Modern Calligraphy Tutorials

Tuesday, December 31, 2013 | Stamp in My Passport| , , | 8 Comments

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I've always been told that I have neat handwriting. And that I hold my pens and pencils strange, but I blame my teachers for never correcting me. For Christmas, I recieved a basic tool kit to teach myself calligraphy. I've always wanted to have a hobby/creative talent, and thought, what better time to start?

So now I am in search of tutorials and youtube videos to teach myself.

The front-runner (and most expensive at $95) is the 30 day online course supervised by Melissa Esplin of I Still Love Calligraphy. With 8 lessons and printable guides for practice, you will learn Copperplate Calligraphy and pointed pen techniques. While in the course, you can upload your work and get feedback from Melissa each week. On top of teaching the traditional techniques, she also talks about how to put your own spin on it.

Here are other sites and tutorials that I have found.
1. The Flourish Forum's Contemporary Pointed Pen Calligraphy tutorial
2. Digital download beginner tutorial (including terminology, how to dip a pen, etc.)
3. Modern Calligraphy by graphic designer Molly Suber Thorpe (blog: Plurabelle)

And now for a little inspiration.  
MISS B | BESOTTED             

Weekly Wishes for a New Year

Monday, December 30, 2013 | Stamp in My Passport| | 12 Comments

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 has come and gone and what do I have to show for it? Graduation, trips to LA and NYC, reviving this blog and top my list. I am not one for New Year's resolutions, but I do know the value of setting goals and dreams and writing them down. It helps to give you purpose and track your progress. Whether you want to set weekly, monthly or yearly goals is up to you, but it's important to write them down. That way, at the end of the time, you can look back and see if you accomplished them or if they are still a work in progress. 

I am guilty as charged of living for the weekend. Every day I compartmentalize my time and say "well if I can just make it to the end of class/work" or "if I can just make it to Friday" and then all of a sudden, another week is gone. This also applies to the year too. 

So I say all of that to say, whatever your views of New Year's Resolutions, write at least one big picture goal for yourself for 2014 (emphasis on writing down, to hold you more accountable). And then take it one step farther. Figure out the steps you need to take to reach this goal and what the best ways are to go about accomplishing it. 

So one of my goals for 2014 is to improve my photography skills. That is all well and good, but if I don't make time in my days to work on it and make it a part of my routine, then the likelihood of sitting in this same spot in 2015 and feeling accomplished is slim to none. Other ways to go about working toward this goal include: making an effort to carry my camera with me at all times and reading all of Rachel's tutorials.

As January rolls in again, you have another theoretical blank slate. While you still have to live with the choices you made in years past, the new year is a great time to try and change your habits. Best of luck making 2014 everything you would like it to be.

And now, back to you originally scheduled programming.

My goals last week were to unpack my car and watch as many Christmas movies as possible. I am pleased to say that I accomplished one of those. Can you guess which one? In my defense, I was out of town most of the week, so I didn't have a lot of time to move the last few boxes from my trunk. As for Christmas movies, I finally sat down and watched A Christmas Story all the way through (and, shamefully, The Sound of Music, which I had never seen the ending to.) Now if only I could say the same about It's A Wonderful Life, which I have had on VHS for years. 

And now for my 2014 goals: 

1// Find a job. And move out of my childhood room.

2// Read more for fun. School put this hobby on the back burner, but I would love to get back in the habit of reading an actual book instead of my Twitter feed before bed. 

3// Put my Pinterest boards to use. I have enough crafty ideas, design ideas and fashion ideas to last well through 2014. 

4// Take lots of trips. Both big and small.

5// My goal for Stamp in my Passport is to redefine it's subject. It started as a travel blog, but time and money get in the way, so it's time to reevaluate what I want to write about. Unless you enjoy the seemingly random assortment of thoughts and ideas that run through my head. If so, please let me know because I would hate to disappoint you. 

linking up with Melyssa for weekly wishes as usual.

