Friday, July 23, 2010

Getting to Ghana


I'm finally here, in Ghana. It only took about twice as long as it was supposed to, and several very funny (although not funny at the times) things happened along the way.

We took off from Tampa at 9:50 Thursday morning to depart for JFK. So far, so good. We flew JetBlue up there because of the cost, and when we arrived in NYC we had to claim our bags and check into Delta. Problem number one. Apparently, you have to have your credit card with which you paid for international flights. Not good, as I didn't bring it. So, we waited in about three lines before finally having to repurchase the ticket on a credit card we were in possession of and then checking in that way. Okay...crisis averted. I could only see myself standing there waving off my plane.


We make it to the gate with plenty of time to spare, board, and I even get a seat change to a better seat. Awesome! Then, they tell us they have to find the bags of someone who didn't get onto the plane. No big deal, we had head a girl talking to something at the ticket counter because she didn't have a visa (some travel agent screwed her over big time). Then, suddenly, power fails. They said it was auxiliary power and that we didn't need it unless there was an emergency, but it's better to be safe than sorry. It won't be long, they said. Right. After an hour they gave us $12 in vouchers and told us to get off the plane and come back at 8 (which later turned into 10). When we got on the flight, they had a new crew and not everyone was there, so we had to wait again. We finally took off around 11 (original departure 4:30).




We landed in Ghana, got to the hotel, and everyone proceeded to get out of the bus....except me. My seat belt was stuck. I had to squeeze out of it to get into the hotel. When I got into my room, there was standing water in the bathroom and I had to be moved. What?!

I ate a little, rested a little, and then we went to go meet Nana Sarpong. He's the subchief of the Ashanti Region, so that was wonderful. We had a clock made for him signifying our partnership between the school I teach and the two schools in the village of Agogo in the northern Ashanti region. We stayed for a bit and then went an ate dinner.
 


I'm looking forward to eating Yogo, fufu, and redred. Tomorrow we're going to the game preserve and the craft market. Yay! I can't wait to be touristy...I didn't really get to do that when I was here in 2005. PS. I'm staying in a hotel with wireless internet, which I also didn't get to do in 2005 (seeing as how the village I lived in then didn't have electricity or running water).

I'm not sure how often I'll be able to update after Sunday, as we're headed up to a village about three hours north of the city and don't know accessibility yet.

Bye for now!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

oh. hi.

Hello!

I've missed blogging. I've just been so busy I couldn't see straight. Here is what I have been up to:

I wrapped up Hoopla out in San Francisco with a beautiful gala. I learned SO much while I was out there and am so thankful to have started with such an amazing company so early in the game! Here are a couple last pictures from Hoopla! This is a picture of a group of us that are all on the same team.
Here is a picture of the bag that I won (along with a cute shirt) in the last incentive program. I worked so hard to get this.
Here's the new incentive program that I'm working towards now. I'm such a sucker for contests. So excited!

Then, I got back from Hoopla on Sunday night and set off to work on all my graduate school work. It felt like it was never ending. I literally experiences the closest thing to an all nighter that I have ever experienced. I went to bed at 6:15 am this morning and got up at 7:30. Does that count as an all nighter or do I really have to not go to bed? I took my midterm and turned in my paper today, and in the last few days have been killing myself trying to get everything finished. But, alas, I'm almost done.

I had an amazing day today. So many wonderful things happened after that midterm. I went and volunteered in an ESOL class and had such an amazing time. The women with which I worked were from Mexico, Ethiopia, China, Haiti, and Brazil. We talked about new vocabulary and then used the vocabulary to talk about our favorite places to visit and the best things in our home countries. The vocabulary they were learning was all about being in a city and describing surroundings. Towards the end of class they were filling out a worksheet and on of the blanks said "The best teacher is _____________ because _____________." One of the ladies said, "What is your name?" I didn't realize it at first, but she was writing my name down as the best teacher! They asked when I was coming back and one lady even gave me a hug! It was so nice to be able to help these women learn how to speak English when it must be so difficult not know the language in this country!

