Monday, July 16, 2018

Monday Mantra: 35 Before 35

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: Pursue your passions above all else
As long as there is open road the familiar has the most formidable competitor.  - Austin Kleon

Things I love, in order:

1) Family, friends, furry babies
2) Travel
3) Lord of the Rings

Number two is significant.

A little while back I set a goal for myself: to have traveled to 35 countries before my 35th birthday. On one hand, I completely believed I could make it happen. On the other, it seemed a little impossible given the time constraints. I knew I would get close, definitely, but actually hitting my target seemed out of reach. Nonetheless, I persisted.

The universe does magical things when you want something bad enough, friends. When you love something with all your being. When you've committed your heart and soul to it.

I didn't just hit my goal, I surpassed it (and with a solid buffer of time, might I add). *high fives self*

Am I pleased? As punch.

Am I satisfied? No.

I've been to six of the seven continents, I've traveled to 38 different countries, some on multiple occasions, and I've seen half of my own country. Is this enough?

Never, never, never.

Number wise, 38 sounds like a lot, but I've done the math, friends. It's not even a fourth of the world. If we generously round up, we can pretend. But mathematically speaking, I've seen a blip of what's out there. This miraculous, gorgeous, incredible world of ours is filled with more places than I can likely see in my lifetime, but that's not going to stop me from trying.

For instance, when I nonchalantly tell someone I have a travel bucket list, I literally mean I have a seven page document outlining all the international and domestic places I need to see, places I've already been and want to revisit, and when I think I'm going to make these adventures happen (determined primarily by my impatience to see them). The love I feel for traveling is real and deep and profound and, therefore, must be embraced.

Now, I ask you: What do you love?

What do you think about day and night, night and day, endlessly?

Do you want to own your own bakery? Become a photographer? Run for office? Sail around the world?

Go after your dreams, my friends. Do the things you love. Create a plan, post that sucker on a wall, and work towards it daily in whatever way you can. Everyone starts somewhere. I started with one country. That's how it works; you start, then you keep going.

Are your dreams so big you fear they're unreachable and, therefore, you've never started the process of achieving them at all?

Change your mindset.

I'll never be able to see every inch of this world, every city. I most likely won't be able to see every country, either. While I'd like to, while that's the ultimate goal, it's all the things along the way that make this journey amazing. It's all the other things I end up accomplishing that I never even would have considered or realized or thought possible.

Pursue the things you're passionate about. Every step you take, regardless of how far you get, is a step in the right direction.

Get going.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Update + Practice of Free Thinking

I've decided to tone down how often I post items on here for the time being. While I love writing for a multitude of reasons, I've become too focused on how often I write instead of why I write. Being creative isn't something that should be forced or scheduled; it's something that should spring forth naturally. Therefore, I'm giving my well of creativity a chance to replenish itself to see what may come.

Today's post is an exercise in free thinking; unstructured, sporadic, clumsy, natural.
Author: Unknown

1. My best thinking is done right before I fall asleep. In the pitch blackness of the bedroom, when silence is the softest sound and thoughts bubble to the surface.

2. With any book or movie that's portrayed an apocalyptic after world, I immediately have the same thought: I would want to be one of the the people left behind/left alive. Not because I think I'm actually capable of surviving say, zombies, but because I would want to see and experience what comes next. I don't so much care for a new world, much like I have no desire to live on Mars. But I do want to see my world - the world I've known - after the fact. I want my thirst of curiosity to be quenched.

3. I still strongly dislike #hashtags. As I'm learning, the world - in certain ways - revolves around them. When it comes to business and marketing, they're somewhat crucial. It's an odd thing, really, a hashtag. 

2018: emoji's and hashtags and so many acronyms you can't keep up. 

(Sometimes I wonder if we're devolving.) 

4. When I was a teenager, I absolutely loved the movie Gleaming the Cube. I haven't thought about it in years. 

It's strange, how things you once loved evaporate from your mind.

