Favorite things · Lifestyle · Travel

The travel bug 

I can’t exactly remember when I got the bug, but sometime in my late teens/super-early twenties, I felt my first rush. You know the one you get when you realize how magical the world outside of your little bubble can be. The one you feel when you have an amazing meal surrounded by people you love in a place that you never dreamed existed. The one you experience when you do something crazy, that’s completely out of your element, and learn a little bit more about yourself in the process. 

I hope you know that rush, because it’s one of the best feelings in the world.

When I graduated high school, a few friends and I decided to take a trip to Florida. It was my first time traveling anywhere significant without my parents. It was the summer before I was going away to college, and it made me confident that I could do ANYTHING.

When I went to Italy the first time, I was 19. I rode the canals of Venice, got pooped on by a pigeon in Florence, went to a “disco” in Sorrento and used horrible Italian to ask how much a bracelet cost a street vendor in Naples. Again, I felt like I could rule the world.

A few years later in Barcelona, I climbed the Sagrada Familia, watched a futbol game in a bar, and ate the best paella of my life while pretending I lived in the city. Again, I felt invincible.

After college, I went to Ireland. I rediscovered the magic of music, found my happiness in the mountains and shared an amazing few weeks making memories with friends. I came back refreshed and excited and ready to take on graduate school full force.

Two years ago in Costa Rica, I rode a horse up a mountain and zip-lined down, went white water rafting, spent an afternoon kayaking, danced the night away during a stopover in Nicaragua, and truly lived the Pura Vida motto to its fullest. I felt like the world was in the palm of my hands.

I obviously can not do any- and every-thing since I still haven’t been able to lick my elbow or do a back handspring, but when you travel, you tend to gain confidence in yourself. I think that might be why I love it so much. I’m going to be pretty candid right now. My everyday life tends to be full of events that chip away at my confidence. In my career and relationships, I find myself constantly questioning if I’m good enough. And wondering how I could be better. I’m sure many people feel the same. The world has a shitty way of knocking you down over and over again. But when you have to truly fend for yourself and make decisions and stick with them, you learn that you ARE. 

Good enough, that is.

Traveling gives you those opportunities. You can hike that mountain that seemed too strenuous or ride that rollercoaster that scares you senseless or go rafting on those rapids that you’re sure you’ll break your neck on. And you’ll survive. And when you share those experiences with other people, it really only makes you stronger. Now you have stories to share. You’ve gone through life events together. And, more often than not, you’re devastated to leave those things behind for the “real world.” 

I think that’s the true test of a good traveling experience. If you’re sad to go home, it’s been a success. As I write this right now, I’m sitting on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, two days away from boarding a plane home, not looking forward to it at all. 

I won!

This summer, I urge you to book that hotel, take that flight and do that thing you’ve been meaning to but haven’t had the chance to. Try and not worry about the money you’ll spend and look at it as an investment to better you as a person. 

I can pretty much guarantee that you will win too.

Learn · Lifestyle

Get smart

At some point in our lives, we are all professional students. Think about it. As law abiding, US citizens, we enroll in grade school until we are at least 16, then immediately have to make life-altering decisions. Will we go to a 4-year college? A technical school? Work right away? Take a year off to roam the world? The choices seem so endless, yet so definitive. This is it. The time when you decide the course of the rest of your life. 

And you aren’t even old enough to buy a lottery ticket.

I don’t know about you, but I was 17 when I graduated high school and didn’t know myself nearly well enough to make a decision about what car I should drive, let alone what I wanted my future career to be. So, I did what any other confused teenager did and went to college for a subject I had no real clue if I wanted to pursue. It’s kind of crazy when you think about it. I couldn’t even vote, but I could make a decision that would impact the rest of my life (and my wallet). 

I made it through college and then did what any other confused young adult did and found myself a job. The job itself was perfectly fine – I loved my boss and my coworkers, and didn’t mind the work much at all. But I felt like if I stayed there, my days would be spent sitting behind a computer. And I wasn’t sure how much I liked that idea (in retrospect, I might not have minded it so much, but that’s a whole other story). So, I did some soul searching and lots of Googling and took some online courses. I finally decided on a career as a Speech-Language Pathologist in 2011 and back to school I went! 

