Thursday, April 19, 2012

the other thing I love about traveling (and more tips)

I LOVE the travel/tester section of stores. I think it stems from my obsession with all things miniature. So miniature bottles of shampoo and such make me happy for some reason. So I jump on the chance to buy them for traveling. But I've learned from trial and error that some things are better in mini, while others are just better to bring the full size you already have. 
 Better things in mini:
shampoo and conditioner: you could also just bring hotel samples if you keep those (which I do)
face wash, lotion, and shaving cream.
tissues, and these awesome travel/camping rolls of toilet paper. a lot of places abroad will either not provide tp, or charge for it. these are great to always have.
hair dryer

BTW: next to the travel toilet paper, then next best thing to bring is that travel size wrinkle releaser. this stuff is awesome!

Better things in regular size:
toothpaste: those mini tubes of toothpaste seem great, but they're not so ideal if you're traveling for more than 3 days, or if you are sharing toothpaste with a significant other.
deodorant: again, you don't want to risk running out of deodorant. better to be safe than sorry.
curling iron/straightener: those travel ones aren't very good in my opinion.

Other travel essentials:

Some of these things may make me look high maintenance, but if you are traveling overnight in any type of transportation, or if there is a risk that you might be crashing at an airport for a night, then you will be so happy you had these things!

the inflatable pillow is so easy to pack around, so why not? 
and ever since i borrowed/may have stolen an airline blanket when i knew i was going to be sleeping in the airport, i have always tried to bring a small blanket on flights. especially in the summertime, when you're dressed in shorts, a t-shirt, and flip flops, and the plane is ridiculously cold, then you will be glad to have a little blanket--since most airlines don't provide blankets anymore. also, don't you just love that eye mask? I scored it from Target on clearance with the blanket. 

So, there you go! Hope it helps. Again, feel free to put in your two cents if you have it. 

**Trip update: we found out that there is a flight tomorrow at six, and the next one after that isn't until Saturday at 7pm! So instead of going to see Katy Perry perform at the Naval Academy, we think we are going to try our hardest to get on that Friday flight to Germany. Pray that we do, because I think Victor will cry if he misses Katy Perry AND doesn't even get on that flight. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Packing and Travel Tips: For What It's Worth

As I've been preparing for my upcoming trip, I've been thinking about what tips and tricks I have learned throughout the years, and I thought I would share some with you, and if you have any helpful tips as well, please do tell.

So for packing: this is something that I really think I am quite proficient at. I mentioned it before, but I am definitely an over-packer, so I have learned how to make the most out of my space.

The biggest one is to make sure you pack for a trip not by specific outfit, but by several pieces of coordinating colors and styles so you can mix and match to make multiple outfits. My color scheme for this trip is pretty obvious. I'm very much obsessed with coral and navy blue right now, so it seemed like an obvious choice.
My second biggest tip that I do is roll all of my clothes--except for jackets and stuff. That I just fold up and lay on top of the rolled clothes. It's very space efficient. So all of my stuff goes from looking like this
To this:
With all that extra space, hopefully I can pack an extra dress or something.

Also, for packing to come home, use your clothes as padding for the breakable souvenirs you buy. I have bought A LOT of breakable stuff on my travels, and I am proud to say that I have never had a broken object with this method. Just wrap the object with your clothes, and make sure the object is surrounded by other clothes as well.

My other tip that I recommend is regarding pajamas. If you're never traveling on overnight trains or buses, then don't worry about this. But if you are, then this is for you. A lot of times you're leaving or arriving late at night or early in the morning, and sometimes it's very inconvenient to change in and out of your pajamas. So I recommend making sure you bring a pair of work out pants, or pants that are comfortable to sleep in, as well as socially acceptable to walk around in public.

For example, I would love to pack these comfy leopard pajama pants, but it is NOT cool to wear them from the train station to your hotel at any time of day. So instead, I'm packing these running capris, which are comfortable to sleep in, as well as acceptable to wear in public, if absolutely necessary. If you don't care about people thinking you look ridiculous, then disregard this advice.

