Monday, July 4, 2011


I apologize, everyone... but I have to take a short hiatus.

I've been busy with work, interning, home and still maintaining a social life... and blogging is going to have to take a backseat for a short few weeks.

I hope you'll all understand and I hope to see you around here still when I return!

Until then!

Quote Corner

The world is a book,
and those who do not travel
only read one page.

-St. Augustine

Monday, June 27, 2011

Interested in Studying Abroad?

I recently wrote an article for Go! Overseas, a travel organization for people looking to go abroad--whether to teach, volunteer, study or intern.

The article is linked up above.

Check it out!

Quote Corner

When I am old, I'm never going to say,
"I didn't do this,"
"I regret that."
I'm going to say,
"I don't regret a damn thing!
I came, I went, and I did it all!"

-Kim Basinger

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Obsession of the Week: Sleep

I'll admit it. This week, I'm obsessed with SLEEP.

Honestly, the past two weeks I've been obsessed with it (since I missed last week!) And the reason is because I've been working late and staying up late and then sleeping in because of my work schedule. It makes for an interesting groggy lifestyle.

And while I know that I should still get up around 9am, even if I go to bed around 1am, I just can't seem to get myself to do it. I sleep until 10:30 or 11am because I'm exhausted from being at the restaurant I now work at so much. But it seems to be working okay for the most part.

So this week, sleep is the thing!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

100 Steps Toward Happiness: Part 7

Hello, hello, and happy Thursday!

There's only three weeks left of 100 Steps Toward Happiness. Unfortunately I missed last week because of a busy work schedule. Thankfully, we're back on board this week!

I hope you've enjoyed it so far, so read on for 10 more happy things!

61.) Borrowing a siblings clothing and feeling like you're wearing something new. Luckily, my younger sister and I are very close in size for most things we wear (minus shoes and pants...). So whenever either of us feels a little bored with our wardrobe, we never have to fear! Because there's another wardrobe with all "new" clothes in it right down the hall. With a "Please" and "Thank you!" we can look like we just went shopping without dropping a dime or leaving the second floor of the house when we're home during the summers and winters. And I know I always feel happier wearing something "new!"

62.)  Childhood teddy bears and baby blankets. We all have them, even if we don't like to admit it. I'll admit, not only do I have a teddy bear and a baby blanket, but I also have a variety of other stuffed friends that live in my room in my mom's house. And whenever I'm staying with her, I'm not afraid to say that I DO have one or two (or all) of them keep me company!

63.) Guacamole. Seriously. This stuff is just amazing. I love guac, and every time my friends and I get together, we almost always make it and eat it. We buy tortilla chips specifically for the guac we make. It's ridiculous, but great. And guac always makes me happy.

64.) 20% tips. Serving again reminds me that when people leave 20% tips (or other generous tips) it makes me very, very happy. It makes up for some of the other crappy tips that people leave. And even though you might make 10% on most bills, those few bills that people leave more--definitely brings a smile to my face and makes me happy to know I served them well and with a smile.

65.) Surprising someone at the end of their shift at work. This actually works both ways. The other week, my boyfriend surprised me at work after I got out on a Friday night. It was late, around 12:30AM, and I was beat from running around at the restaurant... but as I approached my car and saw him sitting in his car next to it I suddenly found myself smiling and the happiest I'd been all day. There's something about being surprised by someone you love after a long, hard day that makes it all better.

66.) Trading books. A friend of mine is going on a cross country train trip fairly soon, and he and I started talking about books we love. He recommended a few to me, and I recommended a few to him. And when he told me about his train trip, I told him I'd give him a few books to read. I could tell he really appreciated it, because there's nothing quite like a good book.

67.) Bear hugs. I love bear hugs. When someone scoops me up into their arms and squeezes tight, I feel safe, I feel warm, I feel happy. It's good to feel loved, and getting bear hugs is a way of feeling that.

68.) Teasing a cat. Cats are hilarious. They may not be seen as loyal or friendly like dogs, but cats have their own way of making me happy. They're curious. They're playful is a nonchalant kind of way. They're independent and do what they want. And I absolutely love when you take a feather on a string and drag it across the floor and have a cat pounce along after it. It's enough to bring a smile to my face.

69.) Making fishy faces at fish in a fish tank. Okay, so maybe it's a little ridiculous. But have you ever tried it? Because it's really fun. Fish, while dumb and not as exciting as cats or dogs or other pets, are still entertaining in their own way, because they will float there in the tank, staring at you, making fishy faces right back. After all, it's the only face they can make. I used to have fish and I did this all the time. And while I realize that makes me a bizarre individual, it was fun and I got a kick out of it.

70.) Playing peek-a-boo with a baby. The other night at the restaurant I work at, I had a family come in with a baby. The baby was so adorable, and kept looking around and smiling and baby-chatting. He was such a lively little fellow, and at one point, I couldn't help myself any longer. I played peek-a-boo with him and he giggled and cooed and loved it. It made my night, and the family appreciated that I was attentive to not only the adults and older kids at the table, but the baby, as well.

Share your thoughts on happy things in a comment below. It might show up next week on the list!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Grieve and Move On

"You've always got two choices. One: You can swirl and twirl in gloom and doom forever. Or two: You can grieve and then face the future with newly sober eyes."
-Neil Pasricha

I recently watched a Ted Talk with Neil Pasricha about the 3 A's of Awesome.

You can watch it here.

Anyway. It got me thinking about the things in life that happen that we can't control and the things that hurt us and make us sad or upset or angry. But it also made me think about how life is still awesome, and that we can still be happy despite the terrible things that happen.

Just like Neil says: We can end up in gloom and doom forever, or we can choose to grieve and then move on and face what lies ahead. We can choose to leave what happened behind us, and look forward to the wonderful things in our lives.

There are a lot of things in life that I struggle with. Things that people know about, and things that people don't know about. And I'm certainly not the only one. We all harbor little things and secrets, and sometimes even big ones, that others in our lives don't know about because we choose to keep them hidden from others. But those people still love us, even if they don't know everything about us. The people in our lives are the reasons for moving forward. They help us grieve and then move on.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

YouTube Tuesday: Cool Videos with Music

Two videos that I've found in the last week that are really neat in their own ways.

The first makes me wish that I had thousands of bouncy balls and that I lived in SF.

The second is a pretty sweet light show and performance by Glitch Mob (who will be in Philadelphia in July and who I will be seeing live!)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Quote Corner

Write it on your heart that every day is the
day of the year.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

YouTube Tuesday: True Friendship Never Forgets

If this doesn't just melt your heart, I'd be surprised.

Sometimes, all we need in life, is to reunited with an old friend who we love very much and will never forget.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Obsession of the Week: Thunderstorms

I apologize for not posting this yesterday! But it's only a day late, and I'm still pretty obsessed with Thunderstorms.

A few nights ago, after a long heat wave of 90 degrees +, we had relief. A huge thunderstorm rolled over us and sent down lots, and lots, and LOTS of rain.

I was sitting in bed listening to some music when I saw the first flash of lightning and heard the first crack of thunder. And it wasn't the kind of thunder that was distant and soft... it was the kind of thunder that was directly above me and shook the house and was so loud it startled me. And not even ten seconds later I began to hear the patter of rain on our house. It started slow at first, and then it began to pick up. Soon, it was like sheets of water were falling down.

I quickly jumped out of bed and headed downstairs to go sit on our front porch. The temperature had dropped and the wind was blowing and the rain was coming down--and sitting there watching and listening to the storm felt great. More lightning, more thunder, and it seemed like everything was getting that rush of water it do desperately needed after several days of excessive heat.