5. Parenting is weird. It only takes you nine months to become a parent. That's not a lot of time to prepare. You can't get a college degree for anything in nine months, but you're fine after that amount of time to raise a human? And you're not even required to get any kind of education or training, either. It's truly bizarre when you stop to consider it.

6. Change means: You have to be willing to be uncomfortable. You have to want that more than you want comfort.

7. Over the last several years I've become more and more and more impassioned about certain causes. I've become more of an activist, I suppose. I've always cared, but I care in different, deeper ways. 

It is, at times, uncomfortable. The world will love or hate you for your opinion simply because their opinion matches or does not match your own. This isn't how opinions are supposed to work. Social media has given rise to a lack of patience, respect, and candid yet safe conversations with one another in real life, not on keyboards.

8. I like this person that I've become, that I'm still becoming.

Now, things matter in completely different ways. 

I like that.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Reflection of Shadows: I Needed You

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments

I Needed You

I feel so bad,
I feel so blue,
I never said my goodbyes to you...

I didn't think I needed to.

I feel left out,
I'm full of doubts,
No funeral could fix that now...

The silence of your death's too loud.

I see your face,
With every step,
I'm sorry for words left unsaid,

I assumed you always knew...

I needed you.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Janice's Simple and So Delicious Salad

This recipe is brought to you by my wonderful friend, Janice. Her super easy take on making a healthy and delicious salad will change your life; this I guarantee.

With three primary ingredients to the salad, plus a dash of salt and pepper and a little dressing, this salad is beyond speedy. Plus, the options are wide-open based on your likes and dislikes. For instance, if you don't like bell peppers, swap them out for some other crunchy element, like cucumbers. Or if you can't decide between the two because you love them both equally, add both!

I typically make a big bowl of this so it lasts me a few days. Therefore, this recipe is technically for one person spread out over the week. However, it can feed a few folks at one sitting, should that suit you better.

It's simple, friends: Make more, make less, make what you want. This is a salad you create as you go. Measuring every little thing gets old, right friends? Right.

Janice's Simple and So Delicious (GF) Salad

 - 3 bell peppers
 - 1 large container/bunch of cherry or grape tomatoes. You can also dice up heirloom tomatoes or other varieties per your personal preference
 - 1/2 avocado per serving when ready to eat
 - Salt and pepper; enough to season the whole salad to your liking (I use roughly 1/2 TSP of each)
 - Some olive oil and balsamic splashes (I use roughly 1- 2 TBSP of each)

1. Dice up the bell peppers. Halve the grape or cherry tomatoes (or dice the heirloom tomatoes).

2. Add bell peppers and tomatoes to a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add olive oil and balsamic. Mix evenly. Cover and let sit until ready to eat.

3. When ready to chow down, grab an avocado and cut it in half. Dice it up and add it to your serving of salad. Mmm...yum.

P.S. If you haven't see these covers for bowls, please allow me to introduce you to their life changing ways. Not only are they fun, but they work incredibly well. I plop my pumpkin lid on my salad bowl, put it in the fridge, and I'm good to go until I'm ready to eat.

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Reflection of Shadows: Lessons On Life

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments

Lessons On Life

We grow,
We learn,
The seasons turn.
We change
With grace,
We find our place.
We laugh,
We cry,
The time- it flies.
We love,
We give,
We learn to live.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Monday Mantra: Winding Down/Ramping Up

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: Trust your intuition, even when the reason for trusting it isn't clear

For quite some time now - three years to be exact - I've had this feeling. A feeling that change is coming in some seemingly significant way. So strong, this intuition of mine, that it's been directing my life and I've let it, trusting fully and completely that this deep, inner gut instinct is leading me on the right path to whatever it is that's coming.

Candidly, I can't quite put my finger on whether I'm winding down from something or I'm ramping up to something else. I suppose it could all be one in the same, but again, it feels too specific to water it down in that kind of a thought process.

What might be coming, though? Logically, the answer is kids. A new future entirely that would, indeed, be significant. But my instincts tell me that's not it. Or at least, that's not all of it. That it's not that straightforward and simple.