Okay, now to some other stuff. One thing that I learned early on in traveling is that this item is a waste of money:
The money pouch. I love how this picture makes it look so sleek and attractive. The fact is, nothing gives you away as a tourist than digging under your clothes to find your money. I had one of these, but I ended up just using it as a purse (an ugly one), like so:
All you need is a purse that zips up, with no open pockets, and just be smart about it. Meaning, always make sure that it's zipped up at all times, and make sure you keep the purse right in front of you around crowds. I had a close call in Romania, but luckily nothing got stolen, but unfortunately, I witnessed one of my friends get pick pocketed in China because of the whole zip up thing, and that definitely wasn't fun, was it Holli? Luckily it all worked out in the end, and I bet she never thinks about it anymore! :)

Anyway, that's about it for now. I think all travel tips can just be summed up in some advice my mom gave me about traveling: just be aware of your surroundings, and if you see anything sketchy going on, like people eyeing you, don't pretend you don't see them. Show them that you know they are there. It may seem obvious, but it's sound advice. Thanks, Mom!

So any other tips or tricks I should know?? Did I mention I'm excited?
Well, that's all for now!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Refashion: Fashion is Cyclical

So, remember how chambray is totally in right now? Something else I've seen lately is polka dot chambray. Pretty cute. I just saw a really cute polka dot chambray top from J. Crew but can't seem to find it to show you. But, you get the idea with these ones. One is from Levis, and the other...I don't know. 
So, remember that chambray was also in style in the early 1990s? It's no secret that trends these days are almost always traceable to another decade because fashion is totally cyclical. So if you want to buy a  "new" trend, check out old stuff first!

After I saw that cute top from J. Crew, I found this little number at Goodwill that was probably made in the early 1990s. Not exactly the cutest thing in the world, but the fabric is a polka dot chambray, which is SO HOT right now!
Yep, it's even more attractive from behind.
I decided to make it into a skirt, since you see so many chambray tops, but not any skirts. Maybe it will start a new trend. We'll see. 

Anyway, here is the finished product! 
 Well, almost finished. You see, I'm not quite sure if the pockets on the skirt are cute, or if they look a little maid/waitress like. Do you think I should keep them? It would be easy to pick them off if you tell me to. 

I think this skirt might make the cut of clothes to take to Europe, considering so many things go with chambray. Either way though, it's a great summer skirt that cost me three dollars. BTW, did you know if you donate to Goodwill, you get 20% off your entire purchase? NICE. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Now I'm a Belieber

Ok, so I was working on a refashion project (coming up soon on the blog) and was all, "what's on Netflix these days?" So, I get on, and lo and behold, there was the Justin Bieber documentary, "Never Say Never." I heard it was pretty good, and I felt that I should at least give him a chance before I stereotype him as another tween artist.

Maybe I should go back a bit before I move on. When I first arrived back in the United States two years ago this week (which is crazy to me), after spending 18 months living in a foreign country with rare exposure to pop culture, I was completely out of the loop of what the trends were and what was going on in the music industry. I came home and the hit songs on the radio were these ones by Michael Buble, Train, and Lady Gaga.

And some kid named Justin Bieber.

I had never heard of him, but when I saw what he looked like, I was all "no way. i will not even bother with this kid."
Well, as of today I would like to issue a formal apology to Justin Bieber.

This kid is talented. He taught himself to play the piano, drums, guitar, and trumpet before the age of twelve. And his dance moves rival those of MJ himself.

He is also hardworking. He busted his butt to get recognized by going to almost every single radio station in the country to promote his music. His hard work paid off, and his songs became number one and he became a full blown pop star in less than a year, including selling out in Madison Square Garden in 20 minutes, which they said is extremely rare and next to impossible for new artists because it is such a huge venue.

