Italy vs USA

Happy Tuesday family and friends! I’ve been back in Italy for nearly two weeks, and let me just say, this transition was much more difficult than last time I “moved” here. Not sure why, but I’m back on the wagon and ready to share some of my comparisons of Italy to things we love in the good ‘ole US of A. There is one thing that is available in Italy and the USA though… betcha can’t guess what it is…

Tea of the day: Irish Breakfast
Brand: Twinings

Color: As with most teas I tend to drink, this one is quite brown. But more of a rich chocolate color, than dull muddy color.
Taste: This is the first of the “classics” in my Twinings variety box. If you have a stereotypical idea of what tea tastes like, this is it. It’s earthy but without being too bitter. The Irish Breakfast is to English Breakfast what dark roast is to medium roast in terms of coffee. It’s got some more body to it which really diminishes the need to add anything, unless that’s what you prefer.
Ideas for next time I have this: I LOVE adding honey to my tea, almost regardless of what flavor or brand I’m drinking. It’s a great way to add some sweetness without adding straight sugar and some health benefits. I might even see about “double-dipping” and brewing this with a flavored one to see if I can get a a fruity and earthy taste at one time, like the Country Peach Passion or Lemon Zinger.


If you think of something else you want to see compared, leave a comment! 🙂


Driving

So, imagine if were allowed to drive like Nascar on the freeway and not get in trouble. Passing people who went to slow even without an official lane to do it in. And don’t even worry about your turn signals; that’s too much energy. THAT’s the way people drive in in Italy…. on the autostrada (Italian highways) AND normal roads! Also, watch out for that moped, they’re the ones who pass cars the most often.

Most roads that aren’t the autostrada are 2- to 4-lane roads, so that means there’s no way to pass if someone is driving slow. If you think the speed limit of 45 MPH is slow on USA city roads, try 40 KPH (25 MPH)! And the autostrada is even worse! 70-80 MPH = 44-50 MPH. You’re probably thinking, “who even follows that!?” The answer: no one!

This is just my opinion because it is maddening to have a lower speed limit, fewer lanes, and crazier drivers. The only upside is this means my Nascar driver itch is being scratched. 😉 However, I do miss there being more reasonable speeds and space so…

Winner: USA


Travel

First off, the culture in Italy is amazing and so close to where we live. And the history and culture in Europe really isn’t that far either! Technically, Europe is larger than the USA, but that’s because we often forget that it includes a portion of Russia. The countries more commonly thought of when people they think of Europe are smaller and much closer together. Where we are in Italy, we can get to practically anywhere in Europe in about three hours. Our flight from Naples to Barcelona was literally one hour! And London is about two hours.

Not only is it closer, but the airfare totally rivals that of traveling within the US. I can visit several states for the same amount, usually less, that it costs me to visit a entirely different country. With the popularity of Airbnb, it’s easy to find accommodations without breaking the bank. I personally, prefer Booking.com, but we’ve had some major wins with Airbnb.

Winner: Italy


Heating

If you read the Top 5 Technology Things I’m Getting Used To post, you should have seen this one coming, haha. I miss central heating so much! I don’t know if it’s our type of radiators or what, but the ability to heat a room is pretty much non-existent unless the room is small and the door is closed. Still pretty attached to all the blankets and space heater. Luckily, it’s getting warmer during the day.

Winner: USA


Pizza

My first real job was at a pizza restaurant. I can remember eating pizza my entire life pretty much. I was a “just cheese” girl until I moved to Arizona. I literally had pepperoni one time because that’s all there was lol. Now, I’m open to more pizza toppings, but stay away from most veggies still haha. Anyway…

I’ve had thin, thick, medium (what I’d consider Domino’s and Papa John’s normal crust), and deep dish, but nothing has Italy beat. There’s just something about the dough here and the char from the wood-burning oven that gives it a more delicate flavor that doesn’t overpower any of the other parts other parts of the pizza, but rather perfectly compliments them. Maybe it’s because there’s less gluten in most of the flour produced? I only bring that up because I eat pizza 2-3 times a week and I LOST weight. The sauce is not heavy and the cheese is SO good! I love me some mozzarella slathered on a pizza but the bufala mozzarella is so indulgent it’s not necessary.

Let me say this. I had pizza a couple times when I was home recently, but the whole time I was craving the Italian version so…

Winner: Italy


Food variety

Did you know there’s Chinese food in Italy? And they’ve got sushi too. And Mexican food is slowly coming around. BUT there still isn’t quite the variety that is readily available in the US. I’m not saying that the variety in either place is 100% authentic (except the Italian here, lol), but my taste buds appreciate what’s offered more in the US.

I’ve yet to see other types of Asian cuisines, like Thai and Indian, here yet. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. And poki bowls haven’t made it over here yet. Still haven’t found a place that has boba tea. And chicken wings are few, far between, and not nearly as good. For a girl who didn’t start liking more spice until she was a legal adult, I’m surprised how much I miss the spice!

Winner: USA


Wine

I think this is a no brainer, haha. I’ve learned so much more about the wine-making process by touring different facilities. Did you know that white grapes have their skins removed before being fermented and red grapes retain their skins while fermenting? It’s pretty cool to see the vineyards and get walked through the process.

Being in the USA and not a huge wino, I was only introduced to the more popular varieties of wine. Cabernet sauvignon. Merlot. Pinot grigio. Pinot noir. Chardonnay. And literally, that’s all I could name before coming here. There’s so many more regions and types of grapes than I knew. Falanghina is my favorite white wine, and brunello is an amazing red! You can read more about my wine experience in Italy in my Favorite wineries in Italy – Ranked post.

I’ll definitely be shopping for a different selection of wines when I am living in the US again, and for that…

Winner: Italy


Coffee

Alright, considering I tried to avoid Starbucks as much as possible when I was living in the US, it was a real treat to have while I was home visiting. I may have indulged a few too many times, but we don’t have it in Italy, unless you buy the k-cups or coffee grounds at the commissary or something. Also, I do like having a larger cup of coffee rather than the smaller quantities offered at local Italian cafés. I mean, I have a Keurig at home for a reason and I order two cappuccinos for a reason when I go out. And coffee in the US is more expensive. Probably because of the quantity we drink it in, but regardless, I can get an entire pizza for the same cost as a grande frappuccino.

