Tag Archives: traveling

36 Things That Make Me Happy

Today is my birthday, and I am spending it in Thailand. Last year’s was in Albania, the year before that in China, and next year it’ll be in Indonesia (where I’ll spend the next few birthdays, I hope!). Tonight’s celebration will be low key, something I haven’t done in a while. I usually throw big birthday parties, typically with a theme that involves me and my guests dressing up in ridiculous outfits. Last year’s bash was a prom-themed pub crawl ending in a 90’s prom. It was pretty epic! But tonight, I’m going to dinner at one of my favorite local joints with a few close friends I’ve made in Thailand. It’s going to be perfect! This weekend, to celebrate my birthday and Lauren’s (on Sunday), we’ll stay in a posh hotel in downtown Bangkok for a staycation. The plan is to shop at Chatuchak Market on Saturday, grab drinks Saturday night, and get dressed up for a badass brunch on Sunday. Again…perfection! πŸ™‚

I had so much fun making my list of 35 things last year that I thought I’d do it again! So, in honor of my 36th birthday, here’s my list of 36 things that make me happy (in no particular order).

  1. Quality time with friends and family
  2. Giving the *perfect* gift…the one that the recipient totally loves, but never knew they wanted
  3. Planning…currently I’m planning my month in the states this summer and my impending move to Indonesia
  4. Decorating my place…I’m so stoked about my new house in Indonesia that I keep scouring Pinterest for ideas, shopping online, dreaming about my new place, and wishing time would go faster so I can be there already! It’s gonna be amazing!
  5. Teaching…being back in the classroom during this season of my life has allowed me to reconnect with this passion
  6. Laughing
  7. Popcorn and M&M’s
  8. Sweet tea…I can’t wait to get some Chick-fil-A sweet tea this summer!
  9. Researching and trying out new restaurants…I’m such a foodie!
  10. Donuts, especially from Shipley’s in Texas
  11. Holding babies
  12. Mango sticky rice…Thailand has spoiled me!
  13. Reading! I have been able to reconnect with that part of me during this season, and I am so glad…I’ve really missed it.
  14. Cooking…not being able to (no kitchen here, sadly) has really shown me how much I love it and how much I miss it
  15. Smoothie bowls…tried it for the first time in Bali and man, I’m hooked!
  16. My writer’s notebook…I’m loving the one Michelle gave me for Christmas
  17. Apple products…I’m a Macbook Air, iPhone, and iPad user (I know, it’s a cult. I’m okay with that.)
  18. My family…I get to see them in 22 days!!! Ahhhhh!
  19. Music
  20. Starbucks tumblers and mugs…I own way too many, but they’re just so darn cute!
  21. Snocones…from JJ’s or Bahama Buck’s only
  22. Traveling! Filling up my passport is my biggest hobby. I love planning trips…the anticipation of an upcoming trip is what gets me through the tough parts of life. Other than my trip home and my move, my next big trip is Paris in October! Sooooo excited to get reacquainted with this lovely city that captured my heart (and stomach) last time around.
  23. Greek yogurt with blueberries and granola
  24. Fresh fruit, especially mango, pineapple, dragonfruit, berries (all kinds), and green grapes
  25. Finding the perfect travel accessories and bags that make traveling that much easier and fun
  26. Making lists πŸ˜‰
  27. Sharing stories
  28. A good smelling candle
  29. Bath & Body Works hand soaps
  30. Going to the movies…so many good ones coming out this summer!!
  31. Biking…can’t wait to get back into it!
  32. Surprises
  33. Coming home to a clean house that I didn’t have to clean
  34. All my Thai faves…Pad Thai, Panaeng and yellow curries, Kao soi, Tom Yum, Som Tum (not too spicy!)
  35. Throwing parties
  36. Photographing things that inspire me, foods that taste (and look) delicious, people I love, places I love, and things that make me smile or laugh
IMG_2320

Last year’s 35th Birthday Bash…I miss these faces soooo much right now!

