Friday, June 28, 2013

DIY Mini Garden

I debated whether or not to share this DIY because I basically borrowed (re: stole) inspiration from the girls at A Beautiful Mess (1, 2) and it's such a simple project, I feel like instructions are unnecessary. But, I wanted to post something fun and festive before I go on holiday tomorrow so here I am.
You'll need:
a pretty container for your plants
decorative rocks or marbles
topsoil
succulents and cacti
My sister and I both wanted pretty but low maintenance plants for our respective offices as well as a pretty centerpiece for our coffee table. Succulents and cacti are great low maintenance plants since they need just a bit of water every few weeks. They need plenty of sunlight so set them where they'll get lots of sun but not on a windowsill (when the weather is cooler) because extreme temperature changes can harm your plants.

We chose these cute pink and yellow cacti for our mini gardens. They're so vibrantly colored and quite cute, despite their phallic shape.
We went to Home Depot to buy our plants and they had these amazing pots full of various succulents (which were priced from $14.95 to $19.95 depending on the size of the pot). We bought one that had a little aloe plant and also this mossy looking plant that reminded me of coral.
We started by adding a layer of rocks to the bottom of our containers and then adding a few inches of topsoil. The rocks will help with drainage since these glass containers aren't necessarily meant for plants and don't have the standard drainage holes drilled in the bottom. We bought our glass containers from Michaels for about $6 each.
After that, we just pulled the plants from their pots (carefully avoiding the spikes) and placed them in our containers. We used a bit more top soil to make sure the cacti and succulents were nicely planted so they wouldn't topple over. Then, we gave each of our pots a bit of water. This is how my mini garden turned out:
Here's my sister's:
I love the colors; don't you?
Here's the mini garden we made to go on our coffee table:
We packed a lot of plants into this container but I think it looks prettier that way. Plus, I love the pop of color that the yellow cactus gives.
And here they are, sitting on our living room table.
This little guy is coming with me to work. I can't wait to spruce up my office with a splash of color.
Cheers.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Belize FAQ's

I booked my trip to Belize back in February and every time I tell family and friends and coworkers that I'm going there, they ask, "Wait, where is that?" I wrote a little "Learn About" post back in March and shared a few fun facts in that post but today, I want to share a bit more practical information.

Let me quote from my own post: "Belize in Central America, bordered to the north by Mexico and to the west by Guatemala; the rest of it is coast." Here's a map if you prefer a visual:


When I plan trips abroad, I usually think about three specific things first: language, currency, and electricity. Of course there are other things I also wonder about, like cell service, wifi, time zone, visas, etc. but let's start with the basics.
  • The primary language spoken in Belize is English, though many other languages are spoken as well.
  • Belize has its own currency but USD is generally accepted. The exchange rate is $2 Belize dollars for every $1 American dollar. Easy. And an FYI, sales tax is 12.5%.
  • Belize uses the same voltage as the US (110 V) and has the same outlet shape/size as the US as well, so Americans don't need to bring an adapter.
  • I thought maybe because Belize is so jungle-y and island-y that cell service and wifi would be hard to come by. I will generalize and say that yes, you will probably be able to get cell service in Belize, as long as you have a GSM capable phone, though unless you get a foreign SIM card or some sort of travel plan, the roaming charges will be disgusting (re: expensive). I read somewhere that for a while, Skype was blocked on wifi but recently, the block has been removed. So for people like me, who prefer to use Skype instead of paying for cell service abroad, this is great news.
  • Belize is in the Central Time Zone, but they don't observe daylight savings time. This means that in the Spring and Summer, they are 2 hours behind me (in the Eastern Standard Time Zone) vs. 1 hour behind in the Fall and Winter.
  • US, EU, and many other countries don't need a visa to enter Belize (for a holiday that's shorter than 30 days). I like to always check visa requirements, lest I get kicked out of the country as soon as I land.
  • Malaria is a disease of concern in Latin American countries. However, the CDC says that there's a low risk for contracting malaria in Belize. We'll take precautions with bug spray and by staying indoors at night time.
  • In most areas of Belize, the tap water is potable. However, I expect we'll be drinking bottled water, just in case.
This is also a work in progress, but let me share my own marked up Google Maps map. I read somewhere that stores are always moving or shutting down and new places pop up all over, so I expect this map to be quite obsolete within the year, but hey, it's helpful now.


