Picnic for Two

So Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and for those of you still looking for date ideas, I’ve got you covered. Why not take your significant other on a nice picnic? It’s a simple yet meaningful gesture that I’m sure will leave more of a mark on them than a cliché dinner at a restaurant.

Last week the weather was surprisingly warm for February so my friend & I decided to go to the beach. We packed a picnic lunch and spent the entire day lounging about in the sand, it was so relaxing. We had the entire beach to ourselves which was the best part.

So what was in our basket? For a picnic date for two at a beach, park, or lake, you’ll need:

Essentials:

  • Picnic basket
  • Blanket (or beach towels)
  • Plastic plates, cups & utensils
  • Wet napkins or hand gel
  • Trash bag

Food & beverages:

  • Homemade sandwiches (my favorite is turkey & cheese with lettuce and tomato)
  • Bottle of wine of your choice
  • Big bottle of water
  • Snacks (pretzels, chips, nuts, chocolate etc.)
  • Chopped fruits & vegetables like apples, carrots, celery, strawberries which can be stored in containers

Optional:

  • Wireless Bluetooth music speaker
  • Homemade cake or cupcakes

P.s: Keep the location a surprise from your date. If you could find a secluded beach, park, lake, it would be even more romantic.

P.p.s: For perishable food items, be sure to bring ice packs or coolers!

Here are a couple of photos from the beach picnic the other day 🙂

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Top 14 Free Travel Apps

Those who’ve made travel plans for 2015, here are my top 14 free travel apps! Descriptions courtesy of http://www.itunes.apple.com although most of them can be found on other devices as well 🙂 safe travels xx

1. Kayak: The smart travel search engine. Hotel, flight, and car search and booking, flight tracker and itinerary management

2. TripAdvisor Offline City Guides: Traveling somewhere? Get this FREE city guide with the restaurants, attractions, hotels and reviews you love from TripAdvisor, stored in the app – no data roaming charges!

3. Google Translate: Break through language barriers with Google Translate.

4. TripIt – Travel Organizer: Organize your travel plans in one place with TripIt® from Concur. Simply forward your travel confirmation emails to plans@tripit.com and TripIt automagically creates a detailed daily itinerary for every trip.

5. Airbnb: Make travel planning as mobile as you are with the Airbnb iPhone App! Airbnb opens the door to the world’s most interesting places to stay and is the simplest way to earn money from your extra space. With over 600,000 listings in more than 34,000 cities, Airbnb connects you with the experience that’s right for you.

6. Yelp: Top-ranked Yelp for your iPhone or iPad has over 50 million reviews on businesses worldwide — all in the palm of your hand. Whether you are looking for a pizzeria that is open now or a coffee shop nearby, Yelp is your local guide to finding just the place to eat, shop, drink, relax, and play.

7. Viber: With Viber, everyone in the world can connect. Freely. More than 460 million Viber users text, make HD-quality phone and video calls, and send photo and video messages worldwide over WiFi or 3G – for free. Viber Out can be used to make calls to non-Viber landlines and mobile numbers at low rates.

8. Accuweather: Stay connected to the latest forecast with AccuWeather – Weather for Life. This free, award winning weather app features AccuWeather MinuteCast®, the leading minute-by-minute precipitation forecast that is hyper-localized to your exact street address.

9. XE Currency Converter: Convert every world currency with the XE Currency App – Free Edition. It offers live proprietary currency rates, charts, and even stores the last updated rates, so it works when the Internet doesn’t.

10. Uber: Uber is your private driver in more than 50 countries.

11. Google Maps: The Google Maps app for iPhone and iPad makes navigating your world faster and easier. Find the best spots in town and the information you need to get there.

12. TripList – The Packing App: TripList is here to help you pack smarter, faster, and ensure that you have everything you need on your travels. Our app makes it quick and easy to create your own packing list for any kind of trip you may take.

13. AroundMe: AroundMe allows you to quickly find out information about your surroundings. How many times have you found yourself in need of finding the closest Gas Station?

14. Converter Plus: Converter+ is a unit converter with the most extensive list of currencies and units in hundreds of categories. Converter Plus also comes with many calculators like mortgage, loan, tip, fuel consumption and many others for everyday problems.

Have you tried any of these apps? Are there any travel apps you think should make the list? Let me know!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! May this coming year be your best one yet 🙂

Although I believe resolutions can be made every day, the start of a new year is a good reminder to turn a new page and make some improvements in your life. This year, I plan to:

Maintain an exercise routine: I’ve been the same weight for years now. As much as I eat I’m lucky enough not to put on any weight. Still, that’s not an excuse to refrain from keeping fit and exercising. I’m not a very big fan of the gym, I do however like doing sport so I’m planning to start swimming laps at my local country club twice a week and play squash with my sister once a week.

Do more volunteer work: Those who have been following my blog from the start know how much joy helping others brings me and I’m not planning on stopping this year. In fact, I’m looking to increase my volunteer hours now that I’ve finished college and have got some more free time on my hands.