It's pretty easy to enjoy the beautiful, warm, sunny days--but sometimes, it's nice to enjoy a thunderstorm, too.

Quote Corner

That it will never come again,
Is what makes life so sweet.

-Emily Dickinson

Saturday, June 11, 2011

It Sucks to Get Stiffed

Anyone who's been in the restaurant business knows: it sucks to get stiffed.

When someone leaves your table after you've catered to their every need during a lunch or dinner, it's a pretty heartbreaking thing when you don't get the tip. It's hard because that's how you make your money. When it comes to the restaurant biz, tips are what make your night... and not getting one can really hurt.

Last night I started my first official shift at Bahama Breeze, a restaurant 10 minutes from my home. After going through training for two weeks, I'd finally passed my validation test and had my first server shift on Friday night. I was a little nervous because I've been out of the restaurant business for over 3 years now, but I was also excited because I remembered working as a server fondly, despite all the ridiculousness that comes with the job.

And then I remembered the part that sucks. Not getting a tip on a check. Unfortunately for me, it was a check that fairly large.

At first, I was pretty pissed. I'd made sure the table had what it needed. I'd gotten them their drinks and meals quickly. I'd connected with them and made sure they were happy. At least, I thought I did. But their $0.00 tip on their $50.00 check made me believe otherwise.

The reason for this rant is simple. Tip your servers. Because it's our work. We make $2.13 an hour, and without tips, we essentially make nothing. So tip your servers and tip them well. Sometimes we may screw up or make mistakes or not work up to your standards, but serving is a tough job--just as your job probably is tough on you. So next time you're out at a restaurant and think about tipping 10% or 15%, throw in a couple extra bucks and make it 18-20%. I promise you, your server will appreciate it and you'll have good karma for the night.

Do you have any horror stories from working in the restaurant business? Have you ever not been tipped?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

100 Steps Toward Happiness: Part 6

Welcome to another edition of 100 Steps!

This week, we're featuring all sorts of fun things from the summer time, like picking strawberries, feeding the ducks, and frozen slushies!

So read on, and enjoy!

51.) Nalgene water bottles. Why? Because they're awesome. Also, because they're good for the environment (no more pesky disposable water bottles!). Also, also, because if you buy one online, 10% of your purchase goes to help Japan after the horrible earthquake and tsunami they suffered back in March.

52.) Feeding the ducks. It's been a while since I have, but one of the best things in the world is feeding ducks stale bread. First, because stale bread is icky and ends up getting thrown out and wasted usually. Second, because ducks love stale bread and quack their thanks when you feed it to them!

53.) Picking strawberries. I got lost the other night in the depths of South Jersey only to stumble upon Johnson's Farm, a little local farm where you can "pick-your-own" fruit. Currently, strawberries are in season, and I saw a sign for their daily strawberry picking hayrides. Needless to say, I will be attending (and probably attempting to drag my boyfriend along with me) for some delicious, freshly picked strawberries!

54.) Catching lightning bugs in jars. The other night when I was leaving work, I saw my first lightning bug of the season. Granted, I probably should have seen one before the other night considering we've had summer weather for a few weeks now, but regardless, seeing it made me think back to how happy I was when I was a little kid catching lightning bugs in jars. And it also made me promise myself I would do that at some point in the near future!

55.) Icy cold drinks and frozen treats when it's really hot. I always feel instantly happier after being all sweaty and hot when I get to have a tall glass of ice cold water or a frozen slushy from a local water ice place. Nothing brings a smile to my face quicker than the delicious coldness after a day of 95 degree heat!

56.) Rolling down your windows and blasting your favorite song on a summer night. I love doing this. It makes me feel free and happy and in the mood for all the wonderful things summer has to offer. If I need to get into a good mood, I know this is one way to do it--and whether it's Ke$ha or Mumford and Sons (yes, I listen to Ke$ha) I know I can always count on feeling better after singing loudly along with my car radio.

57.) Eating outdoors. Summer BBQs are probably one of my favorite things in the world. There's nothing quite like a hamburger or hot dog with some good friends around in the balmy summer evenings. Plus, eating outdoors (whether in your backyard or on a restaurant patio) just feels right.

58.) The beach. The beach really needs no explanation. Here in Jersey, we call it "going down the shore," but whatever you call it, the beach is just fantastic. Sitting on the sand, playing in the waves, enjoying some iced tea, and throwing a frisbee around on the shore line is probably one of the happiest things about the summer time.

59.) Air conditioning. Everyone loves air conditioning when it's overwhelmingly hot outside and you can't seem to escape the humidity. Walking past a store front and feeling that blast of cold air, stepping into a house that has it going full force, or simply sitting in front of a window air conditioning after a long run all makes me feel better and much happier after a hot day of summer.

60.) Luaus. Summer seems to be the time to throw Hawaiian Luau parties. And you don't see me complaining, because they're a lot of fun! Amongst the Hawaiian leis, the island food, and the tiki torches you simply can't go wrong and have a frown.

Share some of the things that make you happy, no matter how silly, deep, relaxing or fun they may be! Your suggestions might just show up in next week's 100 Steps Toward Happiness!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

YouTube Tuesday: Where in the Hell is Matt?

So, I'm sure if you're a fan of travel as much as I am, and if you troll YouTube as much as I do, you've already familiarized yourself with Matt.

Where in the hell is he, anyway?

No one ever really knows (or maybe they do, but I certainly don't). But regardless of where he is in the world, he's always dancing. I think that's why I like him so much. He dances. He travels. He dances while he travels. And he does it all while video recording himself to post online and share with the world.

If you ask me, he's pretty cool.




And while, sure, he tends to be doing the same silly dance in every video, in every country, in every city or town or village... he's living the dream. He's doing something he loves, and he's made a name for himself by dancing ridiculously every where he goes.

Not bad, if you ask me.

What do you think? Do you think making a name for yourself is worth looking a little silly sometimes?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Quote Corner

If you do not breathe through writing,
if you do not cry out in writing,
or sing in writing,
then don't write,
because our culture has no use for it.

-Anais Nin

Sunday, June 5, 2011

50 Member Mark!

I'd like to send a big ol' THANK YOU out to all of you!

Today is quite exciting for me. I've reached 50 followers!

Three years ago when I started this blog, it was for a small group of people to virtually follow me in my travels (and by small, I mean my mom--shout out!). But since then, it's grown, particularly in the last handful of months during my semester abroad.

I want to just say that I think you're all awesome, and I love reading the posts and blogs that you all write. Everyone inspires me in different ways, and I feel pretty lucky to have met you all (even if it's just online through blogging).

This blog has transformed a lot since it's start, and I hope it will continue to grow and transform as I do, too. Throughout all my travels, I'm sure I'll continue to learn more (just as my title says) and I'm excited to have you along for the journey.

So again, thanks to all of you, my first 50 followers!

Obsession of the Week: Ultimate Frisbee

This week, I'm obsessed with Ultimate Frisbee.

Let me explain.

I've been playing the game for over 6 years now, and after a 4 month hiatus from it, I'm happy to be back to playing the most ultimate sport there is. There's nothing like throwing a flick, catching a hammer, or running at full speed to catch that huck that your team mate just let fly down the field in hopes of scoring a point.

The game is unlike any I've played, and I've played a lot of sports in my time.