So...alien invasion maybe? We'll see.

I'm sharing this feeling with you today because I do believe that all of us possess a greater inner knowledge than we give ourselves credit for having. An inner knowledge that is unexplainable and, because of that, is often overlooked or ignored.

For instance, it might sound crazy when I tell you that I've turned down three jobs all because of The Feeling. One of them, in particular, could have opened up great doors for me, but my inner wisdom, my inner unexplainable gut knowledge said, "You could take it, but..."


But what? I don't know, friends. I just know that every fiber of my being wanted me to stay put, stay patient, and stay faithful.

Here's what I do know:

This is the last year. Of whatever I'm waiting for, whatever is coming. This is the end. I can't explain how I know, but I know. I could tell the moment The Feeling came on that it was just the beginning. I could tell when I was in the middle. And now I am undoubtedly sure this is it. Sometime, within this year, something will change.

My friend, who also has The Feeling from time to time and understands what I'm saying, asked me if I thought I would recognize when "the thing that's supposed to happen" happens. It was a good question. I've assumed all along that yes, I will immediately recognize it, whatever it is, once it takes place. Honestly, I kind of feel like the universe owes it to me, after all of my patience and waiting and trusting.

However, if I look back over my life collectively, I can tell you that on more than one occasion when I wasn't sure what I was waiting for, time passed and I didn't immediately notice what had come or gone or changed. It would be years later when I looked back that I then saw the trail of bread crumbs leading up to each and every moment I had been feeling, been waiting on, been instinctively believing in. A trail so clear that I can now draw lines pinpointing every teeny tiny thing that happened and how it connected to the bigger picture of my life.

And, so, I wait.

And wait.

And I encourage you to do the same.

If you are unsure of something, check in with your gut. If your instincts are telling you something, listen. If you have The Feeling, let it guide you, even if you have no idea what or where it might be leading. If there's one thing I know about not knowing what's going to happen, it's that I've never been led down the wrong path when I listened, when I waited, when I trusted. I am certain it will be the same for you. (It's a universal pinky promise; it can't be broken!)

Just wait. You'll see.

And so will I. Maybe this time The Feeling is simply my life adjusting itself to the future of having children. Or maybe I'll have my very own Clark Kent dropped out of the sky into my backyard. That would definitely not be a straightforward kid kind of situation.

Either way, I wait.

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Reflection of Shadows: Intertwined

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments


Like branches intertwining,
I am never on my own.
You're a part of every moment,
You're the marrow in my bones.
You've encircled, swallowed all of me-
I'm yours and yours alone...

But I need a little space because
Alone is all I've known.

Monday, June 4, 2018

All Around the World: 72 Hours in Sydney


No need to be concerned if you don't hear from me for a while, folks. I'm just busy packing up my life to move to my new most favoritest place ever: Sydney, Australia.

The reasons I love Sydney aren't that vastly different from other places I'm fond of, but there is something about Sydney that is more. It's indescribable. I've tried and failed to find the right words when attempting to explain this to friends, but I'm going to give it another shot for you today. 

This magical city is vibrant and bustling with life. There is something to do, eat, try, look at, and experience everywhere you go and in all ways. There's an energy - an unmatched energy - all around. Like the kind of feeling you get when you close your eyes and soak in the summer sun; that feeling of being oh-so blissfully alive. You know, kind of like the feeling you get when stare at Chris Hemsworth. (He is a child of Australia, after all). I'm telling you, this place is incredible. 

Oh, and let's not forget the words. Australia has the best real words! So much fun to say.
 - Bondi
 - Woolloomooloo
 - Poowong
 - Yarrumundi
 - Coogee
 - Dubbo
 - Parramatta

Things to Do and See in Sydney

Shop Until You Drop
Oh-my magnificent malls! Sydney has no shortage of what might just be the most amazing shopping ever. Locations like The Strand Arcade and the Queen Victoria Building offer not only a plethora of unique and time-honored favorites in the way of stores, but the buildings themselves are unbelievably cool.

