Featured Posts Slider

Image Slider

Throwback: Chomper

January 31, 2014
When I was living in Italy and Seoul in 2005-2008, I had a MySpace account and kept a blog on there so that my friends could keep track of what I was doing.  I have since, along with everyone else in the world, canceled my MySpace account.  However, before I did that, I was sure to email my blog entries to myself so that I wouldn't lose what I had written about.  I was going through the entries and found this one and because it cracked me up, I thought I would share it with all of you.  It's short and sweet!

"A couple of friends and I decided to check out this new club called Club Mass in Gangnam because our friend was going to be a guest deejay there.  It was 30 bucks to get in!  I've never paid that much in my life, but  I have to admit it was pretty sweet and we stayed there until past 6 AM.  We got our money's worth for sure.  

I had a great time except for when I was dancing with this guy, and all of a sudden this Korean girl fell into me.  She apologized and then looked at me, screamed,"You're beautiful!"  Then she was acting like she had to tell me something, only she was mumbling and between that, her accent, and the loud music, I could not understand what she was saying.  I sort of leaned closer to her to try to figure it out.  and then she bit my ear.  No, you are not reading that wrong...she freaking BIT ME.  I was in disbelief and just stood there like, "I can't believe this actually happened!"  She ran out the door with her friends and left for the night, and I turned and looked at my friend Tiffany and she said, "Only you, Lisa,  This would only ever happen to you."  She bit my ear pretty hard and I was scared she had broken the skin, which would *not* have been cool, but when I examined it in the mirror there was just a tooth mark.  What on earth would possess her to do such a thing to a stranger!?! Lol..."

Hahaha...I still can't believe that girl did that to me, but this was about 6 years ago, and I'm happy to report that I have not been bitten since then.   Oh wait...I just remembered that a toddler in my former class tried to bite me while I was helping her get changed, but since she was only 2.5 years old I won't hold that against her.  

In NYC with my friend Tiffany, who witnessed the crime!
Has a stranger ever done something so weird to you that you'll remember it forever?
Stay safe and don't get bitten!

Choosing Blogs to Sponsor

January 30, 2014
I have now sponsored about 7-8 blogs and am looking to sponsor some more in February when my spending ban is over.

Here are some factors that I consider when choosing blogs to sponsor:

*Content:  This is a big deal since it is what attracts readers to a blog.  Since my blog is a lifestyle one with a focus on beauty and traveling, I tend to pick other lifestyle/travel/beauty bloggers when looking for sponsorships.  The blogs I have chosen to sponsor are all blogs that I enjoy reading myself.  I would never want to put my button on a fitness or cooking blog because I'm not that interested in those things.  Since I rarely post about those topics, my blog might not appeal to those who are reading about working out or making intricate recipes. 

*Pricing/Sale:  Pricing is something that I really do have to take into account when choosing sponsorships.  If I have $25 to spend, is it worth it to just spend it all on one ad of a bigger blogger? Yes, sometimes I think it is.  For the same price, I have to take into consideration that I could get 4-5 ads on smaller bloggers' sites.  I always read the description of what is being offered and look carefully at the pricing and then weigh my options.  It's the best when a bigger blogger has an ad sale because that way I am able to "test the water" and see if I would want to shell out the $$ on one of her full priced ads later on. 
*Recommendations from other bloggers: If my blogging pals tell me that they've had an awesome experience sponsoring another blog, you can bet that I'm going to check out the blogger they've been raving about and look into sponsoring their blog myself.  

*Wait time:  This definitely matters!  Sometimes when I'm looking at sponsoring blogs, I can see that some bloggers have almost everything available right away.  This tends to make me a little wary because I think to myself, "Why doesn't this blogger have others sponsoring their blog?  Do they not know what they are doing?"  On the other side of the spectrum, if I have to wait 6 months or more to buy an ad on someone's blog, I'm probably going to look somewhere else.  I mean, that just seems so far away, and I'd like to think that I'd still be blogging in 6 months, but ya never know!

*Number of followers/number of comments received: How many followers a blogger has is something that I take a look at, but what's more important to me is that the blogger receives comments because that shows me that people are actually reading what a blogger posts about.  Anyone can have a lot of followers and look like a "big" blogger, but seeing that a blogger has real readers is what draws me into paying for a sponsorship. 

*Number of times a blogger posts per week:  Before committing to a sponsorship, I make sure that the blog is an established one and that the blogger posts at least two/three times a week, minimum.  If a blogger isn't posting anything, their own readers aren't reading their blog as often, so those potential readers are not going to be clicking my button on the sidebar either.

*Social media activity:  The biggest way that I like for my blog to be promoted is on Twitter, so I check out the Twitter pages of those offering sponsorships on their blogs to see what's going on.  I see whether or not they are active on Twitter and look to see if they are giving lots of attention to their current sponsors. 

*Previous Sponsor Highlights:  When I'm considering buying some ad space on a blog, I look back at that blogger's older posts that introduced previous sponsors.  If I like what I see, I am more likely to go ahead and purchase an ad.  I love it when the introduction is done in a creative way like the way Amanda from Living in Another Language introduced her sponsors one month.  Instead of just a regular introduction post, she asked me what my worst piece of blogging advice was.  Other bloggers shared the best advice ever given to them.  Since the piece was interesting and well-written, I got a lot of page views from it.  (Click here to see the post I'm referencing.)  I feel that sometimes readers skip over sponsors' introductions...I know it's true because I do this myself from time to time.

