Cooking

If I could go back to Italy, I’d… take my time seeing more cities and spend time in the heel and the toe.

My favorite photograph:

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Whatcha think?

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A Whole30 Experience

I’m one of those people that dives more or less headfirst into things I don’t actually know how to do. So when my friend asked me if I would do a “diet” with her called the Whole30, I said yes with very little hesitation or actual background research on what I’d just committed to. I use the word “diet” very loosely, since I was (technically) allowed to eat unlimited amounts of bacon and avocados. I call it a “food thing”.

So what exactly was this food thing?

  • No added sugar (of any kind).
  • No dairy.
  • No grains (even gluten-free ones).
  • No legumes (or peanuts, because they act like legumes).
  • No alcohol.

Woof. People looked at me like I was crazy. “So you just eat vegetables?” Um, also meat, fruit, fish, some oils and nuts. But yes, lots of vegetables. I’ve been a vegetable-lover for years, though, so I was on-board with upping my intake of green (and red and yellow and orange) things. The goal of Whole30 is to eat only those good foods for 30 days, detox your body of all the inflammation and bad-news-bears (insulin spikes, unhealthy gut bacteria) those foods cause, and then slowly reintroduce them later to see how each one feels in your system.

It was kind of brutal, at first. I learned of something very, very unfortunate.

Yes, you can be hungover from not eating sugar and grains. It was horrible. It was several days of horrible. It was constant headaches and an upset stomach and… some other things I won’t describe for you. (You’re welcome.) And then came the angry days… I was mad at everyone and everything. Thankfully I was also happy, because I’d started a new, awesome job which balanced it out a little. But also really pissed off by everything for a solid 36 hours straight, and then some. Somewhere in there, I also became lethargic.

My runs got shorter, slower and more painful. I felt like a big old blob of nothing. If my neighbor had been offering me a delicious muffin, I wouldn’t have had the energy to walk across the street and get it. Just living life was a pretty tall order, for a few days. I had vivid dreams, or maybe they were nightmares, that I’d accidentally broken the rules and slurped down an entire Diet Pepsi before realizing it wasn’t Whole30-approved. Every time I walked past a cupcake, experienced a short bit of that rage coming back. I kept on walking.

But there was so much awesome yet to come.

Like so, so, so many sweet potatoes.

My energy levels began to level out and I didn’t have that mid-day slump that’s always been a killer. I slept like a rock, consistently. I became significantly less bloated and lost some love handles I didn’t realize I had. I was able to run again and tackle those longer miles, and my knees didn’t bother me as much. I obsessively read every food label and for the first time ever, realized just how much added sugar is tucked into the simplest of foods. (Like breakfast sausage. Rage!) I saved a ton of money because eating in restaurants was a special kind of hell.

But none of that really compared to the biggest benefit of all:

I learned how to cook so many things.

Spiced sweet potato "latkes" and bacon. I am in heaven.

A photo posted by ▪ s a l l y ▪ (@sallyinplaces) on

Together with my friend, we got together at least weekly in her fancy-schmancy kitchen (it’s beautiful) and planned meals for the week. We crock-potted. We sauteed. We baked. We chopped. We spiralized. We took recipes from the internet, altered them, and over and over again ended up with an incredible dish (or 6, we cooked in bulk). I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time in a kitchen nor tried out so many new recipes in such a short amount of time. And I’ve definitely never had so much success doing it. By the end of the month, we could prepare and cook two separate family-style dishes in a matter of a few hours, plus a small dinner.

I learned how to cut butternut squash, sear different types of beef, that salt and baking soda react with each other, what thyme tastes like, that guacamole is delicious (refresher), how to poach an egg and how to cook the perfect sweet potato. I ate kale. I discovered cashew butter. I revoked my analysis of celery as a sub-par vegetable, because it’s actually the perfect vehicle for eating cashew butter, which redeems it entirely. I know just how much of a very tiny, very spicy red pepper will turn my face into fire and you might as well call me Queen Zucchini, because I can cook the shit out of that vegetable and you will like it.

You will.

Spoiler alert: it takes very little.
Spoiler alert: it takes very little.

