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!

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!

My Five Ride-or-Die Beauty Products

My Five Ride-or-Die Beauty Products

L’Oreal Waterproof Lash Paradise Mascara

This mascara is my everything. It makes my lashes longer, of course, but also makes them look so much thicker. It thickens them immensely, without sticking. After using it, my lashes are thick, yet separated. But the best part is the fact that this mascara will not go anywhere! It’s lasted through sweat, tears, and heat. Plus, the price can’t be beat.

Essence Make Me Brow Eyebrow Gel Mascara

Don’t be fooled by the awesome price of this brow mascara ($2.99!). It’s worth its weight and more in gold. I use a brow pencil first to fill in the more sparse areas of my brows, then swipe this brow mascara over them. The wand is tiny, which is great for a body part as thin as brows tend to be. The Make Me Brow Gel Mascara stays put like a champ, and it looks like it cost more than $3.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Norvina Palette

I saw this palette last year and immediately began to salivate. I’ve always loved the look of purple eyeshadow. The purple shades in here are excellent, though my favorite look to create with this palette is a bronze eye. It’s a pretty penny, but it’s worth the money – you can create a fun, or daring, or natural look, depending on the combinations and shades you use. It’s undeniably worth the money.

Maybelline Dark Circle Eraser

I know everyone in the beauty community worships at Tarte Shape Tape’s altar, but I’ve found that no matter how much I set it, whether with powder or setting spray or both, it creases. It doesn’t crease dramatically, but it’s also thick and doesn’t let the skin breathe. This, however, is thinner, yet provides natural but complete coverage on my ever-present dark eye circles. It doesn’t crease and blends beautifully into the skin. It isn’t too heavy or too matte. And again, the price is a winner.

Morphe Setting Spray

This is my holy grail beauty product. It’s the best beauty buy I’ve ever made. First, the spray is incredibly fine, and comes out like a hairspray, instead of landing in large droplets on the face and ruining makeup. I put this on in the morning before a shift at work, run around the store for hours, and still get complimented on my makeup, and also on how fresh it looks.

If I could only use five more beauty products for the rest of my life, they would be these. Of course, I hope I can use however many beauty products my heart desires for the rest of my life. What are your favorite beauty products? Leave them in the comments below!

Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month

For those of you who didn’t know, May is Mental Health Awareness month. In honor of the last day of that month, I have written this post.

My name is Grace. I am a friend, a girlfriend, a daughter, a sister, an employee, a dog lover, a kind person. I also have seven mental illnesses.

That sounds like a lot. On the one hand, it is. Seven is a lot of mental illnesses. One is a lot of mental illnesses. On the other hand, it is important to remember that mental illnesses are very much related to one another. Sometimes one causes another; sometimes they just go hand-in-hand. I don’t think of my mental illnesses as separate entities, but rather as roots of a tree that spring from each other and cross paths and come from the same basic source.

I live a happy life. I live with the parents who support me, am almost done with college, have a loving boyfriend, work two jobs, maintain friendships all over the country, and have the best ESA in the entire world. Things have been worse for me, many times over the course of my life. I don’t feel like rehashing all my trauma, and I don’t have to do so. Even if I didn’t have suffering and trauma in my past, my mental illnesses would still be valid. Brain chemistry doesn’t care how happy you “should” be.

If there is anything I have learned over the course of my short twenty-three years on this planet, it is these: mental illness is not like a cold. It will most likely be with me my whole life, hopefully with me spending the rest of it in remission. The best I can do is the best anyone can do; I handle it as best I can. Everyone has their cross to bear, and this is mine, so all I can do is carry it with as much grace as possible – and maybe with a bit of good humor.

I have also learned that while there is pain and suffering in the world, much of it senseless, there is so much more that is beautiful and good. We are more attuned to the negative, not because it is more prevalent, but because it is the exception. It affects us so deeply because our innate and automatic assumption is that this world is beautiful, and people are basically good.

So, if you are silently – or even not-so-silently – suffering from mental illness(es), I leave you with this: yes, there is pain and suffering in the world. No, it isn’t fair. But no one ever promised life would be fair. But more important than that is the fact that love is infinite. It does not end, or run out – not true love, anyway. Love is the root of all that is good – the flowers love the sun, which loves them in return. The mother and the offspring love each other. It is true; it is unconditional; it is infinite.

So, love. If you cannot love yourself, try loving others. Try loving the puddle you splash in on a rainy day. Try loving the friend that makes you feel secure. Loving and being loved by others can teach us how to love ourselves. There is always, always, always a reason to love.

Most important of all, remember that you are not alone. You are not alone. You are never, ever alone.

I love you.