Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Giveaway: $25 Target Gift Card!

I'm so excited about my blog's first-ever giveaway! A few of us bloggers teamed up to give away a $25 gift card to Target which, in my opinion, is the greatest store ever. Where else can you get cute shoes, baking accessories, makeup, and candy for an amazing price?

Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Why I Shouldn't Be Allowed on Skyscanner

For those of you who aren't already familiar with Skyscanner, it's both a blessing and a curse. It gives you every possible flight option for any given trip, and I just love playing around on it and seeing how much things cost. You never know...

My one word of caution is not to book directly through Skyscanner (it'll take you through a bunch of hoops and you might get wired into some fees), but rather use it as a resource to see which flight dates/times are the best, and then search on the airline's website.

I've been comparing prices between Detroit and various destinations that I want to visit. Ugh. Can't I just have an around-the-world ticket?

Cairo, Casablanca, and Amman are sounding super appealing right now--and affordable compared to Europe!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Bottle in the Gaza Sea

As many of you know, I speak French and am learning Arabic and Hebrew. So, when I found A Bottle in the Gaza Sea on Netflix, a movie that combines all of those languages, I was excited about seeing it.

I just finished watching it, and I'm speechless.

Based on the book by Valérie Zenatti, a French-Israeli author, A Bottle in the Gaza Sea chronicles a French teenage girl named Tal and a young Palestinian man named Naim. Tal grew up in France and moved to Israel with her family, where she is exposed to war and conflict. Confused, she writes a message in a bottle that her brother, an IDF soldier, throws into the Mediterranean Sea in Gaza, as she wants to make a connection with a Palestinian. The bottle reaches Naim and his friends, and what ensues is a beautiful exchange of emails, conflict understanding, and friendship.

In my mind, the movie's greatest achievement is how it presented both sides of the conflict. It exposes each side's motives for war and how it has affected civilians, and it explores the issue of human rights. What makes this film so wonderful is how much Tal and Naim learn from each other and help each other grow, and they both come to realize how each side plays a role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Most importantly, they learn that the best way to foster peaceful relations is to connect with those on the "other side."

Whether you're pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian, or don't have an opinion on the issue, I strongly encourage you to watch this movie (or, better yet, read the book). It puts everything I wrote about in this post into perspective.

While the languages spoken in the film are French, Hebrew, and Arabic, there are English subtitles. Because it combines all of the languages that I'm learning with an issue so dear to me, this film has earned a special place in my heart. Now, I can't wait to read the book.

So no matter where you are in the world, or what your beliefs are, let's be friends. Tell me about yourself. Let's connect.

And if there's just one thing that you take away from this post, let it be that love and friendship will always be more powerful than war and ideological differences.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

On My Radar: Books

I really need to make more time to read. In D.C., I had plenty of extra time on the bus, on my lunch hour, and in between tasks at work to catch up on some good books, but unfortunately my schedule is no longer that routine. Also, I had better access to libraries there. (I'm completely embarrassed to say that, in the four years I've been at this school, I still don't know how to check out a book through our library system.)

Recently, I updated my Goodreads account and remembered all of the books I've been itching to read. Right now, these are my top priorities.


Notice a pattern here? I love non-fiction books about war, and fiction that takes place in other countries.

Does anyone else have a similar taste in books? If you have any recommendations, please let me know!

Wanderlust in the Midwest is on Facebook!

Like it, comment on it, or simply look at it.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pinterest Inspiration

Right now, I can really identify with the first quote. Yesterday was a terrible day, but today is much better--and I'm ready to conquer the world again.


Ideological Judgments

Something that has really been bothering me lately is how Zionism is associated as anti-human rights. Let me be clear. I am a Zionist, and I love Israel with all my heart. But that doesn't mean that I agree with all of their policies, just as patriots don't agree with everything the U.S. government does.

My point is, I don't care what your beliefs are, because I'm not here to change them. I have many friends and acquaintances who are anti-Israel, but I still cherish my relationship with and respect them. The reason we get along is because we can think outside of our ideological beliefs and see each other as humans.

Just as I don't make generalizations about people with other beliefs, I appreciate it when people don't make any about my own. It's been a huge issue lately, especially on my campus, and it's quite hurtful.

Let's just all get along. No matter where you stand on the Middle East issue, or on any other issue for that matter, all that matters to me is the kind, caring person behind it.

