Falling for Fallingwater

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IMG_1891This latest travel post comes to you from the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania! Filled with state parks featuring rafting, hiking, and camping, Western Pennsylvania is the perfect spot for outdoor adventures! And if camping isn’t really your thing, there are tons of small towns scattered throughout the highlands for those who enjoy the classic B&B or relaxing the day away in a charming cafe. No matter what your itinerary is though, I highly recommend making Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater a stop on your trip!

First things first, lets point out the most interesting if not the most identifying feature of Fallingwater: It is a house built over a waterfall. A WATERFALL! The house is truly part of the landscape. Located in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, this extraordinary house was designed by famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright and built between 1936 and 1939. The house was designed for the Kaufmann family, owners of the Kaufmann Department Store in Pittsburgh.

IMG_1892Before visitng Fallingwater, I knew very little about the house, the architect who designed it, nor the family that occupied it. Why was the house built, let alone built over the waterfall? Well, I found out that the Kaufmann’s usually vacationed in the area and that their son had an interest in Wright’s ideas right around the time the family was looking to build a vacation home. Like the Kaufmann’s, Frank Lloyd Wright loved nature so they asked him to design their new home. Wright designed the house using a series of cantilevers so that the house could rest on top of a waterfall. While the Kaufmann’s initially thought that their house would have a view of the waterfall from downstream, Wright instead designed the house so that it would be one with the waterfall and vice versa.

Fallingwater was occupied by the Kaufmann family until 1963 when Edgar Kaufmann Jr. entrusted it to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Today, the house is enjoyed by many visitors each day and still remains as breathtaking as it was when it was first constructed. As I toured the house, it was amazing to be able to hear the constant rhythm of the water getting ready to crash over the edge of the rocks. Can you imagine what it was like to hear that 24/7? The house still maintains its original furniture and artwork, so it gave me the chance to really envision what it would have been like to live there. Be sure to check out Fallingwater during your next trip out East!

Have you ever visited Fallingwater? Have you visited any of Frank Lloyd Wright’s other works?

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“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” John Muir

Photos by Megan Coffroth

References: http://www.fallingwater.org

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallingwater

My Biggest Challenge Yet

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Here it is! My first blog post after completing my first year of dental school. The year was long – yet somehow seemed to fly by at the same time. No doubt I learned a ton this year about life, love, and everything in between, but the purpose of today’s post is to share a really exciting experience I recently had – completing a half marathon! This is by far one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, and I’m so excited to tell about it!

running1I’ve never considered myself a “runner.” Heck, I really don’t describe myself as athletic at all. Sure, I participated in my fair share of middle school sports, but I more or less did them for the social aspect. I’ve also completed a 5K and although it was tons of fun, I primarily did it to have a good time with my friends.

My journey to completing this half marathon began when I started working out after class last fall. After sitting in lecture after lecture, and then not wanting to study right after school, I just had to get my body moving, muscles moving, and blood flowing (skeletal muscle pumps anyone?)! After a while, my working out became a habit and a few friends started joining me. Then one day, my friend suggested that we try to run a half marathon. Without even hesitating, I said, “yes!” Sure I knew it would take a lot of work, but honestly my main thought at the time was how cool it would be to say that I ran a half marathon. While I still think it’s cool to be able to say that I ran a half marathon, I think it’s even greater to be able to say everything I learned along the way. So here it is – what I learned from completing a half marathon. running

It’s okay to fall off the wagon – just make sure you get back on. When my friend and I began training we had a pretty strict schedule of running days, cross training days, and rest days. We stuck to our training plan for the first month or so, but alas, life and school (mainly school) kept us from training as much as we would have liked. There were often weeks in which we would miss three or four days of training. Initially we would get discouraged, however after a while we realized we were doing the best that we could do. Therefore, if we missed one day, three days, a week, no matter. We just looked at our schedule and picked up where we left off.

Exercise really does help your mind! I know, I know, this one is obvious. I’d always heard that working out boosts your metabolism, helps you lose weight, improves your brain function, blah, blah, blah, but let me say…IT REALLY DOES! I never worked out consistently during college, mostly because I was so worried that I was wasting time by not studying. However, as I said earlier, I started exercising as a much needed break from studying. As the semester progressed, I found that I was actually performing better academically than I had the previous semester (I blame the myokines).

I never regretted exercising. This relates to the previous paragraph quite a bit, but I just want to reinforce that I never regretted going to a work out. Whenever I had a hectic week with tests, quizzes, and projects, I would try to squeeze in a some sort of workout, even if it was only twenty minutes on the elliptical. I always debated going to the gym because it was time that I could have studied, but in the end I was always glad I went! running3

Exercise is better with a friend. Like I said, it was my friend who initially suggested the half marathon, and I’m so glad she did! We had so much fun training and getting to know each other better. I don’t think I would have had the courage to register without her, and I definitely wouldn’t have had the determination to jog the entire 13.1 miles without her encouragement when I needed it most.