Much like with my recent trip to Dubai, I hadn't planned on spending time at any malls because I have plenty back home, but these aren't your typical malls. The majority of stores, like at the Westfield mall, were new to me. Had I realized how awesome their offerings would be, I might have packed an extra empty bag just to be able to fully enjoy the experience. Honestly, gang, I'd go back to Sydney just to have one helluva shopping day, and that's literally something I never thought I'd say as a reason for traveling on a plane for a million hours.

Central Park
I've seen many a version of Central Park but this one is the most creative. It's a garden oasis/sky scraper combo of awesomeness. 

Newtown + Going on a Graffiti Scavenger Hunt
If you Google 'Things to do in Sydney,' Newtown will undoubtedly pop up. It's a little bit hippie, a little bit edgy, and has more of a college kid vibe going on. It boasts some pretty awesome street art, which was my main draw, but my pick for graffiti exploring would be the area all around, and including, Bondi beach.

There's a wall almost the length of the beach that provides artists an outlet to share their work with the world. It's a graffiti lovers paradise, with one masterpiece after another. On top of that, one of the most beautiful beaches/walking paths I've ever seen is right around the corner. It's a complete win in every way possible.

Tip: Newtown is cool to check out, but if I only had a short amount of time to visit, I'd skip it. 

The Rocks + the Saturday and Sunday Street Fair 
Holy awesomeness everywhere. This old town area of Sydney hosts endless adorable shops in equally impressive historic buildings, a nearby-ness to everything, and many, many, many delicious places to eat. The Rocks is your one-stop shop to having more fun than you can probably handle.

Extra Special Bonus: There's a street fair every Saturday and Sunday that offers loads of goodies. You'll find local tea, honey, and wild concoctions of jam that work so well together your taste buds will think they're at a rave. There's more than just food, folks. Handcrafted goods like art, jewelry, clothing, and even Christmas ornaments all await your discovery.

Here are my favorite, must-see, do-not-even-think-about-missing-these shops:
Get Drenched: Listen, friends, this next part will literally change your life for the better. Pay close attention...
If you are into bath bombs, then you've got to visit this store and buy their bath melts. These little balls of magic must be made with fairy dust, kisses from angels, and probably even unicorn tears because there is nothing - I mean nothing - like this on the market. And as a bath enthusiast, I can absolutely guarantee my statement.
Usually, when you take a bath, you get a little dehydrated and dry simply because that's the nature of a bath. While there are plenty of bath bubbles and bath bombs and bath contraptions out there to make the experience glorious and luxurious, there is nothing like these babies. The oils from the melts release into the water and you come out soft and silky, as if you'd just lathered up with lotion. If angels didn't make these, then I honestly don't know how they exist.
Take note, fellow American traveling friends: I originally found these bath melts about five years ago in Zurich. I had no clue where they came from, but after using just one of them I knew I had to get a lifetime supply. So, I did my research and found out they're made by Bomb Cosmetics, which, tragically, has no distribution to the states. Trust me when I tell you I emailed them to try and find out what I needed to do to get them shipped here. For reals, I was like, "If I buy 500 of them, will you ship them to me? 800? Just take my 401k, already!!!" It didn't happen.
The point I'm trying to make is that you can't find these just any old place, so if you know you're going on a trip out of the country, go on their website and see if they have a store where you're going. If so, buy a million of them. You won't regret it. That's what I did with this trip, once I realized they were within my reach once again. You better believe my carry-on was brought along for the sole intention of filling it with these bath melts. I'm never running out again, so help me fairies and angels and unicorn tears.  
Spirit Gallery: A must if you're looking for quality souvenirs or gifts to bring home. Spirit Gallery sells aboriginal art that is out of this world beautiful. The art work has stories that come along with it, so make sure you ask what story goes with your painting. It could be animals dreaming, aerial views of rivers and homes mapped out in dots, or kangaroos dreaming of escaping alligators. It's all there in beautiful paints and shapes and swirls.
Squidinki Gift Studio: The cutest mugs, towels, and arty creations for your souvenir and gift shopping pleasure.

