Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Finding the Frog in Salamanca, Spain

When we were in Spain last summer, the Señor and I included the UNESCO World Heritage City of Salamanca on our list of places to explore. 

The walkable city of Salamanca, about three hours northwest of Madrid, and about four hours southeast from A Coruña, is one of the most important university cities in Spain, and in Europe. 

University of Salamanca 

The University of Salamanca, founded in 1134, is the oldest in Spain and the 4th oldest in Europe. Today, it's known for its programs in the humanities, and in particular, languages, economics, and law. 

Part of the fun of visiting Salamanca is searching for, and finding the legendary frog. According to the legend, students would not graduate unless they found the frog on the main facade of the university. The frog is located on a skull, but where it is, you must find for yourself. 

One theory alleges that the skull represents the son of Prince Juan, the son of the Catholic Kings, who died before age 20, and the frog, or parrita, represents the doctor who tried to save him. 

Students who found the frog were said to have good luck with their exams and graduate as expected. 

Carvings of La Catedral Nueva

Other interesting Salamanca carvings include an astronaut and a gargoyle eating ice cream, located on the facade of the "new" Cathedral of the 16th-18th century. 

When the Cathedral was being restored in 1992, the workers decided to modernize it with their own "signature," using the astronaut to represent the 20th century and the gargoyle to represent the students who pass through the University's halls. 

Local tour guides enjoy pointing the carvings out to visitors who crane their necks to find and photograph their discoveries.

Other Salamanca Sites

Another popular Salamanca landmark is the Casa de las Conchas, or the House of Shells, with its facade of more than 300 carved scallop shells, symbol of the the Order of Santiago and the pilgrims who make their way along the Camino de Santiago across Spain.

It is now home to a public library. 

The courtyard of the Casa de las Conchas.

El Convento de San Esteban
Located in the Plaza del Consilio de Trento (Council of Trent), this Dominican monastery was begun in 1524 and consecrated in 1610. 

During the Counter-Reformation, this was an important center for the Order, who founded the School of Salamanca, headed by Francisco de Vitoria, and assisted by St. Teresa of Avila and St. Ignatius of Loyola.

El Convento de San Esteban

It is also rumored that Christopher Columbus spent time here defending his idea of sailing west to the New World, against the advice of the geographers of Salamanca. 

Plaza Mayor
Salamanca's Baroque-style Plaza Mayor, is, undoubtedly, the heart of the city, and is considered to be one of the most beautiful plazas in all of Spain. After having seen many throughout Spain, we agree. 

Lined by restaurants, tapas bars, ice cream parlors and boutiques, the Plaza is known as La Dorada, or The Golden City, because of its sandstone buildings. 

It's the perfect place for silly photo opps, having a glass of tinto de verano, or enjoying a gelato. 

Each weeknight, Plaza visitors are serenaded by the Tuna Singers, black-robed university students who sing for tips in the square. The crowd-pleasers sing traditional songs, accompanied by old-style instruments. On weekends, they are hired for weddings and events. 

Plaza Mayor is the place to be before dinner and a night out. It is filled with tourists, but it is a Salamanca must. Try Mesón Cervantes, one of Salamanca's best and oldest tapas bars.

We stayed at the Tryp Salamanca, located in the city center. In the main lobby of the hotel, we were pleased to find a bulletin board offering guests opportunities to share what they loved about Salamanca...what to discover, to eat, and to buy. For newcomers like us, it was a welcomed resource. 

We had a great time in Salamanca. There is much to see, do, and experience. Because of its compact historical district, it's walkable and easy to see most of the city's most historical sites in a few days' time. We look forward to going back. 

Have you ever been to Salamanca? If so, what was your favorite place?

Friday, January 15, 2016

My year as a Beachbody Coach, what I learned, and what's next

One year ago today, I signed on as a Beachbody coach. I increased in rank to Emerald, lost it when a coach quit, and got it back later that year. I earned my free ticket to the annual Summit, and I received a paycheck every week throughout all of 2015.

I love coaching. I love getting messages from my challengers, hearing of their successes, and cheering them on when they felt like they were going uphill. There is a wonderful sense of community in the support groups and among the coaches with whom I worked the most.

I learned a lot, and it revolves around Beachbody's three vital behaviors. 

Personal development

I learned that personal development is the key to everything. If you work on yourself, everything else falls into place. You can read books on how to be a badass. You can listen to podcasts about enjoying the simple things in life. You can read books on decluttering or nutrition or creativity or travel or cooking...whatever makes you smile. If you spend some time every day working on yourself, the return on your time investment is huge. You will love your ever-evolving self and become stronger from the inside out, every day. 

Be a product of the product

Beachbody coaches understand this concept better than any other segment of my social media feed. They have perfected this strategy. They post selfies, workout videos, heart-to-hearts chats, FAQs, and transformation stories. They get it. They are all-in as products of the product. 

I learned that if your take the Beachbody product out of the equation, the strategy still works.

Whatever your "product" is, you need to own it. Whether it's personal branding in your niche, or whether it's keeping an eye on your own prize (travel, retirement, etc), you need to be a product of your product. Target and focus your thinking. Build your personal development around it. Become an expert. Go after whatever it is that gives you fire in your belly, that makes your heart pump faster...be a product of the product, for your own accountability and for your own growing influence.

Invite, invite, invite.

