Florence Week One.

We got to Italy last Wednesday and it’s been a whirlwind since. Emily and I flew into Rome, took a bus to the train station, took a train to Florence, walked 60+ pounds of luggage up and down windy streets and FINALLY got our housing assignment. We met up with Delaney and Eileen and got to our apartment that night. It is small but has wonderful perks including a cozy patio off the bedrooms, mosquito screens, and a toaster? Everyday I get a little more comfortable here.

Florence is extremely confusing to me, since every street looks the same BUT today I wandered around mapless and found my way home, so progress is on its way?

We have pretty much spent our days exploring the city. Highlights include::

-Trip to the central market (basically a giant indoor farmers market) for fresh fruit, biscottis, and olive oil.

-More than one trip for gelato. One shop has an employee with the most ridiculous rat tail in all the world. We like to get gelato and sit on the steps of the Duomo (you can see it from our apartment…it’s about a 5 minute walk!) and people watch. People are really weird and watching them and making up back stories for their lives is one of my all time favorite hobbies.

-Morning run around Florence. The city is most beautiful in the morning I think. It was cool outside, so quiet, and really peaceful.

-Quiet times out on our patio.

-Dinner with friends out on the patio. Mostly anything on the patio is great.

-Mass at San Miniato al Monte and enjoying the incredible view afterwards.

-Roommate dinners.

-Skype dates with Isaac.

I’m not sure if Florence is exactly what I pictured, but I’ve loved a lot of moments since being here. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned so far has been trusting in the provision and protection of the Lord. I think it will be a daily decision to choose trust and peace, and it’s good. Once again, I feel like a year has passed in a week. It’s wild to think it hasn’t even been a week in Italy yet. So excited to make Florence my home for a while and see all that unfolds this semester.

 

Da Duomo. It really has not gotten any less beautiful. Every time I see it, I appreciate it so much.

Da Duomo. It really has not gotten any less beautiful. Every time I see it, I appreciate it so much.

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Overwhelming cheese options at the market. Beautiful, I knowwww.

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My front door. There are about 6 deadbolts to get into my actual apartment. Don’t know if that’s comforting or unsettling. Both I think.

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Two of my cute roommates.

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Dinner party set up.

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Our view after church. Breathtaking. I needed that hike to see the beauty in Florence. When you get away from the tourist sections, the town is gorgeous and peaceful and at its best.

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I get to live with the greatest girls. This is San Miniato al Monte. It sits on top of the hill with the view above.

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America’s Next Top Model. I think I just got eliminated.

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Even the Lorenzo de Medici cafeteria is beautiful.

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Dinner party with friends 🙂

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Making the trek back home.

 

The last few pictures were stolen from Emily and Eileen. Check out all my roommates blogs/pictures because they are all so beautiful and hip and real in, okay.

Emily.

Eileen.

Delaney.

 

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Ireland.

Advice from me to you: Keep up on your blogs and journals. Every day. I have been overwhelmed with trying to find time to journal all that’s happening, contact people back home, and finally show pictures/blog on my trip so far. My new motto has involuntarily become “I’ll do that tomorrow.” So first, here’s whassup with Ireland.

I left Omaha on August 20th and flew to Dublin, Ireland. Big shout out to Deb Schmidt who drove me to the airport, hauled home extra clothes because my suitcase weighed too much, bought me a Panera farewell breakfast, AND supplied me with great pepper spray. Big blessing. Emily, Paige, and Chelsie are these cute girls in the pictures below who I got to spend the week with. We flew from Omaha–>Newark–>Dublin and arrived at 7 am Ireland time. We arrived at our hostel only to find out we had to wait until 3 pm to check in. Sooooo we locked up our luggage and sleepily wandered the town for a bit. Espresso and the chilly wind helped some, but we were pretty out of it. The next three days we spent exploring the city. There were some fun gems, like a garden we found (full of gorgeous flowers, green grass, and paths winding around the park), St. Patricks Cathedral, and the Dublin Castle. We also had fun going to a few pubs and finding out Irish men really do just love to drink beer and laugh loud. But…for the most part….Dublin is not great. After we told some friends we weren’t loving it, we heard lots of “Oh yeah, I’ve heard Dublin is really dark and not that great.” And my reply would be: where were all you advice-giving friends before??! I feel it is my duty as a friend to get the word out on this city: take a day trip in and walk around for a bit. See some shopping, get a beer, and then leave before the clock strikes midnight. Scary ish goes down and you’ll smell like cigarettes and sadness for a week plus.

We stayed in Dublin through Friday night, and then on Saturday morning, we traveled by train to Bantry. Our friend, Amy, picked us up and took us to her house in Durrus. She had studied abroad in Ireland a few years ago, fell in love with an Irish man, and now they live in Durrus. I think they’re making a movie about her life soon. I can’t even explain how much I loved that weekend. It was the best way to see Ireland and how beautiful it really is. We got to relax in their beautiful home, explore their small town, visit a local church, picnic with friends after, and watch movies with warm tea and cookies. Dream life. Amy and her husband Rob have been able to host a Bible study in their home and are involved in their church. Their discipleship and faithfulness has already produced visible fruit, and it was exciting to hear the ways they are being used in a their country.

