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Surfboards, Race Cars, and Shine!

02 March 2012

Remember how I complained that all link-ups seem to be on Fridays?  True fact, folks.  Don't believe me?  Watch me prove it to you.

Dear Rain, you've made your presence known.  Well known.  Now would you get the eff out of here?!?  We have a summer to try and enjoy.

Speaking of which, Dear Summer, please tell me you're at the gym.  Getting really, really buff.  And that any day now, you're going to go apeshit crazy on Rain and Clouds until they go running for the hills.  I'll help you fight.  Unless it involves me getting wet.  Then I'm out.

Dear Surfboard, you and I are finally starting to get along.  I'm pretty stoked about that.  There was this one wave that took us both by surprise and we did a crazy nose-dive and you made the loudest, scariest noise I've ever heard.  Even J heard it.  I fully expected to find you in two pieces...but you're a champ and pulled through without a scratch.  Please don't scare me like that again.  I promise I'll try to maneuver us a little better so that we spend more time above water than below!

Dear Blog, am I about to publicly confess my love for you?  Oh what the hell! Despite our relatively short relationship, we've taken off like a rocket ship.  You are a time drain, but I love the inspiration and feeling of accomplishment you give me.  Let's keep a good thing going, okay?

Dear Shine Project, I cannot wait to get my Pass It Forward cards.  I already have two ladies from church in mind.  Maybe some no-bake cookies for them?  No one knows about the deliciousness of no-bakes in Australia, which makes it extra fun!  I'm excited to do my part is spreading acts of kindness.

Dear Husband, I'm so excited about what the future holds!  It's fun to see your hard work, enthusiasm, and creativity paying off.  We have so much ahead of us, it's hard to even imagine what life will look like three months from now.  It's fun to live in the moment, enjoy the adventure, and watch The Universe's plan for us unfold.

This week, I finished reading That Eye, The Sky by Tim Winton.  The book was recommended to me by an Aussie friend, and it seemed like a wonderful opportunity to dive deeper into Aussie culture.  I must admit, I really enjoyed this book.  Winton writes in a very stream-of-consciousness style, as he tells the story through the eyes of a 13 year old boy.  The boy's family falls onto hard times and dysfunction when a car accident puts his father into a coma and a homeless preacher steps in to help the family pick up the pieces.

Seriously guys, this book is so Aussie.  The slang, the scenery, the way of life.  It was a great, easy, quick read! {And not terribly depressing like my description makes it sound.}

And my highlight of the week?  Driving my car on a legitimate racetrack.  Check this out:

bathurst 1000 race track Pictures, Images and Photos

I was in Bathurst for business and stayed at a hotel right next to the racetrack.  Every year, V8 cars race 1,000km (620 miles) in the biggest racing event in Australia--The Bathurst 1000.  But for the majority of the year when there aren't any races, they leave the track open for anyone to drive, at any time.

Are you for real? So of course I had to try it out.  And, naturally, I thought speed limits didn't count on the track.  But apparently they do.  Good thing I had a coworker to tell me these things before I got too crazy.  Either that, or he was just getting nervous about my driving.  Maybe he was concerned we'd end up like this?

So that's my week in review.  I hope you all have an amazing weekend!

And, for those of you keeping track, that was 6 link-ups.  Six link-ups!  Did I just set some kind of blogging record here?


Aussies Know How to Relax

01 March 2012

As an American living in Australia, it doesn't take long to notice there's less stress here.  Well, maybe it takes some time to enter your conscious mind.  Stress isn't a thought, so much as it's a feeling.  It's something we are hard wired to feel and react to.  In it's absence, we feel at ease.  Relaxed.  Upon first arrival, everything feels it takes awhile to settle in and sort out your physiological reaction to a new environment.

Once I did, however, it became clear to me that Aussies are less stressed.  The corporate culture is very different here, and the nation has a very different outlook on work-life balance.  

"I work so that I can afford to travel and have great experiences.  If I didn't get holiday time to enjoy life, then why would I work?"

