Tag Archives: Travel

Greetings From Texas

by Kate

Greetings from Texas, where the skies are so blue.

texas blue sky

Where the breeze is warm…


Where the sugar is sweet….

naegelins bakery new braunfels texas

And the meat plentiful.

texas sausage

Where the hands of a 92 year old great grandmother are soft and strong.

abuelita's hands

Greetings from Texas, where there are snakes, and snake farms too.

texas snake farm zoo

In Pittsburgh the snow is falling but on this last day, greetings from Texas! From me….

mural mother child

To you.

Italian Dreams and Dallas Streets

by Colleen

On Saturday, I called home for an update.  I miss the goings-on of our big family in our big, rambling farmhouse while down here in Dallas, and calling and skyping home is one of my favorite things to do on a lazy Saturday morning.  To my surprise, I found out that it is still winter back home, complete with 16 degree high temperatures and a foot of snow.  The sunny, 65 degree weather outside my window had fooled me into thinking it was March or even April, and classes already seem to be interminable.

Despite the glorious weather, this semester has been off to an uncharacteristic start.  Many of my closest friends are away across the ocean this semester, studying on the University of Dallas’ Rome campus, and while seeing gorgeous pictures of them traipsing across Italy on Facebook is fun, I’d much rather they were still living down the hall from me.  In an attempt to become more cultured and not just sit in front of our computer screens, scrolling through pictures, a few of my friends from here (who are also never going to Rome) and I decided to get out into Dallas and attend a concert last Sunday night.

After a frantic day of studying, my friends Joe, Monica, and I headed out to the light rail station in the Dallas dusk, ready for some music and time away from campus.  We alighted at Mockingbird station, and wandered around looking for a place to eat that was nowhere even close to cafeteria food.  We found what we were looking for at Izmir’s Market and Deli.  The Iranian man behind the counter was charming  the falafal was fresh and flavorful, and for just a moment, we could pretend we weren’t in Dallas, TX.  Satisfied, we headed to the concert, and spent the night enveloped in the music of the Punch Brothers, a folksy, Mumford and Sons-esque band that filled the Granada Theater with glorious sound.

We headed back to campus that night content and tired, our minds, not lost in contemplation of the streets of Rome, but centered on the present here and now, which suddenly seemed a lot less lonely.

Punch Brothers

Train Travel

By Kate

I begun and ended my recent journey on trains.


Last week my family landed in the kind and frozen city of Minneapolis. Five strangers immediately offered friendly unsolicited advice and directed us to the light rail station, where my tall husband bent his knees a bit and purchased tickets.


We watched a train speed in and out of the station at lightning speed, and moved quickly to catch the next arrival.


That light rail sure is quick.


That train led to the next portion of our journey, which involved an exploration of the Mall of America, followed by a gorgeous winter wedding. After the wedding I headed home with the kids for a week of wood fires, wild siblings, sauerkraut making, and barn building on the snowy ridge. It was great to be home and I have many words and images to share with you from that time.

But now I am home again, in the city, and I am thinking about the train trip home. I made that trip wearing my late Grandmother’s absolutely fabulous coat, which features a huge fox fur collar.


Now, my grandmother not only made the best beer brats in the world (see this post for the recipe) she was also an incredibly stylish woman. I had never seen this coat before she died, but I fell in love with it the moment I set eyes on it.


This coat was made for train travel. In fact, I felt as though I was time traveling as well. There were only two tiny problems. The first was the fact that the fur blocked my peripheral vision, making it easy for me to knock my very small child over with my baggage now and then.


Thankfully my little traveling companion is pretty tough. The second problem is that there is something about that fox fur coat that just screams city to me. I can think of 1000 reasons to wear that here in Pittsburgh. In Middle Ridge? Sigh. Not so much. I’m afraid that coat might be a sign that l’m meant to be a city girl, at least for a while. So I’m glad the last train carried me smoothly home.

I love traveling and I love trains. I love both of my homes- the farm on this snowy ridge top and the brick house halfway up a steep ridge in the city of bridges.

Adventures in Pittsburgh

By: Clare

Its been two weeks, and I can’t procrastinate any longer.

Two weeks since my trip to Pittsburgh to see my biggest, baddest sister have the biggest, fattest baby ever. But I didn’t really watch her have the baby. Yuck. Aaand I’m pretty sure half of the words I used to describe Kate and the baby aren’t really legit words.

Two days after I started a new school year as a sophmore, I was already plain tuckered out and sick of high school, so it was real relief to be able to hop on a plane (for my very first time!) and head out to Pittsburgh to wait for the baby boy to arrive.

