europe

What is Christmas with no snow?

As you may or may not know, I live in Florida. Right now, it is 79F outside, sunny and it does not feel like Christmas at all. My inflatable snowman in the front yard looks a little ridiculous surrounded by green palm trees. Same goes for the Santa and the reindeers display since if Santa ever landed by my house his landing would have been really rough, having no snow and all. Or maybe his team is used to a grassy terrain?

So it’s Christmas…. but with no snow it is missing that…. je ne sais quoi. I can’t enjoy a hot beverage by the fireplace since I am already in a tank top and shorts. It is too hot to have the fireplace going. My only snowflakes are the ones I hung up on my tree (DIY for the win, ya’ll!!).

I probably should have gone to a snowy place this year. But money is tight and I don’t like to spend money on what I cannot afford. I am sitting on my couch, reminiscing my days in Europe. Honestly, I am re-reading parts of my book because the way I described Jenna’s snowy days in France are legitimately what takes me back to the days of snowy bliss.

So what is Christmas with no snow? Well, it is weird. It feels like something is missing. You may say Christmas is about Christ. Spending time with your family. For some it is about presents. And it is all that. But there is something even better about going to church on Christmas, marching through the snow, hiding your cold hands tucked deeply into your heavy jacket, breathing heavily into the wool scarf, and snowflakes falling on your head.

***Merry Christmas everyone!!***

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10 experts in 1 C-grade student

I’ve never been so good in the field of science (hence, I got C’s or B’s if I was lucky). But I thought hey, it’s ok, some are better at it than others and my forte has always been the creative side of the brain.

That was until I was struggling to figure out what they put in my joghurt, my make up and my shampoo. The food/make up industry is making me re-learn everything- how a body works, what is good for your body, types of skin, types of vitamins, how organs work and are affected by what I eat etc. I mean, it is annoying. I have to be a nutritionist, dermatologist, biologist, psychologist, chemist, dietitian, pharmacist, materials scientist, environmental analyst and a researcher all in one! I am not capable of doing that people!… And I shouldn’t have to be all that!

I am appalled by how meticulously I have to look at every product I buy. In the food section I have to make sure it doesn’t have hidden sugars (like, oh, just 18g of sugar in a small yogurt), don’t even get me started on bread products and foods that have random trans fats etc. I mean, yeah, I know you will say just stay away from processed foods. I do that, for the most part, but darn it if I crave a yogurt or bread every few days do I really have to spend ten minutes looking at labels wondering which one is the worst for me?

Do I really have to learn chemistry to figure out the sulfites or whatever they are putting in my shampoo is actually bad for the hair but it is cheap to make? Do I really?

Things need to get better regulated in the States, I’m sorry. It shouldn’t be ok to dump sugar in every product out there just because they can, it shouldn’t be ok to stuff people with trans fats just because they can and it shouldn’t be ok to add the crazy chemical components to the products we use on our skin/hair etc just because they can. It just shouldn’t be!!

I know, as consumers we have the choice of not buying these products, but you know, sometimes I just want to buy a nice piece of meat without having to wonder what kind of treatment the poor animals went through and that steak shouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg. I know for a fact that for example Aldi, the German discount retailer, had much better meat in Europe than it does here. And it has everything to do with what they can get away with. So I want that quality here in America too, people. That’s all I want.

It’s sad that the USP (unique selling proposition) of some companies is that their products don’t contain “the fake stuff.” How on Earth did we get to this sad point?

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The purpose of having dreams

Blah, 2016 did not start well for me. I mean, all the problems I’ve had so far have been first world problems, but since I live in a”first world” I tend to consider them to be actual problems.

I’ve been stuck deliberating at what point will I give up on my dreams. When will I just say, you know what, I’m done. I am done trying. My dreams of becoming a published author (Idk, self-published on Amazon just doesn’t have that ring to it), dreams of becoming a good illustrator (not great, just good- even solid is ok with me), dreams of having all the stories I keep having in my head read by hundreds of people.

They are ambitious dreams to have, I realize that. Not many are fortunate enough to ever get loyal readers and most of their books, their stories end up in a folder called “my book” on their computer where it sits as a sore reminder of unfulfilled dreams.

