A Beautiful Start to the Day

This gallery contains 11 photos.

Here are some photos I have taken recently. They remind me of the pure, simplicity of the beauty found in everyday nature that is around us. Since I am in the Dominican Republic right now, I am surrounded by lush green jungles of trees and flowers, gloriously beautiful beaches with stunning sunsets and awakening sunrises, […]

The Magic of the Denver Botanic Gardens

Sometimes, a new beautiful place is right next door and practically “right under your nose” as the saying goes. This was just such a case for me. If you haven’t visited this amazing treasure of Denver, enjoying reading about it and I hope you go experience it for yourself soon.

Amalia Travel

2013-05-28 19.41.49Have you ever lived in a place and realized after years there, that you had not experienced one of its most precious jewels? I have now been living in Colorado for almost thirteen years and just last night was my first visit to the Denver Botanic Gardens. There is nothing like visiting a gorgeous garden and getting outside, to enjoy and celebrate the season of Spring. This came to my mind as I strolled with my dear friend Tom to the gardens, which are excitedly located just a few blocks from my house in the downtown Denver neighborhood of Capitol Hill.

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Arriving at our destination, we entered and immediately realized that we had come at one of the best times possible…the sun was setting behind large billowing clouds in the west, creating a light in the air that was pristine. Cast over everything was a dancing blend of…

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Turning 30 In Europe

Happy 30th, Amalia...

I recently had my 30th birthday in Europe. It seems that starting the beginning of any decade can be a monumental time in one’s life. I had the feeling, accompanied by affirmation from others, that the way I would go into my 30’s would set the pace for this next decade of my life. This brought to my attention questions about who I am, who I want to be, and what I want to be doing with my life. And yes…I am still asking myself these questions at the new age of thirty. I hear from those even older, that they still ask themselves these life questions as well.

I love Europe and there is so much in that part of the world that I have not seen and experienced. Keep in mind though, I don’t want to see and experience Europe the same way that most Americans do. I want to visit there for a while and stay with locals. Gist is, I want to live there for a period of time.

Giving attention to these questions stirred up desires and passions that I have for traveling and people. This involved some reflection on the past decade of my twenties and I feel that overall I can say that I spent my twenties knowing who I am, but trying to conform to what my surrounding society expected of me, especially when it came to career. The first big thing to understand about me concerning career is that I’ve known for a long time, since I was a teenager, that I could not have just one type of job or career my whole life. There was no way I could see myself doing just one type of work and being with one company throughout my life. The idea terrified me with boredom and seemed so down-right typical. So it’s no surprise that throughout my twenties, I had numerous different kinds of jobs in a variety of companies. Our society doesn’t look very highly on that so I encountered feelings of needing to change or that I wasn’t doing things right…in essence, that there was something wrong with what I wanted and where I was at in my life.

Milano City Center

Flash forward now to current day: I turned thirty almost two weeks ago on April 4th. Where did I spend this special occasion? I was with my two dear friends, Marilena and Anne, in Milano, Italy (and that’s the Italian way to spell it, by the way). You see, back in the summer I was working for a great corporation in a fantastic position. I had a nice office, good title, wonderful colleagues, and…I had to be in an office at a certain time, was compared to my co-worker and thus expected to be in the office earlier and stay later, and wasn’t traveling. Some things just aren’t for everyone and as nice as the security can be, I didn’t see it as bulletproof, ever-lasting security. Haven’t we learned that by now about companies in our economy and times?

Maps anybody???

Then the ideas came, fast on the heels of my desires that I started to pay more attention to…I longed to be in Europe for my 30th birthday. Heck, if I’m already over there, why not make the most of it and be there for a little while. I could see countries I hadn’t been to yet, like Italy and Switzerland…spend more time in Spain to discover more about my family roots there and finally become fluent in Spanish (which is long overdue since my mother is Dominican and Spaniard and her first language is Spanish). And who knows what else I would discover about myself by living in new countries. For more reasons than I can list here, it was becoming more and more of a desire and more ideas were being born.

Have you ever found that when you start asking yourself hard questions and then paying attention to what you find, that you become motivated to essentially “put it out there”…to yourself, your friends and family maybe, even putting it out there over any of your fears and discouragement from others…And that’s when things start to fall into place and doors open. I always like to keep in mind that at times it may seem that doors close, but that’s only because there is another door or even window that opens.

