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Oni, Georgia: A Lesson in Spontaneity  

Oni, Georgia: A Lesson in Spontaneity  

Posted by on Oct 12, 2015 in Travel | 0 comments

Traveling isn’t always as glamorous as it seems. After two guided weekend trips to explore the mountains of Georgia were canceled, Courtney and I decided to take matters into our own hands. Without any real plans, we arrived early in the morning to Tbilisi’s Didube bus station. For 15 GLE each, we purchased bus tickets for Oni, which is part of the historic highland province of Racha in western Georgia. We crammed into a bus with no leg room that was filled with locals (27 to be exact) and headed for the hills. Luggage was strapped to the top of the bus that I was certain would fly off after each sharp turn. Luckily, no bags were left behind. The ride was over 5 hours through the winding hills with loud Georgian music keeping the bus driver (and passengers) awake. I must say the funniest moment of the trip to Oni was when we stopped for a bathroom break. Courtney and I paid the WC attendant for a wad of toilet paper and access to a filthy Eastern-style toilet (ahem, hole in the floor). Thank goodness we weren’t nauseous because the smell of the bathroom was enough to make you lose your breakfast. After we attempted to wash off the bathroom grime, we made a run back to the bus and Courtney exclaimed, “They should pay ME 30 cents to use that bathroom!” Preach it girl. After our horrible bathroom experience, we finally made it to Oni and walked to a cozy guest house, Famili Hotel Gallery. The owners greeted us by offering a home cooked meal and wine. We even sat by the wood burning stove to warm up as we discussed plans for our trip in Oni. Temur, the owner and incredible handyman, took Courtney and me on an adventure after we warmed up and relaxed from the bus ride. Without any clue as to where we were going, we trusted Temur as he handed us tall rubber boots and spoke in broken English, “Tall mountains and waterfall. Go!” We followed him along a rocky path covered in rust colored leaves and I had a feeling we were in for quite the experience....

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Cave Hiking Adventures in Oni, Georgia

Cave Hiking Adventures in Oni, Georgia

Posted by on Oct 12, 2015 in Travel | 1 comment

During our second day in Oni, Temur and his wife brought us to one of the most incredible sights we’ve seen so far in Georgia. Temur’s wife has a sister who lives in a small village on the Caucasian mountainside, which is only a few kilometers away from the Russian border. After winding through the hills in Temur’s muddy car and dodging huge puddles and pot holes, we arrived to her home and parked the car. Cows and pigs roamed the land and Temur picked apples and berries from the trees for us to eat before our long hike.    We headed uphill in tall rubber boots and Temur stopped to pull two sticks out of the brush he had hidden. These would be our hiking sticks (or lifesavers!) throughout the upcoming trek. Gorgeous snowcapped mountains and changing red and yellow leaves painted the clear blue sky as we made our way to a hidden cave.     The entrance of the cave was spectacular. Water ran out of the entrance and down a tall mountain into a stream covered with mossy rocks.  With no hesitation, Temur jumped down into the cave and motioned for us to join. We walked through the cave wading in muddle puddles and climbing slippery rocks. I admired the changing colors and shapes of the rocks. We also met a few bats along the way!    After spending over an hour exploring the cave, we hiked down the mountain to a stream. Temur and his wife prepared a wonderful picnic that satiated those hunger pains I was beginning to feel.     Boiled eggs, khachapuri, roasted chicken, cheese, and fresh cucumbers and vegetables lined the blanket. We toasted, “Gaumarjos!” and drank Temur’s homemade Khvanchkara semi-sweet wine.     Although our hosts only speak a few words of English, their company is much appreciated and we wouldn’t have been able to complete the trek without them by our side. ...

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Churchkhela: Georgian Snickers

Churchkhela: Georgian Snickers

Posted by on Oct 7, 2015 in Eat, Travel | 0 comments

After winding through the streets of Tbilisi’s Old Town, I noticed a sausage-like food hanging from multiple shop windows. The odd shape along with the vibrant purple and red colors caught my eye. What were these interesting foods? When I asked my Georgian friend Vladimer he exclaimed, “Those are Georgian ‘Snickers!'”     Churchkhela is a traditional candy originating from the Caucasus region. It is a very popular food, combining two of Georgia’s favorites – grapes and nuts. My Georgian friend also explained that it’s commonly eaten during New Years and Christmas celebrations. Georgia is known for their grape cultivation and incredible wine. Of course, churchkhela includes Georgian grown grapes. It is made by repeatedly dipping a long string of nuts in concentrated fresh grape juice, and then hung to dry.     I decided to give churchkhelas a taste when I visited a nearby town called Mtskheta, which houses the famous “Church of the Holy Cross.” This sweet treat is a perfect snack (especially for a hungry tourist!) and quite nutritious. Legend has it that Georgian warriors carried churchkhelas with them because they contain enough calories for one man in a day.    If you find yourself traveling to Georgia, definitely give churchkhelas a try and even bring some home to...

