Monthly Archives: May 2012

9 Ways to Creatively Display Your Photos from Abroad

If you are anything like me, you have thousands of pictures from abroad but most of them are sitting on your computer…Facebook if you’re lucky.  Check out these 9 unique photo displays and give yourself a reason to browse through those old photos again.

1. Bring your photos into your entertaining with this DIY Photo Runner by HGTV Design Happens.

2. Don’t have any more wall space? Cover your fridge with these cute DIY Mini Polaroid Magnets by Ambrosia Creative.

3. If you have lots of 4×6 photos but not enough frames, this mod podge craft from Hope Anchors the Soul may be the perfect solution.

4. Decorate your sofa with these one-of-a-kind pillows.  Find the How-To at

5. Combine your photos, ticket stubs, and memorabilia into one frame using Alphabet Frame from Design Aglow.

6.  For those of you that like to switch out photos regularly, these clipboards featured on Ashley Ann Photography make that an easy task.

7. Incorporate your abroad experiences into the holidays as a reminder of the great gift you’ve been given.  Find the instructions for these at Clover Lane.

8. Wear your travels on your wrist with this personalized bangle.  Order at ByMyCrap on Etsy.

9. Put your memories in order with this creative calendar journal from Design Sponge.


When the Moon Hits Your Eye…

Not only did we have an annular eclipse in San Diego today (stunning!), but it was also the annual Sicilian Festival in Little Italy.  Of course we couldn’t pass it up.  We scoped out the Gesso Italiano (Italian Chalk), took pictures of the human music box, devoured delicious meatballs, and eyed the cannoli with desire.  If you are interested in delving into Italian culture from home, visit the National Italian American Foundation and check out these great sites:

Netflix Recommendation – Mao’s Last Dancer

After a long work week in our household, we decided to spend Friday night in. After some delicious Cooking Light corn fritters, I began to search Netflix and came across Mao’s Last Dancer. I personally haven’t been to China, but it’s definitely on my short list so I was interested. The 2010 Bruce Beresford film depicts the “true story” of Li Cunxin, a ballet dancer who came to the U.S. on exchange from Communist China, and his struggle to remain in the U.S. With flashbacks to his childhood and training in China, the film was full of cultural incidents that really struck me. For example, Li’s parents don’t call him by his name but rather call him Sixth Son (he is the 6 of 7 boys in the family). There is also a great scene with Li and the artistic director of the Houston Ballet addressing American frivolity and excess that was excellent (part of it is in the trailer). If you are looking for an inspirational, cultural film for your Saturday night, I would highly recommend Mao’s Last Dancer.

Il Pranzo Italiano

My job is pretty quiet in the summer.  With most of the students at home for their break, I have to bribe people to come visit – otherwise I stare at a computer for 8 hours straight.  With college students, the best bribe of course is food, so I decided I would make lunch today for a few students who are working on campus this summer.  To be honest, feeding them was totally selfish – I love having visitors, I have to eat too, and it gave me something fun to write about.

With Italy on the brain after reading all those postcards, I thought some “authentic” Italian cuisine might be fun.  Our menu consisted of a caprese salad (I added mixed greens to make it more substantial), procuitto and melon, bread, roasted almonds, and watermelon granita.  These probably aren’t the dishes that most people think of when it comes to Italian food, but they are some of my favorites.  Plus, they don’t require a stove (which I don’t have in the office).

Of everything, I would definitely recommend trying the watermelon granita.  It was easy, light, and almost as good as the ones I had in Italy.

Abroad Blog of the Week: My Embassy Letters

I love themes – theme parties, theme parks, and of course theme posts!  Since I can’t travel abroad right now, I enjoy living vicariously through others’ blogs as they galavant around the world.  Thus the theme – Abroad Blog of the Week!

Although I follow a good number of abroad blogs, not many have brought a smirk to my face like My Embassy Letters.  The blogger, Barbara, went to Jordan this past fall and though her blog is no longer active, it is still one of my favorites.  First, Barbara is extremely witty and brutally honest – both make her blog entertaining and worthy of being added to my Google Reader.  Second, I don’t know much about Jordan so I’ve learned a lot from reading My Embassy Letters and thoroughly enjoyed the stories of living with a Muslim Jordanian family.

