Happy Chinese New Year

As per my usual routine, Chinese New Year marks my second chance at resolutions/goals. Doing a quick review of my goals and my overall plans for this year, the only thing that I’ve really stuck to was the reading goal.  I think that rather than following my usual plan of rethinking my goals for the year, I’m going to stick with them this time around. I know it’s weird because I usually think of this time as my second chance to get resolutions going and it’s also the perfect opportunity for me to really just put a focus on things that I know I can accomplish.

But 2018 is the year of trying things so rather than changing my plans to do something I know I can achieve, let’s keep a focus on things that will be stretch goals. I’m going to stick with everything rather than taking a step away from a challenge that I set for myself.

That being said, as a way to celebrate this year, here’s what I’m doing for my second chance.

I went out and bought myself a new shirt to wear today. I spent last night doing an exfoliating face mask so that I can wake up with new skin cells and I’m focused on making sure I get oranges today.

Overall, I do see this as a second chance for myself. I was traveling during the start of 2018 so I didn’t get a good chance to really start the year off the way that I would have wanted to in terms of getting my life in order and getting everything ready for the new year. Don’t get me wrong, I loved that I was able to start off the year in another country and get the chance to actually be doing what I love. But I also love organizing and feeling like I have some semblance of control over my life. So coming back from my trip and having to get everything figured out while jumping right back into work was a bit on the hard time. This is my chance to actually just try and make sure everything is in order for this second chance.

I’m very excited to do all my favorite organizational activities and get life ready for me.  It’s also amazing that this new year happens to be on a Friday so I have the weekend to really just focus on myself and start this off right.

So here’s the new year, challenges and stretch goals.

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Athens to Santorini, Greece

I woke up on Boxing Day ready to tackle the world. It was officially my last day in Athens and I was about to make my way out to Santorini. With the jet lag and the weird sleeping schedule I was dealing with, I decided to take my time getting ready for my flight. I slept in and then made my way downstairs to grab some breakfast before repacking my bags.  I enjoyed a light breakfast at the hotel restaurant and then went back upstairs to repack my bags.  I’ve noticed that at the start of all of my trips, I’m always really good about staying relatively organized but as the trips go on, my organization skills somehow begin to disappear. I placed everything back into the travel cubes and the overall bag and made my way downstairs to check out then call my Uber to the airport.

One thing to keep in mind for the Ubers to the airport, you will need provide them some level of information for the Uber due to the taxi issues within the city of Athens. You have to provide them your passport number and sign a document for the ride. It’s a slightly weird feeling writing something like that down for the Uber but it is required as part of the law right now. I called my Uber while using the wifi from the hotel and then made our way out to the airport.

Checking into the Athens airport is a relatively easy process. One thing that I was very concerned about was whether my bag would be allowed onto the airplane but luckily, we were flying a Boeing 737 so my bag would fit in the overhead bins. Had the airplane been a bit smaller or been a propeller plane, then I would have been very concerned regarding my ability to get the bag into the bins. I will admit, I always consider trying my bag in those carry on bins to see how it fits but I’m never brave enough for the fear of it not fitting or getting stuck. So I just made sure to stay very close to the front of the line for boarding and made it on board before most of the group so I didn’t have to worry about cabin space.

We eventually took off and landed in Santorini. The flight is only about 45 minutes and they still manage to serve a drink and snack even though the flight barely makes it to cruising altitude.  Our flight was late afternoon so as we broke through the clouds, we watched the sun set from the sky and landed in Santorini with enough time to catch the sunset along the coast.

Once we landed in the Santorini airport, everyone walked out to grab their ride to their respective hotels and accommodations.  I stood outside and waited for my ride out to my hotel.

Face masks

Facial masks have been picking up in popularity even though they’ve been around for awhile and I have to admit, I’m just now discovering just how much I love these things.  I feel like they really help my skin and if anything, even if it is a placebo effect, I love them so much.  The results may not be long lasting or maybe I’m not eating right so it isn’t 100% effective, but irregardless, I love face masks so much.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Herbivore Blue Clay Spot Treatment Mask: This can be found at Anthropologie, Sephora and Nordstrom along with many smaller retailers like Moorea Seal or even directly from the Herbivore website.  I like using this blue clay mask but it is more focused on helping with acne and blemishes. It can be used as a spot treatment mask or a full face which is awesome. I love using this mask when I start to break out (usually when I’m stressed or traveling).  It’s great because it’s a powder what you add some water to and then apply.

