Author: Gelli

Spring time with JORD | GIVEAWAY

This spring, JORD watch company collaborated with me for a giveaway. They gave me a really cool watch to review and a chance for my readers to win $100 gift code to be used on their site. PLUS they're giving away consolation code worth $25 for everyone who will join the contest! Lucky us, right? This is a sponsored content, however, all opinions and comments are mine and guaranteed to be 100% genuine.

jord watch

 

First of all, I don't accept sponsored posts from brands that I don't personally like or believe in. When Stacy from JORD watches found my profile on Instagram, (YES, Instagram is a great platform for brands to connect with you!) I immediately filled out the media kit they gave me and excitedly waited for my watch to arrive.

What caught my attention is their choice of material. Their watches are made of wood! How amazing is that?

Nature meets function

One thing I realized when traveling especially during spring time is nature's effortless magic to make you feel at home and at ease no matter how stressful you think you may be. Have you ever felt that way? Like when you go to the beach or a park, or go on a trail to hike and climb mountains, you feel like your stress level just drops to the ground even with those added activities? You are not just "wanting an escape." It is your body telling you that being one with nature is actually good for you.


Did you know that exposure to plants, trees, and other living things has real and measurable health and wellbeing benefits? It helps lower heart rate and stress responses and encourages greater interaction between people. (source)


 

I admire the concept of having a wood watch because you can be reminded all the TIME that nature is within reach. *pun intended*

Let me share you a research I found when I was reading a health-related magazine. As a travel nurse, I need to be updated with news and researches because the interventional approach in my field is always advancing. Numerous studies by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan showed that access to nature, even only visually, improves concentration. Roger Ulrich’s subsequent studies using physiological measures showed a reduction in stress and increase in positive feelings in subjects shown images of nature versus images of cities. This supports work in environmental psychology that argues that nature allows for a soft fascination that can restore attentional benefits and concentration.

The thing about us is that our human connection with other living systems innately binds us through our familiarity with similar life cycles and natural rhythms, and mediates our sense of understanding in times of stress. Oftentimes  positive distractions and elements of surprise and wonder, which nature so vividly provides, offer a respite from the anxieties that are apparent in our everyday lives. And what happens when our stress is low? Our productivity peaks.

jord watch

Nature meets design

The fact that wood is already a timeless piece makes the whole thing look like a work of art. Each tree is different. Every line and growth rings pattern is unique. It takes a long time for a tree to build its naturally beautiful form, and whenever it does, somehow it still changes. It's not only aesthetically pleasing, it also represents the changing time. Isn't it a wonderful metaphor to have on your wrist?

When they laid out my options for the kind of wood I wanted, I took the time to read each material. I wanted to know where it came from, whether it's responsibly sourced or not, things like that. I LOVE to READ stuff and it's an abomination not to absorb everything before I choose. I was satisfied with everything so I picked the one that highly speaks to me.

I got this Zebrawood and Champagne watch, Frankie 35 series because the color just stands out and the size was perfect for my small wrist. Maybe some of you would love the big ones, they have those, too. Another thing that I like is that when you go to their website, you can read about the wood that they use for each watch. They have tons of variety and you'll just fall in love with every single one of them.

 


Native to West Africa, Zebrawood offers a striking grain contrast and exceptional finish. Although the growth rings are very pronounced, the wood occurs naturally with both large grain and fine grain patterns. Zebrawood is considered a luxury hardwood and is most commonly used in veneer application. JORD uses only whole wood stock to create our Zebrawood watches. -JORD website


 

They even have a fact widget on the bottom part that tells you about the height of the tree, its shrinkage percentage, dried weight, and all those numerical infos. I am amazed how they put too much effort in the details, which is a good sign for a brand that wants to make a mark.

Speaking of details, let me show you close-up photos of my watch. I LOVE the TEXTURE, you guys. It's just classic.

jord watch

jord watch

jord watch

The rough look and streaks appear sophisticated, right? This one is priced at $179 which looks fair to me. It may appear heavy but it's not. It's lightweight and you can barely feel that you're wearing it. The packaging is gorgeous and functionality wise, it is well thought of. If you decided to buy one, you need to consider that the biggest enemy of wood is sudden changes in temperature and humidity. This means if you leave your watch in a car on a hot sunny day, the high temperature has the ability to swell the wood and cause it to crack. Same with leaving it in the car on a particularly cold day or night, the cold will shrink the wood, putting pressure against the glass and pins and could cause breakage at those points. However, the set comes with a 2-way humidity control pack that offers up to 1 month of effect. Plus a custom-formulated cleaning oil specifically created for wood watches.

This may come as a downside to you but for me, it actually teaches you to take care of things. That, in order for you to maintain the quality of what you have, you need to invest time in them. This doesn't only apply to watches but to people as well.

jord watch

jord watch

Jord watches also feature stainless steel clasps that are easy to manipulate. Just press on the side, and viola, ready to wear. If I'm going to make a suggestion or upgrade to them, it's the ability to resize it without bringing it to a professional. Or an option to change the watch bands. I think people love it more when they can customize things and make them their own. BUT did I tell you JORD watches now offer engraving? YAAASSSS. PEOPLE. YAAAAASSSS.

This makes it perfect for gift giving! *Father's Day coming* Mother's Day coming*

You can put a message on the back and write something important to you. It can be a message, a name, your favorite quotation, or even a logo if you intend to give it to your team members or colleagues.

This review won't be complete if I didn't try it for a whole day OUTDOORS. I actually enjoyed wearing it under the sun because it complements very well with keeping the spring vibe alive and blooming. Oh, how I love the McAllen weather!

 

jord watch

jord watch

jord watch

jord watch

jord watch

Overall, I love the timeless appeal of this watch and it truly makes an amazing addition to your spring accessories. 


GIVEAWAY TIME


JORD watches created a custom contest page for this. You can access it here: https://www.jordwatches.com/g/ohmygelli

✔️ All you have to do is fill out your name and email on the page to enter.

✔️You'll then choose among their selections. To browse women's watches, click here. For men's watches, click here.

✔️Every person who joins the contest will be entered to win a $100 gift code to use on the JORD site!

✔️One lucky person will win, BUT

✔️ Everyone will receive a consolation code worth $25 once the contest ends.

Good luck everyone!

#BeBoldForChange | Women up! 10 Ways To Accelerate Gender Parity

Every one of us has a story of transformation you wish you could tell to everybody. It may be about your experiences or about other people who somehow touched your life in an extraordinary way.

 

Art by Ruby Faber. High resolution art print discounted at $20. Click here for more info.

Here's a story that changed my perspective on some things:

I met someone who’s covered in tattoos, and whose face was accentuated by ear and nose rings. His hair warned me that nobody is allowed to touch it, or else you’d die of tetany or something more bloody. However, as we exchanged stories, I learned that he’s just like me. We both love how humans can be beautiful despite flaws and awkward idiosyncrasies.

I asked myself, “What is wrong with pieces of metals on one’s body?” 

I smiled and remembered my patients. I recalled how many cardiac patients have pacemakers installed inside their chest. I thought of titanium pieces that are used to sculpt destroyed faces after traumatic road accidents. I visualized how those weird-looking screws and silver sockets make up for an amputated foot or a broken arm. They are metals, too. They are body alterations, too. They may not be of personal intent or “just like it” rationale, but how sure are we that people with tattoos and piercings don’t need healing?

"Maybe they use those pieces to heal, too. Maybe the pain they gained from them represents the pain nobody knew they have." 

 

Out of many tattoos he has, a cool and detailed image of a doll on his wrist caught my attention. Quite intrigued and amazed, I asked, “Is that a Russian doll or a cartoon from somewhere I don’t know?”

He instantly answered with a Mexican pitch, “Ya, it’s a Russian doll. Matryoshka.”

I looked at him, then he added, “That’s the favorite toy of my daughter.”

A pause slowed his story.
“She died last year,” he gasped.

“This is hers, too,” he mentioned while pointing at a scarlet gem on his left ear. All at once I was out of words. I didn’t even have the courage to ask about his other stories— those tales of chains, and names, and faces beautifully crafted on his skin. I didn’t have to ask. He tells without saying.

As a nurse who deals with pain on a daily basis, pain unknown and untold always rings red.

And this is just one story.

So somehow this story changed my perspective on how I view people with different styles and preferences. Coming from a traditional family, going out of my comfort zone is not that encouraged. We were always told people with piercings and tattoos are "bad influence." Before you raise your eyebrow, THIS IS NO WAY MY THINKING ANYMORE. What made way? One encounter. One story.

