Friday, September 18, 2015

My Weight Loss During Travel

So for me, traveling and weight loss don't go in the same sentence.  
When I travel to a different country I want to try every possible interesting looking dish available.  
Granted yes, when I travel I tend to walk...a lot. 
I usually gain about 3-10 pounds depending on what I do, (ie. drinking on the beach, eating dishes that are full fat and laden with cream and butter)

Throughout this year I've been slowly trying to lose my weight as I had hit the heaviest I had ever been back around January at 200.4 pounds. I changed little things and prior to my trip I was at 183.5. 

Then came the trip. 
2.5 months in Eastern Europe where the yogurts are full fat, the cheese is full fat, the dishes are delicious and non-pasteurized beer (and amazing micro-brews) run rampent. 
There was Poland with amazing dishes, although I can say I cooked at home most nights there.  I did have two meals with pierogi, but after that I had my fill.  I had quiches, sandwiches, chicken and rice combos, but my crutch was those beers. 

There was Athens, Greece which was stall after stall of natural and proper Greek yogurts including a goat milk Greek yogurt (AMAZING). There was tons of different meats, cheeses, fresh squeezed fruit juices, but also about 10 kilometers in 95F heat. So most days were by the beach. 

Then Paris. That was an interesting food adventure. I had plenty of wine, but also every cheese I could try, fresh bagguettes, pastries, meats and pates, fancy duck and suckling pig. There were delights for the eyes and the stomach! But we walked each day 20 kilometers! (we slept super well). 

So when I got back home, my big fear was "oh no....I gained".  Since I was writing my thesis in Poland, I spent most of my days glued to the computer or in my archive. So I didn't venture out as much as one would think.

But, I returned home. Weighed myself and am so happy to announce that I am 183.3! After all the gluttonous eating and drinking, I have remained the same size.  What I also learned being back home after a week, I don't crave American candy bars, or chips, or soda. How cool is that!?

According to my food tracker, if I keep up my pace, I'll reach my first goal of 175.5 pounds in about 5 weeks! Wow. I haven't been that weight in so long, and I liked how that distribution looked on me. 

Let me know in the comments if you want to hear more updates like this, I will happily keep them up. Perhaps also show my go to snacks and meals! 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Household Product Shopping in Poland

No, this isn't about me shopping for pillow cases or pictures 
since I'm only renting my apartment for a couple of months. 
In the US, I've been used to sale hunting for household cleaning/ household products
cause face it, a container of detergent ain't cheap. 

This habit carried on into my time here in Warsaw. 
I've searched store aisle getting ideas of what stores are more expensive. 
For example: 
MarcPol is very expensive for tissues, toilet paper, paper towels and detergent. 
Biedronka is best for cleaning sprays like window cleaner. 
Carrefour Express has a very limited supply of cleaning and paper products.
Additionally they have very few personal care items like deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste. 
Rossmann is so far my favourite for home supplies, and personal care. 

First off, they have an easy to navigate online store, so you already know how the shelves will be stocked.  The online store also shows all the current promos, so you can walk into the store with already how much you will spend.  
They also have a promo magazine online that shows everything and the promo price.  

So how much are household basics?

Alouette 100 tissue box
My guests used up a box of tissues, so I figured I would restock. 
or about 91 US cents

Paper Towels:
On my own one roll of paper towels lasted me about 2-3 weeks, but with guests I used up that roll.  
The four pack was the best deal. 
At home we go through a lot more paper towels but that's mostly because we have a dog that we need to clean up after, and using dish towels just doesn't cut it. 
or about 1.51 USD

Vanish OxiAction Płyn (Oxi Action Cleaner)
In the US Vanish is SO hard to find, and very expensive.  In the Polish markets, it's about 20 bucks for the same size bottle, but it works SO well.  In MarcPol the same bottle is 24.99 PLN. Talk about a price difference!
or 2.70 USD

E Active Caps Color 30 Count
This was on sale and a better deal than the previously used Domol 20 capsules so I picked this one up.  Between Domol and these on the promo price, there was a 3 PLN difference.  
or about 6.21 USD

Garnier Fructis Shampoo
I am running low and this was on promo too.  I was going to get a different brand but since this was even less than the others, I figured might as well use good old Garnier. 
or 2.16 USD

My total came to 49.95PLN or 13.50 USD. 
Without the promo discounts I would have spent 
64.15PLN or 17.34 USD.
I think this is extremely reasonable for these items especially since it includes detergent, paper towels and stain booster. 

