40 Days of Social Distancing


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We have been practicing social distancing for 40 days now. Today we are also celebrating our wedding anniversary quietly at home. It is a very different world we live in, and it might last longer than we had all hoped … Continue reading

Book Review: Happiness Hacks

9781615194421Title: Happiness Hacks: 100% Scientific! Curiously Effective!
Author: Alex Palmer
Genre: Self-help
Publisher: The Experiment
Publication Date: May 15, 2018
Pages: 176
Format Read: Audiobook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: August 21, 2019

Goodreads Description: Could you be happier at work . . . in love . . . in life? You may not need a total overhaul—just a few good Happiness Hacks! Here are hundreds of shortcuts to brighten your day and boost your mood—and the science behind how they work. Discover why . . .
57°F (13.9°C) is the happiest temperature
Selfies give you a jolt of joy
Renters have a surprising edge over homeowners
17-minute breaks are the most productive
Intimacy is better than sex
It’s more satisfying to work a full 40-hour week
Date night is the key to a happy marriage
Just 10 minutes of exercise can cheer you up!
Whether you’re seeking better health, stronger friendships, or that elusive “happy place,” these stunningly simple tips are proven to help. You can hack your way to happiness!

My Review: I’m currently going through that little funk you experience when you get back from an amazing vacation and have to go back to real life. I thought reading a book about grabbing some happiness in your every day life would help me move passed this funk. For the most part, this book is states a lot of the same key points you learn reading other happiness-related books – exercise more, drink more water, volunteer, go outside more (clearly the author doesn’t live in the hot hell that is Texas), take breaks from technology, and watch less television. This book does give you a bit more as far as everyday tasks that can help on your way to living a happier life and provides the scientific research to back up these ideas.

This book talks about the ways to be happier at work, at home, in relationship, and with yourself. It dives into the topics of technology, health and finances. I really don’t feel that this book left out any component. I think it covered all the happiness highlights, which is why I think it felt a bit more repetitious to me.

I did appreciate a few happiness hacks that I am going to try to incorporate into my life:

  1. Personalize my work space. I have a sort of cubicle style desk space. While I don’t have a private office space, I could put up some personal pictures or other things personal items that might make my space more comfortable.
  2. Take more work breaks to induce more productivity. During the work day, I do have a few burnout moments, and I think getting up and away from my computer would be a helpful thing to clear my mind for a minute.
  3. Cut down on my television watching. There has been so many wonderful things to binge this summer on Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime, etc., that I have spent much more time in front of the television than I should. I think I would be more productive at home and get more sleep if I don’t spend so much time in front of the television.
  4. Financial plan with spouse. Finances can be a stressful on a personal relationship. Having a present and future plan when it comes to money might be helpful.
  5. Exercise with others. Exercising with others holds you accountable to someone else. You can’t talk yourself out of doing it. A few years back, my husband and I would take nightly walks. It was a great way to connect, while moving at the same time. I would like to get back to that.

While I actually don’t spend that much time on my phone anymore – scrolling through different social media sights – I know plenty of people who do. This book addresses limiting the time you are on your phone or other tech gadgets. That technology does not necessarily make us happy and can lead to addiction, anxiety and possible harm to relationships.

If you are new to self-help and looking at ways to bring more happiness to your life, Happiness Hacks is a good baseline with plenty of helpful suggestions.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ½


Goals for 2016


Now that the holidays are over, I actually have a moment to reflect on 2015, and how blessed I am. I am also taking this moment to think of all the things I want to accomplish in 2016 to make it the best year ever. I know that New Year’s Resolutions get a bad rap. Everyone wants to lose weight, exercise more, drink less alcohol, quit smoking, etc. etc. For many, they start the year with a good push toward these resolutions, and then by February the ambition/motivation fails. However, I am not that type of person. Sometimes I do set too many goals, but as long as I complete half of my goals, I feel that my life is on track. What is wrong with having goals in your life that help you live up to your potential?