 When I shared this story from last year, I omitted a very important detail. YES, I posted this exact story on my Facebook account way, way back. The story doesn't end there. The girl died from rape. I didn't disclose it before because it was a more sensitive topic to discuss than "tattoo preferences." BUT I am sharing this with you so YOU CAN TAKE ACTION ON THINGS THAT TRULY MATTER.

What if I tell you that your voice can CHANGE how society treats WOMEN?

 

Every person - women, men and non-binary people - can play a part in helping drive better outcomes for women. Through meaningful celebration and targeted bold action, we can all be responsive and responsible leaders in creating a more gender inclusive world. The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won't close entirely until 2186. This is too long to wait. So around the world, March is celebrated as Women's History Month to provide an important opportunity for ground breaking action that can truly drive greater change for women.

 

So here's how YOU can help to shorten the wait:

 

1. Run your own #BeBoldForChange IWD campaign

One of the most powerful ways you can influence how quickly gender parity is achieved is through championing a #BeBoldForChange campaign within your own organization:

  • CALL FOR ACTION: ask friends and colleagues what bold actions the're taking to help drive gender parity (e.g. take a junior woman to a client or sales meeting; challenge organizers of all-male speaking panels; launch a purposeful female-focused initiative; educate boys about stereotypes and violence against women; nominate women for senior jobs; donate time to a female-focused charity; mentor a woman; form a support network; etc)
  • DECLARE ACTION: ask friends and colleagues to declare bold action on the IWD website
  • DOWNLOAD SELFIE CARDS: use the #BeBoldForChange selfie cards for social media amplification
  • DOWNLOAD POSTERS: download the #BeBoldForChange posters and ask colleagues to write or add yellow sticky notes for their bold actions
  • EMBED WIDGET: embed the #BeBoldForChange widget on your own website or intranet and call for others to declare their bold action
  • THUNDERCLAP YOUR SUPPORT: lend your support via the #BeBoldForChange Thunderclap to help drive wider awareness about gender parity 
  • WATCH IWD VIDEOS: watch these purposeful videos or broadcast them at events to educate and inspire others

See examples of #BeboldForChange campaigns around the world.

2. Host a #BeBoldForChange IWD event

Coordinating an IWD event? Invite your speaker/s to articulate and explain that exact moment when they themselves took bold action to help improve or develop an aspect of their own livelihood, career or business - or that of another woman's, or women's status overall:

  • what was their bold moment?
  • how did they do it?
  • what motivated them?
  • what difference did they make?
  • how can others learn from this?

Host a proactive discussion regarding:

  • what constitutes "bold" action?
  • what conditions are necessary to enable "bold" action?
  • what are the consequences of "bold" action?
  • what are some examples of "bold" action already taken in your context?

Build a "Bold Actions" wall:

  • get colleagues to commit to action
  • post their actions on a "Bold Actions" wall
  • photograph the "Bold Actions" wall
  • share via social media

Ask the audience to declare bold action via their smart phones:

  • send your audience to the IWD "Bold Actions" declaration page
  • OR use the #BeBoldForChange widget to send the audience to your website's "Bold Actions" declaration page. Show and share results real-time, if desired.

Watch purposeful IWD videos at your event:

3. Social share your support

Social share your bold actions and support by downloading and printing the #BeBoldForChange selfie card. Co-branding is welcome. Promote your support for bold action via social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Youtube, etc) using the "hands in" visual concept.

4. Secure executive statements of support

Submit an approved and authorised #BeBoldForChange statement of support from your leaders (celebrities, corporate chairpersons and CEOs, government officials, charity heads, business and community leaders) - for possible promotion and amplification via the IWD website and social media channel. Statements are short declarations regarding bold action to actively support the advancement of women. Statements may be either straight text (with image), visual collateral, short videos, social media posts, etc). The deadline for Support Statements is ongoing, but received earliest any time from now is preferred. Ideally max. 150 - 200 words for text statements. See an example from Richard Branson's support from last year, or EY global chairman Mark Weinberger's support or Catalyst's president & CEO Deborah Gilles' statement or more here.

5. Download the IWD logo

Download the International Women's Day logo or icon for promoting positive IWD related activity.

6. Embed the #BeBoldForChange widget

Embed the #BeBoldForChange widget on your own website and/or intranet by accessing the embed code and calling for your friends and/or colleagues to declare their bold action.

7. Watch and show IWD videos

Many individuals, groups, companies and associations provide purposeful videos that push the gender agenda conversation further. View IWD's excellent range of video resources that are available to support your own IWD activity. You can also contribute an IWD video for potential inclusion on the IWD website.

8. Access gender diversity resources from leading organizations

Access useful and informative gender diversity resources provided by leading, reputable organizations from across the world that work to advance women. Use these resources to guide your company's journey towards gender parity or submit resources for consideration.

9. Fundraising on IWD

Should you be looking for a registered global charity to donate your International Women's Day fundraising efforts to locally, then please consider IWD's long-term Charity of Choice - WAGGGS. WAGGGS has prepared a Fundraising in the Office activity pack for any employees or businesses which would like to hold a special event to mark IWD. It's full of fun ideas to engage with IWD and raise money for a great cause. Make a single donation to WAGGGS. Set up a fundraiser for WAGGGS at  Justgiving or Virgin Giving.

10. Submit coverage of your IWD activity

Submit engaging images, videos or articles that show the success of your IWD activity, with a view to possible promotion and amplification via the IWD website - in addition to your own social sharing of these items.

 

 

March is Women's History Month. And even if we're halfway through, our advocacy to reach more people and act with passion to encourage other women won't fade.

 

The MARCH is still ON.

Click the button below to sign the pledge!

Thank you for the support!

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Is book subscription a thing? HELL YEAH!

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post from BOTM. I received free books as a compensation for this post and if ever you subscribe to them via my tracking link, I get commission at no extra cost to you. And believe me when I say, I’m actually going to subscribe to them even without their sponsorship because that’s how highly I believe in their services. I fell in love in a heartbeat. They sure know how to identify a book lover when they see one.

“A writer has to have an imagination- that’s what makes a writer. She has to be able to put herself imaginatively in the position of whatever character she selects.”
― Wyketha K Parkman

Even when I agree to this quote, I think the best tool a writer should have is his/her ability to read. Because that’s how we are able to put ourselves imaginatively in the position of all characters in a book. It is when we read that we gain more knowledge of something that we don’t know, or find words for things that we are already familiar with but struggle to sort it out in our head. I am a true-blue book lover. Even when I can’t find time to read, I somehow manage to transform my phone into a reading machine. Technology, however, has a way of stealing important things that a book offers- the scent of printed ink overwhelming your lungs, the feel of paper when you turn a page, the search for a position where your hands become one with the book. That’s why when I heard about book subscription service like what Book Of The Month offers, I was like, HERE! TAKE MY MONEY!

 

 

Why subscribe when you can just buy a book?

 

  1. Eliminate the sorting struggle.

When you buy a book, say you go to a book store, it takes a lot of time for you to pick one. You read synopsis after synopsis and before you know it, you’ve lost track of time and you’re just gonna end up buying the last one you’ve laid your eyes on. It’s all drowning in love but when reality tells you that it’s time for you to get out of the book store, there is always a tug of regret not having all the time in the world to choose what book really speaks to you.

2. Convenience. 

If you’re a workaholic like me, you don’t really have the luxury of time to go to a local book store. I bet the closest book store that you have been in a while is the grocery store, which by the way, has a limited books selection. They usually showcase pieces that are way too mainstream. And it makes you cringe because other writers need some loving, too, and you know it! Nothing beats a special box right at your doorstep, and being hypnotized to open it right there and then.

3. Options, options, options.

The thing about subscription services is its algorithm of offering you the best read that is perfect for what you are looking for. You love a certain genre? They got you! Book subscription is a great deal for readers who want to explore a certain genre but don’t know where to start. In a pool of great authors, BOTM can do the dirty work for you. No hassle!

4. Exclusivity.

It does make you special being included in 90 years of literary heritage. Yes. You read that right. 90 YEARS. Aside from that, they give premium services to their members. Like what, you ask? Like EARLY BOOK RELEASE!!! If you go to BOTM’s website, Marlena by Julie Buntin is already available to BOTM members (in fact, I already have it) WHILE the rest of the world has to wait until April. Talk about special treatment, right?

5. Great selections.

I know the feeling of being hesitant to something you don’t know. What if you don’t like the book? What if it’s not your “type?” I assure you one thing: BOTM members are readers, too. And just like you, they want the best of the best. Most of the book choices in their subscription list are highly rated and loved. And don’t worry, you’ll have your say which book to receive for every month.

