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?!

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