Generally, household cleaning products aren't expensive in Poland. 
But you can still save from your budget by knowing where to shop. 
I saved 5 bucks or about 18.50 PLN which could cover a nice lunch. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Gradient Nails

I posted not to long ago that I disliked the OPI Its Hippo to be Square, 
but I think I cracked the code of how to use it 
in an enjoyable way.  

Now by this point, that polish has gotten pretty thick, and even though I polish thinner
it's a hassle to still deal with (plus I'm low on my thinner anyways)
But, I remembered that Cherish, from the youtube channel PrettyPistol86
had amazing gradient nails and referred me to Mary, or ALoveTart's

I figured, that if the polish is too thick to use on its own, 
I can try to sponge it onto my nails and slowly use it up that way. 
I was a little concerned that the sponge would soak up way too much, and could
potentially create a lot of waste, BUT
it really didn't.  
I probably used about the same or little less than what I would have used in a mani.  

My other polishes I used included: 
- Rimmel 60 Seconds Polish in 120 Hot Chilli Pepper
-Lovely Summer Trend Nr. 8
- Sephora by OPI It's Hippo to be Square
-Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Hardener Top Coat

I used a triangle makeup sponge, and overall I really like the look. 

Some tips I would add though:

-Once you finish one hand, cut the used portion and start new because the polish builds up and leaves bumps due to previous dried polish.  A fresh sponge will make it smoother. 

-If using three colors, make the middle portion bigger than the upper and lower, as you wiggle the sponge the colors will mix and the middle color will start to disappear.  

I can't wait to try to use this method on other older polishes that are too thick even after polish thinner.  
What color combos will you try?

Monday, July 20, 2015

OPI It's Hippo to be Square

Now I love this polish when I am pale, 
it's bright, and a hint of summer in a bland period of time.
It seems to hint a neon-pastel brightness with a hint of pink.

But as I was doing my nails today, with a tan,
I noticed that I just don't love it as much as I previously had.

The formula is fine,
a proper two coater and it doesn't chip or peel for a few days.

This is so strange for me, as there are very few polishes I dislike right off the bat.
I mean I love the darker shades come fall, and brighter in summer, but
I still change things up.

I am honestly stumped when it comes to this color right now.
Have you come across a polish that you love at one point but just hate at another time?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Nesting & Grocery Haul

After a week of living out of my backpack, in a hostel
I'm more than glad to be back at MI6, as I have fondly nicknamed my HQ. I didn't get to 
really settle into my apartment as once I arrived to Poland I was plucked away to 
my relatives homes (which hey beat having homesickness kick in) but I didn't get to go grocery shopping or really nest into my new place. 
I had only some ham, rolls, cheese and yogurts that my land lady left for me as a welcome/ settle in gift. 
Also after arriving back to MI6 at around 2:30am due to really delayed trains, 
a homebody day is just what I need. 
Plus, I didn't really remember where I put half of my stuff either. 
Did I mention how nice it is to have a proper, hot shower, with proper shower products?
Before I left for Krakow I picked up some face wash, face scrub, nail polish remover etc. 
But I didn't take them with as they would take up space and weight and I was not about to add more to my already very heavy pack.

I look forward to some grocery shopping, doing my nails, and bumming.  Maybe even throw in a load of laundry

CAN we just talk about the fact that the washer/dryers in Poland are combos? 
Also to get a full normal wash and dry takes about 6hours!? 
My machines at home don't even take that long!

So, I hope to get onto a normal sleep schedule. 
It also means that I now have to learn how to cook for one person, and start my kitchen/ pantry from scratch.  

I'll post my grocery haul on my channel, 
but here is the link if you are interested. 

