Summertime spottings

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The thing I’m going to miss most about NoVA is all the different creatures you can find in nature. On just a weekend stroll, we were able to find many animals!

momma duck at edge of pond with half a dozen ducklings

A momma duck with at least 6-7 babies.

green frog camouflaging in leaves by pond

A green frog camouflaging against the leaves.

frog or polliwog in water with head sticking out

A small frog and many polliwogs!

giant polyphemus moth on grass

A giant moth that I think is a polyphemus moth.

I love finding cool new life all around me!!

Pace of travel

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When I travel, I tend to go at a fast pace. People often think I’m crazy for it, but a typical tour averages 1.5 days per city. I like to hit up a region and get a quick sense of each city so when I’m older and find it harder to keep up a pace, I know which places I prefer more and would want to stay at for a longer time.

The first time I did this was 9 years ago, when I had 5 weeks for spring break while studying abroad. Since I was already in the UK and near Europe, I decided to visit as much as possible. I made it through 15 countries and I believe 22 cities in that time. It was a lot of walking, packing, unpacking, and exploring.

That was the most ambitious trip I’ve ever done, though I’ve done shorter versions since, again in Europe and also in Southeast Asia. I’ll probably do a similar thing in Central and South America one day. Plus, cruises offer quick pit stops at multiple cities and I’ve done three of those (Alaska, Caribbean, and Mexico). Otherwise, I think I’ll be taking more time in each place and lengthening stays to a good 3 days per city (or more!).

One day I’ll go the complete opposite route and spend a week or weeks in an area, like I do when I’m home in China. Then I can actually unpack my suitcase completely and live there for awhile.

So what’s your travel style? Has it evolved with you?

Yogi Surprise May 2016 review

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I thought about canceling this box after this one, in advance of my departure to school, but then I saw the neti pot and got excited. I’ll keep it around one more month too see what other cool stuff comes!

Yogi Surprise is just under $36 per box (with code for 20% off your subscription – use my referral links from this post) and comes with yoga gear, skincare, food, and other lifestyle products. Boxes are sent monthly with no option to skip. They offer a referral program that earns you free boxes.

Himalayan Chandra neti pot – I’ve been curious about neti pots for years, so I’m super excited about this. I wonder how effective it would be and if it’s potentially dangerous as I’ve seen before. I’m certainly willing to try it and learn some more. And worst case I’ll just use it for watering plants.

Made in Nature Cuban Mojo ancient grain fusion – I guess I’m supposed to cook this as part of a meal? I can’t quite figure it out. I’ll just have to try it and see!

MitoSynergy MitoActivator Pro & GreenTeaSynergy – This is so curious that I don’t know what to make of it. I’m cool with green tea products, but it’s the other stuff that I’m skeptical about. They’re white pills that you’re supposed to take without other supplements, which might interfere with the effectiveness of the pills. Errr… Not sure I’m comfortable trying something I don’t understand.

MyChelle Refining Sugar Cleanser – I recently got this in a Yuzen box and it’s a lot of fun to use. First you scrub the sugar granules on your face, which then melt away to a foamy texture for cleansing your skin. I enjoy using it a lot and this little travel size is great for portability.

Acure Lip Lush lip gloss in No Strings – Haha! I also got this in a Yuzen box and it’s one of the lip glosses I’m currently using. It has a nice sweetness to it and isn’t too sticky.

bayberry naturals Rosehip & Hibiscus Moisturizer – This is a cute little moisturizer that I’ll add to my travel stash. It’s always handy having small bottles to bring on a flight. I don’t want to open it up to try until then.

Yogi Surprise Connecting with Opening Your Heart yoga sequence series card – This series is all about heart-opening poses. Probably something related to Mother’s Day and love. Check out the instruction page to download this sequence.

Energy Muse Chakra Healing healing stones – Back in 2010, I interviewed for this company! Crazy. They make jewelry based on the different energies that stones have. It’s a bit of mythological thinking mixed with ancient traditions. In this case, the chakra stones each correspond to a chakra and help channel that energy, I guess.

Sola Bar Jalapeno Wholesome Savory Meal – Whoa, I’ve never seen a bar like this one. Jalapeno flavored? Random. Since it’s very nutty, I don’t think I’d like it but I’ll give it a try and if I don’t, then Panda can have it.

The neti pot sealed the deal for me with this box. Sure, I could have gotten one myself, but it’s so much more exciting this way. What do you think about the products in this box?

