Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Park Bois de Sauvabelin - Lausanne, Switzerland

Recently my friend Julia and I went to a nearby park in Lausanne, Switzerland called Park Bois de Sauvabelin. Within the park is a large observatory tower where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city. It was breathtaking from the top of the tower! The whole park was beautiful but the view from the top of the tower was by far the most captivating part of the park. It doesn't have an elevator so for those who have trouble with several flights of stairs this probably would not be a good idea. Here are a few photos of the park along with a short video I captured from the top of the tower.

Quaint pond inside the park. You can rent these boats for the day.   How romantic would that be? :)

Inside the park is a petting farm with several animals including these cows...

...and this creature that I couldn't identify at first. It's a hairy pig for those wondering.

The observation tower from the ground looking up

Half way up the spiral staircase

View from the top!

Hope you enjoyed this little day trip with me! :) Cheers!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Brooke Fraser

Jared and I have the opportunity to go to Ireland this October and if that wasn't exciting enough we recently purchased tickets to see one of my favourite musicians while we are there. I started doing some searching of things to do while we are there and discovered that Brooke Fraser will be in Dublin that same week! I've adored her music for years but never had an opportunity to see her live. It will be an extra treat to an already sweet trip!

Not only is Brooke a talented singer/songwriter but she has huge heart for people. She has been an Ambassador for charities like World Vision, Opportunity International as well as independently travels to underdeveloped countries to share her talents and offer hope to those in need. I admire her in so many ways and I'm thrilled to finally get to see and hear her perform live.

For those who are not familiar with her I wanted to share a few videos. The first is an interview from her sophomore album that gives you a bit more background about her music, her outreach efforts and her personal life. I think if you haven't fallen in love with her already, you will after this video.

Now I'd like to share with you some of her songs. This first one is the music video for the song Albertine that was mentioned in the above video and was the title for her sophomore album.

This next one is probably my favourite from her. Love the lyrics.

The following song is off of her newly released album and reminds me somewhat of Sara Barielles. This one and her song "Something In The Water" are two of my favourite songs off her new album.

Hope you enjoy her as much as I do. I'll be sure to share my live experience of her music after the show in October. I can't wait! :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mental Vitamins: Freedom To Love

Beth Moore is a gifted speaker who gets straight to the heart of the issue whenever she speaks. One of my favourite talks of hers is this one on the topic of Loving Difficult People. There are several parts to this but I'm only going to share a brief clip because it is what stood out most to me. I'll ask you to watch the following video first before continuing this discussion....

"We can love people who will give us back nothing because God gives us everything." -Beth Moore

For me this lesson was life changing. One of my biggest struggles has been dealing with rejection. I will have the sincerest heart and best of intent when sharing the truth in love with people only to find that they cut me out, or even hate me for simply sharing the joy and understanding I have found in Christ. It got to the point where I almost feared relationships with people because of my fear of rejection. For a time I did exactly what I dreaded...I shut people out. I didn't allow people to get close to me, I stopped sharing my heart. Just like they pushed me away...I began to push people away. I think we all have dealt with this need for be loved by others. But it was after hearing this message that it really clicked for me.

I don't have to fear rejection from people because God has already accepted me as as I am. I don't have to look to people to validate my significance or reciprocate my love. I am now free to love because in loving others I am no longer seeking to be loved in return. I love because I am loved by God and want to share His love with everyone. There is tremendous freedom and joy in this kind of love. It becomes authentic rather than forced, desperate or self-seeking. Knowing that even if no one else in this world would love me that God always will is so fulfilling. Sure I still struggle with wanting the approval of people sometimes, but I can return to this promise each and every time I face that struggle. God....the Creator of the Universe...the author of love...the Master of design...loves little ' That makes my heart full with an endless supply of love. And since I'm no longer trying to fill my own heart with frees me to love others for the sake of loving not for the sake of receiving. I hope you too can enjoy this freedom to love by allowing Christ to love you.