BUT there is one type of coffee that I have never seen in the US and even searched for while back home. I could not find it! I googled… asked coffee brewers… nothing. If you have been or go to Italy, order any type of coffee with ginseng. Ginseng cappuccino. Ginseng caffé. Ginseng moccacino. If you’re like me, it may sound weird, but I promise it’s SO good. My life won’t be the same when I leave here and I’m determined to find a way to bring this delightful caffeinated creation back with me. They aren’t any more or less expensive than other coffees, but they could be and I’d pay it!

Maybe it’s because I’m more of a tea drinker these days, and each country has their own qualities that outweigh each other…

Winner: TIE!


If you think of something else you want to see compared, leave a comment! 🙂


This is not a sponsored post. It does not contain affiliate links.

Closing the Gap – Military Wife Myths

What’s it like being a military life?

I’m in the midst of preparing to head back to Italy and it’s a bit overwhelming. I’ve been away from my husband for over a month and I kind of feel like it’s the first time I’ll be visiting again, except this time I get to stay. There’s always been a combination of shipping items over and figuring out how to pack everything else that, in the end, really ends up being a lot easier. I can guarantee in 24 hours I’ll admit all this stress really wasn’t worth it.

Since my husband and I are FINALLY closing the distance (YAY! The sponsorship process is over! We get to finally live together officially!), I thought I’d let you all know some of the common questions I get often being a military wife and now as a sponsored military wife.

I usually put a tea review, but right now, I want to get this blog post out there and I’ll add a tea review later. 🙂

Did you get to fly home for free?

Well, that certainly would have been amazing! No, I do not get to fly home for free now that we are married. There are Space A flights but a lot is dependent on who else is being transported on that flight and why. There’s so many other individuals that could bump me from a spot on a Space A flight (which would be free) and that journey home could be drastically long.

What I’ve gotten really good at is finding really affordable flights and making our money work to our advantage. This mean sometimes I fly from a larger airport to save on airfare, don’t opt in for in-flight meals, and use flight rewards from my credit card to get a little hopper flight back to Phoenix. Let me know if you’d like a blog post with some of those tips.

How come your husband didn’t wear his uniform in your wedding?

For those of you who know me in person, you know I got married “twice.” Once to be legally wed and start our sponsorship process, and the second to enjoy with our family and close friends. Neither time did my husband wear his dress uniform, and I’m ok with that. It was entirely HIS decision to make.

First, there is no rule that says, “If you’re in the military and get married, you must wear your uniform.” It’s completely a choice that’s left up to the service member. As I thought more about it, there’s more reasons service members may choose to wear their dress uniform, because they primary reason I could come up with not to wear it is very simple. They don’t want to. Then THAT reason can go in zillions of different directions.

Here’s some reasons I thought of that make a whole lot of sense for a service member to wear their dress uniform when getting married.

  • It’s the nicest outfit they own at the time.
  • A new suit/tux/outfit is not affordable at the time.
  • The service member’s participation in the military is a very strong part of their whole life.
  • They want to wear it.

Bullet point #3 might throw some people off. In my husband’s case, the Navy is a large part of his life right now, but hasn’t been a large part of his life as a whole. He enlisted after graduating college, having a career, accomplishing a huge feat in refereeing, and was quite a bit older than most other recruits. Had he enlisted right out of high school MAYBE it would have been a different story.

If you’re married, how come you’re not living together?

Unfortunately, it’s not always as easy as simply getting married to be able to live together when it comes to the military. It’s an even bigger pain in the butt when you’re stationed OCONUS (Outside the Continental US), and even MORE complicated if the service member had orders there before you get married.

Here’s the short story. We got married and immediately started the paperwork needed to get command sponsorship for me to officially join my husband. That took almost four months to get the approval and continue moving in the direction of getting a visa for me, which took another three months. So after seven months, I’m finally in a position where I can officially live with my husband where he is stationed.

You need a visa even if you’re there with the military…?

Ok not so much a question as a statement said in a confused tone.

Yes, I need a visa to stay in the country my husband is stationed in. This isn’t always the case with each country, but with Italy, it is. Service members do not need a visa, but spouses and other dependents do. Not only do I need a visa, but I’ll get what in someway is an Italian green card, called a soggiorno.

#FunFact! I can stay in Italy the length of my visa, and can travel throughout the Schengen area as I please without adhering to tourist restrictions!

Now that you’re married, why aren’t you having kids right away? Don’t you get more money for having kids?

No, we don’t get more money for having kids while my husband is in the military. So what’s the rush?! 

It’s a common misconception that the more kids a military family has, the more money the service member gets in their paycheck. That may have been the case at one point (which I have no idea when that would be), but it is not true now. Once a service member gets married, they get allowances with dependent rates. That rate is the same whether there’s one dependent (usually the spouse) or 5 (spouse + kids).

Basically, we’re in a different country with lots of access to areas we won’t be able to get to as easily once we PCS. Having kids is not the priority right now. We have a single income and hopes of seeing as much of Europe as we can before returning to the US.

If you have other questions about being a military wife, leave a comment or sending me a message! If there’s enough, maybe you’ll see a part 2 to this post. 🙂

Christmas movies: Love it or Leave it

What Christmas movies do I like?

Hello there fellow winterlings! Apparently winter is coming AND here simultaneously. There’s still technically two more days of pumpkin spice everything, colorful leaves, and other fall things UNLESS you live somewhere that’s already gotten snow, rainy days, and temps below 40 degrees. I think Mother Nature caught a cold early this year just like I did. I lost my voice two days ago and have been nursing it back through a self-prescribed order of rest, Christmas movies, and tea…

Tea of the day: Lemon Zinger
Brand:
 Celestial Seasonings
Color: For a lemon tea, this is a medium brownish color. Probably from the rosehips. My surprise comes from knowing other Celestial Zingers are very brightly colored in accordance with their fruit flavor.
Taste: The lemon is not overpowering, which I like. It’s almost like I squeezed some lemon juice into a cup of English Breakfast. Perfectly balanced in my opinion.
Ideas for next time I have this: Well, more how have I been drinking this for the last few days. I’ve added some honey and Apple Cider Vinegar to help ease my sore throat and bring my voice back. The ACV brings so tartness but the lemon and honey soften that so the bite isn’t too strong. Two days in and my throat is almost pain free!