*Inclusion of a giveaway:  This used to be a big factor for me when deciding whether or not to sponsor a blog, but now I think I'm going to cool it a little on the giveaways because it can get pretty expensive.  The giveaway that got me the most followers was when Amanda @ Living in Another Language hosted her Paypal Cash giveaway.  Because of this one giveaway, I was able to get about 100 new followers on Twitter.  I think one of the reasons why it was so successful was because everyone contributed $$ (not ad space) towards it if they were going to participate.  In the past I have participated in giveaways in which I gave away gift cards and Paypal cash, but smaller bloggers only gave out ad space on their blog.  I feel like if they had offered a gift card or something else in addition to the ad space, that the giveaway would have been more popular.  With Amanda's giveaway, I actually spent less $ and got more followers.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that I like it better when the group giveaways are more uniform and it isn't just up to you what you want to give, but I'm sure everyone has their own opinions on this.
*Whether or not the blogger I'm about to advertise with actually reads my blog:  If I'm going to pay someone to promote my blog, picking someone who already reads and comments on my blog would be a natural choice.  I haven't offered sponsorships yet on my blog, but I'm thinking that if I did, it would be easy to come up with stuff to say about blogs I read on a regular basis since I truly like them already.  It would be harder to promote a blog that I don't really like that much.  In the past I have picked some bloggers who were not reading my blog.  Maybe they didn't know about my blog or maybe they were just uninterested, but if someone already likes my blog I feel that their tweets are going to be more genuine.  

What I've Liked About Some of my Sponsorships

*Twitter shout outs: The #FF is nice, but I don't think many would ever discover my blog that way.  I like tweets that highlight what I've posted about and ones that include links directly to my blog.  Examples from Christine @ Life With a Side of Coffee and Jackie @ Jade and Oak:

General Tweets that describe or introduce my blog and include links are also effective, too.  Example from Ash @ A Beauty Moment:

I also appreciate it when bloggers promote my introduction post on their blogs through tweets.  Examples from Noor @ Noor's Place and Amanda @ Living in Another Language:


It's always ideal when bloggers that I pay for sponsorship retweet some of the tweets I've written.  Chances are if I tweet about it myself, I would like that particular post to be promoted.  By retweeting what I've originally tweeted, other bloggers are helping me out by exposing the content to all of their followers.

*Comments: I know that some people might see this as "paying for comments," but if a blogger I'm paying for sponsorship leaves comments on most of my posts, that shows me that they are truly reading my blog and doing their best to feature posts that might stand out to their readers.  I can kind of tell when someone is putting thought into it vs. when someone just happens to pick the first post they come across to promote.  

*Being offered a coupon code for a % off a future sponsorship: After sponsoring Jade and Oak, Jackie sent an email out to her current sponsors and gave us a discount on an ad for the next month.  I thought that this was a great incentive to sponsor her blog again!

*Being asked, "Is there anything specific I can help you promote this month?":  Noor, Areeba, and Christine all asked me this, and probably others did, too.  Usually there wasn't anything specific I needed help with, but it is still nice to be asked this.  This month I *did* want some extra promotion of  the Weekly Wrap Up link up Rachael and I created, so Christine was kind enough to tweet about this to all of her Twitter followers.   I think that it helped to get the word out.

*Getting an email with a personal phone # on it in case I had any questions:  Okay, I can get why some people would be leery to give this information out, but when Christine sent me her # in case I needed anything, that showed me that she took her sponsorships very seriously and that she was going to go above and beyond (which she did).  No, I never had to call her for anything, but it was great to know that I could reach out if I needed to.

*Having bloggers that I've paid for ads offer to help me in another way:  When I co-hosted the Grab a Friend blog hop with Areeba and Noor, the code made my blog design go all crazy and put my picture and social media buttons down at the bottom of my blog.  Areeba offered to go into my account and fix it for me, which I was grateful for because at that time I was a new blogger and did *not* know how to do it myself!

*Having my posts linked: It's nice when a blogger I've paid for sponsorship writes a post and then links one of my posts in her post.  Normally, my posts just get linked in my introduction/giveaway post, so to have it linked in a regular post is a bonus!

What I Expect from Sponsoring a Blog  

*For bloggers who offer sponsorships to live up to what was promised in their description of the ad I paid for:  For example, if a blogger promises to tweet about my posts 4-5 times in a month, then that is what I feel that I paid for.  I would get upset if that blogger only tweeted about my blog once or twice.  I get that life can sometimes be unpredictable and could potentially stop this from happening, but I would hope that the blogger would reach out to me and explain.  

*To be followed by the bloggers I'm advertising with:  I'm not saying that I'll be angry if a blogger doesn't follow me via all social media, but I just feel like if someone is going to try to work with me to increase my readership, then she should at least be checking up on my blog every so often to find suitable posts to share with her readers. 

Overall, I have had very positive experiences with sponsorships and feel that I have gotten new readers because of investing in sponsorships.  What are your views on sponsorships?  

What do you look for when choosing a blog to sponsor?  Who has done a great job for you? 

Weekly Wishes

January 27, 2014
It has been quite some time since I linked up with Melyssa in order to share my Weekly Wishes, so I thought I'd make a few goals for myself this week and participate in her link up.

The Nectar Collective

What I Hope to Accomplish This Week:

*Get everything organized with Rachael for our Weekly Wrap Up link up that starts next Monday!  This includes promoting it a little more via social media and sending out some reminders.  I'm a little nervous because I never hosted my own link up before...I know it sounds silly to be nervous, but I just hope that even a few people will join us for the link up.