6. Ace that book challenge.

Three books for one month will be easy peasy. Yours will be lined up and ready to go. You know what to read, when to read them, and not be late with book discussions and latest authors’ debut. Isn’t it amazing to be relevant to the thing you love most? And book challenges won’t intimidate you anymore because YOU are actually IN YOUR ZONE! Reading is your turf. You’re gonna beat this.

7. Your voice matters.

Every year, members vote for the best books of the year. Why is your voice heard? Because YOU HAVE THE CHANCE to pick which book gets noticed in those mainstream shelves. Have you ever wondered who decides whose debut work is a success? Let’s face it, most of the reading class will choose a known author over a starting one, especially if you don’t know a thing about that author or about that book. But by having nominations like this, you’ll get an idea what book ranks the highest among others.

8. Never miss out on great books!

BOTM has been around for a long, long, time. BOTM members introduced J.D. Salinger, Hemingway, and Mitchell to the world. They just relaunched ONLINE last year, and if you want to keep their legacy of helping us discover the best books of our time, join the club. Sign up here.

“Is there anything more satisfying than to keep abreast of the best new books of our time as they appear? In reading them, in enjoying them, in talking with others about them, we feel our day taking shape.”

—Book of the Month Club founding statement, 1926

 

How does it work?

I know you won’t sign up right away if you don’t know how it works. Because you are smart like that.

Three simple phrases: Awesome books. Better reading. Every month.

 

What you need to know:

 

  • You get one book every month from 5 GREAT selections of BOTM judges. You can choose which book to get. If ever you get curious who the judges are, THEY are professionals in their field. Some are news writers, celebrities, hosts, editors, YOU REALLY NEED TO CHECK OUT THEIR WEBSITE because they are all awesomeeee!
  • If you want to add a book, you pay additional $9.99. Due to their great selections, I bet you’ll pay for more. Don’t worry. It’s FREE SHIPPING.
  • If ever you don’t feel like buying one from their great selections, you can skip any month. No hassle of unsubscribing. Because they know you’ll go back for more.
  • Say you come across a book that your friend will love, YOU CAN OPT TO GIVE IT AS A GIFT! No stress of wrapping it because they’re gonna make sure it will be delivered in a special way, just like how you’d want it to be.
  • PLUS you get an exclusive review from one of their judges. What if you receive a review from a news anchor that you love or a writer that you’re dying to see? What a BONUS right?! And it makes a great bookmark, too!

“A BOOK IS A DREAM YOU HOLD IN YOUR HAND”

 

Neil Gaiman got it right. BOTM is always on the lookout for the next great read – well-written, immersive stories that transport you, give you thrills, and tug at your heartstrings. Books that are truly worth reading.

HAPPY READING EVERYONE!

Mardi Gras in New Orleans | Why it’s a must on your travel bucket list

New Orleanians call it the
"Greatest Free Show on Earth."
Let me tell you why.

 

 

This post is a little bit late for 2017. But YOU NEED to bookmark this for NEXT YEAR or for NEXT FESTIVAL. Because MARDI GRAS in NEW ORLEANS is like no other! If you love food, colors, culture, and music, there's no other place to go. New Orleans is known for its incredible weave of everything. Bring your camera and whole bucket of fun vibes, and I promise you, it won't disappoint.

Why New Orleans? Because COOL and CREATIVE people build their empire here! There are places that are amazing only because they are aesthetically pretty and commercialized. I'm not saying the city is not pretty and commercialized BUT New Orleans is more than that. It will make you experience things; it will make you understand people in a revealing and colorful way. The attitude of locals here is just intense and you'll never get accustomed to their brand of humor and unique perspective.

1. You'll be stunned by its rich history and culture.

 

You know those people who barely talk at first and watch you like you're one of the bad guys? I am one of those people. Going to New Orleans, I expected to see an ordinary parade, you know, with prismatic floats and costumes, loud music and a lot of drunk people. OK, while some of these things are true, it is undeserving for NOLA to be treated like a gossip. First off, Mardi Gras is a Christian and historical event and is mainly targeted to family and deeply rooted tribes of the place. It may look like a wild ride to you (eating nonstop, getting drunk, excessive show off, and the like) for it to be a Christian parade but if you go back to its history, you'll be amazed on how it distinguishes itself as a celebration of freedom and unity.

Let's have a fast information exchange here first: According to historians, Mardi Gras also known as Fat Tuesday dates back thousands of years to pagan hullabaloo of spring and fertility. It is during that time when Christianity arrived in Rome that religious leaders decided to incorporate popular local traditions into the new faith. They thought, it is an easier task than abolishing them altogether. As a result, the excess and debauchery of the Mardi Gras season became a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. The word “carnival,” another common name for the pre-Lenten festivities, may also derive from this vegetarian-unfriendly custom: in Medieval Latin, carnelevarium means to take away or remove meat. Along with Christianity, Mardi Gras spread from Rome to other European countries, including France, Germany, Spain and England. (source)

Now, you'll think HOW the heck did Mardi Gras end up in New Orleans?

It is quite simple actually. On March 2, 1699, French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrived at a plot of ground 60 miles directly south of New Orleans, and named it "Pointe du Mardi Gras" when his men realized it was the eve of the festive holiday. In the decades that followed, New Orleans and other French settlements began marking the holiday with street parties, masked balls and lavish dinners. When the Spanish took control of New Orleans, however, they abolished these rowdy rituals, and the bans remained in force until Louisiana became a U.S. state in 1812.

How it came back was a pretty interesting story. On Mardi Gras in 1827, a group of students donned colorful costumes and danced through the streets of New Orleans, emulating the revelry they’d observed while visiting Paris. Ten years later, the first recorded New Orleans Mardi Gras parade took place, a tradition that continues to this day. In 1857, a secret society of New Orleans businessmen called the Mistick Krewe of Comus organized a torch-lit Mardi Gras procession with marching bands and rolling floats, setting the tone for future public celebrations in the city. Since then, krewes have remained a fixture of the Carnival scene throughout Louisiana. Other lasting customs include throwing beads and other trinkets, wearing masks, decorating floats and eating King Cake. (source)

Intricately crafted floats by Kern Studios

2. It's not just parade of colors. It is PEOPLE exhibit as well.

 

I must admit, it was knotty impression at first. I don't know if it's their accent or their language. They just talk funny and they know it. We were checking in when I heard a lady yelled outside the entrance saying something I couldn't understand. All I know was... I looked confused. I honestly thought she was speaking in European language or something. Wait, is that French? I saw the receptionist in my peripheral view---smiling, as if witnessing another common "tourist" bewilderment. I get it. Although this whole thing was new to me, to her, I'm just a temporary face in the crowd. The whole situation was a normal scene.

Again, this has something to do with their peculiar history. New Orleans is said to be the place where Africans, both slave and free, and American Indians shared their cultures and intermingled with European settlers. Encouraged by the French government, this strategy for producing a durable culture in a difficult place marked New Orleans as different and special from its inception and continues to distinguish this city today.

When we were looking for parking (God knows we had a really difficult time looking for one BUT IT IS WORTH the struggle!), I was surprised to see such a melange of people tirelessly walking around, wearing shiny beads and eye candy costumes. They were everywhere! The streets were filled with laughter and music. Some people opted to eat their festive food at the comfort of their balcony while others savored finger food offered by stalls along the sidewalks. I love how the community is so involved with the parade. From local dancers and musicians to their families and friends cheering for them.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is for all age groups, too! You will see young children in their splashy face paints and glittery hairs. And don't even think for a second that old people are going to miss the fun because most of them rocked their costumes like a boss!

3. No matter where you are in the world, whoever you are, whatever your trip in life is, YOU ARE WELCOME HERE!

 

If you're going to New Orleans to witness Mardi Gras, you're in for a PARTY you'll never forget. Carnival in New Orleans is something that needs to be truly experienced. I tell you, ogling at photos isn't enough! THE VIBE IS JUST INTENSE! Oh wait, did I mention IT IS LEGAL here to drink outdoors? Only in Louisiana! How cool is that? But I need to warn you on this- IT IS A MARATHON, not a sprint. You have to pace yourself when drinking. It gets pretty humid in summer; it's better to have water in hand. Party goers, put New Orleans Mardi Gras in your bucketlist! You sure are gonna thank me after.

