Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Gratitude + Funky Tunes for New Years! {Tuesday Tunes #20}

Greetings beings! 

Sending lots of gratitude to 2013 and everyone who came across my path. I'm really jazzed about this blog and the awesome ladies I've met so far.  It's been hard at times and I've struggled with laziness, but I enjoy having something constant to call back on, a type of visual journal open to the world. This year a goal is to be braver in my blog. I want to be more personal and share more of the 'ups', but especially push myself to sharing some 'downs'. After all, that's real life. 

So thank you for stopping by, saying hi and sharing with me too. Becoming part of this international-awesome-lady-blogging community has been an incredible gift this year.You all are so special and I'd hug every one of you if I could. I suppose *ehugs* will have to do. Well...I would love to share some soulful funky tunes for your day. I just found this one now, but really like it.
Artist: Raphael Saadiq
Songs: "Love That Girl" -- "100 Yard Dash" -- "Sure Hope You Mean It"

Also, my BFF has a radio show and I'm about to join today! There's a live stream from 10am-12pm (Pacific time) and can be heard at radiovalencia.fm. What fun!!

Any new music you're all about?? 

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Dear 2013 + The 24 Things Challenge

Hey all! Well, we've almost come to the end of the year, can you believe it? It's time to look back at all that was 2013 and hop into a fresh new 2014. Thanks to Beka and Amanda for hosting the Dear 2013 link-up and Marylee for The 24 Things Challenge idea. 

Dear 2013,

You've been a year full of changes, ups and downs, and love. 

I've learned from my experiences working with very different types of people. I questioned how I want to have an impact in my work. I've seen how money works, how can be very destructive when taken to the excess. And on the other hand, I've learned humbleness from my kids (I'll always call my students 'my kids'). Where simplicity was a treasured lesson. And everyday ended with exploding sunsets and their smiles imprinted in my mind.

Girls of Picaflor House.

I've met people who inspired me, with burning desire to give all they can, with endless amounts of love. I met different people, encountered other mindsets, and learned to stretch my own mind and heart. I became closer to people I love and admire.

I embraced love and took a leap to marry a wonderful guy. And was able to share the moment with a few special friends and family. I keep learning about love from and with him. This was a huge highlight of the year!

A favorite of our engagement photos. By: Diane Patterson

We made a big decision, to create a new step together. This in itself was full of challenges and difficulties. Leaving people we loved and trading it in for a whole new city life. We learned to use it to our advantage and to help us grow in love and support of each other. But it was still a tough time. 

After the struggles of adapting, a nest has begun being built: learning places and people, creating a community, and allowing openness to the possibilities. 

I was present to a whole new side of Peruvian food and we played around in the kitchen creating our own meals. I also delved into a hobby of sharing my life through a blog, which became even more important than I'd imagined.

Thank you 2013 for all that you are and that the journey continues to teach us more love than before.

By: Diane Patterson

*   *   *

The other day I stumbled upon an idea for the new year that I love! It's by Marylee and I found it through my daily emails from Elephant Journal (tons of inspiring stuff). This idea is called The 24 Things Challenge. Essentially, it's an exercise in simplifying. It's kind of like a spring cleaning of sorts, which I think is perfect for the new year and new moon. Doesn't that sound like a great thing for the new year??

The idea is this. Everyday from Jan. 1st through 24th...
1. purge one thing. In creating this clear space, there will be a new place for new things ('things' can be physical, mental, spiritual, etc.). 
2. abstain from buying anything other than necessities. Basically, practice being a conscious consumer. (I feel pretty good about this one but the tricky part (for me)comes down to social activities like lunch or coffee - not really necessities but I may consider as part of self-love/well-being.) If something comes to mind that you want, put it on a list to re-evaluate after the 24th. 

The simplicity is what drew me to the project. While these are simple acts, it's the growing consciousness that makes them great. I'm looking forward to sharing my purges and experience here. This is an open invitation to join in the 24 Things Challenge. I'd love to hear your experiences as well!

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Candy Cane Vanilla Cupcakes {+ Holiday Photos}

Happy belated Christmahanakwanzika! Whatever you celebrated (or didn't) I truly wish everyone lots of love and joy this season. I am so so happy to be able to be back visiting my family and seeing everyone. Being away just makes it that much more special and I am so grateful!

Now, if you didn't catch the holiday flash mob post from Tuesday Tunes, it's worth checking out...This post is two part = double the fun, right?! First I'll be sharing a fun holiday cupcake recipe I whipped up the other day with my mom. And then some photos from these past few days of festivities! Let's get bakin' ~

Christmas is all about the flavors of the season, wouldn't you agree? So we decided to make some vanilla cupcakes with a peppermint twist.

Here's what we used:

~ box of cupcake mix (we totally cheated - it's better if made from scratch!)
~ 1 tbsp red food die
~ 4 candy canes crushed up (use a mallet or hammer and candy canes in a bag)
~ vanilla icing
~ sprinkles, candies, etc. for decorating
(if you really want them to be peppermint-y, add a few drops of mint extract. I preferred having crushed peppermint on the icing though.)