*Most of my regular readers can tell that I recently got a blog makeover by the lovely Areeba.  I would really recommend her, by the way.  She responded in a timely manner, was very helpful, and created a design that was exceeded my expectations.  On top of that, her designs are affordable and she included a couple of "extras" that many other blog designers do not typically include in their packages such as a Pin It button.  Now that I have a new design in place, I added some new pages to my blog such as a Blogroll page/Weekly Wrap Up page.  These are currently empty, so this week I'd like to not only write those, but also update my old pages such as my About Me and Popular Posts page.

*Go out and have some fun!  I know that sounds easy enough to accomplish, but the weather in Ohio has been just terrible.  We've experienced snow storms, strong winds, and freezing temperatures.  This has been the worst winter I can remember.  With treacherous driving conditions paired with my spending ban, I have not really been venturing out much and this has kind of affected my mood.  I'm not depressed, but I just feel kind of "blah" about winter and want it to be over.  I have been doing really well on my spending ban, but the rules for the ban were that you shouldn't spend extra $$ unless it was already planned.  My problem is that I didn't really have any plans for January so I just haven't been doing much of anything.  I'm going to allow myself to break one of the rules of the ban this week and not even feel bad about it!

*Start planning my trip to North Carolina.  This was one of my 2014 goals because my sister has been wanting me to make a trip down for years so that I can see/stay in her new house.  It looks like it's *finally* going to happen this spring. 

*Install Disqus on my blog.  I've been thinking a lot about this, and I think it would just work better for me to have this since it notifies those who comment when I type in a reply.  I tried to install Disqus already, but it looks like I'm going to have to try to do it manually.   

I love how most of my goals this week were blog-related, don't you?  ;)  Also, the picture I chose for this week was a drawing by one of my kindergarten pals.  I chose it because I'm supposed to sub twice this week (if school doesn't get canceled) and because it makes me happy when I sub for a class so frequently that they start to know me by name and some rapport is developed between myself and the students. 

I hope you all have a great week!!

What's In My Purse? + A Giveaway

January 25, 2014
Mmmm k, so I have wanted to do a What's in my Purse post for *ages.*  I'm always interested in seeing what other people have in their purses...maybe I'm nosy?  It just intrigues me!  Today I'm finally sharing what I keep in my purse.

So what do I keep in my bag?

*My wallet and cell phone--Because who wouldn't?  I'm not going to carry a bag around and then put my wallet in my pocket.
*My work keys--I wouldn't be able to complete a shift without those, so they always stay in my purse.
*Pens and a mini notebook with an inspirational quote on it--For making lists, writing down ideas I have, or recording funny quotes when I'm on the go.
*Ticket stubs--Since I see a lot of movies, I tend to have a mini collection in my purse at any given time.
*Hair ties--I have to wear my hair up for work and like to wear it up for subbing (to avoid lice...and no, that is not a joke), so I think back ups are a good idea.
*Hand sanitizer--I'm a germaphobe and use this a lot throughout the day in addition to washing my hands (what feels like) a million times.
*Mini bottles of lotion--The aforementioned hand washing kinda makes my hands dry out, so I'm always using lotion to re-hydrate my skin.
*Small mirror- Because there's nothing worse than wondering if you have something stuck in your teeth and if your makeup is smudged and not being able to check.
*Sunglasses case with sunglasses inside--This is one of my essentials because I have sensitive eyes.  That sunglasses case was one of the best purchases I ever made.  To think that I was just throwing my sunglasses in my purse and getting them scratched up...ridiculous!
*Dental floss--Because I love good dental hygiene!
*Roll-on perfume--It's handy and very portable and a nice way to stay smelling great.
*Blotting papers-- For eliminating excess shine throughout the day...
*Various lip glosses, treatments, and lipsticks--I can't go without lip products.  If I could only use one type of makeup, I would always go with lipstick!  Plus, I like for my lips to stay moisturized...my obsessive use of lip treatment has helped me avoid getting chapped lips so far this winter!
*Whistle--Anyone in education knows why I have this!  I bought it for when I had to sub P.E., but I use it every time I have recess duty.  Who wants to have to share whistles with someone else?  That's just gross.

I also had about a million receipts in there, but I didn't think that those needed to be photographed, haha.  My purse isn't always this tidy, but I wish that it was!

I feel like what's in someone's bag "says" something about who they are. What do you always carry with you?

Also, check out this giveaway that I am a part of for a chance to win $35 to Starbucks and some ad space!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Italy: I Sassi di Matera

January 23, 2014

When I travel, I like to do the touristy things, which in Italy would consist of riding a gondola in Venice, getting my photo with The Leaning Tower of Pisa, visiting the Colosseum and so on.  I played the part of the typical tourist in Italy long ago when my best friend at the time and I took three weekend trips to Venice, Rome, and Florence.  While it was fun, I do have to say that I also enjoy going to places that are off the beaten path and always hope to venture out further than the common tourist normally would.  While I was staying in Italy, I got into a discussion with one of my ex-boyfriend's friends who was as passionate about traveling as I was, and he recommended that I try to go to I Sassi di Matera in the Basilicata region, which was a couple hours away from where I was staying.  "I Sassi" literally means "the stones." The sassi are actually cave homes that people have lived in since ancient times.  These homes were created by digging directly into rocks.  

It is widely believed that the sassi were the homes of some of the very first humans that settled in Italy and that the homes have been there since the Paleolithic Era.  People were still living in the sassi up until the 1950's when the Italian government made them leave due to unsanitary living conditions. Now, a lot of these homes have been restored and have been transformed into hotels like this one, pubs, and more modern, livable homes.  