Free stuff flying in the air, dancing drummers, and elaborate performances? KIDS love Mardi Gras! And yes, there are children in the streets. It's one of the common misconceptions that Mardi Gras is like an adult celebration. IT IS NOT! For most locals, it is a family tradition. Many of these children arrive with their families and a Mardi Gras ladder, which is a contraption that is essentially a wooden seat nailed to a stepladder, so that the kiddies can see over parade-goers and hopefully catch some cool stuff. Be sure to watch out for these tiny humans when aiming for your beads. Many unfortunate paws have been stomped in the process. Same tip applies to you. Don't say I didn't warn yah.

You love music? For the record, you'll be in the most musical city on earth! Who ever thought of a party without catchy music? You're right, no one. Here, grannies dance. Kids dance. Store owners dance. Police officers dance. When you go to see a show in NOLA, feel free to move and not just stand there like a terrified corpse. Be one with the crowd, and you'll see yourself in a better hue. There's something about the event that speaks to your soul. Whenever you look around, you feel the city's soul. It is alive. Mardi Gras in New Orleans is unbelievably breathtaking.

Definitely one for the books!

Photos taken during Mardi Gras in New Orleans

"It has been said that a Scotchman has not seen the world until he has seen Edinburgh; and I think that I may say that an American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi Gras in New Orleans." — Mark Twain

 

Want to explore other US Top Destinations? Click here.

If you're planning to go to New Orleans, let me know in the comments!

Poems of the month

"Poetry sees, smells, hears, tastes, feels."

 

It's been six months since I launched my blog and I couldn't be more grateful for the support I received, new friends I met, and all the brands, marketing teams and social media agencies that collaborated with me and trusted in my pitching capabilities. Thank you guys from the bottom of my heart. Working my way through, I focused my content on what I deemed was necessary to contribute to my platform's growth. I still couldn't believe that you guys supported the BIG SWITCH. In case you haven't followed me on instagram, a month ago, I changed my feed vibe. I told myself, if I won't be able to sustain that kind of feed for a month, screw it. I'm just going to go back to my old and random feed.

The thing about being new in the field is YOU STILL HAVE MANY ROOMS FOR IMPROVEMENTS and revise what you started. And that's what I did. From all the niches/contents I love, I narrowed them down to two (for instagram only, I still post food-related content and stuff under lifestyle category): TRAVEL CAREER and POETRY. I did this so I can introduce poetry while still posting photos of my travels. And, to push myself to write a short poem at least every three days.

I started it with so much enthusiasm and love for the craft. I even received a collaboration after my first post. I was surprised because it introduced me to the giving world. Not only was I able to gain funds for this little kid, I was also able to contribute to lives of others inside and outside hospital hallways. It is truly moving how God works wonders in our lives.

Poetry also introduced me to new books. I met new writers on instagram, too! And well, they're MANY! And I just love how amazing they are! 

Most of them are women who started writing because of a broken heart, or loss of somebody, or career move. Talk about writing as therapy, right? I realized, most of these writers started because of something. They gained a massive following after that. And as the community grew, I kept receiving DMs and personal emails that requested poems related to women. So I did!

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And I made some more! It's fulfilling how one craft can empower women like you, in many ways you never thought you could.

Dear young girls ~G.D.

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I participated in campaigns using hashtags. One of the social media campaign that I love is #justwrite. The campaign is simple: Help EPS spread awareness to write again. To encourage struggling students, including those with dyslexia and reading difficulties, and in the long run, build a social media presence. I pick campaigns that I believe in and not just a random fad just to gain likes and followers. I've always believed that in order for people to be successful in their career, they need to find purpose in what they do or else they'll be lost in the middle of nowhere (wait is that a song? lol) and not find what their hearts truly desire.

I wrote at least 5 poems last January, and that doesn't include other thoughts that I wrote in my little notebook. This round-up, to me, is a big achievement already. And gaining a following because of this craft makes it all better. I know some of you aren't fond of reading poems and writing cheesy stuff. But I'm sure you have a passion that you love. Maybe you're in love with photography, or with arts, or maybe you fancy numbers and all things science?

Comment below what you like doing! Or if you have a blog talking about topics that you love, feel free to discuss it. I'd love to share ideas with you. Don't forget to hit the "heart" button in the bottom right corner of your screen and subscribe to this blog. Thank you!

On travel nursing: How traveling as a couple builds stronger relationships

 

"I followed my love."

 

 

I don't want this to be a trend. I don't want this to be a fad. I want to breathe every day knowing I chose the lifestyle I want. I chose to wander. I want to look back one day and say, "I served my purpose."

 

To others, this could be just another millennial dream. To eat in a local restaurant and try weekly chef's specialty. To mingle with strangers and pet their dogs. To feel the sand between your toes and let your feet sink into ground's cushions. To turn your back... away from all the things that caused you drama. To be yourself and make a mark in a world full of turbulence and doubts. To play a song while driving on unfamiliar streets and forgetting that problems, wars, and societal division exist. To live in your little bubble and call it paradise. To smile because all while it's loud outside and roads are rocky sometimes, you have a choice whether to stop the journey or to get going and move to your next destination.

"Is it worth it?"

 

I asked myself after paying two sets of electric bills, rent, and car loan. I'm not going to lie; paying double for everything is stressful to my budget and pocket. Why double, you ask? As a travel nurse here in the US, we receive pay packages that are different compared to those with permanent staff positions. Travel agents offer us nontaxable travel benefits which include housing stipends, meals, and incidentals. Say they give us 1000 USD for housing and 500 USD for meals biweekly, we're able to keep it to ourselves. No tax! And that doesn't include our hourly rate yet. However, to receive nontaxable travel benefits, we must have 1) a permanent tax home (which is my apartment in McAllen) and 2) my travel assignment must not be within commuting distance of my permanent tax home, and each travel assignment, including extensions and other assignments cannot be expected to keep me in the same general area for more than one year.

So you get why I need to keep my original apartment, right? You might think that the end result is the same- getting paid more while spending twice the amount of what you used to give away. And that it doesn't make sense at all if the salary barely changed. No, not really. I travel with my boyfriend so somehow we manage to cut the expenses in half. And I have a roommate in Mcallen so she pays half the rent as well. It's all good actually. I have saved more in three months than what I used to when I was still a permanent staff in my previous job. It's quite confusing I know, but to keep it simple, this travel nurse life works for me and my needs.

The question didn't sprout from money. It's from something else.

 

I was lying on bed when I saw Luis playing his video games. I suddenly thought of the important things he needed to give up just to be with me in this journey. He didn't want this life at first. He imagined his career to be close to his family, in the comfort of the town he grew up in, secured that everything he needs are just within reach. He can even close his eyes and drive to my place if he wanted to. He doesn't need GPS; he knows the roads by heart. I can only imagine all the things he'd do if we stayed in our previous jobs. It will look like this:

His mom will cook tostada for breakfast. He'll wash his face and brush his teeth in front of a big mirror with ceramic sink. His toothbrush, razors, towels, and creams will be at the same corner; he can do his routine without minding that another person will use the bathroom because it is his bathroom. And nobody will sigh whenever he forgets to flush the toilet. He will go to their dining area with plates already lined up, with food waiting for him, his mom ironing clothes and telling him random stuff. Then his siblings will walk across the room, or his dad, and it will be another day of going to work or church or someplace else. He will play his video games using his large screen. Oh, how he loves his Xbox! He will try to choose a game among his mountain of collections  and he'll end up playing Fallout or Resident Evil. He will do this for hours and days and weeks and he won't bother that any of his routine will change.

And then one day, I told him about my plans of finally doing travel nursing. I was excited. I would tell him about this travel nurse working in our unit and convincing me to do the same. I would research about travel communities and blogging world and he'd just nod. I was into it. I was thrilled by the idea of it, but he was sad and hesitant. It came to that point when I told him I can go. Alone. Solo. And that would mean us breaking up. I know the idea is horrendous but traveling around every three months? With new people, new cultures, I mean all these changes are going to happen, and we both know we will be different people after.

We all know what happened next: He decided to come with me.

I used to have nightmares of him leaving in the middle of our contract and going back home. I was anxious that he might not like it because he'd miss his family so much. I was worried about our housing situation- how to find an apartment that will accept tenants on a short lease or how to function with limited furnitures. On top of this, it is a known fact in nursing community that couples and groups experience a little more difficulty finding jobs at the same hospitals or hospitals within a reasonable commute of one another. It's because some hospitals maintain a policy prohibiting couples from working at their facility at the same time. They cite problems that they’ve experienced with companies in the past as the reason. In addition, it’s always a little more difficult to land jobs for multiple people in any given location. That’s just the nature of the game.

My mind's exploding at the thought of him not being satisfied with our work environment. What if our new coworkers are mean? What if the place is chaotic and more toxic than where we were? How are we going to spend holidays away from home? What if the travel isn't worth it? What if I didn't make the right choice?

