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Twenty Four.

I come before you today, exactly one week into being a TWENTY-FOUR year old, bearing all sorts of wisdom that I've gathered over the years such as, if you are to ever come into possession of a rainbow cake with sprinkles, dare not take a single bite until you've photographed it from every last angle. And then once that's been satisfactorily accomplished, stuff your face until your stomach hurts.

See, I'm great at this adulthood thing.

As you might have guessed from all the crickets you're hearing in this little corner of the Internet, I'm still going through a bit of a blogging/digital documentation rut, but it still felt super weird not to mark this milestone with any sort of a post (...narcissist, much?) and so I thought I'd pop in and just start typing and see where that gets me.
Thinking back, 23 was a year of settling in. More than anything, it was digging deep and losing the novelty, it was feeling not so much like the new girl in a post-grad world. There's not quite as much of that wide-eyed am I doing this right?!ness of it all; instead, I carry on in most aspects of my life very matter-of-factly, feeling like I've got a bit of a handle on things.

My twenty-third was quite the tumultuous year for the country and the world, and it had me questioning how I go forward as a citizen and as a human being. Not the loveliest circumstances, but it offered me the opportunity to take a step back and re-evaluate my own practices and beliefs values and ask myself: so what's next? What can I do for the country / world, and how can I do that? It's an important conversation for a 23-year-old to have with herself, I think.

So when I reflect upon 23, I think those are the two main themes: settling in, and constantly questioning all that I thought I knew. Hopefully, in my twenty-fourth year, these themes will evolve into seeking contentment but not complacency, and using this confusing political and social climate to continue educating myself and formulating my beliefs and values.
Most years, I'm counting down the days to my birthday–sending "things I love" lists VERY. SUBTLY. to anyone I can con into buying me a gift and planning a weekend getaway and what have you. This year, the 17th completely snuck up on me. Tapped me on the shoulder and was like, hi I'm here!

(Managed a weekend trip to Napa anyway, booking our transportation with less than 24 hours to go, how's that for last minute? Granted, I live an hour away, but whatEVS.)

But even without all of the build-up and all of the mental "23 things I loved / learned / did" list-making, I took a look around me on the night of my birthday and felt overwhelming joy at the life I get to live. Rarely is it the most exciting life and trust me when I say I have my own share of !problems!!! BUT on my birthday and throughout the week as the love and well wishes and SUGAR poured in, and as I considered the people that I hold dear, the places I've discovered and re-discovered, and the lessons I've learned and shared over the course of the past year, I knew that if I were to sit down and make a list of all the things going right and all the things going wrong in my life, the scales would be tipped so far towards the former that the whole dang thing would probably collapse.

So, gratitude. Overwhelming gratitude, and joy. That's where I'm at, one week into 24.

(That, and also $55 spent on artisanal ice cream last week. That's where I'm at, one week into 24.)

(I don't know why I felt compelled to share that. For shame!!! $55?!??!)

Working From London

Hello, hello!

How does this thing even work – could someone remind me, please? KIDDING. (Well, not really, but whatever, let's hop to it anyway.) The most difficult part for me right now in writing a blog post is figuring out where to start. There's so much to tell you! I even started a list of "life updates" that's like fifteen bullet points long to repeat to you, to my best friends when they call, to my boss, to my own mother...

I haven't seen much of any of the major players in my life lately, you see. Anyway. We'll get to that next time, when I make more of a dent in that list I mentioned. For now, I'll begin with my most recent adventure: working from my company's London office for two weeks! 
The business trip was truly a whirlwind, from my manager one day saying "hey, think you could go across the pond next Friday" to getting on a flight dying of the plague to hitting the ground running working with our Europe team. Crazy busy as it was though, it was also deliciously novel, and I soaked up the feeling of living this more glamorous, more worldly alter-ego while I was abroad. An alter-ego who woke up extra early in a Pinterest-come-to-life-room to make a frothy latte every morning, who stopped for a coffee or a breakfast treat at any number of hip cafes in trendy Shoreditch, who sped-walked to work amongst a crowd of dapper gents and prim girls looking so polished in black tights and shiny black flats. 