I've played soccer, softball, and basketball. I've ridden horses and shot archery. I've bowled, swam and even sailed. I play mini-golf on occasion, and I like to hit some golf balls on a driving range every once in a while. I won't turn down kickball, dodgeball, or wiffle ball. I've run track, thrown shot put, and even jumped the long jump.

However, nothing compares to the companionship of being on an Ultimate Frisbee team.
I wouldn't give up the sport for anything!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Bed Bug Nightmare

While traveling in Croatia for 5 days over Easter weekend, I had my first encounter with the dreaded Bed Bug.

Thankfully, I was not the victim.

Unfortunately, a friend of mine was earlier in the semester in Germany at a hostel she had checked into. Despite checking for the little insects and finding none, she woke up the morning after checking in to find little groups of red bumps that itched like crazy. Sure enough, she had been bitten.

Unfortunately again, while in Croatia she found another crawling across her comforter in the evening. What she was thankful about, was the fact that she had found it before having another nasty night of bites from the bugs. She switched rooms in the hostel and had no more problems, but was obviously (and rightfully so) a little more than skeeved out.

The lesson we can learn here is that, while traveling, you must be vigilant in your search for the little critters. While they are visible to the human eye, they're really good at hiding. And that means you have to look hard despite being able to see them without a magnifying glass.

Be sure when you travel that you check for them. It's so important, especially if you don't want them hitching a ride on your suitcase, clothing and other personal items once you move on from the infested place.

Check the corners of the mattress that you're sleeping on. Check the seams of the mattress. Lift the sheets and check under them. Then check under the mattress. Inspect your comforter and any other blankets on the bed. And be sure to be thorough and do this every time you sleep in a new bed, no matter how clean the hostel, hotel, rented apartment or friend's place seems to be.

Because, let's face it, it's better safe than sorry when it comes to bed bugs.

Have you ever run into these nasty little bugs? Where were you and what did you do?

(Thanks to Salvatore Vuono / for the photo.)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Suggestions for the Traveling Soul: Use TripAdvisor

I use TripAdvisor for as many things as possible when I travel.

If you don't already know about it (and use it!), you should totally become familiar with it! And here's why...

First off, it's a great way to find out where to go, what to do, and how to do it, especially if you're a little nervous about traveling to a place you know next to nothing (or, like me, absolutely nothing) about. I used trip advisor while traveling in Budapest by myself for 4 days back in early April. After having the two friends I was supposed to meet cancel on me, I decided to go anyway so that I wouldn't be out the cash for my flight and hostel. And TripAdvisor was awesome! I found free walking tours through it, a great place to eat, and some of the best things to see and do while in Budapest (such as going to the Szechenyi Baths and St. Stephen's Basilica).

Second, after you use it to help plan your trip, you get to contribute to the site. You can write reviews and comment on the things you did and saw, the places you stayed, and the restaurants you ate at. It's a great way to contribute to someone else's experience in the place you visited and got to learn about, just as others helped you with their comments and reviews.

I really love the internet and all it's been able to do for me in my travels.

I can honestly say, without it, I wouldn't have bungee jumped in Costa Rica, saved money by taking free tours in Budapest, or known about the ancient wall around Lucca in Italy.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

100 Steps Toward Happiness: Part 5

I hope everyone's Thursday is going well.
Here is the next ten steps toward happiness!

We're halfway there!

41.) Set a goal and do it. You know that thing you've been wanting to do for so long? That thing you keep saying that you'll start tomorrow/next week/next month? Well, write down your goal. Write down a timeline for getting it done. And then do it. Instead of continuing to put it off until some undetermined point down the road, start today. There's no time like the present!

42.) Do something spontaneous. Whether it's calling up a friend at the last second because you want to go get ice cream or going to the park and finding some people who are kicking a soccer ball around and asking to join them; whether it's surprising your family with dinner set on the table when they all come home or sending a letter to your grandparents for no particular reason; whether it's getting in your car and driving into the city for a day of antique window shopping or heading out to the countryside for a little alone time at a garden center--just go and do. Sometimes, it's good to be spontaneous and give yourself a little personal time that wasn't structured into your busy schedule.

43.) Spend a day at the beach. Maybe you don't live near enough to a coast to get to the ocean, but I bet you can improvise and live close to some kind of body of water that you can swim in. Even if it means a pool in your Uncle's backyard, use your imagination and send yourself somewhere tropical while laying out by the pool side. I take to water like a fish, and I know that anytime I'm at the beach (or imagining I'm at one) I'm happy. Just remember the sunscreen!

44.) Make yourself a mix tape. I know, I know. No one uses cassettes anymore. But mix tape sounds better than mix CD. Regardless, whenever I know I'll be driving around in my car, or running or sitting on a bus with my iPod shuffle, I make myself a playlist of music that I'm really into at that time. That way, I can rock out in my car, on my run, or on that once-lonely bus ride. Music always seems to turn my mood around.

45.) Get some sidewalk chalk, find a good piece of sidewalk, and get creative. I know when I was little, sidewalk chalk was the best thing since sliced bread. Now that I'm in college, I still find myself loving sidewalk chalk. We use it around campus to advertise events and lectures on campus, and I love being part of the "Chalking Committee." Sure, I don't get to draw a hop-scotch or a rainbow, but it still lets me release my inner chalking child. And it's a great summer activity, too!

46.) Throw a theme party. Everyone loves a Hawaiian Luau. Everyone also loves a toga party. And everyone certainly loves an 80's/90's dance party. So why not invite your friends over for some snacks, drinks, and music for a night of merriment and fun? Throwing a party, while some work, is rewarding--because in the end you know that you were the reason everyone had such a good time!

47.) Snap some bubble wrap. Stressed? Anxious? Feeling upset? Grab some bubble wrap and snap away. It's kind of like an office supplies stress reliever. And it's even more fun when having a snapping contest with a sibling, friend, or co-worker to see who can snap all of their bubble wrap the fastest.

48.) Paint your fingernails or toenails some really funky colors. While you men out there might decide not to partake in number 48, I know that almost all women can agree. When your fingernails or toenails are painted colors you normally would never use, you can't help but smile a little every time you look at them. Or is this just me?

49.) Orange slices. Remember those days you played pee-wee T-ball or kiddie soccer? You were probably 6 or 7 years old, and barely could control your balance, but you ran around on a field, not really sure what you were doing. The only thing you truly looked forward to--were orange slices. Halftime would come. Breaks between innings would come. And you could eat an orange slice with your team mates and pals. To this very day, orange slices still make me happy because of those memories.

50.) Learn to let the little things go. I will be the first to admit that I am the absolute worst at this step. I take things personally way too often, and I tend to cry about the little things more than I would normally care to admit. It's a step toward happiness that I'm working on... and although it's not easy (these past two weeks have been full of me taking things too personally and letting the little things get to me way too much) I'm really trying to make a conscious effort to change my attitude about the little things.

Share your thoughts and ideas about what makes you happy and you may see them show up here next week!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sometimes, I'm a Little Epic

Now, I don't want to brag, but I've been known to seek out some pretty intense adrenaline rushes.

I recently visited Jimmie from Tales of a Traveling Texan, and discovered a somewhat silly, but also incredibly entertaining travel quiz. The concept is to answer a handful of questions to discover your "Travel Sign." I thought it was intriguing enough to take the quiz, and while most of the online quizzes I've taken in the past really have turned out to be silly, this one piqued my interest.

My result?


