Sunday, January 8, 2017

Ahora 20: Currently

Happy New Year!
As someone who has a genuine dislike ambiguity about the winter holidays, I am grateful to wake up on January 1st with all of that behind me and nothing but a fresh, clean year filled with opportunity. 

Here's what's happening, in my world. 


The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan. 
I loved reading Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, so I thought this could be a great way to frame my year in gratitude. Kaplan organizes the year into seasons with themes like marriage and family, health, or money and finance. She is a proponent of the gratitude journal, and admittedly, I am enjoying the process of reflecting on my day by writing in my own gratitude journal. It's a quick and easy read and one of the most powerful takeaways is the power of perspective.

A lot of soups and stews. We're even having one today, especially good after last night's snow. Tis the season. What's your favorite broth based soup or stew? 

Ali's recipe from Gimme Some Oven for a 20-minute Moroccan Chickpea Soup may make it into our winter rotation. Doesn't this look good?

More water and tea. I'm making an honest effort to drink less coffee and more water and tea, and ultimately, tea with no sweetener. Here are a few of my favorites.

My vision and intent for 2017. I did a vision board at the end of 2016, and it has already started working. Crazy! Ask and you shall receive. Want to make your own? Start here

Like most in my social media circle, I am watching and loving This is Us. It's well written, relatable, and heartfelt. The musical score is pretty good too. 

Listening to...
My standard Pandora channels: Jack Johnson, Spanish Guitar, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Jimmy Buffett, and French Cafe Radio. And my podcasts:  Side Hustle School and Happier with Gretchen Rubin. 

Any recommendations?

A light box. This one has low/medium/high settings and you can set it for 15, 30, and 45 minutes. Who knows whether it works, but for me, like others do with the salt lamp, it's worth trying. And speaking of salt lamps, any recommendations on size? Does it work for you?

So that's about it. It's winter, but it is pretty. 

What's happening ahora, now, in your world? 

Are you a Word of the Year person? Please share your 2017 word and inspire me. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Everything!

We made it! 

Some of us are neck-deep in gift-wrapping, baking, and planning last minute runs to the supermarket and mall.

Others are done with holiday preparations and are eagerly anticipating and celebrating the arrival of faraway family and friends who have returned for the festivities.

And others are wishing the next few days away.

People arrive here from many different paths; some are marked by joy and Norman Rockwellian images of love and belonging, and others are haunted by the ghosts of holidays past, scarred by pain and trauma.
Regardless of how you spend your holidays, enjoy them on your terms. 

Peace, strength, and love to those who struggle with this time of the year. 

Joy and merriment to us all. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

On this Winter Solstice

Wishing you peace, love, and joy this holiday and always. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Five Years Ago in Paris..I said YES!

This time of the year provides the Señor and me with plenty of time to reflect on the wonderful life we have and the amazing places we have been and seen together. 

One of the places that will always be extraordinarily special to us is Paris. 

It was five years ago today that my sweet husband asked me to be his wife, and so today, I remember Paris, the City of Lights and our forever City of Love. 

Before they cut the locks off the Le Pont des Arts bridge, we had our own lock. 

Amor para siempre...Love for always

It was a perfect moment. 

But he didn't ask me. 

As we explored what is thought by many to be the most romantic city in the world, I thought about the journey our own relationship had taken over the last four and a half years and wondered where it would take us next.

And then, on our last morning in Paris, as we looked for a place for coffee on our way to the airport, we found a little cafe in a little street market lined with cobblestones and tasty treats.

Over cafe au laits and croissants, he asked me to be his wife, in his own sweet, quirky way. 

And like every romantic cliche, I said YES! 

And with all my heart, I still say YES, each and every day.

Amor para siempre, indeed. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

I am grateful for...

Things I'm grateful for this year

  • my husband and our marriage
  • family, rooted in love
  • our sweet Gracie-girl
  • fabulous friends and partners-in-crime
  • a healthy body and mind
  • big dreams in motion
  • a job that I love; one that is aligned with our goals
  • road trips and coffee dates
  • my passport stamps and a welcoming world that is ready to explore
  • peace that comes with time and healing
  • access to information and the freedom and make choices
  • this space online, the visitors who have stopped by, and the friends I have made because of it
  • the kindness of strangers
  • people who are willing to fight for human rights
  • clean water, healthy food choices, and access to health care
  • the women who fought for my right to vote
  • our U.S. National Parks

    And mostly...
    • having what we need and most of what we want and loved ones with whom we can share our lives.