2016 is going to be a year of uncertainty as there are many changes that may occur. My husband and I may decide to move based on job opportunities. We don’t at this time know if that will happen or if we decide to move, where we will be moving. With such an undetermined future, it is hard to make certain goals. For instance, I would like to run a marathon and volunteer more, but my time and location may not permit such achievements. I find it is important to set reasonable goals, so you don’t become disappointed in yourself.

Here is my list of reasonable goals for 2016:

  1. Read more non-fiction books. I tend to read a lot of classics, bestsellers, and mysteries. It would be nice to expand my reading list a bit. If you want to see my must-read book list, click here.
  2. Travel to Sicily. Since moving to Italy, so many people have told my husband and I that we have to explore Sicily.
  3. Renew my driver’s license. This is a ridiculous one, but when you are an expat, it is a bit more complicated than just going online and hitting a renew button.
  4. Continue studying Italian – even if I end up moving away from Italy.
  5. Go ice skating. This was a goal of mine a couple years ago that I failed to do. Can you believe that a girl who grew up in Wisconsin has still never been ice skating???
  6. Continue making a few extra dollars on Swagbucks. Every year I use the extra money to purchase birthday and Christmas gifts. More often than not I use the extra money to satisfy my book addiction. If you are interested in learning more about Swagbucks, click here.
  7. Vote. As we all have heard, no matter where you are in the world, the U.S. is having elections in 2016. Even though I am not currently living in the United States, I am still a U.S. citizen and want to exercise my right to vote. It is a privilege that many people in the United States take for granted, and one that I am very proud to have.
  8. Spend one day a month internet-free. I find myself constantly needing to go on the internet, whether I am at home on the computer or outside of my house on my phone. What did we all do before the internet? Anyway, I find that I am too reliant on it, and so I would like to take a break once a month from the addiction of Facebook, kitty & puppy videos, email, etc.
  9. Keep a Thankful Journal. In 2015, my spirit was sometimes pretty low. Every day this year I want to write down something that I am thankful for. That way, if my spirit gets low again, I can turn to my journal and read all the positive things in my life.

I think I can definitely accomplish these goals. It makes heading into the new year very exciting. Feel free to share with me some of your goals for 2016.

2016 is gonna rock!


2015 New Year Resolutions

I did very well last year with my resolutions but I feel that I expected a little too much from myself. I decided to give myself a fair shot this year by setting goals but not insurmountable ones. Since I have the unique opportunity to be living in Italy right now, it only makes sense that many of my goals for this coming year revolve around travel and adventures. Here is my list!

  1. Visit 3 New Countries – My husband and I are already planning our trips to Greece and San Marino. Please leave me a comment if you have any travel suggestions.
  2. Check off 5 More Items off our Travel Bucket List – Our world travel bucket list is extensive and continues to grow every year. Hopefully we can continue to put a little dent in it.
  3. Attend the 2015 World’s Fair – I will have the wonderful opportunity to live reasonably close to this year’s world’s fair as it is being held in Milan, Italy. I have never been to a world’s fair and am very excited about experiencing it.
  4. Climb Mt. Vesuvius – I want to do this climb for two reasons. I have never seen a volcano up close. I just read a little interesting fact about it that I did not know. Mt. Vesuvius is the only active volcano on Europe’s mainland. My second reason for doing this climb is that I have suffered from a crippling fear of heights when hiking in the past. It is not the height so much that bothers me as the fear of falling. I feel that this climb is something I want to do so much because I want to be able to see inside the volcano that I might actually succeed in overcoming my fear.
  5. Read 50 Books – I of course love to read. If I did not have so many other obligations, I would probably read a lot more than I do. I did not quite read 50 books in 2014 but am pretty confident that I will be able to in 2015.
  6. Read at Least One Nonfiction – When I was in school, I read so many Nonfiction books. Since I have been out of school, I tend to read less and less Nonfiction, and I would like to change that. I feel that Nonfiction will inspire me to continue to learn about places, people and events and will stimulate my mind.
  7. Lose Weight – This is such a boring resolution, but since moving to Italy I have enjoyed more than my share of pastries and pasta.
  8. Write 20 Blog Posts – I use this blog as not just a way to inform friends and family about my adventures and learning experiences, but as a way that I will also remember my time in Italy and elsewhere.
  9. Study Italian at least 5 hours a week – While I speak Italian well enough to do the necessary shopping and ordering of food, I would very much like to be conversationally semi-fluent by the end of 2015. I think this would add a lot to my Italian experience.
  10. Continue to earn money through Swagbucks – In 2014, I found a website called Swagbucks that really has been financially beneficial to me. I have been so pleased with it that I even wrote a blog post about it a few months ago. See it here.
  11. Sell one of my pictures – I love traveling and documenting travel through my camera. I recently learned of opportunities to make money with my photos and why not make money doing something I love.
  12. DIY Projects with Wine Corks – Since moving to Italy, I have collected a lot of wine corks. We definitely love Tuscan wines. I want to use our wine corks to display photos, etc. throughout our home in 2015. This project will also allow me to grow creatively.