"Farbarian, Farbarian, where for art thou, Farbarian? Off on some epic quest, no doubt. Your name belies your need to wander. Along the spine of the granite peaks to the west and among the rolling hills to the east. Farbarian, you make your mother weep with your wild travel adventures. But, Mother Nature weeps with joy."

And you know what? It pretty much hit the nail on the head. I love adventure. I love challenge. I love doing things that will probably end in making a fool out of myself, because life is too short not to have a good laugh, even at my own expense. I love taking risks, and I love the rush or adrenaline I get when I jump out of a plane or zip line across a valley. There's nothing quite like that feeling of heightened awareness, and I tend to go to places that offer me an opportunity to do something crazy.

And as it says (and my mother would probably agree), "you make your mother weep with your wild travel adventures." She's told me before, go and do, but go and do before telling me where you're going and what you're doing--at least when it comes to jumping out of planes.

Take the quiz! What kind of traveler are you? Do you agree with the result?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

YouTube Tuesday: The Race

This past week I've focused a lot on running. It was one of my 100 Steps Toward Happiness. It was my Obsession of the Week. And now, I'm featuring videos of running here.

It's a healthy way to exercise and get active. And I think we can learn a lot from runners. Check out what I mean in the videos below.

Is this isn't inspiring... I don't know what is. It just goes to show us that anything is possible if we set our minds, hearts and souls to it.

Another video of a race... only this one makes me cry literally every time I watch it. It shows the power of true determination and true love.

And finally, one last video of runners showing us certain truths. Sometimes, it's the struggle.  Sometimes it's the way we respond. Sometimes, it's about meeting the challenges we set for ourselves. Sometimes it's not about standing out, but letting our actions speak louder than words and finishing what we start.

We can learn a lot from runners. They teach us about strength, determination, passion, and heart. What do you take away from the videos above?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Quote Corner

What do you do?
You laugh, you know?
I'm not saying I don't cry.
But in-between, I laugh,
and I realize how silly it is to take anything too seriously.

-Sam, Garden State

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Obsession of the Week: Running

I recently got back home to the States from a 4 month semester in Rome.

While abroad, I slacked on taking care of myself the way I normally do. Typically, while I'm home or at school in Philly, I run several times a week. I run during frisbee, I run around my neighborhood, I head to the local park and take a run around it a few times.

However, while I was abroad, I took a break from running.

Without running, and with all the delicious pizza, pasta, paninis and pastries I was eating, let's just say I put on "a little" weight. Although I've been told it's not noticeable, I did pack on 20 pounds while abroad, and my body has been telling me recently that it's unhappy with this change. I've felt a little more lethargic than usual, I've craved crappy foods more than usual, and I've felt downright insecure about wearing certain clothes that I used to be excited about wearing.

So, Tuesday, I started running again. And what a wonderful feeling it was to have my feet hitting the pavement once more, step after step. I took my largest dog, May, with me, and she enjoyed the run we used to do together last summer, as well. I think we both not only needed it, but enjoyed every second of it.

Sure, I was sweaty, out of breath, and cursing myself for letting my body get so out of shape. But I'm back on track now to a fitter, healthier, and, hopefully, skinnier me.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Refuse to Be Anything You Don't Want to Be

Sometimes it's difficult to be anything but cookie cutter in today's world.

It's not exactly simple to stand out from the crowd, to rise above sea-level and to be something great. However, just because it's not simple does not mean it's impossible. In fact, it should be something you desire even more because it's difficult.

The harder you work for something, the more rewarding it is when you get it in the end. Think back to a time when you wanted something that seemed unobtainable or a time when you wanted to do or be something that you never thought you could do or be. But then you set out, and you did it or got it. Think long and hard.

Was it easy?
Did it take you a few hours or days?
Were you able to sit back and watch it happen?

The answers to those questions is, more likely than not, a big, resounding "No."

And there's a reason that your answers were no. The big breaks in life rarely come easily. They don't just stroll through your front door on a silver platter. They  don't come to you while your sleeping, watching TV, or posting on Facebook for the fourth time in a day.

The big breaks in life come when you put some elbow grease into it, when you get down and dirty, when you work hard, sweat and put all of your time and effort into getting what you want.

So don't settle for less than you deserve. Refuse to be anything you don't want to be. It might be hard to change. It might be scary. It might be a long process. But in the end, you'll be happier for it. Instead of settling for what is simply good enough, go for what you truly deserve and desire.

When was a time when you worked hard and got what you wanted? Was the process difficult? Was the result rewarding? Share you story in a comment!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Apparently, I'm Stylish!

I'd like to send out a HUGE thank you to Joyful Sparrow over at A Sparrow's Flight!

Thanks to her, I've been awarded my first Blog Award! And I am really excited about it! (And although I agree with her that maybe these are a little silly... I still can't help but be excited and pass it on!)

I'm ecstatic and flattered all in one, and from what I've read it's now my time to tell you all a little about myself with 7 Random Facts of Hayley and then award 7 of my favorite bloggers this award!

So, to start off...

1.) I love big, fabulous, ridiculous, bold, colorful earrings. It's probably the only thing truly stylish about me, seeing as how I never really follow trends anyway. And yes, below is a picture of how I keep my earrings organized.

2.) I've started running again (see previous post about what makes me happy) and instead of going all by my lonesome, I've decided to start running with two of my three dogs (the third is an 8lb Peeka-poo and wouldn't be able to keep up!). My goal is to lose the 20lbs of pasta belly that I put on while in Rome before I start my next semester.

3.) It might be cliche, but my mom is probably the most inspirational person I know. I might not always like what she has to say, but it's almost always the right thing to say.

4.) I'd love to save the world someday. Unrealistic goal? Yes. Am I still going to try anyway? Of course.

5.) I'm applying for a research grant for ten months in Malawi where, if I'm awarded the grant, I'll be researching the effects that malaria has on children's education and drop out/graduation rates.

6.) I just moved back from Rome, where I lived for four months. And now that I'm back in the States, I'm ready for the next step in my life journey, whatever that may be.

7.) I'm addicted to adrenaline. Literally, anything that will give me a rush, I'm ready to try.

And now that you all know a little more about me, why don't you check out these 7 bloggers who I think are worth getting to know!


Enjoy! And Happy Friday!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

100 Steps Toward Happiness: Part 4

I apologize for missing last week (and for being slightly absent in the last two weeks) but I moved home from Rome, had jury duty, and was job searching.

Excuses aside... here is the 4th week of 100 Steps Toward Happiness

31.) Watch one of your favorite TV shows. There's nothing like an episode of Law & Order: SVU or How I Met Your Mother to cheer me up and put a smile on my face. Whether I'm flipping through the channels and catch an episode (or if I'm really lucky... a marathon!) or watching on my computer, whether I'm alone or with friends, I know that I can always relax and enjoy myself while watching one of my favorite TV shows.

32.) Go for a run. Seeing as how today was my first day back in my running sneakers in over 4 months, I was certainly out of shape. It didn't make a difference in how good I felt after my 30 minute, 3 mile run this morning. I have to get rid of my pasta belly somehow, and exercising helps! Not to mention, it makes me feel happier. So get out, and go for a jog!

34.) Make s'mores. Last night I sat around a fire pit in a friend's backyard with other familiar faces enjoying a beautiful summer night and s'mores. Let me tell you, nothing says happiness quite like two graham crackers with chocolate and marshmallow in between.

