A Traveler’s Terrene

You only live once. What are you going to remember the most?

Daily Challenge: Give Thanks! November 27, 2008

Filed under: Round The World Trip — italicana kitchen @ 5:41 pm

For all you Americans, this will be easy as you have a whole holiday to celebrate the things in life you are thankful for. Even if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, the act of giving thanks is still an excellent idea…stop for a day to think about and appreciate everything you have. Your challenge for the day is to make a list to remind yourself of how many wonderful things you have in life…and definitely don’t be shy in sharing your list. Tell your friends, family and remind yourself of how thankful you are!

I’m thankful for:

My incredible family—The Swain Gang! I LOVE YOU ALL and hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

My wonderful friends—Regardless if I’ve known you for a day or years, I am thankful that I have met you and shared a common connection, a laugh, a glass of wine or a smile. THANK YOU for bringing joy to my life.

My faith in God–I feel blessed when I wake up each day, I have a new day to explore, to learn, and to celebrate life. I give infinite thanks to God for this incredible experience.  

Laughter–I am thankful for the beautiful sound of laughter.

Life–I am thankful to be living. I am thankful for each day. I may die tomorrow, but today, I am blessed with an incredible opportunity to LIVE life and I am happy in this moment.

Poetry, Mottos, Inspirational Advice–I am thankful for the advice others give me. The beautiful words that fill me with hope and strength to always live in the moment and enjoy what I have. Always,regardless of my situation, as I still have a “situation” I am still alive.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!  (And eat an extra slice of turkey for me since I am in Italy!)



Daily Challenge: Do something…Alone! November 25, 2008

During this last weekend, I have had a handful of people exclaim in a bewildered tone, “Alone!?!”  This is their response when they ask me who I am with and I tell them, “I am by myself.”

“Alone?” They repeat with a look of shock, like it is absolutely the most maddening news they have ever heard–like Brittany Spears marrying Bill Gates or something.

But, being alone can be absolutely amazing:

Friday night I stayed at home, wrote a few pages for my novel, cooked myself a yummy dinner and watched an old film that I had never seen before, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”–alone. (Which is quite fitting as Audrey Hepburn also plays the role of an independent socialite…)

Saturday night I drove to Reggio Emilia, alone, found a cute little restaurant where I enjoyed a nice dinner, alone, and then went to Sali and Tobacchi–a gorgeous bar, restaurant and discoteca, alone.

Monday I drove to Parma, alone, went to the Correggio art exhibition, alone, and ended the night with a glass of wine and an apperativo at a cute little restaurant in a piazza, alone.

It’s not to say that I want to do everything alone. Sunday night for instance, I met up with my new Italian friends for an apperitivo (happy hour) and later a fantastic dinner of homemade tortellini (made by my friend’s nonna (grandmother)…absolutely delish!). I one-hundred percent think that good friends are essential in life. There is nothing more special than sharing a similar connection with someone else.  I am a social butterfly by nature and wouldn’t be able to live without social interaction.

However, since travelling on my own, I have been forced to do things by myself. And, I have discovered that being able to do things independently has been an incredible characteristic to develop–one that is truly empowering.

Firstly, you don’t have to rely on someone else in order to do something you want, you are in charge–you’re the boss. Secondly, you build confidence in yourself as you conquer little obstacles on your own; if you want to drive somewhere but don’t know how to read a city map–by gosh you better figure it out.  And, thirdly, you feel comfortable with yourself, you become your own friend, your own sense of entertainment. You don’t have to rely on someone else to make you happy, you can find happiness from within. Like a child. And, how great are children?  I can sit for hours and just watch them in action, playing, laughing and making up imaginary games. They are happy even when they are by themselves, it’s a virtue we sometimes lose as we get older and begin to rely solely on other people to entertain us or make us happy.

So, my challenge to you is to do something completely by yourself that you normally would never do. Go to dinner, a movie, a weekend get-a-way…but do it alone. Learn to be decisive, learn to be confident in a crowded room of strangers, and learn to enjoy your own company!


