Tennessee Family New Year

23 01 2009


After a fantastic Christmas/Hanukkah with Dan’s family in Chicagoland we headed down to Tennessee to spend the week of New Year’s with mine. It had been YEARS since all 6 Quinlan family members were able to vacation together, and a lot had changed since the last time. Its quite different vacationing with a bunch of adult sisters, versus adolescent sisters if you get the picture. It was also a nice bonus to have Dan along. He did great going along with the flow (always Mr. easygoing), hydrating everyone with his famous french pressed coffee, entertaining us with his guitar playing, and keeping up with us crazy Quinlans. It was amazing to have all those people I love so much get to spend some real quality time together.


So, what did we do while we were there? When we were hanging around the condo we did hottubbing, yoga, visits to the fitness center to work out or play ping pong, movie and TV watching, cooking and snacking galore, knitting, dance parties, a fashion show, and LOTS of listening to John Legend. When we ventured out of the condo it was usually to go hiking, on a scenic drive, or out to eat. We also spent a really fun day at Dollywood. Yes, that’s right, Dolly Parton’s theme park. Who would have thought?


To see a few more photos from the Quinlan family reunion in the Tennessee Smokey Mountains check out my album here.


baltimore, MD to washington, DC

12 01 2009

n1933777_46931719_7826Once I had covered the essentials on the West Coast, it was time to head east. I went next to visit my big sis, Martha, who lives in Baltimore.  We were met there by Dan for 10 days of adapted happy camp.

I got to see Martha’s apartment that she moved into while I was in Korea. I loved it! It was in a historic neighborhood and had ceilings that were two stories high. It also had a beautiful fireplace and mantel. Just a whole lot of character. It was nice walking around the neighborhood and seeing all of the beautiful row houses. I had been to Baltimore before, but each time was just for day trips. This was the first time that she was living there, and I got a better feel for the place. We ate at a lot of great restaurants, and cooked some great meals (Martha is quite the foodie). We also checked out a lot of cool cafes and neighborhoods within Bmore. Probably my favorite thing that we did in the city was spend an afternoon at the American Visionary Art Museum. Part of what made the place so fascinating was that all of the art included artist bios, and the lives of these artists were often as interesting as the art itself. It is one of the most amazing museums that I have ever been too, and is an absolute must if you’re ever in Baltimore. Another really cool thing that we got to do was volunteer at Our Daily Bread soup kitchen. Martha has volunteer days that she can take off from work, so we spend one afternoon doing just that.

We also spent a day on the Mall in D.C. We went with Azul and Sugeet, two of Martha’s international interns at work. The were both really cool and all of us had a fun day popping in and out of the Smithsonian museums, and seeing the White House, Congress, and other governmental buildings.

n1933777_46931792_7138I got to know quite a few of Martha’s co-workers because Dan and I visited her at work, went out to lunch, and attended a house party with a bunch of them. Plus, Martha let me be her date to her company holiday party, which was of course really fun.

It was a nice visit. Most of all I was happy that Dan and Martha got a chance to get to know each other better.

Click Here for some more photos from our time in Baltimore/D.C.


11 01 2009


After visiting Mona in SF I headed north to Seattle where a few of my favorite people in the world call home. I’m not sure what I was thinking trying to pack so much goodness into 5 days, and wish that I would have had longer there, but I sure did make the most of it.

First stop was visiting my U of I friend, Oliver, who is now a phD student at U Wash in Psychology. We had less than a day and a half, but we packed quite a bit in. I got to see his school, working space, and meet quite a few of his colleagues.¬† I even got to attend a seminar and his department holiday party. It was really cool seeing him in his element, and seeing how great of a fit it was for him. We also spent some time downtown, visited the famous Pike Place Market, and window shopped. The evening was finished off in boystown, where we took in a darn good “cabaret show,” if you know what I mean.

