9.26 seeking advice on the fantastic and the mundane

Spain 2012

friday doesn’t feel like a weekend kick-off now that I’ve settled back into a piece-meal professional existence, but it’s a beautiful day nevertheless. and who says that is a bad thing anyway. this is one of those times that necessitates a reminder that this time of solitude is one to be savored not feared. so there.

daily life can be separated the mundane and fantastic and I need ( and have a little) advice in both areas. let’s start. warning: there’s a little bit of ranting herein. as a reward I have a  link that will change your life (or something like that.)


our oven is broken and I need help. I’ve volunteered to get to the bottom of this little problem and I’m now regretting being so confident in my nonexistent ability.

the details: the stove-top works, the broiler works, and the baking element works but never reaches the selected temperature. I’ve decided it may very well be the oven door gasket. Does that make sense?

monolith internet companies are the bane of my existence. I believe I’ve spent hours of life on the phone negotiating my bill. we do the same song and dance every time. I do my best to keep my cool and be positive but how does one keep  there cool when asked for the 10th time if you’re sure you don’t want a cable/internet bundle?! yes, I’m sure. we don’t have a TV.

the details: someone figure out how to provide everyone with complimentary internet already and let me know.

health insurance is more screwed up than ever if you didn’t know. but I’ve learned a few things being self-insured under a high-deductible plan.

the details: tell a doctor up front that you’re paying cash for a regular office visit. if you need a prescription (turns out allergic reaction + poison ivy on your face and in your mouth requires this), ensure you’re getting generic (if your state doesn’t require it to be offered already) and ask the pharmacy how much it is before you get it filled. It was cheaper for me not to run it through my insurance.

on to the fantastic

our trip to spain is next month! all accommodations and trains are booked after much effort. but boy is it worth it. now, what should we do while there?!

the details:
I don’t want to jinx myself, but do to a little travel hacking, we received almost all of our accommodations for free. more on this later. in Granada, though, we’re staying in perhaps the most beautiful apartment I’ve ever seen.

If you’re planning on traveling by train while in spain, you’re going to have to deal with renfe.com . Oof. I must have spent hours on this site, but for me it was worth it. booking long distance (read: expensive) trains ahead of time can save you a ton of cash so of course we all want to do just that. but this website is notorious for rejecting american credit cards. over and over again. here’s what worked for me on renfe (in addition to following this great guide):
-use a debit card- a credit card never worked for me. call your bank (I used Capital One 360) and tell them that you’re going to be making an overseas purchase. If you reach a kind rep, they will likely stay on the phone with you while you try and book. Eventually, he had to get a manager to finagle something with the security on my card.
-Do not select to choose your own seat. This is what prevented my first couple of bookings i think. Once I didn’t select this, it went through.
-You will be prompted to create a “Secured by Visa or Mastercard” by renfe…basically just an additional line of security. you’ll choose a password and continue on your way. If you get kicked off/timed out, don’t be discouraged, just refresh.
-Success! But not for long…after booking my first train, feeling all smug, I attempted to book my next train. Denied. L advised I try 2x per day from then on and one evening, it worked.

Advice needed: What are the must sees? Madrid, maybe Segovia, Seville, Granada… tell me!

my esl class is going really well. I’m trying to figure out how to make a go of it in a more full-time capacity because it’s really wonderful.

the details:
so far, I’ve mostly been creating materials but I know that there are much better resources in existence. so tell me, what am I missing? we’re finishing up a unit on places in the community/directions and are moving on to time and scheduling next month.

on to the life-changing link… or at least a really interesting one. have a great weekend!

the epitome of small-space living (and freedom).


turning 27: what I know now

this past saturday, the twentieth day of the best month of the year as far as I’m concerned, I turned 27. I woke up to a huge breakfast feast fit for a queen, or little old me today. we enjoyed it leisurely then popped into the library to grab a couple of books for the next day’s beach trip. After a couple hour workshop L met me and we headed into town, wandering to no place in particular and grabbing a coffee to soak up the day’s sun. once home, we put on some music, opened the champagne and relaxed on our patio before heading to high street on market for their tasting menu feast. we wandered the cobblestone streets, weaving in and out of the normally bursting-with-people buildings, that for some reason they were empty at this time. usually at a time like this I joke that he planned it that way. more champagne and miniature desserts and I drifted to sleep, ready for the next day’s adventure.