Making the decision to go back to school is a tough one. It’s one that you have to have faith in. You have to trust that you’re making the right move, or at least be willing to take the chance. Failure is a true possibility, and the safety net you had when you were younger, may no longer be as strong…or be there at all for that matter. Student loans are scary and not knowing if your future will be any brighter afterwards is terrifying. But we do it. Everyday, people that have been out in the workforce for years, decide it’s time to get re-edumacated. And one of my good friends, Jill, recently did just that. I’m super proud of her for her recent accomplishments, but they didn’t come easy. 

In 2012, she decided to go to school to be a Dental Hygienist. She was stuck in a job that she wasn’t happy with and knew she needed a change. School hadn’t ever been a cake walk for her. She got good grades, but it had always been a huge emotional struggle. Even though she knew she wanted to pursue a different career, it took her awhile to get to make the decision to go back. She eased into her return to education by taking one prerequisite class at a time while still working her full time job. Working full time was hard, but so many people have to continue doing it while in school to make ends meet. Jill was luckily able to enter the Dental Hygiene program full time in 2015 thanks to her wonderfully supportive family. 

That’s a big parallel I see between Jill and mainly everyone I know who has gone back to school. The support of family and friends is so important during this time. You may have to rely on them for housing or may go MIA for awhile during exams. Having the people closest to you back you up, is huge. 

Getting into the program is just a small piece of the uphill battle you’re going to have to fight going back to school. There will be times when you mentally hit a wall and feel like you can’t possibly see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know. I’ve been there. This happened to Jill once a few years ago when she was still taking prerequisites and working full time. She vividly remembers being at her parents house trying to make notes for Anatomy and Physiology II. Somewhere along the way, she just lost it. She burst into tears and felt like it was impossible for her to continue. So, she took a break. She allowed herself time to step away from the insanity that was note-taking, and came back to it later. 

That’s a really important piece of this story. When you’re an adult, you generally have so many responsibilities. Usually, they’re a little heavier than when you’re in your early 20’s. It may be really tricky to find the balance and to allow yourself time to breathe. I’m pretty sure it was around this time that Jill became a workout buddy and let off some steam with cardio from squatting, not throwing books.

She recently (I’m talking like, a week ago) completed her program and is just waiting for her license to be processed. She’s thrilled to start the new career that she worked so hard for and now is even contemplating going back to school for her Bachelor’s degree. 

Despite the difficulties, Jill wouldn’t trade her experience for the world. She urges people not to let fear hold them back. “It took me a long time to get over the fear of going back to school. But once I made the decision to go back, it was life changing,” she explains. 

I’m so proud of her, and everyone I know who has taken a chance. From teaching yourself a new skill to going back to school to learn from professionals in your chosen field, learning is something that happens throughout your life, whether you like it or not. Why not learn about things that interest you? Pick up that book that looks interesting, try a free online course to learn more about a subject that intrigues you (I highly recommend Coursera), or even take that huge leap and enroll in a program. It’s kind of like working out, it may be hard to get started but you’ll never regret it once you do.

Have a great week, my smarty pants readers.
XOXO

Amanda

Lifestyle

Get out there…and then hide from the rain…

I’ve been slacking on writing this entry, mainly because I haven’t had a really great opportunity to get outdoors, which was my next task for my Spring Awakening project. Jersey has been a chilly, rainy mess for the majority of this season, and on the few days it has been nice, I’ve been cooped up working.

In an effort to make the most out of this dreary spring, I took a little road trip down to Maryland this weekend with some friends. It was the kind of weather that requires a 24/7 raincoat, but didn’t stop us from walking around the city of Annapolis and hanging down by the dock (and then going to hide when the downpours started!).

So what does one do when there’s a little bit of a lull in opportunities to have fun in the sun? Plan activities and events for the not-so-distant future, of course! Here’s a little list (you know I love them!) of some ideas I will be digging into once the weather is a little brighter and my workload has gotten a little lighter!

Camping

I’ve only been camping once, several years ago. That campsite included a bathroom and amenities, so it was more like an outdoor hotel. This year I’m going to up the ante and go for a weekend-long, bathroom-free camping trip. I’m a little bit nervous, but looking forward to the challenge! I’ve got my tent, I’ve got my sleeping bags, I’ve got my mini-pillow…I’m set!

HikingIMG_6826

I’m in love with hiking.

Let me rephrase.

I’m in love with the idea of hiking.

I adore walking through the woods and seeing beautiful overlooks through the clearing. I thoroughly enjoy getting to the top of the mountain and knowing I’ve completed something awesome. What I do not find fun is having to look down every two seconds to make sure I don’t break my neck by falling over a wobbly rock. But, beggars can’t be choosers and I’m begging for some outdoor adventure, so I’ll take what I can get…loose rocks and all.