[This post contains affiliate links. Signing up through them helps support my subscription and I’d be ever so grateful. 🙂 All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this box and wanted to share what I got!]

Things I’ve learned in Poland

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  • Stick your arm out for the bus or it won’t stop.
  • No need to stick your arm out for the light rail/tram. It will stop.
  • You never know where you’ll be able to purchase transit tickets. Not all buses, trams, and stops have a ticket machine.
  • Ticket validation means getting a timestamp on your ticket telling you when out expires.
  • Learn some Polish terms. Many locals don’t speak more than two words of English, one of which is usually “no.”
  • Pierogis are delicious. I’d only heard of them before, but never tried them.
  • The Warsaw symbol is a mermaid called Syrenka.
  • Milk bars (bar mleczny) are cafeterias from the communist era. Very cheap and tasty.
  • Kiss and ride is a drop-off area. It took a poster of a couple kissing and driving off for me to finally understand that term. Nobody ever explained it to me!
  • The days seem to start out nice and then a bout of rain comes along. After that, it gets really cold and dark for the rest of the night.
  • Many animals in the parks are used to people and will come up to you if you have food to share. Bring bread for the birds and raw walnuts for the squirrels!!

A layover in Munich

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Who says a 6-hour layover isn’t enough time to do a little exploring? We sometimes like to schedule moderately long layovers like that so we can go check out a city and get more bang for our travel buck.
Here’s what we were able to enjoy on our layover:

When landing, I hadn’t noticed the yellow patches in the picture, but once on the ground they’re hard to miss!

They’re these massive fields of bright yellow flowers! I wonder what plant they are?

We made our way to Isartor so we could find a nearby design book store my friend wanted to see.

The store, soda, turned out to be super deep and filled with interesting stuff! Calavera was happy. 🙂

We noticed fun bikes like these that we should try sometime.

Ooo, these round “meeting” bikes would be so hilarious!

Outside Schrannenhalle (looked like a grocer’s) were these amazing seats that wobbled. Delightful! And there were cool giant clothespin seats too.

The farmer’s market had gorgeous flowers.

I totally would have wanted these if I could take them home.

In the center of the market was this mysterious pole. I couldn’t figure out the significance.

For lunch, we stopped at Zwickl and ended up ordering identical meals: house meatballs with potato salad and ginger lemonade. Who knew the drinks would be so massive?!

Yum, these are pork and beef meatballs and a very pretty potato salad.

They have us plenty of condiments to go with the meal. We tried all the sauces and had different favs.

Walking back to the metro, we saw this dazzling light shop.

If we were staying longer we could get some fresh fruit. Looks great!

Back in the airport, we saw an amazing store of paper goods, called Fabriano. Even their lighting used paper, lol.

Woo hoo!! Free hot drinks at the airport before boarding!

And then it was off to the other leg of our flight. A day well-spent. 🙂

It felt very leisurely and somewhat touristy, but we got a lot done and saw some cool things. I call that a win.

The digital world hates vertical media

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I’ve recently re-learned what a nightmare it is to try to deal with vertical (portrait-oriented) media, whether pictures or videos. Why is it so hard to get them to work?

I mean, I know that all our screens are wide and so is much of how we view the world, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t times that a vertical orientation isn’t useful (if not better altogether). It’s so frustrating that when I do have portrait images, they don’t always render properly and for vertical videos, it becomes difficult to edit them.

food from rollplay vietnamese restaurantFor example, the past couple of months I’ve dealt with an annoyance using WordPress. When I upload a picture that is vertical, the image doesn’t show up (this might be happening to you with the one first image). This seemed to have happened with the update that had occurred around that time. Suddenly, every vertical photo uploaded would come out blank in my blog posts. It took a lot of research and testing to figure out that if re-uploaded the image, it would then work.

More recently, I came across the added issue that if I uploaded the original file from my phone, it doesn’t have the correct orientation and instead shows horizontally, as seen below. So now I have to open the image in Paint*, save it, then it will recognize it as a vertical image (shown on the left, if you can see it). What a nightmare! Strangely enough, if you are on an iPhone, you’d see the below image the proper way, but on a laptop browser and on an Android device it’s horizontal. Yet even odder, on an iPad, it tries to show vertically, but the image is stretched out to fit horizontal dimensions.

sample of broken vertical image that does not rotate properly

So to ensure images show proper orientation across devices means I need to edit the photo before re-uploading to WP, using an image editing program like Paint or Photoshop*. It doesn’t seem to help if I rotate the image first, I usually still need to do the replace media option. And literally all I’m doing in Paint is saving it so that whatever EXIF metadata WP needs gets translated through properly and allows images to show up vertically, as they should. I guess however Apple encodes that data is incompatible with the way WordPress reads/handles the info. For now it’s working, but if things act up again I’ll look into plugins like the iOS images fixer or the Image Rotation Fixer, both of which look like promising solutions.

