Friday, February 3, 2017

Travel Style - Raincoats

I recently finalized my itinerary for Dublin this spring - a magical place that I'm simply excited to return to.  My first getaway to Ireland, all those many years ago, was in the spring as well, and I can tell you firsthand just how important a solid raincoat can be.  It's a worthwhile investment piece that can be used year round, which gives you all the more reason to find one that you WANT to wear.  From stripes and solids, to everything in between, look for one that provides adequate protection from the elements, but still brings you joy each time you put it on.  Prices can range from a modest investment to "I will use only this one FOREVER!!".  Here are a few favorites that I've recently come across.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

10 Great Destination Reads

photo by Mookio Chen

The winter holidays have come to a close, and just because we have physically returned to work, school, and everyday obligations doesn't mean that our minds are fully checked back in just yet. Don't let yourself suffer too greatly with the tormenting thoughts of just how away your next great adventures are. Instead, allow yourself a great mental vacation and let the faraway places (and sometimes days gone by) come to you with some of these great destination books.

1. Worldwalker by Steven Newman
Chronicles of one man's 4-year journey across the world on foot

2. My Travels With Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck
Steinbeck documents his road trip across the U.S. , with poodle companion in tow. He seeks the identity of the "American" and desires to learn of his country on the most personal level.

3. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Memoirs of Hemingway's personal accounts as a writer in Paris in the 1920s

4. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
Perhaps Thompson's most famous work, this psychedelic novel narrates the story of a magazine writer and his lawyers traveling to Vegas in a 1970s drug-induced haze.

5. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
Fall in love with Tuscany, either for your first time or all over again, with Mayes' account of purchasing and restoring an abandoned villa in the countryside.

6. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
The train has sadly ceased its operation, but will forever live on in the pages of Christie's famous mystery novel. Conjure up images of luxery and intrigue as detective Hercule Poirot investigates the death of an American tycoon.

7. Pole to Pole by Michael Palin
My love for Michael Palin (of Monty Python fame) runs deep, and even more so due to his passion for travel. In his 1992 adventure, Palin travels from the North Pole down the 30 degree east line of longitude in a mission to reach the South Pole.

8. Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone by Mary Morris
Morris' memoirs of her solitary travels through Latin America over a period of 18 months. Her experience is that of participation, rather than spectating, as she interacts with locals and finds herself in some hairy situations.

9. The Old Patagonia Express: By Train Through The Americas by Paul Theroux
Beginning in Boston, and making his way through Latin America, Theroux tastes the flavours of each country he enters, genuinely seeking understanding of the culture and people he encounters.

10. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
The fictional flashback of a retired geisha of her poverty-stricken childhood, being sold to a geisha house, and education in the arts both before and after World War II.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Come On, Get Happy!: Ways To Beat The Winter Blues

photo by Okinawa Soba
The Winter Blues are strong with me.

I began to notice it a couple of days ago when I began to feel lethargic, less social than normal, and, dare I say it, a bit pessimistic??? I knew right then and there that something needed to change.

I realize that I am one of the fortunate ones living in the Southern U.S. where our winters are far milder and shorter than others who have to endure 4-5 months buried beneath snow and ice. But hey, I also lived in the North for several years. It's safe to say that I've paid my dues! Still we can all endure only so much before we start looking on with jealousy towards the Southern Hemisphere dwellers.

It's totally normal for the shorter days, colder temperatures, and dreary weather to leave us tired, unmotivated, secluded and gloomy, but there are ways to fight those winter blues and find yourself revived and joyfully restored. I have come up with a few ideas and sought the opinion of readers via Facebook and Twitter on how to restore your happy during those long winter months.

* Wear and surround yourself with vibrant colours - Adding some bright hues in your life will make all the difference

* Let the sunshine in - We all know the benefits of Vitamin D, but this time of year we tend to spend far more time inside. Open those curtains and bundle up to soak up some rays!

* Buy yourself flowers

* Get out among the people - It's easy to give into the temptation of staying in, but personal interaction can improve the mood. Unplug from the emails and social networking and go to where the people are. Anywhere will do!

* Spontaneous dance parties - Music is soothing for the soul. Put on something catchy, and get that body moving, even if it's by yourself!

* Treat yourself - Our mood always improves when we have something to look forward to. It could be anything from planning a trip to going out for a glass of wine.

* Take some time for yourself - It's so easy to get overwhelmed this time of year between work, gift shopping, parties, volunteering, and other obligations. You won't do yourself any favours by running yourself down.

* Get lost in a good book

* Get your 8+ hours of sleep

* Make somebody's day - Buy coffee for the person behind you in line. Bake a batch of cookies. Buy Christmas toys for children in need. It's even better if you can do it anonymously.

* Daydream

* Volunteer - It takes a lot of energy to be negative. Use that energy for good instead.

* Make a "Bliss List" - Even on our worst days, there are ALWAYS things to be thankful for. Do it monthly, weekly, or daily. Just remember and be grateful.

* Reminisce with friends over good times and hilarious stories

* Laugh until you can't breathe

* Act like a tourist locally - Get out and about with some friends, check out the local attractions, take a ton of "vacation" photos. Save the ticket stubs and other free souvenirs and make a scrapbook.

* Invite friends over for a Cupcake Swap - have each person make a different flavour and everyone gets to go home with one of each!

* Surround yourself with brilliant scents - smells can trigger some amazing emotions and memories. Find scents that bring you happy thoughts.

* Make a goody box and mail to a friend

* Write a letter

* Dress up and go somewhere fabulous - Or somewhere not so fabulous. Either way, YOU will look and feel fabulous.

* Dye your hair a new colour - Or get a haircut. It's amazing how great it will make you feel.

* Compliment someone

* Create a tiny box of treasures - One man's trash is one man's treasure. What little things will make you smile? Ticket stubs from the best concert of the year? A key chain that you picked up in Dublin? Place them in a little box and decorate to your tastes. Visit whenever you're feeling down.

* Start a tradition or ritual - Get your friends involved and start an event like a rotating potluck, dollar store gift swap, weekend getaway, or cookie decorating party.

* Visit a sauna

* Yoga - Nothing eases my tension and stress more than focused breathing, clearing the mind, and loosening up through the poses. Everything else just seems to melt away.

* Go out with your camera, make up a photo "theme" and shoot away

* Go to a dog park - Some four legged cuteness always makes my day!

* Write a letter to your future self - share goals, fears, and what you've got going for you. Don't open it for a year or more.

* Plan your escape - make plans to get away, even if it's somewhere local. Just spending a weekend in a hotel is a change of scenery.

* Sip hot chocolate and watch the sunset

* Peruse a bookstore

* Host a small dinner party - No fanciness is required. Just a pot of soup or chili with company can be a great time.

* Start a crafty project

* Do a portrait series with your friends - Or even better, throw up a sheet, pull together some crazy props, and make your own photo booth.

* Smile - Even if you have to fake it at first.

* Write down all of your secrets and/or dreams, throw the list into the fire and make a wish

* Send feel-good cards or messages to people anonymously

* Rent or stream cartoons from your childhood - See how they have held up over the years and enjoy the nostalgia ride.

* Become an expert at something - Master public transit anywhere you go, create and perfect a "namesake" cocktail, become a local brunch connoisseur, or refine a recipe. Just do it!

* Buy a fresh, new notebook or journal - Make lists, doodle, vent, and dream. Don't worry about staying in the lines or how sloppy it might get. It's just for you.

* Spend more time with people who motivate, encourage, and inspire you - Ditch the toxic relationships and start the new year off fresh with the sort of people that you want in your life.