Random thoughts for the day:
1. I have a Brita filter so now I don't need to buy bottle after bottle of water. YAY!
2. I need to move a few shelves to make room in my fridge for said filter. 
3. I HAVE ICE CUBE TRAYS... Europe never seems to have enough ice cubes on hot days. 
4. My coffee machine is gonna need to be put someplace else as I don't use the machine to make my coffee. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Train System (Going from Warsaw to Krakow)

Number one. 
Do a little research to save you a whole lotta stress later. 
Start a Google search (Google is your friend...Google is your friend)
start with, "trains from Warsaw to Krakow"
and that should give you a few time tables. 

But let me already warn you, there are several times you need to be aware of. First there is the 5 hour long train, and then there are 2 2.5 hour options.  One is more expensive than the other, I can't quite figure out specifically why, but be aware, and this is where you want to get to this next website: 

It runs in both Polish and English but the Polish version is easy enough to use. 
For the Polish version here is a quick run down (if you are trying not to use data to keep flipping to English)
"z" means from 
"do" means to 
fill in the date (remember to go by dd/mm/yyyy)
the time 
and hit "szukaj"

Then you get tiles like this: 

You can see here the length of time it takes, and the prices starting at within each class.
Like I mentioned before and you can see, Klasie 2 can range drastically, so if you are dead set to right cheapest, locate the time, the train number and the starting price.

Go to the ticket counter (there will be a long line) or you can try using the new automated ticket machines.  If you plan to go to the counter, take that written down info with you, to help stop any miscommunications.  They might be out of tickets at the lowest posted price, but the next one up is still cheaper than first class. I know first class is only about 30 PLN more, but I had preferred to keep that money and get myself a nice dinner, the journey is only about 2.5 hours.

You can order your ticket online and either print it or download it to a smartphone, but in my cabin I saw already two sets of people who used the app and it assigned them to the same seats.  I waited inline and didn't have that issue at all.

I tried to use my ISIC pass, turns out it doesn't get me a discount (whomp whomp)

The terminal itself is easy to use, in Warsaw it's by the Złoty Terasy (a big new mall).  There are about 5 info boards, all constantly updated.  Additionally on each platform it announces about 10 minutes before each train which will be coming through.  If they change the platform, it's easy enough to be notified.  You can buy snacks on the train, but I prefer to pack my own.

My one way ticket from Warsaw to Krakow came to 60PLN or about 20USD
My return ticket, also 2nd class was 49PLN or 16USD.

The highlighted sections are the important info, like time, wagon number and seat

PS. I took the 7:05pm train and got to watch the beautiful sunset over the Polish countryside.  It's so beautiful!

Hostel *Cue the Horror Music*

Okay... enough with the horrible movies about murder in hostels. 
My first bit of advice is: go with your gut. If you don't feel safe walking into the hostel then walk right back out.  Kind of like a hotel, if you don't like the place don't stay there.  
I usually go by recommendations of friends. 

BUT my hostel of choice in Krakow is Hotele Studenckie w Krakowie "Piast". 
In plain English, it's a student hotel, Piast is one of the about 5 locations. 
It's also the one I spent three months in when I was studying Polish via Jagiellonian University. 
It was clean, safe and fun, and today with a few new updates, it is still a good place to stay on the cheap. 

It's about a 25 minute brisk walk from Krakow Central, but the tram and bus are about 2-4 blocks respectively.  There are about 5 trams that take you to the center and run almost every 5 minutes and the journey is only about 13 minutes. 
While I'm sure there are closer locations, I just find that Piast works well for me.  

You can chose from single, double, triple or quad, tourist or normal. Normal just means that you get a tv and fridge.  Of course there is also an ISIC discount (hello 10%)

Piast is the cheapest of the Dom Studenckie's, and houses a cafeteria (with meals around 10-18 PLN), a hair salon, an aircon "pub", kiosk , post office, bank, and laundromat.  There is also 24 hour security and after a  certain hour you have to have your dorm ID card to get up the stairs. Next door is a Biedronka (grocer) where you can get everything from Brie cheese to face wash. They don't sell beer here though, but another store about a block down sells all that and more.  