If I had a dollar ten dollars for every time I heard an Aussie say that, I'd be a rich woman.  {Okay, I'd actually be able to buy half a movie ticket in this godforsaken, expensive place.}  Nevertheless, it makes sense.  People here don't feel like they owe something to their employer.  They aren't slaves to their job.  They don't have to beg, plead, and borrow to take a week four weeks off work.  

The result? Aussies know how to work hard, but they know how to relax even harder.

I honestly laughed when I was reviewing my work contract with my employer and they clearly stated that I was expected to work a full 35 hour week.  Seriously? Seriously.  A full-time work week in Australia is considered 35 hours.  

When I got to the part about vacation time, I was ready to pop some champagne.  Four.Weeks.Standard.Vacation.  Oh, and you can take an additional two weeks unpaid if you like.  

If you work for a company in Australia for 10 years, you qualify for "Long Service Leave."  This is the total cha-ching.  You get four months off, paid.  Every year you wait to take it, it gets even longer.  It's part of every labor contract....not just for fancy executives.  You can be a career waitress and get your long service leave.  

At my recent work conference in Thailand, we had a motivational speaker give a talk.  He spent many years working with professional athletes, and one of keys to elite performance he realized, is being able to "turn it on" when you need to, and "turn it off" when you don't.  You have to know how to perform, but then give even more attention to recuperating.  

It is physiological impossible for us to give 100% throughout the entire day.  In the US, it seems like we have more distractions and more demands on our attention all the time.  Not only that, our employers want to squeeze out every last drop of productivity they possibly can.  

I appreciate that my company recognizes the need for relaxation and "chill" time--to the point where they invested in a motivational speaker to come to Thailand and speak to us about it.  Australians get it.

So here's my challenge to you:

1.   Think about tomorrow's schedule.
2.   Pick 2-3 tasks or times when you need to be in "peak performance or thrill" mode {each task should be no longer than 1 hour....because the truth is that we cannot stay in peak mode for very long, even if we try to convince ourselves otherwise.}
3.   Now pick 2-3 activities or times when you can be in "chill" mode.
4.   During your "thrill" and "chill" modes, eliminate distractions {no FB, blogging, texts, etc.}
5.   Examine how you feel.  Did you find more balance in your day?

My Review of BlogLovin'

29 February 2012

I've been using BlogLovin' for about two weeks now, and decided to give y'all a rundown of my likes and dislikes.

Emmy June's Top 5 Reasons to Use BlogLovin'

5. The sign-up process, user interface, and ease of adding blogs are all pluses.  It took me less than 15 minutes to add my entire reading list into BlogLovin'.

4. With Google Friend Connect in flux, it seems to be more important than ever to connect with your readers from more than one avenue {ie. have them 'Like' you on Facebook, follow you on Twitter, etc.}  So I would encourage folks to add a BlogLovin' button to their blog, even if you don't plan to use it yourself.

3. I thought you could only follow blogs that were registered with Blog Lovin'.  Not true.  You can follow any blog, from anywhere on the internet.  This is a major plus!  Whether Blogger, Wordpress, or self hosted, you can find it and follow it, all in one spot.

2. There is a nice alert feature {via Google Chrome browser extension, one-click install} to let you know when you have unread blog posts on your reading list.  This means you can stop obsessively hitting refresh on your Google reader or Blogger feed.

1. The number ONE reason to start using Blog Lovin' is efficiency.  Before, I was using the Reading List from my Blogger dashboard.  That means you click on each blog post you want to read, it opens in a new browser tab, you read it & comment, then close the browser tab, then back to the Blogger Reading List, click the next unread post, and repeat.  All of that extra back & forth really adds up when you're trying to keep up with a lot of blogs.

Blog Lovin' is a huge improvement in that department.  When you click an unread post from your BlogLovin' feed, it opens in a new browser tab.  Once you've read the post and commented, you simply click "Next Post" on the BlogLovin' bar at the bottom of the page.  It tells you how many unread posts you have remaining, and moves you directly on to the next blog.  It might not sound much faster, but it really is a more streamlined process.

