Life Lately: It’s Officially Fall!!

fall landscape, Iceland

Before I left for Iceland I remarked to my friend that maybe the weather would actually feel like fall by the time I got back. She had a good laugh and congratulated my wishful thinking. Of course when I returned and the weather had cooled considerably, she conceded and then we started plotting lotto numbers 🙂

I❤ fall, autumn, harvest, or whatever other name you want to call it. This season speaks to me on every level and I’m never quite so content as I am sitting amongst the colorful foliage. I always thought there were two (dominant) names for fall just because it was the most awesome season (smile), but turns out it seems to be a Brit vs. American thing. (This Slate article does a good job of summarizing.) I tend to use autumn a lot, just because it feels richer on the tongue, but I don’t truly care so long as the air is crisp!

Reykjavik Iceland

Reykjavik city view from Hallgrímskirkja Church

Anyway, if you follow me on Instagram (or read last month’s post), then some of you may have noticed I went to Iceland this month. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t super excited about the trip. I was tired and being the designated trip coordinator responsible for two other perfectly capable individuals just didn’t appeal. Even the first couple days didn’t win me over…but then, oh then we left the tourists behind and found the true beauty of the island. By day 4 I was wishing the trip were longer! (smile) Iceland is awesome, majestic, overwhelming, and…friendly. Surprisingly friendly given how rude some tourists can be – I give the locals a nod for putting up with us invaders!

I relied heavily on Instagram for my off-the-beaten-path discoveries for Iceland, which was a different sort of avenue for me. It actually worked out pretty well and I’m definitely excited to share the photos soon!

Vik beach, Iceland

In other news, as I sit here at my desk eating a donut and drinking a beer (lunch of champions people), I’m also researching recipes for October. Sadly not for scrumptious baked goods but rather Whole 30 approved fine dining. Normally I mock people mercilessly for jumping on diet bandwagons, but here I sit, humbled. The program was recommended to me for health reasons and I’m hoping it helps. My diet has been all over the board these last few months and my body really feels it. There were things I missed out on in Iceland because I just didn’t feel up to the adventure. That’s the first time that’s ever happened to me, and I am determined it will be the last (or at least a super rare occurrence). Whole 30 is meant to reset your eating habits, which is what I need right now. Here’s hoping the daily yoga practice can offset the grouchiness of a restricted diet! (And yes, I am indulging shamelessly this week #sorrynotsorry)

I did not finish this year’s summer reading challenge, unfortunately, because I got totally sidetracked in reading the Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones). I’m a huge fan of the show and with nothing but time before Season 7, and since the show has now surpassed the books, I figured the series was worth a read. This is probably one of the only times I’ve ever said this, but so far I like the show better. (shocked face – I know) I’m not sure if it’s because I was such a fan of the show first or what, but I have almost no complaints about the way the show has condensed the story. Outlander on the other hand…

Hvítserkur, Troll of Iceland

Hvítserkur (aka Troll of West Iceland; aka Drinking Dragon)

Everything else remains much the same. I’ve started a list of tasks at work that need instructions for the next person. I’ve also started slowly going through my office and clearing some of the clutter. My apartment is getting the same treatment. I call it “fall cleaning,” but if it happens to serve some other purpose as well (*ahem* light packing *ahem*), all the better! I know when the time does come to move on I will be way too sentimental to justly judge what should stay or go, so I figure I should do whatever I can ahead of time. Actual job hunting factors into this as well, but I’d rather not dwell on that right now lest I jinx myself!

Also, WordPress just reminded me that today is my 4-year anniversary. Crazy to think that 4 years ago I signed up for an account and I’m still here! It’s been such an awesome experience and even when I haven’t been as active as I might like, it’s been a huge comfort to know there’s such an awesome community out there. I’ve enjoyed participating in that community so much these last 1,460+ days – thank you all for being awesome!! 😉

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Waterfall Quest

Bruarfoss waterfall, Iceland

When I saw the topic for this week’s photo challenge – “quest” – I immediately thought of our epic quest to find Bruarfoss waterfall. I originally found the waterfall on Instagram, but when browsing TripAdvisor for location information, it quickly became apparent that it’s not found by the less adventurous. After several wrong turns and a few alternative paths, we finally found this sign lying in the mud, pointing in the wrong direction. I won’t lie, I had mud well past my knees before we found the actual waterfall, but oh those colors! The fact that we had it all to ourselves after a long day fighting other tourists for photos was just heaven🙂

Bruarfoss waterfall Iceland

Happy weekend everyone!!