Additionally, I ran into issues when I was trying to edit a vertical video. Any program I opened it up in would put those awful black bars on the sides so that it ultimately took up the space of a horizontal video. I wanted a final output that would keep the vertical orientation, making it a skinny little thing. All the searching in the world only seemed to lead me to tutorials on how to change the black bars to some background, but none actually addressed my issue.

In iMovie on my mobile devices, it would crop my video to a square. I’d shrink it down so the whole thing showed, but those black bars would come to haunt me. I tried rotating it so it fit the horizontal perfectly, make my edits, save it, then try rotating it, but again: ugly black bars inserted. So ultimately I gave up on such an endeavor, but these experiences leave me wanting so much more when it comes to media editing and rendering.

You’d think in this day and age of technology that they would have figured this out by now. Why is it still such a troublesome issue?


*Thanks to a comment on this thread for helping me figure out that solution.

I’ve found the only way to consistently see images with proper orientation on all devices is to edit the photo before uploading to WP in an image editing program like Photoshop. – Cindy Otty

On My Mind, episode 11: summer plans

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I don’t do a lot of journal entry type posts here, but there are some things going on that I just wanted to share. Sometimes there is no specific topic; it’s just about life in general.

This weekend, I was very excited to get a shipment notification from Baubax, which I backed on Kickstarter back in September. I had hoped to get it in time for Thanksgiving. So much for that! They originally anticipated being able to get them completed by November, but their campaign exploded way beyond they ever expected. The product is a travel jacket, which they designed 4 of. I chose the red bomber jacket because it seemed like a nice balance between dressy and casual. I hope it fits me well!!

Panda and I have been looking for someone to rent a room in our home. His organization has interns that will be coming next month and they always need a place to stay. There are a few students we’ve considered and I look forward to finalizing details. We’re happy to earn some extra money to help fund my MBA. I’ll be leaving halfway through their stay to get ready for my program. Things are going to be crazy the next couple of months! Maybe in the future we can consider listing a room on Airbnb.

Panda got the Whole Dang Thang, which included fried fish, scallops, gator, calamari, shrimp and more.

Panda got the Whole Dang Thang, which included fried fish, scallops, gator, calamari, shrimp and more.

About a month ago, Panda and I went out to dinner with Calavera for cajun seafood. As I was cracking away at my crab legs, I didn’t realize I was weakening part of my tooth and on the drive home, I noticed that my tooth had chipped. Prior to that, I had noticed a tiny little indentation along the bottom of the tooth, so it must have fractured along that groove. I needed a teeth cleaning anyway, so I scheduled a dental appointment and was told I should get a crown. Since dental procedures are expensive in the US and I plan on going to China this summer, I decided to wait until I go there to get it done. In the mean while, I look silly sometimes with what looks like a gap in my teeth that then shows itself as a missing chunk. At least a gap would look normal!

Now that I know what program I’ll be attending in the fall, it’s all about getting to know what they have to offer. I received a call from an MBA Ambassador today, but I was working and then wasn’t able to reach her later. I’m compiling questions about the program, life in general, and other things to know before I start school. There are four more people I should reach out to (two friends and two ambassadors, one who interviewed me). I think I’ll learn a lot at Admit Weekend next week and I can’t wait to start meeting people, learning, and thinking about what I’ll do. All this looking to the future has me distracted from what I should focus on, but I’m still making good progress at work. Still, I’m itching to train someone up and start handing things off, though it looks like that won’t happen for another month.

I’ve always been interested in helping uncover resources and make them more readily available, so I created an unofficial employee handbook using Trello. Tomorrow I get to train a new girl on it for the very first time! I can’t wait to see what she thinks, get feedback, and hone it into a lasting legacy that I will leave here. I’ve got quite a few projects that I hope will continue to live on when I’ve moved on. I know that our use of Slack will certainly be one of those.

