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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My Four Personal Travel Must-Haves

Studying abroad takes a great deal of courage (Great, now I sound like I'm sending you off to battle). You're going to be living off on your own in another country that is completely different from everything you know and anything familiar. You may be travelling with someone you already know or you may be starting a new adventure in your life with people you have never met. 

When I studied abroad, I knew zero people I would be spending the next four months with before boarding the plane to Spain. It wasn't scary, it was absolutely petrifying. However, seeing as I'm sitting here writing it appears that I made it out alive. Whether you're studying abroad or just travelling, having some of your favorite things with you can make a huge difference, especially if the trip is long-term. 

The following four items are what I consider to be my Personal Must-Haves for travelling (not in any specific order). 

1. Sony Bloggie
This little guy went with me EVERYWHERE while I was living abroad. I made a ton of videos documenting my experience, and making those videos is one of the best decisions I've ever made. Rather than just having photos to look at, I now have a plethora of embarrassing video footage from my life in Spain. Who doesn't love embarrassing videos of themselves, am I right?  I am able to watch moments from my 4 months in Europe unfold before me. I'm able to watch my first walk with my friend Tori to La Universidad de Sevilla. I am able to hear what it sounded like in the coffee shops. I can relive my hilarious camel ride in Morocco. Basically, I would like to give an Oscar to the Bloggie. You're the, little dude.

2. Pictures of Friends and Family
This is especially important if you are living abroad for an extended period of time. Having some pictures of my friends and family was vital in making a smooth transition into Spanish life, because I was able to have a small snippet of home with me. You can remind yourself that these people do still exist and that you haven't been transported to some sort of alternate universe. I recommend hanging them up by your dresser or by a mirror so you can easily see them when you're feeling homesick.  

3. My Handy, Dandy Journal
I cannot stress enough the importance of writing about your day-to-day experiences while travelling or living abroad. Not only is it a way to document your experiences, it is a great way to relieve stress and culture shock. I draw a lot in my journal, write inspirational quotes, cut and paste from magazines, and write. Your journal is your journal, you can do with it what you please, but simply having and using one is most important.

4. Reindeer 
This is my stuffed animal reindeer that I received as a gift from my brother when I was seven. His name is literally Reindeer. He really enjoyed coming to Spain with me. Yes, I am 21 years-old. It was another little piece of home and he helped lessen the culture shock. 

Until next time,

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Letter to My 14-Year-Old Self

Picture evidence that I was so awkward at 14. 

Growing up, I always wrote letters to my future self. I wrote one when I was 13 for when I 16, one at 16 for when I was 18, one at 18 for my 21st birthday, and when I was 20 I wrote a letter which I won't open until I am 30 years old (I have a while to wait before opening that one, thanks goodness. I don't want to feel old just yet).

It is amazing to see how much I have changed and haven't changed through the progression of these letters. The letters acted as mini snapshots of my most formative years, the years when I experienced my first date, my first big questions about relationships and love, my worries and hopes for the future, my developing intellectual views on life as I grew into a young woman. Every so often I take them out of the little box I keep on my dresser and reread them. I always laugh out loud at the words written on the page in front of me because it's funny how I still have these same exact questions. I have never been in love and still don't know a single darn thing about it. My present is now the future I once fretted while writing these letters, yet I'm still constantly worrying about tomorrow, the next day, the following week, the years to come. I'm still learning about life and developing my views, and I plan to keep learning and growing for the rest of my life.

I would love to challenge everyone reading this to start writing letters to your future self. It is a truly remarkable experience when you open a letter written by your younger self.

However, I want to switch it up today and write a letter to my 14 year-old self, right as I entered high school. So here goes nothing, hopefully the younger Leah doesn't judge me too much or think I'm a complete nut job.

Dear 14 year-old Leah,

You entering high school. Finally, right? I know it sounds crazy and that you feel like you're practically a grandmother, but trust me, you're not old. Not even close.

I'm sitting here right now, 7 years in the future, wondering how much I've actually changed from you. I have quite the extensive collection of Disney songs on my phone, I still read books from the YA section of the bookstore, I act like an elementary schoolgirl when I have a crush on someone, I find my class notes to be filled more with doodles than actual information, and I still have trouble knowing when to be serious and when to be silly. Am I even an adult?