Two weeks of using charming British-speak like takeaway and quid and appreciating the magical Underground; a hearty mix of ethnic food from a lunch market across the street from the co-working space; leaving at dusk to grab takeout, admiring the thoughtful East London street art along the way; more baths than I've ever taken, accompanied by a glass of wine and Netflix from the iPad. Then, all over again. 

I think the magic, the romanticism of this two-week montage, stems from experiencing an international ordinary. There were no travel guides or sightseeing; rather, a fleeting glimpse of what life could look like had I made a different choice, chose a different goal somewhere along the way.

See, now that I've started a post, I can't stop. I'll be back with the rest of those life updates soon-ish. (Probably.)

Souvenir Shopping & Burek in Sarajevo

It was brought to my attention the other day that my Balkans trip took place almost half a year ago. Like what. I mean, here I am telling everyone I just returned from Europe. And then after the obligatory "gosh, time flies!" exclamations, I was like "haha oh crap, maybe I should actually finish documenting the dang thing - however will I live if only half of the trip lives on in posterity" ya know what I mean?

We wanted to make our final day in Sarajevo count, and after shaking ourselves awake, we trekked over to Old Town. Each morning, Cassandra took us on a different route; this one led us right past the historical Holiday Inn (at long last re-opened under different management after being heavily bombed as the acting journalist hub during the war).
Leah and Hanna often joke (*slash are deadly serious), "remember when you guys starved us every morning of our vacation." So here's the thing when you're traveling with others: you merge multiple lifestyles onto a single itinerary and sometimes, that's... trouble.

Cassandra and I need coffee first thing in the morning, but that one cup of coffee can sustain us for an entire morning and early afternoon. Sure, we like our breakfast and brunch, but we'd survive without it. Not so for Leah and Hanna. They need more sustenance before 11am. For the first half of our trip, Cassandra and I often forgot to factor in breakfast which led to a lot of huffy mornings with passive-aggressive "I'm fine" and straight up aggressive "can we EAT yet" type statements.

But then on this final day in Sarajevo, I think we sort of overcompensated. We started off with a pitstop at a hole-in-the-wall French bakery close to the national theater for a pastry.
By the Serbian Orthodox church near Old Town, older gentlemen congregate every morning to play life-size chess. It's certainly a sight to behold–two players (in this case it was that younger man to the left in a dapper brown suit versus this spry guy in the plaid, jacket casually slung over his shoulder the entire time) swiftly moving pieces one after another–stopping only every once in awhile to ponder an especially tough choice. Egged by hollers of encouragement and dismay alike, the competitors played like it was a performance–and the four of us stood at the sidelines, enthralled.

After Mr. Jacket Over Shoulder smugly made the winning move, the four of us went on our merry way, bypassing a lively local farmers' market en route to breakfast.
If cevapi is the one thing you should not leave Bosnia without trying, then burek is surely a close second. Buttery layers of flaky phyllo dough, these filled pastries are a gift to taste buds everywhere. We sampled burek (meat-filled), sirnica (cheese), zeljanica (spinach), and krompiruša (potato) varieties at Buregdzinica Bosna, groaning in pain and yet not pausing for a second in the act of shoveling one bite after another into our mouths.
Feeling drowsy from the early wake up call and a morning of nothing but rich, heavy food, our next stop was a teahouse called Sevdah Art House, which was tucked in a courtyard away from any sort of hustle or bustle. Enjoying the quiet reprieve, we sipped on bitter Bosnian coffees and shared some baklava and a dessert known as tofahije, boiled apples stuffed with ground walnuts and cream. 