Exercise helped me achieve balance in my life. The most important thing I gained from this half marathon was that it gave me a goal outside of school. Being in professional school, it’s very easy to get caught up in school being the number one goal. Training for this half marathon gave me the opportunity to achieve success in another area of my life, and helped me realize I could achieve more than I ever thought possible. Looking back on this experience, I can’t express enough how happy I am that I pushed myself to complete this goal. I don’t know if I’ll ever do another half marathon, but at least now I know that I can. IMG_1801How about you? How has exercise impacted your life or helped you achieve your goals?

“You only ever grow as a human being if you’re outside your comfort zone.” -Percy Cerutty

makemestfu.net http://thebalancedlifeonline.com/finding-balance/the-balanced-life-run-club/ http://runninginplaceandgettingnowherefast.blogspot.com/2014/04/finish-lines-not-finish-times.html

2014 Year in Review

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Since my blog has been on WordPress for over a year, I thought it would be fun to share my most viewed posts as a way to wrap up 2014. Actually, all of my top blog posts are from when I was living in Spain in 2013. WordPress even said, “Consider writing about those topics again” since they were popular posts. Oh, if only I could write about Spain right now! Oh well, someday. Anyway, I always love reading about old adventures, and I hope you do to! So here you have it, my top blog posts of ALL TIME (the past year and a half!):

IMG_13871. Things We Can Still Learn from Dr. Seuss – This one is my most popular post by far, and actually has nothing to do with travel.

2. My Spain Top 5 – I wrote this before I went to Spain and detailed my top 5 must-see attractions! I can also now say that I’ve seen everything on my top 5 list. Time for a new one!

3. Packing for 3 months?! Help! – As I prepared to go to Spain, I was trying to figure out the most efficient way to pack. I was surprised because there really weren’t many suggestions out there. Luckily, I found a fellow blogger’s site to help me out.

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4. Castilla-La Mancha Highlights – I wrote this post once I figured out where I would be living. It is similar in style to My Spain Top 5 post, but more specific to the Castilla-La Mancha region. The only things I didn’t see there were Belmonte and the famous windmills. Another trip then! 

5. My Visit to Alarcón – This post really doesn’t have much text, and I think it was initially popular because it was one of my first posts from Spain. However, it has some staying power and remains my fifth most-viewed post. Maybe it’s because of the awesome pictures of this medieval town. Be sure to check it out!


“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” Martin Buber

Photos by Megan Coffroth

An Omaha Adventure

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Hello WordPress readers! It’s been quite a while since I last wrote. I know, I know, I’m starting quite the trend of sporadic blog posts. My excuse is school – it’s kept me quite busy these past few months. I have so much I want (and plan) to tell about my first semester of dental school, but that’s a post for another day. In an attempt to keep my blog focused on the travels of a dental student, I will share some highlights from my latest venture, Omaha, Nebraska!

Old Market

I had a lot of fun exploring Omaha’s Old Market area this past fall. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Old Market is a popular weekend destination for locals and tourists alike. The Old Market consists of several streets lined with restaurants, shops and bars. I had the opportunity to dine at two sushi restaurants in the Old Market this past fall (boy, were they delicious!), but what I really enjoyed about the Old Market was the Omaha Farmers Market held on Saturday mornings.  The Omaha Farmers Market is from 8 am to 12:30 pm on Saturday mornings and runs May through October. The market features over 100 different vendors, giving market-goers the chance to find anything from farm fresh produce, to clothing, to baklava, to pottery to enchiladas! The possibilities are endless! I had the opportunity to visit the Omaha Farmers Market twice this past fall, and though I didn’t get many pictures of the here are a few photos to set the scene found in the Old Market.

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Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari

In October, I had the chance to visit a wildlife safari on the outskirts of Omaha. Located in Ashland, Nebraska, the Lee G. Simmons Conservation and Wildlife Safari is a drive-through safari featuring elk, deer, wolves, bears, and bison. This park is so cool! You can drive through the park in your car and still see all the animals! The pictures of the elk below were taken while I rode in the car. The elk past right in front of our vehicle! The park also has a hiking trail at the halfway point so that you can get out of your car, stretch your legs, walk around, and view the wolves and bears in their enclosures. I really enjoyed this park because it was different than the typical zoo experience. I highly recommend making the drive out past western Omaha to see this unique attraction!

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Well, there you have it! A glimpse into my Omaha adventures thus far. Any suggestions for future outings? Let me know!