And most importantly, this kid has heart. Did you know that he and his roadies go around before his concerts and give out free tickets to his fans? They always make sure to keep extra tickets to do this. Remember how I'm super emotional?? Well, when I saw one of his roadies go up to a dad who had brought his little girls to the concert because they loved Justin so much, and move them all to the fourth row, I lost it. Yes, I totally cried watching the Justin Bieber documentary. I really am too emotional. But it was just so sweet!!

So JB, I'm sorry for misjudging you. You're a good kid. And your music isn't half bad. And I'm pretty sure if you picked me to be your one less lonely girl, I would probably swoon over you too. Don't know what I'm talking about? Start this video at 1:17. Again, SO SWEET.

Have any of you seen this documentary? Or do you love the Biebs?? Please justify me in my praise of JB. Or go watch it and then we can talk about it!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Our Easter Weekend

It was a beautiful weekend. Perfect for Easter celebrating and family visiting. Victor's sister and step-sister drove down and it was fun showing them around D.C., even though the city is back in tourist mode and I don't like it. Too many people. 

So these are some things we did and saw. 

Sightseeing, museum visiting, and cupcake eating.

More sightseeing and touristy picture taking

Duck chasing. Yes, I'm three years old.

Sunset enjoying and not pictured: firework watching.

 Easter celebrating, including the Romanian tradition of hitting our eggs together while proclaiming "Christ is resurrected!" Also eating delicious food. My first Easter feast as lady of the house, and while I don't want to brag, it was pretty delicious.

And, for your viewing pleasure, we also played the dance central game on the Kinect. Victor gets really into it. 

I would call the weekend a definite success. And again, I don't want to brag, but I think we are pretty good hosts. So, you should come and visit!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sunday Did Come

I love Easter. I have always loved it, but never as much as I have for the last few years.

When I lived in Romania, Easter was a bigger deal than Christmas. And it makes sense, after all. It is because there was an Easter that we even celebrate Christmas. My mom always taught me this, and Gordon B. Hinckley reiterated it when he said that without Easter, Christ's birth would have just been another birth of any other child.

In Romania for Easter, the common greeting of "good day" or "hello" is completely replaced with "Christ resurrected!" To which you respond, "True, He resurrected." You answer the phone like that, strangers say it to strangers, and even the newscasters begin their program with that.  You say it all week long. I just love that. I wish we did that here.

Whenever I express what I am happy and grateful for, it roots back to what we refer to as the "gospel." The gospel of Jesus Christ. And I love that the word "gospel" roots back to the old English word that means good news or glad tidings. At Christmas time we read of the angels who bring "glad tidings" to the shepherds. And it all is infinitely connected. The glad tidings is that He came to the world. He came to the world to do what He promised He would do. Christmas is to celebrate His lowly beginnings. Easter is to celebrate His sublime sacrifice and biggest miracle in the history of the world.

But what makes it good news is what it all means to us.

It's good news to us because it means that this life has meaning to us. This life isn't the end. We don't need to live life in despair believing that everything will come to a depressing end. We don't need to feel like there is no point to life if it all just ends anyway.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the message that Jesus Christ came to the earth and showed us how to live life. He also came to earth to make a way possible back to God the Father, if we follow His teachings. It's the gospel of great news, because every single person is eligible for it.

But there is more to it than just the grand scale of things. The teaching of immortality and eternal life is something that is hard to grasp at times, and at other times it seems so distant from us. How does all of this benefit us in our day to day lives??

The atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ mean so much to us on the grander scale of being here on earth, but it also means so much to us on an everyday basis. It not only gives us hope for life after death, but it also gives us hope that our daily struggles are not in vain. Christ descended below all things in order to give us the help we need on a daily basis, through each and every one of our struggles.

One of the very best talks that has ever given about this was by Joseph B. Wirthlin in his talk "Sunday Will Come." He says:

"I think of how dark that Friday was when Christ was lifted up on the cross.

"On that terrible Friday the earth shook and grew dark. Frightful storms lashed at the earth.

