Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Just stop.

I just stumbled upon this amazing list of things to stop doing to yourself. Most of the time you can be your own worst enemy. Now that it's the holiday season (so whoop de dooooo), start celebrating you.

And read this list. Maybe every day if you need to.
  1. Stop spending time with the wrong people. – Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you.  If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you.  You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot.  Never, ever insist yourself to someone who continuously overlooks your worth.  And remember, it’s not the people that stand by your side when you’re at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you’re at your worst that are your true friends.
  2. Stop running from your problems. – Face them head on.  No, it won’t be easy.  There is no person in the world capable of flawlessly handling every punch thrown at them.  We aren’t supposed to be able to instantly solve problems.  That’s not how we’re made.  In fact, we’re made to get upset, sad, hurt, stumble and fall.  Because that’s the whole purpose of living – to face problems, learn, adapt, and solve them over the course of time.  This is what ultimately molds us into the person we become.
  3. Stop lying to yourself. – You can lie to anyone else in the world, but you can’t lie to yourself.  Our lives improve only when we take chances, and the first and most difficult chance we can take is to be honest with ourselves.
  4. Stop putting your own needs on the back burner. – The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too.  Yes, help others; but help yourself too.  If there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.
  5. Stop trying to be someone you’re not. – One of the greatest challenges in life is being yourself in a world that’s trying to make you like everyone else.  Someone will always be prettier, someone will always be smarter, someone will always be younger, but they will never be you.  Don’t change so people will like you.  Be yourself and the right people will love the real you.
  6. Stop trying to hold onto the past. – You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one.
  7. Stop being scared to make a mistake. – Doing something and getting it wrong is at least ten times more productive than doing nothing.  Every success has a trail of failures behind it, and every failure is leading towards success.  You end up regretting the things you did NOT do far more than the things you did.
  8. Stop berating yourself for old mistakes. – We may love the wrong person and cry about the wrong things, but no matter how things go wrong, one thing is for sure, mistakes help us find the person and things that are right for us.  We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past.  But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.  Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come.
  9. Stop trying to buy happiness. – Many of the things we desire are expensive.  But the truth is, the things that really satisfy us are totally free – love, laughter and working on our passions.
  10. Stop exclusively looking to others for happiness. – If you’re not happy with who you are on the inside, you won’t be happy in a long-term relationship with anyone else either.  You have to create stability in your own life first before you can share it with someone else.
  11. Stop being idle. – Don’t think too much or you’ll create a problem that wasn’t even there in the first place.  Evaluate situations and take decisive action.  You cannot change what you refuse to confront.  Making progress involves risk.  Period!  You can’t make it to second base with your foot on first.
  12. Stop thinking you’re not ready. – Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises.  Because most great opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means we won’t feel totally comfortable at first.
  13. Stop getting involved in relationships for the wrong reasons. – Relationships must be chosen wisely.  It’s better to be alone than to be in bad company.  There’s no need to rush.  If something is meant to be, it will happen – in the right time, with the right person, and for the best reason. Fall in love when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely.
  14. Stop rejecting new relationships just because old ones didn’t work. – In life you’ll realize that there is a purpose for everyone you meet.  Some will test you, some will use you and some will teach you.  But most importantly, some will bring out the best in you.
  15. Stop trying to compete against everyone else. – Don’t worry about what others doing better than you.  Concentrate on beating your own records every day.  Success is a battle between YOU and YOURSELF only.
  16. Stop being jealous of others. – Jealousy is the art of counting someone else’s blessings instead of your own.  Ask yourself this:  “What’s something I have that everyone wants?”
  17. Stop complaining and feeling sorry for yourself. – Life’s curveballs are thrown for a reason – to shift your path in a direction that is meant for you.  You may not see or understand everything the moment it happens, and it may be tough.  But reflect back on those negative curveballs thrown at you in the past.  You’ll often see that eventually they led you to a better place, person, state of mind, or situation.  So smile!  Let everyone know that today you are a lot stronger than you were yesterday, and you will be.
  18. Stop holding grudges. – Don’t live your life with hate in your heart.  You will end up hurting yourself more than the people you hate.  Forgiveness is not saying, “What you did to me is okay.”  It is saying, “I’m not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness forever.”  Forgiveness is the answer… let go, find peace, liberate yourself!  And remember, forgiveness is not just for other people, it’s for you too.  If you must, forgive yourself, move on and try to do better next time.
  19. Stop letting others bring you down to their level. – Refuse to lower your standards to accommodate those who refuse to raise theirs.
  20. Stop wasting time explaining yourself to others. – Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it anyway.  Just do what you know in your heart is right.
  21. Stop doing the same things over and over without taking a break. – The time to take a deep breath is when you don’t have time for it.  If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.  Sometimes you need to distance yourself to see things clearly.
  22. Stop overlooking the beauty of small moments. – Enjoy the little things, because one day you may look back and discover they were the big things.  The best portion of your life will be the small, nameless moments you spend smiling with someone who matters to you.
  23. Stop trying to make things perfect. – The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists, it rewards people who get things done.
  24. Stop following the path of least resistance. – Life is not easy, especially when you plan on achieving something worthwhile.  Don’t take the easy way out.  Do something extraordinary.
  25. Stop acting like everything is fine if it isn’t. – It’s okay to fall apart for a little while.  You don’t always have to pretend to be strong, and there is no need to constantly prove that everything is going well.  You shouldn’t be concerned with what other people are thinking either – cry if you need to – it’s healthy to shed your tears.  The sooner you do, the sooner you will be able to smile again.
  26. Stop blaming others for your troubles. – The extent to which you can achieve your dreams depends on the extent to which you take responsibility for your life.  When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility – you give others power over that part of your life.
  27. Stop trying to be everything to everyone. – Doing so is impossible, and trying will only burn you out.  But making one person smile CAN change the world.  Maybe not the whole world, but their world.  So narrow your focus.
  28. Stop worrying so much. – Worry will not strip tomorrow of its burdens, it will strip today of its joy.  One way to check if something is worth mulling over is to ask yourself this question: “Will this matter in one year’s time?  Three years?  Five years?”  If not, then it’s not worth worrying about.
  29. Stop focusing on what you don’t want to happen. – Focus on what you do want to happen.  Positive thinking is at the forefront of every great success story.  If you awake every morning with the thought that something wonderful will happen in your life today, and you pay close attention, you’ll often find that you’re right.
  30. Stop being ungrateful. – No matter how good or bad you have it, wake up each day thankful for your life.  Someone somewhere else is desperately fighting for theirs.  Instead of thinking about what you’re missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is missing.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