Advertisements

Letter O #AtoZChallenge

Letter O has only one entry. Oh, well…it’s got sub-headings, so it’ll do.

Obsessions

Anyone who knows me knows I’m the kinda person who gets obsessed with things. As in fixated, can’t get enough, have to have it all, all the time. It’s a good thing I’m not a smoker and I never tried drugs; I’m afraid of what this personality trait would do if I got obsessed with the wrong thing. The deal with my obsessions is that they usually come on quick and stay a while, until they fade into oblivion, only to be replaced by the next one. Some are just a blip on the radar of life, while some make a lasting impression.

Daisies

When I was in high school, my parents finally let me redo my room, and I got to pick any paint color and decorations I wanted. I was stoked! I chose a bright, almost electric blue that made them raise an eyebrow or two, as they questioned me incessantly about whether this was really what I wanted. Of course it was! When the paint was spread across all four walls, and not just on a 2″ x 2″ paint square, I have to admit, I didn’t love it at first. It was way too loud, and I began to seriously doubt my choice. But being the teenager that I was, there was no way I was going to tell my parents I didn’t like it. When they asked, I gushed over the blue, painted a huge fake smile on my face, and told them I loved it. And I did, eventually. Like all things, it grew on me.

After the paint color was decided, I quickly settled on daisies for the decorations because, at the time, I was utterly obsessed with daisies, particularly the white and yellow variety. Nowadays, I would tastefully decorate with a pop of daisies, but my teenage self went full-blown daisy crazy and everything was daisies. I had a daisy comforter and pillows. I had all kinds of framed daisy artwork hanging on the walls. I hand-stenciled daisies around both of my windows. I had large fake daisies (that I bought and brought back from a trip to Germany) in a metal vase sitting on the floor in the corner, in addition to the smaller vases of fake daisies on my nightstand and dresser (Just for the record, I now cringe at the thought of fake flowers). I painted daisies on an IKEA mirror that hung on the wall, as well as on the lampshade of the lamp on my bedside table. It was over the top for sure, but I loved it.

I’m not sure when the daisy obsession faded, but it did, and while I still enjoy having fresh daisies in my house from time to time, they no longer hold the same appeal as they once did.

Books

Ever since I was little, books have held a type of magic for me. They take me to faraway places and allow me to befriend interesting people. My nose was always stuck in a book, and the best extrinsic motivation for me was the promise of a trip to the bookstore to pick out a new book. Books were all around me, and continue to be.

I started to amass a huge collection when I began teaching, knowing that in order for kids to become readers, they needed to be surrounded by all types of books, and not just in the school or public libraries, but in our classroom library as well. When I picked up and moved to China after six years of teaching, my classroom library contained over 1,000 books. I wanted to take them all with me, because knowing them inside and out meant that I could always match a reader to a book, but shipping costs are prohibitive, and I had to part with some. Whittling my collection down to about 500, I gave some away and stored the rest.

I began in China with roughly 500 books, and just added more during my five years there. When it came time to move again, I again sorted and sifted, once again parting with a huge chunk of my collection. It’s always so sad to part with beloved books, isn’t it? I left Albania abruptly, therefore, my book collection is still there. I hope to have friends ship some over to me, but again, I can’t take them all. The life of an international educator means, for me, leaving a trail of books around the world. I guess there are worse things to leave behind, right?

Glasses

As an exclusive glasses wearer for about 15 years, glasses have become part of my look. I don’t really like myself without them, as I feel naked and like something is missing when I don’t have them on. When I lived stateside, my glasses were pretty boring…just your everyday pair. Once I moved to China, however, I discovered the wonder that is the glasses market, where I could get a pair of prescription glasses for about 20 bucks. Let the obsession commence! I went a bit overboard, as I tend to do, and ended up with over 20 pairs of glasses and sunglasses. My favorite thing is matching my glasses to my outfits. I only brought 3 pair to Thailand, and it’s killing me…I need variety! Here are a few of my favorite pairs…