Coffee Talk Vol. 1

Saturday, December 28, 2013 | Stamp in My Passport| | 14 Comments

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Good morning! Whether you spend your Saturday mornings sipping coffee in bed, at your favorite brunch spot, or on the go running errands, here are my favorite stories from this week for you to catch up on. So sit back and ease in to your weekend. 
  • A cultural anthropologist told Huffington Post why so many people choose to binge watch their favorite TV shows (myself included.) He said that we become emotionally invested in the shows plot and characters and don't want to leave them. I know, for myself at least, this is especially true for dramas like Scandal that have major clifhangers at the end of almost every episode. And with a plot that has the most twists, in order to keep up with what is going on in the show, you almost have to sit and watch four or five episodes at a time instead of once a week. 
  • Teen Vogue posted 5 tips to stand out at your internship (or job, for that matter.) Their first tip was to pack a bag with all the things you may forget, like a phone charger, travel toiletries and a pen and paper. I just bought the perfect laptop bag/briefcase/airline carry on bag from Target that has plenty of room for everything I'll need at my internship, plus it is a step up from carrying my Northface backpack.
  • The New Year always makes me want to make a new "to-read" list. The Everygirl reviewed "Where'd You Go Bernaette," which I had seen floating around on many must read lists. The author is one of the writers for Arrested Development, so be prepared for some quirky humor. (Samantha, let's add this one to our book club list, yes?)
  • I am head-over-heels in love with this Doxie in Paris print.
  • I have a few blank canvases in need of being used in a craft project. I think this one is on my level.

Merry Christmas from Dixie and me

Wednesday, December 25, 2013 | Stamp in My Passport| , | 6 Comments

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!
As I'm writing this, Sufjan's 
Christmas album is on repeat for the fourth time. 

Dixie is curled up on my houserobe,
dreaming of the jumbones
she hopes Santa will leave in her stocking.

I hope you all are enjoying time with family and friends, 
drinking too much egg nog (you can have mine too),
and taking too many photos. 

In conclusion, I'm going to leave you with the 
Publix Christmas commercial. 
I think it perfectly sums up the holiday.

DIY Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments

Tuesday, December 24, 2013 | Stamp in My Passport| , | Be the first to comment!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

You may remember making these in elementry school. 
You may also remember wanting to desperately eat them
because they so closely resemble gingerbread cookies. 

But after that first bite, you would have been
sadly mistaken and secretly wished 
that your teacher would have had the class 
bake cookies instead.

Fast forward many years, 
and it's still not too late to recreate this childhood memory. 
Especially if you have little ones in your house 
who are anxious for a man to shimmy down their chimney 

You might remember these that I sent to my 
merry mail group. 
If you plan on mailing these, 
pack them ever so carefully 
so they do not turn into cinnamon potpourri.  

Recipe from Katy Elliott
All you will need is: 
1 cup applesauce
1 1/2 cup cinnamon (about 3-4 of the packages sold in the grocery)
cookie cutters
a straw/toothpick to poke holes

Mix 1 cup of applesauce with 1 cup of cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix, mix, mix. This is the kinda recipe you’ll need to use your hands to really incorporate the spices. Make sure you don’t miss any wet spots. Add the additional 1/2 cup of cinnamon, cloves and continue to incorporate. If it’s too wet add more cinnamon, too dry add more applesauce. But be patient. It takes time to mix so don’t add cinnamon or applesauce till you’re absolutely sure it’s well mixed.
Scatter some cinnamon (like if you were rolling out cookies with flour) and roll out applesauce/cinnamon dough to 1/4″ thick. If the dough is too wet it will make a huge mess and stick to your rolling pin.
Use your cookie cutters to cut out the hearts. I noticed the first time around my dough was too wet and the edges were straggly. Once I add more cinnamon the edges were clean.
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the hearts on a cookie sheet with a silpat. The hearts can be really close together but not touching; they won’t rise in the oven. Using a skewer carefully make a hole through each heart. Stick the ornaments in the oven for an hour or more. The juice from the applesauce needs to evaporate. The range in cooking time depends on your house, humidity and climate. My house is cold so I had them in for 1.5 hours and then I turned the oven off and left them to set overnight. They should be rock hard. If they’re not, give them some more time in the oven.
On Christmas morning, they will be ready to hang on the tree and leave the living room smelling like Christmas.
 The following are a few more photos to get you in the Christmas spirit:
When you don't have a fireplace (or heating)
you put on a second layer of socks,
and gather by the space heater 
to eat your milk and cookies. 