Herbivore Pink Clay Exfoliating Mask: This mask is great for exfoliating and helps clear out the dead skin on your face.  I love doing this mask if I want to give my skin the ability to regenerate new skin cells. It also comes in a powder form that you then add some water to and apply. It does come out looking like you have dirt all over your face but it’s still great.

Boscia Luminizing Black Charcoal Mask: This mask is amazing. It comes out of a tube as a gel like substance that you put a thick layer on all over your face. It eventually dries and then you can peel it off.  It can be a little weird pull it off your face and can be a little bit difficult. But I love it because I feel so incredibly satisfied when I clean it off. Boscia has a sample size packet that you can get from Sephora that includes the green tea mask along with a white mask that is all really great. But the black charcoal one is my favorite.

Philosophy Purity Made Simple Pore Extractor: This mask is a bit on the grainy side when you put it on and it helps exfoliate.  This one actually dries a little faster than all the other ones I’ve had and you only keep it on for about 5-10 minutes.  It’s great but I have to admit that it is a little bit harsher for your skin. If you have super sensitive skin, this one may be a bit too harsh for your skin.  I enjoy it and I will probably continue using it but only every few weeks.

Karuna Face Masks: Karuna has amazing face masks.  They actually aren’t the clay or product ones you apply to fit your face but are sheet masks.  To be honest, I was obsessed with these for awhile but eventually decided that these weren’t for me anymore.  The thing about the sheet masks is that they may not completely form to your face and can be a bit on the hard side to use.  Plus I always feel like I have to sit still for the 10-20 minutes I have to wear the mask for fear of the serums running into my eyes or the mask falling off. If you like sheet masks, I highly recommend the Karuna ones.

Acropolis Hill, Athens, Greece

I eventually found my way back to the base of Acropolis Hill and found this adorable area full of restaurants that had multiple options for food. I decided to sit at the outside patio of one of a cafe just along the walking path. I actually walked up and down the walking path trying to find a place to eat and there were way too many options so I had to stop and check out the menus before I finally settled on a small cafe with an outdoor patio.

I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to eat so I had a quick chat with the server and she suggested moussaka which is a traditional potato based dish. that comes in a ceramic or clay pot.  Or at least the one that I had came that way.  I also ordered a mint lemonade that they made in house.

As I waited for my food, I settled into my seat and pulled out my Kindle so that I could get some quality relaxation time.  The one absolutely wonderful thing about the restaurant was that my view was of the Acropolis from the base of the hill and it was a beautiful day.  I sat and enjoyed my food while reading a book with the occasional view up into the Acropolis.  It was honestly one of the best ways for me to close out my Christmas Day in Athens.

When I was finally full and done eating, I made my way back around the neighborhood around my hotel. I spent sometime just wandering the streets of where I was staying and just trying to take in the architecture and the store fronts.  One thing that I noticed was the contrast between the buildings around my hotel verses the rest of the neighborhoods that I had been wandering through. The city itself is full of character and you can see the contrasts just feet from each other.  Just a few blocks away from my classic hotel were super modern buildings full of busy streets, typical storefronts and everything you would expect out of a large city. But around my hotel, the buildings were an older and felt like I could have been walking in a very populated suburb with minimal shops. In fact the only shops I really saw were small markets and grocery stores, but nothing else. It was awesome to see and wonderful to wander through.

After a few hours of wandering, I made my way back to my hotel for some chill time before I made my way off to my next city.

Wandering Athens, Greece

After climbing a mountain, deciding that a long sleeve shirt and jeans was a terrible idea on a sunny day, and enjoying the views over the entire city of Athens – I made my way back down to the city to explore some more.  One thing that I heard was a key thing to see was the changing of the guards in front of the Parliament building so I started making my way over there.  One my way, I stopped by a park that was absolutely beautiful and full of orange trees and fun little walkways.  I made my way through the park for about 20 minutes and then decided that it was time to go check out the changing of the guards so I started walking over to the Parliament building.

It’s funny because people will hang out in front of the building for upwards of 20 minutes before the changing actually occurs and it’s a main stop for the red tour buses. I ended up getting there with about 5 minutes to spare before the changing happened.  Once you arrive to that area and pick a place you want to stand, you just stand and wait for it to happen.  They’ll have armed guards come through and make sure you scoot back so that there’s enough room for them to do the actual changing of the guards. Fun fact, the changing actually starts from behind you just to the left of the Parliament building so around the top of the hour, keep an eye out behind you and you’ll see the guards coming.

