A Traveler’s Terrene

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

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 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: 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!


Daily Challenge: Explore New Terrene November 15, 2008

You don’t need to quit your job, sell you things, and put everything in storage (ahem, or your parent’s garage–thanks mom and dad!) to make your life into a Traveler’s Terrene.  If you have the time, ambition and finances to do so I would definitely encourage this route as it gives you the most flexibility, freedom, and sense of adventure; however, it may not be practical if you have a mortgage, kids, school, a great career (the list goes on…). Yet, remember that these strings that tie you to an area, do have slack. Sure, you may not be able to jet off to a foreign country or cross an ocean, but you can explore the state and city you live in to get the same sense of adventure that comes with discovering the unknown.

How often is it that we live in an area and the tourist sees and knows more about our own city, because for us it is home not a destination?  I challenge you to transform the city you live into a destination.  Go to the tourist information center and play tourist for a day. After you do that, pick up a map and take a day trip to a nearby city that you’ve never been to for the afternoon. And, if you say you just don’t have time to do even these little things, then simply drive new routes on your way to work, take a bus and watch from the window or go running in a new direction–you’ll be surprised at all of the new little discoveries you find that are even a few blocks  away from your home because you are finally taking the time to LOOK, as tourists do, rather than travelling from point A to B as residents do.

Tonight I am off to Parma. I’m taking my little silver Fiat, a road map and hitting the highway in quest for some unexplored terrene.

Where are you going?