Four days to go!

Cheers!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Packing for Belize

Before I go on holiday, I spend a lot of time planning and organizing, as you might have seen in my Overexcited post. That's just the type of person I am. I like to plan what I can because it's important to me to be prepared, though, I still remind myself that sometimes things might not go exactly how I imagined.

Typically, about one month ahead of the trip, I'll start to make a list of anything I need to buy. One month gives me enough time if I need to order anything online (like underwater cameras) because I'm cheap and I always opt for the free shipping option, which means my package will take a little longer to arrive at my doorstep. Plus, if what I've ordered is not to my liking, I still have time to send it back and reorder. And I usually spend one weekend going wherever I need to go (usually Target) to pick up things like travel-size body wash and cheap sandals.

Oh, and another thing I do about a month or two ahead - if I need to bring cash with me, I like to take out a little bit at a time so that neither my bank account nor I feel overwhelmed by a large withdrawal. So for example, if I plan on bringing $1000 with me, I might split that up into four weekly trips to the ATM to withdraw $250 at a time.

A week ahead of my departure date, I make sure the laundry is done because 1) I want to make sure that everything I'm packing is clean and good to go and 2) when I return from trips, I dump the contents of my suitcase into my laundry basket so it's nice to not have an overwhelming amount of laundry to do after a holiday.

About three or four days before the trip I start to pull out the clothes and shoes I want to bring and make a pile in the corner of my room like this:

It looks a little messy but it's what I like to do.

I also always plan my outfits ahead of time, so I know exactly what to pull from my closet and what to leave behind. Often times, my outfit planning goes to extremes and I draw them out like this:
Though I do have fun drawing my outfits, the real reason I plan them so meticulously is to prevent myself from packing too much. Sure, I throw in an extra singlet or pair of shorts as 'just in case' items but for the most part, I stick to my list, especially because it's so easy to over-pack for tropical holidays where all of the clothing items you need are quite small.

The actual packing of the suitcase doesn't usually happen until the night before I leave and it's at that time that I'll do a little bit of fine tuning and omit things that I don't absolutely need if my luggage starts to get a bit too fat or allow myself a few more luxuries if my luggage is looking a bit thin.

When I travel with my sister (which is true of our trip to Belize), we like to share a suitcase, at which point, it becomes quite interesting to see how well we can pack all of our stuff. We've never had a problem making everything fit because we are both practical about what we pack. I'm going to try to document my packing methods (via video) but we'll see how that goes. I like to pack my shoes in the bottom, underwear and socks go in pockets, all clothes get rolled up, and random things (like snorkels) get packed where they fit.

5 days!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Puppy Playtime

A couple weeks ago, I took a week off to have a 'staycation' at home. Usually, I'm all about planning fun trips to faraway places but I hadn't taken one day off in all of 2013 (not counting official holidays) and I hadn't spent a good chunk of time sitting at home doing nothing since college so a little R&R at home was amazing.

During one of those days, we had a dog named Stan visit our home. I included a photo of him in my previous post and thought I'd share the rest of the shots I took.

Here's Stan hanging out on the couch. He's smiling!
I love how short his legs are and how long his nose is. Oh, and I love how the tip of his tail is blurry because he's wagging it so hard.
And here's GM (George Michael). I refer to him as my son all the time, which is probably creepy to non-dog owners. His fur's gotten quite long and he's due for a haircut but I love how moppy and messy he looks. That stray piece of dried grass stuck to his face is disgusting but it's cute to me.
I love this shot because it looks like GM is throwing his head back and laughing. Did you know that dogs laugh for real? Yeah, it's pretty cool. I love dogs because they are so in tune with humans. If you have Netflix and you are a dog lover, I recommend watching The Science of Dogs. I learned quite a lot about my favorite animal.
Stan is so photogenic, right? His tongue's hanging out because it was a warm day. Can you blame him? Imagine you had to wear a fur coat all summer long and you could only sweat through your tongue.
Stan's (visible) eye looks evil. This was a rare shot. GM was a bit scared of Stan (who actually tried to hump GM at one point) so I probably only got 3 or 4 photos where both of them are in the frame before GM ran off.
Okay, byebye! Ha! Sorry if you are offended by this photo but I couldn't help it. I mean, I guess I could help myself, but I didn't want to.
Cheers.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Belize Final Planning

