6.75 months gone by!

Sleeping Bear Dunes Michigan Empire National Lakeshore 

When I started writing this entry, I titled it "3 months gone by." So you can guess how long it's actually taken me to write this entry. :)

I started this year off, as most people do, with the best of intentions for this blog. I was one of four semesters down in my graduate program, fairly well-rested after the winter holidays, and full of good cheer. And then life happened ... with no summer break to speak of, I've been trudging through this program and missing out on much-needed sun rays, and I have come out on the other side -- sort of. The last semester of this program started last week and I can already tell that it's going to be a rough one. Save the best for last, right? This last semester is met with bittersweet feelings -- ready to get the heck outta school, but not quite ready to face the "real world" again.

I guess the greatest obstacle I will have to surmount this semester is the decision of where I will be post-graduation. Unlike some professions, this one requires me to target one particular state so I can begin the licensing process without wasting any time. It's kind of time to settle down now. My heart is leaning towards California, as it has since I was 19 (over a decade ago!).

The reason I finally had the motivation to sit down and write this entry is because I realized how much I have been moving around since I started this blog, and how many states (and countries!) any regular readers of this blog have traversed with me. And then I realized how little I have shared about my time here in the Midwest, and how easily I could have glossed over my time here, only to show up in California (or wherever I may end up), as I did with my brief time in Florida's Suncoast last year.

To build some momentum, here are some photographs of a quick trip I took to Sleeping Bear Dunes (voted "The Most Beautiful Place in America" by Good Morning America viewers in 2011) in Empire, Michigan this summer. My photographs do not nearly capture the vastness of this space. I had seen photos prior to going and marveled at the idea that there could be a place that resembled a coastal beach in a basically landlocked Michigan. And then I found myself standing at the top of this sand dune, shielding my eyes and mouth from grains of sand and stunned by how enormous Lake Michigan is, and how small I am. It is a place that needs to be experienced in person, a place and an experience photographs truly cannot capture.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Michigan Empire National Lakeshore
It was truly, truly, truly windy. I felt at risk of being blown straight down the dune into Lake Michigan, and that felt exhilarating, like I could easily tumble over the edge of a "precipice." Maybe you can see the "layer" of airborne sand above the actual sand dune. My hair was completely out-of-control and the tight lycra hip-length t-shirt I was wearing was lifted on more than one occasion to ... immodest areas.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Michigan Empire National Lakeshore
A dip in the sand dune.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Michigan Empire National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes Michigan Empire National Lakeshore
Those little upright black things are people climbing down (or up) the sand dune.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Michigan Empire National Lakeshore

I hope to check in at least once a month between now and the time I finish my program at the end of the year, and after that ... who knows! But I'll be sure to keep some record of my little discoveries.

+ I am a little better at updating my Instagram, so if you're interested, you can follow along there!
+ The one entry I've been diligently updating is my Spotify Playlist Challenge

DIY: Homemade Natural Lip Scrubs

diy homemade natural lip scrub sugar honey shea butter lime mint mojito lemon sage easy moisturizing hydrating smooth lips kissable valentine's day

I'm back with more lip scrub recipes for smooth, kissable lips this Valentine's Day. Ooh la la. (If you missed my last post on "winter"-flavored lip scrubs, here it is.) The basic recipe for lip scrubs is one part sugar and one part (edible) oil, but in the recipes below I utilize other ingredients, such as shea butter and honey. White sugar tends to be a little more exfoliating than brown sugar, but either can be used in the scrubs. You can use olive oil, avocado oil, almond oil, coconut oil ... whatever you've got -- just make sure it's food grade since it'll be on your lips and might end up inside your mouth (did I forget to mention that all of these lip scrubs are edible?). You can substitute honey in place of the oil, but you'll want to mix two parts sugar to one part honey instead. (Honey is smoothing and generally has great restorative health and beauty benefits.)

Below, I share 3 different flavors of lip scrubs utilizing fresh herbs, peppermint essential oil and lime juice. I also share the basic lip scrub recipe for those who wish to experiment with their own mixture of essential oils or spices. If you choose to use essential oils, be sure to add one drop at a time and test it on your skin to ensure that it isn't too strong or caustic. The skin on your lips is especially sensitive, so bear that in mind when adding essential oils to your recipe.