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Top 4 Strangest Foods Eaten in the Philippines

Top 4 Strangest Foods Eaten in the Philippines

Posted by on Jun 17, 2015 in Eat, Travel | 1 comment

Growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina didn’t exactly expose me to adventurous food. It wasn’t until my 20’s that I was given the opportunity to try pig anus and cod sperm sack. Seriously, I’m not lying — just attend a Blind Pig offal dinner and you’ll see. Although I’ve tried some obscure foods, eating through the Philippines is in a league of its own when it comes to “strange” foods. To my surprise, most were actually delicious! Please allow me to introduce you to the top four strangest foods I ate during my adventures in Cebu. Chicken Intestine Larsian sa Fuente is one of Cebu City’s most famous barbecue spots. Imagine 10 or more street food vendors set up around the perimeter of a paved lot with carts full of skewered raw meat and seafood. The massive grill sits in the middle of the food carts while Filipinos and tourists alike crowd around at tables, all using plastic gloves to eat barbecued meats with steamed rice. Eating at Larsian sa Fuente is an experience I’ll always remember because this was the first time I ever tried chicken intestine. I imagined intestine to be quite chewy but it wasn’t at all. The grill charred the ends of the intestine, which added a crisp texture as well as a delicious, smoky flavor. Plus, the ketchup based barbecue sauce was a nice addition. I’d definitely eat chicken intestine again. Balut For those of you who aren’t familiar with balut, it is a developing duck embryo (fertilized duck egg) that is boiled and eaten in the shell. Balut is commonly sold as street food in the Philippines and often served later in the evening. Although I was slightly terrified, I knew I had to try balut during my trip to Cebu. It was only appropriate for me to visit the street corner vendor who was selling balut out of his styrofoam cooler. After ordering the balut, we sat on the street and cracked open the top part of the egg. We poured a little vinegar inside the egg and began sucking out all of the juices, which was quite delicious. Once I started peeling back the egg shell, my stomach turned. Hidden inside...

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Happiness Found in Lime Juice and Elephant Rides

Happiness Found in Lime Juice and Elephant Rides

Posted by on May 12, 2015 in Travel | 3 comments

I’d like to write my story, but I wouldn’t know where to start. I like telling other people’s stories — where they’re from, what makes them unique, and ultimately, what brings them true happiness. During my travels in Thailand, I realized there’s much more to life than money. Many Thai people seem to have simple jobs; most work in places ranging from food stalls to small marketplaces. They always have a smile gleaming on their faces even while working under that hard, hot sun.  On a street corner in Bangkok stood a skinny Thai man with skin browned from the sun and wearing a Tiger Beer tank top. He had a simple job; squeezing limes and selling their juice to tourists and locals walking down the street. What I vividly remember about him is that he couldn’t stop smiling even though beads of sweat were rolling down his face. Why was he so happy? I inferred that a simple job allows you to provide for your basic survival needs — food on the table and a place to live. Perhaps he doesn’t have many belongings but he’s free and happy. He spends time working a simple job knowing that he will be able to provide for his friends and family. Since his basic needs are covered, nothing ties him down and he chooses to enjoy life —he’s alive. I’ll never forget his contagious smile, which wrinkled up his entire face. When I’m not exploring the world, I often feel like I’m just going through the motions. I felt pure happiness in Thailand, once in Bangkok and a second time in Chiang Mai. Too many times during the day I start pondering, “What’s next for my life?” In Bangkok I made the conscious decision not to worry too much about the future and just roll with the punches. I was on my way to explore Chatuchak Weekend Market and hopped on the back of a motorbike taxi. I threw my head back, held on to the back of the bike (for dear life) and felt the wind dancing through my hair. As we zipped through the backstreets of Bangkok, I caught a glimpse of my face in...

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Embarking on a Food Adventure in Thailand and Laos

Embarking on a Food Adventure in Thailand and Laos

Posted by on Apr 22, 2015 in Eat, Travel | 2 comments

I recently attended the Brooklyn Freelancers Summit and sat next to Alex, an inspiring woman who wants to become a full-time freelancer. I immediately told her, “Go for it!” Starting my own business and working for myself has changed my life. I’ve moved to a new city and worked with some of the most amazing clients. Following your passion is key — and mine just so happens to be food and drink. Traveling in Southeast Asia has been on the top of my travel bucket list for quite some time. A few months ago I sent out a tweet asking if anyone had any connections in Thailand or Laos. Patti from Raleigh’s Champa Thai and Sushi immediately responded. Before we knew it, plane tickets were booked and a food-filled adventure was planned in Thailand and Laos for May 2015. Oh, I failed to mention we had never met! Pretty gutsy, huh? Sometimes you just click with people. Patti and I enjoy sharing our love of Southern food with others. Although Patti is living in North Carolina, her roots and most family members are in Thailand. Our upcoming trip sparked the idea to work with North Carolina speciality food companies already being distributed internationally. Our goal would be to stir up the buzz on social media and to increase their awareness across the globe. I’m happy to announce that we will be working with Bone Suckin’ Sauce to develop recipes using their Original and Yaki sauces. Patti and I will be filming street food vendors in Thailand and Laos using Bone Suckin’ Sauce in traditional dishes. The recipes will be available following the trip on Bone Suckin’ Sauce’s website. Follow our adventures during the trip on social media by using #NoPlaceLikeBone. We are also working with Peggy Rose’s to sample their pepper jellies, habanero ketchup and champagne mustard at speciality grocery stores, restaurants and bars in Thailand and Laos. Follow Peggy Rose’s Facebook fan page and #RosesOnTheRoad for updates. As Buddha once said, “An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.” I’m a firm believer that an idea is never stupid. Talk about your ideas, no...

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