My trip to Belize is just two weeks away and I couldn't be more excited. I'm starting to gather my things to pack up and make sure that we've bought everything we need - you know, things that are easier to purchase here rather than abroad.

Here's what's on my last minute shopping list:
  • sunscreen
  • bug spray (mosquito season!)
  • bug bite anti-itch treatment (just in case the bug spray isn't 100% successful)
  • aloe (to treat our sun-kissed skin)
As you can see, it's all skin-related. I'm not keen on purchasing this sort of stuff abroad for a few reasons: I want to make sure it's reliable (meaning it's a brand I can trust and one I'm not allergic to) and that it's affordable (I hate to pay sky-high markup on a product that's twice as cheap in the States) but mostly, it's a convenience factor. It would be annoying to hop from place to place trying to find exactly what I want.

Also, I've been doing a bit more research on beaches and snorkeling expeditions and all that jazz. I haven't finalized anything, but of course, I'll share anything and everything I learn after the trip. I'm pretty sure we'll do two snorkeling trips: one to Hol Chan Reserve and Shark Ray Alley and then maybe a second one to see manatees or maybe to Mexico Rocks. And of course, we'll definitely do a trip to one of the ruins; I'm still thinking Lamanai.

I read that the beaches off of Ambergris Caye aren't too impressive. There isn't much sand for laying out and once you get in the water, there's a lot of sea grass and you have to be wary of boats; heaven forbid you get struck by a boat while on holiday. However, we're quite lucky. The hotel I booked (The Palms Oceanfront Suites) is located adjacent to Ramon's Village which has a reputation for the nicest beach on the island so I'm sure we'll be hanging out there. And if it's really that terrible (though I highly doubt it will be anything shy of amazing) we can hop on a ferry (RT $17.50) to Caye Caulker.

I'm so excited! AHH!

Oh, and because I think posts are no fun without any photos, here's a shot of a dachshund named Stan:

Cheers.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cornell Class of 2013

I just wanted to share a few shots from my sister's graduation.
{commencement starting}
{PhD candidates}
{rogue balloons}

Thursday, June 06, 2013

DIY Bouquet

So I said I was planning on making my own bouquet for my sister's graduation and I did. I'm too cheap to go to a florist for flower arrangements but I'm not always a fan of the pre-made bouquets at grocery stores. My solution for these types of situations (where what I want and what I want to pay don't mesh) is always to just make my own.

What I used:
flowers - I bought two bundles of pink peonies
greenery - I used mint from my garden
rubber bands - I just used the ones that were used to wrap up my flowers
scissors
tulle (or cellophane)
ribbon (I used glitter tape)

I started by getting a vase of water ready.
Here are the peonies (from the store) and the mint (from my garden). I love peonies. They're one of my favorite flowers (along with hydrangeas and poppies). I decided to use mint because unlike most people, I don't really appreciate the smell of flowers. Mint adds a pretty green color and an amazing smell.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Summer 2013: Patterns & Colors

My trip to Belize is 25 days away! YEEP! So as always, I've started my packing list way in advance, but as the departure date gets closer and closer, I make sure to finalize everything. This summer, it seems that I'm really into patterns and bright colors.

My packing list is full of fun patterned items; it doesn't seem like I'm bringing anything plain or "boring."
summer holiday to belize 2013

Though I already own many swimsuits, every year, I stumble upon some more awesome suits and I can't help but add to my collection. I love the tie-dye fringe suit from H&M. Can you believe that each piece was only $4.95?! What a steal. Of course, I'm super frugal (re: cheap) so I only ever buy suits that are really affordable (like at H&M) or on sale.

I think even my airport outfit will be vibrant. *Squeal!*

Cheers.
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