I'd like to consider myself youthful in a good way. If growing up means becoming boring, then count me out. However, while I feel that there are parts of me that will never "grow up," there are other parts that have been shaped by the lessons I have learned over the past 7 years, the lessons which will continue to transform me for the rest of my life.

These next four years in high school are going to be some of the absolute best years of your life. They're also going to be the foundation of some of your biggest life lessons, so listen up.

Do what you want to do because it's what you love. Don't let your passions be tossed under the rug because you want to do what's cool. You're going to miss out on a lot your freshman year because you're going to be focused on partying and hanging out with the wrong crowd, but you will find your way. I just wish you would find your way faster and be confident in who you are, not who you wish you were.

Boyfriends are overrated. Don't waste your time searching for your soul mate in high school, I promise you won't find him there. You will simply be weeding through all of the "hell-no's" and making yourself frustrated when Prince Charming isn't waiting by your locker with flowers. Remember that Valentine's Day is just an excuse for chocolate and card companies to rack in more sales. You don't need a Valentine to feel special, you're beautiful and unique all on your own. I know this is hard to hear since you are very much a true romantic, but I have hopes that one day everything will all work out the way it is supposed to be.

Stop taking your friendships for granted. If I'm being honest, you can be quite a (insert favorite profanity here) to your friends sometimes because you know they'll always have your back, but lay off, will you? Take the time to put your friends before yourself, to ask how they are doing and really want to know the answer, and to actually listen to them when they tell you to stop doing something.

Realize that you are not going to stay friends with everyone for the rest of your life. Every person in your life has a purpose and a lesson to teach you, but you lose touch with those whose purpose in our lives has been completed. There's a great quote that reads, "When your heart aches, just remember God knows what's best, and when the times is right God will show you the difference between people who are meant to play a part in your life and those who are meant to be apart of your life" - Unknown. You are going to try your hardest to stay connected with as many people as you can and it's going to hurt horribly when people start to cut ties from you. People you've known your whole life will become distant memories and it's going to be painful, but you will make it through. You will find new shoulders to cry on and new friends to always have your back.

You're going to make some gigantic mistakes in the years to come, but it's not going to be the end of the world. Don't think that drinking is going to make you an adult. I know you think that if you do then you'll have a stronger relationship with your brother, but you're just going to cause yourself more problems. You're going to lose your parents' trust, but know that they will always love you. There is no way that I can tell you exactly which mistakes to avoid because you need to make them in order to learn from them. You need to be a failure at times in order to be a success later.

You will never be able to make every single person happy. You will only make yourself depressed and miserable by attempting to accomplish this. Don't change yourself to fit someone else's ideal mold. Don't silence your opinion because it's not the same as the majority. You have a unique purpose in this world and if you conform to the image somebody else has for you then you will never be able to discover what God has planned. Don't be afraid to be exactly who you are. In fact, be PROUD to be the truest version of yourself. You will be much happier. Didn't you know? Happy girls are the prettiest girls.

My last piece of advice is this: Tell people how you really feel. Go out on a limb and take a chance because life is too short to wonder what could have been. The worst thing someone can say is "no" or tell you that they're not interested, so just do it. Be bold.

Until next time,
Future Leah

Thursday, September 18, 2014

How to Fit Your Life Into a Carry-On Bag

Packing into a carry-on bag has forever been considered an old wives' tale in my opinion. How can one possibly fit their entire lives into a small, backpack-sized carry-on bag? This is a trick question. The answer is clearly no.


If you are familiar with RyanAir, you will know that some airline companies are extremely strict when it comes to their baggage size requirements and will charge outrageous fees if you bring a second bag. I'm here to tell you from personal experience that not only is it possible to pack for longer trips into a small carry-on bag that avoids these ridiculous baggage costs, but that you don't have to look like a complete hobo during your travels by doing such!

This is a win for everyone involved, because will you have mastered the art of packing in confined spaces and everyone else around you won't be horrified by the sight of your everyday appearance during your journey. 

So let's dive in and learn some nifty tips and tricks in order to accomplish this seemingly impossible task. If I can pack for 4 days in Paris in a miniature backpack, then you can pack your life into a carry-on too.

