Crying in Public and Conquering Fears in Costa Rica, the Tarzan Way*


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When I was nine, I was tall. These days, I’m a whopping 5’4, but back then, I exceeded the national average and was taller than the 50 inches required to ride this:

That’s the Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, one of the oldest wooden rollercoasters in the country.

My nine-year-old self and adult-self agree that the trauma resulting from this ride explains my subsequent and persistent distaste for free falls. Turbulence on airplanes, rollercoasters, even watching people jump off high rocks into water make me queasy.


Free falls and a plethora of other things grace my list of fears, but one of them is actually not heights. So I was excited to participate in one of the most popular and exciting tourist activities in Costa Rica: ziplining.

See how excited I am? And how small my head looks in that darn helmet? Curse you, tiny head!

See how excited I am? And how small my head looks in that darn helmet? Curse you, tiny head!

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Missing Italy: Good Reads to Get You Through


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Boys running through plowed fields in Umbria, August 2012.

Boys running through plowed fields in Umbria, August 2012.

I’ve been pining for Italy a lot this week. 10 months have passed since my feet last touched terra italiana, and while my friends are preparing for the Notte Bianca at Campo della Fiera tomorrow night, I am nursing my worsening Carpal Tunnel Syndrome with a new wrist brace and wishing I were dusty and hot under the Umbrian sun wielding a trowel or pick. 

I'm hard at work in the saggio at CdF. Photo by Marijn Stolk

I’m hard at work in the saggio at CdF. Photo by Marijn Stolk

To reign in my desire for cold Orvieto Classico and late-night guitar strumming, I decided to share some of my favorite reads based in or about Italy.

A Room With A View: E.M. Forster

 Perhaps my all-time favorite book, full of fantastically wise characters, rich scenery and perfect prose. It’s  certainly one of the best novels about Italy and its life-changing effects on those who it sweeps up into its pasta-laden arms.

Rather than spoil it with plot summaries, I’ll share some of my favorite quotes and hope it piques your interest enough to read it!

“One doesn’t come to Italy for niceness,” was the retort; “one comes for life.”

“Let us rather love one another, and work and rejoice. I don’t believe in this world sorrow.”

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Best Homemade Baklava: A Recipe


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Originally published in June 2010.*

An absolutely true fact: my family is amazing.

My family also happens to have a horde of amazing cooks in it. A favorite family past time is eating and drinking yummy things. (Understand better why I post here and tweet and Instagram about food ALL THE TIME!?)

One very memorable summer (this was the same summer I nearly hyperventilated with happiness, Frim Fram Jammed out on the dance floor and was blessed by the theatre gods) I also learned a family recipe for baklava.

Once you get the hang of working with filo dough, this recipe isn’t as hard at it seems. My cousin is a total pro at making it now, and she would regale her classmates with homemade baklava for school functions. Lucky dogs.

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Dear America: A Birthday Letter


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Dear America,

Happy Birthday!

I’ve missed you. I really have.

Wide open spaces. US of A.

Wide open spaces.
US of A.

I’m sorry I’ve skipped so many of your recent birthdays. There was the time I was digging in Italy in 2008. And that other time I was digging in Italy in 2009. 2010 I made it to New York! In 2011, I almost forgot it was your birthday at all and spent it in Rome with friends, trying to find a good burger (for the record, that was not my idea that time). We had figured Hard Rock Café was our best bet; when we arrived, we realized it was more crowded than usual because it was July 4th.  The wait was 90 minutes. We ended up eating at a bar near Piazza Bologna.

And last year. Well, last year I didn’t technically miss it. I saw your fireworks from the plane as we departed the capital; on the tail of the fireworks was a storm, I think. Booms filled the air, in any case. Your favorite colors did, too.

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8 Things To Do When It’s So Hot You Want to Punch Yourself in the Face Just So You Have Something Else To Think About


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I am a desert rat.

There’s nothing like the sun setting over the saguaros, or the smell of rain when the monsoons downpour onto our dehydrated gravel landscaping. We regularly eat Thanksgiving outside and I’ve never in my life had a Halloween when I had to consider weather when planning a costume. I’ve heard some poor saps who live in colder climes have to wear winter jackets over theirs. To a Tucson child, that sounded like an urban legend, and proof only existed in television and cinema.

This is an unedited photo of a sunset in Tucson.

This is an unedited photo of a sunset in Tucson.

Admittedly, there are a few downsides to living in Arizona other than our state legislature, the primary of which is the absurd, ridiculous summer heat.