This beautiful bridge, combined with the glorious water and the opera house, really made for killer views the entire trip. If you're daring and have plenty of time, you can do a walk across the bridge, but trust me when I say you have to be ready for it in advance. You can't just show up in flip flops and go walk along it. It's a fancy bridge, guys. Preparation is required.

It is cool to see in person, but because there are so many other things to see, you'll probably find yourself feeling like I did; still blown away by it, but even more blown away by everything else. It's hard when an iconic location is so famous because you already feel like you know it before you get there. This was one of those instances for us, at least.

Want to see a kick-ass sunset or marvel at views of the harbour bridge from a glorious green garden? Or hey, what about hanging out at an amusement park for some thrills? It's all here in Lavender Bay. Trust me when I tell you it's worth the boat ride over. The secret garden is really quite something and the walk along the shoreline with all the boats bobbing in the water is peaceful. Then, you walk right past the literal face of Luna Park, which is freakily awesome, too. It's a great way to spend an evening.

You know how you've always heard that Australia has magnificent beaches? True. All true. The water is an ice blue color, much like Chris Hemsworth's eyes, and the washboard abs, er, I mean whitewashed sand is equally glorious. The walk allows you to take it all in, beach by breathtaking beach.

It's honestly one of the coolest things you'll see and do in Sydney, so I'd suggest making it a priority.

Afternoon Tea
The amount of places in Sydney that offer afternoon tea still blows my mind. It's a tea lovers dream. We did two:
Shangri-La High Tea: One of the best gluten free tea experiences I've had, hands down. Normally, most of the items are delicious but there's also usually a couple that don't taste quite right. Not the case here! Every single sandwich and pastry was a bite of heaven. The tea offerings were also really quite good. If you're a tea person or you fancy a relaxing afternoon enjoying the company of friends or family, consider this as an option.
The Westin - Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea Party: This trip was actually intended as our one year anniversary celebration, and since our wedding was "Wonderland" themed, this afternoon tea was a must. They did a great job customizing what they could to make sure I got to experience the fun of the mad hatter theme. Their scones could use a little help, but the tea was excellent; truly some of the best around.

Bath melts that change your life
Underwood St. = Literal Art
City Sights
Queen Victoria Shopping
The Strand Arcade
Amazing views
Graffiti awesomeness
More graffiti awesomeness
Bondi Beach
Gorgeous views on the Bondi to Coogee walk
Amazing tea time adventures

Gluten Free Dining in Sydney

This restaurant is one very serious reason why I want to live in Sydney. The online menu doesn't do a great job (as of this date) showing you all the gluten free options, but they are vast. In fact, they'd just added/adjusted several menu items to be gluten free when I was there, which resulted in one of the most delicious dining experiences of my life. Tip: Try the duck pancakes, gluten free, of course. It ends up being more like a lettuce wrap, but it is still crazy good. Also, the pork ribs are WOW. Oh, and the duck soup!

We could be here all day...just go eat there, already!

This French bistro is worth a visit as well. Getting here is as much a treat as eating here. It's down an alley (a cute alley) filled with birdcage art. 

A superb location with some pretty serious views if you get the right room, plus they offered a lot of on-site gluten free options. For instance, the breakfast buffet had a small gluten free toast/muffin section.

Breakfast extraordinaire right here, folks. Plus, very close to the hotel I mentioned, above, and right in the heart of all the shopping and sightseeing and fair experiencing. 

Mr. Wong's amazing chicken "pancakes"

I'm counting the days until I can get back to this magical country and I don't have a trip planned. I'm just counting like a weirdo who hopes the universe magically plops me back into this Australian land of awesomeness.

Weirdly enough, I've heard that Sydney isn't even the best that Australia has to offer, which blows my mind. Is this true, Australia peeps? Because if Sydney is this impressive, I might not be able the handle "the best."

But, hey, I'm willing to try.

Society6 pics coming soon!

Nerds on vacation