Having shared this let me be the first to acknowledge that I still struggle with loving people every single day. To be completely honest, I struggle with loving my own self every single day. But God does not call us to be perfect, He simply calls us to love. We can never love like God...but with God's love, loving others becomes less complicated.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Weekend In Italy -— Part III

Our final day in Italy was spent at our friend's countryside home. He and his family own several acres of land filled with olive trees, fruit trees and grape vines. It was so peaceful and picturesque. It was a glimpse of Italy few will probably ever see. We definitely felt privileged to be there. They were so welcoming and hospitable. We had lunch with their entire family...including their children and grandparents and everything was homemade. Homemade pasta, cheese, bread, wine...even the ice cream was homemade. I don't think they know how much I appreciated the whole experience. It was a once in a lifetime treat and they are such a sweet family!

After lunch Nicoli  gave us a tour of his land which was one of my favourite parts of the whole trip. It is obvious they work very hard to keep everything maitenanced. He was kind enough to give us some olive oil he made with his own olives. So cool and very special!

view of our friend's land with olive trees and vineyards (and interesting turtle shell shaped neighbor's house)

view of the vineyards

our friend, Nicoli, on top of his roof sharing the view and showing his solar panels

Nicoli showing us his olive trees

my Dad enjoying a good conversation with their Italian Grandpa...he was so cute! :)

After lunch he took us over to his next door neighbor's place which is a Cantina or Italian Winery. So we got a private tour and complimentary glasses of wine. We definitely felt like VIP! :)

 his neighbor's winery

inside the wine cellar

some of the wine bottles packaged and ready to go

winery owner

Jared and I wine tasting!

I hope you enjoyed traveling to Italy with us through our photos and stories! :) If you missed them you can check out Part 1 and Part 2 by clicking the links. Ciao for now!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Did you know.....?

25 random facts you may or may not know about me....

1. If I was a superhero my name would be Turbo Nerd. But that would make me more of a superdork than a superhero I suppose...
2. My name means "delicate" and I think that accurately describes me.
3. One of the most important life lessons I've learned so far is that pleasing people is impossible, but pleasing God is simple....and much more rewarding.
4. Trust does not come naturally for me and I love those people who have made me behave unnaturally.
5. I want to hug the man who invented the camera. I want to hug him and take his picture.
6. I collect panda bears, shoes and memories.
7. Ireland will always hold a piece of my heart.
8. I crave sushi at least once a day.
9. If Jared would let me I'd have a cat farm with acres of kitties!
10. The 8 year old and the 80 year old in me are in constant battle.
11. If I could sleep in until noon everyday I would.
12. My family means the world to me.
13. Don't ever sneak up on me or try to scare first reaction is to start swinging. You've been warned. 
14. English is my second language. Sarcasm is my first.
15. I believe in love. And I've been blessed to have experienced it in it's greatest form.
16. My husband is my hero.
17. I'd rather be behind a lens than in front of a camera.
18. I love to cook almost as much as I love to eat. True story.
19. If I had to choose my last meal, it would be the chicken nachos from Qdoba and a pina colada. That would be the way to go! 
20. I love people. Even those who don't love me back. 
21. Driving aimlessly on country roads with the windows down and some good tunes playing is my idea of a good time.
22. I never leave the house without my camera. Ever.
23. My nephew made me a believer in love at first sight. It was the dimples, I'm sure of it.
24. Poppies are my favourite flower.
25. God has blessed me beyond my wildest dreams. And I'm humbly grateful for all He has done for me.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Creating A Daily Devotional Plan