Sorry, I know this was a heavy post, but I've been needing to get this off my chest. I truly hope I didn't upset anyone by it, and I thank you all so much for reading this.

xoxo

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Greatest Snacks Ever

I don't really eat meals--I forage. (Ask any of my roommates, and I can guarantee that they'll back this up.) Rather than having three larger meals each day, I'll have random snacks. Sure, it's probably not great for me, but I choose these snacks carefully (usually). And that doesn't mean that I never go out to eat and have a huge meal, either! :)

Right now, I'm seriously hungry, so why not talk about my favorite snack foods?
Mamma Chia Vitality Beverages and Chia Squeezes
I don't even have words to describe Mamma Chia products. Generally, I don't love seeds, so I was shocked by how amazing the beverages and squeeze-packs are. Although they're a bit on the pricey side, they're made of only natural ingredients and are great for your health! They're made of chia seeds, after all... My favorite Vitality Beverage flavors are Blackberry Hibiscus and Raspberry Passion, but they also come in Grapefruit Ginger, Cherry Lime, Cranberry Lemonade, and many other unique flavors. The Chia Squeezes have a little less variety (only four flavors), but they're great for on-the-go--and don't need to be refrigerated, unlike their beverage counterpart. Point is, Mamma Chia is so underrated, and it shouldn't be.
Pomegranate Seeds, Kiwi, Cherries, and Red Grapes 
 
What would this list be if I left out fruit?! Pomegranates are definitely my weakness (I always have at least two stocked in my fridge), but kiwis, cherries, and red grapes are among my other favorite fruits. I usually supplement it with something else if I'm really hungry, but fruit's delicious. End of story. 
Sargento Natural Colby-Jack Cheese Snacks
Really, any cheese stick would do, but Colby-Jack is my favorite. I always eat one just before I work out, and it staves off my hunger just long enough to push through that last set of weights. 
Peanut Butter and Pomegranate Seeds on Whole-Wheat Bread
Plated | The Dish

Before you knock this combination, remember that jelly comes from whole fruits. Between the whole grains, protein in the peanut butter, and antioxidants in the pomegranate seeds, this is not only a "super-snack" but is also absolutely delicious. I encourage all of you to go make one of these as soon as possible. 
Apple-Brie Panini on Whole-Wheat Bread
Homemade by Holman

We all know that apples and brie are amazing together, so why reserve it for special occasions? All it takes is some whole-wheat bread, a sliced apple, good brie, and a George Foreman grill. Another nutritious but delicious option. 
Greek Yogurt with Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chips
The Suburban Girl Gone Country

Thank you, Pinterest, for enlightening me about the greatest yogurt parfait known to mankind. Sure, it tastes like cookie dough, but it's not bad for you! (Especially if you use dark-chocolate chips.) As far as Greek yogurt, I buy Fage Total 0% by the tub. If the peanut butter and chocolate chips don't sound appealing to you, there's still a huge selection of flavors of Greek yogurt.

So, are you hungry yet? Let me know what your favorite snacks are--I love trying new options! (As long as they're vegetarian, of course.)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Worldly Inspiration

This weekend, I attended the South Asian Awareness Network's annual conference. The theme this year was PANORAMA: Capturing Change Through the Lens of Culture. Over the course of the weekend, I engaged with people of different religions, nationalities, gender identities, and beliefs, and I learned so much from them.

The speakers are really what inspired me, though. Among the many I saw were Smita Satiani, an Indian-Pakistani-American who works in D.C. at Ashoka; Sedika Mojadidi, an Afghan-American documentary maker whose works have been aired on PBS, TLC, and Discovery (she also has a movie, Motherland Afghanistan, available on Netflix); and Guatam Raghavan, who is currently President Obama's liaison to the LGBT and Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities.

While I'm all in favor of social consciousness and public service, it isn't necessarily where my passions fall--and I always feel like a horrible person when I say that. Regardless, the conference was very moving and educational, and there were two quotes in particular that struck me:



Finding my passion has been a long, hard road, and at the end of the day, I'm not willing to accept anything less than my dream. That's part of the struggle with jobs right now--I simply don't want to apply to anything that isn't exactly in line with my aspirations, partly because I'm afraid that I'll get stuck in a rut, and partly because I know that I'm capable of achieving anything I want. The second quote is especially amazing, though. Lately, I've been struggling with how to deal with opposing beliefs and the arguments that break out over them, notably regarding the conflict in the Middle East. Seeing this quote was a breath of fresh air. After all, we're only human.

I'm going to end this post on a light and inspirational note. Here's a commercial that one of the keynote speakers (Zafar Razzacki) showed us, and it's a beautiful reminder that what unites us really is stronger than what divides us.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Birchbox Unveiling (January 2014)

January 2014



Total value: $22.34

January's theme is Go Time, though I'm not quite sure how that translates to my products. Regardless, this month's box is great! I haven't tried out the products yet, but I'm super excited about them. It appears that Klorane is a Parisian brand and that the dry shampoo was made in France, so the packaging has French as the predominant language (then English). Of course, I love that! The nail polish and fruit-pigmented mascara are spot on, too--two things of which I can never have too much. Plus, the nail polish comes with a glitter texture! How cute--and perfect for Valentine's Day. I'm waiting to try the teas (caffeine is the last thing I need right now), but I hear they taste amazing. Birchbox really is like Christmas every month!