The purpose of this post is to send a little virtual merry to my cousin, Jay.

He’s currently in Kuwait – doing Air Force-y things since he can fly really BIG planes. Originally scheduled to be deployed in time for a Christmas Eve homecoming, we sadly just learned he’ll be spending Christmas in Kuwait and won't be home until December 30th. Though we’re thankful he’s safe and sound (and treating the news with good humor and spirit), it still a big ol' fat bummer.

I was just going to write an email for his eyes only, but then I realized that’d be pretty selfish of me. Everyone should know how much the Golden Boy (as his twelve siblings lovingly refer to him as, moreso his mom) rocks.

Here’s why:
-          He makes fun of each of his sisters with ease and when doing so, they each seem to have the same voice. It’s uncanny.
-          He jumped on board immediately when his sister Meghan and I thought it would be HYSTERICAL and necessary to say the word hashtag then add a fun trending topic of the moment. It’s not just for Twitter anymore. #nevergetsold
-          At cousin Emily’s wedding, he was smart enough to declare: “I am NEVER missing a Blinn wedding” then promptly got engaged so the next wedding would be his.
-          He was a Rangers fan before they were good. He’s a Rangers fan still and is especially happy they are good.
-          He was smart enough to spot something special in a girl named Kendall early on. Then even smarter still to decide to keep her forever.
-          He doesn’t mind people calling him “Jaybo” out loud.
-          He’s sacrificed for this great country and kept any complaints he has to a minimum.
-          He’s a Blinn and therefore it’s in our blood to be awesome.

So here’s to you, Jaybo.
Happy holidays, kiddo. 
#theresalwaysnextyear (says the Cubs fan)

With 3 of the 4 sisters and yours truly.
The night #hashtag was born into our spoken vocab.

Friday, December 9, 2011

holiday in spain. part two.

Part two: Barcelona

Day SIX (Thursday November 24)
Happy Thanksgiving! Similar to most Thanksgivings we’ve had as the Angel clan, we found ourselves on a train along the Mediterranean coast heading north to Barcelona - a little bit sleepy and a lot o’ bit amused by Dad’s attempt to photograph the sea on a moving train.