Weekly Wishes + Sponsor Spotlight

Monday, December 23, 2013 | Stamp in My Passport| | 2 Comments

Monday, December 23, 2013

Is it possible that Christmas is this week? I had to drive past the mall Saturday afternoon and it was madness. This is why I am a firm believer in online shopping (plus you get to receive lots of mail, which is my favorite.) And don't get me started on the fact that it was 81 degrees on the first two days of winter at home. Friends at school didn't believe me when I told them I wore shorts up until Christmas day, but it's true this year. However, after dealing with the Icepocolypse of 2013 two weeks ago, I'll take all of the warm weather I can get.

My first goal this week is to finish unpacking my car. Moving back into my childhood room is a little strange, but since I had a storage unit at school plus my apartment and room at home almost filled, I had a lot to clean out before merging the two. The final boxes have been riding around with me since last Sunday. I've been treating it as a second closet; when I need something, I grab it out of the trunk instead of bringing all the items inside. Oops.

My second goal is to watch as many Christmas movies as possible. Netflix and AMC will help make this goal a reality. So far I've watched Home Alone, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and Family Man. I'm preparing myself for 24 hours of A Christmas Story. Did you know that I haven't watched it all the way through from start to finish? It's true, I always end up tuning into the movie at different parts, but have never sat down at the beginning. Perhaps this is the year for it.

What are your plans for Christmas? Is your whole family getting together, or are you planning on starting your own traditions this year?


Now I would like to introduce you to one of my lovely sponsors, Sarah. 
She took a break and traveled the world and
I'm extremely jealous.
Notice the Eiffel Tower in the background of her photo?
It's no surprise why I love her blog :)

Sarah of Sarah's Suitcase

My blog is a place where I share photos and short tales about my recent and past travels. Story started when I was still in a stroller, traveling around South East Asia thanks to my dad's work benefits. But as they say, all things must come to an end, so as our free flights and in 2005, our family moved to Los Angeles, CA where our expat lives started. In the last 4 years, I have lived in 10 zip codes and been to 17 countries. Come join me while on trip or while exploring my new neighborhood as I move from one place to another and as I live and try different food, culture and life in general. Because the world is too short to stay in one place. 

What is one item you can't travel without?:
I couldn't travel without my iPhone. It keeps me in check with my IT - flight numbers, dates and times, thanks to travel apps. Aside from iBooks, I also installed Kindle app where I download my travel guide books. Maps help me find my way whenever I'm lost. My most favorite feature will definitely be the camera. I love that it records the location where I take my photos and makes me remember exactly where I've been. 

What you should be reading: San Francisco | Amalfi Coast | Uros Islands

If you're interested in your own sponsor spotlight, you can check out my advertising options here

Friday Favorites: Smoking Slippers

Friday, December 20, 2013 | Stamp in My Passport| , | 7 Comments

Friday, December 20, 2013

1 | 2 | 3 | 4
I'm 5'4 standing up straight. And while I should want to live in heels to add a few extra inches, I'm much more comfortable in flats. And if you knew me, this is probably for the best because balance and coordination are not my strong suit. 

Ballet flats are perfect for every day running around, but a smoking loafer adds a perfect amount of sparkle and elegance to any outfit. Even for nights out, I don't want to look like a baby giraffe stumbling around, so I would much rather trade my stiletto for a glitter loafer. Also, who could resist this mustache velvet shoe?

Which is your favorite? 

Graduation + Group Feature

Thursday, December 19, 2013 | Stamp in My Passport|| 6 Comments

Thursday, December 19, 2013

 Check out all of that paparazzi getting our photo :)
Graduation was Saturday, which means that today is day five of my time as an official unemployed college grad. It's crazy how much can change in 3 1/2 years. One small, or big, decision sophomore year changed everything. I didn't know the friends standing by me at graduation freshman year, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. Samantha, Emily and my final goodbye in the lobby of the Mabee was pretty awkward (but when are we not?) but we knew it was more of a "goodbye for now." I imagine that we are going to have many more travels and adventures together. Who knows, I'll probably be pricing flights to Texas soon and waiting for a good deal. If only Southwest flew into Valdosta...

