I can’t live without …

You all may have noticed by now that every once in a while I like to throw some life facts at ya, usually in the form of “Five Favorite” somethings. For this PSA, I’m letting you in on a little secret … these are the five things I absolutely could never live without. What are yours? Hit me up in the comments. Maybe we have a little something in common? 

Coffee

Yep, I’m one of those people. I’ve been drinking coffee regularly since high school, a dependency that reached frightening levels in college. I once tried to cut back and suffered debilitating headaches. In 2012-13, when I was working crazy hours as a freelance reporter and writing long into the early morning hours, I started getting migraines—turned out I was basically overdosing on caffeine. I’ve since managed to find a balance that gets me through the day fairly painlessly, but it’s funny to me that I literally can’t live without a big ol’ cup o’ joe in the morning and an afternoon jolt, without subjecting myself to some rather unpleasant side effects. But aside from its wondrous superpowers, I love coffee for the taste. The smell. The warmth that spreads throughout my entire body with that first sip. Coffee’s not a drink. It’s a religion. Continue reading

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Vacation Hangover Movies: Cruise Edition

The post-vacation transition from relaxation back to the rise-and-grind routine is usually a pretty tough one. At press time, it’s my first day “back to work” (working from home is such a godsend) after a 10-day cruise throughout the Caribbean. I boarded Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas with my family on Thursday, June 18 and spent the next week exploring: King’s Wharf, Bermuda … Philipsburg, St. MaartenSan Juan, Puerto Rico … and Labadee, Haiti. We kayaked. We snorkeled. We saw the sights. We swam. We sweat buckets on beautiful beaches. All while living on a floating oasis that offered an ice-skating rink, full-sized boxing ring, rock-climbing wall, surfing simulator, mini golf course, three pools, five hot tubs, and mouth-watering meal options that included a full daily buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a coffee café, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlor, cupcake shop, Johnny Rockets, sushi bar, 24-hour pizza, and a five-star formal dining room for dinner. (I’m actually working from home because I can’t see my feet anymore; I just roll from room to room.)

Needless to say, it was a wonderful escape … but it’s always nice to come home. I tend to return to reality with overwhelming wanderlust stowed away in my suitcase, so to help my travel hangover subside, I usually watch some movies that help me ease back into the real world. When I go to Disney World, I unwind with Disney movies. When I visit an island, movies that take place in Hawaii or Greece, usually. So since I just got off a 13-deck luxury ocean liner, I plan to indulge in some of my favorite flicks that take place on (or in) the high seas, such as:

Pirates of the Caribbean | 2003

PiratesBefore Johnny Depp became Disney’s cash cow and Tim Burton’s play thing, he was a respected actor who chose his roles very carefully. The tip of the slippery slope he’s found himself on in recent years (in my opinion) was his very first portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow—which isn’t to say that I don’t love those movies, because I do, very much so. I just don’t like what it did to his career and that they couldn’t stop at just one excellent film. Regardless, the first is the best, as is usually the case, and I absolutely love watching it when I want to get into a nautical mood. Based on the popular Walt Disney World attraction, it’s a highly quotable swashbuckling adventure that I’ve practically memorized. Drink up, me hearties, yo ho! Continue reading

Five Favorite Disney Things

1. Mickey’s Philharmagic

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When I was a kid, walking down Main Street USA in the middle of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom used to overwhelm me with such giddiness, to the point where I developed an unsightly waddle and wanted to laugh, cry, and vomit simultaneously. I’d like to say I’ve grown out of that, but for the generation who grew up with beloved Disney animation, I don’t think that feeling ever quite goes away. When the park unveiled their latest technologically-advanced attraction in October of 2003, it was the first of its kind (before Soarin’ came to Epcot in 2005) to boast an immersive 4D experience.

PhilharmagicMickey’s Philharmagic is a 12-minute theater show that starts with maestro Mickey intending to direct a grand orchestra (hence the wordplay). But Donald, ever the troublemaker, steals the magic hat and accidentally plunges himself into the vibrant and enchanting world of Walt’s classic films.

The first time I saw it, I cried. That’s not me trying to be hyperbolic and funny, a tear or two legitimately rolled down my cheeks because it was pure Disney brilliance and magic imagined and realized. How many of us Disney kids fell in love with those movies and wished we could dive right into them and join our childhood friends on their amazing adventures?

And they made it so real: 4D technology combines 3D images (projected onto a 150 foot-wide screen, in this case), plus effects that play with your other senses, momentarily helping you to forget that you’re simply sitting in a cushy chair somewhere in Orlando—a whiff of pie during the Beauty and the Beast sequence, a splash of water during The Little Mermaid, not to mention the songs we know every word to in booming surround sound. The creschendo of “Part of Your World” is probably when the chills started, but I was transfixed and grinning like an idiot all the way through The Lion King, Peter Pan, and Aladdin.

Suffice it to say, I highly recommend standing in line for this one the next time you find yourself strolling down Main Street USA. Just take the second star to the right and straight on ‘til Fantasyland. Continue reading

Top Five Travel Experiences

Summer vacation season is officially upon us, so here are some of the fabulous experiences I’ve had while traveling (in no particular order). Tell me yours in the comments!