Early the next morning I was picked up by my other dear friends in Seattle, the Bishops- Nathan, Katie, and little darling Elsa. We went to Portland for the weekend for a big regional Baha’i Conference, then returned for only one more day at their place. Highlights from our time together, other than the conference, included hearing about their recent Pilgrimage to the Baha’i Holly Land, everything Elsa–especially playing tea and singing songs, and most of all seeing Katie and Nathan as parents. They are so loving and patient and simply amazing. I know for certain that some day when I start a family I will turn to them for support and inspiration. It really touched my heart listing to Katie reflect on her journey thus far as a mother, and seeing her put her tender words into action as a parent. And Nathan seemed happier and calmer than I’ve ever seen him before, especially while interacting with Elsa.

Even though my time in Seattle was so short, I feel that it was very significant on my journey of reconnecting with friends after my time in Korea. I feel blessed that I got the chance to make a stop there.

For a few snapshots from San Francisco and Seattle check out my facebook album.

My Mona Visit

10 01 2009


So that cross country train ride that I took was leading me to my little sister Mona. Mona is currently living in San Francisco (just a block off of the historic Haight & Ashburry) where she is doing her Nutritionist Residency at the UC San Francisco  Medical Center. I had ten glorious days with here. A unique experience for just the two of us to have so much one-on-one time (I am blessed to be getting so many of these opportunities with friends and family lately). I feel closer to Mona now than ever, its really wonderful transitioning into adult relationships with my siblings.

Her residency is quite intense, but we were able to find plenty of quality time to get out and do things, along with a handful of quiet nights at home. Mona was a wonderful hostess, and I felt so happy to be a guest in my sister’s home.

Although we were sad to not be with the rest of the family, one of the highlights for me was getting to be one of the head cooks for Thanksgiving dinner. Mona and I cooked dinner for seven. We were joined by her boyfriend Jiongyi, his sister and cousin, one of Mona’s intern friends, and a U of I friend Caryn.


Mona and I did a lot of cooking during our time together which was great. Other highlights of the visit were the Academy of Science Museum, a day trip to Sanford campus and downtown Palo Alto, Mona teaching me how to knitt, the downstairs spa shower, and our Gingerspap photo shoot (click on the link if you don’t know what I mean).

I love you Mona!


Headed West

26 11 2008


I’ve always wanted to take a long train ride across the US. Its been romanticized in my mind ever since I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s film North By Northwest, where dreamy Cary Grant travels incognito on a train because he’s been wrongly accused of a murder and is trying to escape from the police and get to his friend for help.

So when I realized that due to certain circumstances I had a one way ticket out of San Francisco, but still needed to figure out a way to get there to visit my sister Mona, I found it a perfect opertunity to drink in the west through a long train ride.

The next thing I knew I had booked myself a 52 hour train ride from Galesburg, Illinois to Emeryville, California with bus rides on both sides. I started to question myself, wondering how much fun it would be after all if I was sitting next to someone smelly, or if there was a relentless crying baby a few seats in front, or an anoying person talking too loud on their cell phone the whole way. Eek!


Luckily it all worked out and I had an amazing time. The route that I took is called the California Zephyr. It is thought to cover some of America’s most dramatic views, and be the most scenic railway route the country has to offer. And I didn’t even know that when I signed up! The sights were breathtaking as the train made its way west, crossing the continental divide in the rocky mountains, the donner pass in the Sierra Nevadas, and winding deep gorges along the colorado river.

Along with the natural beauty of partially frozen rivers, rusted pine trees, snow dusted mountains, and red soil plateaus, I also got to see a naked camper standing full bearded with his hands on his hips as he watched the train pass by.


At certain parts I really did feel like I was in the wild wild west as the conductor shared anecdotes of the early railroad days and pointed out highlights along the way. We passed country that had no highway for miles around, a sight unique to rail passengers eyes. The train has a ‘viewing car’ which had large glass sides and leisure seats facing the walls, for optimal viewing. The train itself wasn’t that crowed for most of the trip. I had two seats to spread out on, rotating from book, to computer, to ipod, to window gazing. It was delightful. I felt as if I was seeing a Bob Ross painting come to life.