Yes, we were so stuffed we could barely breathe much less think about more food, but the fact of the matter was that we were leaving Sarajevo the next morning and were in a total "must. eat. ALL. the. things!!!!" state of mind. No pain, no gain(ing 10 pounds) as they say.
From the get go, we told Hanna and Leah that souvenir shopping in Sarajevo is unreal. Beautifully crafted and unique goods that genuinely feel one-of-a-kind, trinkets and treasures in Sarajevo are also incredibly reasonably-priced.
Our favorite shops include:

Morica Han: absolute favorite shop in Sarajevo. This bazaar has everything from Persian porcelain and kitchenware, colorful textiles from India, and my go-to: rugs! Every size and style that you could imagine. Rumor has it that this is where Richard Gere buys his rugs. I have two in my personal collection: one from this visit, and one from the year before; both times, I lovingly rolled up the rugs and stuffed them into a too-small suitcase, electing to toss out less important possessions such as shoes and my graduation dress even!

Copper Art and Design: right across the street from Cajdzinica Dzirlo, that adorable cafe I've told you about. While you'll find all sorts of Bosnian coffee sets in Old Town, and on 'Coppersmith Street' in particular, I urge you to check out this little shop that's a ways off from Old Town center. Slightly more expensive, their sets are truly handcrafted and very high quality. They let you mix-and-match pieces until you're satisfied, and will even personalize it with engravings or a special design.

Kazandžilu / Coppersmith Street: speaking of Coppersmith Street, you should definitely check it out! Heavily saturated with all sorts of souvenirs, there's something for everyone. It's also a good place to understand the extent of "war tourism" where you can purchase things like pens and toys made of real bullets from the war. Both years, we've bought engraved copper bracelets from Kazandžijska radnja vl. Namik Husejnović on the corner.
We reserved this last day for souvenir shopping after spending the days prior scoping out goodies that we want and vendors who sell them. This resulted in pleasant shopping experiences that felt less transactional and super special: the vendors we picked, while sometimes pricier, all sold very high quality wares, were very knowledgeable in their craft, and ended up generously gifting us with extra trinkets (rings! teacups!).
After carefully selecting mementos to bring home to friends and family, we strolled along the bank of the river, admiring the views of the national library (the striped building) and basked in the sun that we hadn't seen in awhile.
Sights seen, souvenirs purchased, arms laden with heavy shopping bags, and Sarajevo sufficiently explored, we decided to end our final evening in the city with great food and even better views, which I'll share with you next time!

Do you have a favorite shopping destination in the world? I'd personally love to drop some dollars in Southeast Asia!!

Snowhere I'd Rather Be | A Winter Weekend in Tahoe

If you ever visit the Bay Area on a January or February or possibly even March weekend, let me just tell you now that you could do cartwheels up and down the Golden Gate Bridge all day long and have it completely to yourself because it is ghost town around here – everyone and their mothers and their college dorms and their coworkers and their dogs are up in Tahoe. 

Not kidding. We each took a half-day on a Friday to try and hit the road before traffic could get really horrendous... but it seemed like literally every single other caravan had the same idea, and we inched along from San Francisco all the way until we reached our cabin in North Tahoe five hours later. But once we arrived, it was truly like being immersed in a winter wonderland. I've insisted that for the past fifteen years of my life, I've had a snow curse on me: snow stays away from me. I've visited traditionally snowy destinations in the dead of winter (including my first and only other visit to Tahoe, five years ago with my freshman dorm) – the snow stops the instant I arrive and begins again hours after I leave.
So needless to say, I was positively giddy... and really, freaking cold. I've never seen so much snow in my life! We totally leaned into this whole "cozy cabin, snowy world" scenario too: hot cocoa spiked with Bailey's, beers in a hot tub excavated from a mountain of snow, a day of completely disconnecting (for them = hitting the slopes, for me = holing away at a day spa, oh yes I did), snowball fights, indulging on comfort food and cake at this little hole-in-the-snowbank restaurant straight out of Gilmore Girls that only had room for three parties, admiring the stars shining so bright, inhaling the smoky air, bundling up a wee bit tighter as the chill bit our noses.

I am now completely on board with this winter tradition, and am already anxiously anticipating the next time someone extends an invite to get stuck in rough traffic for a few hours on our way to this gorgeous snowy world!

Do you have any winter traditions? Did you get to go skiing this season?