When I visited Matera, I arrived in the middle of the day and was surprised to find that I didn't see any other tourists.  Maybe it's because I went in the middle of winter or because it was during their siesta time, but this destination just seemed so unique that I couldn't believe I didn't run into other travelers.  The sassi may look familiar to you because the movie The Passion of the Christ was filmed here.

While in Matera, I stopped by Chiesa del Purgatoria Nuovo, a church that was built in the late 1700's.  I couldn't go inside, but what struck me about the facade were the blatant symbols of death.  Apparently, this was a positive thing because dying meant that one was able to start over fresh.

Overall, it was a great day trip and while I had to get on a couple of different trains to get there, I'm sure glad that I did.  What are some places that you would like to visit that aren't super touristy?

Essie Polish: Cool Colors

January 22, 2014
I'm positive that I've already written on here about my love of Essie polishes.  I think they're great because I find the polishes to be long lasting with a top coat, and Essie always seems to come out with the cutest and trendiest colors.  Upon examining my growing collection of Essie polishes, I realized that  almost every Essie polish I own is in a cool color like blue or turquoise as opposed to warmer colors like red or pink.

When I saw the winter collection, I decided that there wasn't a polish in it I wouldn't like to own.  Of course I had to limit myself and bought just three of my favorite colors: 

Mind Your Mittens: "A deep, double diamond black teal."
Warm and Toasty Turtleneck: "Wisteria pink angora."  
Parka Perfect: "Serenely shimmering alpine gray." 

These cool colors capture the essence of winter!

Onto other cool colored Essie polishes that are more appropriate for Spring and Summer...

Turquoise and Caicos: "A flirty and pretty tropical aqua."
Where's My Chauffeur: "An opulent turquoise."
Naughty Nautical: "Marine blue green shimmer."

I know that several of these colors have a very similar look to them, which is why I wanted to post pictures of the polishes side-by-side so you are able to see the differences.  FYI, Turquoise and Caicos seemed way runnier than Where's My Chauffeur, and I did have to add extra coats of that one, but both colors are still gorgeous!

Left to right: Warm and Toasty Turtleneck, Mind Your Mittens, Parka Perfect, Turquoise and Caicos, Where's My Chauffeur, Naughty Nautical

Do you prefer cooler colors or warmer ones?  Which shade is your favorite?

Sephora Haul & First Impressions

January 21, 2014
Don't worry!  I'm not breaking my spending ban or anything--I actually purchased these items awhile back in the fall and never got around to posting about them.  As you know already, I'm in love with Sephora.  I have been even before the stores came to America.  When I was 16 and visited Paris, I entered one of these stores and was just blown away by the selection of products.  If you love Sephora as much as me, be sure to enter the giveaway I'm hosting with Ash @ A Beauty Moment to enter for a chance to win a $75 Sephora e-giftcard.

I purchased:

The Cookbook by Philosophy
Soap & Glory's Off Your Face Cleansing Cloths
Soap & Glory's Face Soap and Clarity
Give Me Some Lip Lip Sampler Set
Sephora Professional All Over Shadow Makeup Brush

The Cookbook by Philosophy-  I love Philosophy and a good sale, and I found these at a discounted rate because this Cookbook set actually came out last year.  I'm all about a good deal, so the fact that these aren't the newest Philosophy items doesn't phase me.  The set came with four 120 mL shampoo, shower gel & bubble baths in scents that remind me of wintertime/the holidays.  The scents that are included are:  Old Fashioned Eggnog, Hot Buttered Rum, Cinnamon Buns, and Peppermint Bark.  I've only ever tried out Cinnamon Buns before, but the other three scents are just as delightful.  My favorite of the four would have to be Peppermint Bark because, in my opinion, mint and chocolate together is just a fantastic combination.  One of these bottles would be nice to take along on a trip since you can use it on both your body and hair.  At home, I'm going to use these mostly as body washes just because (and here's my one criticism) these do contain sulfates.  I try to avoid always using shampoo with sulfates because it can be damaging, and products with sodium laureth sulfate do tend to make my hair a bit too dry.

Soap and Glory's Off Your Face Cleansing Cloths- First of all, thank you Sephora for making this brand available in U.S. markets!  I bought this product because it differed from other cleansing cloths in the sense that these ones are exfoliating and are "infused with poreshrink-rs."  I feel like a lot of makeup remover wipes are exactly the same, so the fact that these might help my pores look smaller and will exfoliate my face in addition to just taking off my makeup is a plus.  These specific cleansing cloths stood out to me since they are marketed as a 3-in-1 product.  I think the packaging could be better because basically there is only the label covering up the hole that you pull the cloths out of.  I think that this will cause the cloths to dry out quickly, so once I start using them, I'll feel like I have to rush to use the rest up so that they don't get wasted. 

Soap & Glory's Face Soap and Clarity- This is another 3-in-1 product that is supposed to cleanse your face, detoxify your skin, and also brighten it.  I see that there are also microbeads in the face wash for exfoliation.  I used this just once so far, but it made my face feel very clean and fresh.  With other cleansers, sometimes I can still feel the residue, but with this face soap I did not.   After I rinsed the soap off of my face, I was left with a slight tingly feeling, too!  Overall, this product is a win for me so far, but I will have to see how it performs over time.  The only thing I didn't like was that when I applied the soap to my face, only like three microbeads came out, so I doubt my face is any more exfoliated than before I used the face soap.  That's fine because I bought this as a cleanser and already own several (better) exfoliating products, but if you expected this product's microbeads to exfoliate your skin, you will likely be disappointed.