After that, I started making my way through the main shopping district of the city and saw some holiday break dancers attracting a crowd in the street.  It was fun little show to watch but obviously since it was one of the few attractions on Christmas Day, it was hard to see all of it so I gave up and started making my way to the historic district of Athens.

I found myself at the Plaka District which is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Athens. Luckily it’s right at the base of the Acropolis Hill so it was just on my way back to the hotel. I highly recommend checking out this neighborhood because it is so full of character, cute buildings, cute shops and restaurants and some ancient ruins embedded within the neighborhood itself. I found myself weaving in and out of the streets and buildings checking out as many nooks and crannies as I could while I was there.  I even stumbled upon some ancient ruins that essentially sits in the very center of the district which was really cool to see. The neighborhood provides a nice view of history through the architecture from the ruins to the homes in such a small radius.

My favorite thing about the Plaka district was that it is full of staircases that restaurants have decided to use as seating for their customers.  As you walk up the staircases, you’ll walk by people enjoying a drink or some food.  It can be a little awkward making your way up the stairs as people on either side of you are enjoying their food and you’re huffing and puffing up the stairs. But it’s adorable. Each staircase had a different set of characteristics and adorable setups for the restaurants.  Standing at the top of the stairs staring down with the city as the backdrop was absolutely wonderful. To be honest, if the restaurants had been empty, I probably would have sat down at the top of the staircases and enjoyed the view but I’m sure people would have been a little creeped out by me.

When I was finally done with wandering around, I made my way back to the walking path on the other side of the Acropolis Hill and decided it was time for food. So I decided to find a restaurant to relax at.

Mount Lycabettus, Athens, Greece

You can see Mount Lycabettus for most viewpoints around the city. It stands tall over the entire city and provides and amazing viewpoint to get a 360 degree view of the entire city, all the way out to the water. Since I wasn’t able to go to the top of the Acropolis, this was something that was a must do for me. I didn’t have directions on how to go to there but since it stands over the entire top of the city, I just started walking in that direction.  That’s one of the benefits of trying to target going somewhere that you can see from everyone.  I eventually found myself at the base of some stairs that looked like they would lead in the direction I needed them to so I followed them and found myself at the base of Mount Lycabettus.

I’ve heard that there is a cable car that can take you up to the top, I’m not sure if it’s true and I didn’t see anything that indicated that there was a cable car.  I was determined to walk all the way up to the top of the mountain. The one thing was that I wasn’t quick prepared for what I was getting myself into.  Since the day was about 60 degrees with zero clouds, and I had decided to leave the hotel in jeans and a long sleeve; I definitely struggled.  It got very hot as I started trekking up the mountain which is a perpetual incline the entire way up.  If you decide to go, I highly recommend you bring water and be prepared to deal with non-stop incline as you make your way up.

About halfway up the mountain, the mountain gets just high enough to be above the trees of the city and the view gets better and better.  There are view points you can stop at along the way up and look out over the entire city.  The higher you get, the further you can see and eventually you can look out all the way out to the water just pass Acropolis Hill.  As you make your way up, the switchbacks occur and at the end, a final lookout point over the entire city.  There is a restaurant there you can hang out at but it was definitely very crowded.  This is also a major tourist location so it was packed when I got up there.  Getting all the views in can be difficult with all the people there but if you wait for people to move over, you can get a seat just at the edge of the lookout and enjoy the views.

After trying to deal with the crowds for about 10 minutes, I decided to make my way back down. The trail I had taken to get up to the viewpoint was relatively empty because most people did not want to hike up a mountain in the heat, and so I was able to get the same view of the water and Acropolis Hill about 3 feet lower without anyone.  It was definitely worth not being surrounded by mass amounts of crowds so that I could actually just stop and enjoy the view.

I have to admit, I didn’t realize just how big and sprawling Athens actually was.  It was wonderful and great to see.  It’s also a little overwhelming to see just how huge this city is and it’s fascinating because there is so much history embedded into the architecture and right in the city center just like the Acropolis.  Standing there, I got a very different and new perspective on Athens as a whole and to be honest, I think that was the moment I officially fell in love with the city.  I’m so curious about what every neighborhood has to offer and what history is a part of each one. It is definitely a great place to visit and I already know that I need to go back.

When I was done with the view, I started making my way down the rest of the mountain and was off to find the next place to visit in Athens.