Anyway, in a month or so I’ll be hopping in the car with some friends to go on our annual hiking trip. This year we will be headed to Pennsylvania to stay in a cute cabin and go on a waterfall-filled hike. I, of course, will be wearing my Wild-inspired red-laced Danner boots. Can’t really get much more outdoorsy than that.

If you’ve never been on a hike, I suggest looking up a few local, beginner hikes, grabbing a few friends (do not go alone, trust me!) and following the trail markers where they lead. Don’t forget your water, trail map and jerky!

Beaching

Although I don’t have a beach house, I have several trips planned. And I’m sure I’ll be making some day trips down to the shore throughout the summer. I wasn’t really raised going to the Jersey Shore, my parents were more the tropical paradise goers. However, I’ve been making it more of a point every summer to get down there and, the more I go, the more I love it. Jellyfish and all.

I’m also pretty excited to check out the Pacific this summer on my trip to California. I’ll be hitting up some beautiful beaches and can’t wait to share pictures of my adventures with you all!

~~~

So, even though times are tough and the weather isn’t perfect, there are tons of ways to get out there and the spring and summer are perfect times to do it! Take some time and think of ways you’re going to get outside this season. Your Vitamin D levels and endorphins will thank you!

 

XOXO

Amanda

Lifestyle

Organization nation

I remember hearing a motivational speaker a few years ago say something along the lines of: “If there’s clutter in your physical life, there’s sure to be clutter in your mental life.” They definitely put it more eloquently, but I think you can catch my drift. It’s pretty accurate if you think about it. When you’re surrounded by things that are messy and out of order, it’s hard to stay on track and easy to get distracted by those same things. I remember when I moved into my current apartment. It was my first time living completely on my own. I had total reign over my surroundings. I could put the pots in this cabinet or that one. I could put the table in the kitchen or the living room. I could buy the white plates or the blue ones. At first, I was excited. That excitement quickly turned into being overwhelmed.

I was taking dishes out of my dishwasher one day, when a thought dawned on me. If I took just an extra minute or two in the moment, and was  a bit more mindful of my belongings, I would never really have to do a huge apartment cleaning. If things had a place and I always took time to put them back where they lived, I wouldn’t be stressed out faced with a piled of those things. They would already be taken care of. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am far from perfect when it comes to cleaning up. Sometimes I leave dishes in the sink for days, or don’t make my bed. Shhhh! Time occasionally gets away from me and, yeah, once in a blue I’m a little lazy. But, the fact is that it’s important to take time to tidy up your surroundings so that you can breathe a little easier and live in a space you love.

This post comes at a pretty perfect time. I’m currently on spring break – yeah, I know, the life of a school employee – and spring is always a good time to get some cleaning done. Also, I’m moving in a little over a month and I’d like it to go as smoothly as possible. That’s where being organized is key. So, even though I’m kind of already an organized person at heart, I enlisted the help of my good friend Stephanie to give me some tips on other ways to make my life a little more streamlined.

Stephanie owns an organizing business, Optimally Organized, and is amazing when it comes to getting things done quickly and efficiently. She loves going into people’s homes and putting systems in place that help fit each clients lifestyle. I always try to channel my inner Stephanie when getting things in order. The following three tips she gave me recently are little ways to make your space less of a headache and more of a place to rest your head easy!

 

Tip #1: The old hanger trick

Stephanie suggests looking through your closet and turning all of your hangers to face the opposite direction. Next step? Forget about them for 6-12 months! Literally just go about your normal clothes hanging routine. Take out whatever clothes you’re going to wear and hang them back up when they’re clean, making sure to rehang them the correct way this time.

At the end of the 6-12 month time period, assess the situation. Do you still have hangers hanging the wrong way? That means you haven’t worn those clothes (the hanger would be turned back to the normal position otherwise). Toss them in a bag and donate your old clothes to a cause, such as Goodwill. If you haven’t worn them in nearly a year, chances are you won’t miss them!

 

Tip #2: Basket o’randos

You’ve seen it before. You’re sitting in your living room minding your own business when you notice that you have a random piece of mail on the table and then out of the corner of your eye you see a t-shirt on the floor and on the other side of the room is a bobby pin and hair tie and then your mind is going crazy with the Jaws theme song swimming through your head.