     Many people view the Christian life as a long list of  do’s and don’ts. They haven’t yet discovered that spending time with God is a privilege that we get to do not a chore or an obligation that we have to do. 
     Getting started with a daily devotional simply takes a little bit of planning and can be richly rewarding. It wasn't until I started pursuing Christ through His word that I not only felt more equipped for facing life head on, but I found peace and understanding. Here are 10 simple steps to help in pursuing a personal relationship with God.
1.     Decide On a Time.
If you view your time spent alone with God as an appointment to be kept in your daily calendar, you will be less likely to miss or skip it. Just as my husband and I have time together each evening, I reserve time together with my Savior each morning. There is no right and wrong time of day. I prefer having my devotions first thing in the morning as this is the least likely time of day for an interruption. Whatever time of day you choose, let it be the best time of day for you. Perhaps a lunch break fits better into your schedule.
2.     Decide On a Place.
Finding the right place is key to your success. Designate a place specifically for your devotions. For me, it is our comfy couch OR depending on the weather, I sometimes sit on our balcony. Make sure your "tools" are ready and easily accessible - like your Bible, pen, journal, and devotional book. When I get up in the morning, I simply go to my place and everything is ready.
3.     Decide On a Time Frame.
Once again, there is no standard time frame for personal devotions. You have to decide how much time you can realistically commit to each day. Getting started with 15 minutes a day can quickly develop into more. Some people can commit to 30 minutes, others an hour or more a day. Start with a realistic goal that you feel you can meet. If you start with a plan of 2 hours a day, failure to meet the goal will quickly discourage you.
4.     Decide on a General Structure.
Spend some thought on a general structure for your devotional and how much time you’ll spend on each element of your plan. This would be like an outline or agenda for your meeting, so you don’t wander about aimlessly in thought and end up accomplishing nothing. The following few steps will cover some of the typical elements you can include.
5.     Choose a Bible Reading Plan or Bible Study.
      This may take some time, but choosing a Bible reading plan or study guide will aid you in having a more focused time of reading and study. If you just pick up your Bible and start reading randomly each day, you may have a difficult time understanding what you read, or applying it to your daily life. There are many Bible reading plans to choose from such as: Read Through the Bible in One Year Plans; Chronological Sequence Plans; and Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs Plans. What I've personally found beneficial is the Word For You Today devotionals which are given out at many churches or can be found online. This offers scripture and application in bite-sized pieces with specific dates to help keep me motivated and on track. Try whichever plan that seems to fit your interests.

6.     Plan to Spend Some Time in Prayer.
Prayer is simply two-way communication between you and God. Talking to Him, telling Him about your struggles and cares and then listening for His voice. Some Christians don’t realize prayer includes listening. Remember to give Him time to speak to you in His still small voice (I Kings 19:12). Also, one of the loudest ways God speaks to us is through His Word. Spend some time meditating on what you read and allowing God to speak into your life.

7.     Spend Some Time In Worship
God created us to praise Him. I Peter 2:9 says, "But you are chosen people...belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." Praises can be expressed in many forms, they can be spoken, or through singing, or silently in our hearts. Again, there is no right or wrong way. Genuine praise pleases God.
8.     Consider Writing In A Journal
You can journal your thoughts and prayers, providing a valuable record. Later you will be amazed and encouraged when you go back and note the progress you have made or see the evidence of answered prayers. This can be hand written or in virtual form such as a blog. Journaling is not for everyone. I suggest you give it a try and see if it’s right for you.
9.     Stay Committed
Keeping your commitment to follow your daily devotional plan is probably the hardest part of getting started. Determine in your heart to keep it up, even when you fail or miss a day. Rather than giving up or beating yourself up over it, just pray and ask God to help you. And, be sure to start over the next day. The rewards you will experience as you grow deeper in love with God will definitely be worth it!
10.     Remain Flexible and Don't Give Up!
 If you get stuck in a rut, try going back to step #1. Perhaps the plan you had chosen is not right for you. Change it up until you find the perfect fit.  Don’t give up. Eventually you will discover the joys and blessings of your obedience. Pray for God to give you the desire and the discipline to spend time with him each day.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Weekend In Italy -— Part II

As promised here is a glimpse of our weekend in Italy...part II.

We woke up really early to drive the two hours from Rome to Spello, Italy  in order to see the Spello L'infiorata (Spello Flower Festival). The L'infiorata takes place annually on the Sunday after Corpus Domini and on this day, the narrow winding streets of Spello are decorated in intricate tapestries designed with a religious them, and all made with flower petals used to "paint" their creations onto the streets. The festival in Spello actually lasts a few days with the main focus taking place from 7pm Saturday when the teams begin to arrange their petals until 7am Sunday when the work is to be completed. Once their work has been completed, the streets of Spello fill with people admiring the colorful spectacle. I was amazed at just how many people Spello could hold at one time, as the streets were jam packed with people all wanting to get closer looks at the various flower designs. Some of the larger designs even set up raised platforms to allow folks to get a better photo of their work. 

