The 2015 Pan American Games: A Life-changing Summertime Adventure

July 27, 2015
Original Picture via

I've always scoffed at movies which showed summertime as being some sort of yearly renewal of enlightenment. Regardless of genre or age group, they all follow a similar timeline in their quest to craft the perfect coming-of-age tale. Usually, the unhappy protagonist is tossed into a leadership position, they inevitably succeed and then return home confident and wiser. Generally, the film is characterized by a bully -- it can be a strict parent, an even stricter boss, or a ruthless ninja assassin-- who gets kicked to the curb near the end of the film. With such a promising premise, I, like so many others look forward to the beginning of summertime.

In retrospect, I was a probably a bit jealous. I wanted to go on a thrilling 2-month long adventure in which I got to slay the dragon, save the kingdom and win the prince's heart. I waited impatiently for the day when some Sherlock-level mystery would fall at my doorstep, and I would find myself sorting through salicious gossip and cold-hearted fiends to solve the case. Yet, in all of my time spent waiting, it never occurred to me that in order to take part in the stories that I loved to read and watch, that I would have to be the author of my very own narrative. I failed to see how I was standing in my own way of finding this so-called "summertime enlightenment". Cliché, I know but the truth nevertheless.

I had promised myself last summer that this one would be different. Not only would I rest up from the long-months spent hunched over my textbook, fingers cramped from typing and bloodshot eyes held open by toothpicks and Washi tape. I would prep for the scholarly "New Year" - the first day of school (A much more sullen "holiday". Instead of ushering in the year with cheery music, you are welcomed to the sound of your 7am alarm ringing). I would create my own coming-of-age story, and take the first step towards my grand adventure.

My saving grace came in the form of applying to volunteer for the Pan American Games. An experience which has simultaneously stripped me of my energy physically, while electrifying my mind and my motivation for the future. My short month spent there has taught me more about the world and about myself than anytime spent in school could provide. In three weeks, I have met so many volunteers who have redefined the meaning of dedication, heart and unity. In this small period of time I've attended my first opening and closing ceremony, olympic level sport's event and concert (Pitbull, Kanye and Serena Ryder are great live). In one short month, I've made the leap from a sure teenager to a confident young adult.

I have learned resourcefulness, spontaneity and quick-thinking as my fellow volunteers and I strived to solve problems with what little knowledge we did have (with the help of our supervisors we turned into a troop of customer service MacGyvers. I have seen firsthand how much  the pwer of a sincere smile, a quick hello and little bit of confidence can brighten someone's day. Although I've never left my city, my countless encounters with members of the participating 41 countries have left me feeling as if I had just taken a tour around the world -- at this point I fully expect a mild tan or to find seashells and sand in my purse. I encourage everyone to seize the opportunity to take part in some sort of similar event, because I promise you that it will be a truly unforgettable experience which leaves you with too many fun pictures and lessons that I can't possibly share in one blog post. You will see things and do things which will make you grow and expand your horizons, which ultimately is what a (life-changing) summertime adventure really is.

~Alexandra XO

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The Benefits of Drinking Water and 7 Simple Ways to Drink More of it

July 13, 2015

Water equals life. The only and original fountain of youth, how hydrated you are affects your health, the shininess of your hair and softness of your skin. So rather quickly a lack of it can drastically affect you inside and out.

A perfect example of this was during the summer when my sister and I were caring for our sunflower. We were supposed to water it every day before heading out to do whatever activity that we had planned, but eventually we started slacking off. Two days later we checked on our beloved sunflower again, only to find that the petals were wilting and the leaves weren't as green as usual. Feeling ashamed we quickly watered it before we left and prayed that life would return to the poor sunflower. Three hours later, we returned to find it looking healthier than it was ever.

Water has more healing properties besides bringing plants back from the verge of death. As you know, a large percentage of our bodies is composed of water, and so it's essential to our overall functioning. Seeing as we lose some through tears, sweat, saliva, etc., it's important to replenish your stores in order to stay in shape. The more you sip, the more it replenishes your muscles and the more your kidneys to filter any waste from your body fluids, keeping your inside and outsides looking fresh. It's an excellent and natural way to flush out toxins from your system, ensuring for great and healthy skin.