35.) Get rid of the clutter. In the past year I've been slowly getting rid of all the clutter I've collected throughout my youth. While a lot of it brings back nostalgic memories from that one awesome vacation or that one great friendship--it really comes down to, when I move out of my mom's house for good, will I want to take it all with me? And the answer more often than not, is no. And so I've made it a point to begin to sell, donate or trash the stuff I don't need anymore. And you know what? Less is more.

36.) Make a collage. Collages are great. They're fun, they give you something to do on a rainy afternoon, and they're great for decoration. It makes a room a little more interesting, and brings out your creative side!

37.) Dry or press flowers. You know those special occasions when someone gives you flowers? Instead of trashing them as soon as they start to die, why not dry or press them? It's simple enough to do, and allows you to hang on to those flowers for longer than you would if you just let them wilt in a vase. Whether you hang them upside down in a bundle or you select a few and lay them in that heavy encyclopedia you rarely use, they'll smell great and will make you smile every time you look at them.

38.) Listen to a thunderstorm in the summer time. One of my favorite things to do in the summer time, especially down the shore, is to sit out on a deck, porch or sunroom and listen to thunder, watch lightning, and smell the rain on the dry sidewalks and streets. It reminds me of all the good things about summer storms--like how they make grass green and flowers bloom and bring life back to what was once dry.

39.) Don't just throw out the fortune cookie fortune. Reflect on it. Although they're sometimes lame, silly and ridiculous, occasionally you get one that, well, just makes sense. And if you take that fortune to heart, there's no telling what might come of it. Even if it's just a smile, it'll be worth it!

40.) Every once in a while, take a nice, long shower. In day to day life, we often forget to treat ourselves. We get so caught up in routine, that showers consist of a quick shampooing of the hair and scrubbing of the body. But, take the time every once in a while to relax and stand under the water.  Crank up the heat just a smidgin more, close your eyes, and enjoy. Forget about routine. Give yourself that extra 5 minutes in the shower.

What are some things that make you happy? Share them here and you may see them in next week's 100 Steps Toward Happiness!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

YouTube Tuesday: Butterfly

I don't know what it is about this video, but it makes me want to go out and dance, sing and explore the world.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Quote Corner

Not all who wander are aimless. 
Especially not those who seek truth beyond tradition, 
beyond definition, 
beyond the image.

-Mona Lisa Smile

Monday, May 16, 2011

Looking Back at My Semester Abroad

It's hard to believe that my semester in Rome is finished.
The semester flew by, and it was probably the best semester of my life.

During my time in Europe I was able to do a lot of traveling.
I made it to 11 cities in Italy, 9 countries in both Western and Easter Europe, and 22 cities across the continent in total.

Talk about the travel bug.

But even before coming to Italy I had already done my fair share of travel. At this point, I've been to 17 countries. I (more than) doubled my country count this semester (by one country!), which was impressive, by my standards at least. I certainly wasn't expecting to make it to that many places, but I am really glad I did.

I met some amazing people and did some amazing things.

My flight got canceled because of a freak blizzard the night I was supposed to leave and made friends with a guy from Michigan who would end up being one of my closest friends abroad. I saw the Colosseum for the first time the very first night I was in Rome. I got lost more times than I can count the first two weeks of the semester. I spent Valentines day with my girls and Bob Marley. I had the best week-long date in Rome with my amazing boyfriend who visited for his spring break and my birthday. I had a blast on my birthday, too. I discovered the Appian Way, the Cappucin Crypt and dozens of churches throughout the city. I got lost amongst the canals of Venice. I hung out with two of my housemates from the States when they visited. We traveled four cities of Tuscany and discovered the leather market of Florence. I took midterms and did better than expected. I hit four countries and 5 cities in 10 days over my spring break. I traveled to Budapest by myself, explored caves with a Finnish guy, took a tour of Communism with a German couple, and went to a Salsa club with Croatian students. I swam in the Adriatic off the coast of Capri, enjoyed the artisan market of Sorrento, and explored the ruins of Pompeii. I went clubbing in Testaccio. I visited the gardens of Tivoli. I played cards outside of a train station and sang Sara Barielles with friends. I basked in the sun in Croatia, took an tour of the Island of Brac, ate a seafood dinner in Trogir, and lost my toe nail in Split. I had a formal at my apartment for all my friends in Rome. I went to the AS Roma vs. AC Milan soccer match. I took finals (and passed!) and I finally flew home.

What are some of your best memories from traveling to different places?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Obsession of the Week: Home

After 4 months abroad in Rome, Italy and the rest of Europe, I've finally come home.

And, like Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, there's no place like home!

It's great to be home. My mom, sister and boyfriend picked me up at the airport on Saturday night when I got home from a long day of travel back to the States. I was excited and shed a tear or two of joy. It was such a relief to finally be home after a long and grueling 20 hours of travel.

After the drive back from the airport, I was greeted by three very excited dogs who were literally jumping for joy at my return. My boyfriend helped me with my luggage up to my room, and my mom and sister ordered Chinese Food for my first meal home. It was nothing short of exactly what I wanted.

My room was just as I hard remembered, and my bed--just as comfy as it has ever been.

I slept like a baby that night.

Home really is where the heart is.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

100 Steps Toward Happiness: Part 3

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Welcome to the third addition to 100 Steps Toward Happiness!

21.) Read some feel-good quotes. It's hard to feel down whenever you're reading inspiring, uplifting, motivating and moving quotes from people who have made it in life. Just remember, they made it with the help of others. You can get there someday, too. In the meantime, read what they have to say. Happy quotes always bring me happiness.

22.) Feed the ducks. Go to your local park, bring a loaf of bread (yes... an entire loaf), sit on a bench by the water and feed the ducks. They'll quack their contentment and you can smile in return.

23.) Reconnect with an old friend. Maybe you had a falling out, but you can't remember why. Maybe you slowly drifted apart over time. Maybe you moved away, or they moved away, and life continued without them. Whatever the reason, reconnect with an old friend. See what they've been up to. Ask them about their life. Find new things in common. With technology and social networking, it's so easy to reconnect these days. What a fun way to re-meet an old pal!

24.) Go to a midnight movie showing. Maybe you want to see something new coming out, or maybe you want to go see a traditional cult classic. Either way, check out midnight movie showings in your area. Gather a bunch of friends, grab some popcorn, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

25.) Draw with sidewalk chalk. It's a simple joy from childhood, but can bring plenty of happiness!

26.) Play dress up with friends. I remember a few years back having a dress-up party with a group of about 8 friends. We all dressed up as what we wanted to be when we grew up. It was silly, fun and most of all, full of happiness and smiles.

27.) Dance. It doesn't matter where, how or when--just dance. It's a sure way to make yourself feel good. So blast some tunes and get down and funky.

28.) Sing (and finish) 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. I dare you. It's long, it's silly, it's ridiculous... but do it and with friends! Once you finish, I bet you won't be able to stop laughing with your friends.

29.) Make a gift for someone. Nothing says, "I love you," like a home made gift. Instead of buying a gift, giving a gift-card or spending money that you don't really have to take a friend out for their birthday or some other holiday, why not spend a little time to make them a gift instead? Make a scrapbook, a photo album, or a mix CD. They'll probably like the gift a whole lot more, and it'll remind them of all the happy times you guys have had together!

30.) Stop and smell the roses. But seriously. Stop. Smell the flowers when you pass by some. I did this the other day, and although my friends laughed at me like I was crazy, it smelled amazing and brought me a short moment of joy.

Share some of your keys to happiness in the comments and you might see your suggestion posted next week!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How to Avoid Being Sick Abroad

I apologize for being absent over the last few days. But let me explain why.

