Thursday, April 11, 2019

Travel Series #1: That Time I Went to Ireland

First of all, I fully acknowledge that this post is coming at you a good four months late, but I figure, better late than never! I don't know what it is, but I'm having the hardest time sitting down and blogging, no matter how times I promise you that I will be better about it! That being said, I am snuggling up and getting cozy in my local Pret A Manger, ready to tap furiously on this poor keyboard of mine until I have a post or two ready to go!

Also note, this post is about to get real photo heavy, so be ready!





Anyway. So, Ireland! I was there for a solid ten days over the holidays this year, visiting my best friend, braving the bitter temperatures, and drinking more beer than I probably have collectively in my entire life (which isn't actually saying much, to be fair).

I would also like to point out, they have Pop Tarts in Dublin. At almost 7 euros a box (of four), they were no bargain, but I was still happy to have that taste of home.

My aforementioned best friend, Kasey, is currently living in Dublin, which is where I spent most of my time while I was there. We did plenty of exploring in the city, that is, when things were open and operating. Since I was there over Christmas and New Years, and this is Europe, a lot of things were closed for the holidays. So while I did manage to see and experience quite a bit of Dublin and Irish culture, there was also a good amount of chill time on the docket during this trip. I gotta say, I didn't mind one bit. Especially given the gloomy skies and freezing temperatures!






When we did get out and about, we spent our time wandering around Dublin, eating and drinking our way through several cafes and bars, and doing a few touristy things here and there, like the Jameson Distillery Tour! Since I had been to Dublin before, I didn't feel the need to go crazy trying to fit in all the tourist attractions. I had managed to see a lot of those things the last time, so this time was more about being with my friend for the holidays and enjoying a much needed respite from Paris. I think the thing that stuck out to me the most was how colorful people had made the city, despite the gray stone buildings and the even grayer sky.






Christmas Day was very chill and casual for us. We spent most of the day hanging out at Kasey's apartment, where I put a lovely virtual Christmas scene on my iPad, complete with twinkling tree and crackling fire. One of Kasey's friends joined us and we ate food, drank gin and tonics, and had good conversation over knitting (as we do). In the evening, we went into the city for Chinese food and a very holiday-themed photoshoot in the street that very nicely featured my ugly Christmas sweater. It was probably the least traditional Christmas I've ever had, but it was exactly what I think we all needed, being away from home and family for the holidays.



New Year's Eve was also particularly calm, as Kasey and I headed to a local pub and rang in the New Year with some whiskey and good wishes for the year to come. New Years Day, the entire city was practically deserted, and we walked the entire city just looking for food. We finally found a fish and chips joint that was open and that was our first real meal of 2019!


The other big highlight of my time in Ireland was our road trip out to the Rock of Cashel. We took a whole day, braved the wrong side of the road, and made the trip out to the beautiful, gigantic, slightly eerie castle. The fog that settled over the Irish hills and clouded the tiny town surrounding the area made it feel like there just might have been spirits among us. What was left of the place was mighty, intimidating, and gave the impression of strength, despite the crumbling walls. The graves outside the main structure were stoic, but the sheep in the background made it serene, and there was a deteriorating abbey off in the distance that we managed to explore. We even got to tour the chapel, with its better-preserved frescoes, and learned quite a bit about the whole thing. Did you know that in medieval times, when structures like this were built, the faces of the wealthy who paid for them were literally built into the walls? I would be lying if I said it wasn't creepy to see all these eroding faces staring down at us as we walked through. All in all, though, a great experience that I'm so glad we decided to take the day to do!














You know, I'm not so upset I waited this long to post this. It's been really great going back and remembering the trip, and looking back through my photos, I'm so happy with how they turned out and how they represent what I saw while I was there. I hope you enjoyed them, as well! Have you visited Ireland? What was your favorite part?

Friday, January 4, 2019

2019 - A Year of Emotional Freedom

And just like that, it's 2019! 2018 was one of those years that was simultaneously so long, but also went by in the blink of an eye. SO much happened in the last year. I moved three times, and one of those times was to Paris. I worked several jobs, met so many people, started some new projects, and went on the most intense emotional roller coaster to date. Sometimes I look back and I can't believe how much stuff happened in a single year... Do you ever feel that way?