It was a four hour train ride and gorgeous every chugga chugga of the way.

The weather was sunny and upper 50s in Barcelona and after we found our little abode for the next three days, we promptly stepped out to find our first meal (it was always the priority).

We visited the ever popular Las Ramblas street where naturally one of the first sights we saw was an Aaron Rodgers jersey. Boo. We also took in an amazing cathedral that was so dripped in historical religiousness, even Ricky was inspired. Or maybe it was just the random swans hanging out in the cathedral courtyard.

Thanksgiving meal was pizza, pasta, wine, beer and of course Coca Cola Light for Peg. I spent a good portion of dinner eyeing the other guests who might steal my purse. Barcelona is renown for pick-pocketers and you just never know where they might show up. Good thing Ricky was practicing his human spearing (aka an intense form of headbutting) so I never truly felt threatened with him having our backs.

Day SEVEN (Friday November 25)
Mark had an agenda and we would have been fools to argue his agenda. Friday’s plan: La Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell.

In effort to avoid eating out for lunch again, Mark made sandwiches in the morning. After being awed by the cleanliness and modernistic architecture of La Sagrada Familia, we visited a park nearby to enjoy the sandwiches Mark had so kindly made. Being the tourists we were, we opened the trusty backpack to grab the bag…to find they weren’t there. Dad gave us all a skeptical look and said, “Oh nobody grabbed them?” This is when we find out he put them in the fridge before leaving, but failed to tell any of us.

After convincing Ricky we were not eating at Subway in Spain, we found a little café to refuel then head to Parc Guell. Another Guadi original. It was amazing. Beautiful views. Even better was the fact we could take escalators almost to the top instead of climbing the steep hills.

We made our way to the beach that evening because I was using every excuse I could to see the Sea as much as I could. Lake Michigan doesn’t quite compare.

Day EIGHT (Saturday November 26)
Our last full day in Spain? How did that even happen? After mega talks the night before about how to spend our last day (determining if we should go hiking although we warned the course was not for those with fear of heights, to which Ricky responded: “I don’t know. I’m a pretty big fan of the floor”), we opted to stay closer to sea level due to the rest of the fam’s fears.

Stiges, Spain was the destination. We were able to get out of the city, but didn’t have to commit to a full day away.

It was so very much worth it. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in person. It was a lot like what I imagine Greece to be. Crystal blue sea water. Brilliant blue skies. Palm trees. It was the perfect cap to end the trip. Didn’t hurt that it was sunny and 60.

Soaking in all the glory of Sitges, we headed back into the city mid afternoon to check out the site of the 1992 Olympics, watch the sunset and witness a tremendous fountain light show, complete with Disney songs in Spanish.

Add to that an amazing port-a-potty experience (no, I’m completely serious: these things meant business), it was an ideal way to end the trip. A trip during which the whole time I felt as if I was dreaming.

Day NINE (Sunday November 27)
Enter a 1.5 hour plane ride to Zurich followed by 10 hour plane ride Zurich to Chicago (complete with three movies, two hours of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire and some delicious Swiss chocolate), we found ourselves on American soil again.

Though I absolutely loved every single thing about the trip (well maybe not so much the food: there’s only so much ham and cheese homegirl can eat), I was happy to be home.

Now Mark, just hurry up and get home for the holidays already! I want some hot chocolate.

Dad seeing the Sea and attempting photography on a moving train.
Let's just say we got Peg's laugh on video.

The view from our abode #2 of the week. Not too shabby.

Fountains of youth and beauty due to our presence.

Brick walls lead to good backgrounds.

Las Ramblas. It's famous they say.

Luckily the word "smoothies" is the same in Spanish.


Not look gaudy in front of Gaudi.

Rough day by the Sea.

Brothers. Sitges, Spain. Happy happy.

Amused at the packaging.

My main woman.

Gracias, Espana.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

holiday in spain. part one.

Part One: Valencia!
I'm fooling myself when I think it's possible to actually write a blog post which can attempt to capture all that happened over in Spain. This is the best I got.

Day ONE (Saturday November 19):
After almost missing our connecting flight in Zurich (it's easy to look like four Americans staring at the smoking lounges in the airport...while sitting at the wrong gate), we landed in Valencia around 2:30pm (aka 7:30am Chicago time). We had no idea which way was up, but I know I had stored my sweet Swiss Air chocolate for later consumption and I was about to see Mark for the first time in months.