It was a hard 30 days for me and an even tougher time for my friend, who dealt not just with a death in the family but a friend’s wedding. (Are you impressed? Because I’m impressed. I’d have stuffed my face with approximately 25 brownies if I were her.) But both of us pulled through the thirty days, successful, triumphant and seriously ready for some freaking pizza. (Which we both ate shortly thereafter and had horrible stomachaches from, but it was kind of worth it.)

The website says that a Whole30 will change your life. Did it?

Yeah, it kind of did.

I’ll never cook the same. I didn’t miss cheese, which shocked even myself, so I probably won’t eat cheese anymore. I’ve had my eyes opened to some incredible foods I didn’t even know existed, like cashew butter. (Mostly cashew butter.) And I’ll never pick up a package of food again without scoping out the ingredients and seeing if there’s any secretly-added sugar. That stuff is in literally everything, it’s absurd, and there’s no one you could ask who wouldn’t agree that excess sugar wreaks some havoc on your body.

I ain’t about that.

But will it change the way I eat when I travel? Doubtful. I’ll be in Germany over Christmas (travel plans!) and there’s no way I’ll be turning down delicious, German food because it’s not that good for me. Puh-lease. I ain’t about that, either.

So yeah, in the meantime, I’ll be perfecting my sauteed zucchini. And looking forward to that currywurst waiting for me across the ocean.

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Have you ever done a “food thing”? Did it change your life? How great are sweet potatoes? And how great is currywurst?

You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and in your inbox, if that’s what you’d like.

Photoessay: Paris in Spring

Oh, Paris. I didn’t have the most wonderful time. It took me three tries to find a croissant worthy of bragging about. I spent more time lost than found, and not in the good way. And maybe worth mentioning is the borderline dangerous fever I had for a few days while there. It all worked out in the end, though; I got some beautiful photographs and much-needed antibiotics in Germany the following week.

I’ve been playing around with isolating select colors in Photoshop, so these photographs are a little different from the usual.

 

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Instagrams of a Recovering Expat

No one comes back to their hometown from extended amounts of time overseas and feels immediately at home, or even like they fit in. I’m in my third month of living in the USA and sometimes I still feel like a weird outsider intruding on someone else’s world. But I’ve had to cope somehow, or else abandon my sanity, which doesn’t sound like a great idea. So I’m coping. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be where I am and working the job I have and in this position. But drastic transitions can be rough, dude!)

How? By surrounding myself with all those things I missed while I was abroad and just love to do, in general.

Like drip coffee and sitting in coffee shops for hours.

Like at-home cooking (in a full kitchen!) and farmer’s market finds.

Like arts and crafts and knitting scarves while listening to Beyonce.

Like dogs. So many dogs. All the dogs.

Dog versus lizard over here, ya'll. #dog #pug #puppy #toy #usa #pittsburgh #domestic #cute #ugly #play #datface

A photo posted by ▪ s a l l y ▪ (@sallyinplaces) on

#westvirginia #dog #portrait #cabin #oglebay #usa #familyreunion #puppy #lookforthelight #indoor #pets

A photo posted by ▪ s a l l y ▪ (@sallyinplaces) on

The ugliest dog in the world. // #englishbulldog #bulldog #dog #winston #ugly #animals #pets #usa #pennsylvania #pittsburgh

A photo posted by ▪ s a l l y ▪ (@sallyinplaces) on

Like running everyday.

Like hanging with friends I’ve missed dearly (before they relocate to Guatemala like a jerk).

oh hi @hadleymeetsworld. #NewJersey #selfies #sneakattack

A photo posted by ▪ s a l l y ▪ (@sallyinplaces) on

Like bringing home real, physical books from the library.

Good things. // #recoveringexpat #bookworm #books #amreading #lookforthelight #happy #good

A photo posted by ▪ s a l l y ▪ (@sallyinplaces) on

Like roadtrips to awesome cities.

#newyorkcity #lookingup #skyline #sky #summer #urban #nyc #travel #usa #newyork #roadtrip #moma #architecture #lookup #bluesky

A photo posted by ▪ s a l l y ▪ (@sallyinplaces) on

And lastly, like enjoying the city I’m in. Because Pittsburgh is kind of awesome.

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