1. Limit the amount of bulky items you bring with you.

If your travel destination is someplace warm, then this should be a lot easier because you won't really be needing heavy coats and sweatshirts. However, if you are traveling someplace that is expected to have low temperatures, you will clearly be needing clothing that will not cause you to get frostbite and lose limbs (Nothing is more awkward than traveling with someone who's losing body parts). Try to bring one coat/sweatshirt that can be used over multiple outfits to maximize your storage. Another great discovery I made while living and traveling abroad was TURTLENECKS. You may think that these retro beauties have lost their charm, but they're easy to fold and very compact, making them packing wonders. They're also great to throw on underneath a coat and won't make you look like a walking marshmallow. 

WHAT NOT TO BRING: Big, bulky sweaters/sweatshirts that will take up a lot of room.

WHAT TO BRING: Light, slim turtlenecks that will provide warmth without taking up a lot of room.

2. Wear your bulkiest items on the plane.

Just as Joey from "Friends" depicts in the above photo, it's important to make use of what you wear while riding the plane in order to maximize the space you have in your carry-on. If you are choosing to bring a giant sweatshirt or sweater, wear it on the plane. I don't care how long the plane ride is or how uncomfortable you are throughout the flight because you will thank me when you are able to bring more of your belongings with you. 

3. Roll your clothes when packing.

When you roll your clothing, it is easier to fit more in your bag. Folding clothing (especially when packing into a backpack-sized carry-on) takes up more room, a.k.a. a huge no-no for your packing endeavors. So get like dough and roll those clothes. 

4. Bring clothing pieces that can be worn again with different outfits (and nobody will really know!)

Leggings are your new best friend. Black leggings especially can be paired with many different tops to create varying casual and more dressed up looks, and they are incredibly compact and easy to roll when it comes to packing. If you are headed to a warm destination that is going to warrant shorts, a pair of nondescript black or white shorts that are made from lighter material can also be substituted because they are still easy to roll and won't be bulky in the packing process. In addition, try to only bring one pair of shoes that can be paired with a variety of outfits so you can save room in your carry-on for toiletries rather than take up all of the room with another pair of shoes. If you are bringing jewelry, the same rule applies in which you should attempt to only bring one pair of earrings and/or one necklace. 

Here are examples of how I created four different outfits using the same pair of leggings, shoes, and jewelry: 


5. Pack all of your toiletries into baggies.

You will thank me when liquids don't spill all over your clothes. Trust me from personal experience, there is nothing that brings me greater joy than opening my bag after a long flight to find that "items shifted during flight" and created a wonderful spill (heavy sarcasm). 

I hope that these five tips gave you a better insight on how your are going to tackle the task of packing into a carry-on bag. No matter how many tips and tricks you receive, it is a process that one can only master once they've had to go through it themselves. So best of luck to you on your packing and travel adventures, the world awaits you.

Until next time,

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Art of the Selfie

If you want to write a novel but you hate reading, you probably won't get very far. The same logic goes for bloggers: If you want to own a successful blog, you have to read other blogs. So, taking my own advice, I often find myself perusing various blogs in my spare time. Thanks to the "Popular Posts" section of Bloglovin' (,  I was able to stumble upon a great post by "Helene in Between" that listed 30 creative blog topics one should try. You can check out her post by clicking HERE! All of ideas were interesting and fun, but one in particular stuck out to me.

Idea #2: Your Favorite Selfie and Why. 

I personally consider myself to be the selfie queen, and often find myself snapping a quickie regardless of where I am or who I'm with. Walking to class in the middle of campus? Selfie. Running at the gym? Selfie. Listening to a lecture in class? Selfie. I am virtually unstoppable when it comes to selfie mode. It only gets awkward when you forget your phone volume is up as you snap a pic, instantly taking you from incognito mode to broadcasting mode. 

I've decided to accept Helene's challenge and amplified the requirements.

I now present to you my FIVE favorite selfies and why. 