Go on a graduation trip with friends: Although I’ve just completed my Bachelor’s degree, the graduation ceremony isn’t until May. Hence,  my friends and I decided to postpone our graduation trip until then and are planning to visit the Greek Islands. I’m really looking forward to it as it’s probably the last time we’ll all be together for a while since some of us are going abroad to do Masters or to find better job opportunities. It’s going to be extra special.

Find a job that I love: Now that I’ve finished college I have to start applying for a full-time job. I’m keeping my options wide open and not planning to settle for something I know I won’t enjoy just for the sake of having a job. I don’t mind doing internships in the meantime until I find something I really love.

Learn to say “no”: I’m a huge people pleaser, constantly putting others before myself and often taking on more than I can handle so as not to disappoint anyone. It’s okay to be a little selfish sometimes and focus on your own well-being and I have to remind myself of that every once in a while.

What are your 2015 resolutions?

DIY Christmas Gifts

Christmas is the most joyous time of the year. Shopping for gifts, however, can be a stressful task especially when on a budget.

Enter DIY gifts.

There’s no shame in giving a DIY gift, in fact I’m a big fan because a lot of effort and thought goes into it and it’s much more personal and sentimental. Over the years I’ve given and received plenty of DIY gifts not only during Christmas time but on numerous other occasions like birthdays, graduations, and New Year’s. Here’s a list of some of my favorite DIY gift ideas:

  • Scrapbook – I love making scrapbooks. Nothing says ‘I love you’ better than a book containing pages of memories. Photographs, quotes, magazine cut-outs, you can go all out with this and be as creative and personal as you like.
  • Music CD – Bringing back the classic mix tape gift. Pick out a bunch of songs that remind you of your loved one or a bunch of songs that you both love and put them on a CD-R for them to play in the car. A nice touch would be to add voice recordings of yourself in between songs.
  • Personalized Christmas ornament – Buy a plain colored Christmas ornament and a glitter tube pen. Use the glitter pen to write the person’s name in cursive on the ornament and wait for it to dry. You can add other things such as studs and stickers as well. Put it in a small box and wrap it up for your loved one to put on their Christmas tree. I currently have one on my tree as I type this post 🙂
  • Video montage – Something I did for one of my best friends last Christmas. I basically went through my computer hard drive and found all the videos we’ve taken over the years from parties to university to vacations etc. I then created a 10-minute long video montage using Windows Live Movie Maker complete with background music and sound effects. She said it was the best gift she’d ever received.
  • Painting – If you’re a good drawer/painter, why not paint a painting for your loved one to hang in their home.
  • Notebook full of quotes – I have a notebook where I write down all of my favorite quotes from movies, songs, books etc. Sometimes when I’m feeling down I read through it and it instantly cheers me up. Start one off for your loved one and leave the rest of the pages blank for them to fill out themselves.
  • Homemade cake/cookies – Not a long-lasting gift but at least it tastes good! Who hasn’t got a sweet tooth?
  • Personalized photo frame – Buy a plain wooden or ceramic photo frame and proceed to paint and decorate it. Afterwards, print out a photo of you and your loved one to put in the frame. It can be placed in their home or on their work desk.

Have you ever given or received a handmade gift? What would you add to this list? Let me know!

Study Tips from a College Senior

Being a student can be stressful at times, especially when exam period rolls around. It’s hard to stay positive and motivated when we live in a world where a person is judged by their GPA. With mid-term exams just around the corner, I thought I’d share some personal study tips:

– Find a good study environment and stick to it: While it’s a lot more comfortable studying at home than anywhere else, I’ve found that it greatly affects my productivity. I tend to take advantage of the fact that I’m home and procrastinate heaps (by procrastinate, I mean check the fridge constantly). I personally prefer studying at a coffee shop not far from my university. Being surrounded by other students keeps me motivated and the coffee is a plus. Others, however, prefer the silent atmosphere of a library. If you insist on staying home however, avoid studying on your bed as it will only make you sleepy.

– Silence your cell phone: I get bored and restless while studying sometimes and fidget with my phone. It’s so easy to wind up texting or checking your social media feeds, next thing you know you’ve been on your phone for half an hour and haven’t gotten any work done. The best thing to do is put your phone on silent so you won’t be distracted by texts or social media notifications every minute.

– Refer to your notes: I can’t stress the importance of taking notes during lectures. There have been so many times I’ve had to refer to my notebook to double check a concept explained in the textbook. Sometimes the textbook over-complicates things so what I like to do is write notes in my own words while the professor is speaking, that way I can make sure I’ll be able to understand and remember them later on.

– Key words: At the end of every chapter in a textbook there’s usually a section that lists all the key words of that chapter. After reading the chapter, I test myself by defining each of these key words aloud. I’ve found that reading aloud helps me memorize better.

– Study schedule: Many people claim this never works but it’s worked for me time and time again. Don’t stress on finishing a chapter by a certain hour, as long as you finish it by a certain day. Leave room for breaks and distractions so long as you can sleep with a relaxed mind and conscience.