However, I realized this the other day as I was jotting down the first few lines in my new diary (it’s really pretty, a little old school but I don’t mind it)- I realized that succumbing to reality is why you should never let go of your dreams. Perhaps you should modify them, change them, alter them, make a few alterations here and there but no one should ever give up on their dreams. Because if you give up on your dreams, you let reality win- and reality can be so dull, so cruel and so factual. And I refuse to ever be dull or cruel or factual. Ever.

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Area dog more than happy to be a couch potato

“Would you look at her,” said Tanya with a hint of despise. She was referring to her dog Stella who was stretched out across the couch in the living room. “I think when she dies we will bury the couch with her.”

Tanya and I nonchalantly took a seat next to Stella. “Is it really that bad if a dog enjoys being on the couch?” I asked Tanya. “You love the couch as much as the next person.” “I do,” she responded and took a bite of the grilled cheese sandwich she made inspired by the one seen on America’s Test Kitchen. “But this dog, she almost abuses the couch. I’ve never seen anyone so happy just spreading across the thing in multiple ways. She lays on her back, her belly, her side- you name it.”

I looked at Stella. Her eyes gave away content and a sense of bliss. Soft cushions were supporting her big head as her butt was slowly sinking into the couch. This dog was happy, so happy to be a couch potato.

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Life without A/C

“It’s the devil,” my Swedish roommate whined. “It ruins the environment,” my German roommate assured me as he was backed up all his whining with staggering statistics. Living in France in the summer is much harder than people realize. A lot of those beautiful, old buildings do not have A/C. Particularly the student rooms- we were all meant to sweat until our clothing was wet inside out. I think I wrote my last will during those hot, summer days, as I was sure I wasn’t going to make it.

As I sit in my A/C room and reminisce my study abroad in France, I can’t thank Willis Carrier enough. A Cornell University graduate, he was the one that came up with modern electrical air conditioning. He was the one that makes my life, on a daily basis, much more tolerable. Living in Florida, life without A/C is unthinkable these days. People pass out from heat because it is so hot sometimes, and then somebody will tell me that A/C is bad? No, sir. A/C saves lives. According to CDC, an average of cca. 700 people die each year. Now, I’m not saying they were all trapped in their homes without A/C but I’m certain A/C could have helped. Unless they were stuck wandering the desert, then I guess they didn’t stand a chance really.

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What about the young people, Europe?

Europe, the land of the kind socialists and good-hearted people, is exploiting its young work force. Every time I am done with my Skype session with my friends from Europe, I am astounded. Simply astounded. The stories they tell me….

Young, fresh out of college graduates cannot find jobs, for months, even years! Even in Germany, the amount of people seeking for jobs is so high that students are paying agencies to find them internships- INTERNSHIPS- which are UNPAID! They are willing to pay to to get a job and work for free just to get experience. Companies have young students, graduates and even those with work experience by the balls (pardon my French). And they are exploiting them just like cruel Americans make their people work. Before anyone goes on about American crisis, I assure you, it may have been bad a couple years ago but it has been picking up and my God you could at least get a job at Wendy’s.

Many in Europe complain about Americans…who “work hard all the time. No one has vacation, no break ever”- they say. “Your healthcare system sucks and you work like a slave.” But what happened to Europe I ask you? Why is Europe failing to see that the future is in the young, spirited and driven young workforce, and not the one that  has a degree but brings you coffee, makes copies for you and secretly hates you for doing it? And why are those lucky ones that find jobs significantly underpaid?

I leave you with these thoughts, those that have comments, type away in the section below…. 😉

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Russia didn’t win the Eurovision. Phew!

First off, as an American I had no idea what Eurovision was until I did my study abroad in France (which – just throwing that out there- inspired my book “Six months of Croissants, Cafe cremes, Parties and Love available on Amazon :))

At first sight, Eurovision meant glitter, pop fever and everyone dressing up like they were about to go to a space convention. It was a bizarre sight, but I’ve been watching it for almost seven years now and I enjoy it. I love to love or hate the songs being performed and I gasp and shout at the TV when countries award points.

This year, it was about as political as usual; countries were awarding highest scores to their neighbors or their economic alliances. Okay, fine. We are used to it at this point. But this year I was completely and utterly against Russia winning. Why? I didn’t care much for the song but mostly it felt wrong if they won. With Ireland overwhelmingly voting for same-sex marriage on the same say and celebrating, I couldn’t help but think how they treat gays in Russia.