I've been quite sick for two and days now. And seeing as how I've actually had some form of illness throughout the last 7 weeks (yes, you read that right... it says seven weeks) I've decided to share with all of you ways to avoid making the mistakes I've made and therefore avoid extended periods of sickness.

My most recent illness has consisted of a high fever. It's probably been the least fun illness to date this semester. Over the last 7 weeks, I've had various cold symptoms or congestion, but no fever. So I was less than thrilled to find myself coming down with one on the way back from Naples on Sunday afternoon.

Anyway, if you're looking to not be like me, here are some easy steps to follow.

1.) Wash your hands, and wash them often. This is pretty common sense, but at the same time, it's easy to forget while traveling a lot and often. Sometimes it's difficult to wash your hands while traveling, as well, because there isn't soap in public bathrooms or you have to go somewhere that technically isn't a bathroom. That's why, if you can't wash your hands with soap and water, at least carry hand sanitizer with you. Which leads me to number 2.

2.) Carry hand sanitizer, but only use it when necessary. Hand sanitizer is great, but don't get carried away with it. And make sure it's more than 60% alcohol. Anything less won't do you any good.

3.) If you're on a long trip, bring two extra tooth brushes. That way, if you do get sick, you can throw your old tooth brush away and use one of the new ones to avoid getting yourself sick again, or getting someone else sick.

4.) Get plenty of sleep. While it's important to make memories and go out with friends for dinners, events and parties, it's also just as important to get plenty of sleep. Don't sacrifice your health for another night at the bar. It's not worth it, because in the end, you'll miss out on a lot more because you were sick than you would have missed out if you ducked out early for one night on the town.

5.) Eat as healthy as possible for most meals. Indulge a little sometimes, but always remember that it's important to eat healthy, too. This means definitely going out for a kebab and fries with friends when the opportunity arises, but not going out for it every lunch. It also means that having a special dinner out at the awesome restaurant recommended by your guide book means exactly that--it's a special dinner. And for the rest of the time, look at healthier options. Don't skimp on all the great food that other country's cultures have to offer, but don't over-indulge either. Plus, you'll keep weight off that way, too!

6.) Go out, but don't go crazy. This goes back to getting plenty of sleep. Go out! Have fun! But don't go crazy! I've learned from several experiences this semester that going out and going crazy leads to a nasty hangover the following morning, which then leads to doing a whole lot of nothing for an entire day. And that is certainly not fun. So instead, have a few drinks, dance your ass off, and enjoy the night without getting out of control. You'll remember your times that way, too!

7.) If you're living in an apartment, change your sheets at least once every other week. Dirty sheets are breeding zones for gross bacteria, especially if you've already been sick. So change them at least every two weeks if you're living in a place for a long period of time. That way, you stay healthy, clean, and happy!

8.) Drink plenty of water. Water is soooooo important! So drink lots of it! It keeps you hydrated, healthy, and happy. I've even heard someone say that it's nature's caffeine. What a fun way to think of it!

What are some ways you've learned to stay healthy while traveling and living abroad?

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Essentials of Packing Lightly

Because I'm no stranger to travel at this point, I've done quite a bit of packing, which is precisely why I want to share with you my Essentials of Packing Lightly.

Before I start to go more in depth, I'll tell you now. This list is a list that works best for me. What is best for me, might not be what is best for you. Additionally, if you're the kind of person who doesn't want to do Budapest on a budget with a backpack, then obviously this list isn't for you. However, if you're looking for a list of clothing and items for the hardcore, 25-pounds-or-less, I'm-kind-of-grungy-but-having-an-awesome-time-anyway route, this might help you gather ideas for your own list of what to pack.

The kind of packing lightly that I'm talking about isn't easy. It means sacrificing the luxuries you get to have at home. But at the same time, they're called the essentials for a reason. It means you need them, while the luxuries you can leave at home. Trust me, packing lightly makes everything easier. You wouldn't want to end up like me, facing the wrath of the theives of Costa Rica and Rome, and losing all of your valuables that you really didn't need to bring with you on your trip anyway.

So, without further ado! My Essentials of Packing Lightly.

Tips for Pre-Packing
1.) Pack layers. Especially if you're traveling to several different places with a variety of climates in the same trip, you're going to want to pack layers. That way, when it's cold, you can pile them one and when it's hot, you can strip them off. Easy-peasy lemon pie.
2.) Pack the bare minimum. Maybe this means you'll be wearing the same shirt over and over again throughout your trip, but especially if you're backpacking, you won't want 12 shirts for a 12 day trip. You're going to want 2. Because that pack will be heavy... and on your back... hence it's name: backpack.
3.) You might not need that lip stick or cologne. Decide accordingly. Sorry ladies and gents, but leave the niceties at home for certain trips. Ladies? The lip stick won't matter no matter how many times you reapply throughout the day if you plan on chowing down on a whole fish or sharing some Mate tea. And gents? You certainly won't need that cologne when you're riding a camel, cause you'll stink just the same by the end of the day anyway (have you smelled a camel?!)
4.) Dark colors for the win! That's right. Wear darker colors as much as possible. Unless you're going to be in the middle of the Sahara Desert for you're entire trip (where you will want white and egg shell colored clothing), you're going to want to stick to browns and blacks. They don't show dirt, pit stains, or that green-chili curry you spilled through the hole in your bottom lip last night at dinner.

The Basics (Meaning you're traveling the back-country of the Midwest, the countryside of Eastern Europe, or the cloud/rain forests of Central America, etc etc...)
1.) 1 Pair of Long Underwear: If where you're traveling is going to be cold, pack a pair of long underwear, preferably silk or synthetic ones. Yes, they'll cost you an arm and a leg at an outdoors store, but you won't regret it. They keep you warm and dry, both of which are essential in colder climates. Not to mention, you can wear them as layers or by themselves as PJs.
2.) 1 Heavey-Weight Fleece Jacket: You don't need a name brand like Northface, but having a fleece jacket ensures that you'll stay warm. Even in countries that have warmer climates during the day can drop their temperatures pretty low at night. Stick with a black fleece and you can wear it with pretty much anything without feeling too touristy or American.
3.) 1 pair of Synthetic Quick-dry Shorts: They won't chafe you, and they dry super quick. What more could you ask for? Plus, they come in handy if you want to stand under a waterfall or ride a horse through a creek and be dry within half an hour of doing so.
4.) 2 Synthetic Quick-dry Shirts: Same story as your synthetic-quick dry shorts. And they won't get you as smelly as cotton, because they wick the sweat away from your body and help it evaporate quicker.
5.) 3 Pairs of Long Wool Socks: I prefer the SmartWool variety. I've used them for essentially every trip I've taken both in and out of the U.S. for the past 5 years and I'm not going back. They keep your feet warm, dry, and less-stinky than cotton socks do. Win!
6.) 3 Pairs of Liner Socks: Again, I prefer SmartWool, but any liner socks will do. And trust me, you're going to want liner socks if you plan on doing a lot of walking with a heavy pack. Having liner socks means no blisters (hurrah!) and it also means your feet stay even dryer. Double win!
7.) 1 Pair of Super Sexy Hiker Pants: I have a pair of these from R.E.I. and while they scream "tourist!" to anyone who sees me, they're literally the most incredible pants I own. Do I want shorts? Yes, I do. So I zip off the pant legs. How about pants? Zip the pant legs back on! Capris? Roll up the cuffs and snap 'em up. It's like having any kind of bottoms I can imagine in one pair of pants! Sure, they're ugly (aka, I lied when I said they were super sexy), but they're so handy.
8.) Medium Weight Hiking Boots: I prefer medium weight hiking boots because I rarely do any form of traveling that requires more than that. Light weight boots also tend to be not enough for some of the more serious hikes I've done. However, just like Goldilocks with the Three Bears, mid-weight boots are just right.
9.) 8 Pairs of Cotton Blend Underwear: One for each day of the week, and then some! The reason I like cotton blends is because they're breathable, but they dry quicker than full cotton undies after you wash them.
10.) Heavy-Duty Space Coat: These coats are the kind that make you look like you just landed from mars and you're 100 pounds overweight, but thankfully you only need it if where you're going is really cold.