Then, I got roses, a card, and three huge boxes of nerds from my boyfriend. Today is our two year anniversary. We didn't exchange gifts yet because we couldn't decide what we wanted. So, we went to eat at Seasons 52 and enjoyed a nice meal together.
I ask myself everyday how I got so lucky to find such an amazing, supportive boyfriend. He supports me through all my anxiety and encourages me when I get really excited about a good grade on a paper or another trunk show for Stella & Dot. I am so blessed to have someone in my life like him. :)

When I got home, I had a Target gift card in the mail from two high school teachers at my school. It was a total shock. I had gone in a couple of times this summer to help them set up a blog in their summer school class. They were just thanking me for coming in. I was so excited about the Target gift card, but even more excited about the fact that they had thought about doing something so nice for me.

I will use that gift card tomorrow to load up on supplies, because Thursday morning at 9:50 A.M., I'm getting onto another plane, heading to NYC, and then boarding a trans-Atlantic flight to Accra, Ghana! I'll be gone until July 31st, but will be bringing my laptop and will be blogging while I'm there. I'll tell you more about the reason for my trip while I'm over there, but in the mean time I can assure you that I will share some amazing stories and experiences while I'm there. I went when I was in college for a summer, and I know that their culture is so unique and so special, and I can't wait to go back!

I am trying to catch up on all my favorite blogs, but I still have quite a bit left to do! If you haven't heard from me in a few days, I'm sorry. I can't wait to come back to a long list of blogs to read with a lot of free time to do it with!

I'll post again before I head out. So excited...starting the malaria pills tomorrow!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Getting to San Fran and fun new Stella stuff!

So, I'm finally here in San Francisco after all the hype of getting ready. I had the craziest trip of my life and wouldn't want to sit through it again for money. I was delayed out of Tampa and literally had to run to my plane in Miami. I made it just before they let the standbys onto the plane, and my seat was next to a mom with her 8 month old baby. She was pretty well-behaved most of the way, but I'm not a mom so I don't think my level of understanding was the same as moms may be. I fell asleep for a little while and suddenly we were on the ground. I thought to myself, wow, that was faster than I thought (it was supposed to be a 5.5 hour flight). I turned on my phone, and updated my facebook status to something about being in San Francisco.

Then, the pilot came on and said, "Welcome to Albuquerque! When we pull up to the gate you'll see flashing lights, which is completely normal in an event like this." An event like what? I asked the man nearby, because apparently I'm a space cadet.We landed for an emergency medical reason; someone in first class was having chest pains. I hoped he was okay, and then I hoped that we would take off soon; the flight attendants didn't even know how long it would be to SF because they don't flight that route on American. Okay. So we eventually (read an hour later) took off and landed in SF two hours behind schedule. I made it to my hotel, and everything was fine.

I went to breakfast with my friend Jenny from college yesterday morning at a place called Stacks in Burlingame. 
Then I got ready for the Stella & Dot fashion show debuting the new fall line. It is gorgeous. Here are a few pics waiting to go into the fashion show and in the fashion show and of the new line of jewelry.

We loved it and had such a ball. Last night we headed out for Mexican food with a huge group. Sam and I enjoyed a huge margarita.

I can't wait to update more about my trip after we get home. There's so little time to sit down and think. I can't wait to share more fun picture and exciting news from the trip! I'm also really behind on reading my favorite blogs and commenting, but I'll catch up later!

And if you want to see more of the new Stella & Dot stuff, go to my Stella & Dot website.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

honesty

Since starting my blog, I've wanted to network with other bloggers and make connections with others like me. One of the first blogs that I followed regularly was Life After College, and since then I've read about all these people she's met through going to blogging conferences and meetings. I wanted that, so I joined a couple of blogging networks. The first, that I love so much, is

BonBon Rose Girls

The girls who run this group are fabulous. They're so good about reading your posts and then responding. I really feel like I'm already starting to make connections because of this. Also, they do tons of giveaways, and they have a bunch going on right now at their website. They feature bloggers on their site all the time. It's a neat way to find new people.