First, make your cupcake batter. Then separate about 2 cups into another bowl. Add the red food dye and mix really well. 

Now fill your cupcake tins about 3/4 full with white batter. Add a dollop of pink batter in each, and carefully swirl around with a knife/toothpick/fork. Try not to mix it much because the idea is to create a marble effect.

If you'd like, add some crushed peppermint into the cups.

Bake for about 20 minutes at about 350*. Let cool for a bit so icing won't melt. Then it's time for decorating. Get creative and go crazy!

My mom pulled out all her cake-decorating supplies and showed me a few techniques. It takes some practice, but my wreath-decorated cupcake turned out cute. We looked at pictures of all the cakes she's made in the past 25 years. Which was at least 30 cakes! She was quite the cake-baker and decorator! We had fun making them together :) And they are quite perfect with the peppermint flakes on top. Super delicious sugar-y treats!

Pretty lovely, huh? And some of the holiday photos I've been snapping...

Recycled handcrafted wrapping by yours truly.

Ps. we have some musicians in the family!

Christmas morning at Gramma's.

3 generations :)

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Weekly Wishes #7

Hello USA! Early this morning I made it back to California (after a fun little stint of adventure on my layover in Mexico)! Saturday was nice because Rafa and I just hung out most of the day and evening, while I got everything together for my trip. I'm so thankful for that guy. 

Oh my, it's been quite some time since I've shared Weekly Wishes, Melyssa's awesomely motivational link-up! This week is kind of a big deal because of my reintegration here, the holidays, annnd a new job...holy moly!

My goals for this week:
Decorate and wrap some gifts. This is really today's goal, since there's like no time left! Going to get my DIY on and create some cute wrappings!
Activate my phone. Yes, my very old school Nokia is going to be back in action again soon - hopefully I'll have the same phone number!
Spend some good quality time with family. I'm really looking forward to this these days. With our family celebrations over the next week, I'm sure this will go well :)
Start a plan for my blog. For a long time now I've been thinking about how much more I'd like to put into this blog. I know it needs a big face-lift and I'm also thinking of switching over to Wordpress. I've been feeling guilty about not giving it the energy it deserves and don't want that anymore. This week I'm going to sit down, plan, investigate, etc. about blogging options. Any ideas or experiences with a big switch, I'd love to ask you!

Wishing you all a really sweet week with loved ones. Happy holidays!

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Keeping calm in the craziness...

So I usually tend to post happy, fluffy things which is nice and at but...well doesn't always encompass real life...So today is a little rant about why I've been stressing out lately. Actually, I'm really grateful for this stress out moment because now I 
 Tomorrow I hop onto a plane back to California from Peru! 

1. going home for the holidays and organizing things. It's been nearly a year exactly since I've been back to California. I'm soo excited to catch up and soak up things I've missed being abroad. At the same time, it's a lot of packing, cleaning, and me procrastinating.
tips: Keep in mind that it will be so worth it once you arrive. 

2. going home for the holidays for an undefined time. The time I'll be back home is kind of open-ended, and I have somewhat of an idea of what I'd like to accomplish while there. It's slightly worrisome the idea of being away from my partner so long, but at the same time, we'll still be in constant contact.
tips: Keep communicating! There's always Skype.

3. packing up and searching for an apartment. Rafa and I decided to look for our own little place for the next year. And since he's working a lot, I'm heading the apartment-hunt. We've got some leads but ultimately, he's going to have to do the physical move in a few weeks.
tips: Have someone keep you in check - like "yo, relax and just do what you can". Keep track of everywhere you've contacted or want to contact. Having a detailed list like this could have really been useful. And also, when moving with a partner make sure to compromise, re-evaluate, communicate constantly, and most importantly - stay positive that something will come through!

4. throwing a last minute feast. I decided I should use up some of the Asian products I'd brought from home last year and make it in a little goodbye party. Well, it was fun and a success (!!) but added to my stress levels of the week.
tips: "Plan time wisely", said the little grasshopper looking in retrospect (and my husband - oops).

5. finding a temporary job back home. This one wasn't too stress-inducing because I have some time to find something and I usually have good luck in this area. Actually, I lined up a great temp job with a family for January, which I'm excited about!
tips: It's all about resources...craigslist.com and care.com!

6. saying goodbyes. This part is kind of awkward. First of all, I'm not really saying goodbye but see ya later until - well, later! I said bye to all of my tutoring kids, although I'll probably see them again. And tonight, I'll be spending my last hours with my sweet hubby.
tips: Create a meaningful experience together. This week I created little Christmas sock stockings for my hubby and I. Tonight we'll share our little gifts and maybe watch a movie. 

Well after the stress, I'm alive and well! Although I was sick a lot of yesterday as a result of the build-up, I'll say that I'm so incredibly thankful for my generally good health!! Thanks body for getting me through it! And thank you for reading...I'll see you in California!