Give Me Some Lip Lip Sampler Set- This set was calling my name at first glance!  I'm a gal that always wears lipstick and glosses, so when I saw that I could spend $25 and try out five great lip products, I knew I was all for it.  I hope Sephora releases a box like this next year with different items like they have in the past.  If so, I will be purchasing that one because I think this sampler set is such a great value for the money.  The set contains one full size Tarte LipSurgence Lip Luster in Glitzy, which retails for $24, so for just one more dollar, I received the Tarte lip treatment AND five other mini lip glosses/treatments.

From left to right the swatched products are: Sugar Rose Tinted Lip Treatment, Laura Mercier Lip Glace in Bare Pink, Buxom Full on Lip Polish in Dolly, Nars Lip Gloss in Turkish Delight, Bite Beauty High Pigment Pencil in Rhubarb, and finally the Tarte Lip Luster in Glitzy.  

As you can see, the set really does include a wide range of colors from the palest pinks to that deeper rhubarb color! 

I'm not going into great detail on this, as the set has been out for awhile and has already been reviewed a million times.  If you would are interested and want to see an awesome and more extensive review, click here.

Sephora Professional All Over Shadow Makeup Brush- The bristles are super soft on this brush, and it's great for applying both regular and loose powder eyeshadows.  It's a handy brush to bring when traveling because it can be used for highlighting and all over color.

It was pretty fun writing this post, but sadly it will probably be my last Sephora haul post for awhile because I'm trying harder to cut corners and save cash so that I can put more money towards my student loans and save for trips.

Weekly Wrap Up

January 20, 2014
Hi guys! So, I have some exciting news to share with you all today! Rachael from The Rachael Way and I decided to create a new link up called Weekly Wrap Up. All you have to do to participate is write a post about your past week. It could be as detailed as you want--you could write a summary of your entire week or just focus on one event that happened. Either way, we hope that you'll join us!!

We will be hosting this link up on both of our blogs every Monday, starting on Monday, February 3rd, so mark your calendars. :)

Here are the rules to the link up:

1) Follow your hosts Rachael @ The Rachael Way and Lisa @ Ameliorer la Vie
2) Summarize what you have been up to this past week and link your post up with us every Monday.
3) Hop around and comment on at least two other people's posts.
4) Have fun reading about how other bloggers have spent their week!
5) Feel free to grab our button or tweet about the link up using #weeklywrapup

Ameliorer la Vie

Ten Reasons Why Living in Italy Made Me a Healthier Person

January 17, 2014
I've always struggled with health and fitness. Sometimes I do better than others, and my weight has always fluctuated. Living in Italy had a direct effect on my health, and when I think about it, my time there was probably one of the healthiest times of my life. For today's post, I wanted to focus on why I think this is so.

1)  In Italy, the town that I lived in had hardly any fast food restaurants.  There was actually one McDonald's, but it went out of business!  The only "fast food" places near where I lived sold pizza by the slice, and I hardly ever went to places like that.  Here in the States, I find myself buying fast food more than I would like to.  This basically has to do with working long hours and having two jobs and has to do with the fact that fast food places are pretty much everywhere.  I mean, on days when I teach and then go to my other job it is just very convenient to stop for fast food, and this what I more or less have to do since I wouldn't even have enough time to go home and make something.  I have been TRYING to go to healthier places like Panera so that I can get soup and salad, but that gets to be expensive.  Face it, typically the cheapest items on the menu are the worst for you.  When I stayed in Italy, I wasn't tempted to get fast food because there were hardly any places to go to, and I never really felt like I had to do that because the family I stayed with and I would always eat our meals together.  A great deal of people that worked got to go home for lunch and enjoy a nice, home cooked meal.  They would open in the morning, close their shops around 1-4, eat lunch, have a nice siesta, and then return to work.  I feel like in the States, many people go to fast food places on their lunch breaks since they only have a certain amount of time to eat and like to get out of the office.  

2) Going out to eat in restaurants is less common than it is in the States, at least in my experience.  When I go to a restaurant in the States, I tend to eat a lot more than I would if I had just stayed home.  Since the portion sizes are so big in the U.S., even if I take some of my meal home in a box with me, I still consume more food than I would have if I didn't go out.  The family I lived with in Italy never went out to eat unless there was a special occasion like an anniversary or birthday.  The only other time we ate in restaurants was when we traveled to other towns because we were out for the whole day.  The other exception to eating out was to go to a pizzeria and get a pizza since the restaurants had the special wood fired ovens, which many families did not have in their homes.  The Italians I met explained that practically everyone had someone in their family that could cook Italian food very well, so why would they go out to a restaurant and pay more money for something they could enjoy in the comfort of their own home?  It makes sense... If I was an awesome cook, I think I would go out to eat less, too.  Also, many times when I go out to eat here in the States, I go to restaurants that serve different kinds of ethnic foods that I do not know how to make.  In Italy, the majority of Italians stick to cooking Italian food and do it well.  It's not like how it is in America where there are options for Mexican, Greek, or Chinese food, to name a few.  Where I lived in Italy every single restaurant was an Italian one with the exception of one Chinese restaurant.  (I was informed that the Chinese restaurant also eventually went out of business.) 

3) The family I lived with would make daily trips to the grocery store and would go to the butcher's and to fruit vendors to get fresh food.  I think most families in the States go a lot less frequently to grocery stores and buy in bulk.  I know that now I end up buying processed foods because they last longer and will save me future trips to the store.  Also, I buy my food all in one place...there isn't a butcher close to me and to go to a fruit market to just to get my fruit every week seems like a time consuming pain.  Since I don't go as often to the grocery store, usually I eat up all my fresh foods first or else they go bad, but either way there will be times when I don't have any produce in the house!  How utterly unhealthy!  This never occurred when I was living in Italy.  