I started to put out there my desires and from that formed a plan. The windows and doors that opened and closed over many more months orchestrated the possibility of where I am now and the fulfillment of one of my aspirations for how I would set the pace for my thirties. It may seem cliché, but there is a reason why people pose the question “If you only had one month or year left to live, what would you go do?” I spent years putting that question aside and doing what I was told life looked like to be responsible, secure, and happy. I really did. I had the relationship, the house, the yard, the dog, the job (well, in my case jobs)…and you know what…it didn’t bring security or success or happiness for that matter. In and of themselves these things are not wrong, they’re not bad. I am simply sick of the unbalanced value that some societies can put on them. And I’m hopefully learning that I should not find my value and life in them.

L to R: Anne, Marilena, and Myself

Now back to a couple of weeks ago…I spent my 30th birthday in Milano, Italy with old and new friends. Marilena and her fiancé Flavio (now husband) took us to the most wonderful dinner for the special occasion and absolutely spoiled me with their company during the week and a half that I was visiting. Overall, my favorite aspect of my experiences so far was not only my birthday, but the day after was Marilena’s birthday and then a week later was her wedding. This was very special for me since I love to travel by experiencing local Peoples and cultures and attending a matrimonio Italiano (Italian wedding) showed me the best of Milano and Italians.

Train ride from Milano to Venice...where I wrote this post from

Catch up to where I am at this very moment and you find me writing this from the train as I head from this past week in Geneva, Switzerland to Venice. The sun is still bright as it starts to set and there are lush fields of grape trellis’ in vineyards flying by my window as I travel further into renowned Italian wine country. It is quite like the scenes many of us have seen in pictures, movies, and first-hand…but for me this time, its reality. And I feel at home. I feel at peace and excited…if this is what the start of my thirties can look like, who knows what else I have available to me throughout the next decade.

Reflections on Life Before 30…Thank You!

Going back to the 1st birthday...

In about three weeks I turn 30 years old. Talk about a time to reflect. Some people dread getting older, however I’m looking forward to starting a new decade of my life. I hear that 30’s can be your best years and that the way you start a decade can set the pace for the next 10 years of your life. Hmmm…maybe this explains why I’m living the next 6 months traveling throughout Britain, Europe, Israel, and who knows where else. For more details on that adventure, check out my travel blog www.EthnosTravel.wordpress.com.

What kicked off these reflections was a gift for my upcoming 30th birthday that my loving Aunt Karen from Pennsylvania sent me. In a birthday card she enclosed an entire stack of old photos. They were of my childhood and captured me at all different ages: infant to toddler, kid to teenager…it’s very touching to look at them to say the least. To see the album click here. There was something sentimental about the feel of old photos in my hands. It made me realize how much things have changed, not just with technology, but in me as well.

Loved that poodle sweater!

And so began my reflections back on my life thus far…almost thirty years of life and I was struck with how much the people in my life have molded me and influenced who I am. More than anything though, it made me grateful. I’ve been fortunate to experience a family that is loving and gave me an amazing childhood. Full of love and affirmation, my parents invested all of themselves into me. They spent time with me, reading and playing music, camping and hiking, even climbing trees. My life has been blessed with amazing people through my family and through friends.

Life has also had its surprises and hurts. Not everything is rose-colored glass…there has been heartache and loss, tragedy and grief…however, more than anything, there has been love. There is love. And for that, I am forever thankful…

First I want to thank the friends I have had in my life…I thought about naming them here, but would hate to limit myself that way and to leave anyone out. You each know who you are. From elementary school friends that I shared the same birthday with to high school friends and middle school girls I mentored…some of you are now married and with kids of your own. Some are graduating from college and reminding me of how young I was when I would babysit you…crazy that adults entrusted you to me.  And my trusty, fun college girlfriends…people would swear that we were cousins if not sisters, we looked so much alike and were always together so much. It’s neat to see where all of us are now. To more recent and current friends, you’re an amazing part of my Colorado home and life. From skiing to backpacking, roommates and building-mates, downtown nights out to weddings and babies…you’ve been there for me through celebrating joyous events and grieving through tragedies. Thank you does not even begin to describe my appreciation to all of you…but you have my friendship for the rest of our lives to continue to show you my gratefulness.

And I have to thank my first love. You rocked my world and the after-shock still resonates…and in the best of ways. Sure, things did not turn out the way we hoped, but I believe part of turning 30 for me is coming to a new place where I am glad for the past and would not change what we had or want it gone for the life of me. You’re a very special person and got to me like no other, even to this day. God help the person who does one day get to me even more 🙂 But for now, you hold the record. Thank you for you. There’s simply no other words that can express what I feel about you and will always appreciate about having been in love with you. You have taught me the most about myself.