1.) The "I'm Trying to Catch Flies in My Mouth" Selfie

This picture was taken in Lagos, Portugal while I was studying abroad last year. The views and scenery were absolutely indescribable and it is an experience I will surely never forget. I like this selfie because you are able to catch a small, small, microscopic glimpse of the picturesque surroundings. Only a small peek though. The main star of this photo is my face, which is clearly more important. I appear to be somewhere in the middle of screaming out in pain and squealing with excitement. Maybe my mouth really is closed and I have an unfortunately large gap in between my two rows my teeth, just like when I was little: 

Wow, those are some jacked up teeth!

2.) The "I Got the Whole World In My Hand" Selfie

This fun little photo was taken in Morocco last year during my study abroad experience. Setting foot on the continent of Africa had always been on my bucket list, so finally being able to cross it off was a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. This particular selfie features the infamous "duck lips," a crime for which I am a repeat offender. What I like about this photo is that the duck lips aren't as pronounced as "in your face" as most duck lips normally are. In fact, what I truly appreciate about this selfie is the apparent effort to hold back those eager duck lips, creating a sort of "pursed lips" appearance. Having Morocco in the background ain't too shabby either.

3.) The "I'm Storing Nuts for the Winter" Selfie

For Selfie #3 I have decided to use my "Phone a Friend" lifeline. This selfie features my friend Hannah as we cheer at the Real Betis fĂștbol game in Sevilla on Halloween. There are a couple of reasons why I enjoy this selfie. One, I am no longer alone in my selfie efforts. Though most of Hannah's body is cut out of the shot in order to make room for the more important subject, me, her face is clearly in the shot and thus it counts as a dual-person selfie. Two, I decided to dress up for Halloween as a CIA agent. Wearing a coral scarf. In all fairness, at least no one would suspect me of being a secret agent. 

4.) The "What is Even Happening" Selfie

It was my 21st birthday. I was celebrating in Sevilla, Spain. I accidentally took a shot of absinthe. Quite a remarkable evening. 

5.) The "Monkey See, Monkey Do" Selfie

One of the most enjoyable activities I found while studying abroad was to take awkward selfies in front of pieces of artwork or statues. In said selfies, I would attempt to imitate the exact same expression the artwork was displaying. This particular selfie was taken on my last day in Sevilla, the day after my entire family flew in and my brother surprised me by visiting as well. They were all standing by, watching as this magical moment took place. My dad joined in on the photography fun and now has a picture of me taking this exact selfie. 

Until next time,

Friday, August 29, 2014

"All Children, Except One, Grow Up" ...And That Would Be Me

This coming spring I will be graduating from Elon University.

...Wait, what?

As most seniors know, it feels like it was just yesterday that I was beginning what would be the best four years of my life. Just yesterday I got my picture taken for my Phoenix Card, a.k.a. your Elon University lifeline. Just yesterday I moved all of my things into that horrifying dorm known as "Old Staley." Just yesterday it was my first day of preseason for the Elon Dance Team, my second family while away at school. Just yesterday I was sprinting down the hill towards a group of 150 other women who I am lucky to call my sisters in Sigma Kappa.

My first day at Elon, the day I moved into Old Staley.

Now unfortunately you can't get your picture retaken for your Phoenix Card, so as a senior I'm still stuck with the same 18 y.o. face fitted with a pair of solid black eyes that make me look like a demon. Apparently the printer was having an off day and couldn't print eyes, so I got stuck looking like a monster all throughout my college experience. And Old Staley was the perfect name for my freshman dorm since our hall continuously reeked of fifty rotting corpses. I'd also like to note that I was charged $200 for the sink in my room because it wasn't "clean enough" and then the university tore the building down two weeks later. There were days when I was absolutely overwhelmed by the time commitment required of varsity athletes on a collegiate team. The days when I performed at practice as if I had just learned how to dance were my absolute favorite. And there were those days when I got into petty arguments with my sisters. One time I sat in the corner of my room in the dark and just sulked, because apparently I'm really mature.

My horrible Phoenix Card. Apparently Elon now allows creatures to attend the university.

However, looking back, I wouldn't change one single thing. You have to take the good and the bad. One of the most important life lessons I've gained at college is to just roll with it. Whether you're rolling with the punches or rolling with piles of good fortune, college has been an insane ride so far and I'd really prefer that it didn't end.