After the amazing week, we headed back to Dub-city and listened to “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” on repeat on the bus. (Just kidding.) We checked into a new hostel…which was just a taaaad unsettling. I slept with my wallet, passport, and laptop in my pillow. And that’s all I’ll say. But we didn’t spend much time there or in the city. Tuesday we spent the day traveling to Limerick and Shannon, Ireland. We saw the Cliffs of Moher, Burren National Park, and the city of Doolin. Burren National Park was breathtaking. Sitting on the cliffs and overlooking the ocean was kind of an indescribable moment. Ireland really is a beautiful place, and it was a peaceful moment to take in beauty and appreciate the work of our Father so much.

Wednesday we got up real early. (3:45) We took a cab to the airport, grabbed some coffee, and took off for Italy! Italy updates are on the way.

You’d think such a simple update would be easy to fit in any old day. You’d be wrong. Pistachio gelato is a really needy friend…it calls for a lot of my time and attention…

Off to Europe! We all got to meet up and spend time in the Omaha airport before splitting up for two separate flights. By "spend time" I mean "figure out how to get luggage to 50 pounds."

Off to Europe! We all got to meet up and spend time in the Omaha airport before splitting up for two separate flights. By “spend time” I mean “figure out how to get luggage to 50 pounds.”

 

Emily and I have decided against taking a trip to Pisa, Italy, just to do this classic pose next to the leaning tower. So we improvised with St. Patricks Cathedral. Midwest girls: always thinkin ahead.

Emily and I have decided against taking a trip to Pisa, Italy, just to do this classic pose next to the leaning tower. So we improvised with St. Patricks Cathedral. Midwest girls: always thinkin ahead.

 

Gardens in Dublin. It's saving grace.

Gardens in Dublin. It’s saving grace.

 

Amy and Rob's kitchen window :) I had only been gone for three days, but it felt extremely peaceful to rest in a home for a weekend.

Amy and Rob’s kitchen window 🙂 I had only been gone for three days, but it felt extremely peaceful to rest in a home for a weekend.

 

Crossing the creek to our Sunday picnic spot. We got sandwiches (called rolls in Ireland) and had chocolate cake for dessert. Ireland was pretty chilly but the sun came out for our afternoon on the creek.

Crossing the creek to our Sunday picnic spot. We got sandwiches (called rolls in Ireland) and had chocolate cake for dessert. Ireland was pretty chilly but the sun came out for our afternoon on the creek.

 

Chelsie, Emily, Amy, Myself, and Paige. We wanted to cover the full spectrum of hair color…no shade left behind.

Chelsie, Emily, Amy, Myself, and Paige. We wanted to cover the full spectrum of hair color…no shade left behind.

 

Cliffs of Moher.

Cliffs of Moher.

 

Burren National Park.

Burren National Park. “Oh did you just take a picture of me casually laughing on a cliff? I didn’t notice. But I’m always casually laughing on a cliff so that’s probably why.”

 

Off to Italy!! We packed light……...

Off to Italy!! We packed light………

 

grace comes after you.

i took this picture below at palisades park, and i remember blasting “colorful” by will reagan with isaac when we left the park. the song + scenery was enough to make me happier than an isu freshman the first time they see ada hayden. “you are colorful in the way that you’ve saved me, in the way that you’ve given me life.” i’ve been given a whole lot of life, love, and joy. and i don’t deserve it and mess things up a lot. but grace comes after me all the time and i’m just given life, love, and joy all over again. but at a deeper level. and its like woah. his grace comes after you when you’re wanting it, needing it, or avoiding it.

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Bridal Shower.

People say you can’t have more than one “best friend” because only one person can be the best. These people don’t know Kathryn and Tiffany. I have been blessed with not one, but TWO best friends, and we have been inseparable ever since pre-school. Today, one of these girls is engaged and marrying her new best friend in one month! Tiffany and I are so excited for Kathryn and got to throw her a bridal shower a few weeks ago to say “hey. we love you and are excited that you are getting married. okay?”

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Tiffany is the greatest to plan anything with. She is a go-getta at heart and has a mother with a secret stash of ONE MILLION mason jars.

see? mason. jars. everywhere.

see? mason. jars. everywhere.

We are newbies at this party-planning thang, but we adored every step of it. The menu planning, the baking, the setting up, everything.

The menu had the theme of Kathryn. We wanted some of her favorite things + a way to use up all those mason jars.

We had peach tea and lemonade for drinks. The striped straws were from a local craft store.

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We had chicken salad, bruschetta, a “chip bar”, and DESSERT. You can’t gather 20+ women in one area and not offer multiple dessert options. We didn’t need to be party planners to know this.

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Chicken salad.

Strawberry Nutella Tarts. (recipe below)

Strawberry Nutella Tarts. (recipe below)

Sugar cookies + homemade frosting.

Sugar cookies + homemade frosting.

Strawberry Shortcake Shooters.

Strawberry Shortcake Shooters.

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Table set up at Moore Memorial park.