Notebooks

I cannot resist a good notebook. It’s like a compulsion. If I come across a perfect notebook…one where the spine allows it to lie flat when opened…I have to buy it. I also prefer ones with an elastic band on the side to keep it closed. Oh, and it has to be lined, none of that blank page nonsense. Pages with a tinge of color, ones that look a bit aged, are definitely preferred over stark white. I have loads of notebooks, some completed, others partially filled, and some awaiting words. And I always have to have a notebook around just in case words need to be written. If you come across a perfect notebook, my birthday’s next month. πŸ˜‰

Neon

I went through a phase a couple of years where I was completely obsessed with neon and brightly colored clothing. My wardrobe was a rainbow of color, and opening it made me smile. Wearing bright colors makes me happy, and I think it just makes life a little more fun, you know? I’ve moved on from my neon-filled closet, but I have kept a few of my favorite pieces. I still enjoy a pop of color, but my current style is a little more understated.

Food & Drink Obsessions

One of the things I really get hooked on is food. I get a taste of something I love, and I have to have it all the time. The typical arch is a gradual obsession that quickly builds to a climax, followed by a decline, sometimes tapering off and sometimes stopping completely. A few of my past and current food and drink obsessions include goat cheese (one of the longest-running obsessions), chai tea lattes (preferably iced ones from Starbucks), mango sticky rice, the ricotta and house-made jam appetizer from Mercato in Shanghai, Pizza Express (in general, but the dough balls with garlic butter are pretty dope), pavlova (my fave dessert from Oz), Starbucks (again, generally speaking, but mainly an iced tea and an apple turnover does the trick), iced sweet tea (I’m from the South, you know!), and good queso and chips (I know all the best places to go in my hometown, and which ones are subpar and best avoided).

Lush

Have you ever tried Lush handmade cosmetic products? They’re totally my jam…I love that they are all natural and vegan/vegetarian, and that they are an eco-friendly company. I have been obsessed for a number of years, and many products are my go-to’s now. Faves include the Let the Good Times Roll face wash. It has a mild exfoliant that’s safe for everyday use, plus it smells amazing and even has popped popcorn in it! πŸ™‚ My newest find is the Daddy-O shampoo designed for blondies. It was a little scary to try at first, considering it’s a deep purple color, but it really works to take the brassiness out of my blonde tresses. A bonus is that a 500 mL bottle lasts me about 6 months with almost daily use. When I travel, I always take one of their solid shampoos. It’s great for both hair and body, so it’s a good all-in-one. I’ve tried lots of their products, and I highly recommend them!

Owls

Okay, so I know owls were/are trendy, but my obsession didn’t come about as a result of its trendiness. I became obsessed with owls when my school in China adopted the owls as their official mascot. As a new principal, I had to decorate my office, and what better to decorate it with than owls? It was our new mascot, they’re adorable, and the trend meant they were readily available. It started with just a few accents, but once it started, I just accumulated more and more of them. Many I received as gifts, but I also couldn’t resist an adorable owl pillow or figurine I’d see at the market. At one point, a pre-k student decided to count how many owl things I had in my office. He counted 64. So, yeah…I was officially obsessed.

Traveling

My biggest obsession has to be traveling. Traveling has profoundly changed me and opened my eyes to new perspectives, and I’m a better person for having traveled. I firmly believe that life isn’t meant to be lived in one place.

Traveling’s like a drug…I can’t get enough of it! If I’m not on a trip, I’m planning my next one (or three). We live on such an amazing planet, and I want to see all of it. With only 35 countries and 5 continents under my belt, I’ve just begun. I could write all day about this obsession, but I’ll just leave you with a few quotes that sum up how I feel about traveling:

“Travel has made me more aware of me. I learn more about myself while on the road than anywhere else. It’s given me the ‘I can make it happen’ attitude.” ~Jessica Johnson

“The ‘traveler’s rush’ that hits you upon arrival to a new place is like a drug. And like a drug, the more you expose yourself to it, the more you want it.” ~Clayton B. Cornell

“Traveling’s not something you’re good at. It’s something you do. Like breathing.” ~Gayle Foreman

“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.” ~G.K. Chesterton

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you- it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you…Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” ~Anthony Bourdain

A2Z-BADGE-100 [2017]

Spring Break Plans

I’m soooo excited for Spring Break!! Just another 8 days of work, and then I get a magical 12 days off! πŸ™‚ Linner is coming for part of my break, and I’ll be doing a bit of solo travel, too. Today I finalized my plans and I’m really looking forward to it!