    What are you thankful for this year?

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Happy Thanksgiving, friends. 
    Blessed to have what we need. 
    Grateful to have most of what we want. 

    Wishing you a bounty of blessings, today and always. 

    Tuesday, November 22, 2016

    Reverse Advent Calendar: 10 Ideas

    For many, Advent is a time of preparation. It's a time marked by an awareness of one's blessings and an empathy for those less fortunate. 

    As Advent calendars build excitement of what's to come, a reverse Advent calendar can bring similar excitement in knowing you made a difference in the lives of others. 

    Here are some ideas for your own reverse Advent calendar. 

    • one food item or more per day or one food category per week to donate
    • one dollar or more per day
    • one closet item purge per day for donation or one clothing donation per week, like socks or outerwear.  
    • one hour of service per week
    • one toy per week
    • one book per week to a school, cancer treatment center, nursing home, local library
    • one care bag to local homeless outreach (socks, personal care items, toys, towels)
    • one bag of pet food per week to a local shelter
    • one pay-it-forward per week; for example, someone's coffee in the drive-through
    • Determine a pre-set amount and pay toward or pay-off someone's holiday layaway.

    Have you ever done a reverse Advent calendar or holiday service project? What was your experience?

    Sunday, November 20, 2016

    Thursday, November 3, 2016

    Ahora 19: Peeking out of the Rabbit Hole

    I know that it has been a while; for me too. 

    Every time I think about sitting down to write, something else take precedence, and it just never gets done.

    While I have a few minutes this morning, I wanted to peek out of the rabbit hole and say hello. 

    I miss you. 

    Thanks for sticking around. 

    Here's what is trending in my world these days. 

    The in's and out's of my new job. It is like a rabbit hole; I begin one project, which detours into another and another. I LOVE my new job. I love working with my students and my co-workers, and the flexibility of location independence is a dream come true. Learning the platforms and grading assignments in a fairly self paced curriculum take time. There are times when I am inundated and other times, less so. I wouldn't change a thing. 

    Hot mulled apple cider. And Cinnamon Dolce coffee; I can thank my niece for this new obsession. 

    Reading and planning to cook my way through...

    Dinner With Julie's quick cassoulet. It's quick, it's easy, and it is delicious! It makes the house smell amazing too! With a glass of red, an arugula salad, and a warm baguette... bliss.

    This is Us. If you haven't started this series, you can stream it free on Hulu. It's that good. 
    And the soundtrack is playlist worthy. 

    Boston. We had friends in town last weekend, and we had the chance to play tour guide. 

    In Baah-stin speak, the corner store. 

    No matter where I go, Boston, you're my home. 

    Being somewhat of a stay-at-home-dog-mom. It sounds ridiculous, I know; however, I love having the flexibility to take Gracie outside at lunch time to play. 


    She seems to like it too. 


    And squeak toys are the best. 

    Fall colors? Yes, please. 

    And Snap Chat filters for days...if you're on Snap Chat, add me... I'm always looking for fun accounts to follow. 

    My Mom and Dad's 50th Anniversary. My brother and I planned to surprise my parents back in July. We did it, and it was wonderful. 

    And Happy 4th Birthday to my lovely space in the universe. A Lovely Life, Indeed turned four on November 1st. 

    About the election...

    This election gives me anxiety. The energy, the ads, the Facebook rants, the surprising jaw-dropping views of those I hold dear...I guess I do live in a bubble. A warm, happy bubble.

    And this election compels me to retreat. 

    But, it's critical that we get out there and vote, my American friends. 

    We don't have to agree on candidate or ideology, but we do have to voice our choice. 

    It's a big deal...and the world is watching. 

    Still not sure? Take the quiz from I Side With and see who parallels your thinking the most. 

    Also, read up on your state's ballot questions and carefully consider your options down ballot. Consider future legislation and the Supreme Court; it's not just about the executive branch. 