Secondly, I joined



Photobucket

I haven't had as much interaction with them, but I reference them because they inspired my blog post for today. They talked about honesty in today's post.

That post about honesty forced me to think about my blog posts and analyze myself a little. I think the wonderful think about blogging is that I can write about whatever I want and, to some extent, become whatever person I want to be. But, in some ways, I think I've attempted to write blog posts that mask what's really going on in my life and who I actually am. In the spirit of honesty, I want to tell you a little about my true self.

I often want to be viewed as perfect by those that don't know me. I want to be the girl that has everything perfectly compartmentalized in my purse and cabinets and drawers and closets. I want to always have a crisp, perfect wardrobe with killer shoes and untouchable makeup. In reality, I'm completely unorganized; My purse looks like someone else's trash can when they've just gone through their purse. My drawers aren't organized, and I rarely have a perfect outfit. These are all things that I see as points for improvement. I have a long way to go, but I think that part of becoming an adult is becoming more like the person that you want to be.

I tend to tell people that it doesn't matter what other people think. I only wish that I, myself, took my own advice. I am the worst about taking opinions of other people personally. I try not to think about it, and it's really hard to admit it, but often times, I act in ways that I think other people would approve of. I mean, it isn't everyone in the world, but people that I care about. I need to stop caring so much about what other people think, but it's so much easier said than done.

I have a lot of self-confidence and very little self-confidence at the same time. In my professional and educational life, I am very confident in what I do. I believe very much that I am capable of whatever I want to achieve, and I'm not just saying that. In fact, I think that anyone is capable of whatever they want, and most of the time the only thing that stops people is themselves. Where I do not have this same amount of self-confidence is in my personal life. With my friends and my boyfriend, I worry a lot about what I do and what I say and whether someone likes me or someone is mad at me or I did something wrong. It causes me a lot of anxiety and stress.

Speaking of anxiety, I cause my own anxiety quite a lot. I have started to have little OCD tendencies about locked doors and unplugging appliances, and it does scare me a little bit. I try as best I can not to feed those tendencies, but I have gotten more than ten minutes from my house before and turned back. I have hypothyroidism and can't seem to keep it under control all the time, and sometimes that and the anxiety work together to turn me into an emotional wreck.

I'm working on all of these things, and I think that I make progress each day. 

Aside from the hard things, there are a lot of things that I love about myself and I'm proud of myself for. It just isn't as easy to write about the stuff I love as the stuff I don't. 

A few things I love about myself:
I'm open-minded
I work hard to be a good friend
I'm trustworthy and dependable
I'm (almost) always on time

I hope to balance my blog between fun and serious, as many wonderful blogs I've been reading have accomplished. I can't wait to continue getting to know more of the bloggers I've started to interact with, and I look forward to continuing to share myself with you honestly and openly with all the fun too.

What are some of your favorite things about yourself? What are some things about yourself that you aren't as satisfied with and work to change?

Next stop...San Francisco!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

travels begin

I'm heading off to San Francisco tomorrow, and instead of packing, I thought I would look up pretty pictures of the city.

I'm going for the annual conference for Stella & Dot called Hoopla. I'm really excited about going because of meeting new people, seeing other ladies I haven't seen in a while, and getting some tips of the trade (Stella & Dot is my fabulous side thing that I love doing). One added bonus is that I get to see my friend Jenny, who I went to college with, for breakfast on Thursday! I haven't seen her since two years ago when we went to Las Vegas, so I can't wait for that.

I head off tomorrow evening and after heading to Miami from Tampa, I'll be on a 5 hour 45 minute flight to San Fran (who knew it was that long). I'll take lots of pics and can't wait to share about my trip when I get back. I hope I'll have time to blog while I'm there.

In no way related, I'm pretty sure I would like going to the grocery store more if this more of the experience (or if Michael Buble was there):


Monday, July 12, 2010

a rant and a rave

Remember that game that we used to play growing up when adults were trying to kill time with us and didn't know what else to do? They called it telephone, where we all sat around in a circle and one person picked what to say and then started whispering it to the next person in the circle. The only rule was that you couldn't repeat the message more than once even if the person listening didn't understand. I have come to conclude that that game is teaching an important societal lesson to our youth: No matter what, when you are on the phone with someone with which you are trying to get something accomplished, what you intend to say and what they hear are never the same.


