Friday, February 26, 2016

Days gone by & happy feet

Naturally, the past few days {or a week, give or take} since the last post have been a jumble, a blur, seemingly on fast-forward. Has it really been nearly 2 weeks since I returned from Ireland?? I guess working {seemingly} nonstop will do that to someone, delving right in after one hell of an adventure.

In between work and sleeping, I managed to have enough time off to be social and see friends! Hurrah! Still working on that work-life balance, I'm afraid, in between those 13-16hr work shifts >_<

In Netflix news, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is now available so I've been working my way through and have started back into yoga as a means of unwinding and attempting to get back in shape. And by started back, I mean I've done 1 session at home and am able to do another before work at this rate, I'll be bikini ready by summer 2017!

In happy news....I was so happy to find this dinosaur dress on Amazon to help make the long work days a tad bit more exciting. When working with children, dress child-friendly... Okay, maybe I dress in fun designs just for me.

Revamped with curls, what can go wrong?

While I generally stick to messy bun, ballerina bun, or some sort of updo to keep the whispies out of my face at work, curls felt necessary for a special sort of day at work this week.

Happy tootsies make for happy steps, eh? With many miles put on each shift at work, some of my flats have seen better days... Luckily, I found these gems whilst out and about and decided to treat myself. Eeeek shoe love ^_^

Side note: I've noticed this whole silly notion with the phrase "on fleek" out on the interwebs. What is this nonsense? Why can't we simply use terms which already exist instead of creating new, stupid ones which do not make one seem "hip" or "cool," but rather idiotic?

Yet here I am having bought a selfie stick in the name of taking full outfit pictures for my blog.... Hence why I took the Mickey out of myself with my first dingus selfie-stick pic in my favorite flannel.

Irony, non?

I've often felt my whole life was a conglomerate of irony and unadulterated comedy bits, some raunchy and some romantic, without the cheesy happy ending, but full of laughter, tears, nachos, and good beer.


Friday, February 19, 2016

Travel Tips

While not an expert, friends have asked me for travel tips since I wander off on my own so frequently {in their eyes}.

  • Do your research
    • I can't stress this enough. Although hostels are not common in the US and we have those scary images from the movie with the same namesake, there are some great, relatively inexpensive places to stay.
    • Browse airline prices: it's going to be more expensive leaving on a Friday and returning on a Sunday than leaving on a Thursday and returning on a Monday. These are often the days I chose while studying abroad as well.
    • Plan routes to & from airports and map out some of the routes to places you definitely want to see. Exploration is the best way to sightsee, but using Google Maps can show you places you may have never known were around the target places.
    • Along with planning routes: look into transportation around the city. Is it walkable? Are there buses? Tube? Have a flexible game plan in mind for getting around.
  • Price check
    • What is the current currency exchange rate?
    • Are credit cards widely accepted?
    • Have you notified your banks?
    • It's best not to exchange money at the airport as you'll likely only get roughly 50% of the value after fees.
  • Documents
    • Passport? -> slip a copy in your bags, have a picture of it on your phone, and keep a copy with a trusted family member/friend back home
    • All vouchers for excursions
    • Credit/debit cards
  • Backup Plans & Contacts
    • Let your mum {or responsible, trusted friend/family member} know where you're staying
    • Have a list of all hostels/hotels/flats where you're staying, the booked excursions
    • Hidden credit card {just in case} tucked away
    • Make a point to contact your home person periodically to check in
  • Packing
    • More often than not, you'll pack too much
    • Lay out your outfits and wear your jeans multiple days if you take jeans
    • Wear heaviest clothing at the airport as you can always take it off after security
    • Weight: know your limits and weigh before you leave; also, make sure you can lug that bag around if necessary!
  • Useful apps
    • TripAdvisor - take reviews with a grain of salt, but starting point...and remember to review your own thoughts!
    • Google Offline Maps - quite useful. Pinpoints your location without data.  Let's be real, international plans are expensive.
    • Expedia - great for booking excursions & keeping yourself on track of dates & times.
      • Downside: requires internet for viewing all details
    • Genuis Scan - turn a copy of your vouchers into PDFs, or retain a copy of your passport/hotel info
    • Duolingo - language learning app I've been advocating for years. If you're traveling to a non-English speaking region, it doesn't hurt to prep by learning a few basic phrases.
    • Untappd - keep track of your beer tasting.
    • Facebook Messenger - most Facebook users have this, but comes quite in handy when meeting fellow travelers & keeping in touch with folks back home.
  • Constant vigilance
    • Keep your wits about you
    • Basic safety - that's why it's good to touch base back home periodically
    • Have cash, emergency credit/debit card, & passport hidden and on your person at all times.
    • Act like you know where you're going & typically no one will bother you - attitude and confidence go a long way
  • Travel attire
    • Dress comfortably, but that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice style, and vice-versa
    • I like jeggings because of pockets, which are handy {naturally}
    • Layers so you can take off one if you're too warm, or be warm on the plane - sometimes those things are frigid!
    • Minimal jewelry, unless it's easy to remove - pending on type of transportation. For planes, I'd keep it to one statement piece, minimal rings and metals since you'll just have to remove and put back on, which impedes upon swift security checkpoints. When you're limited on vacay time, time is precious!
  • Don't be afraid to go alone
    • So you're friends are busy but you really want to go somewhere, your heart aching with longing & it.
    • What's stopping you?
    • Plan it. Execute plans.
    • Most of my adventures have been choice.
    • Take a ton of pictures & keep a journal so you can share the experience with others, but don't let it stop you.
    • Excellent article worth a read {no, it's not from Hello Giggles}
  • Have the time of your life!!
I'm off daydreaming about my next adventure.....