When Linner arrives, we’ll have a quick staycation in Bangkok. The plan is to visit the Floating Market (new to us both), stay in a posh hotel downtown with a rooftop pool, get massages, and eat yummy Thai food. All in all, my kinda thing.

img_3760
Linner and I will travel to Krabi, Thailand and stay in Ao Nang at a sweet resort not too far from the beach. I plan to lay by the pool (hopefully I can get in, too!), relax with a pina colada or a fresh juice, and read. We’d also like to explore Ao Nang beach. Again, I hope to take a dip. Ao Nang has beautiful beaches, with huge rocks and cliffs nearby. I’d like to take a boat ride one day.


Once Linner leaves, I’ll be solo traveling to Indonesia! After a quick stop-over in Jakarta, I’ll fly to Ubud, Bali, where I will be staying at a relaxing hotel near the city. It has a pool with lounge chairs, a spa, and a good restaurant. The best part is it only cost me $34 a night, including breakfast! There’s a free area shuttle, and if I’m mobile and able to walk around, I plan on exploring. If not, I’ll lounge by the pool, reading and writing. Either way, it’ll be a relaxing trip!


This is why I live abroad…trips like this are possible and affordable. πŸ™‚

My Life in Numbers

Several of my fellow slicers have written their own ‘life in numbers’ posts this month, which is a list of facts about them, corresponding to the numbers 1-10. I enjoy these posts, as they give an insight into the author. Here’s mine, but as the rule-breaker I am, mine doesn’t follow the 1-10 format. Instead, it’s a list of number-based facts using any numbers I deem necessary. But I’m not an animal…they are listed in numerical order. πŸ™‚

1- I have 1 brother, Andrew, who’s just shy of four years younger than me. We are quite different, starting from our heights. He’s a full foot taller than me! We have different careers, different tastes in food, I live abroad while he lives where we grew up, he’s married with kids and I’m single, and the list of differences goes on. Despite our differences, I love my bubba and look forward to seeing him whenever I’m back home.

IMG_5785

2- I’m an aunt to 2 adorable kiddos, Randi and Logan, who are some of my favorite people on this earth. They make me smile and laugh whenever I’m with them. I think about them all the time. And they are so full of personality! I love them soooooo much!!

4- I’ve broken 4 bones in my lifetime. Two fingers, one on each hand, and both arms simultaneously. Yes, that really happened. I earned the nickname “Monkey Girl” during my eighth grade thanks to my accident on the monkey bars. As a middle schooler, naturally, I was mortified. As an adult, it’s a funny memory.

5- So far, I’ve lived in 5 countries (soon to be 6). USA for my first 29 years, Australia for 6 months, China for 5 years, Albania for a year and a half, and Thailand for the past 2+ months.

7- I’ve been slicing as part of the Slice of Life community for the past 7 years, and it’s been so instrumental in my development as a writer. I cannot thank all the co-authors enough for this opportunity, and all the slicers over the years who have encouraged me as a writer!

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

9- In order to feel fully rested, I need 9 hours of sleep each night. I usually don’t get this much, but I strive for at least 8 hours of good sleep.

11- In my lifetime, I have lived in 11 different houses or apartments. This may not seem like very many, but considering that I lived in the same house until I was 22 years old, I think it’s quite a few places. One of these places was a townhouse I owned from age 26 to 29, my first and only place I’ve ever owned.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My first home I owned πŸ™‚

13- I’m currently in my 13th year of education, and in those years I’ve taught Grade 3, Grade 4, and Preschool, been a literacy coach and a part-time PYP Coordinator, and served as an elementary principal at two schools.