But back to the actual dorm, like I mentioned my room didn't come with a tv or fridge, I took the single tourist class.  What you do get is clean sheets with extra blankets, cup, spoon, plate, hot water kettle towels, internet cable (which has improved since two years ago), plenty of storage space, a balcony (shared) and a bathroom (shared with another single or double).  
From the entryway "foyer" where you have a trash bin, hooks and full length mirror

Bathroom, typical toilet sink and shower

Why Hello there...Let me take a mirror selfie!

My half of the room, I felt poorly so I took a nap earlier and didn't bother to make the bed. Ooops

Other end of the "double" aka extra room for me.

Closet space. If you have a roommate you each get half. 

I paid for a single, but they were out so they upgraded me to a double.
Normal price is 60PLN per night which for 5 nights would have been 300PLN
but with my ISIC discount it came to 270 PLN or about 90USD.

Walk through of the dorm on my youtube channel :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Travel within Warsaw (and Krakow)

Traveling around the city, let's also throw in traveling between Warsaw and Krakow for good measure.  Many blogs, travel sites, forums etc make it seem like getting a ticket for the tram or bus is SO complex.  It's really not, and if I say it once, I'll say it again... Warsaw (and Krakow) are very tourist friendly, as in they have plenty of signs and maps that will guide you here there and everywhere.  Also included are the plentiful free information stations.

So, if you are staying in Old Town Warsaw or near the Ogrod Saski, you are already pretty much near all the major attractions and can probably walk to any of them.  Let's give it about a 30-40 minute walk from point A to point B. I very much believe that walking around Warsaw and Krakow is the best way to get to know the city, find little treasures and hey, at least you get some exercise in. (ie. I went for a good loop around Krakow today and threw down about 7 miles, boo-yah!)

But, if you have a heavier pack, bad shoes, exhaustion from a previous long trek (hello me tomorrow morning) or if you have terrible weather, take the bus or tram.  Start with a quick Google Search via the maps, type your location and your final location and voila! You have a long list of various ways to get around.  Since the FIFA World Cup, Warsaw transit has become so easy to follow, I'd even say better and easier than NYC.  The buses announce the next stop, have a big and clear sign for the next stop, and each stop is clearly labeled with its location name!

Some bloggers have stated that bus or tram stations are hard to find, I don't know what he was talking about as most bus stops have the bus numbers on a pole, a small waiting enclosure and a posting board with all the lines and their times.  But if your nervous, just leave about 10 minutes earlier, but hey remember your Google search? You'll be fine, plus you can always duck into a store and ask.

Now comes actually getting the ticket.  This is part of the reason why I love my ISIC pass so much (discounts!!) But you need to make sure of two things and one directly stands with the ISIC pass,

1. Always keep you ISIC pass on you.  A private university ID from out of country doesn't count.  ISIC is the only recognized foreigner student ID, and if you opt for the "ulgowi" (discounted) rate, you have to have proof that you have the proper documents for it, or else you get a fine. Undercover agents walk through transport trying to catch people who try to pay less for their ticket and have either no document at all or forgot it at home.  You can be the age for the discount, but you MUST HAVE THE DOCUMENTATION.  Make sure you have your pass or else you pay 150 PLN or about 50 USD.

The colorful tickets are for Warsaw, the white ones are Krakow. 

2. Validate your ticket.  Now I'll dicuss more details about the actual purchase of tickets, but better not try to purchase your ticket on the actual tram or bus, as there may be a long line and that lovely agent will wait to pounce.  If you arrive at your destination before purchasing the ticket and validating it, you will get fined.  Not every car on the bus or tram has a machine or it could be broken.  But validating it, you take your ticket and pop it into 1 of 2 or 3 machines that time stamps your ticket.  You can't reuse it after being validated once.

It's not really complex to remember, but each day several people (and especially foreigners) get caught and fined.  Save your cash and pay the less than a buck transport.

Now the actual kinds of tickets, there are two: zoned and timed.  I've never used the zoned tickets, so sorry for there, I've found that I get around very easily with timed tickets.  They start from 20 minutes and go up to 40, 60, 75 and the rare 90 minutes.  The trick to remember is that even though your good old Google maps journey says 13 minutes, they don't add on time for traffic lights, the unload and reload of passengers, or traffic jams.  If your timed ticket runs out of time, you need to either buy or validate a new ticket, cause that lovely ticket agent is watching.  So simply add on a few more minutes and give cushion time, if all else fails keep a 20 minute ticket in your purse or pocket just in case.