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Back to the States & Reality

The States welcomed me back with sleet & snow! Hello to you, too, Miss America. Sadly, it was warmer in Reykjavik when I left than it was in Baltimore, temperatures dipping down from the {heatwave} of 40° F in Iceland to the depressingly chilly 27° in Maryland. Yuck: slush and ice.

A relatively uneventful bus ride through Dublin city centre back to the airport, face plastered to the window to absorb every millisecond I had left of this beautiful city...I was not quite ready to go, my list of micro-adventures seemingly growing the more miles I put on my tan boots.

Nonetheless, I was in good spirits and made excellent timing to Terminal 1, keeping my cool so as to retain all of the chocolate smuggled {in plain sight} in my hand luggage. Hey, everyone has their vices.

I'll be talking about travel tips in the next blog post, here, and will be discussing travel attire, pros and cons of the sort.

Ha! I nearly forgot how much I love to be frisked at airports when I set off the metal detector twice....blonde moment: I had forgotten I had over £4.80 in the form of about 15 or so coins stashed away in my front pocket, tucked under my button-up and jumper.

Whoopsies... Security was nice about it as I stood awkwardly and complied with all instructions. Perks of looking like a 15yo, I guess...?

In Iceland, I was quite ravenous awaiting my connecting flight and thankful that the sandwich descriptions had English translations on the side. Sweet chili chicken sandwich for the win!

Einstök is also a new favorite of mine. Yaaaaaaaaass. Crisp and cool, this delish Pale Ale. Gull was so-so, but this beauty was smooth all the way down. I was still on vacation and not driving so it's okay to appreciate the finer {alcoholic} things in life once in a while.

5hr 55min flight from KEF {Reykjavik, Iceland} to BWI {Baltimore, Maryland, USA}. 5hr 55min spent attempting to sleep and do everything possible to make time speed up and to ignore the annoying American couple sitting next to me. I'm fairly certain the man took only about a 1/2 hr break from talking the whole dang time.

Flashing through my mind: you are the reason people don't like Americans and think us stupid and obnoxious.

On plus side, I had window seat for all four of my flights so nap time was more comfortable than anticipated. My coat made an excellent impromptu pillow for the many zzzz's.

America welcomed me back from abroad, once again, with shisty weather. Mother Nature certainly pulled out all the big guns for my return: sleet and snow. Thanks.

It was not nearly as terrible as the snowstorm through which Lovely had driven in order to pick up my emotional butt after my 3 months in London in December 2013, but it was poopy nonetheless. Luckily, I was in good company and in steady, superhero hands on the drive home.

Worse than packing is unpacking, so it's typically the first thing I do so the following day doesn't have a bad start....table properly covered, tell tale signs of a wonderful weekend, which only makes me dread getting back to the work grind all the more.

Flags: √
Gifts: √
Chocolate: √
Memories to last a lifetime: √

Monday, February 15, 2016

V-Day & Walks along Cliffs

Today was my trip to the beautiful Cliffs of Moher. WOW. {No, not the airline on which I traveled.}

Not quite as early as a start, thank goodness. I felt myself quite drained after such an adventurous past two days. 10am start after a brisk walk down to the meeting place - the Abercrombie & Fitch store on College Green.

Our driver was a little pushy, but nice. We had a 4hr drive ahead of us with a brief stop at the Barack Obama Plaza {no joke}. A quick brekkie of fizzy bubble bottles {sour bottle-shaped gummies} and a Monster {absolute zero for the win!} and I was set to retire back into snooze position for the duration of the drive {sitting, in my case}.

The view....let's just say, this spot should be on one's travel destination bucket list.

Much mud. Few wanderers. Many struggles.

While there were quite a few people on the easy roads - the pathways without all of the clay-like sticky mud, going off and wandering to the more difficultly accessed areas was worth it for the view and the serenity....

Much tranquility and peace found simply gazing down and smelling the sea.

Obligatory traveler selfie, eh?