There are so many things buzzing around in my head these days. With my obsession with Trello, I’ve put together various boards to help me track everything I should be doing. Now I just need to get better at checking them… 😛

Office move

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It’s been a long time since we’ve had a major change at the office and today’s the day that we kicked it off. At 6 PM, everyone had their stuff packed in boxes and the movers began to roll things over to the newly opened section of the office, which has been under renovation for weeks (nearly 3 months). We have officially taken over the entire floor and get to enjoy the new area. Our current space will be closed off for renovations before the big reveal in May, when the entire office will be at its peak. I’ll get to enjoy that for about a month before I head off for business school!

At the end of the day, we went to the new part to start putting together new furniture, arrange desks, and get everyone’s boxes to their place. We have a ton of new meeting rooms and a nice hardwood area where the cafe and event space/theater are. I’ve found my new favorite room, which is a little one that can fit two people and is tucked up right against the window. It’ll be a cozy place for me to do webinars and get away from the mess of people in the main area.

For the next month, we are all going to be crammed into a space that is about half of what we were in. This means that the sales team is no longer in their own area and quite honestly, all of us are dreading the level of noise that means across the entire open office. I’m pretty sure I will seek reprieve in one of the meeting rooms or other public spaces. Or, perhaps I’ll be able to work outside a bit since our wifi signal can sometimes be picked up downstairs in the courtyard.

Tomorrow’s going to be a strange day as we discover a new pattern. I always enjoy some change, so this should be fun. 🙂

What are your fears?

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I’m not a very fearful person.

I’m not scared of bugs, or rollercoasters, or flying, or snakes, or public speaking, or traveling alone, or so many of the other common fears people seem to have.

The creature-related fears come up a lot since I volunteer at the National Museum of Natural History and I handle caterpillars, grasshoppers, hissing cockroaches, various beetles, Australian stick insects, butterflies, moths, tarantulas, and vinageroons/whip scorpions. I’m constantly amazed at the folks who are grossed out or terrified of these guys. Obviously if we have them out at the museum, they’re not going to hurt you. Yet children still cringe and cry when a butterfly circles them with their erratic dance and adults still make a face and stay ten feet away when they see a live insect or arachnid on someone’s hand.

Or take my friend, who is afraid of traveling by herself. Granted, this is probably something a LOT of people have not done or may never do. But the limitations you put on yourself when you can’t bring yourself to strike out on your own can keep you from a certain independence and self-discovery. I love my time traveling on my own, especially in foreign countries. I find those the most rewarding experiences to look back on. Should fear of some stranger in the world hurting you stop you from trying this? Or should you plan carefully, be vigilant and smart, and go for it?

Things like these make me wonder why people are so fearful. Of course, I’m not without my own fears, which generally are related to dying and pain, like falling from really high up (so stable buildings are fine, but if I have to balance on something to cross a chasm…) or not having some stability in my life (financial, emotional, or otherwise). But my fears don’t come up very often and they don’t make me shake or scream or cry or run away. So how do people deal with these fears they have that probably come up pretty consistently?

You’re bound to find a spider or two in your home at some point. You’ll probably board a plane to travel. You may not have to do massive speaking events, but you’ll probably have to present in front of a group occasionally.

So if you’re afraid of these things, what do you do? Do you spend exorbitant amounts of time worrying, fretting, sweating? Do you try to avoid them at all costs? I’m curious.

For me, when my fears come up, it’s more about planning for the future. This usually means that I spend some of my time concerned about the idea, but that allows me to consider how to prevent unwanted situations. I imagine having to deal with death and maybe I cry at the thought, but then I think about how I would get through it. I think about what life would be like if I had no money or I was all alone and consider the hard choices I might make. These are the types of fears I tend to have, about things that haven’t happened. It makes it a lot easier to deal with since I have time to think through possible reactions and courses of action.

My fears are mostly things I may never have to go through. I find it fascinating all the fears of things people have do have to contend with. Why am I not afraid of them? Why are so many people? And what are your fears?

“If I…” series

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If I made lip balm: I’d make all kinds of new flavors
If I was a cat: I’d sleep allllll day and ignore mice/birds.
If I had no hair: I’d get cold really easily & scare ppl with my weird head.
If I could, I’d get a phd

If I designed homes, I’d have lots of windows on all sides & access to the roof 

If I designed high rises, the windows would open or there’d be balconies 

If I designed clothes, I’d cover the knees

If I ran a restaurant, I’d have picture menus

If I had all the money in the world I’d run cat shelters and tours.

If I made cars or seats, I’d add foot rests

If I made cars, I’d make their lights not too bright

If I designed hotels, I’d have open rooftops 

If I had an airline, I’d send surveys to pre-order food

If I built an airplane, I’d make the windows bigger and have a daylight section

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