Where, oh where to purchase them though? Thankfully, you can purchase a tram or bus ticket almost anywhere.  At any kiosk, bookstore, grocery, post office, stand alone ticket machines, from the bus driver, or via on tram ticket machines (HEED THE WARNING!). But if you plan to buy from the driver, bring as close to exact change as possible :).

You can buy monthly passes, and yes ISIC gives student monthly discounts too, you also just have to remember to always have documentation at the ready.  I prefer the one off tickets, as I've been walking a whole lot more.

So let's see the discount and costs in action:
Warsaw: 20 minute ticket is 1.70PLN (about 45 US cents)
Krakow: Strefa 1 20 minute ticket is 1.40PLN ( about 39 US cents)
     *Strefa 1 just represents you are staying in Krakow major, if you try to get to the outer suburbs you would take Strefa 2 and need about a 40 minute or more ticket. *

Hope this helps!
Happy Travels.

A Little Nook of an English Bookstore in Krakow

A little place I was introduced to two years ago by my literature professor at Jagiellonian University. 
I remember going with my roommate on a very gloomy and cold day in August, 
and was truly hooked. 

It is like a small apartment building tucked away on a residential street that is floor to ceiling books.  The halls leading to the next rooms are just as crammed with English books, from Game of Thrones to Rick Steves to trashy romance novels to translations of beautiful Polish literature.

Not only can you sit around and climb the ladders to get a book (anyone thinking about Beauty and the Beast?) you can get amazing snacks here too. *taken from their website)

I highly suggest the coffee and espresso (double for the extra coffee jolt) After drinking student dorm instant coffee and Lipton tea, I needed that taste of home, this was it. 

I haven't tried any of the cold drinks, but there was a guy near me who 
had the wines and said they were pretty good. 

Can I just say, a cold day, a good book and comfy chairs to curl up in with a great cup of soup. AUGH. amazing. 

Okay, the creme de la creme. They have proper brownies and chocolate chip cookies. I mean proper homemade, imported chocolate chips for their cookies. 

My fellow NYCers. Hello bagels. Now these aren't the amazing NYC bagels we love, but it's close enough. You can have them toasted too. 

The prices for books vary from almost jaw dropping cheap to pricy, with honestly no real rhyme or reason to some of their pricing, but hey, sometimes you just need a smutty cheap read for the train someplace and then just leave it there. 

Since being there 2 years back, they have extended their hours (woohoo) for the bookworms! 
Overall this is just a great place to curl up for the better part of the day, even when your feet hurt from walking around, and you just need an "alone" day. 

The best way to get there is as follows: 
1. Get to Teatr Bagatela (by Jagiellonian University)
2. Follow around the Krakow Planty perimeter on Straszewskiego
3. Make a right onto Smolensk and remain for a block or two until
4. Make a left onto Felicjanek
5. It's the corner building that is very easy to miss so keep your eyes peeled!

Happy Travels!
Ps. They also have an online store, but nothing compares to actually being in there. Did I mention there are books EVERYWHERE!?

*All photos from the Massolit website, I am not affiliated with them in any way. Other than just being an avid lover of books and massive caffeine*

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Packing of the Wardrobe Round 1

So, admittedly, I have a pretty big wardrobe at home due to my changing weight.  I also have a habit of saying "but what if one day I want to wear it". That day has yet to come for many pieces.  But packing for 2 months has gotten me thinking.  I first pulled out all the clothes I MIGHT want to take.  Anything that hit my fancy, but I added the stipulation that I needed to have worn it in my day to day routine.

That narrowed down a lot.  Which hey, light bulb moment, maybe I don't really need so much in my life.  Think of all the storage I would have! *another post for another day*

Then I started creating outfits.  I wanted my items to work for multiple outfits, that cut down a few items.  This was my first round of my finalized outfit ideas and items.  It's 50 *heart attack* capsule items.  Now not all the outfits are posted here cause it's just a simple switch of a pair of pants or top or sweater.