If you're a fellow Birchbox lover, let me know what you got in your box! And if not, you can click here to get your own Birchbox subscription!

P.S. Check out the new Product Matchmaker feature on the Birchbox website! For mine, I got many products I already own...it's spot on.

Monday, January 13, 2014

New Semester, New Outlook

Senioritis is hitting, and it's not pretty. Of course, I care too much about my grades (and future) to let my schoolwork slip, but it's the motivation that's lacking. Have I started my homework yet? Nope. Am I going to start it later tonight and be up late doing it? You bet.

Winter term has always been my favorite. My classes always seem easier, the weather becomes beautiful again, and I go out way more than I do in the fall. Also, most of my applications are submitted, which frees up my time (and reduces my stress levels). I think winter term is the time when I become more nonchalant about school, and somehow get better grades than in the fall. I know that this semester has lots in store for me--I will receive job and graduate-school decisions, I'm flying out to Austin for UT's Round-Up weekend, I have tons of plans for going out (finally!), and I'm graduating.

Cheers to a semester that blesses me with good grades, wonderful post-graduate opportunities, lasting friendships, and lots of fun.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Product Review: Beauty Protector Protect & Oil

When the Birchbox team told me that I would be one of ten bloggers to test and review an unreleased Beauty Protector product, I couldn't believe my luck. Unfortunately, I had to wait a few days before I could unlock this mystery. You see, I had the product sent to my school address, but I ended up staying home for a few extra days because of this Antarctic weather (Michigan got hit hard). I finally got back yesterday, and I grabbed and opened the package before I even unpacked. Let's just say I squealed with excitement when I opened it.

Now, I get to tell you guys all about this amazing new product! What is it, you may ask?

...drumroll please...

Beauty Protector Protect & Oil!

Isn't it pretty?

The first thing that I noticed was its beautiful packaging. The black-and-gold design is just lovely, and there is a pump for clean, easy dispensing. Then, I realized that this is argan oil! I cannot express enough how much I love argan oil. I switch between two argan-oil shampoos (one is actually the Nelson j Beverly Hills Argan Oil 7 Non-Foaming Shampoo from my Birchbox), use Moroccan Oil in my hair on a daily basis, and purchased lots of argan oil on my trip to Morocco.

(Fun fact: did you know that Moroccan goats play a huge role in the production of argan oil? They climb the argan trees in the Atlas Mountains and eat the argan fruit, dropping the pits to the ground. The pits are then collected, and the oil is extracted from them. Unfortunately, I didn't get to go to the mountains when I was in Morocco, but hiking them is my my top priority for the next time I go.)

Can you believe this is real?
© Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images

Of course, I couldn't wait to try out the product. I was happy to see that it should be used on damp hair, as that means it has no overlap with my other argan-oil products. Even though you can use Moroccan Oil on damp hair, I've only used it as a styling agent when my hair is dry. After taking my nightly shower, I ran the three pumps of oil in my hair (the bottle recommends between one and three), and let it do it's work. First of all, the scent is just divine. I wish I could tell you what it smells like, but I'm the last person who would know. Just know that it smells good. I also loved that my hands weren't sticky or gummy feeling after the application, unlike with other argan-oil products I've used. To further test this, I even pumped an application to work into my hands, and they still felt as if I'd just put on a light lotion. That characteristic by itself gives the product an A+ in my book.

When I applied the serum, I couldn't immediately see or feel a difference (wet hair is wet hair, am I right?), so I waited until this morning to look at the product's effect. While there was definitely a noticeable shine, what struck me is that my hair was wavier than usual. My hair looked natural, but in a really pretty way. This also meant that I didn't have to spend much time styling it this morning!

The morning after using the product.

Overall, I LOVE this product, and will probably use it every night--after all, you can never have too much argan oil. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a little extra shine, a more-natural look, or even just another beauty product to try. Thanks for letting me test it, Birchbox!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

101 in 1001

I don't know why it's taken me this long to write about it, but here we go.

Almost a year ago, I started reading Mackenzie Horan's blog, Design Darling. (If you don't already, go read it! It's the best.) One thing that she highlights on her blog is her 101 things in 1001 days list, which inspired me to create my own. How it works is that you come up with 101 things you'd like to accomplish in the next 1001 days. It can be anything, no matter how big or small.