"They" say these were the best four years of my life, and while I never like to think that life has peaked and it is all downhill from here, countless memories were made and I would like that trend to continue. 

Charlene of From Bisons to Buckeyes and Beyond

After my husband and I got married and moved 10+ hours away from everyone and everything we ever knew, I started a blog to keep people back home in the look of our life. Since then my blog has grown into so much more than that! I love the community and the hobby that it has become. Pearson (husband) and I graduated from Harding University (mascot = Bisons) and now Pearson is in grad school at The Ohio State University (mascot = Buckeyes). Hence the title "From Bisons to Buckeyes and Beyond." (PS Charlene is a Harding grad, too. Small world!)

What is your favorite Christmas song? "Baby It's Cold Outside". Especially the She & Him version.

Jessica from This Analogue Adventure

I'm Jess, a twenty-something with a passion for film photography and Fashion. I blog about my adventures in analog photography, my style, my travels, and my life!

What is your favorite Christmas song?: Any of the songs from Muppet's Christmas carol (wherever you find love, it feels like christmaaaaas!). I adore that movie, and all of the songs in it! so good. 

Amy from Creatrice Mondial

A touch of artist and a bit of designer, mixed with a wandering free-spirit that never stays put very long. Créatrice Mondial follows my path, introducing readers to the places I have been and the people I have met during my last 5 years living overseas in London, Paris, and Melbourne, Australia.

What is your favorite Christmas song? Waltz of the Snowflakes from The Nutcracker

What you should be reading: The Parisian | Wanderlust | Hiking Cinque Terre, Italy

Secret Santa + Merry Mail

Tuesday, December 17, 2013 | Stamp in My Passport|| 4 Comments

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Nothing says Christmas more than a gift and ornament exchange. I want to say a special thank you to Allie of Tales of a Twenty Something and Kenzie of Chasing Happy for organizing two wonderful exchanges! I had so much fun getting to know my partners. It was so exciting arriving home after a 12 hour drive from school to see a pile of packages waiting to be opened.

Ashley of Mint Sparkles was my Secret Santa and gave me the most perfect bookends and headband from Target. She knows me too well. I bought for Sarah of Whimsical Minutes and I hope she enjoys her gift, too.
 I also recieved beautiful handmade ornaments from Jess and Megan as a part of the Merry Mail exchange. I sent cinnamon applesauce ornaments.

Recipe: Southern Living's Apple-Pecan Carrot Cake + Group Feature

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 | Stamp in My Passport| , , | 1 Comment

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

For dessert on Thanksgiving day, mom and I made the apple-pecan carrot cake from the November issue of Southern Living. It's a combination of my three favorite kinds of cake, so I had no doubts that I would love it. This cake exceeded all of my expectations. By grating both the apples and carrots, you don't run into the issue of taking a bite of mushy apple. It is moist, dense and flavorful. Because it has 1 1/2 cups of carrots I tried to convince my family that it is in fact considered a vegetable side dish. They didn't buy it. 

The real stars in this recipe are the apple cider caramel sauce and the mascarpone frosting. The caramel sauce calls for regular apple cider, but all we had was spiced cider and I think it gave the cake an even better flavor. You pour the sauce in between the two cake layers and let it soak in. And now let's talk about the frosting, which is somewhere in between cool whip and cream cheese frosting and is ten times better than both of them. Because the sauce is extremely sweet, the frosting's mellow flavor is the perfect complement. 

It was decided that this cake was going to become a new family tradition at the holidays. While it was fairly time-consuming, the final product is worth the hour or two spent in the kitchen. Mom made the cake the night before and let them sit to soak in all the flavors. While she was fixing the rest of the lunch, we made the caramel sauce and frosting and assembled everything right before we sat down to eat. 

Mar of To and Fro

I started this blog back in 2010 as a way to communicate with friends and family when an unexpected move took us over 4000 miles from home in Toronto to the land of the midnight sun, Alaska. Alaska immediately stole our hearts and gave us both opportunities we never could have imagined, but like all good things, it had to come to an end and we decided it was time for the next adventure. I am a travel addict, animal lover, photography junkie, outdoor enthusiast and my hockey-playing hubby's #1 fan and love blogging about our adventures living in Toronto and working as a professional hockey player and environmental educator/animal handler at an aquarium.

