2009 began in Arlington, VA where I was couch surfing at my sister’s apartment as a newly graduate of The Culinary Institute of America. We welcomed 2009 with a relaxing, fun, and casual dinner at Jenn’s – it was a lovely way to start the year.

And then came the road trip to….Alabama! Birmingham, to be more precise. Once again, I loaded up my Honda to the brim with belongings and hit the road to be the newest Fellow (aka intern) for the Southern Living magazine.

Work was going great, I was testing recipes, going grocery shopping on daily basis (on some days, more than once), editing recipes, and answering inquiries from the readers.

At home, things weren’t going as smoothly. After just a few weeks with my roommate, I packed up and moved to a bigger and better place, with a lovely roommate! (Miss you Danielle).

Developed recipes for an upcoming national diet cookbook. Continued testing recipes for Robyn, freelancing.

Celebrated birthday with Olga and Lera in Vegas! First time in Vegas for me – great food (Prime restaurant in particular), fun entertainment (O by Cirque du Soleil), hanging out with friends, seeing Jen T from Dallas, and of course going salsa dancing.

Drove to Atlanta, GA to spend a weekend with one of my favorite CIA friends – Erica. Ate, ate, and ate. And ate some more.

Later on, my other favorite CIA friend – Wendy – came to visit me in Birmingham, AL. This girls who has traveled all over the world paid me a visit in AL!!!

Chicago time with Olga, Wendy and Amy!!! Amy (my friend from Dallas) was strongly encouraged to come to Chicago to be a buffer between me and Olga – good times! Once again, lots of eating, walking around, going to the Second City and meeting with Kate and Barbara Ann from the CIA. I love seeing old friends!

Drove to Mississippi for work – got to be on the photo shoot with Cat Cora!!! The article will appear in Easter ’10 issue.

My last month in Birmingham. The fellowship came to an end. I learned a lot, met wonderful people, discovered grits, and built my portfolio, writing articles for the Southern Living Special Publications: Party Time and Test Kitchen Secrets.

Packed, packed, shipped boxes to Seattle, and once again stuffed my car and headed to the Northwest. This was one of the longest road trips thus far. I was a trooper though, and made it safely to Seattle in 3 days (with one speeding ticket in hand).

Drove through: Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.

Began working for Kaspars Special Events and Catering in Seattle. I got to teach a 2-week summer cooking camp for kids – wow! Challenging, thrilling, fun, hard, overwhelming – I would do it again in a second – sign me up! Following the camp, I stayed with Kaspars and have been working in the Catering Office. Great group of people, free parking, and daily lunch 🙂

Being back in Seattle, I rediscovered the beauty of regular salsa dancing scene – thank you Century Ballroom!

Weekend in Portland (train trip) with Amy and Tim. I don’t remember the last time I consumed so much wine in so little time. Oregon Pinot Noir – I love you!

Foodbuzz annual conference in San Francisco! Thanks to Olga, I decided to go and participate. 3 days of non-stop eating, drinking, and socializing with people who love food! And of course, I got to see friends – Tim, Molly, Kristen! Went salsa dancing while very tipsy. Turns out, I become quite chatty after a few drinks.

Hazon Food Conference in beautiful Monterrey, California.

2009 brought new friends, new job experiences, and reunited me with friends and family. I’m looking forward to a more productive and successful 2010! Stay healthy and happy.