Rain jacket, synthetic shirt,
hiking pants, mid-weight boots-
check, check, check, and check.

A Little Fashion (Meaning you're traveling more within civilization and urban areas, but still want to pack light...)
1.) 3 Solid Colored T-shirts: They're versatile, they're colorful, and they can go with lots of different things. Depending on the colors, you can dress them up or down, as well. Think darker colors though, because, as I mentioned above, they hide stains and dirt better.
2.) 1 Pair of Comfortable Dark-Wash Jeans: Dress 'em up, dress 'em down, wear 'em with any of your tops. They're versatile just like your solid colored T's and they don't need to be washed that often. So bring a pair and wear 'em often.
3.) 1 Pair of Black Flats: I love having flats because they're comfortable, not as chunky as sneakers, and not as bare-bones as flip-flops/sandals.
4.) 1 Pair of Black Sandals/Flip Flips: For those beach days, hot days, rainy-but-warm days, gross hostel showers, dressier occasions or any other occasion you can think of.
5.) 1 Pair of Sneakers: You can feel free to go with black again, because they're less noticeable than white sneakers, and don't look as dirty after wearing them often.
6.) 1 Long Sleeved Solid Colored Shirt: I usually go with a dark color, but any color will do. Just keep in mind that black is versatile, dark colors hide dirt, and it isn't noticeable if you wear it often as if you're wearing a baby-blue shirt.
7.) 1 Light Weight Zip-Up Hoodie: They're comfortable as all get-out, and they are great for layering, and they give you a hood during impromptu rain showers. Again, I always go for a darker color.
8.) 2 Patterned Wrap-Skirts/Sarongs: They work as skirts, dresses, beach blankets, picnic blankets towels, or any other imaginative thing you can think up. 
9.) 8 Pairs of Cotton Blend Socks: Same with the underwear as above, you have a pair for each day of the week and one extra for good luck. Then they dry fast after you was them.
10.) 2 Solid Color Tank Tops: I don't think I have to say it at this point, but I often opt for black or another dark color.

Other Various Goodies
1.) Toiletry Pack: I'm talking tooth brush, tooth paste, hair brush, q-tips, floss, face wipes, deodorant, contact-solution, extra contacts, and whatever else you see fit that can make its way into a 3 liter zip-lock bag.
2.) All-Purpose Soap: This works wonders for not only washing your hands and face, but for your hair, your clothes, your dishes--basically anything you need washed, an all-purpose soap will wash it.
3.) Sunscreen: I literally don't leave home without it because I was blessed with the skin of the Irish. It's 75+ for me, but feel free to go with a lower SPF.
4.) Chapstick: It's necessary for rain or shine, cold or warmth. I get chapped lips in all types of weather, so I always carry one with me.
5.) Mini First-Aid Kit: Talk about essential. If you want to know why I recommend this, check out my post about what I left in Croatia to find out why a mini first-aid kit comes in handy.
6.) Body Spray: Call me vain, but I like to smell good. Small body-sprays make this possible. Currently I'm using Hawaiian Ginger. 
7.) Travel Pack: This is where I keep all of the little luxuries that I can afford to carry with me. Things like ear plugs, a face-mask, an inflatable neck pillow, aspirin, any other medication you might need, copies of your important documents and itineraries, etc.
8.) Extra Camera Battery/Memory Card: Because chances are, at some point, if you travel a lot, you will lose, break or have one of these stolen.
9.) Earrings: Ok, maybe you won't pack these, but I do--because earrings are my thing, and I love to wear them.
10.) Minimal Make-Up: This includes face-powder, mascara, and eyeliner for me. No, it's not essential, but like the earrings, sometimes I'm a little vain and like a small luxury.

What are some of the things you pack when you go traveling? Do you travel with a backpack or a suit case, usually? Have you ever had to pack light for a long trip?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Meet Jess!

I recently met Jess, a fellow blogger from Down Under!

She was kind enough to allow me to guest post for her "10 Simple Things" weekly post. I had a great time thinking up ten things that make me happy!

Check out the rest of her blog at Life... Live It!

100 Steps Toward Happiness: Part 2

Happy Thursday everyone!

As promised last week, here is the second installment of my 100 happy things! Enjoy!

11.) Color. When I was a kid I colored all of the time. Even when I ran out of coloring pages in coloring books, I'd draw my own pictures in pencil or pen and proceed to color them in. It's something about coloring that's calming and therapeutic. Even to this day, I will admit, I still color in order to de-stress. I worked as a tour guide and office worker last summer at my university, and in between tours and jobs me and all of my co-workers would sit quietly in the back with crayons and colored pencils and computer coloring page printouts of Tinker Bell, great white sharks, palm trees, Power Rangers, and puppies. Granted, we were all between the ages of 19 and 22, but that didn't stop us from happily coloring away.

12.) Go to a pet shop and play with puppies or kittens. This one is almost self-explanatory. Unless you have allergies (in which case, I suggest you skip this one) check out a local pet store or shelter and play with the puppies and kittens. This is another great stress reliever, and puppies and kittens are just so adorable that it's impossible to be unhappy while watching them puppy-waddle-around in circles or kitten-swat at fake mice. Seriously. Cutest. Things. Ever.

13.) Buy some new socks. Whether you like them white and fluffy, bright and colorful, or fuzzy and warm--go buy yourself a few new pairs of socks. There's nothing like having a new pair of socks to walk around in. They're soft, they smell nice, and they've never been worn until now!

14.) Cook one of your grandmother's recipes. It might not come out exactly as she made it, but try it anyway. But don't cook alone--ask your sister or brother or mom to join in the experience. And while you're at it, reminisce about all the good memories you have of your grandmother. Because let's face it, grandmothers are happiness. They bake cookies and read you bedtime stories and take you to the park. So remember her through one of her time-honored recipes!

15.) People watch. There really is nothing funnier than people watching. I've never been disappointed and always had a good laugh while people watching, because people do, wear and say the darnedest things. Bring a camera along and snap a few discreet photos if you can, too. It's definitely a good way to bring a smile to your face.

16.) Say "I love you." I feel like so often today, people are resigned to saying, "love ya," "luv u," or "wuv youuu!" People resort to these abbreviated ways of saying, "I love you" because of technology--it's easy to shorten it when you're e-mailing or Facebook chatting someone. But it's important to say the entire phrase, because "I love you" carried so much more meaning than a simple, "love ya." It makes others feel, well, loved--and that will not only make them happy, but you happy, as well!

17.) Go yard-sale shopping. What could be better than some old records, a set of antique silverware, a vintage t-shirt or a barbie doll from the 60s? That's right! Nothing! Even if you end up buying nothing and only "window shopping" your way around your friendly-neighborhood yard-sales, it's a relaxing way to spend a Saturday morning. Plus, you never know what you'll find.