I highly recommend a cross country train ride to anyone who may have the time. Its a wonderful way to travel, AND its 18% more energy efficient than flying or driving. How about that.

Since I’ve Been Back

19 11 2008

Hard to believe that its been a month since I completed my post contract travels and returned to the U.S. of A. Over all its been great being back. The transition was smooth, despite resistance that I felt prior to my Asian departure. Its felt really good, and so far I haven’t been missing Korea nearly as much as anticipated (but feel like that day will come sooner than later).

Here are some of the highlights of the last month:



Who would have guessed that my number one highlight since being back has been Dan? He met me at the airport with the most beautiful bouquet I’ve ever seen and its continued up hill since then. He is fantastic. Being apart for so long I half forgot how amazing it feels to be together.



Rachel & Mike’s Wedding.

One of the reasons why I came home when I did was to witness the marriage of high school best friend Rachel to her honey Mike. They are such a great couple, and it was such a great wedding!



A week in beautiful Tennessee with my mom!

After two weeks in Asia with my dad I had to get in some mom time. So, the two of us headed to the Tennessee Glades for a week of soaking in the most fantastically gorgeous fall I can remember. It was the first time mom and I had taken a vacation together. Lots of heart to hearts. It felt good.



Catching up with friends! Most notably:


My 8 hours with Lindsey.

Weekly visits with the Bolts.

Chicago trip with a little Eileen, Erik, and a Gavin fix.


WHATS NEXT? Lots to look forward to in the near future…

My 26th birthday on Saturday, a 55 hour train ride to San Francisco, Thanksgiving! with Mona!, Seattle visit, Happy Camp @ Martha’s with Dan…and much, much more.


18 11 2008


After a week in Vietnam I headed over to Malaysia. For me Malaysia was separated into two distinct parts. The first part was a week on peninsular Malaysia with my daddy-o, spent mostly on the beach. The second was a week in Borneo where I traveled alone, exploring both the city and jungle.

From Ho Chi Minh City dad and I flew into Kuala Lumpur, spending the night in the dodgiest hostel I’ve ever set my eyes on (sorry about that dad!) The next morning we went to the island of Penang where dad had an old Baha’i friend. It was WONDERFUL to visit with them, wonderful food, wonderful conversation, warm and fuzzy all over. It was great, but I was really ready to head to the beach. So, that’s what we did! Langkawi, where we spent 5 days on the beach, is a chain of 99 islands, most uninhabited. It was destination vacation location for many middle eastern honeymooners. Never thought I’d see a woman in a Burkah on a jet ski, but that’s a whole different story.


Our days were filled relaxing and reading on the front porch of our little chalet, with the beach being our front yard. It was so beautiful and just what I wanted. Other then eating, reading, and relaxing we visited a mangrove, rented a car and drove around the main island, took a cable car to the top of a mountain, and dad went snorkeling and had a massage.

The day that dad went home I spent the night in the KL airport. Not recommended. And the next morning I found myself in beautiful Borneo. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to be doing with myself, and the next thing I knew I was on a bus into the heart of the jungle where I spent the next 3 days along the Kinabatangan river, one of the world’s most unique ecological area. We would travel up and down the river at dawn and dusk searching for monkeys (I saw HUNDREDS each day), orangutans, crocodiles, flying squirrels, giant lizards, and exotic birds, all of which we saw. Frequently seen in the area are elephants, rhinos, and wild boars, but we didn’t get to see any. During the day we hiked through the jungle, looking for tracks, wild ginger, orangutan nest, and whatever else we could find.


I spent the second half of my week in KK, Borneo Malaysia’s largest city, which was really more of a town compared to some of the other places I’d been the last 3 weeks. Antra, an amazing young woman who I met in the jungle accompanied me and served as an excellent travel companion. I was really blessed to cross paths with her as she makes her way across the world this next year.

See more photos from my Malaysian journey HERE