So. Resolutions. As is customary, I have spent the last several days pondering my New Years Resolutions and Intentions. (I think I like the word "intentions" better than "resolutions") This year I have decided to do things a little differently. Instead of writing down several lofty goals for myself that seem unachievable, even with all the hope in the world, I am writing down smaller actions that I can implement every day to ultimately help me become a better person throughout the year. And for my couple of really big goals, I've broken them down into manageable bites that will be less overwhelming when I look back at them.

First, I broke my intentions down into categories: healthy habits, spirituality, career, art, writing, organization, and my planner project (I'm designing a planner, if you didn't know!). From there, I wrote down my actions steps. For example, under "healthy habits", I wrote things like "eat out less" and "take supplements daily". Under "art", I wrote "keep Etsy updated" and "use project calendars". Having everything written down this way helps me keep track of things, and lets me see that a lot of what I want to achieve overlaps between categories, like reading more and praying before bed are both habits I want to develop, but they will also help me achieve my "no screen half an hour before bed" goal!

The best part about writing down my intentions this way and seeing it all broken down, it makes me realize that it all serves one ultimate goal: to look back at 2019 with happiness and fulfillment. That is my biggest intention for this year. The last several New Years, I've looked back at the previous year and thought, "WOW that was a rough year". When we ring in 2020, I want to look back and think "WOW that was such a great year!" Even if it didn't always go my way (and let's be real, it won't, cause that's not how life works), I'll at least be able to look back and think "I found happiness. I bettered myself and I grew immensely because of my intentions."

2019 is going to be different for me. This is going to be my Year of Emotional Freedom. I am intentionally letting go of lots of past pain, and embracing everyday joy! I am embracing all the things that make me who I am, even those things that once made me insecure. I am an emotional human, I am passionate about art and pursuing the things that make us happy, contributing to the world, and I care exponentially more about all of those things over making money. No more shame in these traits of mine!

Here is a full list of my 2019 Intentions:



- Eat out less
- No screen half an hour before bed
- Take supplements daily
- Develop yoga practice

- Pray before bed
- Wake up to my Bible
- Church at least once a month
- Practice gratitude

- Focus on getting back on stage
- Read more plays and listen to more soundtracks
- More dance classes
- Restart voice lessons

- Keep CranberryInk social media up to date
- Paint at least once per week
- Use project calendars
- Keep Etsy shop updated

- Journal once per week
- Blog once per week
- Use photography on the blog
- Read more

- Project calendars
- Checklists

- Finish the whole year's design
- Develop marketing strategy
- Product ready to sell by August
- Use social media for self promotion

What are your Resolutions or Intentions for the New Year? Do you feel motivated? What are you embracing or letting go of in 2019?

Saturday, October 27, 2018

One Month Lessons

Can you believe it's already been a month since I got here to France?? (It's actually been just over a month, but who's counting?) A lot has happened in that month, and I've learned quite a lot already! Including that public wifi is often unreliable, and therefore it can be difficult to keep up with a blog... My goal for this year was to keep a frequent and thorough account of my experience here on the blog, along with sharing about my creative endeavors and other important (yes, important) musings! Yet, here we are, over a month in, and I can count on one hand how many times I've posted! Well I will tell you all right now, that is about to change, now that I've found a convenient and reliable connection just down the street at good old Pret A Manger. Thank God for international chains, amiright?


Anyway, now for the real meat and potatoes of this post: My One Month Lessons. Here are the things I've learned about France, and life in general, in the last roughly 30 days.

1. 95% of French people smoke. This is not a tried and true statistic, but it is certainly my educated guess. I had forgotten just how common smoking is in France.

2. Believe it or not, there is more puke on the sidewalks and trains here than in NYC. It's disturbing how much I've seen in this short month.

3. It feels VERY strange to brush your teeth and wash your dishes in the same sink. I have one sink in my teeny tiny apartment, so I don't really have a choice but to use it for everything! I gotta say, when you've spent 26 years with different sinks designated for different uses, it's pretty weird to spit your toothpaste into the same sink where you clean your pots and pans.

4. There are dopplegangers of people you know ALL over the world. The amount of people I've seen here who look EXACTLY like people I know back home is astonishing.