Athens, Greece – Part 1

I woke up nice and early the next day because the jet lag had officially set in.  I always have a hard time adjusting to the new time zones, and I had taken a sleeping pill to help make sure I would sleep through the night. Unfortunately since I had napped and then gone back to sleep, I made my adjustment to the new time zone a bit more difficult. I got dressed, packed my bag and then headed downstairs to grab breakfast from the hotel. After getting some food, I made my way out into Athens.

Since my first full day in Athens was actually Christmas Day, I knew that most things would be closed and that I would probably have a large portion of the city to myself. Even though I knew it was Christmas Day, I didn’t do a good job of figuring out what was actually available to be visited. I personally thought that there would be a chance that I could walk up to the Acropolis on Christmas Day. I knew that the actual site was closed on Christmas and Boxing Day but I definitely thought I could get pretty close to the Acropolis and see it from a distance. So that was my first stop.

I left my hotel and find a set of stairs up to a walking trail that was at the base of the Acropolis Hill and I started making my way around the hill.  I managed to get up to the theater but there was a fence so all I could do was peek in.  As I made my way around, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to get to the top because it was completely fenced off and there was only one entrance to get up there which required tickets and the ticket office to be open. So I gave up on that and headed over to a lookout point just by the ticket office that looks out over the city with the Acropolis as a backdrop.

Luckily, the weather for Christmas Day was beautiful, sunny with zero clouds and about 60 degrees. It was amazing to look out over the city in this weather. The one thing that was actually interesting to see was that even though it was a holiday, there were a bunch of tourists everywhere.  I was very surprised to see so many people everywhere given the holiday. From the Acropolis, I made my way down through the city and tried to go find the giant Christmas tree in Syntagma Square. As I started walking through the city, I walked by the the markets at the base of the Acropolis hill and then through the shopping area to Syntagma Square.

If you’re here during the holidays, this area is still fairly well populated and definitely a good place to check out.  There’s a bunch of cool architecture and a church just before you hit the main square.  One thing to definitely keep an eye out for would be the fruit trees.  I didn’t expect to see orange trees all around Athens but it was a delightful surprise especially in the city center.  I eventually found myself at the square next to the beautiful Christmas tree.  Given that it was so sunny, I’m sure I missed out on some of the beauty since I didn’t get to see it at night and lit up but regardless, it was still lovely in the middle of the day.

From there, I made my way through the square past the food vendors and the ballon vendors, which I have to admit was a very random thing to see, and then started toward my next goal.  Walking to the top of Mt Lycabettus.

First stop – Athens

When it was finally time for me to head over to Europe, I took my backpack and my purse to the Seattle airport and boarded a plane to Amsterdam.  I flew Delta and the plane that we were flying had a 2-4-2 configuration which meant that it would be best for me to pick one of the side rows because it meant that I would only need to get by one person to go to the bathroom. On a 10 hour flight, that ability to get up and move around is key for me. Up until my flight, I had been consistently checking the app on my phone to make sure that the seat next to me on the flight would stay empty.  As I got to the airport, my anxiety intensified as I got closer to take off because it was like the best scenario was about to happen and could be taken away from me so quickly. Finally, the doors closed on the aircraft and I officially had two seats to myself!

We took off and I settled in for my 10 hour flight to Amsterdam. I managed to watch a couple movies on the flight and eat all the meals, but otherwise, I tried to spend the rest of the flight sleeping to make sure I could hit the ground running as soon as I got to Greece.  But for whatever reason, I wasn’t able to sleep much even with the extra space in my row.

When I landed in Amsterdam, I made my way to the lounge since I had my priority pass access and grabbed some food to make sure I didn’t need to buy expensive airport food.  When it was time for my flight, I walked over to my gate and got ready for the last leg of my trip to Athens. The flight from Amsterdam to Athens was relatively easy and quite uneventful. I got to the Athens airport and made my way out to the taxi line, grabbed a taxi and went into the city center to my hotel.

My original plan was to land in Athens around 5PM and get enough time to go out and grab dinner on Christmas Eve.  I wanted to be able to see the neighborhood I was staying in and try to get through the jet lag as quickly as possible. But once I checked into my hotel, I ended up falling asleep on my hotel bed until 10PM. The lack of sleep on the 16 hour trip over to Athens really took it out of me and I couldn’t over come the tiredness. I ended up eating some snacks I had brought over to Athens and then falling back asleep for the rest of the night.  It was a good first night in the city.