Between it being cold outside and not feeling the greatest, I’ve taken the time to watch quite a few Christmas movies on Netflix.

1. A Wish for Christmas – If you’re really bored, it’s sweet

This movie brought to you by Hallmark! Who would have guessed!? It stars Lacey Chabert (the girl that didn’t make fetch happen) in the lead role of Sara. Santa grants her a wish so she asks for more confidence to stand up for herself. Once her wish is granted, she gets the opportunity to pitch her marketing proposal for a company… and find love?

This movie is your classic Hallmark cliché movie where the main character finds love around Christmas time in an unexpected way. For general enjoyment, I’d watch this movie again. It definitely has a good lesson in confidence and how it can be beneficial. That’s the biggest takeaway for me from this movie. #spoileralert Can we please get away from the boss-employee romances though? The lesson here is that those should be avoided.

2. Christmas Inheritance – just… don’t

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When the party heiress to a multi-million dollar company acts irresponsibly, what can save her? Oh, delivering a family Christmas card to her father’s friend with only $100 in hand and being restricted from letting anyone in Snow Falls know who she really is. Ellen leaves to deliver said Christmas card to small town Snow Falls but the recipient Zeke is off and away with no known return in sight. Frustrated, Ellen sticks around and gets into the Christmas spirit by lying to her host about who she is, because she’s supposed to. One townee knows the truth because Ellen resembles her mother, but doesn’t spoil the secret publicly. THAT would have been interesting. Does she deliver the card?! You’ll have to drink a lot of coffee before watching this to stay awake to find the answer.

Netflix is trying to cash in on Hallmark’s Christmas romance monopoly with this flick. Christmas Inheritance loses points for being ridiculously annoying and incredibly unrealistic to its target audience. Yes, I understand these Christmas romances aren’t realistic ever, but this is just beyond me. She can’t make it back to her boyfriend’s work Christmas party because 1) Zeke is still who knows where and 2) a storm is rolling in. So said boyfriends magically gets a flight to Snow Falls to surprise her. If she can’t get out, how does he get in!? Also, the attempt at flirty banter between Ellen and her taxi-driving host had my eyes rolling the entire time. Save yourself, skip this movie, and mail your Christmas cards next time.

3. El Camino Christmas – maybe it just wasn’t my taste

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This movie destroyed my hopes and dreams of what it could be! To me, it has an all-star cast. Tim Allen, Dax Shepard, Jessica Alba, and Kurtwood Smith. I’ll tell you what… Red from That 70s Show would have told this movie to stick itself up its own ass. Then I realized, “Oh, none of those people have been in much recently.” Granted, maybe it’s just not my style movie but I just could not get into it. And the Christmas element that I desire in a movie that has Christmas in the title was largely lacking. This is one of those movies that someone wrote and they said, “It’s missing something. Let’s have it set at Christmas!” NO!!!!!!!

Eric, the protagonist but not really, is searching for his father and manages to hold up a liquor store in the middle of nowhere. Deputy and Sheriff are outside trying to neutralize the situation outside. Eventually, there’s shots fired everywhere, a kid in danger (why didn’t Deputy Dumbass and Sheriff Stupidhead work harder to get him out first?), and deaths that have no meaning EXCEPT #spoileralert the long last father sacrifices himself! Give it a watch and tell me what you think.

4. A Christmas Prince – I hope they make a sequel!

achristmasprince-rosemciversource-2 Yes!! Netflix scored with this one! I was SO pleasantly surprised, and I see what you did there Netflix, leaving that ending wide open for a sequel. You better deliver! I won’t be the only disappointed person if you don’t.

Amber, played by Rose McIver (if you haven’t, check her out in iZombie), is an aspiring journalist sent to cover a press conference regarding the throne ascension of the Aldovian royal family. The press conference is canceled and she somehow becomes the tutor to the young princess to attempt to uncover some scandal lurking amongst the family regarding Prince Richard. #spoileralert A few plot twists later, Amber gets what would have been a GREAT story, saves the throne for Prince Richard, and gets him as a fiancé.

Alright, I gave some grief before about lack of realism, but this is too good to pass up. It’s like The Princess Diaries, but Mia is split into two people, Amber and Prince Richard. Prince Richard is the royal part, and Amber gets the makeover. I enjoyed seeing Amber actually getting close to the royal family while providing legitimate help (I hope since she didn’t get fired as a tutor) instead of just skeezing around offering excuses for why she wasn’t tutoring on some given day.

The acting was cheesy but not as cheesy as Christmas Inheritance, so in the battle for which Netflix holiday movie is best, the winner is… A Christmas Prince.

5. The Spirit of Christmas – Totally watching again!

Kate is a lawyer sent to oversee the appraisal and selling of an inn just before the holidays. She begrudgingly goes and has to deal with a slew of appraisers and townsfolk claiming the inn is haunted. Despite the inn closing the day she arrives, she stays as the current executor. The first night, a man enters the inn in the middle of the night and knows the security code! Gasp! When the innkeeper returns, he informs Kate that the man, Daniel, is the ghost who materializes for a few times each year right before Christmas. Kate sticks around and attempts to uncover the reason behind Daniel’s lack of “moving on.” Does she find love in the meantime?

Alright, another highly unrealistic Christmas romance BUT it is the most original storyline that I’ve watched in a long time. It tickles my paranormal romance bone so nicely. Daniel struts around in a very Darcy-esque way (any Pride and Prejudice lovers out there?) to keep Kate off his love-stricken scent, but the audience knows better. Kate catches on and you see their romance start to develop despite the odds that Daniel IS a ghost.

I’m not going to spoil this one. You MUST watch it! I know I will be a few more times.

What Christmas movies do you like? Leave your own reviews in the comments!

*SOME LINKS ARE AMAZON AFFILIATES LINKS AND I MIGHT MAKE A LITTLE BIT IF YOU PURCHASE SOMETHING.

Favorite wineries in Italy – Ranked

Where have you had wine?

Happy Tuesday once again family and friends, and random people who may stumble their way onto this post. 😉 As I sit here in a slight bit of agony from going to the gym after weeks of Netflix binge-watching, I figured that I would tell you all about my different experiences at wineries that I’ve visited in the last few months. I’ll start by saying, the wine in Italy is superb! I feel like I’m just now being introduced to what wine really is AND I’ll probably still get a bottle of Barefoot back in the states for old nostalgia’s sake.