5. French people and American people are not on the same level when it comes to personal space. Sometimes I really get the feeling that I am a magnet, and people on the street are pulled towards me, regardless of the amount of empty space on the sidewalk. They don't feel they've gotten close enough until they've shoulder checked me.

6. On that note, I've never been sardined into a subway car like I have been multiple times on the Paris Metro. Things got pretty intimate on the NYC subway, but this is another level of public closeness.

7. For the most part, Parisians are kind, helpful, and understanding. Of course, there are always going to be your stick-in-the-mud waiters and stink-eye-giving shop keepers. But overall, people are willing to give advice, help you figure out what it is you need, and do it with a smile. Even when I stumble over my French, most French people have been patient. (And they appreciate when you are patient and kind and understanding, too!)

8. Americans are INSANELY lucky to have Trader Joe's. You have no idea. Don't take that for granted.

9. If you thought scooters went out of style in the early 2000s, you are mistaken! At least here, everyone uses them for transportation. Some of them are electric, but most of them are the old school push-it-with-your foot sorts. I'm seriously considering getting with the trend. Also, it's somewhat hilarious to see a business man in a three piece suit pushing himself along the sidewalk on a scooter.

10. Americans are, at least by comparison, a very friendly people. As a group, we smile, hug, and laugh a whole heck of a lot, and it gives us away almost immediately.

This is just a sprinkling of the things I've learned. I'll definitely be checking back in with more lessons as time goes. Of course, these are fairly subtle cultural differences. We aren't talking about major lifestyle adjustments. But sometimes it's the little things that add up to be a totally new experience! What sorts of things have you noticed when moving to a new place?

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Sunday Wandering

Paris is a city where it doesn't matter what the weather is doing, it's just always beautiful. Even without the blue skies and sunshine, the buildings still stand tall, bearing the rain as they have for centuries. The river still glimmers, the Tower still sparkles. Paris is never gloomy, it's merely different. I felt a strange comfort walking around in the misty cold rain today. It was as if the city was saying, "Don't worry, I've seen it all before, and I will protect you."




The clouds and puddles make the architecture stand out in a different way. It's been a long time since I've wandered around a city with my camera in hand, just taking in the surroundings. Even so, it was only a matter of time before I began seeing it all in a different way, as if the lens of my camera was calling to me to snap this angle or capture that moment. It's the sort of thing I used to feel all the time when I was living in Belgium. That shift in perspective was oh so welcome. It's the feeling of raw creativity and the desire to grab hold of the beauty all around you and translate it onto an image. I love that feeling and I love the art that comes from it.




It's crazy to me how comfortable I feel here in Paris. There are parts of this city that I know so well, despite only having been here a few times before, and not for very long. However, today, walking along the Seine, with Notre Dame right across the river, it felt so familiar and welcoming. It hasn't even been two weeks since I arrived, but it already feels like home here. Sure, there are things that are still daunting, like the constant striving to speak better French and the overwhelming desire to make the Parisians believe I'm not a tourist (THAT struggle is real), but I don't feel at all out of place in this city. I feel that this is where I'm meant to be.




Today's quest was really to find a good Sunday marché, which led me to a couple different areas of the city, and lots of wandering. I never ended up finding the one I was looking for, but I did stumble upon a great one towards the end of the afternoon, and I also finally made it to Shakespeare and Co! You guys. If you ever come to Paris, DO NOT skip this one! I've been in lots of bookstores. If you know me at all, you know how much I love books (and how much of a problem that is for my wallet). This was one of the coolest, quirkiest bookstores I've ever been in. I'd heard about it several times from many different people, but I had no idea what to expect. I definitely didn't think it would be as cozy as it is! Although it's actually quite large, it feels very intimate because 1) the sheer volume of books that surrounds you at all times, and 2) each of the rooms that makes up the shop is actually quite small, especially with all the people in there. There are lots of little nooks all over the place with lumpy old couches where you can recline with a book, and upstairs is their collection of old books, not to be purchased, but perused there in their library. Just about all the books they carry are in English, and everyone there was speaking English first. I can tell you now, I just know I'll be spending a good bit of my time in that shop. Just being there today, I almost cried several times out of sheer overwhelming joy and comfort. It's a haven. You aren't allowed to take pictures in there, which is why I don't have any of those for you guys, but trust me. I can't believe it took me so long to get there, but now I can't wait to go back! I did purchase one book: "Breakfast at Tiffany's". Because I just had to.