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Sloths Are Cute (And Also A Little Creepy)


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I have a confession to make.

I’ve never been crazy about sloths.

Look at their cuteness. UNREASONABLE.

Look at their cuteness. UNREASONABLE.

They are cute. And slow. And mostly cute because they’re slow. But they’ve just never been on my animal radar. Dolphins were more my speed. And dogs. Dogs are so flippin’ AWESOME! Long story short, it was never a life dream of mine to cuddle with sloths, or watch them lazily reach for a branch or shimmy down a tree with the dexterity and speed of a totally baked person.

Maybe I just hadn’t spent enough time on YouTube.

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I’m baaaack!

Sloths are cute.

Because sloths are cute.

So. I’m back. Where have I been? Welp, back in April, I told you all I’d be heading for Costa Rica to work on a guidebook for Go! Girl Guides. 

To say it was a dream come true–writing a guidebook, getting to travel and work–is not an understatement. I’d say it’s just a regular statement, really, an a true one at that. Costa Rica was a blast, and eventually you’ll hear a lot more about my bumblings there. The photo above is a little peek into the daily ridiculousness I got to partake in. (Partake of? Just partake? Someone help me out here…)

But to be honest, I’m feeling overwhelmed with the backlog that I have from my Eurotrip & Triumphant Return Stateside (you still haven’t heard about Scorsese stuff in Berlin! And my epic week in Boston that included but was not limited to day drinking, Freedom Trailing and eating my weight in desserts! And so much more!).

No, actually this wasn't part of the day drinking.

No, actually this wasn’t part of the day drinking.

Not to mention my next endeavors, which include a big move to Pittsburgh for graduate school (!!!), where I will happily play local tourist and include you on all the insight and info I gather as I settle into the Steel City. This summer I also anticipate doing a number of I Heart Tucsons, too, seeing as it’s possibly my last summer there ( another !!!).

Rather than playing catch up right now, though, which is also a terrifying thought considering the fact that I have the rest of A BOOK to write, I figured I’d share with you my current doings. Literally. As in, what I’ve been doing this evening INSTEAD of writing this book because I have been having trouble focusing, what with all the life changes and all. Plus, the internet is just so INTERNETISTING! (See what I did there?)

Things I did today other than work:

Ok. Time to open my Microsoft Word doc window again.

Bumblings is Going on Pseudo Hiatus


With all the shenanigans I’m going to be having in Central America in the coming months, the blog is going to be pretty quiet.


This morning, ready to hit the jungles and beaches of Costa Rica!

If you’re really craving some cool travel stories, I recommend checking out a few of my favorite blogs while I’m on the road (see Link Love).

And don’t forget to follow me @saramelanie14 on Twitter and Instagram for more up-to-date stuff (I’ll be posting there when possible)!

Pura vida!


Bumbling Chats: Levent Can



When we were in Turkey, we were privileged to meet many kind and generous people, some of whom you’ve heard about here on the blog. For a few days our friend Mehmet came to town and we got to hang out a bit with his buddy, Levent.

Levent is a gifted photographer, and one afternoon we all took a walk along the water; Levent snapped away on his camera and some of the shots he took really encapsulated certain moments in a unique and beautiful way.

Take a look.

Istanbul Bridge

Connecting Asia to Europe in Istanbul.

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A Snowy Walk in Dresden: A (Short) Photo Essay


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By some act of literary coincidence, Dresden made an appearance in two of the books I read this year: Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut (finally) and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer.

That, plus a friend’s rave review of the city, and the fact that it was on my way to Berlin–where I’d fly back to the US from–all made it a perfect storm of reasons to visit.

I’m glad I did. Although I didn’t make it to the old site of the slaughterhouse where Vonnegut himself had been held during WWII, I did explore a bit of the city. Over a couple days, I:

  • visited the German Hygiene Museum (totally worth a trip, but the downside is that many of the explanations are only in German)
  • ate some pretty cheap, legit Turkish food
  • went lindy hopping
  • saw art, art & more art (although unfortunately a big chunk of the Zwinger was closed when I was there)
  • marveled at the world’s largest porcelain piece of artwork
  • had coffee & cake at the smallest cafe in Dresden

Out of all of those things, though, I think my favorite was just exploring the city in the snow.

So, for this desert girl, here are some of my favorite snowy pics from Saxony.

Statue in Dresden

The Golden Horseman is August the Strong, an elector of Saxony, duke of Lithuania and king of Poland in the 18th century.

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