Emmy June's Top Improvements to Blog Lovin'

3. When you go into the settings for your own blog on BlogLovin', it asks you to connect your blog to a Facebook account.  If you do this, it will automatically post when you update your blog {cool, right.}  The downfall is that it won't let you connect to a Facebook Page, only a personal account.  Most bloggers don't blast out every single post they write to their individual FB friends list {or maybe y'all do}, but would prefer to hook it up to the Facebook Page they've created specifically for their blog.  I emailed BlogLovin' asking them to fix let's hope they're listening!

2. BlogLovin' should allow you to see who is following your blog through their site.  As it stands, you can see how many followers you have, but not who.  The reason I think this would be helpful is to know if the people following you on BL are duplicates of GFC friends, or are unique followers.

1. While the little alert feature {Google Chrome extension} I showed you guys updates automatically, the BlogLovin' reading list does not.  I find this annoying.  In my mind, the BlogLovin' browser page should auto-refresh every 5-minutes to reflect any recent activity.  Otherwise, you end up with this craziness:

Notice how my BlogLovin' page says I have no unread posts?  Then look up in the corner of my browser and you'll see an alert that I have, in fact, 22 unread posts.  Unless I refresh the BlogLovin' page, it won't show me those new posts.  Lame!

Overall, I'm a definite convert.  Anything that helps me keep up on my blog reading and commenting in a more efficient way, is a huge plus in my book.  While there are some definite improvements to be made, I expect they will get corrected over time.

What do you guys think?  Do you have an efficient method for blog reading?  If so, please share!

Update: If you want a quick and easy way to import all the blogs you read into BlogLovin', check out this tutorial.

Tuesday Travel Diaries: Vietnam

28 February 2012

It's my favorite blogging day of the week!
Welcome back for another week of Tuesday Travel Diaries :)
This week, I'm happy to feature one of my favorite bloggers:
Emily @ Hope Squared.
Besides having an awesome name, Emily takes pictures of
her cat in a bow tie.  You should seriously check her out!

Tuesday Travel Diaries

When I saw this series posted on Emily's blog I just had to participate. 
 Hi my name is also Emily and I blog over at Hope Squared.  
I got the travel bug when I first left the Canada in 2002 and it's often all I can think about. 
 My husband and I started dating while living and teaching abroad. 
We started in South Korea for a year and moved on to Vietnam for two more. 
 Naturally we celebrated our engagement with a three week tour around Vietnam - 
I mean every newly engaged couple does this right? 
 Today I am going to share with you some highlights of that amazing trip. 
 And hopefully it will leave you longing to travel to this beautiful country 
that I think of as my second home. 

The basics: where, when, & how long?
As I mentioned above we travelled for 21 days from mid-March to early April 2010.  Our itinerary included:
Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) --> Mui Ne --> Hoi An --> Ninh Binh --> Ha Noi --> Ha Long Bay --> Sapa --> Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). 


What route did you take? And how much was the flight?
We flew out of the Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  Because we got a discounted ticket {My husband, Steve, works in the industry so we only had to pay the taxes and fuel surcharge - what?! what?!} we had to take a pretty annoying route that made the journey feel like an eternity.  Since we flew with United Airlines our connecting flight was in San Fransisco.  Normally we would opt to connect in Vancouver to bypass the US security which usually takes up to an hour or an hour and a half.  However we were freshly engaged and didn't really grumble too much about it.  Our route Toronto - San Fransisco - Hong Kong - Ho Chi Minh City.  Total travel time - roughly 15 -17 hours.  
Who did you travel with?  
My, at the time, new fiance - now husband Steve.  Best travel companion ever.