I remember my host mother was asking me what types of fruit I liked so that she could pick some up for me.  I told her strawberries in the dead of winter and she looked at me like I was crazy.  She said that no place would carry strawberries now because they were not in season.  I told her in America strawberries were always available for purchase, but that we just might pay more if they were out of season.  Since many types of fruit were only eaten when they were in season, the fruit I had there was so incredibly fresh.  In the U.S., I never really was big on cherries, but oh my goodness...in Italy this was not the case.  The strawberries and cherries there just were so full of flavor.  It made the ones I had in America seem tasteless.  Even my American pal, who is still living in Italy by the way, remarked, "You just can't get cherries like these in the States."  

Oh, and speaking of fresh...since Italy is a peninsula surrounded by the sea, it is very easy to get fresh seafood.  I lived right by the sea (could literally see it out the window), and my friend's husband would go out fishing and then my friend would invite me over for lunch.  You can't get any more fresh than that!  

4) The majority of the town got out and would walk around, and so would I.  The main street in the town I lived in was for pedestrians only, and that was where most of the shops, restaurants, and bars (coffee shops) were.  On Sundays, everything in town was closed except for maybe a few tobacco shops, but after church in the morning, families would stroll up and down the main road (Corso), stopping to socialize every so often.  At night, people walked up and down Corso and shopped or they would walk to the square which was basically the town's meeting spot for anyone in high school to age 40.
I know that I walked around a great deal because I didn't drive over there.  I would be walking a couple of miles every day because the family I stayed with didn't live right in the center of town, but they were close enough.  Where I live now, I would not really feel safe walking around at night alone.  Also, it would be weird here and I feel like I'd get hit by a car or something since there aren't many pedestrians out and about.  

5) The largest meal of the day was lunch.  Dinners were very light and we usually had something like insalata caprese or insalata con tonno fresco (fresh tuna salad).  Here in the U.S., dinners are usually the biggest meals of the day since that's usually the one time that everyone is home to have it together.  In Italy, I never ate a big meal at night, but here in the States, I'll eat a big meal and then go to bed a few hours later which is not the healthiest.  

6) We drank sparkling water with every meal.  With dinner, we would have sparkling water and sometimes Peroni, but we would always have water, not soda!  I think this is where a lot of Americans get into trouble.  I hardly ever buy soda, but my problem now is that it is free for me at work, so since it is free, I will drink some there.  I just usually have one small glass per shift, but when you think about it, that adds up fast, especially if I work 5 shifts a week.  

7) The meals I ate in Italy were well-balanced.  Well, maybe not what I had for breakfast...but at least for lunch and dinner they were.  For lunch we would always have pasta first, and this usually had some type of vegetable or sauce in it.  The second course was always meat like sausage, hamburger (without the bun), or meatballs.  Then, we would finish off the meal with a piece of fruit.  The family I stayed with was pretty big on not skipping the fruit... One time I was eating with the my host family's extended family and the kids' grandpa handed me the banana saying, "Lisa, prendi la banana."  I told him no thanks, I didn't want to have a banana that day and that I wasn't feeling very well.  Then he kept handing it to me and got kind of forceful with me telling me over and over that I should eat it.  The daughter of the family told him to leave me alone and that I was too full and then he started muttering curse words about me in dialect that I couldn't understand.  I told the host mom later that her dad offended me and she got so scared asking what he did, and once I had explained it she started laughing saying that I should take it as a compliment because he only tries to force people he cares about to eat healthy food and that he does it to her all the time.

8) The meals were prepared that day and consisted of simple, fresh ingredients.  There's that word again...fresh.  I think this is the #1 difference between my diet in America now and compared to how I ate in Italy.  Here I know that I eat too many processed foods.  I try not to, but it's just hard because I'm not a good cook and processed foods are just the easiest ones to make.  I never saw any member of the host family I stayed with make a meal from a box!

9) Olive oil is used in dishes more frequently than butter.  As you probably know, most health experts say that olive oil is a better alternative than butter is, as it has less cholesterol and is full of antioxidants.

10) I got more sleep!  If I ever felt tired during the day, it was totally acceptable to doze off and have a nice nap.  Here in the States, I feel like naps are for old people, babies, or for when you're sick!  

I just feel like it was easy to live a healthy lifestyle over in Italy, but in the U.S. it is easier for me to fail.  It is definitely much more of a challenge to stay healthy in America--that's for sure.  Maybe I should buy a Mediterranean diet cookbook! 

What I've Been...

January 14, 2014
What I've Been...

Doing: Up until last Thursday, I had a huge break from subbing since the kids were out for their winter break.  On top of that they didn't have school every day except for Thursday because of the low temperatures and icy roads.  Since I wasn't able to sub, I picked up plenty of extra shifts at the movie theater because there were a lot of new releases.  Besides working a lot, I also spent a lot of time with friends who came to visit me over the break since they had time off to do so.  One gal came to see me from Columbus and I'm glad we got our visit in because she already has a toddler and found out that she will be having twins!  She is going to be one busy Momma and probably won't have time to come see me for awhile.  Also, a couple of my friends who had moved away came back to town, and it was just incredibly nice to be able to see them again.