I believe that 2015 will be a year of growing both creatively and intellectually. I embrace the challenges that this year will bring and very much look forward to the adventures that will be had.

2014 New Year Resolutions

In the last couple years, I have been serious about creating New Year Resolutions. I look at them as personal goals for the year and future.


Of course the most popular resolution in the States is to lose weight or exercise more. I hate to go along with that, but I am afraid that I must this time. I put on some weight in my first year of marriage and did not do much to diminish that during 2013. I am not at an unhealthy weight but would like to not have to buy a whole new wardrobe, because I can’t fit into things. (1) I would like to lose 20 pounds and 4 inches from my waist. To do this and relieve some of the stress that I may feel both consciously and unconsciously, I plan to actually make an effort to exercise. I always think about it being a good idea to run along the Lucchese walls or to learn some yoga. Now I have to force myself to actually do it. (2) I would like to put aside at least 1 hour a day at least 3 days a week to exercise. I already started drinking more juice and water instead of soda and have started to minimize my chocolate intake. (3) I will also go to the eye doctor and get new glasses.

Try New Things

(4) Go ice skating. (5) Write a story or article while keeping up with (6) 2-3 blog posts a month. (7) Try baking in Italy. I would bake all the time in the States, but it is a bit more complicated here in Italy, and our oven frightens me. (8) Buy a blank canvas and paint something. (9) Continue to learn Italian with a proficiency of at least a moderate level, studying & practicing at least 5-10 hours a week. (10) Take a Tuscan cooking class. (11) Learn photography – primarily lighting and shutter speed. I have this amazing DSLR camera and sometimes I feel like its brilliance is wasted on me. I live in a gorgeous place. My pictures should capture at least a fraction of that beauty. (12) Find new ways to save money and earn money while in Italy. One of the things that I am most interested in is finding new ways to earn travel rewards.


In 2013, after moving to Italy, my husband and I put together a bucket list of places we would like to visit and things we would like to do during our time living abroad. It is a lengthy list and highly unrealistic. However, I do feel that (13) we can accomplish at least 5 items on that list.


I love to read. I normally read quite a lot in a year. This year, (14) I would like to read 50 books. That is more than I think I have ever read, but I found Italy a much more relaxing environment with fewer distractions from good literature. (15) I would also like one of those books to be more than 1,000 pages. I tend to shy away from books that are more than 400 pages long. It is hard to keep my attention going on one story. Example: I have picked up Don Quixote at least 3 times now and never made more than 300 pages. It was entertaining at first, but then it just kept feeling like the same crazy things were happening just in a different way, and I got bored. (16) I would also like half of my reading goal to be books from the 1001beforeyoudie List. I found this list a couple of years ago. I felt that my reading had become predictable, and I wanted to try new things. This list has helped me venture into different styles of literature that I would have never thought twice about earlier and enjoy now.

I believe that these are all reasonable goals to have for 2014 and have high expectations for accomplishing them.

What are some of your 2014 Resolutions?