What is your favorite Christmas song?:

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas (it reminds me of elementary school, when all the students would gather in the gym to sing carols)

Ella of Paper Umbrella

Brief description of you/what you blog about: I am a recent college grad living in Portland, Oregon. I work in a special education classroom by day, and blog by night! I love sharing DIY projects, recipes, design and fashion inspiration, music, photos of my daily life, and anything else that inspires me. I'm the type of person who will elaborately package your sandwich in washi tape and craft paper because I think it's important to put thought into the smallest details and make life more beautiful in every way you can.

What is your favorite Christmas song?: It's so hard to choose just one!...Probably "Merry Christmas, Baby" by Otis Redding.

What you should be reading: DIY Wire Rings | Anthropologie Inspired Tassel Pillows | Thai Noodle Soup

Jess of Foreign Room

I'm just a girl that believes in photographing every day life, drinking mass amounts of iced coffee, adventuring whenever possible, cuddling with my pup, enjoying life's small moments, hoarding mason jars, and blogging about it all.

Favorite Christmas song: "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" by Michael Bublé. I'm just smitten by his whole Christmas album!

Songs for Winter & Christmas + A GIVEAWAY

Tuesday, December 10, 2013 | Stamp in My Passport|| 5 Comments

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

When you lay on the couch in front of the space heater trying to stay warm during the ice-pocolypse of 2013, you listen to a lot of music. And since it's after Thanksgiving I can proudly blast my Christmas tunes at full volume with no regrets. Here is a few of my favorites (want more? you can listen to my 2012 Christmas playlist here.) Also, if you haven't visited the N*SYNC Christmas album in a few years, you are missing out on a heavy dose of early 2000s Christmas cheer. Trust me, it will have you singing into your hairbrush around the tree and fireplace faster than J.T. can highlight his hair. 

gift card giveaway Poppiness | Chits & Giggles | So Much Sunshine design credit giveaway Stamp in My Passport | We Took the Road Less Traveled | Jellibean Journals blog ad space giveaway Mish Lovin' Life | Deecoded | Northern Belle Diaries December ad space and gift card giveaway Little Black Suitcase | Route Bliss | And So I Did December sponsor giveaway Keep It Simple | Tales of the Benedicts | Postcards from Rachel
 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday Favorites: Holiday Decor for Non-Crafters (myself included)

Friday, December 6, 2013 | Stamp in My Passport| , , | 11 Comments

Friday, December 6, 2013

If you haven't started decorating your home or apartment by now, you should probably get a move on. Unless you are one of those people who leaves their decorations up until New Years (or later), then maybe you want to save the festive decor until closer to Christmas. Either way, here are a few of my favorite ideas that require little to no craft ability. Don't worry, you won't have to run to Hobby Lobby to purchase a hot glue gun and all the glitter left in stock. Because, to be honest, all of the crafters were working on their table centerpieces at Halloween and have wiped the shelves clean of all trendy crafting supplies. So let's work with what we have, shall we?

Some simple and elegant ideas include: Cranberries and candles floating in water; ornaments, Wine glasses and candles; wrapped presents at each place setting (If you are feeling extra festive, you could wrap everyone's gift and set it at their place at the table. Or just wrap presents for show.); Candles and jingle bell centerpiece. 

I did wish for a snow day + Sponsor Spotlight

Thursday, December 5, 2013 | Stamp in My Passport| , | 4 Comments

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Central Arkansas is bracing for the eminently approaching winter storm that may hit tonight. The South just does not do well when the temperature is below 40. Lines at the grocery are wrapped around the store with people stockpiling food and water to wait out the storm. And I don't blame them. I've seen the way people in this down drive in perfect conditions and I shudder to think how cars will be slip-sliding on the icy roads.

I secretly wished to get a snow day this semester. And while my one class tomorrow has the potential to be cancelled, freezing rain and sleet somehow doesn't have the magical effect of turning campus into a winter wonderland like snow does. It's more like a winter death trap. If I do have to get out in unfavorable conditions, instead of driving or walking (because that is extremely dangerous for me, too.) I think I'll be like this person in Germany and skate everywhere. 