But first was the bus…

Which meant..waiting..for the bus. And arriving..at the wrong bus stop.

And waiting at the airport…

and walking. I.hate.walking.

Pittsburgh is a beautiful city, and there was so much to see and do. Due to the fact I kept forgetting to bring along my camera, I was able to really sightsee and enjoy everything.

Like getting a birds-eye view of the expansive, intricate city.

And getting the view through  a child’s eye.

Dear little Princess Olympia is like no other.

She’s makes for some great photo ops.

Yes, we went up, down, and all around Pittsburgh. Everything was an adventure.

Like the park-where you can ride ducks like they’re bucking broncos.

and fly through the air like you’re Superman!

Speaking of flying through the air, Kate got me involved her awesome dance studio’s newest class-aerial silks.

As a farm kid who grew up climbing trees, ropes, and anything else that I could fall from and break bones/scratch me up and leave scars, aerial silks was almost second nature.


Until I woke up the following morning, and was seriously soar. Which would have been okay, had my older sister decided to lend a helping hand, literally, and give a back massage. But being two weeks overdue at the time, she wasn’t feeling too hospitable.

Yes, that baby just didn’t want to be born. Which meant my mother and I elongated our trip, and I got to miss another week of school. Which was fine by me. Until I came back and collected all my homework.

But the baby was born! Late, very late. And not on his own time. Because his own time, probably would have involved him being born walking.

Welcome, Francisco!

Letters To Thailand

By Mary

11 years ago my friendship with Ericka began in a most fitting manor for both of us fun loving, free spirited girls. Ericka then 14, and myself one year older, met at the fair and proceeded  to seek out the most adventurous rides that could procure shrieking screams, sick stomachs, and the melody of teenage laughter.

Since becoming friends with Ericka, years have passed by, but a stable friendship has remained. Both of us live by the flow of a low maintenance friendship. Like me, Ericka can be pretty hard to track down at times. However when visits do happen, adventure does too. The two of us friends are usually up for anything which has led to trips to Canada and DC, crashing weddings, rock climbing, hysterical square dances, and a memorable Thanksgiving trip up north which did involve a hot tub, Wisconsin weather (snow) and stocking caps with frozen hair underneath as we sat both freezing and boiling to death with the same youthful attitude that we possessed so many years ago at the fair.

Though Ericka has traveled extensively, and did spend a summer volunteering at an orphanage in Peru, her longstanding dreams of dedicating herself as a Catholic missionary took some time to get to.  However, last March, after much planning and preparation the time had come for Ericka to live out her dream. While searching for the right organization, Ericka discovered her the ideal fit: Heart’s Home.  Hearts Home is an international Catholic non-profit organization that has a global network of volunteers who assist and form deep per­sonal bonds with troubled, dis­ad­van­taged and socially iso­lated indi­vid­uals in some of the world’s most desperate areas. Heart’s Home is active on five con­ti­nents, with 41 centers in 21 countries.

Before making the final commitment with this organization, Ericka traveled to Heart’s Home retreat center and headquarters which is located near the Bronx, in New York. After her time with active members of the community and daily interactions with those in the Bronx, Ericka felt confident the she was with the right nonprofit.  Because Ericka is skilled at learning languages, she was asked to go to Thailand. In Bangkok, Ericka has worked towards learning to speak Thai.  Her living conditions are difficult as she lives in a slum, but she has found great joy in meeting and caring for the local woman and children that she encounters on a daily basis.

Before Erika left for her 15 month stint, I promised I would write her, not email, but authentic snail mail that takes a long time to receive and is filled with the ups and downs of life, misspelled words and blotted out lines. Sarcasm, melodramatic narratives, embarrassment, and humor jotted on a most random assortment of paper have migrated to Bangkok via airmail.

The monthly exchange of my letters will soon be over, as Ericka will be back in June. Though June is a few months away, I already am looking forward to a non- paper communicated visit with my friend followed by a weekend trip with her and her boyfriend, Ryan to Devil’s Lake for a day or two of rock climbing. Devil’s Lake may lack the foreign wonder that surrounds Ericka right now.

I know that when my friend went on the climb pictured below, she was able to see monkeys and had all sorts of unusual encounters. However, the wonder of traveling cannot beat how wonderful it is to have friendship on nearby terrain. Hoorah for for June, and the melody of laughter.