DON’T BE FOOLED! I will be taking more about my experiences and these wineries, not so much about the wines. I’m not a sommelier. However, I grabbed the tea that to me most resembled wine for this week’s review…

Tea of the day: Black Cherry Berry
Brand:
 Celestial Seasonings
Color: It started off a very light brown color, then when I swirled the water, a very beautiful auburn color came out of the tea bag. It’s super pretty! This is what I imagine Fall in a mug looks like.
Taste: There’s definitely cherry in there! Similar to the Country Peach Passion (read the review here!), the fruit flavor really overpowers any of the herbal flavors. I feel like I’m drinking heated Kool-Aid a bit, but with a more refined flavor. Probably the black cherry vs cherry.
Ideas for next time I have this: I really enjoy more herbal and earthy flavors when drinking tea, so I may add a lighter black tea (like Irish Breakfast) or my Matcha Lemon (review here!) tea to bring out some of those other flavors. Also, another tea to try cold when it warms up.

5. Bianchini

Bianchini has been around since 1880, as you’ll see on their label. The family was very nice and took us on a tour of their grounds where the vineyard is. The grounds are beautiful! Roses sprouted at the end of some rows of grapes and I saw the first bit of fall here. The even showed us a cellar that had hundreds and hundreds of bottles aging as part of their winemaking process.

As lovely as our hosts were, I felt their wine was mediocre compared to others on this list. We had lunch with wine tasting in a large room. The lunch was very traditional and typical of the visits. Bread, olive oil, bufala mozzarella, prosciutto, salame piccante, potato pizza, and broccolini. All of these was taken in while a somewhat creepy little puppet watched over us.

Oh, and before you think you’re going crazy… if you think you see a phallic symbol in their 1880 logo, it’s there on purpose and they told us about it. 😉

4. Pagano

This was a very small experience and had some additions that weren’t included in the other tours I’ve been on. Ever tasted wine before it was wine? And it was from the barrel! If grape juice were bottled with a refined taste for adults, this is it! There was a slight hint of the alcohol starting to come out but was mostly sweet. How about trying wine straight out of one of those big steel silos? Not as good as from the barrel. :-/ The aftertaste will surely get you because it’s probably the same as if you liked the silo.

They have a smaller production at Pagano than Bianchini and other wineries, but their pride and personality makes up for it in a big way. My husband was the only male in our group of women, and the old man at Pagano who made our lunch LOVED him. I was glad Matt had a good time and was able to share the experience with me.

Our lunch included the same items as mentioned above and some pasta that went perfectly with all the different wines we tried. Our hosts were very sweet and made a run to the store to get an ice cream cake for a birthday we were celebrating that day. Photo creds to Laura and Eboni for these.

3. Porto di Mola

This is the first winery I went to in the region where we live. This is the most complete experience of how wine is made that I’ve been through. For fun, there was an opportunity to stomp the grapes with your feet. Rest assured, that is not a part of the process! It’s more for show. We did get to throws grapes into machines that removed the stems from the grapes picked and even went into the vineyards and clipped grapes from the vine since it was harvesting time.

Again, a typical lunch with pasta included, no broccolini. For some reason, this one is much yummier from than others for some reason in my memory. Probably because I drank a LOT of wine that day. And I ate quite a bit of bread with their in house extra virgin olive oil.

I’m more of a red wine lady and one of there reds did not disappoint. Peppi was my favorite, so bottle had to be purchased. Also, I’m not much for whites, but this was the first time I had Falanghina and you’ll find the empty bottle in my house.

2. Volpara

Ever wanted a good walk before wine tasting? Then this is the winery tour for you! Our host is very knowledgable of the area where his winery is, so he took us on a walking tour that included their vineyard, very old church of their town, the first water source for the town, and other areas of Sessa Aurunca. It was a beautiful, sunny day that was perfect for that kind of walk.

The setting for our lunch was in the wineries cellar. We sat amongst very large wine barrels. The tables were wine barrels. And there were wine bottles lined in wall cutouts as the aged, like at Bianchini. The bufala mozzarella here was smaller than other places, so I ate twice as many.

This winery had the most wines I liked (except for #1) INCLUDING a rosé. I think this was the first rosé I’ve liked ever. Normally, it’s too sweet or too light. This one was a little heavier, therefore palatable. My favorite red is Sassi, which definitely described our group if you’re going by the English definition of how this word is pronounced. Their whites also went down easily, so I had seconds. Who I am kidding? I had seconds of all their wines, even the rosé.

1. Tenuta Torciano

Maybe it’s because this is winery is in the Tuscan region, but… oh, my, goodness! This is the first winery in Italy I went to and it set the bar very high! The only thing that would have made it better is we had a tour of their production facility, but that is off-site because this family owned and operated winery is humungous!

We visited Tenuta Torciano as part of a wine tasting tour when Matt and I visited Florence. It was our first stop and was offered as a wine tasting school for the participants to start the day off. We learned the perfect dimensions of a glass for tasting/drinking wine, how to swirl and smell the wine, and how to hold the glass a certain way. We tried 7-8 wines there, and my favorite of all time was introduced to me. Brunello di Montelcino. Just… wow! The Chianti Classico they create is quite fantastic also.

We did not have a lunch at this location, but we did eat some saltines paired with the best olive oils and balsamic vinegar ever. The pulled out their classic extra virgin olive oil, a peperoncini oil, and truffle oil. Definitely got a bottle of the truffle oil! The balsamic we tried is 30 years aged, thick, and so sweet.

The whole show was incredible. The host was perfect and very personable. He had everyone engaged and certainly entertained. Highly recommend going on this tour if you ever find yourself in the Florence.

 

As I visit more wineries, I’ll post more about my favorites. Look forward to a restaurant ranking as I go to more restaurants.

If you have any questions about my experience living abroad, leave a comment or send an email!

*SOME LINKS ARE AMAZON AFFILIATES LINKS AND I MIGHT MAKE A LITTLE BIT IF YOU PURCHASE SOMETHING.

30 Days of Gratitude – Days 29-30

What am I grateful for? Part 5

Less than a month until 2018 and the ideas are already rolling around in my head of what the new year will bring. I’m going to finish out my days of gratitude here, and then stay tuned for a special edition of #ThursdayTeaBlog in a couple days.

THURSDAY! Top 5 Things I’m getting used to living in Italy!