19-Β Not counting babysitting when I was younger, I started working at the age of 16 as a skating Sonic carhop, and over the past nearly twenty years, I have worked at 19 different places. Reading that you probably think I can’t hold a job, since it averages to about one per year, but most of these jobs were part-time and held simultaneously. With the exception of one job at age 17, my stint as a nanny in Sydney, and my summers as a camp director, all of my jobs were held for at least a year, the longest being 5 years.

22- I have 22 cousins, including their spouses and children, who I now consider my cousins. I love seeing many of them at our annual Kesler family reunions. Can’t wait to see them again this summer! πŸ™‚

img_0358

35- So far, I have visited 35 countries, including the ones I’ve lived in. Check out my Where I’ve Wandered page to see where I’ve traveled across the globe. While 35 may seem like a lot, it just seems like a drop in the bucket to me. There’s so much more I want to see!

43- Last year, I read 43 books. I’m hoping to read more this year though! πŸ™‚

9,156- I’m currently living 9,156 miles away from home in Bryan, Texas. No wonder I’m tired traveling to and from!

 

 

Can I just go back now?

Paris is on my mind. I feel compelled to go back, and sooner rather than later. I think it’s a combination of creating my Year in PhotosΒ slice, which had lots of Paris pictures, and reading a fellow slicer‘s posts about life in France. Instead of working on my reports, which are due tonight, I’ve been researching all the best foods to eat while in Paris and using Skyscanner.com to look up ticket prices to CDG. Oh man…I’m jonesing for some Paris time!

img_7741

Paris was never really on my radar prior to my trip last year. I thought it could never live up to the hype. That it was highly overrated. A tourist trap of the extreme. Boy, was I wrong! Despite only being in Paris for 3.5 days, not to mention the fact that it was cold and rainy most of the time, I fell in love with the city of love. ❀

IMG_0672

It has all of my favorite things I look for in a place to visit. It’s a foodie’s haven, with more food to possibly try than time in which to do it. Full of culture, there are jaw-dropping historical monuments to visit (Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur to name a few), as well as museums with world-renowned artwork. My all-time favorite museum is The Lourve. I could meander its maze of hallways for days and never tire. There’s something indescribable about that place. And it’s charm…Paris has charm for days! Every corner you turn is just so damn picturesque that you can’t stand it.

IMG_7771

I’ve been thinking of a few things I’d love to do on my return trip to Paris, a Paris bucket list if you will.

  • Walk up the Eiffel Tower. Last time I took the elevator, but I think I’d like to walk up next time.
  • Eat a picnic lunch of a crusty baguette, good cheese, luxurious butter, olives, roasted veggies, grapes, and macarons from Laduree for dessert in Champ de Mars, the park in front of the Eiffel Tower.
  • Have breakfast at Angelina’s at least once, but knowing me, I’d go there a couple of times. It’s just one of those iconic places you can’t miss.
  • Spend some time alone sitting at a small, quaint cafe, preferably overlooking the Seine, at an outdoor table with a large mug of warm tea, a buttery, flaky croissant, and my writer’s notebook, just observing the city pass by, jotting down ideas, observations, and musings.
  • Eat my way through this gastronomical city, mapping out my days’ activities based on where I want to eat. I want to have a plan so I can get in all the yummy foods I’ve read about, but I’ll also leave room for spontaneity, as I know hidden gems will pop up that I just have to try!
  • Get to The Lourve early, wandering my way through at my own slow pace, savoring the magic of this place. My writer’s notebook in tow, I just know I’ll stop and sit a while in front of one of my favorite pieces of art and write.
  • Take more photos, focusing in on the little details of this beautiful, charming city.
  • Get lost. I love getting lost in a new city…you never know what you’ll find!