One day during break, I met up with my pal Everett at Starbucks.  We had a lot of catching up to do because he moved back to Savannah, Georgia which is where he is originally from.  Ev was my best buddy throughout grad school and was such a supportive friend.  We would always call each other about assignments and to talk about our field experiences or we would just share juicy gossip.  There are very few people that I can honestly say I think I will be lifelong friends with, but I really think Everett and I will be friends for life!  After being best friends with someone for a few years and then having them move away is always hard, so I was so glad to have my best friend back even if it was just for a very short period of time.  After Starbucks, we went to watch 47 Ronin (his pick, not mine), did some shopping, and drove out to an Amish store because Everett wanted to pick up some Amish treats to take back to Georgia with him.  I picked up some delicious blueberry jam...no one does jam like Amish!

My friend Amy also came back to visit from L.A., and I spent a day hanging out with her at her parents' house.  Amy and I have been friends for 15 years--she is another one of those people that I know I will always be friends with.  She really makes an effort to stay in touch and to get together when she comes back to visit Ohio.  Since she is a member of the Editor's Guild, she gets screeners of movies sent to her.  She brought back her rather large collection of screeners she had recently been sent, and we had a movie day.  It really was a treat for her to share those with me because some of the films she had with her weren't even in theaters yet and some were very limited releases.  Of course, I chose to watch those since I can currently watch any wide release film I want for free at the theater I work at.

Buying:  I ended up spending my Christmas money on this pretty Kate Spade hand bag.  The New Bond Street Florence bag pictured below was originally $448, but was on sale for $229.  When I bought the bag, Kate Spade was running their sale on top of a sale, so I got an extra 25% off and snagged this bag for $171.75.  I had been wanting a new Kate Spade bag for awhile, and after talking to Ashliegh about what a great deal she got on her bag, I decided to look for promo codes to see if I could get the price knocked down even further.  This was a pretty big splurge for me, which is part of the reason why I signed up for the January Spending Freeze!  I am happy to report that so far I have resisted many temptations and have been doing well with it so far.  (Keywords=So far.)  If I keep going how I'm going, I should have hundreds of dollars more than I usually have by the end of the month.

Watching: I finally finished watching all the episodes of Gossip Girl and started watching Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, which is just great!  I think Naveen Andrews makes a interesting villian, and Alice is just very likable character.  Mostly, though, I have just been watching movies!  I've watched American Hustle, Frozen, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 12 Years a Slave, August: Osage County, and Saving Mr. Banks.  I still want to see Wolf of Wall Street, even though it is supposed to be "offensive" and "shocking."  Who am I kidding?  That makes me want to watch the movie even more! :)  I also still haven't seen The Hobbit because my boyfriend and I are quarreling about whether or not to see it in 2D or in High Frame Rate 3D.  He is so against 3D movies and complains about how it is a money making scheme that hurts his eyes, so we usually see movies in 2D.  However, since The Hobbit was filmed using 48 frames per second, which is a higher rate than regular 3D movies, I want to check it out!  I heard it looks amazing and I don't know of any other wide release HFR films, so I don't want to miss my chance to experience this new technology.  Neither one of us will back down, so I told him I'll be watching it in HFR by myself, haha.  

Reading: Currently I'm reading To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time.  I feel like the public education system failed me by not having this book as required reading!  I did watch this as a play, so   the plot of the story isn't a big surprise to me, but it's a classic and so well-written and I'm only three quarters of the way through.

Since I am on a spending freeze and wanted new reading material, I traded in books that I didn't care to keep in my collection like: Eat, Pray, Love, Three Cups of Tea, Allegiant, The Italians, The Memory Keeper's Daughter, Devil in the White City, etc.  I got store credit and decided to pick up:

Now I have some new reading material and did not have to spend $$ to get the books.  I know that I could get an e-reader and get free books, but I guess I'm old-fashioned because I love having and owning and reading the physical book!

Eating: I have been trying to eat healthier, but was unable to resist these homemade Buckeyes my friend Amy made when we had our movie day.  This was only the second time Amy made them, but I thought they came out really well!  She got the recipe here, from AllRecipes.com.  

When I lived in Pittsburgh, I had tried Buckeyes before, but in Ohio I come across this dessert way more often since it is a symbol of OSU students and OSU's mascot is a buckeye named Brutus.  Of course, Brutus is the real kind of buckeye, which is a poisonous nut, and not the delightful confection my friend Amy made.  Amy said that when she made these in California, no one had heard of them or had them before besides one girl who was from Ohio.  So, if you're from another state, I want to know--have you had Buckeyes before?  Or heard of them?  

I also made a sugar-free Watergate salad and I'll be sharing the recipe on here sometime in the future.  

Mostly, I've just been eating soups, salads, and sandwiches, although my boyfriend did make some pork chops with loaded baked potatoes and brown rice for dinner a couple nights ago.  

What have you been doing/reading/watching/eating/buying?  

Samples from Sephora

January 11, 2014
The last time I purchased something at Sephora, I received a great selection of samples since I am a Beauty Insider.  If you haven't already, I really recommend signing up, as it doesn't cost anything and you are even given a free gift on your birthday.

The samples I received were:

4 perfume samples of most loved scents- This included a sample of Lancome's La Vie est Belle, Marc Jacob's Daisy, Juicy Couture's Viva La Juicy, and Philosophy's Amazing Grace.  I think it's a great idea to give people a chance to try out what so many others really like.  I have already tried the Juicy Couture, since I received some in a Birchbox, but I've only ever smelled a few of the other kinds in the store and never actually tried them out myself.  I think it's really important to test out perfume on yourself before buying a full sized bottle since it smells a little different on everyone.