For these very reasons, Stephanie recommends keeping a small basket or container of some sort in each room of your house. Every time you notice something in the room that shouldn’t be, just throw it in the basket. At the end of the week, look through the basket, toss the junk and put away the rest. Your clutter-induced anxiety will thank you. And, hopefully the theme song that’ll be playing in your head next time you’re sitting on your couch is from the Game of Thrones episode playing on your TV and not the doom and gloom in your head.

 

Tip #3: Be your own mail carrier

 As soon as you get your mail everyday, be proactive. Head to your kitchen counter/dining room table/wherever you’ve designated as your mail sorting spot and sort it ASAP. Make a few piles based on your need, but some ideas are:

  • Junk
  • Coupons
  • Bills

Or

  • Toss
  • Save for a few weeks then toss
  • Take care of this week
  • Take care of today

Feeling a little less overwhelmed is totally worth taking a bit of extra time. I hope that those tips helped you – I know that I’m about to put them into action!

If you have some heavy duty organizational needs, I definitely recommend getting in touch with Stephanie and seeing if her services would suit your needs. Spring cleaning, we are coming for you. Allergies and all…
XOXO

Amanda

Lifestyle

Health awakening

I apologize for this post in advance. For some reason, I wasn’t as inspired as I usually am. That’s why it took me so long to write. I’m going through the motions, but my usual wit and charm is pretty lacking. Sowwies! Enjoy anyway 🙂

I’m pretty sure that if you ask most people in my life if I’m a healthy person or not, they would say yes. And, in general, I am. I work out consistently, I try to get my veggies in (salads for lunch, a sensible dinner…I sound like a Jenny Craig commercial…), and I am obsessed with going to doctors. Name a type of doctor and I’ve probably been to them. Some may call me a hypochondriac. I just like to say I’m proactive. Has a nicer ring to it.

Anyway, what they (you?) don’t see, are my dirty little secrets. I’m a girl who likes to snack after dinner (chocolate. any and everything chocolate. please.), adds sugar and creamer to her morning coffee (I can’t help it!), and hasn’t been switching up her workout routine nearly as much as she should be (shame on me). I try to find the balance in everything in life, and nutrition and working out is really no different. I don’t necessarily live to eat – I would never classify myself a “foodie” – but I don’t like depriving myself either. This is where I often run into some problems.

So, last week I tried to change up my routine a bit. Trick my body. Test it. Make it happy. And hurt. And then happy again. I have a few tips I’ve learned over the week…and years, really…that I’d like to share if you’re joining me on this quest.

  • Tip #1: Start sssllllooooowwwww        

    When you’re looking to be a little healthier, I think that it’s good to start slow. The crazier and more intense the goals, the harder they are to achieve and the bigger the blow when you veer off course. So, what I did was look at the areas I knew I could improve upon just by making slight tweaks.

    The first change I made was to my morning routine. I am fueled by coffee. When I don’t have it, I’m a headachey mess. I’m grumpy and tired and just not a happy camper. But, I know that my large (or sometimes extra large) coffee with creamer and sugar is not the healthiest option for someone looking to improve their nutritional intake. So, I switched things up a little bit.

As I was browsing Trader Joe’s for some fresh ideas, as I often like to do, I found cold brew coffee concentrate and got an idea. I could keep my caffeine but reduce my sugar and dairy intake by blending it with unsweetened almond milk and some cacao that I had recently purchased to give it a little bit of a mocha kick. I brought my ingredients home and tried it out. The first take went well, but it was missing the sweetness I crave from my morning coffee, so I added a packet of stevia and a touch of vanilla extract. Sure it isn’t as tasty as my usual sugary hazelenutty brew, but it gets the job done! *a little note: a few days into doing this, my blender broke and I went a little crazy. I’m currently in the process of getting a new one, so I followed my own advice and I’m not beating myself up over it!

  • Tip #2: Learn what your body needs

    As I get older, I’m really learning more about my body and what it craves. Like, I’m tuning in to the way I feel when I need more protein or carbs or the feeling of needing water versus being hungry. It’s really kind of interesting and cool to grow in body awareness. One of the things I was noticing lately, was that my stomach tends to bloat really easily after eating. It’s like as soon as I ate lunch, I would have a bowling ball in my stomach for the rest of the day.  gutinstinct.png