Tea of the day: Peppermint Bark
Brand:
 RC Bigelow
Color: This holiday flavored tea has a typical brown color.
Taste: I took a sip of the tea and then had to check the ingredients because something unexpected was in there. The peppermint flavor is very present and so is the… licorice! Not a whole lot of the cocoa flavor came through in my opinion. I ended up adding my Peppermint Mocha Creamer to get more of a chocolaty flavor going.
Ideas for next time I have this: I’ll continue to drink this with the creamer. I’m not a huge fan of licorice flavor and it masks that while enhancing the chocolate taste.

29. What friend/family member are you grateful for today?

I’m grateful for my dad. We’ve come a long way the last few years, as I think many father/daughter relationships might. He’s always been there to support me and to push me, even when the last thing I wanted was to be pushed. I don’t think I’d be nearly half the woman I am today without him. He gave me a great example of what being a good husband (and sometimes a bad husband if I’m being honest) looks like so I could go find the person that makes me complete. When I think of having my own children some day, I can definitely see using some of his parenting strategies.

 

I love you Dad!

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30. What talent or skill do you have that you are grateful for?

I’m grateful for my skill to be organized when I need to be, haha. I’m not always the most organized, and when the time calls for it, I can make organization happen! I think that’s the only way I was able to get through the entire wedding planning process. I make sure to write down details and ask lots of questions so I understand what to expect.

Recently, I’ve started a bullet journal. I’m using this to track ideas for blogs, an idea for a YouTube channel I have, and what episode I’m on for TV shows I watch.

I still use a traditional planner for long term planning and can probably fill out 2018 quite a bit right now. I can organize and plan THAT far ahead.

November is now over.

I’m still grateful for so many things that I didn’t include in the last few posts. Just because November is over doesn’t mean that gratitude goes away. Be grateful everyday. 🙂

If you’d like to do your own 30 days of gratitude, here’s where I found the prompts I’m using. And catch up! You’re late!

What are you grateful for? Leave me a comment!

*SOME LINKS ARE AMAZON AFFILIATES LINKS AND I MIGHT MAKE A LITTLE BIT IF YOU PURCHASE SOMETHING.

30 Days of Gratitude – Days 22-28

What am I grateful for? Part 4

Sorry this is uploaded a little later in the day. It’s been a busy week and just like that we are on our way to Christmas! Let me know if you have already put up your Christmas decorations!

Thanksgiving was wonderful. We had 17 adults and 4 kids over to enjoy a delicious meal. Thanks to friends who brought some sides and pies, my husband for cooking our 24.5 lb turkey perfectly, and the MWR for letting us borrow some extra tables to squeeze everyone in and have a seat. We’re really starting to get this hosting thing down!

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Tea of the day: Sweet Dreams
Brand:
 RC Bigelow (again, another part of a variety box I bought)
Color: The first color is a light green and the longer the tea steeps, the darker brown the liquid becomes. It’s quite beautiful.
Taste: This tea is a blend of chamomile and mint. The mint overpowers the chamomile taste a little bit, but is not as strong as the Mint Medley tea in terms of the mint flavor. Chamomile is a pretty mellow flavor so this wasn’t too surprising. The blend makes it a milder taste of mint and is very lovely.
Ideas for next time I have this: I may try this next with some lemon. It is very nice as a standalone though.

22. What story are you grateful for?

I’m really grateful for Matt’s and my story of how we met and made our relationship work. I think that it really shows that if you persevere, believe something is meant to be, and work together toward a common goal then anything is possible. When Matt and I first started our relationship, the odds were definitely stacked against us with immediate distance. Before we got married in June, we had spent a total of about 50 days together in person of the 15 months we had been together. It’s not always easy, and we are working together through everything as we continue to get to know each other.

You can read the longer story of how we met in my first 30 Days of Gratitude post (Day 7).

23. What tradition are you grateful for?

My favorite tradition that my family has is watching The Santa Clause on Christmas Eve. I’m pretty sure we’ve been watching it every Christmas Eve since it came out in 1994, so this tradition is 23 years old. By now, I can quote most f the movies, but every year there’s one little funny part or line that I forgot how funny it truly is.

As I grew up, I can remember some of the one-liners making more sense than when I watched as a kid. Like when Tim Allen doesn’t drink the milk and claims to be watching his saturated fats. Then the following year, Sara (the little girl) puts out soy milk instead. I had heard of soy milk when I was even a 10-year-old but by the time I was in high school, I understood his tongue-smacking to the nontraditional taste and laugh.

24. What challenge are you grateful for?

The biggest challenge that I’ve had so far when my family moved from California to Arizona. It was one thing to be in the middle of high school, let alone that I was in the middle of a school year!

When my parents mentioned they were looking at houses, I asked that we move either over winter break or wait until I graduated high school.I didn’t want to spend my entire senior year making friends. I’d rather have made some already. I don’t know if that made much of a difference.  We did move about six weeks later, two days after Christmas that year.

I didn’t have any fear that I wouldn’t make friends. I knew I was a social person and I was in activities like youth group at church, soccer, and softball. I made friends in my classes, joined the JV soccer team, sang in the choir, and played softball all in one semester. And senior year was pretty fun!

I was a little homesick for a bit and leapt in excitement when we went back to visit. Thirteen years later, I talk to only a few people from when I lived in California. I believe that experience and challenge helped me later when I moved to a new state for grad school and now being in Italy with Matt. I’m pretty confident that challenge proved that I’ll have friends wherever I go. So if I ever say “I don’t have any friends here,” I haven’t tried hard enough.

25. What moment this week are you most grateful for?

The moment this week that I’m most grateful for is when Matt and I went to dinner just the two of us. I had been to a restaurant I really liked and wanted to take him there to celebrate his promotion. We ordered a bottle of wine, got an appetizer, our entrees, and dessert. We got our wine poured and clinked glasses before drinking. THAT moment is my favorite. We were about to enjoy a celebratory meal together and everything about the moment was the definition of happiness. We smiled at each other during this moment and looked in each other’s eyes. I hope anyone who witnessed that moment could sense our love for each other and how happy we both were.

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26. What form of expression are you grateful for?

Does cooking count!? I love cooking and it’s always been fun for me. One of my favorite channels is Food Network. It’s amazing even watching other people cook and seeing the ideas they come up with. It always makes me happy to cook something for someone that they really enjoy, whether it’s breakfast burritos for my best friend or honey sesame chicken for my husband.