Things I’m looking forward to in 2018

I know this is a little delayed but I felt like I needed sometime to really get to know 2018 before I put together a list of what I’m looking forward to.  Honestly, I’m not entirely sure if I can tell how this year is going to be but here are a few things I’m looking forward to this year:

  • Finding new toner. I’ve been using green tea toner from The Face Shop which has been awesome but now that I’m in Seattle, I don’t have access to The Face Shop anymore so I need to try a new one.  Right now, I have the Herbivore Jasmine Toner that will be my next one once I’m done with my current toner.
  • Finding a new facial lotion. I actually bought the green tea set from The Face Shop so as of right now, I’m running out of lotion and I need to find a new one.  I may go with the Belif True Cream Moisturizing Lotion because I’ve tried to the travel version and it was great so I want to see how it goes for an extended period of time.
  • New restaurants. Let’s be honest, I love my favorite restaurants and I have a tendency to go to the them often and choose them over anywhere else.  So for 2018, I want to experience new restaurants because so many new ones keep opening around the city.
  • Finding new staple clothing items to replace some of the clothing that I have now.  I’m looking to go with less patterned clothing and stick with some colored basics that will last me forever. My goal is to eventually get to something close to a capsule wardrobe with a few more pieces.  Let’s see if I can get there in 2018.
  • New books. I am looking forward to reading all the books in 2018.
  • Visiting new cities. I’m hoping 2018 will be my year of travel domestically. I want to see more places in the US that I haven’t been to yet and get to know some of my favorite cities even better.
  • Discovering new travel products to replace some of my key items I use now. For example, I bought a purse from Urban Outfitters about 8 years ago during a Black Friday sale and I’ve used it almost every international trip I’ve done since (minus one or two).  That being said, it’s definitely in bad condition and getting to a point there it may not be able to survive another trip.
  • Getting better at photography, blogging and all the creative things. I want to make sure that I’m giving myself more of a creative outlet in life because right now I feel like I’ve lost touch with it slightly so 2018 is the year it starts to happen again.

2017 was definitely a learning experience. It was a hard year to get through but honestly, I am glad I went through what I did.  2018 will be the year that I take over and find my groove.

Packing for three weeks abroad

I’ve made quite a few purchases specific for my travels.  Things like packable jackets and rain coats, packable shoes, bags, etc. My favorite part about the packing process is going through and finding good travel size hygiene products for my trips. It’s definitely a random thing but I love it because it provides me the opportunity to try out new products without committing to the actual full size, I can use different products during my trips to give my skin a change, and usually I can get through an entire bottle on my trip so I end up carrying less and less over time.  It’s like a marker of the time passing for my trip as I start to throw away products along the way.

For this specific trip, I needed to be prepared for quite a few things so I had to think about a lot when I packed. The start of my trip would be relatively good weather, then I was supposed to encounter about a 30 degree drop in temperature and some snow then followed by just cold rain. This meant that I needed to pack layers upon layers because packing excessively large sweaters would not be the best use of space. Along with that, I needed to make sure I had lots of lotion due to the weather changes and I needed to prep for doing laundry while I was abroad.  Lastly, I needed to be prepared for the weather with my shoes to ensure that I had the perfect walking shoes but also shoes I could use for various occasions like the wedding I was going to go to near the tail-end of the trip.

When it came down to it, I settled on the following:

  • Chelsea boots for the days it would be really cold and wet
  • Allbirds for walking around in
  • Rothys for the wedding and when I just needed to make a quick run somewhere
  • Uniqlo heat-tech long sleeves and leggings that I could wear under other clothing for layering and warmth
  • Jeans
  • A sweater dress for the wedding that could also be used for the slightly warmer days
  • Tights which could also be used to wear under the pants for an extra layer
  • Wool socks
  • No show socks
  • Button up long sleeve shirts that could be layered
  • One running shirt (long sleeve) because the material is super lightweight and warm
  • Uniqlo down jacket that could be squished and packable
  • My travel jacket that could be worn over the down jacket
  • A beanie
  • A scarf that I could also use to place around my stuff in my purse for extra security

For hygiene, I settled on the following key things:

  • Two different types of face lotion
  • One night cream
  • A packet of face masks (samples)
  • Facial essense
  • Toner
  • Eye masks for after my long flight to Europe
  • Two types of toothpaste
  • Mouthwash
  • Shampoo and conditioner for color treated hair
  • Dry shampoo in a bottle (not a spray)

Once I got all the items that I wanted to bring on my trip, I knew I was ready for the trip.