18.) Plant a seed. Growing a plant is a great way to nurture something, while also maintaining a hectic lifestyle. Owning a dog isn't for everyone, and even goldfish can be time consuming because of tank maintenance--but a plant? It just needs water, sunshine, and love. So plant a seed of some easy-to-grow vegetation, and watch your love blossom!

19.) Eat breakfast. Seriously. What better way to start your day? It's an instant mood booster. Bowl of cereal? Delicious! Eggs and toast? Perfect! Buttermilk waffles? Leggo my Eggo! Eating breakfast guarantees that you'll perform better throughout the day, which means you'll be much happier. So go chow down on some blueberry muffins or English muffins, oatmeal or grits, pancakes or french toast!

20.) Play a board game. Gather some friends, settle down into a cozy room, whip out the Monopoly, Sorry or Scrabble, and get ready for a night of laughing, memories and fun. Whether you play Risk for six hours or Scattergories for one, you'll have a good times in the midst of your friends without the brain-drain of TV or the clean-up of throwing a party.

What are some things that make you happy? Share them here and I might credit you next week with one of your ideas!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The List of Miss

After being abroad for four months, I've developed a list of things that I miss from the good ol' U.S. of A.

In the grand scheme of things, being away from the U.S. for four months isn't a long period of time. However, it's a long enough period where I've started to miss things from home--and not just the standard, "I miss my mom, I miss my sister, I miss my dogs..." list, either.

This is The List of Miss--the things I've missed from home as opposed to the people. Don't get me wrong, the people are more important, of course. But it still doesn't mean that I sure as hell couldn't go for a TastyKake right about now!

So, let the missing commence! Cause after all, I only have 10 days left to miss these things before I get to indulge again!

1.) Chinese Food: Maybe it's bizarre to have the first thing on my list of things I miss from America be Chinese food... but let's face it... there really is nothing like General Tso's Chicken from an American Chinese food place (oxymoron? possibly...). My boyfriend and I order Chinese food on some Friday nights and watch movies, and I really can't wait to do that once again with him. Chinese pizza, dumplings, egg rolls, and Mooshu Pork are all calling my name...

2.) Pandora: It's blocked in Italy. It's restricted. It's kaput. The point is, I've gone without Pandora for four months, and my only crime? Living in Rome.

3.) My home bed: Home beds are part of the reason why people love to go back to their parent's homes for holidays after they've become adults and moved out. Home beds are full of love and memories and giggles and sunshine. That's why I'm excited to sleep in my home bed, instead of the piece of cardboard I've slept on for the past four months. (Note: It's not really a piece of cardboard... but it feels like I've been sleeping on one.)

4.) Philadelphia: The city is unlike any I've ever been to. It's just something about Philadelphia that says "Home" to me. It's the Tastykakes, the soft pretzels and the cheesesteaks. It's LOVE Park and City Hall. It's University City and 30th Street Station. It's Penn's Landing, the Ben Franklin Bridge, and the Schuylkill River. It's the concerts, South Street, the diners and Fairmont Park. There really is nothing like the beauty of Philadelphia.

5.) Wawa: Now, for those of you who don't live in the Tri-State Area or close enough to it to have experienced the place known as Wawa, I apologize. But this little convenience store slice of heaven is something I am SO looking forward to. Between hoagies and iced tea, and everything in between, it will be great getting back home where I have three within walking distance!

6.) Driving: I've heard the horror of the rising gas prices... but it doesn't change the fact that I am really excited to drive my car again.

What are some things you miss when you leave the familiarity of home? Comment and share them here!

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Time to Come Together

As essentially everyone already knows, Osama bin Laden was killed last night.

It's a significant time in history, not only for the United States, but for other nations and citizens of those nations who have suffered at any cost because of bin Laden and Al Qaeda. The fact that bin Laden is dead is definitely a huge step forward.

However, I've been disappointed in the reactions from friends, family and acquaintances alike. Most of the reactions fall somewhere amongst chants of "USA!", vulgarities, and statements of hatred.

While I am elated that the United States, with the help of Pakistan, was able to finally find and kill bin Laden, I don't feel that it calls for such horrible, hate filled reactions. I am more of the thought that this is a time for solemn remembrance of all of those who lost their lives in the attacks of 9/11, and for the 8,000 men and women who have lost their lives in the wars. This is a time to thank our government for all that it has done for us in order to protect us. This is a time to come together, once again, as the United States--a time to celebrate our unity and freedom as a country that stands tall and proud. It is also important to remember that, while this is a huge moment for our country, we still have a long way to go until we can bring our troops home again.

I dedicate this post to all the people who serve our country in any way, shape, or form.

What were your reactions to the news of bin Laden's death? What do you think of the riots and mobs that gathered after news was released? Do you think these were justified reactions, and if so, why?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Happy May Day!

First of all, I'd like to wish everyone a wonderful and happy May!

It's a beautiful month for many reasons. There's May Day (celebrate today!), Mother's Day (what a great way to celebrate the woman who brought you into the world!), Cinco de Mayo, May flowers, warmth from the sun and blue skies, and the end of school approaching for students and teachers in addition to many more reasons.

Being in Rome for the first half of May means that I was lucky enough to witness the Beatification of the late Pope John Paul II this morning. Although I am not religious, it was quiet an incredible experience, regardless. You can read a little about it in the Obsession of the Week (and why I just love large crowds this week!).

I hope that you all take advantage of the wonderful things that May has to offer you for the next 31 days.

Live every moment. Appreciate the little things. Enjoy the beauty of May!

What are your favorite things about May? Have you ever had an awesome experience in the month of May and want to share? Comment and tell me about it!

Obsession of the Week: Large Crowds

This week, I am absolutely loving LARGE CROWDS.

And how could I not be? I just spent the entire morning and afternoon near St. Peter's Square and the Vatican in Rome for the Beatification of the late Pope John Paul II.

Not only was it a beautiful day for such an incredible ceremony, but over 1 million people came to celebrate together--to sing, to dance, to be united together as one. It's hard to deny the spirit of John Paul II when immersed in the midst of 1 million believers clapping their hands and whistling and crying and hugging each other. And while there is controversy over the sped-up Beatification process of the late Pope, there is no doubt in my mind that it was a well deserved honor after witnessing all of the people and the celebrations of the day.

It was an incredibly moving morning and afternoon, even as a non-religious person. Rome has not seen this many visitors at one time since John Paul II's death in April of 2004. It's clear that he was influential and greatly loved by millions of Catholics the world over. And they proved their love today by showing up to Rome in the hundreds of thousands for his Beatification ceremony.

So, this is why I am obsessed with large crowds this week. After an experience like that, how could I not be?!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Be Amazing!

A friend posted this video on her Facebook wall earlier today.

Watch it. It will blow your mind.

This isn't going to be one of my longer posts. Instead, it's going to be short and sweet.
To put it simply, this girl teaches us one very important thing: be amazing. Maybe you can't spider-man climb a wall and catch a baseball hit by Brent Johnson, but I know that you can do something amazing. And you need to do it--whatever it is. If you can sing, then sing loud and clear. If you can run marathons, then run with all of your might. If you can rock climb, then climb on. If you can grill a mean rack of barbeque pork ribs, then grill away, baby!

But whatever it is that you can do, always be sure to remember the second very important thing that this girl teaches us: be humble. You know what you can do is amazing. Others definitely know what you can do is amazing. So instead of bragging about it, just own it, live it, do it.

Go and be amazing.

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