And I always appreciate when others make food for me. ❤

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27. What small thing that you use daily are you grateful for?

This is an easy one… my cell phone! Like most millenials, it is within reach of me at all times. Living 6,000 miles away from people I’m used to seeing or talking with on a daily or weekly basis is difficult, but not nearly as difficult as if I didn’t have a cell phone. I can message or call them on a variety of apps to stay in touch without feeling like I’m completely missing out. If I had to, I’d probably be writing letters, but the phone makes things so much easier!

28. What small thing that happened today are you grateful for?

Matt and I had thought about going to Paris for a weekend right before Christmas. Usually when he gets his mind set on something, he isn’t easily swayed toward another option… at least not quickly. As we were researching prices for flights, hotels, etc. it started looking like it would be super expensive so I started looking somewhere else for us to go that was more affordable. And today, he was swayed easily. So we are going to Barcelona! We booked our hotel and flights today!

If you’d like to do your own 30 days of gratitude, here’s where I found the prompts I’m using. And catch up! You’re late!

What are you grateful for? Leave me a comment!

*Some links are Amazon affiliates links and I might make a little bit if you purchase something.

30 Days of Gratitude – Days 15-21

What am a grateful for? Part 3

It’s the week of Thanksgiving!! 😀 What is your favorite part of Thanksgiving?

If you didn’t know, this week is very special to my husband and I. You can read about it in my first 30 Days of Gratitude post. It’s been an even more exciting week with hearing news about getting my sponsorship all completed and my husband received news that he will be promoted to Petty Officer Second Class. Lots of smiles are filling our home, including the smile as a sip this week’s tea…

Tea of the Day: Country Peach Passion
Brand: Celestial Seasonings (again, this is from another sampler pack of fruit teas)
Color: This peach tea is pretty pale at first with a yellowish color.
Taste: WOW! You can totally taste the peach in this! It is fairly sweet without needing to add any sugar. The peach flavor is dominant and no other flavors are really present. It’s classified as a herbal tea, but there is no herbal flavor.
Ideas for next time: I wouldn’t add anything to this tea with its natural sweetness. I can see myself opting to use these bags to make a pitcher of iced tea in the summer time.

 

15. What season are you grateful for?

I’m grateful for the winter. I do rather enjoy the cold and seeing snow. I grew up in the Southwest region of the US and had to drive at least a few hours to experience snow. I grew up skiing though and love it to his day. I prefer to sleep when it’s colder because I am so grateful for blankets and this is the perfect time of year to use them! I love hot drinks (obviously, it’s a tea blog lol) and foods (soup anyone?). It’s just not the same to eat/drink them as much when it’s warmer. As much as I complain about my toes being cold, I have said for awhile that it’s easier to warm up than to cool down. I can only take off so many articles of clothing but I can keep layering. 😉

16. What about your body are you grateful for?

I’m not so much grateful for any particular part of my body as much as I’m grateful that I’ve been able to communicate with my body better. So, I’m grateful for my body’s communication? Haha. In all honesty though, over the last few years, I’ve paid more attention to how my body reacts to certain medications, foods, and environments. I can pick up quicker if I’m about to get sick so I can start fighting it sooner. I know which foods that I should stay away from and what the consequences are if I decide to indulge anyway.

Here’s a funny story and example of what I mean. I love Raising Cane’s! The sauce is so amazing and their chicken strips are just something completely out of all the other chicken strips’ league. BUT whenever I eat this glorious fried masterpiece, I have at least 3 pimples the following day. I don’t know what it is specifically about Raising Cane’s because I don’t particularly steer clear of fried and/or oily foods, but THIS makes me break out without a doubt. SO, I plan when I eat it around times when I know I don’t need to be camera ready in the next week or if I have something like a job interview where I really want to impress.

17. What knowledge are you grateful for?

I’m grateful for my knowledge in how to research things. I’m not talking about heavy duty, Nobel Peace Prize worthy research. I’m referring to research things that purely interest me. How long can I visit my husband before I need to return to the US (during the time before my visa comes in)? What foods are more beneficial for someone with PCOS? How do I start a business as a life coach to continue using my education while abroad? What job opportunities exist that I can do remotely?

This is just a handful of things that I’ve researched and used the knowledge to benefit my life. I’ve found supplements and foods that can decrease the symptoms of PCOS. I am familiar with the Schengen Area and it’s tourist rule for Americans. I know the steps to take to register my life coaching business. I’ve looked at various opportunities that I can do for “work” while living in Italy.

Also, this isn’t the kind of research where you google something and then click the first link. Google is great! And my first resource when I have a question or interest. However, I click on multiple links, compare/contrast information, read forums when others have asked the same question, and post when I find an answer to a question someone asked that I feel can be helpful.

18. What piece of art are you grateful for?

It’s not a piece of art per say, but it is art. I am grateful for the art of videography. Yesterday, Matt and I were blessed with the first draft of wedding video. And oh my goodness, it is beautiful. I could watch it a million times and this is just the first draft! It perfectly captured the day and all the emotion from getting ready to walking down the aisle to dancing to our sendoff. I’m so grateful that this technology exists. Our photos are gorgeous! But this video is really something else. 😉

Thank you Harley Bonham!

19. What touch are you grateful for today?

Today, I’m grateful for the touch of my husband’s lips when we kiss. It’s amazing the power one kiss can have. Marriage has been so fun but it does come with some challenges, and, lately, a lot of those challenges have been popping up as we adjust to each other. Our first time living together and the longest we’ve spent with each other continuously. Before September, the most days we had spent together in a row was 17. I think we were together a total of 60 days in the first 18 months of our relationship/marriage.

AND kisses from him are my way of knowing that we will get through whatever is thrown at us no matter what. Not one morning or night has gone by without a kiss, and there is plenty in between. 😉

20. Who in your life are you grateful for?

Am I allowed to say my husband? Lol. Truthfully, I am so grateful for him. I know I’m not perfect and I know what he has to put up with. I’m not an easy person all the time. And he doesn’t ever let that get in the way of making sure I know that he loves me. He’s seen the best of me and the worst of me, and he accepts that. He doesn’t try to change me. He communicates amazingly. And that is why I’m grateful for him. He’s really my other half, possibly my better half… but let’s not get too crazy.