Russia is a very closed-minded/intolerant country. As I saw Conchita Wurst sitting next to the Russian representative Polina Gagarina who was leading in the half time, I could not help but think how unaccepted Conchita would be in Russia. How they would treat her being who she is. How they treat LGBT community. So this year, specially, I cheered for the Enrique Iglesias/model runway looking Swedish Mans Zelmerlow who not only had amazing graphics to support his act but had an uplifting song and a message that will continue the open-minded legacy of Conchita Wurst and not pull it back. Because…. as much as it should be about music, it is about something more to, and in this case it was about “building bridges” and not burning them.

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Is life without bread worth living?

I have been trying to eat no carbs (well, let’s be honest- LESS carbs) and I truly am struggling.

In the mornings I find myself confused, puzzled and almost sad because I used to always start my day with bread. Grilled cheese sandwich, PBJ sandwich, omlette with toasted bread, toasted bread with butter and honey, garlic bread with cream cheese, baked ham and cheese rollups…. I mean the list goes on, people!

Now, I stare at the fridge and I can not possibly think of things to eat in the morning without bread! I consulted a few recipe websites, and boy oh boy, no bread breakfast requires cooking. I hate cooking! And I hate cauliflower! I do not want to eat cauliflower hash! And who in their right mind eats vegetable miso soup with chickpeas for breakfast? Have people lost their minds?

The suffering continues through lunch. Like my Grandma, I always dip my bread in soup and wipe the plate with it. Now I can’t do that anymore. And how can I turn down endless bread sticks at Olive Garden? Am I supposed to wait for other food to come out and not indulge myself in warm bread sticks? How?

As the night falls, my bread-less life proves to be a challenge. Pass on the sausage bread, Leah! Forget about the pita bread pizza, Leah! Don’t touch the pretzels, Leah! Agh, end the misery!

I love the simplicity of bread, its practicality and its deliciousness. And as I (try) to live my life without it, I ponder…. Is life without bread worth living?

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Time to go

A week or so later, the plane crash tactically planned by the German co-pilot still haunts me. I mean, it has been in the media so much too that I can not look away anymore. But that’s almost beside the point.

What haunts me is the conversation I had with my friend. He’s in the military, and I know he has seen a lot of things already and he definitely has a different take on the world than I do. He is much more brave, that’s for sure. But I remember talking to him about it, and he felt bad, of course, but then he added: “maybe it was their time to go.” How was this their time to go? They did not decide upon it, but some other asshole decided it for them.

There is really something scary that so much of our lives are dictated about other people’s actions. Accidents happen every day, and those are inevitable. But mass murders like this? It is not in any way, shape or form fair to have a life ended this way. Yes, before you comment, life is unfair but there is just something so fundamentally wrong when you have to go that way. And I do not think that is your time to go. That is someone else deciding that for you- your time to go is when you die of natural cause.

What do you think- would you accept the fact if something like this happened to you? Does it even matter in the end how you go or when (since it is after the fact?)

Either way, R.I.P. innocent victims. This world can be a cruel place.

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Dinners on plastic plates

The first time I was ever almost stoned to death because I brought plastic plates for dinner was during my first dinner in France. Growing up, my mother stored all the fancy china Grandma inherited in a special cabinet, while she made all of us use plastic plates. I did not think anything of it- Mom did not have a dish washer and -therefore-logical thinking- we used plastic plates so she did not have to clean the dishes after.

And then I came to France. Study abroad and all, with people from all over the world (which btw, my book on the study abroad is available on Amazon). Anyway, we were almost like representatives from the United Nations or something, gathered behind a tiny table. Trying to be helpful, I brought plastic plates, plastic cups and plastic silverware to eat with. It was not cheap either, so I really thought I was doing everyone a favor. Well, I guessed wrong. Needless to say, most attacks came from the Germans and the nature-loving Scandinavians. I think I had to listen to “how wasteful” Americans are through the whole dinner. I never felt so judged. Is it really so wrong to use plastic plates? Isn’t using a dish washers equally wasteful? Why I am such a horrible person?

The type of treatment I received was more than brutal. Even the Canadians loved to bash my wastefulness and hatefulness for nature. But I did not care- all I kept thinking was my Mom, and how many nights those plastic plates saved her from being the dishwasher. Instead of cleaning the dishes for half hour, she was able to sit down, relax and talk to her kids. That’s worth something too, right?

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