Setting New Goals

Something I Gotta Do.

If you’re a frequent reader of my blog posts (which you probably are because you’re probably related to me or Jess) you’ll know that I’m currently studying abroad in France. Well, since arriving here, I’ve gained quite a bit of weight, and I’m really not comfortable with the way my body is looking and feeling right now. For the last year or so, I’ve put on more than 10 pounds, and it’s time for me to stop ignoring it.

Some of the reasons for this are personal, but my biggest spikes weight wise have come from being far from home and immersed in unhealthy food that I haven’t been able to resist. Believe it or not, I really love working out and eating healthy foods, more than I like cupcakes and potato chips, but I’m awful at controlling cravings, saying no when someone offers me food, and I eat/bake when I’m stressed or upset. Obviously, the combination of these things does nothing to help my physique.

So, tomorrow, October 23rd, 2016, is going to be the start of a new period of clean living- healthier eating habits, habitual exercise, water consumption, and relaxation. My two week long school vacation recently began, so I’ll have plenty of time to go for runs, head to the gym, get my work done for Nano and my school back at home, SLEEP, and I’ll get to be in charge of what I eat with full control over the kitchen.

I plan to use these two weeks as a sort of detox so that I can return to school in November with a clean slate. This means vegetables and fruits for snacks, cream-sauce-less protein, lots of water, a smaller intake of simple carbs (baguettes/pasta) and a ban on junk food/fast food. Although I recognize that this will be pretty difficult with my host family’s eating habits, I’m sure I can find ways to eat cleaner versions of their meals or cook my own. Fortunately, I have a gym membership and I’m already an avid Pinterest user, so I can get in my daily exercise and find plenty of healthy recipes online.

I’m ordering a veggie pasta maker online (because zucchini pasta is AMAZING) and I plan to stockpile on supplies this coming week to try my hand at cooking something that doesn’t contain sugar.

Basically, I’m deciding to use this blog as a source of accountability. I’ve never had much luck making myself stick to anything, but there’s something about having something written and posted where you know anyone can see it that makes you feel like you really have to follow through. Even if nobody sees this, at least I know that if I fail and cheat, I’ll have to delete this post or have it forever haunt me as yet another thing I said I’d do but didn’t.

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Autumn Antics

[I am but a Yellow Leaf on a Tree]

On October 13th, only 3 months remained of my semester abroad. Today, I have even less time, and I’m determined to make the most of these last few months and experience as much as I can before I’m shipped back home to Junior Year Stress-ville.
So, a quick recap of the last few weeks since I’ve been pretty absent blogging wise:

Je suis allée aux Bruxelles! walkin-in-bruxelles



Où je me suis assis sur la chaise de Hagrid à l’Éxpo de Harry Potter et j’ai mangé vol-au-vent (aka French Chicken Pot Pie).


J’ai voyagé à Canterbury, l’Angleterre


Où on a erré les rues,


Et j’ai appris quelques choses…

  1. I’m pretty used to French.

I constantly found myself saying “Pardon” as I bumped into people meandering the streets and accidentally asked my server at a restaurant if I could “avoir un peu plus d’eau, s’il vous plaît”. Not to mention that awkward moment at Yankee Candle when I couldn’t figure out the english equivalent to “C’est pas grâve” when the lady told me that they no longer carry my favorite holiday scent.  (Just in case your wondering… It’s called Home for the Holidays and it is basically a wax version of Christmas)

2. It’s better than okay to strut away and go your own way (I’m so sorry that rhymed)

For some reason, my host family was bound and determined to eat Burger King for lunch. Now, there’s nothing wrong with Burger King but A. it’s fast food, and B. I didn’t come all the way to England to eat something I could have any time in the US. I tried to subtly (or not so subtly) make it clear that I wanted something new and suggest other options for lunch, but my family had their hearts set on Burger King. After a bit of frustrated mumbling in English and a few dramatic sighs, I realized that this was my chance to experience Canterbury, and while my host family could come back anytime, I will probably never return to this town in autumn with a wallet full of pounds to spend. I told my host mom that I would meet her in an hour and I marched off to a little restaurant that can best be described as a fitness blogger’s Pinterest board where I ate this: 


You are currently looking at chia seed pancakes with caramelized bananas and toasted coconut popcorn, and yes, it was as delicious as it was aesthetically pleasing. I sat alone at a high top table at this tiny little restaurant, “ The Skinny Breakfast”, journaling in my notebook, listening to coffee-house-acoustic music, and sipping water from a mason jar as I waited for my pancakes. I didn’t feel lonely nor did I feel bad about ditching my family at Burger King; I felt amazing.