So here's my advice: Go to that party on a weeknight even when you have a huge paper due the next day. Spend money that you don't have on a movie ticket with your friends, or to go to a concert that you probably won't remember. Worry less, laugh more. Do what you want to do, not what you think you have to. Focus on building relationships rather than maintaining a perfect GPA. Make stupid decisions, then make them again. Don't hold grudges. Get involved around campus, because you never know who you'll meet or what you'll learn when you step outside of your dorm room. Meet new people, try new things. College is the time to start figuring out who you are, so find your passions and pursue them.

As you progress through college, the intensity of those exhilarating memories you once had starts to lessen as you lay new memories on top of the old. It doesn't really hit you until your senior year when you begin backstalking yourself on Facebook or flipping through old photos that you realize: "Holy crap, this has been one heck of an amazing ride."

Seniors, this is our year. Let's be reckless and stupid while we can. It's scary to think about what comes next and it's bittersweet to hear the word "graduation," but we're not there yet. We still have this year, this final hoorah. A child I nannied once told me that you're still a child until you graduate college, so let's be kids while we still can.

My name is Leah. I'm a senior.

In the wise words of One Direction: "I wanna live while we're young."

Until next time,

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Here's to the Simplicity and Joy of Childhood

I recently found myself in a funk because I was getting jealous. I've been looking at all of my friends on Facebook that are my age and pouting at their impressive internships at well-known newspapers, magazines, PR companies, etc. Many of them are also spending their summer frolicking around in iconic cities like New York and Los Angeles.

And where do I have the privilege of spending my summer? The not-so-glamorous Severna Park, Maryland.

Now don't get me wrong, I am beyond #blessed (sorry, I had to). I really don't have much to complain about, seeing as I too frolicked in an iconic city with a wonderful internship (make that two internships). My past summer consisted of living the Hollywood life in Los Angeles while interning at both CollegeHumor and Familius, a book publishing company that focuses on the importance of family. I lived in the famous Oakwood apartments with all of the aspiring child actors and traveled to a new beach in California every weekend. Basically, I was living the dream.

Here are some photos that have me reminiscing about my summer in paradise, the summer when everything was absolutely perfect:

When I found James Cameron's star, the director of "Titanic" (a.k.a. my hero). 

Tessa and I at the Dodgers game.

That one time when I bought the Beatles' Yellow Submarine CD in Japanese... 

Oh, hey there, Hollywood sign, I'm behind you!

My noble steed for the summer, Leo.

Getting to see my twin, Lindsay, in her natural California habitat.

Sitting on the "Friends" couch with my L.A. roomies.

Welcome to Venice Beach. Self-explanatory.

Trying to model with the fashionista herself, Kathleen Harper.

Trying to model again. I should stick with dance.

Hanging out on top of the world.

The absolute BEST acting class and group of people you will ever meet.

Thanks, CollegeHumor, for helping me to perfect the best craft service table. They even sent a picture of my table to the CollegeHumor's president. BOOM. Best intern ever = me.

Yeah, I met Chuy. He was phenomenal. I know you're jealous.

Meet Esther, the sassiest Jewish woman ever. She was my grandma's old next door neighbor. We had weekly IHOP lunch dates. (Pictured with my mother, Diane, on the far left).

The best was when my parents came to visit at the end of the summer.

My Dad and I get really intense with the Buzz Lightyear game at Disneyland. I always lose. I blame the controller.

Clearly I can't complain, but I still feel bitter because I feel like I should be completing another internship this summer. However, after being $11,000 dollars in debt from my summer in Los Angeles, and then studying abroad in Spain and digging myself further into a debt hole, I decided that I should forgo an internship and get a job where I can earn money and start to save up in order to pay back those charming loans.

I am officially a nanny this summer for the same family I nannied when I was a freshman in college, and I can honestly say that it is a truly rewarding experience. There is something special that comes from watching children grow up and mature, and knowing that I've played a part in how they have grown up is indescribable altogether. 

I'm not saying that every day is a walk in the park, because I'm still dealing with kids and they are always full of surprises. Despite the fact that the kids are now two years older than my last summer with them, I still have to break up fights, act as a mediator, and come up with sufficient compromises. 