Looking down, I could see how one may be captivated by the waves and hear that irresistible calling played by the lapping water many hundred yards down below... A large stone with a dedicated inscription for those who've lost their lives at the cliffs made this moment all the more somber. One could easily be enchanted by such a poetic death... and while I certainly did not feel that urge to leap upon the clear blue H2O, I felt that if, for some ungodly reason, I were to perish on the spot, I would die a happy gal.

Ireland! Beautiful green lands and kind people. Constantly feeling pulled, as usual when I travel. I fall in love with lands and its people, fellow travelers I meet along the way, the food and sights and smells, and yet yearn for my bed back home and the lovely people I have in my life back home, wishing I could so easily combine every happiness into one little space.

Mais, c'est la and happiness is scattered about the globe for a balance and it also makes traveling all the more worthwhile.

Ending this post with lunch. Naturally.

No, ma, it's not alcoholic, albeit the ginger was quite prominent in very swig.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Luck of the Irish, eh?

Being friendly has its perks....or maybe it has something to do with being an American girl who doesn't quite look like an American girl in a foreign country? ...or it's the septum ring. Okay, multiple layers/factors... Or, I'm just a bright-eyed girl who somehow always manages to make friendlies with people, especially the English!

Met a few lovely English lads in a crowded bar when there was nowhere else to sit. I've missed European pubs! Live music and people out for a good camaraderie, not to get into girls' knickers {okay, maybe there's a little of that, but it's more subtle and I never felt any of that nonsensical vibe}.

Getting ahead of meself, though. oi.

Early morning start with a quick, brisk walk down to the bus station, yummy Bueno bar tucked readily within reach in my bag for a light brekkie, my belly all wobbly from excitement and anticipation for the day.

Our tour guide was great, complete with commentary and a rad Irish accent! He filled in the void with witty stories and random facts about Ireland - not your typical tour guide! First stop after about a 2hr drive {and a brief pit stop for noms, Monster, & loo break}, was the Rock of Cashel, from which I nabbed a small pebble just for Teets! A beautifully constructed stone structure, it was abandoned after upkeep became too expensive & out of control....the priests left its cold walls for warmer confines and the ruins remain.

We walked about the ruins for a bit, taking advantage of the free toilets available as one does... Travel tip: use free loos whenever possible.

Then it was off to Blarney Castle! It was about a 15-minute drive from Cork city, but dang, it was mighty purdy. The castle sets upon a great hill so one can't miss it. Aside from that {of course, the main agenda for everyone was placing their plump lips upon that stone}, there were caves and waterfalls and walkways to explore. Wishing the rain would have held up a tad, but that deterred no one.

The walk up the castle is not for the feint of heart, practically climbing up the tight, spindly spiral staircase with not but a thick rope upon which to hold. I have tiny feet {US 6, UK 36}, but even so, if my blood wasn't flowing from exhilaration and excitement, I may have been a bit afraid of falling down upon the nice German lady following behind me.

Walking around was the only way to keep warm {as well as explore} and sooo, I did! In Cork city, I met a lovely Finnish girl named Jenni who was also on the tour and we walked around to find a late lunch, which was, of course, good ol' fish & chips at Thomond Bar as she had not yet experienced this wonderful tradition {sadly, not haggis on the island to be found}.

Mushy peas are the worst...
Afterwards, we ventured back to the lovely city of Dublin where I settled in at the hostel, attempted to FaceTime with a superhero, and made my way down to River Bar, where I was merry with my new English mates and danced with the locals. Live music and crazy dancing - yasss.

Tried some tasty beers, one in particular: Galway Hooker. When in Rome Dublin, eh?

Feet aching and a shit-grin on my face, I'm ready for what tomorrow shall bring!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Packing is the worst.

As much as I love to travel, packing is probably the worst part....aside from unpacking. Excitement builds but I always worry about over-packing or under-packing {I'm not sure which is the worse problem...}.

Naturally, I waited until the utmost last minute to finish packing before rushing out the door early, eager beaver that I am... Surprisingly, my pack was roughly 6-7lbs heading out. Thank goodness, as there is a weight limit with WOW Air, the relatively inexpensive airline with which I flew.

Tree picked me up and we were off to the airport! He kindly offered to take me as he did not have lessons and it proved a lovely catch-up and jam session, listening to the rough mixes for STT's upcoming album. Dayum. The guys only continue to get better and better! >gushing like a proud little sister<

We made a pit stop at Diner 83 en route to BWI, a small treat for his kindness. Omelettes and pancakes for fuel, anticipation mounting as we gained mile after mile towards the departure terminals....holy cow, I was doing it, I was heading to Ireland on my own!

The queue for boarding wasn't too terrible and relatively smooth ride over. Iceland was beautiful from above!! The Northern Lights were dazzling in the skies as we made our way across the Atlantic - no words, no words at all.

