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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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.

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!

Springtime Reflections

Springtime Reflections

I love spring; it’s my favorite season. It’s beautiful, colorful, scented, and hopeful. The feeling that the air is warming, the sight of the lengthening days, affects us all. Spring fever is a reality. Mother Nature is reinventing herself, and as tenants of her domain, we wish to do the same.

Spring is a time of year (rivaled only by autumn) when the weather and temperature are pleasant, for the vast majority of days. Spring has something autumn does not: hope and promise. Autumn is the time of year where the Earth takes off her makeup, takes a shower, and gets into bed, leaving us with her often-cruel younger cousin, winter. Spring is the awakening of the Earth, and the time during which she gets ready for the day, which stretches before her full of possibility.

Spring cleaning is an excellent practice for starting fresh. It’s good to get all the dirt, dust, and general grime out of the house when winter is over. But don’t stop there – clean your car, or downsize your wardrobe, or throw out the things you kept because they might be important and turned out not to be. Doing a deep clean before the real heat sets in will allow you more freedom, because all the cleaning to be done for the rest of the season won’t have to be as in-depth.

Spring is a wonderful time of year, especially for those of us without allergies. If you are one of the fortunate allergy-free population, take advantage of the warmer weather to enter the domain from which you were barred for so many months: the outdoors. Feel the warmth of the sun with the lingering chill of winter in the air. Smell the grass being cut and the flowers in the breeze and the oncoming rain. Look at the growing verdancy, the blossoming colors, the little animals tentatively leaving their holes to go about their business. Take pictures. Touch flower petals. Breathe. Enjoy.

The Italian Dream

The Italian Dream

I want to live in Italy. I don’t really care where, as long as it’s near an airport and not too far from the coast. It would be easy to do soon, given the boyfriend’s job, if I found a job myself. I am, by virtue of my mother’s lineage, eligible for an Italian passport and dual citizenship, which would make the whole thing so much easier.

I don’t think I’d like to stay there indefinitely, but then again, maybe I would. It’s a discussion I don’t need to have yet. I would love to live there, in “sunny Italy.” I would be alone much of the time, but I could make friends, whether citizens or expats or both. My Italian language skills have increased by leaps and bounds, and I know if I lived there I could even speak passably. My reading, writing, and aural comprehension are decent, I think.

I can only think of three jobs as a native English speaker with elementary-intermediate Italian skills that could help sustain us: tutoring, nannying, and/or freelance writing. Of course, if we wanted to stay longer, I would inevitably learn more of the language, and could perhaps get a regular job, but I think we’d eventually end up returning to the States.

Have any of you lived abroad? What did you do for a job? What did you like about it? What didn’t you? Let me know in the comments!

Lifestyle Change (Hopefully with Weight Loss!)

Lifestyle Change (Hopefully with Weight Loss!)

 

This is me today, at a weight I am not proud of achieving. I had, over Christmas and the new year, lost twelve pounds. Ten are back, unfortunately.

Like I said in a previous post, I was always a skinny kid growing up, to the point where, to me at least, it was a big part of my identity. So gaining 100 pounds in the last three years has been devastating, to say the least. It’s so funny, because three years ago I thought I was fat, with my healthy BMI and 29-inch waist. I now know I was not at all fat, especially because even now I’m not.

Me in 2016.

But yesterday I began, with two friends, a lifestyle change. I will be exercising five times a week, whether on the elliptical, with weights, doing floor exercises, or just walking the dog till we’re both exhausted. I will eat less dairy and avoid excess sugar; no soda, fast food, red meat, or white breads/pastas/rice; more fruits and vegetables, especially the latter; and protein at every meal. I also have added one lemon water to my morning.

I’m trying to learn to love my body as it is, as well. While it isn’t my ideal of what I “should” look like, I am starting to realize that it is still beautiful and capable. I’m also trying to forgive my past self. I’m trying to forgive the woman who fought her mental demons so hard she forgot to care for her physical being, or was too tired to do so. I’m trying to forgive the woman who, in boredom or distress, turned to food for comfort. And I will continue to try to forgive, because I know the days will come when, for whatever reason, I miss a workout or eat something “bad.” But, I hope they will be few and far between.

I just want to look in the mirror and be happy about the appearance of the woman I see again. I want to feel beautiful and womanly and dainty and capable again. I want things to fit me more easily.

I don’t know where this is going to go. I don’t know what the results will be. I’m hoping that by telling all of you that will help me to stick to the plan. But, I hope when I check in again, I will be healthier, stronger, and more fit. Ideally I will be thinner also.

I love you. I’m trying to love my physical body, too, as I am. I’m getting healthier for me, because I do love me.

If you have any tips or tricks, please leave them in the comments – I’d love to hear them!