But my favorite post is Barbara’s last with a list of thoughts on going home.  I connected with so many of these from my own study abroad experience, expect I think Barbara probably says them much more eloquently than I would have at age 21.  Anyway, here are some of my favorites:

  • You can’t run away from life.  Life follows you.  Sometimes you can put it on hold for a very short while, but it will still be there.

    This is not Barbara

  • In light of above, you can use struggle and hard times to get stronger.  Sometime you can feel yourself toughening up.
  • Maybe devices that save time and labor are not all they are cracked up to be.  There is a beauty in work.
  • Language is beautiful, and powerful.
  • All cultures have good and bad things about them; some should be loved, some should be scorned. America is not as bad as I thought it was when I left.
  • Sometimes I wonder if coming abroad teaches you more about a foreign place, or about the place you left.
  • There are too many problems to fix in the world, but we have to keep trying because there is no other option.

Thanks to Barbara and My Embassy Letters!

Reliving My Travels through Postcards to Grandma

When I began traveling, I started a tradition of sending postcards from whatever country I was in to my grandma.  I would describe my grandma as a real country woman.  She never moved outside a 20 mile radius of where she was born; she married at 16; lived in the same house for 70 years; and made the BEST apple pie and chicken and dumpling ever.  The thing I admired most about her though was just how much she loved her family.  At the age of 97, she passed away this last January.  While I was helping clean out her 1000 sqf. house in Southern Illinois, I found every postcard I had ever sent her.  She saved every last one.  Staring at all those postcards, I felt truly loved.

A few nights ago I decided to go back through those postcards and see what I wrote.  They range from when I was 18 years old on a mission trip to South Africa through my honeymoon to Puerto Rico in 2010.  Reading through them brought back so many good memories of my travels.  They also served as a timeline of my own development – the style of writing changed, the topics that were important changed.  In a way, I felt like getting those postcards was like unearthing my own travel time capsule.

Do you have old journals from your travels?  Blogs you wrote that you haven’t reread in awhile?  Sometimes one of the best ways to stay connected with the world is to remember what we’ve already experienced.

Here are some of my old postcards and the wonderful woman who saved them all.  Love you, Grandma.

Recent Treadmill Read – The Night Circus

Recently I was looking for a new book to read on the treadmill and saw The Night Circus while browsing at my local Book Star.  After reading the jacket cover, I downloaded the sample on my Kindle and then quickly decided it was worthy of its $13.99 price tag.  Hopping from London to Cairo, Paris to Montreal, this first novel by Erin Morgenstern magically took me around the globe and back in time.  Telling the story of two young magicians unaware that they are competing against each other, The Night Circus has the perfect balance of mystery, romance, and creativity.  Personally I have two ways I judge how much I like a book: 1) how quickly I read it, and 2) if I would read it again.  Well, I read this 400 page book in just 4 days and would definitely not mind a re-run.

Salaam Dunk

Last week the IRC here in San Diego did a showing of Salaam Dunk.  I’ve never been much into documentaries but one of my students studied abroad in the Middle East and thought we could go together.  I have to say that I was highly entertained and moved by their story.  The film follows the season of the women’s basketball team at American University of Iraq.  The team is in their second season and prior to coming to college, most of the girls had never ran, let alone played basketball.  While their record and skills are somewhat dismal, they are redeemed by becoming a team and overcoming the barriers of ethnicity and religion.  There were a few things that struck me about the film: 1) I was amazed at their English; most of the girls had perfect accents, 2) they were very honest about the war and the fear it invoked, which made me really think about what they went through, and 3) I thought it was amazing how a simple thing like basketball could be so controversial but also was a vehicle for reconciliation.  Check out the trailer:

Global From Home

I am a study abroad advisor so naturally I love to travel.  My adventures started at 16 when I went to visit my brother who was stationed in Germany and since then I have studied abroad in Italy and have traveled to 15 other countries.  However, the older I get the less I travel.  Job constraints, financial constraints, or family constraints keep me homebound.  Fortunately as social media continues to grow, so do the opportunities to be global from home.  So that is my goal – explore the world around me within a 30 mile radius of my front door and share what I find.