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Photos by Megan Coffroth

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omaha,_Nebraska#Old_Market

http://omahafarmersmarket.com/old-market/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_G._Simmons_Conservation_Park_and_Wildlife_Safari

http://coolmompicks.com/blog/2014/07/19/pursing-dreams-inspiration-noel-shiveley/

Things I’ve learned one year out of college

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Well, it’s officially been over two months since I’ve posted. Yikes! I guess I’ve been looking for a little inspiration since I’m not in Spain anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to fill your news feeds with more posts about Spain, but I figure I may lose some credibility since I’m not actually there anymore. Oh well, on to the next adventure!

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while and tweaking what I want to say. I personally feel that I’ve gone through a lot of changes my first year out of college. I don’t know if anyone else can relate to these observations, but I think they’re worth sharing nonetheless. So here we go, here are a few things I wish I would have known before I graduated from my undergraduate university…

It may seem like everyone knows what they’re doing, but in reality, no one actually knows what they’re doing. I think this was my biggest misconception of life after college. I thought that my college diploma held all the answers. I thought that not only my career, but everything else in my life would just naturally fall into place. I thought this because everyone else who had gone through this transition seemed to know what they were doing. Everyone knew their next step and had a plan that made sense for them.

It wasn’t until I actually graduated that I realized how untrue all of this was. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. My plan to seamlessly transition into professional school had flopped. I had to figure out my next step and make the most of it. Then I slowly began to realize that many of my peers were in the same boat. We were all just trying to figure out the next step and make the most of it. Once I realized this, things were much less stressful.

 Work is wonderful and frustrating. I’ve had a history of successful summer jobs throughout high school and college, but I never really had an “adult” job until after I graduated from college. Let me tell you, having a job is wonderful, but also frustrating at times. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of putting in a hard day’s work and feeling like a productive member of society, and if you are lucky enough to do something you love, it’s even better! That being said, there are days that are frustrating. There are days that will make you angry, as well as days that will make you cry. A good friend once told me, “You just have to make sure the good days outnumber the bad days.” The nice thing about a bad day is that even it eventually must end. Then you go home, go to bed, wake up, face another day, and vow to make it better than the day before.

Maintaining friendships is hard. Maintaining friendships is something I’ve really struggled with since I’ve graduated from college. Living in campus housing for five years equipped me with a built in community in which I had at least ten friends within a five minute radius (and probably five times that amount within a ten minute radius). That being considered, living outside my college bubble has impacted my social life. Not only my physical location, but my amount of free time (due to my “adult” job) has impacted how much I’m able to communicate with my friends. So, after a year, this is what I’ve learned…it may sound heartless to say this, but you can’t have lasting friendships with everyone. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Maintaining meaningful friendships takes an investment of time. Friendships really are an area in which the quality versus quantity rule applies. Now this isn’t to say that I don’t value all of the shorter relationships I’ve had. I’m definitely a big believer that each person was placed into my life for a reason so that I could learn something from him or her. I just know that since I’ve graduated from college, investing more of my time into just several friendships has been more practical than trying to maintain hundreds of friendships without being able to devote adequate amounts of time to each.

You don’t have to grow up. This last one is a secret. Sure you may have to grow up in terms of being financially responsible, but in terms of your dreams (the things that truly matter), you’ll never have to grow up. Don’t be afraid if your dreams change. It’s only natural. As your life progresses, your goals and dreams will follow suit. Don’t be afraid to not like your job in your chosen career field. There’s no rule that says you have to work in one career field for the rest of your life. Do what you enjoy! So what do you think? Is there anything I need to add? What have you learned since graduating from college? If you’re a year out or even five, ten, or more, let me know your thoughts.

“Don’t be scared to walk alone. Don’t be scared to like it.” John Mayer

Ready for Spring!

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Winter is rapidly becoming my least favorite season. After the holidays, snow begins to lose it’s wonder, and let’s face it, I’ve never been a fan of the cold. I never fully understood the term “cabin fever” until this past year. Snowstorm after snowstorm combined with a lack of Vitamin D has adversely affected my mood. Some days I’m almost certain that I’m actually cold blooded due to my state of lethargy during the winter months… but then I quickly snap back to reality and remember that’s impossible. Or so says science.

Yes, it’s definitely been a long winter for us here in the Midwest. However as of late we’ve been enjoying some 60 degree weather, and I could not be more thankful. Until I can realize my dreams of moving South, I’ll have to take what I can get. As my excitement for spring increases, so does my longing to spend more time outside. I’m excited to smell the rain, see the flowers bloom, and hear the birds chirp (FYI – a former professor of mine taught me how to distinguish between different bird species based on their chirps. Needless to say, I’m pretty stoked to try it out this spring!).