"What if he's not happy?"

 

 

I used to imagine his face with disappointment. I used to try so hard doing all things that would make him comfortable and not feel homesick. I look at him and I feel at home, but... what if he doesn't feel the same way?

Second week of February ended our travel assignment contract in Lufkin. This is it. The moment of truth. I finally had the courage to ask him what his thoughts are. If he still wants to go on, or just stop. There was tug of war inside my gut. I wanted him to say that he'd stay with me and travel some more but I don't want to be selfish. I just want him to be happy whether it's with me or not.

It's hard to gauge what a happy relationship means but in this lifestyle, I found out that having the same goals and plans is one way to start accommodating each other's needs. I still plan on doing this again and I don't see it ending soon. It taught me how to be a better nurse. It made me feel human again. I was high. It was amazing.

So when I asked him about his plans, he smiled and said he'll do it again in a heartbeat. I felt relieved.

What changed his mind?

 

At this point, I already made peace with myself knowing and finally believing that our relationship grew stronger than I could ever imagine. Maybe he got used to our arguments? By the way, when we're traveling, we argue a lot. A LOT. I posted a whole other article for that here and we never had a problem that we couldn't fix since that day. From simple details to complicated ones, somehow, our spirits are less stressed. We see a different view and that helps our perspective. We became better people than our past selves.

We never lived together under the same roof before our travel assignment. Yes, we'd go on week-long trips like during that time when we went on cruise but actually breathing the same air freshener (and farts, lol) and compromising each other's privacy? Traveling revealed a lot about us. We discovered our weaknesses and strengths. And what came out of it? We perfected adjusting to our limitations.

Doing our weekly groceries has played a great part on how we communicate, too! Who would have thought that weighing which meal to cook, what guilty pleasure to buy and whatnot could bring us closer? It is really true that as humans, the indelible treasure in our hearts and minds when experiencing something new together can be everlasting. It is reassuring to know that there is somebody with me to share adventures with. Somebody was there when it was fun and when it was scary.

Judging from our past conversation, our sense of humor became more in sync. There are times when situations don't go as planned and things just go horribly wrong and you just laugh about it. It could be the disgusting food from the cheap hotel you booked online, or from nasty comments made by a stranger who didn't have anything to do with you. At the end of the day, no matter how terrible the day went by, both of you gained one more golden story to laugh about in the future.

After our first travel nursing assignment, YES, WE CAME OUT ALIVE! And OUR RELATIONSHIP IS STRONGER THAN EVER.

 

Related topic

 

My experience may vary from other travel nurse couples out there because Luis and I are both nurses who only accept same hospital contracts. If you're a travel nurse couple but with different set up, read on.

Retired spouse or significant other of a travel nurse

 

If your spouse or significant other is retired, then the challenge is greatly reduced. Most people have thought about what they will do when they are retired (like travel) so now is the time for your spouse or significant other to look into those interests and hobbies that have always been on hold. This is also a great opportunity to travel in locations close to the kids and grandkids. If they are retired and bringing in extra income is not a huge priority, then a retired spouse or significant other is in a great position to take care of the issues like taxes, finances, your house back in your hometown and you (hey you’re the one still working so make sure they take care of everything at home so you can relax).

Spouse or significant other who is also a travel nurse

 

This is the easiest situation, but does present some of its own challenges as far as finding assignments in the same city if not same hospital at the same time. This will require a great recruiter and travel nursing company and a lot of pre-planning on your part. Another challenge of this is to make sure that you try to get your schedules as closely synced as possible so you don’t miss out on the chance to enjoy your travel location together. You don’t just want to transfer a life where you don’t see each other to a new locale; you want to enjoy all the benefits of a travel nursing job. So make sure you work with your recruiter and nurse manager to see how often you can work the same schedules or at least coordinate one or two days off together a week. And hopefully you can avoid a situation where one of you is working the night shift and the other the day.

Another option here is to take turns working the travel nursing jobs. Instead of you both working during one 13 week stretch you could alternate. And another option is to both work a ton for 2-3 assignments a year and have 3 months off together. By then you should have seen enough of each other enough that going back to work sounds like a vacation.

Non traveler spouse or significant other of a travel nurse

 

The challenges of having a spouse or significant other who is not retired or a traveler while you are a travel nurse is really keeping them busy and productive away from home. If you have already made the decision for them to leave their job or career behind while you use travel nursing to make extra money and see the country then hopefully the two of you have thought through what they will do while you are at work. But if you haven’t or you have realized that you need or want them to supplement the household income then are some cool job options for spouse or significant others of travel nurses.

Some other options are working with a temporary staffing agency. Many industries rely on staffing agencies just like nursing does so be sure to check out that option. It is a great way for them to gain new skills and broaden their career network while you travel. 

Some websites to get started with are Kelly ServicesManpowerKforce and TrueBlue.

Another option for them is to go back to college online. There are tons of great online university degree programs all you need is an Internet connection, time and motivation. Just search for online colleges and you will find tons of resources.

A few other rewarding options I have seen spouse or significant others of travel nurses take:

  • Blogging
  • Substitute teaching
  • Volunteering

Links for spouse or significant others of travel nurses

 


My travel agency is Medical Solutions. If you've been wanting to join the gypsy nurse life and don't know where to start, feel free to message me for referrals. 🙂 If you have questions about Travel Nursing in general, you are welcome to join our Travel Nurse Group on Facebook! Have a good day everyone! 

Psalm 32:7-8 For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory. The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you."

Lemon Garlic Shrimp Pasta

 

Ingredients

8 ounces Linguine Pasta

2 Tablespoons olive oil

6 Tablespoons butter

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 pound medium shrimp

salt and pepper to taste

4 cups baby spinach

½ cup parmesan cheese

2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped

4 lemons

 

Instructions

1. In a large pot, cook the pasta in boiling water according to package directions. 10 minutes is usually the magic number that works for me. Add 2 tbsp salt and cooking oil. Salted water flavors the pasta from the inside out as the pasta absorbs the water, leading to tastier pasta. When it comes to adding olive oil, there are different opinion about this. Here's what I learned from watching Food Network when it comes to putting oil in your pasta water:

Rule of thumb: If you are making a thick sauce- including tomato paste, creamy mushroom, lots of cheese- for your pasta, DO NOT put oil in pasta water. It will prevent your pasta from absorbing your sauce. If your sauce is olive oil-based, YOU CAN ADD olive oil in your pasta water.

 

2. Drain and set aside.

3. Using the same pan, heat olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant.

4. Add the shrimp and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the shrimp start to turn pink.

5. Add spinach and cook until wilted.

6. Add the pasta back to the pot with the remaining butter, parmesan, and parsley. Still until mixed and butter is melted.

7. Add the lemon juice before serving and serve while hot.

Let me know if you tried this recipe. 🙂

Hello, January!

Last year has been a bit of a doozy, with an icky election, scandal-plagued Olympics, war in Syria, and the loss of far too many beloved celebrities. We mourned Prince, Bowie, Ali, Leonard, and Merle, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t celebrate all the good stuff! Sure, even Willy Wonka, Mrs. Brady, and Mr. Seaver shuffled off this mortal coil in 2016, but I suggest you turn that frown upside down, channel your positive energy, because there's a lot in store for us this 2017!

OK I am not really into trends but recently, I've been tracking every social media post that has likes and engagements for more follows and collaborations. I don't know if it's just me or other bloggers and people from sales feel the same way. There's just something about trends that helps you with your planning. I think it's safe to say that the magic word is algorithms. For many years, researchers have used people's interactions and way of life as their bases for a new study. These tracks and breadcrumbs also help our government agents in tracking a criminal's next move. Sometimes, these trends make or break a company. You remember what happened to Nokia? I loved that brand. My first cellphone was with them, and I guess they will always have a special place in my heart. "We didn't do anything wrong. We just failed at evolving and trying new things." I don't know if that's what the company's CEO said, but it's something close to that. Apple is yesterday's Nokia, and if they don't up their game this year, Samsung will. Just saying.

I compiled these emerging trends so that I won't need to bookmark several pages. First week of January and I'm already trying to do everything at once- reading a book, updating my blog, searching for a new travel nursing location, writing goals, ghaaa it's just too much! Once I start mapping everything out, I just can't stop 'til I have a picture of what's likely to happen. I forced myself to stop though because I'll be starting my work again tomorrow and I just want to relax for my last day of our 5-day vacation. But oh well, here I am writing this. It's actually calming on my part. Lol.