Zip Lining Through The Rainforest Canopy In Antigua

ZIP LINE copy 3Aboard the Carnival Freedom in 2010, my family and I chose a zip lining adventure excursion. I’d already zip lined a couple times in college, so it didn’t scare me, but my mother has a thing with heights and spent the whole trek through the trees twitching and freaking out that she’d be one of those who clutched the brake too soon and got stuck suspended 300 feet in the air while waiting for one of the guides to retrieve her. She made it through fine, but her fear was half the fun of the whole thing. (Does that make me a mean person?) It was a great time, but unfortunately we weren’t allowed to bring cameras, so this one is courtesy of antiguarainforest.com. Continue reading

Five Unusual Food Experiences

We’re preparing for our annual restaurant issue at work, so I started thinking about my foodie adventures. Everyone has a favorite and/or least favorite meal and restaurant, but what about in between those ends of the spectrum? What have we tried that has expanded our palate and made us wonder what other delectable dishes are out there? Here are a handful of times I surprised myself (and my tongue) with some unusual food experiences.

Poi

Poi

My family and I spent two weeks on the Big Island of Hawaii in the summer of 2008, specifically on the coast of Kailua-Kona. Of course, we had to spend at least one night at a traditional luau, complete with roasted pig dug straight out of the ground, served with local side dishes and Hawaiian food staples like poi. I put a little on my plate to taste and was less than thrilled to discover that it is a gray paste completely devoid of any flavor and the consistency of cement pudding (gritty and mushy). Pictured above? My “why do people eat this?” face. Continue reading

Five Things That Inspire Me

I wanted to try something new for a PSA; it was easy for me to come up with five things that make me feel inspired—inspired to write, to see and try new things, to do good for others, to live my life to the fullest. Inspiration can hit in big or small ways and it doesn’t always present itself as a bright flash of motivation. Other times, it’s just a feeling of contentment, of knowing you’re doing okay, of being ready to take on the world one baby step at a time. I feel inspired every time I interview a person or organization doing great things for the community in my Blue Mountain’s Best feature for work or when I see someone being kind to a stranger. I think it’s important to find those little flashes in the day-to-day because allowing yourself to be swept up in monotony is a drain on what we’re capable of as humans; inspiration breeds creativity, something I’m quite prone to advocate for as a writer, along with positive vibes. Who couldn’t use a little more of that in their lives? That being said, here are five things (or people or places) that never fail to give me that little jolt.

1. The Ocean

11004390_10100364350201578_1793488586_nBeing born and raised a shore kid (and fueled by my childhood obsession with “The Little Mermaid”), I developed a deep and intense love for the ocean early in life. I love the heady aroma of sea air and the feel of my salt-encrusted skin when I leave the water, how alive I feel after being tossed around by the waves for a while and how just being close enough to hear them crashing on the beach rejuvenates my soul. (Trust me, I hear the cheese in that statement, but nevertheless, it’s true.) I call it my “happy place” and I go through periods of withdrawal, particularly during the winter months. Leaving the sea behind when I moved to PA was one of the hardest parts of the process. I’m transfixed by the immensity of it and fascinated by how it works, what lives in it, what makes it so powerful. I’ve always believed that if I hadn’t discovered such a love of writing and journalism, I would’ve studied marine biology. I can’t say what it is about it that affects me so deeply, but any time spent near churning, frothy water leaves me feeling completely recharged and ready to plow forward with whatever life has next in store. When I finally caught a break and got a job as a staff writer for a newspaper group in New Jersey and was abruptly let go less than a month after being hired, I drove myself straight to Sea Bright Beach where I sat on the sand for three hours, just staring at the horizon, planning my next move. For me, the ocean will always equal therapy. Continue reading

More V-Day Clichés

I’ve been Single a while, but I don’t bow my head in shame when I say the word like most girls do. It’s a choice I made quite a few years ago to not tie myself down when I am undoubtedly still slugging through the best years of my life. I love knowing that I can pick up and move to a new state if an opportunity presents itself without worrying about who I’ll be leaving behind. I can go where I want when I want without having to check in with someone. It’s either a selfish or smart way to live. I choose to think it’s smart.

In college, my friends and I were too wrapped up in throwing epic parties to even bother finding significant others. This suited us just fine. I love looking back at my college days knowing I made the absolute most of those four short years without someone holding me back from doing whatever my heart desired in any given moment. It was liberating, and when it finally came to an end, I had a sinking suspicion that the career I was trying so desperately to launch would ultimately be my top priority over finding a date for Friday nights. Online dating? Noooo, thank you. The few horrifying hits I got from my first foray into that nightmare turned me off the whole thing pretty strongly, even though I have friends who have found boyfriends, fiancés, and husbands on sites like OKCupid, Plenty of Fish, Match, eHarmony, etc. I still have time. I’m not worried.

Anyway, whether single by choice or by circumstance, V-Day is still a tough one for us single ladies to grin and bear each year. (My fellow single girlfriends and I are planning a night out this year—tearing up a dance floor, drink in hand, sounds like the perfect escape from the sight of the chocolate boxes and red roses that pop up everywhere.) I expressed my disdain for this holiday last year with a look at three of my favorite romance movies to drown my sorrows in—and since my outlook hasn’t changed in the past 365 days, here we go again with three more movies. Continue reading