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Expat to Expat: My Holiday Celebrations Abroad

Happy holidays everyone! 

It's been so crazy over here, so I've been putting this bloggy on the back-burner a bit. I've been trying to do way too much these past few days and stressed myself out. So this is a good time to take a break from searching for apartments and do this awesome link-up by Belinda and Bailie! Woo, let's go ~

Has your idea of the holiday season changed since becoming an expat?
Yes and no. 
No, it hasn't changed in meaning. For me, the holidays are basically a time to be with loved ones and be grateful for what we have. It's always about that. Even the Christmas and Thanksgivings spent away from my family, I was in good company and that's what it's all about.
Yes, it has changed in what it looks like. For example, lights and trees aren't very common here, unless you are kind of rich. Since I'm living south of the equator, it's like summer! It's also different in that not EVERYthing is over-commercialized. I mean, there are places that do really go all out with decorations (full-size nativity scenes are popular here) but I don't see as much propaganda, which is refreshing. Oh, and another biggy is that holidays food looks different - the equivalent of egg nog, peppermint mochas, and cookies is a very thick hot chocolate and panetone. It's a fun tradition too.


How do you build new holiday traditions, while keeping ones that remind you of “home”?
I will admit, I've gotten slightly lazier with holiday traditions here. But Thanksgiving has been an exception to that. The past 3 years my good expat friends in Cusco have gathered and carried out the good old stuff-your-face tradition, American style (this year, we even had a turkey and that was exciting for us).  

October 31st either celebrates Halloween (mostly younger kids) or the typical Peruvian celebration of folk music, Día de la canción criolla (which is common among the older generations). So last year for Halloween some friends had a party for Día de la canción criolla where we danced and listened to lots of traditional folk songs. But this past year, it kind of snuck up on us and I didn't have many ex-pat friends in Lima to celebrate Halloween...so my hubby and I just watched a movie together.

In general, it's nice to celebrate a little bit of the local culture and tie in things from home as well, when it's possible. I've enjoyed sharing with Rafa some of our traditions and trying to explain (and understand myself) American culture. It's all about creating a shared experience and recalling old memories.

With that, I'm looking forward to reading up on some posts from the link-up... Do you have a favorite holiday or tradition??

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tuesday Tunes #18: Trombone Shorty

Welcome to Tuesday Tunes, where I share a musical inspiration or discovery for the week. Please feel free to do the same. Shortly I will be adding a link-up form so it will actually be a 'thing'. Woo get excited!!

Today's feature is a big band New Orleans favorite, and amazing musician - Trombone Shorty (and Orleans Avenue). When I hear this kind of big band, horns and all music it just makes me want to get down and dance it out. It's so contagious! I'm just organizing and packing things and playing this short playlist is perfect. Hope you like (it may be impossible to not)!

Glad you stopped by today, happy week!

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Birthday Celebrations

Happy week everyone! So you know Saturday was the 14th. But did you know it was my birthday? The neat thing about December 14th is that my grandpa was born on this same day nearly 90 years ago. And on that very date I also came along. I just made the cut off at 11:53 at night! I kind of love that my birthday is in December, such a culminating time off year. I mean there's holiday excitement, wrapping up and preparing for a new year, it's a time of change and renewal. 

Welp, here's some photos from that lovely day (and please excuse the horrid quality - the lighting was difficult for the camera). I'm so glad I had people to share my day with :) 

Part 1:

I was glad it was on the weekend this year and I hardly worked :) But there was a little holiday celebration at my work, which was fun. They sang and gave me a panetone with a candle on it. And it was also a 'see ya later' for the holidays since several of us are heading out for awhile.

Part 2:

In the afternoon my hubby and I were looking for some mini-apartments (which turned out to never exist - who posts false places for rent anyway??) ...On our way to dinner, we walked through a residential complex where Rafa grew up as a child. He told all the stories and memories with a smile of wonderment from those times long ago. He showed me where he used to play, what he remembered about several big earthquakes,  where his friends lived, where he first told a girl that he liked her (awww). Even his pre-school and elementary schools were in the complex. It was a really neat experience to be with him remembering all this and see what his life as a kid was like. I felt that much closer to him. 

So after walking down memory lane (kind of literally), we arrived for dinner. It was both of our first times to this sushi place, called Kaori Sushi Bar. We had really good luck because one of the rooms with the special tables was available. We were able to take our shoes off and climb into the table booth. That was a fun new experience for us! 
Here's a little preview of what we had, which was not so little.

I learned that it's called "gustito" (literally little liking) when you go out to a restaurant and splurge on a lot of good things. We definitely did just that. It's not something we do often, so it was even more special and we really savored it all. Did I mention, the food was delicious!!! Here's our empty plate: 

My birthday ended very full and happy.

Do you have any birthday traditions or stories? Do you like to celebrate big or more on the down-low?

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