After being with the kids for almost three weeks now, I've discovered that my job as a nanny is more vital to my success later in life than I previously realized. A smile comes to my face when I realize that the toughest argument Will, the 12-year-old boy I nanny, has with is friends is over what would be the best super power to have in life. My smile grows when I watch Paige, the 9-year-old I nanny, try to create a pulley system with a hanger and duck tape for an hour and then use a tennis ball and blanket to transform into my fortune teller. 

These observations all come down to one thing: imagination. Kids have this amazing ability to enjoy life and to have fun that I find adults often forget. Being able to step back from the stress and strain of schoolwork, job searches and the task of packaging myself to employers and simply being a kid again has sparked a new light in me that I haven't seen for a while. I have the freedom to play and be silly. I have endless opportunities to smile and laugh. I have now found the ability to become entertained by blowing bubbles for two hours straight.

So here is a message to my friends who have their dream internships this summer: don't forget what is really important in life. You often find yourself so caught up in climbing the ladder and "making it" in the real world that you don't remember how to let go and simply enjoy life. 

I may be a step behind by not having an internship this summer, but I have found something much greater, and that is pure bliss.

Until next time,

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Your Guide to a Successful Me Day

Let's face it: everyone needs a "me day." You can pretty much use anything as an excuse for a break too, like men, responsibilities, the weight of everyday life, your friends, the world. The bottom line is that you need a day on which you do things that make YOU happy.

In celebration of tomorrow being #tbt, I've decided to use heinous photos of my younger self as examples of activities you can do on a "me day." Feel free to laugh at my awkwardness.

If there is a beach within a relatively close distance, you have access to a car and you have the whole day ahead of you...GO TO THE BEACH! What is more relaxing than your toes in the sand and the sound of crashing waves in the background? A beach is a great place to unwind and escape into your own paradise to get away from whatever is troubling you. The photos above were taken from my high school senior week, and I just so happened to crash the class of 2014's senior week this year with my best friend. It was such a fun trip, and a great way to escape for a couple days from my hectic life. 

Here are a few photos from the day that we went to the beach: 

View from the sidewalk.

View from the boardwalk.

Just hanging out alone. 

The picture above also happens to be from my high school senior week. Taking a nap is one of my favorite activities because they happen so rarely for me. I often find myself sleep deprived, so whenever I get the chance for a quick 30 minute snooze it is the best pick-me-up during a hectic day. If you're planning an awesome "me day," you'll want to plan a nice nap in your day in order to let your mind unwind. 

You know that moment when your song comes on the radio and you just want to yell out "THIS IS MY JAM!" and start dancing, but then you remember you're in public and that would be socially unacceptable? Well, now you can! Create a playlist of all the songs that get your feet tapping, grab your broom microphone, and have your own personal dance party. I definitely do this at least once a day, especially when I'm alone at my newspaper's office. Here's my thought: if you have a one man dance party and no one was there to see it, did it really happen? Exactly. 

If you're trying to get over that man that stabbed you in the heart or are feeling in need of a "new you," the best advice I can give is to change up your hair. If you note the picture above, I have extensively traveled the road of hair colors. I'm not ashamed. I like trying new things, even if they end up going horribly wrong, like the time I accidentally dyed my hair white (people called my Betty White for a long time). You can also just settle for an old-fashioned haircut, that might be easier and less risky. 

Growing up, my friends and I were always guilty of planning a photo shoot even when they were just plain awful (see above picture). We always planned them with the hopes of getting a cute new Myspace profile picture, but in the end they just ended up being a way where we could dress up and take pictures while laughing at the horrible outtakes (aka all of the photos). Let's face it, I'm not going to be a model anytime soon, but being goofy with your friends can be a great way to kick back and laugh at yourself.

And Finally, Look Up Some Inspirational Quotes

I found some of my favorite inspirational quotes and took them to Photoshop on my "Me Day." It's always enjoyable to feel inspired, so make a list of your favorite inspirational quotes and keep them handy for a rainy day or when you need a pick-me-upper.

I hope you have a successful "me day." Whatever you choose to do, make sure it's making you happy. After all, it's a day all about YOU.

Until next time,