Lastly, since these are all natural recipes, refrigerate leftovers and use them up within two weeks, preferably one week.

Basic Sugar Lip Scrub Recipe

1 part white or brown sugar
1 part olive or avocado oil


2 parts white or brown sugar
1 part honey

Lemon Sage Lip Scrub Recipe

2 parts white or brown sugar
1 part oil
a squeeze of lemon juice
a few sprigs of crushed fresh sage or a sprinkle of dry rubbed sage

Hydrating Shea Butter and Honey Lip Scrub Recipe

4 parts white or brown sugar
2 parts honey
1 part oil
1 part shea butter (best if melted via double boiler)

Mint Mojito Lip Scrub Recipe

2 parts white or brown sugar
1 part oil
a squeeze of lime juice
1 drop of peppermint or spearmint essential oil

Happy scrubbing!

2015, here we go! (And getting a little bit personal.)

Hello, everyone. I know it's practically February, but it's been a while (nearly two months) since I last wrote in here, which is unlike me. Finals season was pretty hectic, and my 3-week break was nearly as hectic. But I'm back at school and this semester promises to be no less hectic than the last, so I'm not making any grandiose promises just yet about updates and such.

But how are you doing? How has 2015 been treating you so far? Good, I hope.

(End one-ended conversation.)

I finish my graduate program at the end of 2015, so things will be changing a lot ... as usual. Since I started this blog on January 1, 2011, my life has been pretty unstable. I've had bouts of wanderlust and have seriously questioned my life's path. I went from working in the television industry in New York City to studying Mandarin Chinese in Taipei. During that trip, I hit up some places I'd long wanted to see and fell in love with Australia. I moved back to New York, considered moving to Sydney for a minute, then moved briefly to south Florida -- which I did not discuss here at all. And now I'm in graduate school in the Midwest! ("Winter" is a lifestyle here, and I don't think it's a lifestyle I will ever truly embrace.)

Where I go when my program ends is completely up in the air and I am open (as usual?). I still have dreams of moving to California, so this might be my chance. It's funny, looking back, that I feel in many ways in the same place as I was when I graduated from college nearly a decade ago. I longed to moved to California then and tried for a little bit to do it, but ultimately ended up back in New York City. In spite of my serious case of wanderlust, this longing has never really left me, so I guess it's "meant to be" that I give it a go at some point. (Although, if I could get a job and afford London, that would be another serious consideration. Thank goodness it's not an option.)

Some goals for 2015:

Post to Instagram more often.
I neglected my Instagram account for most of 2014, and I realized this during the holiday season. If I can find things to take pictures of during my dull days shuffling back-and-forth between my school building, home, and my internship, I will.

Read 30 minutes a day.
This is ambitious, because even when I didn't have 4 graduate classes to read for and an internship, I didn't read 30 minutes a day. My conservative goal is to read 10 books this year and I think I can reach that goal, but ideally, I'd like to read to more than 10.

Eat at most two pieces of candy a day.
This seems silly, but when I was in my teens (and eating like a one-person sugar and junk food factory), I thought in my early twenties, I'd magically have the drive to start eating healthily. Now that I'm nearly 30, I think it's time to start taking small steps towards actually living more healthily. Plus, the ever-wise Lorelai Gilmore once said, "It's expensive to slowly rot your insides, isn't it?"

Be more social.

Explore more.
I have never lived in the Midwest. The only time I'd ever been to the Midwest prior to moving here was visiting Chicago in the dead of winter 2007. I've gotten to know some of the locals through my internship here and driven through a number of towns, but otherwise, I have not seen much. I'd like to do more of that, especially once winter thaws.

And of course, I'd like to post more here. I haven't had much time to really listen to new music or cook much else besides pasta and fried rice (my soul is dying, can you hear it?), so my Music Mondays and recipe shares have been negligible. I'll find something to write, though, even if it is short and sweet.

Happy 2015 -- make it a great one!