Katy Perry's Killer Queen- I got this in a 3 oz mini rollerball, and it's just adorable.  The scent is a fruity floral (my fave!) and according to Sephora's site, has notes of wild berries and red velvet flowers.  This sexy scent seems more appropriate for nighttime wear and is not one I would wear out subbing.  Now I want to buy the full size rollerball to add to my perfume collection...curse you, Sephora! 

Honey by Marc Jacobs- This scent is described as "energetic and alluring, a sunny delicious floral with sparkling notes of orange blossom, and a hint of honey."  It's funny--I actually love perfume samples when they aren't counted as an item in a beauty subscription box. :)

Clinique Acne Solutions Cleansing Foam- This is a deluxe sample and it I put my Beauty Insider points towards this sample.  Clinique is one of the first high-end makeup brands I ever tried, and I think they still have some great products, like their dramatically different moisturizing lotion which I have been buying on and off for years.  I can't wait to start using this because for some unknown reason I have a couple of breakouts now.  The product is supposed to not only clean your face but also unclog pores and prevent acne.

Clinique Universal Face Primer- I have never actually used a face primer before, so I'm curious about this one.  I want to see if it really makes a difference and holds my foundation in place.  I'm going to use this with a foundation I bought at the drugstore because those ones get streakier/wear away faster than my nicer foundation from Estee Lauder.  I would probably not invest in the full sized version of this product unless it truly blew me away because I already have enough steps in my makeup routine... Well, maybe I don't have that many steps, but I usually like to keep it simple.

Various Philosophy Full of Promise gels, serums, and creams- While I love Philosophy's lotions and shower gels, I've never tried many of their other products.  I'm not really big on using a lot of gels and serums...I'm not sure that many of them are as effective as they claim to be, but since these were sent to me free of charge, I'll be giving them a try.  I received an upper lid lifting gel, under-eye firming cream, and two serums but one is for daytime use and one is to be used overnight.

Surf Foam Wash Shampoo and Conditioner- On the front of the packet it says, "For buoyant body and soft, seabreezy texture."  I'm not totally sure what seabreezy texture is supposed to feel like, but the only other Bumble and Bumble product I tried before was the thickening shampoo and conditioner, which was also a sample from Sephora.  I didn't really like the thickening shampoo, but I already have extremely thick hair and don't need any help in that department, so that's why.  I can't wait to try a Bumble and Bumble product that is more suitable for my hair type.

Kate Somerville Daily Deflector Moisturizer- This is an anti-aging moisturizer and it has SPF in it, which is always a plus.  I already have a couple of moisturizers that I'm loyal to, but I'm not going to not try out a free sample. :)

Nars Tinted Moisturizer- Oooh, this is probably tied with the Killer Queen rollerball perfume as my favorite sample to be able to try.  Lately I have just been using L'Oreal Magic BB Cream, but I'm on my third tube of it now and would like to try something new that contains SPF.  This moisturizer got rave reviews and does contain SPF.  Hopefully the shade I got sent (Alaska) matches my skin tone.  

   What is the last sample you received?

Fair Treasure Box: January 2014

January 10, 2014

I received my first Fair Treasure box in the mail yesterday!   This is a monthly subscription and one can expect to receive 2 to 3 handcrafted items in every box valuing at least $35.  The contents in the box are made by artisans from all over the world, and Fair Treasure only includes items made by those who are receiving a fair wage.  That way the workers are able to better themselves, help their families, and save some money.  In the box, there were two cards that "introduced" me to the artisans that made my items.  I thought this was a nice touch and that it made it more personal. 

This subscription box costs $35 per box if you pay on a month-to-month basis, and that includes shipping.  If you buy the three month plan, it costs $95 which can save you 10%.  My sister was super generous and got me the three month subscription for Christmas, so I'll be sharing what I receive for the next three months with you.  :)

The contents:

* Cubist Earrings

* Eva Hand painted Mug

This time both items in the box were made in India, but Fair Treasure has included items from Kenya, Haiti, and El Salvador in the past, just to name a few.

Tara Projects World Finds Cubist Earrings:  These earrings are probably not something that I would have picked out for myself, but I still like them and think that they are well made.  The reason why I wouldn't have picked these is because I do have sensitive ears and wearing bulky earrings tend to bother me after a few hours because they become painful.  I thought that these earrings were going to be heavy since they are bigger than most earrings that I typically wear, but when I picked them up they were much lighter than I expected.  I'm going to try them out tonight and hope that all goes well because I'm up for a change.  I don't own anything quite like these in my current jewelry collection.   

Nkuku Eva Hand Painted Mug:  I absolutely LOVE this mug!!  My boyfriend chipped my favorite mug that I bought in France, so getting a mug like this was perfect timing for me.  It's made out of tin so it is safe to drink out of.  It is hand painted, so you can't put it in the dishwasher, but I'm okay with that because the bird and leaf design is so beautiful I wouldn't want to chance it coming off.  The mug also happens to be in my favorite color, red! 

What I like about this subscription service:

*The items were packed well and the earrings were in cute packaging.
*The information cards showed me how the artisans were benefiting from this purchase.
* I love jewelry, and while jewelry doesn't come in every single box, it has been in a lot of the past boxes.
* I have a weakness for handcrafted goods from around the world and cannot readily find them in shops around where I live.

Now, $35 is kind of pricey for a subscription service compared to the other ones I've signed up for.  I understand that the money goes to a good cause, so I'm not complaining about that, but I don't think I would be able to afford to keep this an active subscription all year long.  I can see myself continuing to ask for this as a gift, though!  My sister told me she likes it when I ask for a subscription box because she says she is bad at buying gifts for people and this makes it easier for her.

What do you think about this month's Fair Treasure box?