With that…who wants to take a trip to Paris with me? πŸ™‚

IMG_0610

Year in Photos 2016

Sometimes pictures are better than words. They can tell more of a story, inviting the reader to infer their meaning, ask questions about their significance to the writer, and wonder what happened before and after the snapshot was taken. I’ve been telling a story of my year in photos for the past couple of years (click here for my year in photos for 2014 and 2015), and it is an exercise I enjoy, looking back through my year’s photos, deciding which ones to include and which ones are better left out. Without further adieu, here is my 2016 year in photos, in chronological order.

img_0036img_0022img_0097img_0360img_7741img_7687img_7712img_7721img_0699IMG_0814img_7651img_1248img_7947img_1401img_1644img_1698img_2201img_2280img_2308img_2389img_2421IMG_2353img_2480img_2566img_2663img_2817img_3077img_3179img_3190img_3253img_3321img_0043img_0124img_0174img_0358img_0288img_0660img_0803img_8329img_8378img_8367img_1057img_8390img_8498img_1091img_1398img_1436img_1443img_1466img_1752img_1841img_1907img_1976img_1968

9 Things on Day 9

As I was reading through some slices for some inspiration, I came across All Things Purple’s blog, where her slice was full of lists of her favorite things, 9 per list, in honor of the ninth day of slicing. I love lists, as anyone who follows my blog or knows me in real life knows, so this was right up my alley! πŸ™‚

9 Everyday things I wouldn’t want to live without:

  1. Books! (actual books or ebooks)
  2. A device (laptop, iPad, or iPhone)
  3. Wifi connection
  4. Tea kettle
  5. Toothbrush/toothpaste
  6. Live plants
  7. Backpack
  8. Reusable water bottle (loving my Camelbak Eddy at the moment)
  9. Β My writer’s notebook

9 Adventures I want to have before I die:

  1. Step on all 7 continents (before age 40!)…just 2 more (Antartica and South America)
  2. Take a year off and slow travel around the world
  3. Write a book…and publish it!
  4. Meet someone I want to share my life with
  5. See the Northern Lights and sleep in a glass igloo
  6. Spend at least one month living in Inle Lake, Myanmar, volunteering at a school or an orphanage, riding my bike every day
  7. Go on an African safari
  8. Take my parents to all my favorite places around the world
  9. Show up at the airport, buy a ticket, and fly some place I’ve never been, with absolutely no plans whatsoever

9 Pastimes I never tire of:

  1. Listening to music
  2. Writing
  3. Reading
  4. Talking about reading and writing
  5. Cooking
  6. Throwing parties
  7. Visiting new restaurants
  8. Planning for a new trip
  9. Talking to my friends and family

9 Treats I could eat everyday (if they weren’t unhealthy):

  1. Chai tea lattes, preferably iced and from Starbucks
  2. Goat cheese
  3. Mangos
  4. Homemade ravioli
  5. Brownies
  6. Chips & Queso
  7. Hot Shipley’s glazed donuts
  8. Mercato’s homemade ricotta and jam with buttery, toasted bread
  9. Pavlova

9 People I’d be lost without (Only 9?!?):

  1. My mom & dadΒ (I know, this is more than one…)
  2. My brother, sister-in-law, niece, & nephew (this one, too…)
  3. Shaggers
  4. Michelle
  5. Linner
  6. Kathy
  7. Sarah
  8. Sally
  9. Callie

9 Places I want to visit:

  1. New Zealand
  2. South Africa
  3. India
  4. Russia
  5. The Maldives
  6. Iceland
  7. Spain
  8. Bhutan
  9. Chile

9 Words I believe hold magic:

  1. Savor
  2. Love
  3. Vulnerable
  4. Change
  5. Play
  6. Serendipity
  7. Authenticity
  8. Gratitude
  9. Delicious

9 Gestures that make me smile:

  1. Receiving a gift from someone who knows me well
  2. Hand-written notes
  3. People who go out of their way when you’re sick/injured
  4. Quality time
  5. Playing a board game with me
  6. Hilarious texts, particularly ones accompanied by poignant GIFs πŸ™‚
  7. A good book recommendation
  8. An engaging conversation where no one looks at their phone
  9. Little kid hugs

9 Favorite songs (as of this blog post) (How can I pick just 9?!?):

Click here to listen to my favorite songs

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

What are your favorite things?