Everyone pinned date ideas for Kath as they left and picked up their “favor.” Attached was a prayer card. I saw this idea at a bridal shower I attended a few months ago, and I thought it was the most beautiful way to encourage a couple long after their wedding day.

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Cookie sandwiches + prayer card.

Kathryn has been such a blessing in my life. 20 years of friendship with this girl is something I’m very thankful for. She will be a great wife, and it was so fun celebrating her new marriage with these beautiful women.

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*strawberry nutella tarts recipe here

*pictures were taken by Andrew Rizer. No way I could ever make those straws look so artsy.

Creative Confidence

Creative Confidence

Last night I had the small task of addressing some invites. Thought process before diving into the task went something like this:

“Oh, I NEED to get these out. I will address and stamp them right now.” —> “This will take ten minutes? Probably?” —> “I should listen to a  TED talk, right?” —> “I mean, I would like someone to make me feel like addressing these envelopes will be a step towards changing the entire world. After all, I’m the freaking future. Right? Right??” —> “I’ll just google creativity TED talks now. NOW, I said.”

So I did. I actually first stumbled upon a few articles talking about creativity, and how it’s something we all have, and it’s important, and blah blah blah. They were okay. And then I found David Kelley’s TED talk on creative confidence. The video is below, and I encourage you to watch it. It’s only 11 minutes. So, go ahead, address those envelopes! Clean that stovetop! Boil that water! But first turn on this video. You will be able to assess your personal creative confidence and also feel more like a game-changer than a mere water-boiler. You’re not just heating up that water, you’re CHANGING THE WAY IT ACTS! You inspired that water to evolve, didn’t you?

I’m kind of making it sound like the video is cheesy and inaccurate. But it’s not. It is actually motivational and helped me realize common reasons I fear my own creativity. And more importantly, how to push against this fear. The gist of the talk is this: we’re all creative. People are not creative OR analytical. That’s just the black and white order we’ve created ourselves. Creative growth comes through small victories. You don’t need to change the entire universe with your first idea. And you most likely won’t. But with a small victory comes confidence to act again, think a little harder, challenge your comfort zone a little more.

Following the video, I read this article here. Written by Tom Kelley and David Kelley, it sums up the TED talk and adds some more insight. At one point in the article, the authors state that “creativity is something you practice, not just a talent you’re born with.” That makes it far less intimidating to venture into a new discipline, share your new idea, or even just attempt to think of fresh spins on whatever you’re working on. Small victories, people. Small steps toward rediscovering creativity.

creative confidence = natural ability + courage

David Kelley: How to Build Your Creative Confidence

the early bird gets the worm, but the lazy bird gets the sweet youtube video.

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I meant to do a short recap of my first trip to New York/the YMA experience, but then….I didn’t. My pictures were subpar, and I found it a little hard to explain why I was there to people who asked. I think I was there to have the opportunity to meet people who care about the fashion industry and hear about ways they are giving back to education. But it also could have been to eat the waldorf salad. Either way…can I do it again?

New York was great. I became acutely aware that there ain’t no sunshine when the buildings are so very tall. And for that reason alone, I probably couldn’t make it as a New Yorkite? New Yorkian? New Yorkie? New Yorker…that’s the one. Besides missing the sunshine, the city showed me a good time. I was a complete tourist, but…like…a cool one….not like those OTHER tourists. The YMA gala was one of the beautiful events I’ve attended. Alber Elbaz gave a humble yet inspiring speech on his journey in the fashion industry. His humility was surprising in the best way. I am still very grateful for the opportunity I had to go and see all that I did. Iowa State, you’ve done it again. You’ve been the best.

I met another student there who recently shared the following video. Which is the whole reason this came to my mind again, and I was reminded I never got around to saying much about New York. Watch if you want; enjoy the Biebs singing to you, if nothing else.

Also:: I fully intend to visit NYC again, when I have more of a flexible schedule. Suggestions??

Potato Stamp!

Here is the cutest way to use a potato. EVER. Thanks to Rae Alexis for this entire tutorial! Check it out!

I have a crafty lil thang up my sleeve for this weekend, and am planning on trying this out! I will let you know how it turns out.

My personal twist on this idea: buy 2 extra potatoes. Boil. Mash. Mix with butter and salt. Eat. Be all like, “mmmmmmm.”

PotatoStamp_Supplies Rae Alexis > Potato Stamp How-to-1 Rae Alexis > Potato Stamp How-To-2

Alleluia.

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I spent my Last Friday night surrounded by friends celebrating birthdays and drinking wine and laughing. It made my heart happy and my spirit thankful for such great people in my life. Tonight I am spending my Friday night in my apartment with wine, m&m’s, and my bible. (Because I am a girl, okay?) And I have absolutely loved both Fridays. I find it really lovely that while I have the best friends around, I am fully satisfied in my Father.

This week has been long. And I’m tired. But mostly I’m so pleased that as my days are always changing and my heart is too, Christ is not. He is constant and beautiful and mine, whether I’m with 30+ friends or alone on my couch. Alleluia. I don’t understand at all. And I’m so happy I’ve learned that this is the exact reason I love and need Him.