OK here goes the long list:

Emerging trends in Health and Wellness

2016 gave us wearable technology aimed at improving our health. Fitbit, Apple and Samsung watches are in demand! Everywhere I go, whenever I see someone jogging, I just know he's wearing a smartwatch or a digital tracker. It was also the year of Apple Cider Vinegar's maximum use (like, seriously, you can put it on everything!) and green teas-oh how I love Matcha!-although it's becoming more of a fad.

The use of Turmeric: Popping Curcumin tabs or drinking turmeric curd or milk is a big trend that is being witnessed across the world. For Indians, Turmeric has been an age old remedy for aches and pains. But, in recent times it is being prescribed as an anti-inflammatory food and is slowly being integrated into one’s lifestyle and diet.

Super Foods: Super Foods are becoming part of daily regular diet. Two years ago, Quinoa, flax seeds, Melon seeds, Pumpkin seeds and Kale were considered exotic and difficult to find in supermarkets. Now however, these super foods have become staples for many and is part of regular daily diet of many. One time I went to Jason's Deli and tried their salad, I just loved how they mixed Quinoa in it! So delish, and it filled me up before getting to the main course, which is a good thing if you're cutting your carbs.

Wellness retreats: Since people have taken to healthy living, their holiday habits are also changing. They are thinking of going for wellness spa holidays, or meditation and yoga retreats in the mountains or go to pure wellness centers that is built amidst nature for detox. People are taking off for a week to be in complete solace with themselves and soak in the good aspects of life and bring in a discipline in their life. Audrey Gelman of The Wing, a space for "women on their way," raised $2.4 million in a short five months this past year. The female founders of super-successful SoulCycle and BBG Ventures, who require at least one female founder, participated in its seed round. The Wing is a members-only gathering space for women who are interested in connecting with other women, want a safe and quiet space to work, or who need a midday touch-up and going home isn't an option. "There is a culture in these co-working spaces that is sort of bro-centric, male-dominated," Gelman says. "There was this blind eye to amenities that were essential for women," Gelman told New York Magazine, on one of the many reasons she founded The Wing. (Mindbodygreen)

Sitting is the new Smoking so walk 10,000 steps daily: If smoking was not bad enough to kill you, here is another lethal habit that can kill you-‘Sitting’. Sitting is known to increase belly fat which in turn is a recipe for disaster as it directly injures the heart. Hence, clocking 10,000 steps on a daily basis has been proved to be good and medically too doctors have accepted that this should be the daily norm. (Goqii)

High-tech diet Increasing attention is being given to the role that technology can play in preserving our food supply system. Biotech companies like Impossible Meats and New Wave Foods are developing fascinating meat alternatives -- respectively, a bloody veggie burger and algae-based shrimp. They have developed prototypes that will hopefully hit mainstream markets this 2017.

On an entirely different note, more basic technology such as online grocery shopping is easier to find. Have you watched Amazon Go's ad? It looks pretty cool! This is promising for the many individuals who struggle to shop in person on a regular basis and will hopefully bring fresher foods into their diets.


Movies, TV shows to Watch

Netflix adds This list may not be a complete list but this is what I was waiting for since last year! I just can't contain the excitement. But before I tell you our must-watch list, (buffer much! lol) just want to let you guys know that some shows are also leaving! Why can't we have it all, right? So let's catch them while they're still rolling!

Leaving 1/6/17
The Girl Who Played with Fire
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Leaving 1/29/17
Stephen King’s A Good Marriage

First on my list: A Series of Unfortunate Events. In the series, Neil Patrick Harris plays Count Olaf, the role Jim Carrey played in the movie. The series is based on the Lemony Snicket novels, written by Daniel Handler, and is available to stream starting on January 13(Heavy.com). Next is The Shining (1980) from my favorite thriller author Stephen King of course! Its genre is psychological horror, so if you're into these kinds, we'd probably enjoy it. Although Stephen King has been quoted as saying that although Kubrick made a film with memorable imagery, it was poor as an adaptation and that it is the only adaptation of his novels that he could "remember hating." But you're still going to watch it, aren't you? Third is The Investigator: A British Crime Story, also a netflix original. Fourth: Real Detective. My netflix line-up is mostly investigative and thrillers, if you want the complete list, click here.

***

Movie train *If you want to watch the trailers, just click on the title* Split (January 20)M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs), having rediscovered his skill at making entertaining horror schlock with 2015’s The Visit, is back for more with a truly absurd high-wire act. (Guys, you should watch the trailer!) Get Out (February 24)- a satirical horror film from the director Jordan Peele, one half of Key & Peele.  Kong: Skull Island (March 10) the latest attempt to revive one of the most famous monsters in Hollywood history, King Kong. Beauty and the Beast (March 17) Disney's live-action remakes of animated classics (Maleficent, Cinderella, and The Jungle Book) have all been colossal successes, so you know, Disney forever! Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5) Guardians of the Galaxy is, pound for pound, the most entertaining film Marvel has ever produced, and its writer-director James Gunn is back on board for the sequel. Wonder Woman (June 2) A period piece, the film will explain how Wonder Woman ended up in the modern world, departing her home island to fight in World War I alongside her love interest Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7).  This iteration of Spider-Man (played by Tom Holland) made his debut in Captain America: Civil War last year.

The next list has no trailers yet, so for a breaker, here's the mind-boggling Split's trailer:

 

 

The Dark Tower (July 28) A long-gestating adaptation of Stephen King’s famed Dark Tower series, set in the mythical Mid-World, a magical spin on the Old West. King describes the eight-book saga as his magnum opus, and many directors have taken cracks at adapting it, including J.J. Abrams (who eventually decided he was too fond of the work to take the necessary plot liberties to translate it to screen) and Ron Howard. The Snowman (October 13) An adaptation of Jo Nesbø’s bestselling detective novel, The Snowman follows Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) as he investigates the disappearance of a woman whose scarf is found wrapped around a snowman. Thor: Ragnarok (November 3) Thor series sees the Norse god of thunder (Chris Hemsworth) embark on some sort of intergalactic journey. Thor movies are almost criminally underrated, much happier to indulge in fun mystical antics without too much needless exposition, and anchored by Hemsworth and Hiddleston’s comedic chemistry. Red Sparrow (November 10) A spy thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence, based on the 2013 novel by CIA veteran Jason Matthews that was acclaimed for its attention to detail. Lawrence plays Dominika Egorova, a Russian intelligence officer who matches wits with a hotheaded rookie CIA agent (played by Joel Edgerton). Darkest Hour (November 24) A historical drama focusing on British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) as he faces down Nazi Germany and “faces a crucial moment” at the beginning of World War II. Sure to be an Oscar player, given its heavily made-up protagonist and late-November release date. And last but not the least, Star Wars Episode VIII (December 15) The eighth in a popular series of science-fiction films that have been kicking around Hollywood for the last few decades.

Movie dates aren't cheap, especially if you're like us who love to watch movies all the time. Good thing, Luis has his Kodi joystick where we can watch movies for free. Well, not really for free, but at least it's very handy when you have WiFi at home. You might want to check it out if you're one of the practical people like us. Android TV box


Books to Read

I'll be honest here, I haven't finished reading my Christmas book, Woman of God by James Patterson. It's still on my nook and I haven't read it since the start of holiday season. (My bad) But to compensate with that, I created my list of pre-orders, so that by the time I'm done reading, there will be a whole new set waiting for me. Some of the books on this list are arriving this January! Check it out, guys!

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

Gay has had an enormously successful few years. In 2014, her novel, An Untamed State, and an essay collection, Bad Feminist, met with wide acclaim, and in the wake of unrest over anti-black police violence, hers was one of the clearest voices in the national conversation. While much of Gay’s writing since then has dealt in political thought and cultural criticism, she returns in 2017 with this short story collection exploring the various textures of American women’s experience.

Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh

A long, dull day of jury duty in 2008 was redeemed by a lunchtime discovery of Unsaid magazine and its lead story “Help Yourself!” by Moshfegh, whose characters were alluring and honest and full of contempt. I made a point to remember her name at the time, but now Moshfegh’s stories appear regularly in The Paris Review and The New Yorker, and her novel Eileen was shortlisted for the 2016 Booker Prize. Her debut collection of stories, Homesick for Another World, gathers many of these earlier stories, and is bound to show why she’s considered one of literature’s most striking new voices.

Collected Stories by E.L. Doctorow

Doctorow is known for historical novels like Ragtime and The Book of Daniel, but he also wrote some terrific stories, and shortly before his death in 2015 he selected and revised 15 of his best. Fans who already own his 2011 collection All the Time in the World may want to give this new one a miss, since many of the selections overlap, but readers who only know Doctorow as a novelist may want to check out his classic early story “A Writer in the Family,” as well as others like “The Water Works” and “Liner Notes: The Songs of Billy Bathgate,” which are either precursors of or companion pieces to his novels.