My next goal is to try to bring that number down to 30 pieces.  Some, like leggings, I know will be destroyed by the end of the trip.  It's just how they go, hence why I packed a bunch.  Most of my wardrobe is darker toned, with deep reds, blacks, greens and blues.  I feel comfort in these colors, styles and individual pieces.  I also nixed anything that I've worn recently that causes me to tug, fidget or wriggle out of discomfort.  I don't really go to clubs, and I won't be going to SUPER fancy places.
Gotta Admit, my favorite batch of outfits

Eh, this batch was okay

I have been so iffy about that coral blouse, should it stay or go?

The red sweater seems a little too "red white and blue", it's still a maybe. 

4 pairs of leggings, 3 pairs of pj, 5 comfy tops, 2 bathrobes, 5 pairs of shoes, 3 dresses. 

5 tanks, 6 long sleeves, 4 tshirts

I also figure that if I really need something, I have the Zloty Terasy just a few blocks from me, so no fears for that! Let's see how round two goes!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Study Abroad vs. Independent Research Abroad

These are two terms that seem similar enough, but actual have several solid differences.  Both are wonderful experiences to see a country under the umbrella of education. It's a chance to learn, live and breathe history (if you are a history major like myself). But in the world of abroad experiences, little is actually said about independent research abroad, which still plenty of people do.  So here is a little more detailed follow up post to my Youtube video that is linked above.

Study Abroad:
 It is usually a 6 - 8 week experience where mostly undergraduate students attend classes in a specific university.  It's essentially like going on one big class trip, but you still get grades.  I go to NYU, so my detailed examples will include data from their website, but I get nothing from this, it's just easier to compare (so please DON'T SHOOT!)  So let's say we want to study at NYU Prague, each class is 3-4 credits, and ranges from languages to business to media.  A lot of times you must apply through the overseas university branch, so be careful of due dates!

Living Space 
(Ie a student dorm): Some universities let you pick and chose, but most require that students live on their official campus space, which includes typical dull dorm room furniture and a kitchen every other floor. Single rooms are very rare, so be prepared to bunk up!

Some universities allow you to pay on for a meal program, include it already or only cover half or none.  Check with yours, if they don't say in the adverts, clarify!

Yep, ya gotta still pay for classes, and all the fees that go with it.

You might be required to fly together with your group, but sometimes you can get your own flight.  Check with your school, as if they do group flights, it might be a discounted fee.

Independent Research Abroad: 
You are typically working to a large project, most of the time it's research in archives or within communities.  This is mostly for graduate students who have shown that they are responsible enough to do the work on their own.  They don't attend classes unless they want to sign up, but that's their prerogative.  It's usually about 4-6 credits. You have to be signed off by the director of your studies and have a clear plan of action.

Living Space: 
Find your own apartment.  So if you want a room mate, live with extended family or just have your own space, it's up to you.  The budget is yours and so is the location.  I am actually renting my own apartment even though I do have many family within the same city in Poland, but as family goes, they won't give me peace of mind to do my own work, so I need that space.

You have an apartment, so most likely you will have a kitchen and will do your own grocery shopping and cooking.  I underscore INDEPENDENT, if you don't want to do it, you don't have to.  If you feel like having dinner at 10pm, you can, if you want breakfast for dinner, make a waffle.

Yes you pay it but only for the credits you are taking for it.  You do not have an actual class so most of the time the tuition rate is a bit lower.

Wanna have a layover in London and go all Anthony Bourdain? Go for it. Want nonstop? Do it.  Hate flying at night or early? Schedule how you please. You are responsible for it.

I highlight the fact that independent research is so lose and free BECAUSE you are at that point in the academic career where you should be responsible enough to do all of the work on your own.  It's a huge undertaking and if you don't feel like you could tackle a project like this, perhaps consider an independently organized internship.  It still gives structure, but it's experience and not classes.  You still have a final project to do, but it's not a thesis.

Hope this helps! Coming soon...budgets, financial planning for a trip, and how to pack.