A Dream and a Plea

By Colleen

The world is vast.  Even I could tell that as a young child, staring out into the valley behind my home.  I would wonder at the facts that I had been told: that the world is so much larger and more varied and fantastic than that tiny green valley, that there are millions of people out there, with different faces and languages.  This inspired in me a great desire to travel, experience the world, and see if what I had been told really was true.  That desire has stayed with me, and now I have the opportunity to actually live out my dream through the University of Dallas’ Rome Program.

Why Rome, one might ask?  While Italy may not seem to be an English major’s first choice of place to study abroad, I know that it truly is important for my education. I want to challenge myself. I also really desire to gain a larger world perspective.  Having never left the country, I feel very close-minded and ignorant of other countries and cultures-I want that to change.  I have so many questions to ask the world!  How do other cultures view Americans?  And how do I view them, or rather, how should I view them?  There is so much to be learned from other cultures and the vast, vast number of people on this earth; how can I begin to understand them?  Well, I’m planning on starting by going to Italy. The University of Dallas is a liberal arts school, and the texts read here are completely steeped in the Western tradition. During the Rome semester, I will be able to visit the places in which many of these authors lived and wrote about.  To not only be able to read and comprehend these texts, but to be able to actually be physically present in the environment in which they were conceived will be amazing.  In Rome, I will be studying the ancient Greek comedies and tragedies, reading Antigone and Oedipus Rex in the theater in Epidauros where they were performed, reciting the lines of the Orestae on the site of Agamememnon’s palace in Mycenae.

The University of Dallas’ Rome Program is a full semester long, focused on learning the truths of the tradition of the Western world.  Daily, I will be immersed in Italian history and culture, as I study the great works of art and literature surrounding me.  I will be able to read about Michelangelo and then go out and see exactly what I just learned about.  Also, as a Catholic university, it is essential that the program is located in Rome, the epicenter of the Catholic world.  This nearness to the church is another, personal, reason that I have chosen the Rome Program.  As a strong Roman Catholic, it will be life changing to be so close to the center of the Church.  My personal faith life is sure to deepen, and I know that I will grow as a person.  Being surrounded by the awesome beauty and the sanctity of the basilicas and shrines that populate Rome cannot go without a personal effect.  In Rome I will be given a clear picture of the Catholic Church in its very essence, and I will be able to truly embrace my faith.

Italy is very far away from my home on a small organic vegetable farm in western Wisconsin.  The step to leave the area and go to a school a thousand miles away in Texas was large enough and almost impossible.  I am the seventh of nine children, and money has never been abundant in our home.  My father is a small-scale organic farmer and does his best with our small acreage.  My mother works as a substitute teacher at the local schools. Their combined income does not do much against the rising costs of living, and just recently my grandmother moved in with us.  It’s a happy life, but one can never be sure if the phone bill will be paid on time.  Luckily, I have been instilled with a strong work ethic, and I worked hard throughout high school.  I graduated from my small public school as the salutatorian of my class, and I scored well on my ACT exam.  These two factors are the only reasons that I am able to attend the University of Dallas.  I could never afford to go here otherwise.  The Pell Grant that I receive from the government is a huge help as well, but with the added costs of the Rome Program, there is no way I can cover all the expenses next semester.  My parents are not able to help me pay for college at all, and I have been working all throughout this year in addition to school to pay my own tuition.  Even if I work a job all summer, it will be well nigh impossible for me to get to Rome without help.

And so, I end this with a plea.  Please help me get to Rome.  I will not only be fulfilling a little girl’s dream, I will be furthering my education and the formation of myself.  I will be more equipped to handle to world with a global view, not stuck in the small bubble of localism.  I want to know the world and understand what lies beyond that small green valley- and to share what I learn with the readers of this blog.

If you are able to help in any way, please contact me at colleen.r.s@hotmail.com

Thank you so much, Colleen

Seeing the Sea

by Kate

I love the ocean.

And during our California adventure, Olympia was able to see the sea for the first time. It took her breath away.

Or perhaps that was just the wind whipping the whitecaps and tearing through her hair. She loved the great grey waves and the circling gulls and this character in particular.

And I loved the beauty of the weathered blue and white against the sky.

I love the harmony of muted color found in a world scoured by sea and sand.

I am captivated by the angles of the pier and the texture of the worn wood against the rolling waves.

And I am always lured by the opportunity for a good dramatic portrait. Olympia on the other hand? She’s ready to explore.

I grew up on a on the edge of a ridge with the driftless valleys unfolding to the edge of the horizon. There is a boundlessness to the great sky and the rolling hills. Perhaps this is part of why I feel so akin to the ocean. I love the whip of the wind and the sense of wonder and buoyancy and discovering the world anew. It was great to see the sea in Southern California- and to watch small children discover it as well.