Laura from Side Street Style

Tell me a little about yourself and your blog. 
We are a creative couple who are also parents but that doesn't stop us from travelling, eating good food, enjoying the outdoors and indulging in our passions for music, film and fashion and the blog is really a huge mix of all those things. We also try to bring up our son in a naturally inspired way.

You've travelled around the world with your husband and son. Can you pick just one favorite trip? Where would you like to travel again? 
Well between all of us we have been to 26 countries and have loads more planned. I have to say one of my personal favorites not because the place was awe inspiring but because of the host I stayed with would have to be Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. I went there before having Mr A and was couch-surfing and stayed with a Playwright who took me to see some old black and white croatian cinema as well as some underground bars, it was amazing because of the company. Johns favorite place to date I think is Mauritius and as a family it has to be our first trip we ever did while Mr A was only a few months old, it was special simply because it was very much new ground for us as parents. We didn't go far, just to Mid Wales but it was beautiful, rural and we climbed up to the top of a Cliff Faced castle which was really beautiful.

Why did you decide to start blogging? What is something you have learned from this experience? 
I started it simply to express what I was into, reading, listening too, dreaming of going to and anything that inspired me. Blogs are a great way to share, be creative and be inspired and I have made some really good friends both online and in person because of the blog.

I see you have purchased a new house. Congratulations! Are there any design and decorating projects on your horizon? 
Yes!! Many, we have already started a few. When we bought the house at the time we felt it didn't really need much work but once we got the keys and had a proper look around we decided to start a few before putting our furniture in so in the past two weeks we have striped walls, had ceilings plastered, pulled up carpets, laid new ones and will actually be moving in the weekend, after which I have two side bed cabinets screaming to be painted and updated as well as many prints to frame and lots of bits and bobs to work on - can't wait.

What is your favorite holiday traditions? Do you stay home, visit family, or take a trip?
It's really funny as I have been away from home for a few big celebrations but I always try and get into the spirit of things no matter where in the world we may be. 5 years ago I was working in the South of France for Christmas and it was so much fun, everyone was away from home so we all celebrated like we where family and I think that is the main thing enjoy the company you are with. Even though our house will be filled with boxes of Christmas me and little man will enjoy making some homemade decorations and treats.

Anything else you would like to add? 
Well I cannot believe a whole year has nearly passed again and I think it can be a great time for reflection so I have a few big plans for the New Year as well as a big road trip for the family across Europe, so watch this space.

In case you won't make it home for the holidays

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 | Stamp in My Passport|| 6 Comments

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sometimes it just isn't possible to make it home for the holidays. Maybe you're an expat and the airlines decided not to put December tickets on sale. Or maybe you only have time to visit one part of your family. Or maybe you have decided to make your own holiday traditions with friends. Whatever your reason, you can still keep in touch with all your family and friends despite the miles separating you.

How to stay in touch with family and friends: 

1. Start a blog. You may not think that your day-to-day activities are exciting, but I guarantee that those who rarely get to see you will enjoy the posts. If you are only going to be away from home for a specific period of time, writing everything down, either in a journal or on the web, is a wonderful way to keep track of all your thoughts, feelings and experiences so you never have to forget a minute of it.

2. Send them snail mail. Skype and iMessage are great for day-to-day conversations and are even better because they are free. But there is nothing better than receiving snail mail from someone you haven't seen in a while. So if you haven't already, why not design a Christmas card to send to your loved ones?

Tiny Prints takes the hard work out of designing beautiful Christmas cards. With hundreds of styles to choose from, it's hard to choose just one. Is your new favorite trends gold and foil-stamped? They have that. Or maybe you are not into the "red and green" Christmas color scheme. Have no fear. You can view all of their Christmas card designs here. Plus there are infinite upgrades from pearl shimmer paper and decorative cutouts to colored envelopes and patterned liners.

My parents and I (and my dog) had such a fun time designing our card last week. Here is the final selection followed by some of the other top contenders. I can't wait for them to arrive!
3. Create a video series. If you are living overseas and don't want to pay to mail a lot of cards to the States, I love the idea of creating a Christmas video. It would be great to take video clips from all of your travels throughout the year to keep everyone posted on what you've been up to.