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Kitty Dreams & Street Scenes (Morocco)

Morocco cats asleep

As I depart for the land of ice, I thought it only appropriate to share just a few more photos from last year’s adventure in the desert oasis that is Morocco. By the end of the trip, one of the running jokes was all of the photos of cats that I had on my memory cards – to this day I still refuse to apologize for a single one! Morocco seems to be a land of cats and I love it all the more for that reason. (smile) I’ve included a few of my favorite kitty shots – and a few of my favorite street scenes too!

 

 

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30-day Challenge(s): Months 7 & 8

Light through storm clouds over Mormon Lake ArizonaJuly – Sleep training

I sort of completed these two challenges at the same time for a total of 62 days vs. the usual 30, but who’s counting?? The two challenges worked really well together actually so I decided to just roll with it. (smile)

I was in Alabama in July just long enough to get my time zones thrown off, so completing the sleep training upon my return to Arizona wasn’t actually all that difficult (I wish I could claim that was my plan all along, but really I’m not that clever!). Sleep training is essentially training your body to go to bed at a certain time and to wake up at a certain time every day. I found the key to be consistency – i.e., 7 days a week. I’ll admit to cheating by an hour or so on the weekends, but for the most part my body was fine with the schedule. I also put away the electronics – tv, phone, etc. in favor of playing with Oxford or reading a book about 30 minutes before bedtime. A lot of advice I read recommended an hour or more, but I found that 30 minutes was good for me. Like most things in life, it’s all about adapting a strategy to best meet your individual needs!

I chose to go to bed at 10pm and wake up at 6am. It’s really remarkable what a consistent 8 hours a night can do for your outlook on life! I particularly enjoyed having extra time to myself in the mornings. I could be productive or just do stuff I wanted for the hell of it – it was fantastic! Fantastic enough, in fact, that I have zero intentions of giving it up!! It makes such a difference in my attitude not going straight from bed to work.

Mormon Lake ArizonaAugust – Yoga

I went through several yoga apps on my phone before finding DownDog, but it’s by far my favorite now. You can select your level and the amount of time you have for yoga and it will create a custom routine for you each day. I really like the fact that it switches up the routine! There is a paid version with more features, but so far I’ve been fine with the free one.

My goal was a minimum of 15 minutes per day, but I’ve averaged somewhere between 20-30 minutes. Instead of waking up and immediately getting ready for work, I now spend my extra time on the yoga mat. The stretching in particular has worked miracles for all the muscle aches/stiffness that usually accompany my mornings and my mood has definitely reaped the benefits! I’ve also started wrapping it all up with a moment of gratitude at the end of each session. A minor tweak to my day, but a huge difference to my outlook!

Watson Lake ArizonaSeptember – Instagram
With a trip to Iceland coming up, I figure it shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish this one🙂 It’s mostly just remembering to post every day! Be sure to follow along!

October – PMP Study
Once I get back from Iceland I really need to focus on studying for this PMP Certification. I’m hoping if I can focus at least a couple of hours per day, I’ll be ready before 2017!

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Life Lately: Au revoir August

San Diego California, Pacific OceanWeather: Warm & Humid
Days til Fall: 31

We’ve actually had a proper monsoon season this year, which means two things – 1) the temps have been reasonable and 2) it has been so humid! You’d think coming from the south I’d be used to the humidity, but turns out it doesn’t take long to adapt to the “dry heat” of the desert. It’s a trade-off I suppose, but in the end I’ll take the cooler temps any day. Who knows, maybe Arizona will have a proper fall by the first day of fall this year! (A girl can dream…)

For the past several months I’ve really struggled with feeling in control of my life. It felt like things kept popping up to dictate my time and energy, creating obligations that made me increasingly resentful. I find that this tends to happen when I don’t have enough alone time and it’s incredibly frustrating. The last couple of weeks I’ve made a much greater effort to plan my time, stick to the script, and say “no” to those things that I don’t really want to do. This has meant disappointing a few people, but it’s really helped me feel (slightly) more in control and balanced. I’m still working on finding the balance between happy in the present and planning for the future; at least now I’m on level ground to give it a go!