"[...] On that Friday the Savior of mankind was humiliated and bruised, abused and reviled.

"It was a Friday filled with devastating, consuming sorrow that gnawed at the souls of those who loved and honored the Son of God.

"I think that of all the days since the beginning of this world’s history, that Friday was the darkest.

"But the doom of that day did not endure.

"The despair did not linger because on Sunday, the resurrected Lord burst the bonds of death. He ascended from the grave and appeared gloriously triumphant as the Savior of all mankind.

" [...] Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.

"But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.

"No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come.

"I testify to you that the Resurrection is not a fable. We have the personal testimonies of those who saw Him. Thousands in the Old and New Worlds witnessed the risen Savior. They felt the wounds in His hands, feet, and side. They shed tears of unrestrained joy as they embraced Him."

I can't really say anything else to top that, because it is absolutely wonderful. All I can say is that I know that it's true. And I know that it all happened. Jesus Christ resurrected. And He is our hope and our happiness. The best news of all.

And that's why I love Easter so much.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Highlights of the Week

--Meeting Victor for a "fancy" dinner in Quantico town, the janky, one street "city" surrounded by the base when he had to work all night

--Taking a nice little walk at a place near our house. Apparently, it used to be a quarry where they got some of the stone for the White House and other buildings in D.C. I'm surrounded by history.
    There is also tons of cool wildlife to check out. I think this is a blue herron below? Pretty cool, though.

--Finally getting "Instagram" on my phone! Yet another social networking site to get addicted to. I can't wait to take artsy photos of my life.

--Getting a text message from a Louisiana area code that said this:

As you can imagine, this cracked me up. If this was you, I'm sorry. I didn't hear you on the radio because I assumed it was a wrong number from a redneck.

--Spring cleaning

--Seeing a grown man shed tears during "The Hunger Games." And seeing "The Hunger Games" again. Love love love that movie.

--Having family come visit for Easter: soon to take place. I assume it will be a highlight.

That's all she wrote. Have a great Easter weekend!!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Traveling Shoes: Style vs. Comfort

So, we're officially counting down the days until we leave on our Europe trip! And there's a lot of things to get done in preparation: the most important of those being what I am going to pack.

You see, we are technically "backpacking," so luggage space is limited. I prefer to overpack, because after all, you never know what situation you'll be in! My biggest problem is overpacking on shoes. Basically, even for a weekend trip, I bring at least three pairs of shoes.

Normally, I would just bite the bullet and pack one pair of shoes and call it good: but I feel even more pressure to look good considering that I'm going to be in Europe, more specifically, Paris, where I don't want to look like a filthy backpacker wearing nasty chacos in all of her photos. It can't happen, people.

So the question is, what are some good walking shoes that are still cute? I have a few options, and I really want to choose from my own closet, because any money spent on shoes is less money to buy new stuff in Europe.

I figure I need to minimize the pairs of shoes I bring to three. Maybe more if it turns out I have more room, which I doubt. So, I need your help! Based on your walking and style experiences which shoes are the "must pack"?
 Left: The Toms, a so called traveler favorite. But do they really last you a big long day of walking? Not to mention, they kind of smell after a while. Hmm.

Right: The Sperry Topsiders. I wore these hiking in Zion's for a day, and they held up pretty good, and they're all the rage, but I still worry they look too masculine.
Left: the Reef flipflops. I know from experience that these are good walking shoes, but I don't want to look like a beach bum.

Middle: the Keds. A classic. I like mine, but I haven't experienced wearing and walking in them all day.

Right: The Salt Water sandals. I love these, and I have worn them all day in NYC, so I think they'll serve me well, I hope.

Anyway, any helpful tips or info is greatly appreciated! Basically, I just don't want to resort to wearing my gym shoes, like my mom suggested that I do. Barf. I might as well throw on a fanny pack and a visor.