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21. What song are you most grateful for?

I have an odd obsession with Call My Maybe by Carly Rae Jepson. I loved it when it came out. I loved it when the Harvard baseball team put out their video. I loved it when service members put out a parody video the Miami Dolphins’ cheerleaders. It just makes me happy. 🙂 And it’s my go-to karaoke song when I can’t think of anything else I want to sing that night. I love it so much that it was on our must play list for the wedding and I excused myself from a conversation I was having to join my friends on the dance floor when it was played.

If you’d like to do your own 30 days of gratitude, here’s where I found the prompts I’m using. And catch up! You’re late!

What are you grateful for? Leave me a comment!

30 Days of Gratitude – Days 1-7

What am I grateful for? Part 1

Happy November!

I was scrolling through Pinterest trying to figure out how to make this blog stand out and what options I have for blogging. I stumbled upon some 30 Days of Gratitude posts and it hit me! Rather than blog each and every day (because do you really want to read what I’m writing that often? If you do, let me know!), I’ll do them one week at a time. And include some pictures. Aren’t you feeling lucky? But first…

Tea of the day: Mint Medley
Brand: RC Bigelow (again, another part of a variety box I bought)
Color: Pretty light. It’s practically clear.
Taste: This tea tastes exactly like what I imagined mint-infused water to taste like. It’s very nice and not overpowering. The smell was a little strong but the strength of the taste is much more calming.
Ideas for next time I have this: I really can’t think of how else I would drink this. Maybe combined with another tea. Perhaps something with lemon or strawberry.

1. What smell are you grateful for?

Really?! Right off the bat? This is such a weird question! Haha, if I’m being honest it’s probably the smell of bacon at home. WAIT! Before you start shaming me for either meat-loving or having an “easy” answer, listen… or read.

Every Christmas since I can remember my family has had a Christmas brunch. When I was younger, that meant waking up to the smell of bacon and knowing other delicious goodies were downstairs, like homemade Belgian waffles. The bacon smell is the most overpowering of everything being prepared. Then, my husband was visiting me after A School. He was my boyfriend at the time. He decided to make dinner… grilled cheese with bacon. The first thing I smelled was the bacon!

So I’m grateful for the smell of bacon at home (NOT in a restaurant) because it means that someone has spent time and love into making me a delicious meal. Bacon is not a mandatory part of these love meals, but when I walk in and smell it, I know without a doubt that someone loves me. It’s not that I LOVE bacon (I mean, I do, let’s not get crazy here). I love the thought and time someone puts into making a meal for me when it happens… and happens to include bacon.

2. What technology are you grateful for?

Again, probably another cliché. I never thought I’d be so grateful for FaceTime. Matt and I met at a point in our lives where we did not live close to one another. And we wouldn’t live close to one another for over a year! I 100% contribute our relationship’s success in the beginning stages to FaceTime. Everyday until we met in person, we would FaceTime before Matt went to bed and for hours on the weekends.

After he left for Italy, we would FaceTime so I could see where he lives, meet some of his friends, see our fur babies, and “be” together in the closest way possible to actually physically being together. Being able to see someone’s facial expressions, their laughter, and that they aren’t crafting the perfect text message back built more trust in our relationship than I ever thought it would.

For all that, I’m thankful for FaceTime. And the ability to screenshot some pretty goofy pics!

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3. What color are you grateful for?

This is a simple one… PURPLE! No particular rhyme or reason here. I just love the color. It’s gorgeous. The color of royalty. And I didn’t like pink like girls are “supposed to.”

4. What food are you most grateful for?

This is a HARD one! If I have to choose one, I might have to choose pizza because of the variety! There’s your classics: cheese and pepperoni. Endless toppings you can mix and match. And now, different sauces! BBQ Chicken Pizza was my FAVORITE for a long time. Lately, I’ve been really into Hot Wing Pizza. And the pizzas with salads on them aren’t bad! And dessert pizza?! Get out of town! You could probably go your entire life and have a pizza for whatever mood you’re in and never duplicate exactly what you have had before if you don’t want to. Now I want a pizza…

5. What sound are you grateful for?

The sound I’m grateful for is the sound of the front door being unlocked. These days, I spend a lot of time at home… drinking tea… no joke. I’ve had like 5 cups of tea today already. So when I hear the door unlock that means Matt is home. And unlocking the front door is LOUD haha. I can hear it from upstairs.

I’m taking a second sound for this one. The sound of a text on my phone. Again, I’m home a lot and the majority of my friends are living in a world 8 or 9 hours behind me. So around 3:00 PM is when it’s finally a normal hour that we can chat. Similar to my answer for #2, I’m so grateful for technology that I can still maintain my friendships from thousands of miles away and that little *ding* is what let’s me know I’m not completely out of touch and just a message away.

6. What in nature are you grateful for?

When it comes to nature, I’m grateful for water! It’s so beautiful. As a kid and teenager, I loved going to the beach. I’m totally looking forward to beach season next summer! And it adds so much to different landscapes whether it’s a canal, lake, shoreline, or waterfall. Even rain is beautiful.

7. What memory are you grateful for?

WARNING! I’m gonna get sappy. I’ve told a few people about the first time that Matt and I met, and to be honest, it’s a moment that could have gone totally wrong and went so right.

Matt and I met online and didn’t have an opportunity to meet for a month. He was in San Antonio, TX and I was in Gilbert, AZ. Referencing #2 again (Yay for FaceTime), we built a relationship that I was incredible. We really got to know each other because we could actually talk without the distraction of physicality. So a month later, I decided to rent a car and drive from New Orleans to San Antonio to meet him for the first time.

A lot of people thought I was crazy. What if he didn’t turn out to be who I thought he was? Yeah, I’ve seen Catfish. I know that was possible and it ran through my head constantly while we were getting to know each other to the point where we said “I love you.”

I get to San Antonio, check into the hotel down the street, then drive to the Visitor Center at Lackland Air Force Base to wait for Matt to sponsor me on base. The ten seconds between seeing him in the sideview mirror to getting out of the car was the most nerve wrecking ten seconds I’ve EVER experienced. Everything I had built up in my head and heart was about to be confirmed or come crashing down with all the disappointment possible in the entire world. I was pretty sure if things went right that I had met the person I wanted to be with the rest of my life. And if he wasn’t, I’d give up. The stakes were high people!!

