Amsterdam Bucket List!

Amsterdam Bucket List!

Well, friends, it’s real: I’m going to Amsterdam! It’s the place I’ve wanted to visit most for a long time now, closely followed by Paris and Greece. A great big giant thank you to the love of my life for the tickets! (He even made sure I’m flying direct!) I thought I would share my Amsterdam bucket list with you, and check in with y’all after the trip to see what all I did. We’ll see if I hit all the points on this list.

Visit the Anne Frank House.

I first read Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl in middle school. I both loved and was in awe of the book. Some of the thoughts and feelings I was having, she had too! It was amazing, though saddening, to read how she quickly matured while in hiding. She had a marvelous mind, and to be in a place where she lived before her life was cruelly and unnecessarily snuffed out is a dear dream of mine. 

Visit the Van Gogh Museum.

Everyone knows at least one Van Gogh painting, whether it’s Starry Night or The Cafe Terrace on the Place de Forum or any other. The bold, free, beautiful strokes of his paintings are stunning, to say the least. I’m excited to visit his homeland and see more of his work!

Take a canal boat tour.

Part of the reason Amsterdam has always intrigued me is the abundance of canals. I love water in any form, and for me, to be near it is to be near joy and peace. Plus, I’ll admit that The Fault in Our Stars made the canal boat tour look really, really appealing, okay? Okay.

Try authentic stroopwafel.

When I was about seven and my parents took their second honeymoon and attended a wedding in Venice, they stopped in the airport in the Netherlands and brought home stroopwafels. We all fell in love with them! Though I’m sure those were authentic, I’m excited to try a fresh one while in Amsterdam.

Eat ALL the cheese and bread and visit the Cheese Museum. 

Though I have a possible sensitivity to yeast and am lactose intolerant, I have found I can handle these foods in small quantities. That being said, I am willing to suffer for the glory of bread and cheese – maybe even together. I hear great things about the breads and cheeses in the Netherlands, and I want to experience them.

Visit the Rijksmuseum and I AMsterdam sculpture. 

In case you haven’t been able to tell, I love art. I grew up about six miles west of Washington, D.C., and my parents took care to make sure they took advantage of the free and cheap culture in and around the city. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t visiting museums and galleries, so to visit the palatial Rijksmuseum will be delightful. 

Amble through Vondelpark.

Another thing you may have noticed about me is that I love to be in nature. To stroll through the Netherlands’ most famous park is something I certainly look forward to doing. I’ll be in Amsterdam in early September, so the weather should still be glorious.

Visit the Hermitage Museum.

More art, plus some Amsterdam history! I love an opportunity to learn. This museum contains an antique orphanage, as well as art, and chronicles of visits by celebrities such as Napoleon and the Beatles. 

Go shopping in the Nine Streets Neighborhood.

From my research I have learned that the Nine Streets neighborhood has plenty of shopping opportunities. This includes concept stores and vintage boutiques, the latter being a favorite of mine. There are designer shops too, but I’m on a budget!

See the windmills at Zaanse Shans.

Going to the countryside near the city to escape may be appealing, after the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam. I’d love to see the iconic windmills, as well. I think it will be nice to hear more natural noise for a half-day.

Have any of you ever been to Amsterdam? If so, do you have any recommendations? Leave them in the comments below!

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Monthly Goals – August

Monthly Goals – August

It is August, which means it’s time for my monthly goals. I know I’m late, but I was the maid of honor in my sister’s wedding a few days ago. With my classes and the wedding and working and job applications, my life recently has been a zoo. Still, I’ve accomplished a few things, and these are the ones I hope to accomplish this month.

My first goal is to continue in my healthier lifestyle. I’ve been steadily but slowly dropping weight, about two pounds a week. Other people have started to notice, even when I haven’t. I plan on continuing to walk my dog on long walks, and eat healthier. As I said last week, I’m trying hard to love my body, and that means caring for it.

My second goal is to finish my online class strong. I’m doing pretty well so far, and I’d like to keep it that way. After this, I’ll need two more classes – then I’ll be done!

My third goal for the month is to continue putting away as much money as possible. Eventually, I suppose, I will move out of my parents’ house, and I’ll need a nest egg then. I’m proud of what I’ve saved so far, though I’ve had to dip more than I am comfortable with, what with buying presents for my sister and future brother-in-law, planning and throwing a bachelorette party, and traveling. But it’s only money, I can always make more.

Next, I definitely need to get my passport. More on why later. I have the pictures for it – I just need to get my stuff together and do it. 

Lastly, my biggest and probably most achievable goal is to journal more – hopefully at least weekly. I used to have multiple notebooks going, and use one (the official, formal journal) for the formal letters cataloguing the events and thoughts of my days. This was a very inefficient system, and more formal than how I think and write. There are still entries in letter format, but there are also snippets of writings I’ve thought of throughout the day, calculations, drawings, lists, etc. It’s freeing to not have to be perfect in my journal. Because of the lack of perfection requirement, I’ve been better able to keep up with my journaling, which I hope in the long run will help me with my writing overall. 

