Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Big trees, less excess...

SammyDress red sweater, Cori Crooks Mexican tile earrings, Old Navy riding boots, casual outfit, relaxed outfit, winter outfit

I've been home for 11 days now and I have to day that I seriously miss life in Europe.  Even though I didn't really know my German neighbors, never took anything resembling a shine to the language, and spent the majority of my time on base (i.e. surrounded by 50,000 more Americans), exposure to the German lifestyle was still there, and it's something that I miss. 

So much of what I've seen in the states over the last week or so has just blown me away.  The excess here makes my head spin and the lack of displayed intelligence is bothersome.  

And so, I am trying to focus my attention on the little bits and pieces of German culture (a love of and respect for the outdoors, actual conversation with other humans, and reserve in consumption of "things." 

I've spent some time wandering around my old haunts, looking for fun places to photoshoot, and I immediately gravitated to the spot where these photos were taken.  It is at a park near my mom's house on what used to be a huge farm.  While much of the land was completely cleared to make room for McMansions, this spot has been preserved and I love how big around and how tall these trees are. I'll try to pop back over and get some more snaps of the REALLY big ones soon.  In the summer time, it is difficult to get close to the trees, because the grasses grow long and are full of ticks (I got my first, and thankfully, only tick out here years ago).  It was a good time to step back from the ridiculousness that has become suburban American life.  

Monday, February 1, 2016

: all that jazz playlist...

It's Monday, and in an effort to jazz things up (haha... this is actually a pun... you'll see) a bit, I've spent the last month or so collecting all sorts of tunes for this playlist.  It's called : all that jazz.  See why that was punny? 

As a jazz dancer, I had early exposure to jazz legends like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Glenn Miller, but as I got older, I fell in love with jazz music.  Not that smooth jazz stuff that people in sweater sets and sensible shoes listen to.  Real jazz.  The stuff that gets down under your skin and into your bones and makes you feel things.  I noticed that I tend to connect to this kind of music more when it's cold out.  Jazz just warms me from the inside.  And I hope that if it is cold in your part of the world, or if you have a cold, or if you've just been feeling out of touch, this playlist will help put you back in touch with yourself.  I've added in a bit of blues, some instrumental songs, and some new stuff just to keep things fresh!  

As always, I do hope that you'll enjoy these tunes and for more playlists, check the : music tab to the left <--- 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sustainable Sunday... tips for a greener lifestyle...

energy saving tips, recycling tips, repurposing tips, eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle, money saving tips

When I was growing up, the "turn-the-lights-off-when-you-leave-the-room-and-don't-leave-the-water-running" mentality was firmly engrained in my being (probably more from a money-saving standpoint than a conservationist standpoint).  As I grew up, I stuck with this mentality and when I got to college, something in me totally snapped (blame being broke (sidebar: I used to use my apartment complex's free standup tanning bed in the winter to get warm and not have to turn up the thermostat (sorry, skin)), taking online classes, and having unlimited time and access to Discovery Channel and Animal Planet), but I became totally hooked on conserving resources, re-using everything that I could possibly re-use, and hugging planting trees to keep the planet in the most pristine condition as possible. (I apologize for my liberal use of parenthesis... I'm still learning how to conserve those).

Anyway, living in Germany re-kindled my conservation efforts, simply because I had less access to "things" and for 3 months, I wasn't working, so I had less cash to spend on stuff and after a few years of this lifestyle, active conservation became a way of life again.

Cue my move back to the US and as I wrote a few days ago, I'm totally overwhelmed by the extreme consumerism and "throw away" mentality of this country.  I'm honestly having a hard time dealing with it.  In my mom's house alone, there's always at least one TV turned on (there are 7 in the house and only 2 people usually live here) and there are always a ton of extra lights turned on and the ceiling fans run 24/7 in each room (except for mine).  It makes me crazy.  When my mum pulled out crock pot liners before we prepped dinner the other night, saying that they were "The greatest thing ever" I was a bit flabbergasted.  While they DID make cleanup easy, it was just one more plastic bag to be used once and then tossed in a landfill.

And so, because I feel the need to be an ambassador of sustainable living here, I've compiled a list of super random things that I do to make full use of stuff and not let anything to to waste.  Take 'em (please) or leave 'em (please try not to).  Here we go!

: Stale bread?  Dry it out and turn it into croutons or bread crumbs for cooking!

: Don't want to buy Ziplock (or similar) storage bags?  Cool.  Don't!  If you buy cotton balls, when the bag is empty, hold onto it!  Most of them zip just as well as brand name zip bags!  Oh, and if you do buy bags... as long as what you put inside of them doesn't leak, you can reuse them until they fall apart.  I've been using the same 3 freezer bags for about 5 years and they're still going strong!

: Clumpy mascara?  Let it soak in hot water for about 5 minutes to loosen up the clumps.  If this doesn't work, add a few drops of water to the container, shake it up and voila!  You're clump free!