Tell us where you stayed.
Because we got such an amazing deal - there were obviously some strings attached.  Steve had to do a few hotel inspections which meant we had to move around a lot.  I was alright with this because I too like checking out new hotels.  From this trip there were two hotels that we stayed in that really stuck out - simply because both of them were just amazing and I was sad to check out of both of them.  First the Park Hyatt Saigon.  First of all - this is the hotel that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie stayed in when they were adopting their son Pax.  So you get an idea how fancy pants this place is.  I mean - they do check in in your room.  Amazing right?  The pool was on the rooftop and it felt as though you could have been on the ground level.

Second the Movenpick Hanoi.  The interior design of this hotel in impeccable.  I love it so much that I want to design my future home in the same style.  Our room was painted a dark brown and was accented with bright green, black and grey.  I could have literally hung out in that room all day. 

Did you encounter anything unexpected?
Having lived in Vietnam for two years prior to this trip - we had a good grasp on Vietnamese culture.  Most people comment on the amount of traffic (both human and vehicles in the bigger cities) and I agree at times it can be chaotic.  However an organized chaos. 

Traffic in Ha Noi on a quiet afternoon
How accurate are the stereotypes?
I might be a little bias having lived in the country for two years that I no longer noticed the typical stereotypes of Vietnamese.  Also - I am not even sure what typical Vietnamese stereotypes are.  Please share with me and I will try to tell you if I think they are true. 

Tell us about the food.
Though it's not my favourite cuisine - I do love Vietnamese food.  Obviously one of my favourite meals is Pho.  If you haven't tried this delicious soup - you must.  Dining in Vietnam is relatively on the cheap side and usually everything is great.  You can run into some odd things on the menu - but if you stick to the beaten path you should be able to find whatever you are looking for.  However this trip was all about the breakfast buffets.  I love a good breakfast buffet.  Especially one where you can order amazing things like this.  A french toast grilled cheese sandwich - poolside.  Are you kidding me? 

Were there any must see’s?
Can I start with saying everything in Vietnam is a must see - but I will show you a few of my favourite things to do/see.

Visit Ha Long Bay -  Even when it's cloudy and rainy.  Its landscapes are literally breathtaking.
Take a bike ride in the countryside. 
Visit any of the colourful and lively markets - This is from the weekend market in Sapa
Take a hike  - literally.  This country is best explored on foot {or motorbike}
After all that - hit the beach and relax.
Do you have any regrets?
Coming home?  Not booking a longer trip?  No - I have no regrets.  This trip was the perfect way to kick off our engagement. 
Would you go back?
The answer is yes. I plan to retire here.  I'm not joking. 
Anything else you'd like to share about the trip?
Not necessarily about this trip - but for any trip.  Immerse yourself in the culture.  Try new things.  Eat different foods.  Live like the locals.   And you'll come home with memories that will last a lifetime.

I hope you enjoyed this small taste of Vietnam as much as I have enjoyed reliving the best trip of my life.  And thank you Emily for letting me hang out on your blog today. 

Hope Squared
Go check out Emily's blog!  You'll be glad you did :)

Thanks, Em, for sharing Vietnam with us!
Do you have a trip that you'd like to share?
I'm looking for more bloggers to feature for TTD.
If you're interested, please email me.

"Problems Not Problems" Monday

27 February 2012

I basically only look at Pinterest because I like linking up with Michelle @ Vintage Apple.

My Macbook Pro gets first-degree burn hot if I let it sit on my lap too long.

The fake Rolex watch that I bought J in Thailand has to be wound in order to keep running.  Seriously?!?  I didn't even know you could buy a watch like that anymore.  Not to mention, the Thai guy kept emphasizing "Auto-maaaaaatic.  Very speeeensive."

So many of the link-ups I love are all on Friday.  What's wrong with Thursday, peeps?

This link-up totally reminds me of First World Problems.

{Can we all agree that this guy looks like James Vanderbeek from Dawson's Creek?}

Thanks, Mrs. Monologues, for the fun :)

Spiritual Sunday

26 February 2012

"Daily I will seek happiness more and more within my mind,
and less and less through material pleasures."

-Paramahansa Yogananda, "Scientific Healing Affirmations"
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