Moral of the story: Don’t be afraid to go off and explore on your own. Don’t get pulled into doing something that you don’t want to do or you’ll be regretting where you didn’t go for the rest of the day. 

3. God, I miss Fall in New England

Fall is by far my favorite season, with its cozy warm sweaters, beanies, colorful leaves, and seasonal beverages such as the ever famous pumpkin spice latte and my personal favorite, hot apple cider. Fall is the season of  Winter Holiday anticipation, Thanksgiving, and cross country, my favorite time of year to run through the woods as the leaves turn. Even though the leaves do change in France, there aren’t many trees which means no walks through the woods and no matter how hard I look, I can’t seem to find apple cider. Not gonna lie, all I wanted to do was ship myself back home to make Hug-Me-Hot Chocolates for me and my dad while we watch the Bruins game in our Jerseys and smell the roast chicken alive with herbs and the sweet scent of cinnamon as my mom pulls the roasted apples and bird out of the oven on a Saturday evening.

Sunset watching from the fare-way of the golf course behind my house, running across the dam at the State Park after school, Walking home from the bus stop in the afternoon crushing colorful leaves with my riding boots… I probably spent hours during class day dreaming about what I would be doing back home, and not gonna lie, I got a little teary eyed.

Because despite everything that I love about France, nothing makes me as warm and fuzzy-feeling than when I think about home. I treasure every chance I have to go to Lille and drink a latte and even started baking all my favorite sweets that remind me of Fall time in France. Banana bread, chai tea, apple cinnamon swirl coffee cake, cheesecake blondies, and candles make my house here in France smell like home. Nevertheless, I’m still heartbroken when I realize that I’m going to miss the entire fall season. No Thanksgiving, No Halloween, No birthday Bruins game.

I’ll get over it… It’s just the October Blues. I’ll focus on school and writing and I’ll dress myself in oversized sweaters and knee socks so my soul doesn’t fall through my toes, and I’ll keep falling in love with France with each Autumn Day.

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November is Looming

Nanowrimo – An Excuse for Writers to Write

October… the time us crazy writer folk begin to panic because November is looming. We gather our coziest scented candles, pick out a special mug for our caffeinated beverages, stock up on stationary, and start compiling playlists full of classical music. November 1st marks the first day of Nanowrimo and the beginning of a month full of late night word sprints and constant day dreaming about the yet unknown fates of side characters and subplots.

There are two types of Nano writers… the Pantsers and the Planners. Last year, I fell into the former category, but then again I had already written various scenes and had been thinking about my story for six months. When November rolled around, I was pumped and ready to word vomit. This year, I didn’t expect to even try National Novel Writing Month; 1,667 words a day was a struggle last year, and that was back at home in the US when I was injured and had nothing better to do than procrastinate for four hours before sitting down to write.

However, as the Fall season approaches bearing its spiced lattes and holiday anticipation, I’ve been looking for an anchor to cling to to forget that the season will come and go and I won’t be home to see the leaves change or eat Turkey on Thanksgiving. As difficult as it was, nanowrimo was probably the highlight of my sophomore year, and I’ll never forget the feeling of self pride that I felt when my word count hit 50,001. I miss writing, falling in love with the characters in my head, and weaving story lines that even take me by surprise.

So, this year I will once again embark on this psychotic month long journey, but I have a slight problem- I have no project. I have a few ideas for setting and characters, but absolutely no plot. What does this mean? Pantsing is not an option. This means that I must now begin brainstorming, outlining, and organizing…. And mind you, I’m starting late.