– Study buddy: At the beginning of the semester, I make sure I know someone in each of my classes incase I’m ever absent or need help solving a problem. Studying together helps too. Although I personally prefer studying alone the first few days of exam period, towards the end I like to get together with a friend and revise everything + test each other before the exam.

– Solve previous exams: These are good practice and can give you an idea of what you’re up against, so if you can get your hands on one or more it’d give you a huge advantage. Pretend you’re taking the actual exam, try to complete it by a specified time and don’t pause to check individual answers, rather correct the whole paper once you’re done that way you can see which topics are your strongpoints and which need to be revised.

– Ask for help: A lot of times I brushed off concepts I didn’t understand simply because I wasn’t bothered to check or didn’t want to ask for help. I told myself they’ll never come on the exam but guess what? They did.

– A good night’s sleep: Don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. You’re going to need a clear mind and good amount of energy to complete an exam. So many people I know regularly pull all-nighters but I never allow myself to reach that stage.

Did you find these tips useful? Is there anything you can add?

Summer in Sydney

IMG_0246Growing up in Sydney, Australia, I couldn’t wait for December to arrive because it would mark the start of summer. While people in the Northern Hemisphere were gearing up for winter, I was busy shopping for swimsuits and planning my summer days. Christmas was spent at the beach and pool parties were a standard way to ring in the new year.

As the summer season approaches Downunder, I find myself longing to be back in Sydney. The best time to be in this city is during the summer months as it’s located right on the water. Since I can’t be there myself, here are some must-do’s for anyone planning on visiting this fantastic city this summer:

– Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk: Besides the obvious health benefit, this 6km walk provides stunning views of Sydney’s coastline and surrounding beaches.

– Queen Victoria Building: Better known as the QVB, this architectural masterpiece is located in the central business district and is just as majestic as the sovereign whom it was named after. Lots of fancy shops and restaurants await you inside.

– Harbour Bridge Climb: I did this back in 2012 and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The view at the summit is breathtaking and the climb itself is super safe and easy. It can be done during the day, night, dusk, or dawn and is a great birthday gift or date idea. Check the website for more details: http://www.bridgeclimb.com/ . P.s: Sydney Tower is a great alternative, you can do the skywalk or dine at the buffet restaurant which spins to give you a full 360 degree view of the city.

– Taronga Zoo: A lovely day out for families or friends alike where you’ll get to see Australia’s most unique animals close up (Koala, Kangaroo, Platypus etc.) as well as witness live shows. The best way to get there is by ferry boat in my opinion as you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of Sydney Harbour.

– Sydney Opera House: While Paris has the Eiffel tower, Rome has the Colosseum, and New York has the liberty statue, Sydney has the iconic Opera House. If you’re unable to catch a show inside, I recommend going for drinks at the Opera Bar at night. You won’t be disappointed and cannot leave Sydney without catching a glimpse of this landmark up close.

– Harry’s Café de Wheels: You know that saying, ‘when in Rome do as the Romans do’? Australians love their meat pies and this place offers the most delicious pies in the city so head over there for a bite. It’s been visited by the likes of Nicole Kidman and other Australian celebrities.

– Bondi Beach: You can’t visit Sydney without spending at least a day at the beach and this is quite possibly the most famous beach in Australia. It’s almost always packed though so make sure to go early to get a good spot. If you’d prefer to go to a more quiet place head over to Wattamolla beach located in the Royal National Park, a secluded oasis of natural beauty.

– Rugby Game: Australians take their sports very seriously. Commonly referred to as ‘footy’, rugby is one of Australia’s most followed sports so be sure to check out any local matches as it’s a lot of fun.

– Pitt Street Mall: A great pedestrian shopping area located in the heart of the city.

– Darling Harbour: The best way to experience Sydney is a walk along the harbour. Some of Sydney’s most famous museums can be found here as well as the Sydney Sea-Life Aquarium, and it’s within walking distance from the Sydney Fish Market where you’ll find some of Australia’s tastiest seafood.

– The Grounds of Alexandria: If you’re a foodie head over here for breakfast or brunch in a beautiful garden setting.

– Royal Botanic Gardens: This is the perfect place for rest and relaxation. Have a picnic, read a book, or simply lay on the grass and take in the sights and the smell of fauna.

The Book List Challenge

Those who are closest to me know that I’m an avid reader. I’m constantly looking for good books to add to my collection and love giving and receiving books as gifts.

Now that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has come and gone, a new challenge has taken over social media: The Book List Challenge. The task is to list 10 books that have impacted you in some way, and nominate others to do the same. I was nominated a few days ago and here’s my take on it (in no particular order):

  1. Tuesdays With Morrie – Mitch Albom
  2. Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
  3. You’re Hired – Bill Rancic
  4. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
  5. Harry Potter Series – J.K Rowling
  6. In Someone Else’s Shoes – Joseph Assaf
  7. My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult
  8. The Giver – Lois Lowry
  9. Sisters – Danielle Steel
  10. A Walk To Remember – Nicholas Sparks

I now nominate other bookworms to the challenge, go ahead and comment below 🙂 would love to hear your recommendations as well as thoughts on my list.