Daily Challenges: Balancing Your Goals November 23, 2008

I have been living off an energy high since being in Italy. Each day I have woken up and felt truly happy…to the point that I smile all day long, have a skip in my walk, and have had numerous people ask me if I am always this happy, for which I reply, of course not (to make them feel better)–but truthfully, I have been. Why? Because each day I have been living a balanced goal oriented life. I have an accomplished feel to my day as I simultaneously work towards achieving many of my personal goals.

But the past 3 days however, I have been on the verge of kicking something (really hard and with all my strength), my insides have felt explosive–like a shaken up soda pop, cap still on and just waiting to explode. I hate being filled with negative feelings or anxiety as it directly affects the rest of my mind and body–I start sleeping less, eating bad foods, stop working out, and become mentally and physically lazy. It’s a recipe for disaster and if which, is not stopped soon, can easily become routine. And, seriously, who likes to be around a pessimistic, lazy, moody person? Not me…and even I then start to despise myself…  

The catalyst to this horrible cycle of emotions has been my over indulgence in one particular goal–trying to complete a 50,000 word manuscript by the end of November. I think this goal is entirely doable, and had I spent the first few weeks organizing my time a little better would have been manageable, but as I near the end of the month with a current word count of around 30,000 I began to freak out–“I’m not going to achieve my goal,” my insides wail. And because my insides are little fighters they say, “come on now…we’re not going to give up! Let’s fight…”–and so I did: staying up routinely until 4…3…2a.m. this past week, locking myself in my room and sitting in a chair with my computer on my lap for 9…10…11+ hours at a time, drinking ridiculous amounts of coffee and tea and dedicating all my non-working hours to writing (meaning no running, reading, practicing Italian etc).

Three days ago, my body started hating me and my mind felt like a caffeinated cloud–buzzing awake but airy, with nothing really there.  Finally, I did what I knew would make me feel better–I went for a run. Within the first four strides, my body said to me, “THHHHHAANNNKKKYYYOOOOUUUU” (it doesn’t like being caged up) and my mind slowly began to relax, the fuzzy cloud that hung over my thoughts began sharpening into focus like the lens in a binocular. “Yay!” I said to myself, “I can actually think again.” So I ran…and ran…and ran…and probably could have rivalled Forest Gump in distance had I not had to work that day. It felt good to feel good; it felt good to be back to my normal self.

So, I have decided to not bind myself in trying to complete the word count at all costs–not to say I have given up writing towards this goal, but I am not going to starve myself from sleep, exercise and a little fun. My long term goal is to write a novel. I may not achieve my short term goal of writing a 50k novel within a month, but hey–not every goal I set am I going to accomplish, and that is okay. As long as I am taking a step in the right direction, I am at least moving somewhere than standing idle. This short term goal pushed me to start writing and to stop doubting my abilities or fears of failure. So, even though I may not get to 50,000 words by November 30th, my novel is in motion–30,000 words and counting!

Goals are like climbing a mountain. You see the top, and you want to be standing there, smiling, hands stretched out wide to your sides in self congratulation as you pear down below at your achievement. Sometimes it will be an easy climb–hey you’re in shape, you have the right equipment and your body can manage it. Other times, it will be a struggle–the weather brings snow flurries, equipment breaks or your body just says to you, “I can’t go on.” As any true climber knows–a mountain will always be there, you however, if you don’t listen to the signs of your body, may not.

So, my challenge to you is to access your goals and the state of your mind and body. Everyone will have different capacities and breaking points of how much they can handle. But just remember, your mind and body is your core, keep it alert and healthy and don’t overindulge if is telling you not to–it’s a smart little vessel, so listen to it:-)


Daily Challenge: Kickin’ the bad habits November 20, 2008

Filed under: Daily Challenge — italicana kitchen @ 11:57 am
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I hate, no, rather detest the word “like”, as in, “like I really like hate that word.”  Yet, unfortunately this word proliferates itself in my daily speech as those damn dandelions in the grass, which if you fail to root the first one out from the start, they multiple by the dozen each day and before you know it your whole lawn is taken over by dandelions–then of course, you become that neighbor that the rest of the neighborhood secretly hates because it makes their perfectly manicured lawn look bad. “By God!” They sneer, “Mow your f’ing lawn”… well, the husbands would say that anyway, the housewives would say something like, “Sally, did you drive past the Henderson’s house, their yard is simply a disaster! We have our reputation to withhold you know, we should add a section on proper lawn care to this months neighborhood newsletter. We just can’t let this continue, it would be a catastrophe!” 