We spent the day strolling around downtown Valencia in a sleepless haze and trying to avoid talking to Ricky (always the grumpy one with lack of sleep and meals). The Valencia futbol team was playing Real Madrid that night and only Dad and I made it to the bar to join Mark and his friends to watch. I was running on adrenaline and total amazement of the vodka soda I ordered (which was huuuuuuuuge and included a separate bottle of Perrier of which I could use my own discretion to add).

After a solid 36 hours up, it was time to call it...a super long day.

Day TWO (Sunday November 20):
This should probably be renamed afternoon two since we all started our day around 1pm. Luckily it had rained all morning so we didn't miss a thing. We walked down to La Ciudad de Artes y Ciencias. It was gorgeous, but not being museum people, we enjoyed the sights from the outside. This included convincing Dad that the water behind us was really the Mediterranean Sea. Jetlag makes him extra gullible.

Nothing wraps up the day like a little Spanish gelato before a Mexican dinner. If the poor waiter didn't know what quesadillas were before we dined there, he does now!

Day THREE (Monday November 21):
This was the day I was waiting for – the day I would get to see and touch the Mediterranean Sea for the first time! Mom and I were determined. Mark showed off his school area and introduced us to some freaking amazing Strawberry treats that I pretty much threatened him to bring home at least 10 packs (hint, hint).

It was a cloudy day and at one point, Mark turned to us and asked if we were sure we wanted to go to the beach today. “It really won’t be that great.”

Peg and I jumped all over this: OF COURSE WE DID.

…and it was even better than I could have imagined.

Day FOUR (Tuesday November 22):
Our plans to take a day trip to Alicante, Spain were dampened by persistent rain and a wacky train schedule. Letting no rain leave us coped up, we ventured out to find a meal for lunch in which we wouldn’t have to rely on Mark’s Spanish ordering for us since he was in class.

Needless to say, we spent 2.5 hours in one restaurant which gave Dad ample time to bring out the “Learn Spanish Fast” book to practice this new language. Thankfully we had an extremely patient (and easily amused) waitress who didn’t mind have The Joe practice his Chinese-accented Spanish.

After doing some shopping (who doesn’t love a good H&M trip in a foreign country) and a quick tapas stop (seriously, Spain did not have enough food to feed Richard throughout the day), we dropped off the shopping bags and headed out to a small gem of an Italian restaurant about 10 minutes from our apartment. The food was absolutely amazing (although I wasn’t crazy about my dish, I coveted the four cheese fancy macaroni my mom had ordered). The mozzarella cheese on the caprese salad was easily life-changing. Mark and Dad split a bottle of red and I graciously stepped in to enjoy a glass so they weren’t forced to drink the whole thing alone. I’m just giving like that.

Day FIVE (Wednesday November 23):
Our last day in Valencia greeted us with nary a raindrop! And our day began before noon! Success!

We visited al mercada central (aka the world’s largest indoor market) where we were easily amused by Dad ordering “tres” of every pastry he could. Mark – ever dubious in his studies – couldn’t join us until later so we found a little café to eat lunch outside. I ordered a salad…which arrived without lettuce. How confusing! Thankfully the glass of wine which accompanied almost every meal made everything go down a little smoother.

The day led up to witnessing our first futbol game: Genk vs. Valencia. We grabbed dinner (or what we hoped would be dinner) but those darn Spanish folk don’t eat the meal until 10p. It was only 8p. Silly Americans! Mark did the ordering and somehow we ended up with a steaming plate of undercooked meat. He thought he ordered calamari.

Needless to say, we didn’t let dinner bring us down. The futbol game was unreal. It was like combining Bears and Cubs’ fans all into one sport – complete with non-stop chanting, the wave and seven goals for the good guys. The weather was perfect and we managed to finagle our way to our seats without any incidences.

A solid end to a solid stay in Valencia, Spain…now it was on to Barcelona!

Ricky didn't fit in Spain but he was a good sport.

Daily nightly sight: The Cathedral.

He looks way too European for me.

He decided to change his whole look while abroad.

FUTBOL game!

Lunch views. Who's the American?

#1 stunna
View from our little Calle Alta abode.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

oh happy christmas

There are so many amazing versions of this song lately...

This might be a personal fav though. Rated on uniqueness and bravery alone.