So in honor of spring and the great outdoors, I want to share with you one of my favorite places to be outside: The Laurel Highlands. Nestled in the Allegheny Mountains, the Laurel Highlands are located about an hour south from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I usually visit once a year, and have a great time! Here are some pictures from this past summer at Laurel Hill State Park.

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They look kind of like misclos don’t they?

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Photo credit to my sister

Ah! I just can’t wait for spring! What about you? Where are your favorite places to be outside?

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Photos by Megan Coffroth

The Tale of Chompers the Car

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This is going to stray from my usual topics of travel and food, but I just can’t resist sharing this with you!

I’ve never been one to name inanimate objects. I leave that to my sister. For as long as I can remember, every car, cell phone, and iPod of hers has had a name. Heck, even my electronics have had names – despite my disdain. One particular object, my car, was given the name “Chompers”. The name Chompers was a combined effort of my sister and my friends, and was inspired by the license plate frame I USED to have on my car. To make a long story short, my dad was really into collecting shark teeth for a while and bought a license plate frame depicting the jaws of a shark. My friends told me I should name the car “Jaws”, and my sister suggested Chompers (or maybe it was the other way around?). Chompers seemed a little less sinister than Jaws, hence, my car became known as Chompers (ugh – why?). I’ve never quite understood why one feels the need to name objects, especially electronics, but I’ve certainly gained some insight as of late.

It all started with me staying the night at a friend’s apartment this past week. My close friends and I have a rotating weekly get together. Since I live in a rural area, I sometimes stay the night depending on where we meet. This week was a bit of a drive for me, so I decided to sleepover at my friend’s place. I also didn’t have work the next day, so I’d scheduled a doctor’s appointment on my day off. Staying at my friend’s house was the ideal situation. I would be able to spend time with my friends, and arrive at the doctor’s office with time to spare. Or so I thought.

The next morning I woke up to go to the doctor’s office. I packed my things, ate breakfast with my friends, said my goodbyes, and walked outside to my car. Despite the limited parking, I’d found a spot close to the apartment complex the night before. As I walked to the street and began the well known ritual of scrambling to find my key chain to unlock my car door, I realized I didn’t see my car. Wait. what? My car was GONE.

As you can imagine, a slew of four letter expletives ran through my mind, yet I still felt oddly numb. This couldn’t be happening. Sure enough there was a sign a few feet from me stating, “No Parking Monday-Friday 7 AM to 4 PM”. At that moment, I suddenly realized that every one of my previous visits had been on weekends, thus parking at this spot was never an issue. After calling to cancel my doctor’s appointment, my friend and I reconvened to plan our course of action. Evidently, the street I parked on was used for loading and unloading for students at a foreign language school up the street. (A foreign language school?! C’mon! Betrayed by my own flesh and blood.) After speaking with personnel at the school, I was given a number to call, and eventually found out that my car had, in fact, been towed.

Towed?

TOWED?!

Gosh, if there was ever a time to wish for a parking ticket this was it. Heck maybe even a speeding ticket. At least I’d still have the car.

After getting the address of the tow lot, my friend selflessly drove me the 20 minutes to retrieve my car (of course the lot was 20 minutes away). Upon arrival we saw a sign reading “Vehicle Impound Facility”. It sunk in even more. My car had been impounded. I don’t know why the word “impounded” carries such gravitas, but it seems to strike a nerve more than “confiscate”, “seize”, or “expropriate” ever could. Ugh. My car had been impounded, and now I was dealing with the consequences.

As we continued to the facility, I couldn’t help feeling a bit nostalgic for my car. Weird, right? It’s a machine. Yet as I continued through the lot, I saw all of the other cars that had been impounded. Some were missing windows, some were missing tires, some had been completely totaled from accidents, and my poor car was here among them. I couldn’t help but feel like I was part of some bizarre Disney storyline in which I was visiting a car graveyard. My poor car. Taken by strangers in the morning, to a strange place, and all because of my carelessness. Poor Chompers.

There was a lot of administrative work that needed to be done before I could have Chompers back, but after obtaining a notarized letter and paying a steep fine, my car was finally returned. Although the day was incredibly stressful, I learned some valuable lessons. One, I have amazing friends. Driving me to the impound lot was but one step in time-consuming process to regain my car, and my friend stayed with me until the end. Two, and this is just something I feel the need to share,  it’s important to act with kindness and respect in the midst of confusion and chaos. Even though I was only there for a fraction of a day, I witnessed how difficult it can be to be the customer service at an impound lot – dealing with frustrated and emotional people. I can’t imagine doing that every day, and I now have a high level of respect for these individuals.

In the end, I still don’t care for the idea of naming electronics, but perhaps Chompers will be the one exception.

What about you? Have you ever had an experience similar to this? How did you deal with it?

“Many people pray to be kept out of unexpected problems. Some people pray to be able to confront and overcome them.” – Toba Beta