    Okay. I am going to go and get some work done. Tell me...
    What's happening now in your world? 
    Let's catch up. 

    Linking up with Kristin today. 

    Wednesday, September 21, 2016

    Global Entry: What You Need to Know

    In the spring, the Señor and I decided to apply for Global Entry and skip the long TSA lines in airport departures and at passport control upon arrival back in the United States.  

    Here's how it went.

    What is Global Entry?
    The Global Entry program, according to the United States Customs and Border Protection website is described as:

    A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports.
    At airports, program members proceed to Global Entry kiosks, present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingerprints on the scanner for fingerprint verification and complete a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit.
    Travelers must be pre-approved for the Global Entry program. All applicants undergo a rigorous background check and in-person interview before enrollment.
    While Global Entry’s goal is to speed travelers through the process, members may still be selected for further examination when entering the United States. Any violation of the program’s terms and conditions will result in the appropriate enforcement action and termination of the traveler’s membership privileges.

    Who can apply?

    Global Entry is available* for U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, and citizens of Colombia, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Panama, Singapore, South Korea and Mexico.

    There is no minimum age to apply, but children under age 18 must have parental consent to be in the program. Parents, themselves, are not required to be in the program, but like passports, everyone needs his or her own account.

    *There may be additional requirements, depending on your country of citizenship. Certain restrictions resulting in ineligibility may apply. 

    How much does it cost?

    All participants, regardless of age, pay a one-time $100 non-refundable application fee by credit card or bank transfer. The $100 Global Entry includes TSA Pre-Check (an $85 fee on its own without Global Entry) 

    Once accepted, Global Entry is valid for five years. 

    The Application Process

    First, applicants must register with GOES...the Global Online Enrollment System. Regardless of age, each applicant must have his or her own account. It is here that you pay your application fee and answer a number of questions including:
    • personal information (name, gender, eye color, height, language preferences) and address history
    • date and location of birth
    • contact information
    • citizenship information (including passport number, issue date and expiration date)
    • driver's license number and expiration date
    • current employment status and history for five years
    • travel history for five years
    • criminal history

    After your application is submitted, it is reviewed by CBP. If you are conditionally approved, you will receive an email stating that there has been a change in your status and that there is a message in your GOES account. 

    From here, you can schedule your interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center

    The Interview Process

    Each applicant must schedule his or her own individual interview. Bring your passport and another photo ID, preferably your driver's license. If you are a permanent resident, you must present your permanent resident card. 

    The time between conditional approval and my scheduled interview took months. The interview, itself, took about ten minutes. You may be able to continue logging in to change your appointment time, but I had no luck. You can also use this option to reschedule, should you have a scheduling conflict. 

    The Global Entry Enrollment Center in Boston is located at Logan International Airport, in Terminal E, Arrivals. There is a Dunkin' Donuts next to the office to make your wait time a bit more enjoyable. There is a wall lined with chairs and appointments (scheduled in 15 minute intervals). The interviews move quickly, taking in two people at a time, according to your appointment time. 

    When I arrived in the office, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer took my passport and driver's license and compared it to the information I provided in my application. He was pleasant and conversational in tone and asked me a number of questions, similar to what had been asked on my application. 

    Then he took my picture and my fingerprints and told me I would receive an email in about 24 hours from GOES, similar to my email with conditional approval, stating that I had been approved for Global Entry. 

    He indicated that the number in my conditional approval letter was my Known Traveler Number which could be used immediately for TSA Pre-Check, and that I would receive my Global Entry card in about ten days to two weeks. 

    The email had arrived before we left the airport, and my card arrived in nine days.

    Is Global Entry worth it?

    Yes. If you travel domestically, the TSA Pre-Check benefit ($85 on its own) makes it worth it. For $15 more, you have the international passport control benefit. And, the Global Entry benefits are included in NEXUS and SENTRI, two other Trusted Traveler programs. 

    You're paying for the convenience of time, but for an average of $20 a year, I'll take it. And, if you hold certain premium travel reward-based credit cards, your fee may be reimbursed. 

    For us, it's money well spent. There are Global Entry kiosks at these airports. 

    Do you have Global Entry? In your opinion, is it worth the money?