Monday, March 31, 2014

Albania the Beautiful

Albania the beautiful. Did you think I was joking when I said I was on my way to Albania? I wouldn't blame you if you did; I can be quite the jokester. But it's real life! Here's a little update on what I've learned here:

Most people don't visit Albania as tourists. This means there's less Americanization here than most other places I've been. There isn't a single American chain restaurant here, but they do have AFC - "Albanian Fried Chicken", and "Coffee Bucks," which has a logo with bold, green letters. Remind you of anything?? It gave me a little chuckle. 

People of Albania

The Albanians I have met are very, very friendly. Hospitality is deeply rooted in Albanian culture, so the natives are typically helpful and kind. In fact, it is said that if you are lost, Albanians will often literally get inside your car, and direct you to your destination--even if that means they're riding with a stranger out of their way for 15-20 minutes.

Currency of Albania

Albanian currency is the leke, and if something costs 500 leke, that means it is about 5 US dollars. What a relief to know the exchange rate when the dinner bill arrives! 

Cuisine of Albania

Speaking of dinner... Albanian food is great. Albania is right next to Greece and just across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, so most of their food is Mediterranean. My favorite thing I ate is called souflaqe (soo-FLAH-chee), and it is basically like a Greek gyro. In Albania, they add fries on top (awesome), and it is considered fast food. (My favorite restaurant would be the Chick-fil-A of Albania.)

The cost of a nice meal in Albania is about half of what it would cost in America.

And olives. I ate so many olives. Olives for breakfast, olives for lunch, olives for dinner. (This is not a joke.)

Landscape of Albania

Albania has about 3 million people living here, with 1 million of them living in the capital city, Tirana. The country is small enough that one can see a good majority of the sites in just 4 days! Albania has city, country, mountains, and ocean all within about 5 minutes of each other. It's ahhhh-mazing. 

That's it for my Albanian update! I'm leaving in the morning. This country has been good to me! Next up: India!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tips for Travels

Over the past few years, I've been blessed to have had several travel opportunities. Through a good combination of research and experience, here are some of the things I've learned:

Whether you're packing for a long trip or a short one, you want to make sure you can get the most "bang for your buck" in terms of what you're bringing. That being said, bring stuff you can both layer and mix and match. You don't want to be the girl who brings 2 suitcases for a weekend trip. Trust me.

I consider packing a suitcase one of my top 5 strengths. Honestly, I attribute the skill to the amount of Tetris I played as a kid, but I'm thankful for it today. My family and friends have both asked me to help them pack, 'cause they know I'll be able to cram the most stuff into a bag. I always, always, always roll my clothes. It takes up very little space, and it keeps 'em wrinkle-free (for the most part).

Staying hydrated is a big part of staying healthy on a long trip. For plane rides, it is often recommended to drink 8 oz. of water per hour you are on the plane. So, if you're flying to Albania, and you have an 11-hour overseas flight, you should drink 88 oz. of water on the plane ride.
…And hopefully you have a seat near the restroom.

Whether you're going on a work trip, humanitarian trip, vacation, or on some other type of adventure, you'll want a little spending money! Personally, if I am going overseas, I like to collect some foreign currency to take home with me. It's an easy, fun way to remember all the places you've been! Obviously, don't bring home, like, a million Euros because you won't be able to spend them in the States. 

If I had a dime for every trip I wish I would have journaled on, I could probably fill up that jar in the photo. I start off with great intentions to write down every single detail of what I'm seeing, where I'm eating, who I'm meeting, etc. And then I usually come home with an empty journal. Focusing on the highlights of each day instead of "woke up at 8:06 a.m., went downstairs for breakfast, drank a cup of coffee, ate 2 orange slices…" should make it easier to keep a record of the trip. 

Bonus tip: Don't be the girl who wears heels on the plane. Not even wedges.

Alright, well I'm off to Albania, so I'll catch you guys on the flip-side of the Atlantic!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Happiest Time of Day

The happiest time of day. Well, what is it?? You may be thinking it's 5:00 p.m. because that's when the typical work day ends. You may be thinking it's 11:11 because people make wishes at 11:11! You may be thinking it's any time that you're drinking coffee. But you're wrong. (Sorry.)

I'm here to tell you the happiest time of day is 10:10.

Well, that's what watch retailers seem to think. It's an old advertising tactic they've been using since practically the beginning of time (hahahah, get it, time??) Before digital watches, the photographer had to set the watch hands to the same position for each ad. They placed the hands at 10 and 2 for a couple reasons, one being to properly display the brand name. Often, the watchmaker's name appeared right below the 12 and parallel to the 10 and 2, which meant the clock set at 10:10 would perfectly frame the maker's logo. Drawing attention to the brand name is just plain smart. In fact, the advertisers got even smarter than that. 

Back in the day, some watch companies had their logo on the bottom half of the watch, right above the 6. Instead of photographing their watches set at 10:10, they would set them at 8:20--using the same logic. However, instead of the watch hands pointing up at the brand name, they would be pointing down to highlight it. Over time, many watchmakers and advertisers decided the watch looked better with the hands facing up because it resembled a smiley face. Thus, 10:10 is the happiest time of the day because the clock is smiling at you.