4. Send care packages. Are there specialty stores in your area? Send your family local products that they can't get at home. If they aren't able to visit you, you can send a little piece of your home to them.

What about you? What do you do to keep in touch with family and friends around the holidays?

Maximize Your Time: Two Minute Rule of Productivity

Tuesday, December 3, 2013 | Stamp in My Passport| | 11 Comments

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

This post originally appeared on Sept. 6, but I thought it was a fitting reminder to include in the Maximize Your Time series.

Let's talk about being productive. Because as I am typing this post there are about five other homework assignments that I could and maybe should be working on, but I'm not because they aren't due within the next 12 hours.

I've noticed that I am most productive when under a time crunch and deadline. My extremely organized side recognizes upcoming projects and assignments weeks in advance and I know that I should start working on them, and many times I do. But it's not until I get down to the wire that I focus and check items off my to-do list faster than New Yorkers lined up for the cronut.

Does this describe you, too?

If there is one thing that school has taught me, it is how to procrastinate. The problem is some of my best work comes when I do it in a hurry. When looking too far in advance on my calendar, I become bogged down with how much needs to get done. Instead of prioritizing, I do nothing at all and scroll through my twitter feed for the twentieth time that hour.

I was reading an article yesterday about the two-minute rule of productivity. If it is a task you can accomplish in under two minutes like emptying the dishwasher or cleaning your email inbox, get it done right away. If the task at hand will take longer than two minutes, then spend at least two minutes getting started. If your goal is to go to the gym more often, then at least put on your tennis shoes and walk out the door. Once you have made that initial action, you are more likely to finish out the task. Want to start reading the book for book club instead of just skimming reviews? Spend two minutes reading the first few pages. Chances are you will get hooked and won't want to put the book down.

So the next time, your to-do list is a mile long, just take two minutes to start tackling those items because don't we all know that crossing several items off quickly makes us feel more productive? Just two minutes. What could you have accomplished in the time it took you to read this post? (Although I am glad you read to the end.)

Weekly Wishes No. 9

Monday, December 2, 2013 | Stamp in My Passport| | 8 Comments

Monday, December 2, 2013

Five days of classes and four finals are all that stand in between me and graduation. How crazy is that? Last week my goal was to enjoy my time at home and it was probably the easiest goal I have ever set for myself, and I'm perfectly ok with that. I almost went seven days with seven different desserts, on top of Thanksgiving lunch, so this week I am pretty much done with eating.

My goals this week are to: 
1. Go to class. Easier said than done. Surprisingly I have no projects or tests left to do for this week, so as long as I show up for class, I'm golden. 

2. Eat healthier and exercise to make up for the plethora of desserts last week. I'm a little shocked that I didn't become diabetic after all my sugar intake. 

3. Resist all of the Cyber Monday deals that I don't really need. I am always a sucker for 80% off deals, especially when they are accompanied by free shipping. 

Need to impress a dinner party? Recipe: Shortbread Sundae Bites

Friday, November 29, 2013 | Stamp in My Passport| , | 1 Comment

Friday, November 29, 2013

Then make them Shortbread Sundae Bites. 
Trust me, they will sing your praises
through the holiday season.

It's all in the presentation. 
Make it look pretty and they'll
never guess you spent less than 
20 minutes fixing it. 

The key is to use Talenti gelato.
Tahitian vanilla bean, butter pecan, & belgian chocolate 
to be exact. 

(No, I did not receive payment from Talenti for this post, 
but I am open for collaboration in the future. Got that, Talenti PR pros?)

What you will need: 
2 in. tart pan (this is important. 4 in. pans are a tad too big for a single serving)
1 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
ice cream of your choice (see recommendation above)
cocunut shavings
toffee bits
chocolate and/or caramel sauce
strawberries to make it pretty

To make the shortbread torte: Preheat oven to 300. Gently cream together softened butter and brown sugar. Whisk flour, salt and baking powder together and gently fold into the creamed mixture, handling as little as possible. Dough will be crumbly. Lightly press dough into small torte pans. Bake at 300 for 15-18 minutes. Check often, do not overbake.