our day at the beach was perfectly relaxing with few people and the sun peaking out here and there. we took long walks, read a little bit, and mostly just chatted about our upcoming travel plans and life and enjoyed a day with no itinerary. L planned a lavish picnic and we enjoyed it at the tables on the boardwalk. the weekend was perfect in the ways that I value most and I wouldn’t wish for anything different.

birthdays call for a little bit of reflection but not too much, you see. this year was easily one of the most stunning in the way of personal growth. sometimes I am not all together familiar with this new person and realize that it’s okay to allow for a little getting to know you period, as it is most essential.

I have a vivid memory of being in a high school science lab and admitting to friends that if I could be any age for the rest of my life I think it would be 27. Because by that time, I thought, I’d have it all figured out. Although the definition has changed dramatically (mostly due to the fact that I developed independent thought someplace along the way), that’s exactly what happened.

I’m 27 and finally, along with a person who instead of attempting to reign in dreams takes strategic steps to reach them, am living the life I want. While it changes constantly, it moves in precisely the direction we choose because we stop at nothing to make it so, no matter if it takes a while to make our way.

Along the way, I’ve realized a couple of things. Some are practical pieces of advice and no-nonsense while others speak to emotions. I’m using this as a gathering place for my thoughts and a means by which to keep myself accountable. Some are words I wish I’d heard back when I was a teen and others are words I’m hoping I can live by now.

  1. Practice gratitude, not guilt. 
  2. Live well beneath your means and save and invest as early as possible. Learn and the words IRA, Roth IRA, and 401K long before you apply for your first credit card
  3. Forget what you’ve learned about the golden tickets to happiness being tangible…that’s simply not true.
  4. Make travel a priority.
  5. Don’t try to prepare yourself for or control the reactions of others |Do be honest, direct, and forward no matter what.
  6. Choose to be different and LOVE YOURSELF  because of, not despite your uniqueness-your soul, your brain, your body…respect and cherish the hell out of it all.
  7. Allow yourself the privilege of creating your own version of happily ever after.”
  8. Do whatever you can to be perpetually excited about your life.
  9. Acknowledge then promptly ignore unsolicited advice.
  10. Respect the choices and opinions of others, even if they don’t jibe with your own.
  11. But realize only opinion of your life that matters is your own.

*Bold signifies my personal goals for  this year. More to come.


Panorama of Old City    Granada, Spain

Granada Source

today is just glorious. the bright sun, low temperature and cool breeze running through our little place make for a morning that begs for cup after cup of piping hot coffee, reflection and travel plans. I’m feeling rather grateful, as I should be.

this week was rich in so many ways. the ESL class I, along with three other women, am  teaching  started and it’s wonderful. our students are enthusiastic and dedicated and we’ve all admitted to being inspired to work harder to create lessons that are applicable to the challenges they face as English language learners. the language barrier is tough but we’re managing. I’ve used more spanish in the past 2 days than I did through 8 years of spanish class in school, I’m fairly certain.

and speaking of which, SPAIN! soon! this article made its rounds a couple years ago regarding the joy of planning competing with that of actually engaging in the activities that you’ve planned and you know what, I agree. that’s why I’m not so much a spontaneous traveler; each piece-booking the flight, securing places to stay and figuring out the itinerary- adds to the excitement and anticipation.

so far this trip has been a bit trickier than others. spain is filled with so many places to see and flying into madrid gives you access to any one of them without getting on another flight so  the options are endless. I think we’ve settled on an itinerary but of course I might change my mind. perhaps why I’m procrastinating buying the train tickets since once that’s done, it’s official. anyway…

Day 1: Arrive in Madrid early AM
Day 2:Madrid/Day trip to Segovia
Day 3: AVE train to Seville
Day 4: Seville/ Possible half-day trip
Day 5: Train to Granada
Day 6: Granada
Day 7: Day trip to Sierra Nevada Mountains or Other
Day 8: Back to Madrid
Day 9: Home!