: Pick up some bar soap at a hotel?  Hold onto it!  It's so underrated!  It works just as well as shower gel and if you have a mesh bag or a shower loofah that you can tuck your bar soap into, it suds up just like shower gel.  If the bar gets dried out towards the end of it's life, use a cheese grater to shred it down and use the soap flakes.

: Got some old candles?  Love Woodwick candles?  Did you know that you can make your own Woodwick candles at home?  Melt down your old candles and use wooden coffee stirrers as a wick!

: Re-use birthday candles.  For real.  They're lit for all of a minute.  You can easily crank 2-3 birthdays out of a set of candles without anyone really noticing that the candles have been previously used.

: Save your glass spice jars.  They're great for transporting salad dressing to work for lunch!  No need to buy a special new container or tote your big salad dressing bottle.  This is also great if you make your own salad dressing and need easy storage for it! Old pasta sauce jars are good for this too, if you make a big batch.

: Piggy backing off of the last tip: save your old pasta sauce jars!  We use ours to serve drinks when we have people over.  Drinking from them makes me feel like a hipster (and I love it), plus they produce zero plastic waste.  Goodbye, Solo cups!  These jars are also great for candles, homemade bath products, and those fun "cookie mix in a jar" things that always go around on Pinterest as gift ideas before the holidays.

: If you happen to take food away from a restaurant, much of the time these days, they'll give it to you in a nice solid plastic container.  Hold onto these!  Noodles & Co. has great takeaway containers that I've been able to hold onto and reuse for years.  I like to use them to hold marinating meat, but they're also great after Thanksgiving when your family wants leftovers.  You can pack entire meals in them for your peeps to take away and they don't have to worry about washing and returning Tupperware to you!

: Get mail?  End up with a stack of flyers from work or whatever?  Do they happen to be blank on one side?  Flip it over and cut it into notepads for scratch paper!  If you still can't make the switch to making lists electronically, this is a great way to continue using a resource that someone else already started using.  Remember to recycle when you're list has been all checked off!

: If you're not a list-maker, you can shred junk mail to use as packing material.

: If you're not in the market for packing material, but are a bit crafty and have a hole punch and some free time (or kids you want to keep busy) decorate your paper and punch it to make confetti!

: Got a ton of greeting cards?  Cut off and save (or recycle) the side with the personal message and use the front part with the picture as a gift tag or post card.  I have a huge stock of these that I use as teacher thank you notes or pop into a gift!  It's a huge money saver that also happens to be eco-friendly!

: This tip is more geared towards teachers or people with young kiddos, but those one-use containers from things like applesauce, TV dinners, and Oreos can make great art supply containers.  Use applesauce cups for water paints or turn them into sorting containers for little kiddos.  TV dinner trays are also great for sorting or can be used to store crayons (oh, and melt down your old crayon stubs in a muffin tin for some super fun, easy-to-hold crayons for tiny humans!) or markers.  Oreo or other cookie trays are also great for sorting activities or storage for things like colored pencils, paintbrushes, and chalk sticks.  Why spend ton of extra cash at the Container Store when you can re-purpose?

: Oh, and if you buy milk in cartons like the one in the photo above, it's an absolute snap to create a bird feeder.  You can definitely turn it into a family art project, but we didn't have any other supplies handy and kind of got a kick out of watching birds snack out of our old milk container!

I do hope that these tips are helpful!  They are super random, but it is my wish that they've helped ya'll to look at the items you have in your house a bit differently so that you can give things new life before dumping them into a landfill!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Getting Zumba-y with Ariana Grande...

Heyyo!  I almost zonked out without posting!  Let me tell ya'll, this whole moving back across the ocean, getting totally slammed by the plague cold/flu has really not done much for creating any sort of daily routine! 

It's like I'm just aimlessly drifting through my childhood town without a purpose... but really, I'm trying to get settled.  My mum, who recently retired, is in love with the gym and while I'd prefer to just take a walk outside (the plague has prevented me from doing so) or just teach my own classes and get paid to work out (the knee STILL isn't being accommodating enough to allow for this), I've accompanied her to the gym on several occasions. 

A Zumba class was being held the other day and in my head, I saw visions of grandiosity.  I figured, "Sure!  Even though I just banged out a yoga class, I can totally handle this!  Everyone else in this class is at lest 60 years old.  I'm going to be the star.  Front and center."  Cut to reality and I made it through the first warm up routine before The Knee (I've decided that it is now a proper noun) decided to put me in my place. 

Stick a fork in me.  The Knee was done. 

And so, in remembrance of a time when I had not one, but two functional knees, I christen today #fitnessfriday and would like to share with you this children's recreational dance program masterpiece: my Zumba dance to "One Less Problem."  

I don't know what it is about this dance, but in the two years since it was choreographed, not a single Zumba class went by without this routine.  Students in classes with other teachers requested it.  It was even used a few months ago in a teeny bopper hip hop class!  Apparently, there is something magical about this dance. 

Please excuse my shirtlessness.  I filmed this last spring before our air conditioning was turned on and hey, my little bralette is pretty darn cute!  For more nice n' easy Zumba routines, warm ups, and cool downs, check the : fitness : tab to the left <---  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

First re-impressions of America...