Last, but certainly not least…

With Mommy and Daddy...always loved saying it with "y".

I want to thank my mom and dad for all their love that they continue to give – you each loved me so much that I have never doubted that you would always love me through anything and forever. My appreciation and love goes out to my grandparents, those who are still with us and those who have already gone ahead…your adoration of me makes me think of the coziest blanket. To my aunts, uncles, and cousins – the memories I have created with you remain with me still and I look forward to many more memories to come. As our family has grown with the addition of my step-mother and step-siblings, our family love has grown as well…thank you for your openness and growing together. You’re love and faith in me touches me still. And to my brothers: Marky and Brendan…don’t forget that it was me who named you both and you are such close friends and the coolest boys I know…your friendship with me is such a joy! I always laugh so much with both of you and I see each of you as one of the coolest parts of me and my life. My family is so wonderful to me! Each of you have showered so much love on me, instilling in me the strongest sense of making the most of every moment by being kind, affirming, and loving to others. Life is short, so why be mean or unkind…you’re each extraordinary people in how you love and live.

The coolest brothers in the world!

I’ve learned so much from all of you. The most important things I’ve learned have been from my mistakes. Thanks for loving me, mistakes and all.

Where would I be without each of you? Who would I be? I would be a completely different Amalia, that’s for sure. I’m in love with the Amalia that I am…all of me and all of who makes me who I am. With that truth about my past and present known and loved, I’m excited to venture into my 30’s. And guess what…you’re each coming with me.

With continued love ~ 

Home Cooked – Dinner with the Neely’s

Please Meet Chef Steve Neely

One of the things I enjoy most with friends is cooking and eating. Recently I indulged in this friend past-time with my good friends the Neely’s. Now, keep in mind that I did none of the cooking and simply brought two bottles of wine – a red and a white, each that came highly recommended from the wine store in Lower Highland called Amendment XXI.

To really get started though, let me introduce you to the Neely’s: Steve Neely is from Scotland (I love the accent) and Becky Neely is from Nashville, TN (another lovely accent). They met in Dominica while Becky was living and working there for the Peace Core and they have traveled the world together in the years since they’ve been married. Steve is the cook of the family and a very fantastic cook at that. Creative and willing to put much more time into preparation than I ever am. I knew this was going to be a fantastic meal that would spoil my taste buds for weeks to come!

When I arrived at their cozy Highland neighborhood home, Steve was just pulling everything out to begin cooking. Becky and I appropriately began to chill the white wine, which we then proceeded to drink even as we were cooking. Here is my disclaimer on the “we” reference in this post…if it’s in reference to cooking, it is referring to Steve Neely, unless you are gracious enough to count some occasional chopping and rinsing which I have to give credit for to Becky. All three of us stood in the lovely kitchen and caught up on our lives. This is one of my favorite parts and almost as good in my mind as actually sitting down to enjoy the meal – conversing and interacting, standing around in the kitchen. It feels so real and I like the casualness of this.

Look at all those ingredients!

The chicken had been soaked in a brine since the day before to tenderize the meat and prepare it for cooking. Looking at the cookbook that Steve had received as a Christmas gift, I learned that the meal we were having that night was essentially very similar to paella. “Wonderful” I thought, “I love paella!”…I love practically all food! Yet what a special dish this was…it was a wonderful new version, we can call it a remake or better yet a “cover dish”. Like a cover song…get it? From there I could not tell you in what order things were done, except that the end result was the following: a fantastically colorful and most delicious dish of crawfish, shrimp, chicken, sausage, peppers, green beans, mussels, roasted tomatoes, and very likely much more that my memory is not pulling up. That is not all though! All of this was laid out in a bed of savory yellow rice full of spices and cooked to perfection ( rice can still be ruined, believe it or not).

This was one of those nights that encompassed both fantastic food and amazingly wonderful friends. I would say that the company is what certainly makes any occasion and in this case, even the fantastic food did not rank higher than being with my friends.

I had seconds, just so you know...

You see, Becky and Steve have these open hearts that result in an open home. Their conversation is interesting and welcoming, while their minds are engaging and accepting. Perhaps this is embodied in their cooking as well. As much as Becky likes to point out that Steve is the cook, I like to remind her that she is his inspiration and “cohort in crime” when it comes to any masterpiece created in their kitchen and for that matter in their life together. Quite a pair they make and I must say I will always be thanking them for feeding not only my stomach, but also my heart. Thank you both and here’s to many more amazing dinners. May we one day cook and eat together in another country as well!