These are my August goals. I’ll try my best to accomplish them all, but if I don’t, I don’t plan on beating myself up about it. If you so desire, please share your goals in the comments below!

Budget Bachelorette Bash Ideas

Budget Bachelorette Bash Ideas

My sister is getting married. In fact, she will be married by August third. I am her maid of honor, which meant throwing the bachelorette party was solely my job. My sister is not the “stripper and/or clubbing” type, at all, so I had to think of something else. Here are some budget-friendly ideas that you can use if your bride isn’t the “stripper and/or clubbing” type, either.

Have a fancy brunch.

Perhaps your bride is a morning person, or she just really enjoys brunch. A brunch bachelorette is a great option for the maid-of-honor on a budget, because it can be held anywhere – your home, or a local brunch spot. If you choose to go out for brunch, everyone can pay for their own meal, so you only have to pay for the bride and yourself. Brunch can be as fancy or casual as you want, too. Plus, if you host a brunch bachelorette party, you don’t have to stay up to the wee small hours of the morning.

Go on a hike.

If your bride is an outdoorsy person, consider gathering a group to take a hike to a beautiful spot. Once there, you can have a picnic and take gorgeous photos. The fact that there will be others there means you’ll have help carrying picnic fixings, so, depending on how many are joining you, you can feel free to bring whatever you like. Make sure to pack lots of water and bug spray, and be on your way! 

Host a game night.

There are almost limitless opportunities here. If you have a local arcade – or better, a barcade – take everyone out to play. You can also go more low-key, and play video, card, and/or board games in your home. You could go bowling, or find a laser tag spot. For the more adventurous, consider paintball. Activities breed memories, so get going!

Go shopping.

If your bride responds well to gifts, maybe think about hosting a group shopping trip. Instead of bringing a gift, each person can buy the bride something of her choice. This way, there is less possibility for waste and clutter, because the bride will receive exactly what she wants. You can even do the 2000s movie montage of trying on silly outfits for each other, and go out for lunch or dinner once you’re finished.

Take a road trip.

A road trip can be as long or as short as you like. Is there a place within driving distance that your bride has always wanted to see, or loves to go to? Maybe it’s the beach, or a park, or a lake. Maybe it’s just a nearby city. Load up the car with gas, drinks, and snacks, and head out for the day. Make sure to have a killer playlist!

Throw an old-fashioned (but boozy) sleepover.

This is what I chose to do for my sister. I ordered pizzas, laid out junk foods, sodas, and desserts, and decorated the normally less-than-impressive basement. It was like middle school all over again, but this time, we were allowed to drink – and drink we did. To keep costs down (as I am a student who works part-time), I suggested on the e-vite that everyone bring their favorite alcohol to share. 

We also played games – the one that took up the most time for us was “pizza box,” but there was also Cards Against Humanity, among other things. I had a list of wedding-related movies lined up that included The Princess Bride, Princess Diaries 2: Royal Wedding, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. My sister had an awesome time, and that was the most important thing to me.

Learning to Love (Myself)

Learning to Love (Myself)

Awhile ago, I posted that I had never been heavier, and that I was trying to lose weight. Well, I haven’t lost much. But I have been steady, and haven’t gained any either. Recently I was placed on a medication that has a possible side effect of appetite suppression. This is opposite the effect of a different medication that I was taking for three years that grossly amplified my appetite, among other things, and led to all this weight gain. Because of the old medication, I was constantly hungry, and when I was hungry, the hunger was unbearably painful. It led to my eating a full meal every three or four hours. Though I have been off this med for over a year, I still felt its effect – that is, until I began taking this new medication on Monday. I haven’t been hungry, and when I am hungry, it’s manageable. It’s refreshing to not feel obligated to eat so often. The other effects and side effects of the medication are positive, as well, but it’s only been a week or so. 

But besides this, I’ve been doing my best to be nice. I’m trying to be nice to my body. I walk my dog longer, triple the distance I would previously. I choose healthier foods when I am hungry or am not but know I need to eat, because nothing tastes that great anyway, so my calories may as well come with nutritional benefits. 

Most of all, I’m trying to love. I’m trying to look in the mirror and like what I see. Even though most of the time I’m still picking my body apart piece by piece, I’m doing so in a positive manner, instead of in a negative way. For now, all I can bring myself to do is ignore what I don’t like, and point out to myself the things I do. Occasionally, I’ll like almost the whole picture, and that is the most freeing and happy moment of all. 

I’m trying to love my body, of course. She is my temple. I’m trying to love what she can do, and how she looks. I’m increasingly nourishing her and training her. I’m trying to dress her in ways that flatter her assets and disguise her “weaker” features. But I’m also trying to love the woman I am, while I improve her. I’m loving her affectionate nature, her optimism, her kindness, her eagerness to learn. That’s me. I have all of those traits. I am all of those things. I’m trying to reign in a little of her impulsiveness, her insecurities, and her occasional thoughtlessness. I’m trying to teach her to say no, not feel badly about saying no, and not apologize so much. I’m teaching her to be grateful for everything.