As matters may be, I have spent a lot of time today on the telephone for different reasons. I will spare you the details, for which you should thank me (I literally typed them all out to make myself feel better and decided no one would care). In every scenario, all three to be exact, my intended goal or message is not what ended up happening or being received by the always-so-kind person on the other end of the phone, and I generally hung up frustrated. In a fit of rage earlier this afternoon, I concluded that children should continue to play the game of telephone as they are growing up to learn a lesson that can only be taught with time; telephones are the worst. I am so glad that e-mail exists.

 Sorry for the rant.

In other matters, my boyfriend and I went to Barnes & Noble this afternoon, after I researched the nook versus the kindle this afternoon for much too long of a time. I concluded that if I was going to buy an eReader, it would probably be the nook. After looking at it and playing with it for a bit, I came to the unfortunate decision that I just didn't like it. I could still see the pixelation of the letters (possibly because I'm blind and have she-man strength contacts), and I also didn't like not being able to fan the pages of the book I was holding (obviously, who doesn't like to do that?). I was disappointed, because I really, really wanted to like it. Anywho, I did buy

two mini moleskin notebooks 

and the sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

I finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stiegg Larson two days ago. I bought the mass market paperback, which was about 640 pages, and I read it in about 4 days. Getting past the first 150 pages was a bit difficult, but once it got going, it really got going. I would totally recommend it, and I will be looking forward to reading the next one in the series.

I'm starting some heavy traveling this Wednesday. Any other recommendations for books to take along on the plane and car rides? (I have The Help and Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society as well.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Biscuits

I got up this morning with every intention of starting immediately onto my graduate school work. I'm taking too many classes this summer and had put off the work to the last minutes once again. However, true to fashion, I decided to check my reader first and ended up finding some new blogs. One that I love but is going to send me to the poor house is this one. While scrolling back through some of her old posts (she posts about fashion, fun finds, and food), I found a recipe for straberry shortcake, which led me to a recipe for biscuits. I hadn't eaten and happened to have all the ingredients in my pantry, so I got to baking.



If you look at the recipe, it says to cut the edges, which you can see I didn't do. They turned out messy but delicious, and I ate four. My excuse is that I balanced the four out between breakfast and lunch and only otherwise ate a peach. Not sure if that makes it okay...but let's just pretend.

On another exciting note, I got a refund check in the mail from moving out of my apartment. That was a complete and exciting surprise. Now, I have to decide what to do with it...save it or buy a nook/kindle (which I've been eyeing on and off for a while)?


vs.
Do you know anything about/have a kindle or a nook? Which is better?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

the morning after.

As I sit here in the den waiting for the second load of dishes to finish washing, while the next two loads still sit on the counters, I decided it would be the perfect time to tell you about my dinner party last night! Seeing that it was our first dinner party and we had 9 people, I forgot to snap any pictures of the event :(. However, I have some great pictures of the morning after!

The party was a big success, so my boyfriend says. I'm fairly self-critical, and having 9 people eat five recipes that I made felt like putting little pieces of myself out there on a plate and waiting for people to express their opinions. It was a big frightening. Overall, though, I think people liked it.

Picking the menu was the hardest part. It took me several hours to finalize and get rid of things people didn't like and ensure that there was a range of colors on the table. Here is what I ended up with.

my menu:

drinks:

appetizers:
crostata with apples, walnuts, and gorgonzola
crostata with mushrooms and pancetta
one of the girls brought a cheese ball. yum.

dinner:
chicken picatta with pasta
sweet & salty tomato salad

dessert:
another girl brought a reese's brownie cup. also yum.

What was left of the crostata...
 

my flower arrangement...

the sangria in my fun pitcher...

making the sangria...


All of the recipes turned out well. Prepping everything ahead of time was smart, but cooking the chicken for so many during the party was a little hard (luckily I had some help from two friends that were here). If I did it again I would cook it ahead of time and keep it warm in the oven until it was ready to serve.