The rest of my time was spent wandering down little alleys and side streets, photographing huge beautiful old doors, and spending a few more euros here and there on antique books, piled high by the vendors at the outdoor marché at Place St Michel. My day was wrapped up sitting in my tiny little apartment, wrapped in my comforter with a takeout pizza and a glass of rosé, because it's a rainy Sunday and what else do you do on rainy Sunday evenings?

Where do you like to wander? Have you ever seen Paris in the rain?

Thursday, October 4, 2018

My Tiny Corner of Paris

WOW I can't believe I've been here for over a week already! But also, it feels like I've been here for so much longer. I've been meaning to get on here and update everyone, because I've been getting so many questions via Instagram about where I'm staying and what it's like so far! Plus, last time I was living abroad, I found that keeping my blog was a really great way to document the year and keep track of all the ups and downs and twists and turns! It's always fun looking back on those posts to see how I felt at any given time. Of course, I was also 18 years old at the time, so that makes a big difference, too! It's kind of like looking back through your diaries. There are some things you remember so vividly, others you'd forgotten entirely, and still others that you can't believe were such a big deal at the time. Regardless, it's cool to look back though your own eyes, but at a different stage of your life.




ANYWAY. I arrived in Paris last Tuesday, so I've been here about 9 days. I'm living just west of the actual city of Paris in a town called Neuilly-Sur-Seine. Even though I'm not *technically* in Paris proper, I'm so close I might as well be! It only takes me about fifteen minutes to walk to the Arc de Triomphe, which is at the end of the famed Champs Elysées. From there, the entire city is at my fingertips! Every morning, when I walk to the train, I can see the top portion of the Eiffel Tower in the distance. It's absolutely unreal. Sometimes I feel like I'm floating in a dream, like this can't possibly be real life. But it is and I'm here and it's amazing!





So. Neuilly. It's a really lovely town, and pretty much an extension of Paris. The buildings are all that beautiful, old, classically French architecture. You know, the kind you see in those mass produced prints that you can buy at HomeGoods and Target. Except here, it isn't mass produced, and it's real life! This town has some hustle and bustle, but still feels homey and suburban, to an extent. There are kids rolling along on their skateboards or scooters up and down the sidewalks, lots of little shops selling houseplants or antiques or produce, and plenty of cafes and restaurants. One thing is for sure: the people here have money. You can feel it just walking down the streets and looking up at the residential buildings. Then you see the massive, beautiful schools and there's no doubt. Plus, any time I tell anyone where I'm living, the first thing they always say is "Wow, you're so lucky! That's where the rich people live!" It's true, I do feel very lucky to be here!




A lot of people ask me if the program is providing our housing. Unfortunately not, so we are each responsible for finding our own accommodations for the year. Again, I definitely lucked out. I found my housing before even arriving in Paris, which I suppose is pretty uncommon. I have an arrangement with a family here in Neuilly, where I am essentially nannying for them in exchange for my apartment, which is just three floors above theirs! It's a tiny little studio, but it's so charming and has everything I need, along with a stellar view! I recently found out that these small spaces on the top floors of buildings like this were probably maids' quarters way back when the buildings were constructed. Mine does have it's own bathroom and a little kitchen, complete with a small fridge, microwave and hotplate. It's super simple, but I absolutely love it!




The family is just wonderful. The two parents and three children are all so kind and very welcoming! In the afternoons, I go and pick the youngest one up from school, help her with her homework, and accompany her to her theatre and dance classes (a girl after my own heart!). I speak English with them, so that they can practice and improve their speaking skills. Sometimes I have meals with all of them, which is always a treat! While I am so happy to become a sort of part of the family, it's really nice to be able to have my own space, as well. I had host families when I was an exchange student, and at 26 years old, I am so glad to be able to be autonomous while living in Paris!




Sometimes I really can't believe I'm here. I am so happy to be in Paris, living out this crazy dream. I've fallen in love with this city a couple times before, and I have a feeling I'm about to do it all over again. I am so grateful God brought me here and has had my back as I adjust and settle in. He really is so good! Well, I have so much more to tell you all and I will be writing again soon! Have you lived abroad before? How did it feel at first?