Thanks for your help!
Love, Annie

Monday, April 2, 2012

Doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone

alone time at the National Gallery
*Thanks Kelly Clarkson for the post title

It was when I went away to college as an eighteen year old that I learned "how to be alone." I wasn't completely alone, per se: I had roommates who kept me company and my family just a phone call away. But the roommates all had their lives of school and work, and so I was learning the meaning of "being on your own." Sometimes it was awesome. To have the freedom to do whatever I wanted--to leave and come home without having to report to anyone--was great. Other times it really sucked. I remember one time when things with a guy I was dating totally fell apart and there was some roommate drama, and I wanted so badly to have a place to go besides my apartment. My family lived 5 hours away, so I didn't have the luxury of going to my parents for the afternoon. So instead I just drove around by myself.

It was that same year that I heard at some church-related meeting of a situation where someone the teacher knew had that mentality that "once this school year is over, I will be happy." Then, "well, once I'm done with school completely, then I will be happy." Which turns into "once I'm where I want to be in my job, then I'll be happy" and "once I'm married, then I know I will be happy," etc. 

I realized then that I needed to learn to how enjoy being by myself. I didn't want to be that person who kept putting off happiness because they didn't know how to be happy alone. So, I learned how to enjoy doing things alone. Sometimes I think I enjoyed my "alone time" a little too much. For example, I was so worried about going on a mission and having a companion all the time who I couldn't ditch without getting in trouble. And I admit that I was a little apprehensive about getting married and living with my husband after long distance dating for so long because I didn't know how to handle the idea that I would be with Victor 24/7. (And for the record, I shouldn't have been worried, because as it turns out, I really really like living with Victor)

Every time I go up to D.C. by myself to work, if I have the time, I like to have little outings by myself, which is sometimes going for a cup of tea, but mostly spending time in museums. This past week, I justified going over to Georgetown and picking up a cupcake for a friend's birthday, and some for me as well, naturally. There was a lovely little garden right off of the busy street, and it was so nice to sit and ponder about life and cupcakes, and then to walk around the cute streets wishing that the house my car was parked in front of really was my house. 

As much I have come to love my "alone time," there are still certain activities that I still find myself being self conscious about. With movies, I'm totally willing to go see a matinee by myself, and yet I can't get myself to go to an evening showing, especially on the weekends. And I've gone out to eat by myself a few times, but never at a formal sit down place, and never in the evening. 

Why is that?

How can I profess to be so confident in spending time alone, and yet I find myself having rules of what activities are appropriate and what time of day to do them. When I think about going out to eat alone, all I can think of is the "Friends" episode when Monica asks, "what's wrong with a woman eating alone?" to which Chandler responds, "Well obviously something. She's eating alone."

I've even found myself having feelings of sympathy when I see someone eating alone in a formal restaurant. "Poor them. I hope they're not lonely." Here I am sympathizing for them, but maybe they're just like me about loving alone time, and unlike me, they have the confidence to do the things I don't do. 

Do any of you find yourself in this predicament? Are these fears justified, or am I just being silly? I guess my real question should be this: if you saw me eating in a restaurant alone, what would you think of me? 

Anyway, that's all I really have to say. And to share this quote, which I really like.
"You cannot be lonely if you like the person you're alone with." --Wayne Dyer

It's so true. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

What do I have to do to get a rise out of this guy?

I pulled a little April Fool's joke on my husband today. I thought about getting a fake pregnancy test, but I didn't want him to think I was lying come the actual day in the future when I am pregnant. So, I found some alternate ideas on the interweb. Thanks again, Pinterest.
Let polish dry on parchment paper for a few days, and then peel off
He is always getting after me about not painting my nails on a scratch piece of paper, so I really thought this would get him upset. When he saw it, he let out a sigh, and then reached down to examine the damage and realized it was fake.

That's all I get?? I mean, I'm glad he didn't majorly freak out at me, but I was maybe hoping for something more. Oh well.

Happy April Fool's Day. Did you play any pranks?