Finally, I got the courage to step out of the car and smile at him. “Hi.” That’s all he said. I don’t even remember what lame greeting came out of my mouth. Then he smiled, kissed me, and hugged me… and the whole world made sense. I’ve never felt so immediately comfortable with someone and like I had known them for so much longer. I felt like we had actually spent time together and were meeting again.

That memory is what I’m most grateful for. Knowing that the most genuine person I’d ever crossed paths with was real and that he was mine.

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Our first picture together. March 19, 2016

If you’d like to do your own 30 days of gratitude, here’s where I found the prompts I’m using. And catch up! You’re late!

What are you grateful for? Leave me a comment!

I’ve found friends…

Who are these people?

Happy Tuesday! I didn’t want to disappoint, so here I am.

Tea of the day: Orange & Spice
Brand: RC Bigelow (part of a variety box I bought, perhaps those will be the first 6 teas…? If I don’t drink them all before then!)
Color: Dark! It looks almost like it would be a pomegranate flavor instead of orange. Maybe they are blood oranges!
Taste: It’s definitely calming. I expected it to have more bite with the orange and spice flavors, and instead it’s a pleasant chai like flavor.
Ideas for next time I have this: Maybe get a pirouette cookie OR add some milk to make a latte.

Fun Fact! This tea is Gluten Free!! Haha, I just looked on the back of the tea bag, saw that, and thought, “Makes sense.”

I thought a lot this week about all the friends I have and it got me reflecting on how I “met” everyone. You’ll find out the reason behind the quotations in the next few paragraphs. When I realized who the people I spend a lot of time talking to are some individuals that I’ve never met in real life, it really shocked me. Why would the origination of friends shock me?

When I was 13, I got an email from someone named Missy. She lived in Texas, and I had no idea who she was. Being the outgoing person I am, I thought to myself, “Oh! Another girl! I wonder what she’s like.” I emailed back and don’t remember the exact details of what my message included. I did receive a response from her. She was 16 (so she’d be 32 now) and said that if I wanted to know about boys that she would help me and we could talk about it. I think our email relationship lasted all of 5 messages total because my mom asked me who I was emailing. “This girl Missy. She lives in Texas.” And there went email privileges. Don’t remember how long, but I also wasn’t allowed on the internet without one of my parents in the room for a loooooonnng time. At church youth group, I was made an example of (in a lesson sort of way) and still didn’t quite understand the sin of my transgressions. I was young, naive, excited at the possibility of a new friend, and wanted a boyfriend!

Now as a 29-year-old woman. I see what should have been my first clue. It wasn’t the she was older. It wasn’t that she would “help me with boys.” It was the simple fact that someone I didn’t know was emailing me. Even to this day, I don’t respond to emails from anyone that I don’t recognize or that I didn’t personally give me email address.

Ironic fact! A good portion of my friends that I talk to weekly… I “met” online! 

When reflecting on this, I thought the experience I had as a 13-year-old girl would have negatively shaped my desire to meet and engage with people virtually. Perhaps, this is where my rebelliousness arose. And not the type of rebelliousness that is teepee-ing house (although I did that once) or staying out past curfew (again, once), but a rebelliousness that was rooted in my fascination with meeting and learning about new people.

At 16, I secretly made a Myspace account. Anyone remember, or better yet have, Myspace? When I was caught, my claim and confession was to keep in touch with friends back in California after we moved. That was acceptable, thank goodness. At 18, I made my Facebook account. ACTUALLY, I made my Facebook account 11 years ago TODAY! 

My first real friend that I met online is someone who didn’t even live in the same country as me! And now we have met in person. She is aMAZing! We met through Instagram when I first started getting into the Milso (military Significant Other) community online. I posted a picture with no location and she knew it! She was born there! Turns out our lives had way more parallels that either of us probably knew when I friendship first started. We were dating sailors in the US Navy, both had masters degrees, and enjoyed similar activities. We someone managed to stay in touch enough over the course of 5 months that we met for dinner when I first visited my husband (then boyfriend) the first time in Italy. That was almost a year ago.

*Technically, I met my first person online when I was 18 through Yahoo dating, but those aren’t the type of friends I want to talk about here. 

I’ve “met” mostly women through the Milso communities on Instagram and Facebook. I’m part of more groups that I care to admit. They started as general Milso groups and have ventured into location specific ones where my husband is located. I met a fellow Navy wife who lived in the same town as me, even went to the same high school, and another who is stationed in Japan. Well, two in Japan now! One girl and I bonded over our long distance romances. She was going through a process I knew was in my future, and that we both love the Dodgers. My wedding day coincidentally ended up being on the one-year anniversary that she left the US to join her husband. The other person I talk to most often became a close friend also through long distance relationship woes. We even sent each other small gifts for Christmas last year.

Then I realized…. I met my husband online! We met on Match.com. Ditching the free sites (which aren’t terrible, I did have some good experiences) and paying for a membership was the best reluctant decision I’ve ever made. He truly is my other half. A better partner for me does not exist. He makes up everything that I lack and is everything I never even knew I could ask for.

So what makes the friends I’ve made in the last 18 months different than Missy? Here’s why I think meeting people online has changed so much in the last 16 years. At least the last 16 years for me.

  1. I never saw a picture of Missy. I’ve seen SEVERAL pictures of the people I consider friends now.
  2. Technology has come a long way. I may not have met a lot of these women in person, but I have spoken with them through everything possible.
  3. I’m a google stalker. And Facebook stalker. And Instagram stalker.
  4. I do more research before accepting someone’s claim at face value. I’m not saying I’ve received outlandish proposals or anything, but if what’s on their profiles doesn’t match up, I don’t talk to them. I HAVE run into fake profiles of people claiming to be a milso.
  5. I am picky of who I talk with. As a rule, I don’t accept friend requests from someone who didn’t ask or I don’t know in person, except some of my husband’s extended family. I only accept requests and ask to request women a) an ability to advise on a topic they’re asking about or b) we share similar interests and ideas.

I’m so grateful for these friends. I literally have a friend who is awake at EVERY time of day because we are spread out over so many different time zones and countries.

What would I tell 13-year-old me? Don’t talk to strangers that you can’t see their face, even if it’s on a computer screen, and even then be cautious. You don’t have to talk to everyone.