A Traveler’s Terrene

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

Daily Challenge: Express your Love January 6, 2009

This was the first New Years in two years that I didn’t have a kiss at the stroke of mid-night.  And, although I sometimes miss having a special person in my life to share these moments with, I was very content to wrap my arms around my friends in big hugs and watch as others couples shared a sparkling moment to express their love for one another.  

The whole kiss at midnight may be cliche’, but any moment you take to show someone you love him/her deserves some credit. After all, there are those individuals who don’t typically express themselves and a tradition like this which forces them to show emotion can mean the world to the recipient if emotion is a rarity.  

And, for those relationships where emotion is not a rarity, you still have the ability to sweep your partner off his/her feet. I had the sappiest grin on my face and made uncontrollable “cooing” sounds when my friend came up to me moments after her midnight kiss with her boyfriend of five years and told me it was one of the best kisses of her entire relationship.

“WOW!” I responded, while thinking to myself how incredible it is that after five years of kissing the same two lips there can still be a shock factor that stirs emotions you’ve never experienced, or long since forgotten, and which take your breath away leaving you stunned like a deer staring into a pair of shiny fluorescent headlights, unable to move and frozen mid-stride.

Love is an extraordinary gift and the best part it is a present you can give for free! It can be through a hug, a kiss, a special note or a simple smile. Although special occasions are good excuses to let a person know they are cared for, don’t rely on them as the only time you need to express yourself. When you happen to think of someone, let them know they were thought of; when you see someone, tell them they are cared about; and when you’re in love with someone, let them know with a touch…a kiss…or a magical moment that they will never want to forget.


Daily Challenge: Get in the Christmas Spirit! December 5, 2008

Filed under: Daily Challenge — italicana kitchen @ 11:52 am
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Christmas comes only once a year, so why not enjoy everyday soaking up all of the fun festivities that envelope this holiday! Today is the 5th…you have 20 days left! Get a piece of paper and write out the next 20 days, and be sure to do something Christmas-y on each day! Whether it be something little…like listening to Christmas music in the car, or big like going to a Christmas play!


Daily Challenge: Make Your Bed December 2, 2008

You wake up early, take a shower, get dressed and maybe eat breakfast or grab an apple as you head out the door; however, before you leave don’t forget to make your bed. If you already do, great for you! If you don’t and you leave your blankets askew and your pillows tossed to the side in a chaotic mess–like your hair is in the morning when you don’t brush it–you are missing out on one of the most incredible feelings when you return home from working a long day…the feeling of tranquility, the feeling of “ahhh…at least one thing in my life is in order…” The bedroom becomes your little sanctuary.

It really is the little things in life that can change your attitude throughout the day: a good song on the radio,  a car letting you cut into line for the freeway, a smile from a stranger–or a perfectly made bed with its corners tucked in, pillows neatly arranged and the blanket drawn tight to the sides leaving a smooth surface, like freshly fallen snow. If you ski or snowboard you know how incredible it is to find a patch of snow completely untouched and with no visible ski marks–it’s your terrene, it’s your snow to carve through and design. It’s relaxing, it’s a little piece of heaven.

Maybe the kitchen is always a mess, or the kids leave toys all over the livingroom, but your bedroom–your bedroom should be your sanctuary. It should be an area of tranquilty for you to unwind, organize your thoughts and to rest well so you can prepare yourself for the next day.  Keep it clean, keep it orderly, and above all else–make your bed.

After a week of this routine you will understand the feelings I am talking about…


Daily Challenge: Get Together With Old Friends December 1, 2008

Maintaining friendships was once so simple. As a child you only needed to walk across the street to your best friend’s house, as teenagers it was school that brought you together each day and in university you spent hours together studying, procrastinating and drinking countless beers—these phases were the Caterpillar stages, you roamed around, but slowly and mostly stayed in close proximity to each other. 

Then comes the butterfly stage where jobs, relationships or a quest for new adventures propels you to spread those wings and fly to someplace new–often times to far away distances. It’s exciting as you leave the cocoon and explore the world on your own, creating your own path, and a new chapter to life–after all you only live once, right? So you might as well take advantage of using those wings.

As you create your own path, you form new friendships and a new home. You become engrossed with daily life and sometimes for days, weeks, months even you forget about the life you once lead during another time–it is a chapter in your book, but you’ve turned the page–you’re story is moving forward.  But just like a book, if there is a supporting character in chapter 1 doesn’t mean you can’t bring him back in chapter 10, in fact, it’s even better that you do. It’s familiar to the reader, it’s reminding him of the events he read prior. There is an instant connection of understanding to this relationship. No explanations are needed, the writer only needs to carry on the story.

As I look at the friends I have made over the years, most of us now are spread out across the U.S. or across the globe.  We would hang out each day if we could, if we lived close to each other as the connection is still there, but it is the distance that divides our lives.

This weekend I went to Switzerland to visit Sam, who lives in Bern, and a friend who I haven’t seen in six years as well as Beck and Strom, who I consider to be two of my closest friends but who now live in Pasadena,CA and Boston, MD. Seeing all of them filled my heart with happiness–overflowing happiness actually, I can’t remember the last time I smiled and laughed so much (to the point that I probably now have about 4 new permanent wrinkles around my eyes!)

I may not see these friends everyday like I use to, but when I do see them I am truly thankful and feel lucky to still have them in my life. It is comforting to pick up where you left off and to not have to go through the “get to know you phases” of new friendships. They know me, I know them and we just enjoy being around each other and making new memories.

So my challenge to you is to get on the phone or send an email and make plans to meet up with friends that are still dear to you but that you don’t get to see on a regular basis. Spend that extra $100 on a plane ticket, take a day or two of work and make the effort to keep the friendship going. There are incredible things in life, but it is truly the relationships you make with other people that are the most important, and special!

P.S. I am back in Seattle on December 10th and will be at my parents in Eastern,WA over Christmas and in January. I look forwarding to meeting up with all you wonderful friends that I haven’t seen in months, or years!!! It is going to be wonderful to see you again! 🙂


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!


Daily Challenge: Happy Decorating November 18, 2008

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!


Daily Challenge: Listen to New Music November 16, 2008

There is something about music that can make a bad day turn great or an ordinary moment suddenly feel exciting.  Your ears perk up, your foot starts tapping, and your body moves to the beats or your mind relaxes to the harmonic rhythms that vibrate through the air. Music is like another world like an ocean. There is so much variety of tunes out there it is an endless sea of exploration.

I couldn’t live without music, however, if your anything like me, the DJ’s on the radio cultivate my taste in music rather than me venturing to find new beats and genres.  My challenge to myself and all of you is to explore a new genre of music.

Here is a list of Afro artists and Afro dance music that my backpacker friend Alex, music knowledge extraordinaire, put together for me:

Afro Artists:

Baba Maal
Papa Wemba
Oliver Mtukudzi
Johnny Clegg “White Zulu”
Ladysmith Black Mambazo (men’s choir)
Miriam Makeba (60’s afro-jazz)

Afro Dance Music and Videos
Lopele (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpaFn5D0cQI,

Kwaito-the clubbing music of southern Africa http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRm3lhFRttU



Afro Rap: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rq0tOycu-ug&feature=related

Southern African music dance called Kwasa Kwasa

Happy Listening! And, THANK YOU Alex for the awesome recommendations. If anyone else can recommend other Afro artists (or any great artist/bands in that case), leave a reply on this post and we’ll put together a long interactive list of stellar tunes!