4321 by Paul Auster

Multiple timelines are nothing new at this point, but it’s doubtful they’ve ever been used in quite the way they are in 4321, Auster’s first novel since his 2010 book Sunset Park. In his latest, four timelines branch off the moment the main character is born, introducing four separate Archibald Isaac Fergusons that grow more different as the plot wears on. They’re all, in their own ways, tied up with Amy Schneiderman, who appears throughout the book’s realities.

Human Acts by Han Kang

Korean novelist Kang says all her books are variations on the theme of human violence. The Vegetarian, her first novel translated into English, arrested readers with the contempt showered upon an “unremarkable” wife who became a vegetarian after waking from a nightmare. Kang’s forthcoming Human Acts focuses on the 1980 Korean Gwangju Uprising, when Gwangju locals took up arms in retaliation for the massacre of university students who were protesting. Within Kang tries to unknot “two unsolvable riddles” — the intermingling of two innately human yet disparate tendencies, the capacity for cruelty alongside that for selflessness and dignity.

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

Set in Berkeley, Sekaran’s novel follows two women: Soli, an undocumented woman from Mexico raising a baby alone while cleaning houses, and an Indian-American woman struggling with infertility who becomes a foster parent to Soli’s son. Kirkus called it “superbly crafted and engrossing.”

Enigma Variations by André Aciman

The CUNY Professor New York magazine called “the most exciting new fiction writer of the 21st century” returns with a romantic/erotic bildungsroman following protagonist Paul from Italy to New York, from adolescence to adulthood. Kirkus called it an “eminently adult look at desire and attachment.”

Transit by Rachel Cusk

Everyone who read and reveled in the nimble formal daring of Outline is giddy to read Transit, which follows the same protagonist, Faye, as she navigates life after separating from her husband. Both Transit and Outline are made up of stories other people tell Faye, and in her rave in The Guardian, Tessa Hadley remarks that Cusk’s structure is “a striking gesture of relinquishment. Faye’s story contends for space against all these others, and the novel’s meaning is devolved out from its centre in her to a succession of characters. It’s a radically different way of imagining a self, too — Faye’s self.”

Hope you guys enjoyed this list!

Let's rock 2017!

How we sprinkled some Christmas vibes away from home

Leaving home is no feat. And spending holidays without your people? It's awful. Homesickness will haunt your core. Stress, anxiety, and loneliness will be your three enemies when dealing with constant longing. 

Doing travel nursing is one of the best decisions I've made, and I don't know any other career path that is more appropriate for me than what I have right now. However, one major downside of it is being away from your comfort zone. That doesn't get to my nerves anymore because I've been working overseas for three years now. And I love it. Luis, on the other hand, had never left his hometown before we ventured into travel nursing. So it's natural for him to feel more homesick than I do.

This Christmas is his first Christmas away from home. This Christmas is also the same holiday that I'm not in my permanent flat. But that doesn't mean we don't get to experience Christmas, because love find ways. Lol, cheesy❤️

This photo was taken from my permanent flat. I bought some Christmas-themed pieces last November. During that time, I was still convinced that we'd be celebrating our Christmas in the valley. But, here we are in Lufkin just a month after! 😂

I was planning to buy some Christmas lights, at least, to have something in our temporary crib but Luis doesn't like the idea of it because it'd take some space when we move again. And he's right.

So what did we do, really?

Here are some ways to put extra holiday ambience to your temporary home:

  1. Light up those scented candles


Aside from its relaxation properties, candles can also set the mood in your home. While you can choose essential oils and fragrance sprays over candles due to fire hazard reasons, they have been known as Christmas symbol for ages. The warmth it gives to a certain place is just so homey!

We chose Pine and Apple&Evergreen scents because they are Christmas related. My other favorite candle scents are pumpkin waffle (You should try this one!) and vanilla caramel. Get yours here.

Now, you might read some negative effects of scented candles, like it might cause cancer, asthma, those kinds of stuff. (Refer to Huffington Post)

According to Anne Steinemann, an environmental pollutants expert who is a professor of civil engineering and the chair of sustainable cities at the University of Melbourne, certain candles may emit numerous types of potentially hazardous chemicals, such as benzene and toluene. They can cause damage to the brain, lung and central nervous system, as well.

“I have heard from numerous people who have asthma that they can’t even go into a store if the store sells scented candles, even if they aren’t being burned,” Steinemann added. “They emit so much fragrance that they can trigger asthma attacks and even migraines.”

Researchers at South Carolina State University tested both petroleum-based paraffin wax candles and vegetable-based candles that were non-scented, non-pigmented and free of dyes. Their 2009 report concluded that while the vegetable-based candles didn’t produce any potentially harmful pollutants, the paraffin candles “released unwanted chemicals into the air,” said chemistry professor Ruhullah Massoudi in a statement.
“For a person who lights a candle every day for years or just uses them frequently, inhalation of these dangerous pollutants drifting in the air could contribute to the development of health risks like cancer, common allergies and even asthma,” Massoudi said.

BUT

The National Candle Association refutes these claims, stating in a comment to The Huffington Post: “The safety of scented candles is backed by decades of research, fragrance testing and a history of safe use. The fragrances approved for candle usage — whether synthesized or ‘natural’ — do not release toxic chemicals. Health and safety studies are conducted for fragrance materials used in candles, including toxicological and dermatological tests.”

2. Prepare your favorite holiday treat


For us, it's Christmas meltaway cookies. Meltaway cookies are a soft, lightly sweet shortbread cookie that literally melts away in your mouth.  Okay, I didn't bake this one. I got ours from Walmart.

Cookies are Luis' favorite treat. And having ready to eat cookies in our kitchen brings wonders to his mood. Lol. I don't like baking in general so I don't have any go-to ingredients for this. But I was able to search one that matches what we got so HERE:

Yield: 20 cookies

Ingredients

Cookies:

¾ cup butter (1½ sticks, or 14 Tbsp), room temperature

½ cup powdered sugar

½ cup cornstarch

1 tsp vanilla

¼ tsp salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

Glaze:

1½ cups powdered sugar

3 to 4 Tbsp milk

¼ tsp vanilla or almond extract

Optional:

red & green sprinkles

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment cream the butter with the powdered sugar and cornstarch. Add vanilla. Mix well.

3. Combine the salt and flour. Add to the batter. Mix until dough clumps together.

4. Scoop cookie dough onto silicone lined baking sheets. Flatten dough balls with the bottom of a measuring cup dipped in powdered sugar.

5. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 to 12 minutes until just set. Do not over-bake.

6. Whisk together the ingredients for the glaze adding extra milk 1 tsp at a time until desired consistency. (Keep it slightly thick, a little milk goes a long way.) Spoon on top of cooled cookies.

7. Immediately shake sprinkles on top of wet glaze. Allow glaze to harden. Store cookies in an airtight container up to 5 days.

3. Have a sip of some peppermint drink


What goes with cookies? Milk chocolate drink. And it should be Peppermint! Or else it's just another chocolate drink without the Christmas spirit. lol.

Sorry for the burnt mallows, I just like it toasted (for more caramel flavor). This is by far my favorite experimental drink I've made. I bought peppermint candies, crushed and sprinkled them on top of my Swiss Miss Chocolate drink with marshmallows. This hot drink is perfect before sleeping! We usually drink this after work so we can have a good rest.

Also, I got the idea from Ihop's chocolate drink.

4. Play your Christmas playlist

Click here for the Playlist that we play every morning.
Luis also plays Christmas songs from Youtube. It became a habit that we seriously enjoyed. Although he gets annoyed when I sing along. 😅

Okay, this may not be suited for the holiday vibe of this post but I just find it poetic. The timing is just perfect:

As BBC News reported and Michael’s publicist confirmed, George Michael died Christmas Day at age 53. He is the star beyond the iconic song, Last Christmas.

Mind blowing, right? Of all the days, of all the holidays, he died on Christmas day. We've played this song endless times! I even did my knock knock joke (song related) to Luis!

Knock knock!

Who's there?

December 25,2015

December 25,2015 who?

Last Christmas, I gave you my heart

Knock knock!

Who's there?

December 26,2015

December 26,2015 who?

But the very next day, you gave it away

Knock knock!

Who's there?

2016

2016 who?

This year, to save me from tears

Knock knock!

Who's there?

Luis

Luis who?