    After seeing a bunch of advertisements all over social media for Hum Nutrition, I decided to look into their products. I was going to write up a few paragraphs on the supplements I’ve been using and their affects so far, but then I decided that would be better left for another blog post soooo you’ll have to wait in suspense to know all about my experience. I will tell you, however, that I’m obsessed with their probiotic, Gut Instinct, and the supplements Flatter Me and Daily Cleanse. I feel like I’m doing something good for my body when I take them, and my stomach is noticeably flatter, so I’ll definitely keep this up. I encourage you all to check out Hum Nutrition’s website and take their quiz that helps you figure out which supplements will be best for you.

    And if you decide to order, use my referral code! 10F03E

  • Tip #3: Keep it guessing                       

    Working out is my favorite form of therapy. When I find a “soulmate workout” I tend to stick with it, which is exactly what happened to me with barre3.  I love the way it makes me feel and the fact that it’s low impact so much that I’ve put other forms of exercise on the back burner. I know that if you want to see a change in your body, that you need to change up your workout routine every now and then. Makes sense…change = change!

    I’m slowly starting to mix it up and, last week week, enlisted the help of hot yoga and running to give my bod a little run for its money.  I’m not the best runner, but I downloaded an app called “Running for Weight Loss” and it’s pretty amazing. You can choose between several different training plans, like 5K, for example. Then, you just put on your headphones and hit “Go” and the app tells you exactly when to walk, run and sprint. It’s really helpful for someone like me who will turn around and go back after 10 minutes unless someone is pushing me along.

    Hot yoga is also a great way to stretch and strengthen your body. I find that I can get deeper physically and mentally when I do yoga in a heated room. I definitely think that any fitness plan should incorporate some form of stretching and mindfulness, and yoga is that for me.

 

Along with the things I’ve done above, I’ve also stopped drinking during the week (not as hard  as I originally thought it would be) and have steered clear of the chocolate bowl at work. Nobody’s perfect, though. And I haven’t been an angel. But when I have a little setback, I don’t let it ruin my day. And I don’t let that mean I give up completely. Life is meant to be lived and food is meant to be eaten. 

Lifestyle

Spring awakening (no, not the musical, but how amaze is it though?)

Spring is a time when the weather gets warmer, the days get longer and there’s just a little more happiness in the air. You guys can feel it, can’t you? I know I’m not making up the fact that things seem a tiny bit sweeter once March 20th hits. And, even though we had a monster of a snow storm last week here in Jersey, I think we can officially say goodbye to winter (please don’t kill me if I just jinxed us!).

With my newfound giddiness, I’ve decided to try and make this spring one of the most productive and happy I’ve had in awhile. And one of the best ways I know to be both of those things is not to stuff my face with thin mints while watching every Leonardo DiCaprio movie (although that does sound pretty sweet). Oh no. It is much more lame and adultish than that. When I want to be productive, I make lists. 

Errands I have to run? There’s a list for that. 

People I have to catch up with? There’s usually a mental note for that. 

Appointments I need to schedule? I love to have Siri remind me of those…even though sometimes she swears I say: “Siri, call the fire department,” when I really said: “Siri, remind me to call the gynecologist.”

I don’t think I’m alone in my obsession with writing down my to-do’s. Fess up, you know you have a notepad on your fridge and another in your purse (and maybe one in your car and on your work desk and at your best friend’s house…) and the LIST GOES ON! A list of lists?! I’m going a little crazy. So, anyway, let’s make a list together, shall we? What do you vow to do this season? Here’s mine.

This spring, I vow to…

1. Get a little healthier – and no, reading about the latest superfood craze is not a substitute for cooking up some quinoa burgers

2. Get a little more organized – I’m not the best  at this, so I’m going to be enlisting the help of my organizationally savvy friend, and hopefully she can share some tips with us

3. Get a little more outdoorsy – I’m sick of being inside! Get me to a mountain, STAT! 

4. Get a little more educated – I have about 20 books to read and am severely behind on my podcast listening. Let’s get nerdy.

5. Get a little more creative – Keeping up with my current trend of letting my creative juices flow will be a big priority. Can’t. Stop. Thinking. About. Soap. Scents.

6. Get a little more mindful – I’m slowly becoming a lover of all things holistic, but I still struggle with meditation. I’m ready to get down and dirty with it. 

And, because I’m all about accountability lately, I’m going to use this blog to talk about my very own spring awakening.

For the next six weeks, I’ll be making small changes everyday that I’m hoping will have a pretty big impact. I’ll write about them each week, with the first week focusing on health. I’m going to encourage everyone reading this to do the same. Spring is a time for growth (and allergies), and I think it’s a perfect excuse to mix it up.

Let’s do this!
XOXO

Amanda