Sipping H2O is also a natural way to reduce the amount of food that you eat. Sometimes when I feel slightly hungry, it's mainly because I'm thirsty. Like the sunflower, after a cup or two I'm feeling a whole lot better and more energized. Drinking a glass of water before a meal also helps to curb your hunger and makes you eat less than you usually would. H2O also has a powerful affect on reducing the amount of sweets you eat too. There are days when a craving for something sweet, turns into a whole meal devoted to the sugariest, stickies treats available. On days like those, drinking water after the second or third treat, helps to cleanse the pallet and get rid of the craving. 

I know that it's not the tastiest drink out there (if I could power my body on lemonade I would), but it is essential. So, in order to help you become the healthiest you can be, here are a few simple way to drink more water.

Drink Tea 

Tea is filled with health boosting properties, which makes it a perfect way to up your intake of H2O. However, in order to reap in the benefits from the tea itself and the water, you are going to have to either not put sugar in it or use a minimal amount of sweetener (try honey instead of sugar). 

Use an App

There's an app for anything and everything. As more people are trying to stay hydrated, there are more application available to make drinking water easy and fun. Two of my favorites are Plant Nanny for the ease and cuteness of the plants, and Fitbit for the look of the interface and the ability to record all of my health information in one place. 

Infuse your water with fruits

I love adding a bit of lemon juice to my water whenever I drink. If you like to add whole fruits like oranges or berries, there are tons of bottles available with specialized fruit infusing compartments which make giving your water a fruity punch a breeze.

Bring it with you

If you keep a water bottle with you wherever you go, you have no excuse to not drink it when you get thirsty. Even if you run out, water fountains are available almost everywhere helping you to save money and your skin.

Drink with your meal

When you sit down to eat your meal, drink a glass before you take a bite of anything. Like I said previously, it will help to reduce the amount of food you eat and allows you to add a few more milliliters to your daily H2O intake.

Buy a funky bottle

There's nothing like cute accessories to make even the most mundane tasks more fun to handle. Putting your water in a funky bottle or special glass will motivate you to drink more of it.

Fruits and veggies

Most fruits and vegetables are mostly composed of water, so snacking on foods like carrots, watermelon or cucumber can help boost your H2O intake.

P.S. Check out this article for more information on the benefits of water.

P.P.S Read my article on Plant Nanny here.

How do you stay hydrated? What's your favorite drink?

How to Wear Perfume and Make it Last All Day

July 06, 2015

Perfume is the perfect accessory to any outfit. When you put it on it's like another layer that tells the world who you are, how you are feeling and that you are ready to seize the day. Whether you want to come across as sweet and fruity, dark and mysterious, or light and airy, it's up to you and a nice perfume or body spray can take you there. As a plus, it makes you smell extra nice, therefore making you feel extra good.

While most people love to wear and smell perfume, some of us have no clue how to properly put it on or how to take care of our favorite scents. So, here are a few useful tips to help you leave the house smelling great, and feeling great.

Make it Last All Day

Some of the key ways to keep smelling good all day is where you spray your perfume. The key places are:

  •    The base of your neck
  •    Your wrists (spray on one and press onto the other one - don't rub)
  •    Your ankles
  •    Behind your knees

Read this article from Free People (it has a good diagram that I use when trying to remember where to put it).

 Take your time

Choosing a scent isn't like deciding what to eat for dinner. Actually, it may take the same amount of time, but the process is very different. Choosing the perfect scent for you, is like choosing an outfit for a special evening. It takes time, you need a theme and it needs to scream you. This is something that you will have to walk around with all day. You cannot just wipe it off and start again, it's much more tricky. So when choosing be prepared to sacrifice a lot of your time and your sinuses to the task. Take lots and lots of samples, and return another day (or later on) when your head is clear and when everything stops smelling like freesia and springtime.

Don't buy a big bottle

People change and so do their tastes, so unless you plan on wearing the scent 24/7, chances are that you may not like it as much a few years down the road. Also, over time the liquid evaporates, so if you do have a lot left, make sure that the bottle is properly sealed.

Less is more

You don't want to end up like a walking Febreze Scented Candle. You want your perfume to make you and those around you feel good, not suffocate them.

Keep it safe

Place your bottle in a cool area away from immediate sunlight. Make sure it to keep it in a safe place where it won't easily be knocked over or spilled.

Trial and Error

We are all unique,so is the smell of a fragrance on a person's body. After a while, the perfume reacts with the chemicals in your body to create a different type of smell. This can either be good or bad. Just because it smells wonderful on your friend, doesn't mean that it will on you.

~Alexandra :)