I'll give it to someone special

❤️

You just never know when your last Christmas will be. But maybe his spirit knew. And isn't a good time to go? With high spirits everywhere, carolers in the streets, happy scenes scattered in malls and in homes, such a good time to be alive, too! It's just me and my poetic self talking. Don't mind it.

5. Order a Holiday special at your favorite restaurant

If you don't plan to cook, go to your favorite restaurant and order their Holiday special on Christmas morning.

We didn't have the time to roam around because we worked both Christmas eve and Christmas night. So we figured going to our favorite breakfast place will do. And of course, don't have to guess, it's Ihop!

Because pancakes!

Annddd that's about it for this holiday post.

Just kidding. Last but not the least:

6. Gift giving

These gifts are actually from his family. And we love everything in this box!

From cookies to shoes to leggings and pens, they sure know how to make it personal. You see, it's not about expensive gifts. It may be cliche to say this, but it is really the thought that counts. This year, I gave him a leather jacket. He didn't bring one going here because he never thought it'll be cold this season, considering Lufkin's still Texas. Good thing, he left his jacket in my flat and I thought of bringing it with me. That jacket though is not as appropriately insulated as the one I bought. And honestly, he asked for that gift. Practicality goes a long way, they say. We went to Houston and roamed around Galleria mall and found one that suits him best at Macy's. It's INC hooded jacket with removable hood, drawstring closure. Its original cost is $225, but we got it for only $95.90! If you want to purchase one for you with the same discount, go ahead and click >>this<<< and enter code: JOY upon checkout.

Could you guess what he gave me?

The art of fixing what I thought I never needed. Okay, that's too dramatic.

Last September, we went to HEB after our cruise getaway, and unfortunately, I dropped my phone against a metal bar  at the bottom of the ice cream stall. My screen was broken (and it's not the tapered glass you guys!). So for three months, my phone has cracks all over it, I sometimes chip my thumbs. So when we went for gift shopping, we stopped by CELLTECH. It is a one stop for your repair needs, from cellphones, to tablets to laptops. They also specialize in carrying unique and trendy cellphone accessories. They have two trained professionals who patiently assisted us in finding the right case for my phone.

It's almost closing time (0930PM), and I thought they won't accept my phone anymore, but props to their tech team! They repaired it for only 10 minutes. It costs $235, all in all, including my new phone case which is shock and water-resistant. I didn't ask for a gift so my Luis, being the thoughtful guy that he is, paid for everything. I volunteered to pay for the case but he insisted to pay the whole amount. Here is the breakdown: $150 for repair, $60 for the phone case, and the remaining $10 for taxes. The moral of the story: Don't ever drop your phone! And invest in tapered glass! You just never know when your phone's going to give up on you and your tantrums. Lol.

My 2016 Christmas is different from my other Christmases. Last year, I celebrated it with my family and friends in the Philippines. It was fun-filled and I was hyper most of the time. This year, it was quiet and relaxed. Plus, I was with Luis and Pumpkin. During my **single** ages aka boring years, I'd always wish to celebrate this season with someone I love. You know, sharing a cup of warm drink on this cold and cuddle weather. This year is THAT year. All those years of waiting and praying and hoping that someone is out there waiting for me to be his other half, they just made sense. Love is truly worth the wait.

Christmas time is that time of the year when you acknowledge Christ's presence in your life. Isn't he the reason for this season? Aside from the things that everybody look forward to- gifts, travel and all- we should keep in mind that Christmas is never about the physical things. It's about the never-ending grace from our creator. We live because He died for us and our sins thousands of years ago. We love because He first loved us. We give because He had given us everything. We forgive because He had forgiven us even before we commit our earthly sins. (Related post: Christmas story)

If ever you don't celebrate Christmas, for whatever reason, please know that my happy soul is reaching out to you! It may be Happy Hannukah to you, or just another ordinary day. I don't know, but I want you to feel that wherever you are, whatever season you are in right now, you are loved and adored!

How did your December 25th go? Share your story!

The Christmas story

If you’re looking for the best source of a Christmas story, go get your Bible. No really. I’m not kidding.

Here are some bible verses that tell us what happened on Christmas years ago:

Isaiah 7:14 (NIV)
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.


Malachi 3:1-4 (KJV)
Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years.


Micah 5:2-3 (CEB)
As for you, Bethlehem of Ephrathah, though you are the least significant of Judah’s forces, one who is to be a ruler in Israel on my behalf will come out from you. His origin is from remote times, from ancient days. Therefore, he will give them up until the time when she who is in labor gives birth. The rest of his kin will return to the people of Israel.


Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 (ESV)
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.


Isaiah 40:1-2, 9 (GW)
“Comfort my people! Comfort them!” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and announce to it that its time of hard labor is over and its wrongs have been paid for. It has received from the Lord double for all its sins.” Go up a high mountain, Zion. Tell the good news! Call out with a loud voice, Jerusalem. Tell the good news! Raise your voice without fear. Tell the cities of Judah: “Here is your God!”


Hebrews 1:1-2 (HCSB)
Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him.


Luke 1:26-35 (ICB)
During Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to a virgin who lived in Nazareth, a town in Galilee. She was engaged to marry a man named Joseph from the family of David. Her name was Mary. The angel came to her and said, “Greetings! The Lord has blessed you and is with you.”

But Mary was very confused by what the angel said. Mary wondered, “What does this mean?”

The angel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, because God is pleased with you. Listen! You will become pregnant. You will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and people will call him the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of King David, his ancestor. He will rule over the people of Jacob forever. His kingdom will never end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen? I am a virgin!”

The angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you. The baby will be holy. He will be called the Son of God.


Matthew 1:18-23 (PHILLIPS)
The birth of Jesus Christ happened like this. When Mary was engaged to Joseph, just before their marriage, she was discovered to be pregnant—by the Holy Spirit. Whereupon Joseph, her future husband, who was a good man and did not want to see her disgraced, planned to break off the engagement quietly. But while he was turning the matter over in his mind an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife! What she has conceived is conceived through the Holy Spirit, and she will give birth to a son, whom you will call Jesus (‘the Saviour’) for it is he who will save his people from their sins.”

All this happened to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet—‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’. (“Immanuel” means “God with us.”)


Luke 2:1-7 (CEV)
About that time Emperor Augustus gave orders for the names of all the people to be listed in record books. These first records were made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

Everyone had to go to their own hometown to be listed. So Joseph had to leave Nazareth in Galilee and go to Bethlehem in Judea. Long ago Bethlehem had been King David’s hometown, and Joseph went there because he was from David’s family.

Mary was engaged to Joseph and traveled with him to Bethlehem. She was soon going to have a baby, and while they were there, she gave birth to her first-born son. She dressed him in baby clothes[d] and laid him on a bed of hay, because there was no room for them in the inn.


Luke 2:8-20 (NET)
Now there were shepherds nearby living out in the field, keeping guard over their flock at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were absolutely terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Listen carefully, for I proclaim to you good news that brings great joy to all the people: Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a vast, heavenly army appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels left them and went back to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, that the Lord has made known to us.” So they hurried off and located Mary and Joseph, and found the baby lying in a manger. When they saw him, they related what they had been told about this child, and all who heard it were astonished at what the shepherds said. But Mary treasured up all these words, pondering in her heart what they might mean. So the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; everything was just as they had been told.


Matthew 2:1-12 (NIrV)
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea. This happened while Herod was king of Judea. After Jesus’ birth, Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the child who has been born to be king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose. Now we have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard about it, he was very upset. Everyone in Jerusalem was troubled too. So Herod called together all the chief priests of the people. He also called the teachers of the law. He asked them where the Messiah was going to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied. “This is what the prophet has written. He said,

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are certainly not the least important among the towns of Judah.
A ruler will come out of you.
He will rule my people Israel like a shepherd.’”

Then Herod secretly called for the Wise Men. He found out from them exactly when the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem. He said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report it to me. Then I can go and worship him too.”

After the Wise Men had listened to the king, they went on their way. The star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them. It finally stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. The Wise Men went to the house. There they saw the child with his mother Mary. They bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures. They gave him gold, frankincense and myrrh. But God warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod. So they returned to their country on a different road.


John 1:1-4, 14 (NLT)
In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.


John 3:16-17 (NRSV)
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.


John 20:31 (NABRE)
But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.


Hebrews 1:3 (VOICE)
This is the One who—imprinted with God’s image, shimmering with His glory—sustains all that exists through the power of His word. He was seated at the right hand of God once He Himself had made the offering that purified us from all our sins.

“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God”

1 Corinthians 2:12

❤︎

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