Toodle-oooh, Baltimore!

Icelandic beer from among the clouds - not too bad.

From Iceland to Ireland, let's go!

The adventures started upon touchdown at roughly 8:30AM GMT aka 3:30AM back home - my poor Mumsy stayed up for each leg of my journey.

So. Green.
After a brief bus ride to the center of Dublin city {none the worse for wear, surprisingly}, I made my way to the Old Jameson Distillery and discovered I really do not like whiskey. Jameson + ginger ale, tolerable. The tasting room made my stomach churn in all the wrong ways.... I don't know how Lovely acquired such a love for that vile concoction; I can appreciate the history without divulging in any...

Complimentary samples woot woot

From there, off to the Guinness Storehouse! Naturally. I'm in Ireland, so of course I have to take the Guinness tour and pour a perfect pint. FYI: it takes 19.6 seconds to pour the perfect pint from start to finish. I received a certificate saying I'm a pro, so I should know now. >giggle<

Obligatory dork pic.

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Christ Church, so many churches and sites before checking in at the Ashfield House hostel, quick shower, and out for a delicious dinner of fish & chips and trying some local beers. Found a new favorite cider called Orchard Thieves!

>if you have the app Untappd, available on both iTunes & Android, let's be beer-appreciating friends! Handle: g33kandchic<

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Christ Church

Dublin Castle

Ha'penny Bridge

Early start tomorrow with a trip down to Cork to see Cashel Rock and kiss the Blarney Stone!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Off to the Emerald Isle

FYI: if you want to bring your throwing stars on an international flight, you're more than welcome to, provided they are in your checked luggage.

As it's been a while since I've flown internationally, I'm brushing up on my TSA knowledge. Prohibited items of which I never would have thought to bring on a flight include, but are not excluded to:

  • Chlorine for pools and spas
  • Recreational oxygen
  • Tear gas
  • More than 3.4 oz of Maple Syrup can only travel in one's checked bag....
  • Brass knuckles must be in the checked bag
  • Cattle prods prohibited from entering the cabin, but okay in the checked luggage
  • No dynamite...ever
  • Vehicle airbags

Oh, but pies and cakes are allowed in both carry-on and checked luggage. Good. I wanted to take stow some in the inside pocket of my floral bag... {kidding}.

I understand, it's all for safety. It's similar to those strange state-mandated rules such as no singing in the shower - at some point, these must have been necessary laws to enforce because someone was dumb enough to bring them.

Last-minute packing. Naturally....good thing I did check up on my noggin's memory as I was thinking a gallon-size bag of liquids was too good to be true. Even with my minimalist product-usage, this is going to be tight.

Essentials...good enough, eh?
Excitement is mounting!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Passions and Follies

All too often we get caught up in what we're "supposed" to do, following the proverbial checklist of life: school; moving out/first apartment; job/career; S/O; engagement; marriage; children; somehow squeeze in seeing the world... -- any combination of the above, not necessarily all of them, depending on what you want from life.

Before we know it, life is happening and time is speeding up {certainly not slowing down at any rate} and a new year has begun. We reflect on the past year, making vows to ourselves to accomplish those ticket items which we did not complete that year nor the previous, and possibly even items from 5 years ago... We're stuck in the rut of doing what is expected of us, sometimes foregoing what we had expected of us, expectations of the best sort, such as wanting to progress in a hobby, read more books, take more time for self-relaxation, or learn another foreign language.

Such pleasures and joys in life go to the wayside for things which may not truly matter half as much in the grand scheme of things aka life. While this blog first began as yet another "fashion blog," I've found myself morphing my writing into the raw, real-life feelings - not that these concepts are not incorporated into the various fashion/style blogs I follow, but I don't quite fit the mold, finding myself nestled comfortably into a better suited niche. A living, breathing journal of sorts.

>I still love pretty dresses...but love the stories behind them more.
Dress found in a vintage shop in a small Austrian town<
My drive and purpose are changing with age, as life is unfolding.

Epiphany moment: I realize I've given way to less important segments of life and let those which I love slide on the back burner...job and career-building taking over, in a position my heart is not into, all for a paycheck and contributions to a 401K and for health insurance I'll likely never even use, having not even set up my own doctors in the area {how's that for adulting?}.

>opening my eyes<
Language learning and traveling have gone down on the priority list, more so with the language-building skills and my prolific desire to live and breathe in various cultures to truly experience the world...

This job and vain attempt to please everyone and struggling to live up to expectations initially set by someone other than my own internal desires is slowly taking over my life in ways I could not imagine. Free time is being spent worrying about this and that, and not truly being granted the freedom and sanctuary dictated to maintain some sense of sanity.

In T-minus 2 days, I'm off to Ireland and onto a journey of a more self-fulfilling life as opposed to the grinding rut in which my unmotivated wheels have been churning for far too long...