San Diego California, Pacific Ocean

My cousin made it out for a long weekend earlier in the month. Despite all warnings, she was definitely unprepared for the heat (bless her heart). We ended up heading further west to the coast for a little sea breeze. We stayed one night in San Diego and one in Huntington Beach. She’ll tell you that her favorite part was a proper Sunday-Funday on the beach (complete with champagne and good company), and I won’t lie, it was my favorite too! (smile) I sent her home with a sunburn, no glasses, a (partially) shaved head, and a new perspective on life.  Overall I’d say the trip was a success🙂 (At least she didn’t go home with the tattoo she randomly decided she should get… I convinced her to save that one for another trip lest I never be able to return to Alabama again!)

I haven’t made much progress with the job hunt, but I have finally gotten serious about studying for the PMP certification. It’s quite the process, but I’m hoping it’ll be worth it in the long run. Assuming everything goes to plan, I should have this out of the way by the end of the year. If/when I actually pass the exam, I’ll share the resources used and any additional tips/tricks that seemed useful. I don’t want to jinx it in the meantime!

San Diego California, Pacific Ocean

September promises to be a busy month with camping, Wyoming, and Iceland all on the calendar. I am finally getting excited about Iceland and all the beautiful scenery. All of the big plans have been finalized, so now it’s just a matter of deciding what to see in what order (which is my favorite part)! Once I’m back from that trip it’ll be time to start planning the next big adventure – a move to the east coast. That’s a scary sentence to write, but also so exciting! The thought of being somewhere that has a true autumn actually makes me tear up a little!

San Diego California, Pacific Ocean

I won’t lie though, I will miss these sunsets❤

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A Moroccan Photo Safari

camels in the Sahara Desert, Morocco

For almost a year now I’ve been searching for the words to write about my experience with the Helicon Arts Moroccan Photo Safari last October. The best way I can think to sum it up – I have been lucky enough to travel so many places in this world and to meet some amazing people; this was the best trip yet.

Morocco ended up being my destination of choice because it was on a new continent (Africa), had a safe reputation, and had always seemed magical to me. All of these reasons turned out to be totally justified – particularly the magical atmosphere! I won’t go so far as to say that Morocco is my new favorite country, but I did really enjoy my time there. I think part of my problem was how similar the landscape was to the southwest, but I will say that the culture and the people more than made up for any of my reservations on the similar landscapes. For that reason and so many others, the country will always hold a special place in my heart.

Morocco_Seaside

I knew when planning this adventure that I wanted to go on a tour. I opted for a photography tour for the experience and to meet like-minded people. I researched so many companies before I found HeliconArts, but as soon as I read the photo tour description I knew it was the one for me! It’s a British company and the groups are typically small (usually no more than 8 I believe, including the professional photographer). The price was good and the customer service was fabulous! I would definitely consider booking with them again if they decide to expand their photography tour destinations!

photographer reflection

My group ended up  being incredibly diverse – 3 Americans and 3 Brits of various backgrounds ranging from 18 to 60+. We all had different levels of experience with photography, but no one felt left behind thanks to our amazing pro. It’s an incredibly rare thing to find 1 other person you get along with on a trip like this, nevermind 5, but that’s exactly what happened here. For that week, we were a family. Those awesome people made that trip, and they also make it difficult to talk about. I miss them, but hopefully we’ll all meet again on future travels…

Morocco_AitBenHaddou13

Morocco_RoadSide2_15

Morocco_Goats

I’ve posted some of the photos here and there on the blog, but haven’t really directly addressed the trip as I had planned. I’ve decided that in lieu of formal posts, at least for now, I’ll been posting photos with mini-stories on my Instagram instead. The tour goes back to Morocco this October 1-8 and as I understand it, there are still a couple spots left. If anyone’s interested, be sure to check out HeliconArts. If you have any questions, I’m always happy to answer!

As a bonus, here’s the end of trip video we shot on our last night. I think it does a pretty good job summing up just how much fun we had – and it’s likely the only video you’ll ever see of me on here!😉

P.S.
Don’t forget to check out my Instagram for more Moroccan fun!

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