Our friend warned us to get there as early as possible because of the crowds and apparently 8AM wasn't early enough. We had to fight our way through the crowd at times and work hard to try not to lose each other in the sea of people. But it was worth seeing the colorful designs that these people had obviously put so much time and effort into. Here are a few of the shots I took from our morning in Spello at the festival....

full view of one of the flower petal patterns

the holy family portrait made of flower petals

another design made of flower petals

crowd of people gathered to see the flower festival

Afterward we headed over to Assisi, Italy to see St. Francis Basilica. Our friend pulled the car over to the side of the road on our way there so that we could take some photos. :)

Jared and I in front of Assisi, Italy

Once we arrived in Assisi we went inside St. Francis Basilica and unfortunately cameras were forbidden so I was unable to get any shots from inside the church (which I was so disappointed about) but I did capture some photos from the outside....

St. Francis Basilica

view from the steps of the basilica

another view from the basilica

I really enjoyed the history of St. Francis. He was very much an animal lover and appreciated nature much like myself. Francis's attitude towards the natural world, while poetically expressed, was conventionally Christian. He believed that the world was created good and beautiful by God but suffers a need for redemption because of the primordial sin of man. He preached the universal ability and duty of all creatures to praise God and the duty of men to protect and enjoy nature.

There were statues and paintings of St. Francis all over the church grounds showing his love for animals and nature. Inside the cathedral there was a statue of St. Francis holding a basket and inside of it was a live dove. Long after his death animals still seem to be drawn to his spirit. Again, I was not allowed to take photos inside, but I really wish I could have captured how cute that dove was sitting inside the basket just looking out at us. I guess we weren't meant to share ALL of our memories. Some are to remain memories in our hearts and minds. 

Be sure to check back for Part III of our adventures in Italy........

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Heart Over Heels

I'm really excited to announce a new outreach project I've recently started called Heart Over Heels. It's a beauty community made specifically for all of the ladies in the world who desire to be supermodels for Christ. The passion behind it is to encourage a healthy appreciation for beauty by placing an emphasis on the heart. Afterall, true beauty starts at the heart.
Being a woman in today's society can be tough, confusing, and overwhelming. But it can also be fun, beautiful and rewarding. I wanted to create a place where we as women can come together and have heart to heart discussions about God's word and how it applies to our lives while also enjoying all the extras that make being a woman fun! :)

What can you expect to get from Heart Over Heels? Devotionals. Style Ideas. Beauty Tips. Reviews. And more! I've already posted a few entries on the blog so you can check those out to get a better idea of what you'll find on a weekly basis.

Interested in joining the beauty community of Heart Over Heels? Click the follow button on the right hand column of the blog OR find and follow Heart Over Heels on facebook and twitter for the latest updates and to find fellow women who share your love for Christ and all things beauty.

With this new project and because I am also actively involved with the teen outreach program Epic Alliance, as well as managing my photography business, I will be blogging less here on my personal blog. I plan on cutting it down to blogging on here 2-3 times a week at most. I enjoy sharing with you through my blog, but my desire is first and foremost to serve my Savior and reach hearts for Him. I believe these projects allow me to do that, therefor I want to devote more of my time towards them. Thank you to my faithful readers for your support!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Birthday America!

I think I am more sentimental about America's Independence Day this year than I ever have been. Living outside the country may have something to do with it. I realize now more than ever that America truly is the greatest country on earth. Americans have so many freedoms that we take for granted everyday. Sure, America has it's flaws just like every other country, but having lived in two other countries in my lifetime (Brazil, SA and Switzerland) and visiting over 15 other countries, I can tell you that the America I grew up in is the America I'm proud to call home.