I knocked a bunch of travel-related ones this summer, but I've still only done 23. Eek! I guess I have about two years left, but still--it doesn't seem like a lot. Here are a few things I wrote on my list:
  • Attend 10 fine-arts or cultural events (3/10)
  • Visit five UNESCO Heritage Sites (completed)
  • Travel to five new countries (2/5)
  • Read 50 new books (6/50)
  • Learn to speak Arabic
If you want to see the rest, simply go click on the "101 in 1001" page in my top bar, or just click here.

Do you have a list like this? If so, I'd love to see it--I enjoy seeing what everyone else wants to do.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Where Has the Time Gone?

It seems like just yesterday I was itching to graduate from high school. Four years later, I'm feeling it again. How is this possible? I feel like I merely blinked and the time just passed like that. As I'm preparing to head back to Ann Arbor for my last semester of college, I'm feeling bittersweet about it. I'm just dying to get out in the real world--I already had a taste of it in D.C., and I love it. On the other hand, I'm second-guessing myself. Did I make the most out of my college experience? Did I get all of my "craziness" out of the way?

I just wrote the first draft of my cover letter for my dream job, and it's starting to sink in. I'm leaving the cozy nest of college, and venturing out on my own. Honestly, even though I'm scared, I'm ready. The hardest part is that I probably won't know what I'm doing until after I graduate. Between graduate school, jobs, fellowships, and year-long programs, I won't know the results of most of my applications until May. This is incredibly hard for me. I watch as so many of my friends have jobs offers lined up or graduate-school acceptances, but I also have to take a step back. These job offers are mostly in the field of business, and most of these school acceptances are in health fields. This is not what I want.

I guess there is no real purpose to this rant except to vent. Although next year may be up in the air, one thing is certain: I couldn't be readier to move on. Cheers to 2014, and the hope of moving to D.C. this year.

I actually took this, believe it or not.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Preparing for the Antarctic

No, I'm not going anywhere...I'm talking about the Midwest.

Michigan has always had a bad rap for being freezing. Usually, it's not much worse than Chicago or New York, and we don't get Snowmageddons like New England. This week, it is that bad, though.


And I'm supposed to go to class?!

Here's what I want--no, need--for winter, now.



Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Lipstick

In addition to nail polish, my other weakness is lipstick. As in, I have no self-control when I'm in a drugstore, department store, or other beauty retailer.

It didn't actually start until recently. Last year, I had three or four lipsticks, but I only wore them when I was getting dressed up. Now, I have around 20, and I feel naked if I leave the house without wearing any. That part began sometime late this summer, after I came back from France, but I can't exactly pinpoint it.

These are my absolute favorites:

 

Jubilee is a great neutral, perfect for those days when you don't want a bold color but want to put on some lipstick. It also works well for interviews, business affairs, and any other time you need to look polished but professional.

I never would have picked Rebel out on my own--I loved it on my friend in Israel, so much that she dragged me to the MAC store to buy this and the matching lipliner. Whenever I wear it, I feel daring, so I usually pair it berry- or neutral-colored clothing.

Coral is my go-to color in the spring and summer. It's neutral enough that it doesn't stand out, but gives just enough color to feel girly.

The Estée Lauder is a pricier lipstick, but well worth it in my opinion. It has a hint of sparkle, has a huge pop of color, and looks great with just about everything.

Of all the reds that I've tried, this Milani color comes in at number 1--and costs only $6 at the drugstore! While I could do without the waxy feel, the color looks so great, and it stays on for a long time. Whenever I go out, I wear this.

And there you have it, my top-five lipsticks! All are tried and true, but that doesn't mean that I don't love to experiment. Happy New Year!

2013 in Review

One year ago today, I moved to Washington for the most incredible four months of my life. That aside, this was definitely my year. So many wonderful things happened and I had so many great experiences, it's hard to believe it all happened within just one year. Here are some highlights:

  • I held my dream internship of over two years at the Embassy of France in Washington, D.C.
  • I went on to spend my summer interning in Tours, France.
  • I traveled to England, Morocco, Israel, all around France, and the East Coast.
  • I achieved my first 4.0 semester in college!
  • I made amazing contacts, and even more amazing friends.
  • I saw so many old friends who live/go to school outside of Michigan. Sara, Mitch, Hillary, Louis, Abraham, Inbar, Liran, Natalie, and Adi. Some of whom I hadn't seen in almost four years.
  • Most importantly, I figured myself out. I decided upon a career, found my path to it, and feel more confident in my own skin.
Here's to an even better 2014. Happy New Year!

Embassy of France; Oval Office; Buckingham Palace; city of Tours; Saadian Tombs in Marrakech, Morocco; beach in Tel Aviv
 
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