So my challenge to myself today is to make a conscience effort when I speak to not use the word “like”. You with me? Your challenge today is to also try to kick a bad habit…and don’t pretend as though you don’t have any, that’s right, I’m talking to you “gum smacker, soup slurping, interrupting, um-talker”.


Daily Challenge: Push Yourself November 19, 2008

I have now written 15,545 words for my first novel. My target goal is 50,000 by the end of the month, as I am taking part in the National Novel Writing Month , which is a creative writing project through the course of November that challenges you (as in anyone!) to get off your lazy bum, stop making the thousands excuses about “lack of time” and finally sit down to write the book you’ve always talked or dreamed about writing.  This event worked out perfectly in timing as writing a book is one of the top reasons I chose to live in Italy, and has been great motivation.

I have 34,455 more words to go, and am quite far behind as I only have 9 writing days left (I’m going to Switzerland in 2 weeks so that will cut out a few days). But, it is my own state of procrastination (or rather anticipation to spend time exploring Correggio and the surrounding areas) that has left me trailing a few laps in this race.  However, slowly by slowly I am gaining speed–last night I forced myself not to go to bed until I had written 3,000 words. As 4a.m. rolled around, I finally did it…3,011 to be exact…

Will I be able to kick it into gear and sprint to the finish line in time? I will soon find out…

My daily challenge to you is to push yourself to finish a goal, or start it for that matter–one that you’ve always had on your list but never have gotten around to accomplishing.PUSH YOURSELF…little by little…or like me, if you are far behind, kick yourself into high speed and start sprinting towards that finish line!


The Joys of Learning a New Language… November 18, 2008

So I went to coffee with one of my new friends yesterday. I was quite proud of myself as he doesn’t speak any English whatsoever and I carried on 2 full hours of conversation (whoohoo, go me!). Although, definitely not without some rather embarrassing mistakes…

(Translated for you in English)

D: “So how do you like the family?”

C: “They are wonderful! The youngest girl is adorable and the twin… genitali..brother and sister are…

D: “Wait, genitali? Ha..ha…I think you meant to say gemelli..” 

Ahhh…yes, because…oh, what do you know…genitali means genitals…gemelli means twins!

Ha..ha…ha…..good times! 🙂


Daily Challenge: Happy Decorating

Thanksgiving is less than 2 weeks away…and seriously how amazing is this holiday: a table full of friends and family, fresh slices of roasted turkey with all the trimmings, the roar of football on the television and pumpkin pie and spiced tea for dessert. Oh man…I am missing out on all the goodness…yet again!

Well, there is one good thing about living in a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving (although I think every country should include a “thanksgiving” type day…as everyone has something to be thankful about…even if it is just thanks for a delicious meal) is that Christmas comes early! That’s right, all of you suckers have to wait at least two weeks to decorate the house or listen to Christmas music because with the underlining rule, you just can’tget into the Christmas swing until after Thanksgiving, right? Me on the other hand? I am basking in the glow of twinkling Christmas lights from the tree, bows of holly on every door and candles lit with the smell of cinnamon spice in the air. Oh, man…I am in a state of nirvana, I am in decoration bliss.

It’s amazing how the ambiance of a room can have a significant effect on your state of being…state of happiness. How great do you instantly feel when entering a spa or a room arranged in feng shui?

My challenge to you is to create a room or even a small corner of space that is specifically decorated with things that make you happy, that make you feel that, “wow–I feel great” buzz. Your thing may be Bob Marly posters and a beanbag, bamboo plants and wild flowers or an antique collection of postcards.  Whatever the case may be, don’t forget to surround yourself by things you love.  In life, it’s the small doses of pleasure that truly make a difference.

And if Christmas arrangements are you’re thing, why not! You have the green light…go ahead…decorate early!