It’s a journey, that’s for sure. Some days it’s a battle. But it’s mine, and I think it’s worth it.

Update – 26 July 2019

Hello all! I have been a very busy Grace lately, which is why I have been absent. I thought I’d update you all on what’s been going on.

I have completed one of my online summer classes, meaning that once the online class I am currently working on wraps up next month, I’ll need just two more 300+ level classes to complete my degree! I’m incredibly excited. 

I have been working more hours at my current job, as well. Honestly, when I eventually move out and away, my coworkers will most likely be what I miss most, besides my family. It’s rare that you enjoy the company of almost everyone you work with, especially when they’re all female. I do, though, and I’m grateful. 

My sister’s wedding is fast approaching. I believe it will be eight days from today. I have been planning her bachelorette party – there’s a post to come on that soon, so stay tuned!

Wednesday night (or rather, very very early Thursday morning) Ben and I returned from a jaunt to Boston, where his sister and brother-in-law graciously hosted us. Thank you both so much for opening your home to us, and at such short notice! 

But you may wonder why we were in Boston at all. Well, besides enjoying the company of Ben’s family and the city of Boston itself, I had a job interview! No word yet on how it went, so please, keep your fingers crossed! 

There are a few posts coming in the future, so I’ll speak to you soon. Thanks for reading!

 

My Happy, Healthy Morning Routine

My Happy, Healthy Morning Routine

Good morning! I thought today I’d share with you my morning routine, at least during the week. (Weekends tend to be a free-for-all for me – which only means that I’m not quite as strict.) This routine makes me feel so much better every day, and I hope it can do the same for you. 

I wake up within the same two-hour window every day, and go to sleep within a similar time frame every night. This helps incredibly with the quality of my sleep. I’ve found on days that I nap, I don’t sleep as well that night as I would have, had I stayed awake all day. It feels good and adult to wake up around the same time every day, and I certainly get more done when I wake up even though I don’t have to until later. It’s especially opened me up to more opportunities to read, something I’ve missed immensely. While I get ready, I listen to podcasts. Lately I’ve been enjoying NPR’s Up First, the NPR Politics Podcast, and Bishop Barron’s Sermons.

After I wake and dress, I let out the sweetest little Brie and take her for a half- to three-quarter-mile walk. When we return, I feed her and give her fresh water. While she eats and drinks, I head downstairs to the basement. My parents were generously given an elliptical a few months ago, and it’s been a wonderful addition to our home. I run a mile, sometimes two or two and a half, on the elliptical. Sometimes (usually on days I’ve only run a mile), I’ll use some weights after my run. (For those who are curious, my time is usually around an eight-minute mile.)

Once I’ve exercised, I head upstairs for a well-deserved shower. By the time I’m dressed, I’ve drunk two glasses of water. After my shower, it’s time for breakfast. My favorite breakfast lately has been fruit and two miniature bagels with whipped cream cheese. One week the fruit was bananas, and now it’s cherries. 

This is my morning routine for the past month or so. I really like it. I know I’ll have to modify it once I begin working full-time, but for now, I’m happy with it. What’s your morning routine? Let me know if you have any tips and tricks below!

July Goals and Update on Past Ones

July Goals and Update on Past Ones

Well all, it’s a new month, and you know what that can sometimes mean: it’s time for my monthly goals! I know I didn’t do a June goals post, so I thought I’d update you about how the last month I posted my goals, April, went. 

If you’re a regular reader, you probably know that I did, in fact, go to Portland, OR to meet the boyfriend, and that we had an absolutely wonderful time. I had a birthday, so I am now twenty-three. I have read more books, though plenty of them have been ebooks I’ve read on my phone. My Goodreads challenge for the year is to read twenty books, and I’ve completed twelve so far. It sounds sad, given how much free time I’ve had lately, but it’s pretty impressive when you consider how many of them were read in the last month, and the fact that all of them had around four hundred pages. I have been trying to use my phone and laptop less, and it’s been freeing, though I could decrease my usage even more. 

Now for July’s new goals. My first goal is to continue with the morning routine I began two weeks ago. I can write a post on it – leave a comment if you’d like to know my productive morning habits. 

My second goal is to get a “big-girl job” and move out of my parents’ house. After I finish the two classes I’m currently taking, I’ll need two more to graduate. It’ll be SUCH a relief to finally have done with school! I’d love to be in a new place before next month.

My third goal is to travel – not air travel, but road trips. This weekend I’ll be heading down to North Carolina to see my best friend in the entire world and her boyfriend, and another friend from college. I’d like to visit more people – maybe a friend in Chicago, or anyplace else. 

The last goal is to write more. I have been slacking in the writing department, between both this blog and my book. It’s beginning to really get to me. There are unfinished and inexpressible ideas rolling around inside me, and they would be more finished and more easily expressed were I to actually be in the habit of writing every day. 

I have a few paltry goals here. It’s difficult, between the classes and the laziness of summer, to think of too many. What are your goals for the heat of the summer? Let me know!