This was the best Sangria recipe I've made, but it definitely gets better with time. I think I let mine sit about 12 hours and I can imagine that it will be even better today.

The crostata was really good, and it doesn't get less good as it cools off, so it was a nice appetizer. It was fairly simple. I'm not really a pastry girl, but I did make my own crust. The recipe came from this book:
 

While we ate, we sat at the dining room table and everyone reminisced about their college days. I'm the only one that didn't go to school with them (as I only moved here two years ago), but it was fun to hear more stories (I know this group of people from my boyfriend). We chatted about one of the couple's wedding at the beginning of April and relived moments from that (there was an open bar...). We laughed, we cried, and then everyone went home.

Before I go, I wanted to leave you with a few of my thoughts on the dinner party (or maybe just dinner parties in general) :

1. It isn't a good idea to drink two glasses of sangria before you're supposed to follow a recipe.
2. Using almost a whole box of butter is okay when you aren't the one eating it all.
3. Don't tell people to bring drinks if you want them to drink what you made and bought.

Now, I have to go clean up what's left of the mess (my boyfriend cleaned up most of it last night after he told me to go to bed :) ).

Do you have dinner parties where you cook all the food? Where do you find your menu? What's your favorite meal that you've had at someone else's house?


Thursday, July 8, 2010

money, money, money

In the spirit of my last post, my friend Alison's comment, and the fact that the first word of my subtitle is pennies, I've decided to write my very first money-related (doesn't that sound so much less daunting than financial) post here as a little girl in the big world.

I love personal finance. I love reading books about personal finance. Stick with me here if you hate talking about money, unless it's what you're spending it on...I promise it isn't going to be boring or overwhelming. Here are a few of my favorites that are good to get started with:

You have to read them all with a grain of salt and pick which tip you like best. Suze will knock you over the head with her 6-8 month emergency fund and you could play drinking games related to the number of times Dave Ramsey says "debt snowball". That being said, they're fabulous and a great way to dip your big toe into the world of money-related books.

This is where I got started. I owe it partially to my dad, who let me buy stocks with my allowance and birthday money growing up, and partially to my friend Darrah, whom I lived with after college and was also interested in these types of books.

My first move that set me on my way to understanding finances better was to open a high-yield savings account. I picked e*trade. There are so many out there that have good rates; I think e*trade is actually not one of the higher right now. When I started, I was earning 5.25% on my money, and that's obviously not possible right now, but I can assure you that 1%+ is better than what your checking account or brick and mortar bank savings account is paying you. Go to bankrate.com to find a bank that you're comfortable with (they have ratings and rates there). Then, start one! While I think I only made about $75 on mine last year, it was better than $0 leaving it in checking.

Once opening one (the big leap), I just got used to transferring money into it online every month. I started small, but once I saw the money growing, I liked to look back and see how much I was making once the interest posted at the end of the month. I made a commitment to myself that any money that I put into my savings account wasn't to be touched unless it was something that I had pre-planned to save for. I've been good about this since starting; I was careful not to transfer something over unless I knew I didn't need it for the month.

Getting comfortable with an online high-yield savings account was the first step for me in my financial journey. Since starting three years ago, I've continued to keep a high-yield account or two, but I've also ventured into other areas of finances. More on that later.

Don't get me wrong. I haven't tightened my belt to the point where I don't splurge on an occasional

pair of these,

one of these,
or one of these (I am the biggest sucker for coffee table books and paper products).

I just mean that I like to think about where my money is going and feel that I have the knowledge and power to make decisions that I know will put me in a good place, financially, in the future. It's a choice that I make and I would encourage anyone and everyone to make as well. (As a side note, if you aren't saving anything each month, every financial guru will tell you that there are two options you have: spend less or earn more. I decided I wasn't happy with the amount I was saving and stepped it up by tutoring after school and starting another side job.)

Do you have a high-yield saving account or online account of any sort? What do you do to watch your money and control your spending? What's your most recent splurge that was just totally worth it?