I'm missing my family more than usual right now because this is definitely a time where I would usually be surrounded by my family. So, do me a favor, don't take these moments for granted. Hug your loved ones a little longer for me, tell them how much you love and appreciate them, don't waste a second of your time together. Celebrate freedom and family today, and everyday! Have fun, stay safe and be thankful! Happy Independence Day!

Jared and I are planning to celebrate with our American friends here in Switzerland by going to an American style restaurant that offers grilled burgers, BBQ, etc. It will be our way of having a little taste of home for the holiday. :)

And now, I'll leave you with a few patriotic/festive videos....

11-year-old girl singing the National Anthem. Gives me chill bumps.

Military Dad homecoming surprises his kids! SO sweet!

Comedian Jim Gaffigan pokes fun at our 4th of July traditions!
Too funny!

Cute patriotic nail tutorial.

And last but not least...what would the 4th of July be without fireworks?

Happy Birthday America! God bless the U.S.A.!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Weekend In Italy -— Part I

The day after we got back from Italy I came down with a really nasty cold. I am still suffering from it, and actually have felt little improvement since Tuesday. I'm just thankful this cold decided to wait until after I got back from our trip! But that is why I haven't been blogging lately. I was able to edit a few pictures today from our trip so I wanted to share a few of them with you along with some stories from the trip.

We took the 8 hour train ride to Rome, Italy and were happily greeted by my parents. It was surreal not only going from Switzerland to being in Italy in only 8 hours, but also seeing my parents when we got off the train. I'm so incredibly thankful for moments with family and beautiful opportunities like this.

Not long after we had checked into our hotel we were off trekking around Italy. Our first stop was the Colosseum. I had seen this historic architecture before but it still wow-ed me seeing it again. It's incredible how something of it's grandeur was built so many years ago before machines and high tech equipment existed. I can only imagine what a sight it must have been when it was newly built.

The outside view of the Colosseum...look how small people are in comparison. It is absolutely massive in size.

Inside view of the Colosseum...I was disappointed to not see any cats this visit. Last time there were TONS!

We arrived in Italy late in the day so after we toured the Colosseum we were ready for dinner. We ate at a sea-side restaurant with outdoor seating and not only was the food fantastic (fresh seafood...Yum-O!) but we had a great view of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Perfect end to our first night in Italy! :)

aren't they adorable?! :)

The next day was a full and VERY hot day. I'm not exaggerating about the heat. I think I suffered from mild heat exhaustion that day. We saw all the major sites in Rome like the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, The Forum, etc. and after 4-5 hours of walking the streets of Rome in 90+ degree temperatures, my body was definitely overheating. I think everyone (including myself) was getting concerned for me. Thankfully our hotel room was air conditioned so we went back after lunch and we all took a nice rest away from the hot sun and felt much better. I never did take heat well. But I am so glad we got to see as much as we did before I started feeling bad.

The Trevi Fountain was the busiest tourist spot in Rome that day. I'm lucky I got a photo without people in it.

Kissing in front of the fountain (and some random was incredibly packed with people!)

The Pantheon

Ceiling inside the the light coming through

The Forum is full of these types of ancient ruins

This is the street artist who painted  this watercolor treasure for me. It's a colorful version of a neighborhood in Italy that we actually had lunch in that day. Such a beautiful keepsake to remember this trip. LOVE it!

After a full day in Rome we drove a few short miles away to enjoy dinner in Ostia. We enjoyed another sea side restaurant for dinner. Afterward, we walked the boardwalk and were amazed by the difference in culture from what we are used to. In Italy, they eat late...that is standard European so that didn't throw us off too much...what we couldn't get over was the amount of children and infants that were out as late as 11:00-12:00! Their parents were walking off their dinners and pushing their babies in strollers...all of which were wide awake! The other odd thing was out of all the children we saw only one who seemed to be cranky and showing signs of tiredness. So somehow they seem to adjust to the late hour schedule.

the boardwalk in Ostia at sunset

Keep your eye out for Part II of our adventures in Italy. Coming soon...   :)