To this day, Rolex's watches are always photographed at 10:10:31. Timex's official time for all marketing purposes is 10:09:36. I guess Timex is technically 24 seconds away from the happiest time of day, but we'll give 'em a break. 

Happy 10:10! Happy Thursday!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Grandma's Mediterranean Squash Recipe

My grandma was the coolest lady ever. One of my life goals is to be more like her, so I started with learning how to make her vegetarian squash medley. 


1 yellow summer squash - P.S. WHY isn't it summer yet???
1 zucchini squash
1 can stewed tomatoes
1/4 onion (or to taste) 

Start by chopping your veggies. Peeling the squash isn't necessary, and I prefer not to, so the dish is more colorful. Heat a little olive oil in the skillet, and you're ready to cook some vegetables! Add in yellow squash, green squash, and onions. Simmer approx. 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Now you add in the tomatoes. I think these are the best part of the dish, but I really like tomatoes. Simmer another 7-8 minutes, or until you feel like the vegetables are the texture you like. 

Season to taste with salt, pepper, and oregano, and you're done! You can make this dish year round, but the fresh veggies will taste best in the summer. It's easy cleanup because it's just one dish! And if you thrown in some sausage or lamb, it'll be a whole entrĂ©e.

Pros to making this meal:
- It tastes awesome
- It's VERY cost efficient
- It's pretty
- You can make it in 15 minutes
- I'm going to go eat it now, bye.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Coconut Cure-All

Looking for a new eye makeup remover? Coconut oil.  Need some new tanning oil, but don't want to glitter like Edward Cullen? Just use coconut oil. Are you out of Burt's Bee's, and your lips are feeling a little chapped? Don't worry--you've got coconut oil. Coconut oil is the trendiest "cure-all" for everything under the sun. My friend, Meghan, is on team coco oil (she may even be the captain of this team), so I figured I'd see how she uses it and learn about it.

The primary way Meg uses coconut oil is as a makeup remover/face moisturizer. Meghan doesn't wear a ton of makeup anyway, so the coconut oil is the perfect natural remedy for removing that end-of-the-day eyeliner.

Meghan uses coconut oil as a lip balm, for moisturizer for her face and hair, and in small doses, as an additive to food. Honestly, I thought she used coconut oil for everything. But then I found out some people really use the oil for everything. In fact, another blogger has a list of 101 uses for it!

There's obviously a lot of hype about coconut oil. But does it stand up to the claims?

Here are the facts I've learned:
- When using coconut oil on skin, make sure to get unrefined or organic coconut oil. Refined coconut oil is more likely to clog pores.
- Smells very coconut-y. Tastes less coconut-y.
- Effectively removes eye makeup. (I tried it. Meg was right.)
- Scientists are still studying coconut oil to confirm its benefits, but this blogger has an extensive post concerning the research.

Meghan puts coconut oil in her coffee for a natural flavor additive. Loooooots of people (everyone on the internet, I think) have taken to cooking with coconut oil because it has a higher smoke point than other oils. Frankly, I have no clue why that matters, but here's a link to the Wikipedia article on smoke points.

Other fun facts about coconut oil:
- It melts at 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Coincidentally, 76 degrees Fahrenheit is my favorite outdoor temperature.

Cya guys later; I'm gonna go bathe in coconut oil. I may or may not return as Wonder Woman.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Body of Work - The Mynabirds

"Freedom is what you do with what | with what's been done to you."

Currently digging this song. Happy weekend, everyone!

Monday, March 3, 2014

DIY Coffee Creamer

Coffee is one of my favorite things in life. Hot coffee, iced coffee, black coffee, coffee with cream: You name it, I love it. Typically, I'll buy flavored creamer to add a little somethin-somethin to the coffee I make at home. The holidays are great because there's a ton of seasonal flavors (pumpkin and peppermint, anyone??), but once March rolls around, there are only, like, 4 flavors to choose from. I didn't want to buy hazelnut again, so I started researching my options to make my own creamer.

I found this base recipe for homemade coffee creamer, and I decided to try creating recipes for a couple different flavors. I decided on raspberry mocha and raspberry mint, and they were both super easy to make! The best part about this base recipe is that it can be customized about a billion different ways.

Raspberry Mocha Coffee Creamer
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1 3/4 cups half and half
3 tablespoons chocolate syrup
1 tablespoon raspberry syrup

Raspberry Mint Coffee Creamer
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1 3/4 cups half and half
2 tablespoons raspberry syrup
1 teaspoon mint extract

Both of the creamers were deeeee-licious! Personally, I liked the raspberry mocha a bit better than the mint, but I was happy to add variety to my morning, either way. This is a really fun way to customize your coffee drinks, and I like knowing exactly what is in it - no more preservatives!

These minty-fresh creamers are making me crave springtime more than ever!