Barefoot Belle hippie Kintala necklace, Emerson & Oliver Dia bracelets, Limbo Jewelry triangle earrings, Old Navy tall riding boots, casual outfit

Here I am.  I've been back in the US for 4 days now and my head is still spinning.  I know that I lived the majority of my life here, but seriously... I am dealing with some intense reverse culture shock (i.e. shock of your first culture).  It's a real thing.  

And so, while featuring these snaps taken in one of my favourite photoshoot haunts pre-European adventure, I figured I'd share a rundown of my first impressions upon re-entering America.  

 : There are way too many commercials.  The other night, my mum and I were watching an hour-long show on HGTV.  About a quarter of the way into it, I realized that we'd just spent more time watching commercials than watching the actual show.  So I got out the timer and track if there really were more commercials or if I just felt like there were more commercials... and there were more commercials.  Granted, we didn't have cable in Germany and the only shows I watched were on Netflix, Youtube or taken out from the library, but for real!  Too many commercials. 

 : The commercials are ridiculous.  I can't think of any examples at this moment (I think I'm trying to block them all out), but some of the products I've seen advertised over the last couple of days have really blown my mind.  DO WE REALLY NEED ALL THIS STUFF? I've lived nearly 30 years without it, so I'm gonna go ahead and say no.  

: So much heat!  Our heat in Germany went out all the time and it took forever to repair.  Also, our shower only had one temperature (that SB described the other day as "perfectly temperate").  I have heat everywhere!  I can stand in a steaming hot shower for an hour if I so choose.  Not that I recommend it.  I know, super hot showers aren't good for your skin and are a huge waste of a precious resource, but the option is there.  

: Everything is open all the time.  I think I kind of forgot about this.  I can go shopping on Sunday.  I can get Starbucks on every other corner.  There is so much stuff that is always accessible. 

: There is way too much water in the toilets.  I just don't understand the need for it. 

 : Everyone is driving a gigantic car.  Unless I was on base, in Germany, the biggest car I'd see on a regular basis was a station wagon, but here in my yuppy town, every other person has an Escalade.  Because everyone is huge and has to haul a ton of junk around all the time... right?

Basically, I think I blocked out forgot what an intensely consumerist nation this is.  I'm all for cool stuff, good food and surrounding myself with beautiful things, but really... I don't think I was quite ready to come back here! What happened to sustainable living?  

Monday, January 25, 2016

The last post from Germany...

Deb Aztec print cardigan, AMI Clubwear fringe boots, frankenstein castle, germany, travel

I feel so incredibly bittersweet posting this!  These snaps were taken at Frankenstein Castle (yes, THAT Frankenstein) this time last week, but as I write this a week later I am sitting at my childhood desk at my mom's house in the states.  

I'm taking a bit of a temporary leave from my exciting expat life due to a number of unforeseen circumstances and it feels kind of strange.  

My dream was to live in Europe, go back to dance and own a Beetle and I accomplished all of those goals, but had to cut my traveling life several months shorter than I would have liked.  Now, I'm back at home, and while I'm getting ready to start a new job that is much more on track with my graduate degree (special education), I feel like I have a big hole in my heart where Europe used to be.  It's strange to think of SB having dinner in our home without me.  It feels odd to think of my students taking class when I'm not there to greet or teach them.  I'm already nostalgic for drives through our quaint little village.  

Once I've recuperated a bit from the cost of moving (and have nipped back over to Germany to pick up all of the stuff I couldn't bring on this "get settled in the states trip") I'm definitely going to work on more travel within the US.  I've only been to 27 states, so I definitely need to get to work on that.   As life has changed a bit, I am also working more towards my shift to collaborations with fair trade, responsible, and eco-friendly fashion companies.  I'm currently working with less than half of my wardrobe, but I'll make it work!  I plan on sharing more playlists, more outfit posts, more eco-tips, and more giveaways and I do hope that you'll journey along with me!  

In the meantime, please enjoy these last snaps of Germany!  If you ever find yourself near Darmstadt, I highly recommend that you watch the episode of "Ghost Hunters International" in which Frankenstein Castle is featured and then pop over to see it for yourself! 

Friday, January 22, 2016

: Qtee t-shirt giveaway...

freebie, freebie friday, contest, giveaway, free stuff

It's Friday again and since I've been a mopey mess lately, I've decided that we may as well lighten things up with a #FreebieFriday giveaway!  Sound good?  I thought so!  I've paired up with Qtee a number of times in the past (check it out here, here, and here) and I've got to say, I really enjoy these collaborations.  Qtee isn't just your average t-shirt company!  They have a ton of adorable designs AND a fancy customizer-thinger that allows you to adjust the colors of your design, shirt, and choose from a selection of different t-shirts to print your final creation onto.  And they don't just do shirts.  They have a range of loungewear, flip flops and have recently started cranking out Converse shoes as well!

For this #FreebieFriday, enter to win a tee of your own design!  This giveaway is open to US residents!  Bonne chance!

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