lodging has been a bit difficult this time around as instead of being the off-season like it is in the rest of europe, these cities bulge since the heat is now tolerable. so rates are a bit higher than usual requiring a little bit of creativity. chances are we will use AirBnB for a couple of the cities and we have hotel points coming our way that we may be able to use (more on that later for those who are curious).

a lot of positive happenings around here. all this and it’s my birthday next saturday! in the way of gifts I’ve wished for bubbly and flowers from the Lancaster stand in Rittenhouse square. oh and treats from a bakery nearby of course! I have a lot to say about heading into 27, mostly because this is the golden age that my younger self craved to be and when presented with the question if you could be one age for the rest of your life, what would it be? this was it. did anyone else play that little game?

some interesting pieces from the week

this dean calls a dumpster home
college of the future that could just change the experience forever
my friend’s honest reflection on regret, including a strategy she taught me that I’ll never forget.

savoring the city

while sometimes you’ll find me cursing the very city that I brag about constantly, it really is incredible. any curiosity or opportunity you’re seeking out is there, save nature of course. and it’s when you take advantage of these opportunities that you wonder just exactly what you’ve been doing the past five years that you haven’t experienced any of it.

i met up with one of my co-teachers of the esl class on tuesday night and we got along instantly, talking about our class that starts next week. having worked with the program before, whether she realizes it or not, she put my mind at ease and got me really excited about working together and finding the strategies that best jive with our students’ needs.

i spent all day wednesday on the university of pennsylvania’s campus on the other side of town. in the morning i had my first legitimate (to me, anyway) lecture experience in years. a professor from harvard gave a guest lecture on linguistics, hip-hop and “the compliment as a social strategy”. it was so interesting to learn about a subject that i’ve never really considered and just enjoy the the experience without any expectations of it or myself for that matter. at lunch, the lecturer ended up sitting next to me and the last 20 minutes consisted of a balance of me picking her brain about her early experiences, talking about our shared love of food and her passing along valuable insight on interactions with other people, our differences and being kind to yourself as you navigate both and inevitably make mistakes. she is a really incredible person and it was a very special day. that and I really, really enjoy learning.

thursday brought a change of pace when after 3 years and 9 emmy awards, we finally got to see the book of mormon. oh my god was it was so damn creative and absolutely hysterical- i was grinning, laughing and clapping like a fool the entire time and i’m proud to admit it. i couldn’t help repeating the lines and singing the catchy tunes the entire walk home as well as this morning. do yourself a favor and go see it before it leaves town on september 14. but do a little research first, it’s undoubtedly not for everyone. a little taste…

Tickets here
Forrest Theater until September 14

new experiences


on the second day of my birthday month, I feel qualified to say that 27 is going to be rich in new experiences and most importantly, those of my own choosing. the difference between now and say 25 is the confidence I’ve mustered to live in exactly the way I’d like and make rationalizations for it to make other people more comfortable or accepting-something we both believe in rather strongly. so there’s that. talk about freedom.

we spent the weekend on a whirlwind roadtrip to ohio and back for a family event. this was the first time I ever traveled across our adopted state and I have to say, the views were beautiful once you looked past the blockades of 18-wheelers. there were rolling hills and old barns and cows…and it was just so green, I couldn’t get over that. I suppose all this time in the city makes those formerly boring landscapes somewhat of a novelty. I cooked up a storm before we left and made a spread that we enjoyed on the roof of the car in the red lobster parking lot off of I-470 W. it was delicious…and hot.

back in the city and i’m granted a few days to gather my thoughts before beginning a new opportunity: teaching ESL (english as a second language) to adults. I sort of stumbled upon this by chance and everything just fell into place. I’ll be collaborating with several other teachers and together we’ll teach 15 spanish-speaking students who work in the restaurant community here in the city. my spanish is mediocre at best but i’m determined. [if anyone has experience and words of wisdom regarding effective adult education strategies, please send them my way!]

less than two months away, on our seventh anniversary, we take off for Spain! we’ll spend a couple of days in madrid followed by a week in the andalusia region- seville, granada, a couple of tiny towns in-between. a year since our last journey, we’re ready, excited and filled with so much gratitude. and no, we’re not getting married while we’re there. but i’ll admit the idea more than crossed our minds, more than once.