Use a small scoop to create vanilla ice cream balls. Roll in shredded coconut and freeze. For chocolate (and butter pecan), use a larger scoop and roll in toffee bits. Freeze. Melt 8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips in microwave for 1-1.5 minutes or until creamy. Do not overheat. When ready to serve, place one vanilla and one chocolate (or butter pecan) ice cream ball on each shortbread torte. Add a strawberry and top with melted chocolate (or caramel sauce.)

*recipe from "A Gathering of Friends Vol. 1" cookbook

Meet Caroline of A Batonnet a Day

Caroline blogs over at A Batonnet a Day when she is not busy at cooking school in Portland or spending time with her cat, Willow. I'm sure if you asked her, she could come up with a dozen more recipes to impress a dinner party. In case, like me, you were wondering what a batonnet is: "A bâtonnet is one of the first knife cuts that you learn and one that you use every day, the dimensions are .25"x.25"x2". At school you start by cutting potatoes, lots of potatoes, only potatoes (with the occasional onion). In fact, the entire first week is based on cooking potatoes! (And as you can probably guess, cutting A LOT bâtonnets.)"

What are you most thankful for? 
My family and friends. They are always there for me, no matter what, any time - day or night. I know that I can always count on them for anything. 

What you should be reading: Vegan Pumpkin Muffins | Baked Feta | DIY Glitter Leaf Garland

Maximize Your Time: Start with an easy task

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 | Stamp in My Passport| | 3 Comments

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

So, as per last week's instruction of planning your week in advance, you find yourself staring at a daunting list of appointments and tasks. Now what? Any time I sit down to get work done, I always start off with the easiest item on my list. Knowing that I can check off one item and begin to shrink the list gives me the motivation to continue on. For example, if I had a choice between taking notes for a research paper, reading 50 pages or completing a simple 10 question quiz online, I would start with the quiz. BAM. One down, two to go. If I decided to start reading the chapter, I may get halfway through and decide that I deserve a break for almost finishing. And then where does that leave me? Not much better off than when I started.

Perhaps you need to wash the dishes or vacuum the floor. If working in a clean and organized space clears your mind and helps you to focus better, then by all means, clean first.

I wouldn't suggest leaving your hardest or timeliness task until the very end, because you may tire before starting. Try to sandwich the monster of the day somewhere in the middle after you have hit your stride, but before you are winded. (I tried to make a running analogy, but since I run like Phoebe from Friends, I avoid running at all costs.) 

Also, don't always consider checking and answering emails as your easiest task. Unanswered questions can ultimately lead to more work that may not be time sensitive and lead you off track of what you set out to accomplish. Set aside a specific amount of time to clean out your inbox. 

The bottom line is to start with a task that you know can easily be accomplished in order to give yourself the motivational boost to complete the less desirable tasks in your day. Think of the simple task as drinking espresso, a quick burst of energy, as opposed to sipping coffee.

Weekly Wishes No. 8

Monday, November 25, 2013 | Stamp in My Passport| , | 2 Comments

Monday, November 25, 2013

Welcome back to another installment of Weekly Wishes, a place to share your goals for the week and to encourage others along the way too. Last week my goal was to organize my gift list for friends and family, and while I didn't quite get everything figured out, I am prepared for all of the online sales so I will not have to get out in the mass chaos and mayhem that is the day after Thanksgiving. It's like, for one day we are all thankful for our families and all the blessings in our lives, and the next day it's all about consumerism. We can't get away from our families fast enough. But that is another rant for another day. 

This week is all about rest and enjoying time with my family. Going to school so far from home seemed like a brilliant idea senior year of high school when I couldn't pack my bag fast enough to move, but it's always nice coming home. It almost feels like I've never even left and I get settled back in to my same routine effortlessly. There are only two more weeks of school left before graduation, and while the worst is behind be, it is nice to have a break to rest up and finish strong.

I arrived back home late Friday night in time to celebrate my mom's birthday dinner on Saturday at Kinderlou Forest Golf Club. And don't get me started on the food. Salad with candied pears, strawberries, gorgonzola cheese and balsamic vinaigrette; followed by halibut with a veggie medley and mashed potatoes; and the meal ended with my grandmother's Italian cream cake.