Beachbody, like all network marketing programs, relies on sharing. I am happy to share what I love about Shakeology and what I think about various programs. I look forward to my Shake every morning, because of how it helps ME. My migraines all but stopped and I feel great, noticeably different from other purely protein shakes I have had in the past. 

I will continue to participate in challenges and work on myself, but I know that Shakeology is not a cure-all, nor is it a perfect fit for everyone. 

I still love accountability groups and encouraging others, as long as they are grounded in the understanding that it's personal commitment, not the product, that generates success. 

So now what?

Will I be a Beachbody coach in 2016? 

Yes. I enjoy the discount on my Shakeology and fitness programs, I love the extra income that comes every week, and I love having access to the professional development. I still want to encourage others, and I will continue to encourage them, regardless of their program or their supplements.

Beachbody is a continually growing company that has incredible opportunity for coaches to reach financial success beyond what many think that they can ever achieve. 

For me, it's about the lessons I continue to learn as I work on myself and work toward achieving my own goals, while encouraging others along the way. 

As I continue to work on my own nutrition, fitness, and personal development, I become a stronger me, which makes me stronger in every part of my life. And for me, it's worth it. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Powerball Mania and What I Won't Be Buying with my Winnings

Are you a lottery player? 

It seems like everyone is experiencing Powerball mania. Because no one won last week, it seems that the jackpot is now over a billion dollars. That's a lot of money for one winner, if that's how this ends.

Even my husband, who is usually a practical spender, is making a donation to the state lottery buying tickets. 

I know someone will win, but the money spent on tickets, astonishes me. 

In fact, according to multiple studies noted by CNN Money, the majority of tickets in the 44 Powerball states, are bought by those with below average income, who spend a higher percentage of their overall income on lottery tickets than those in higher income brackets.  

And the media feeds the frenzy, even going to so far as to offer financial planning tips for the winner(s)...all of that media time for a 1 in 176 million chance. 

Nevertheless, it is fun to consider what extreme wealth could buy. 

I've thought about it, but since I don't play, here are five things I won't be buying with my winnings. 

1. All family financial needs taken care of...forever. 

2. Access to travel-at-will around the world. 

3. Investment properties in various cities around the world.  

4. A mega-donation to our favorite causes and charities. 

5. A comfortable retirement for the Señor and me, with a will that later disperses the wealth to #3 and #4. 

Did you buy Powerball tickets? If you're playing, in all sincerity, good luck. 

What would YOU buy with your windfall?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Lovely Things: The Best in Travel Coloring Books

I'm not an Amazon affiliate; sometimes I think I should be, given the time spent on their site buying things I need and want, doing research, checking prices, and window shopping. 

One of my purchases last year was this coloring book filled with inspirational messages. 

And it got me thinking. Are there coloring books that are inspired by the great cities and landmarks of the world?

Why, yes, there are. You can color your way around the world. 

Here's what I found. All images are courtesy of Amazon. 

1. World Traveler Coloring Book

This travel inspired coloring book features the famous landmarks, from the Taj Mahal to the Mayan pyramids, the Great Wall of China to the Dutch windmills, and much in between.

2. Amazing Cities, Volume 1 and 2

This series features the great cities of the world. Using freehand drawings, this book shows locales in Germany, Hungary, Venice, Jerusalem, Saint Petersburg, and more. 

3. Color New York City, Volume 1

Fans of Gotham can color their way through the Big Apple. This coloring book features popular New York City attractions, such as Grand Central Station, Central Park, Times Square, the Chrysler Building, and many more. 

4. Travel Between the Lines

This coloring book from Wandertooth Media is designed "for globetrotters and daydreamers" and features 47 cityscapes and scenes across Europe, Asia, and the Americas, including Paris, Guatemala, Colombia, Argentina, Prague, and many more. Want more? Here's a free download from their new coloring book, Travel Between the Lines: Coloring Mexico. Access your free download here

5. Discover Paris: Destination Relaxation

For the Francophile, there is Discover Paris, which features famous Parisian themes and landmarks, such as Pont Neuf and the Eiffel Tower. 

There were other coloring books as well, featuring areas such as Maine, the Pacific Northwest, and cities such as San Francisco and Venice. If your favorite city hasn't been featured, wait a while...it seems that this genre is exploding. 

Do you have any coloring books? What city would you like to see featured?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Weekending: The First of 2016

Happy New Year! The school break between Christmas and the New Year usually a slow one, marked by lazy mornings with tea and a book, the gym at whatever time I decide to go, afternoon naps, and bedtimes dictated by drowsiness, instead of a lurking alarm. 

This year, the break was marked by a new list project...

fierce Uno and Rummikub games... 

New Year's Eve fortunes... 

grapes and Cava to welcome 2016...

and time with my girl, the future veterinarian and current puppy whisperer. 

Goodbyes are heartbreaking hard, but I'm grateful for the time we had this week. 

The Señor and I ended the weekend with lattes and lounging...

and another training session for this one...

Here's to happy weekending in 2016. How was your first weekend of 2016?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Welcome 2016!

Adiós, 2015! 

We made merry and ate our grapes at midnight, and I had the pleasure of ringing in the new year with my favorite girl, and a sweet little pup who, already, has filled our hearts with so much joy. 

Welcome, 2016! 

This is my favorite holiday...so much anticipation and excitement for all that is new. 

What are your hopes and dreams for this year? 

If you are able to, please share...you may inspire someone else.