If I were an intelligent human being, I would have started the outlining process weeks ago, but alas, I made a spontaneous decision yesterday to settle down for the long haul of Nano and now must come up with a story to tell.


Nevertheless, I’m starting to get excited and cannot wait to go candle shopping and ignoring all other responsibilities while I write. For that reason, I plan to draft the majority of next month’s blog posts now so that I don’t have to go completely dark for 30 days. I’ve also decided that to cut myself some slack, blogging about Nanowrimo will count as part of my daily word count. (Who needs to know 🙂 )

Wish me luck! I’m going to need it.

Mandy Signature


The Meaning of Life

Do More. That’s the answer, not 42.

Existing isn’t living. Existing is breathing and living is doing. Life is meaningless if you never do something more. That doesn’t mean travel to every country or find a cure for an incurable disease. It means don’t do less. Always work towards something, and don’t just work, work hard. Fit 30 hours into a 24 hour day. We can always do more.

People will tell you to wait. But what is the point of waiting? Your limited time will pass while you just sit by and wait. Life isn’t a given, we have no clue when or how we will die. It’s completely unavoidable. Life won’t wait with us.

Make it Count.

Make life worth it. It coincides with doing more. Make everything you do count. There is nothing more wasteful than living a life that has no purpose. Give it purpose. Push your limits and think beyond what you’ve been told to do. Don’t play it safe. By playing it safe, you do nothing and don’t live. Make the most of your time here.

Do what makes you happy. Following the beaten path is meaningless. If you die today wouldn’t you want to make sure everything you’ve done thus far was purposeful. That wasted hour spent worrying about how you’ll afford college could’ve been spent do something you love or meeting new people. Never waste what you have.

There is no meaning unless you create one.

Do more and make it count.

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A Windowsill Isn’t Quite A Tree

France Diary, Month One

Have you ever been woken up by someone and they asked you a question but you were still half asleep and couldn’t quite tell if it was a dream or reality? Welcome to my new permanent state of being.

After a month in France, I consider myself qualified to discuss what I consider to be “French Norms”, so I thought I would start this blog post by sharing a few of the strange little things I’ve noticed in France before I go and shower you with all my emotions and such.

1. French Hallways = Streets of Upper East Side New York

I honestly have so much fun getting dressed for school in the morning. In the US, there’s a sort of mutual understanding that you’ll dress nice one or two days during the week, but you won’t ever try too hard. Wearing a blazer, wedge boots, and nice jewelry would raise some eyebrows at my school back home, but here in France it’s 100% socially acceptable to look nice everyday simply because you want to.

2. Four way stops are for losers; roundabouts are the new Stan Smiths of traffic regulation

3. The fries at KFC are not potato wedges (I’ll wait a moment while that blows your mind)

4. School Sports aren’t a thing.

Exercising after school will probably be a logistical nightmare, but its worth looking up a gym or club to join online. I found a gym that offers a ton of classes and it’s really great!

5. Showers are not waterfalls

By this I mean that you have to manually maneuver the shower head to wash your hand and put it down while you put in shampoo or shave- Ugh, Life’s hard when you’re a lazy American that doesn’t enjoy the extra effort it takes to lift a shower head.

6. Nutella is the ultimate condiment

Baguettes, granola bars, rice cakes, waffles… if you need to jazz up a snack, Nutella is there in abundance

7. School is LONG

self explanatory

8. Tote Bags = Frenchie / Backpacks = Foreigner! Foreigner! RED ALERT!

9. Washing your hands isn’t so important here

You’ll be surprised how many toilette rooms don’t have a sink or don’t have soap. (Take advantage of Bath and Body Works and buy some hand sanitizer before coming to Europe, my friends.)

10. Yes, walking around a city or school yard means walking through clouds of cigarette smoke.

So, the question that only my friends and family really care about- How am I doing?

Well, I do really like France, and I find that it is both incredibly similar and extremely different from what I imagined. I’m beginning to fall into the rhythm of French life and I feel more and more comfortable every day.

I still may be terrible at navigating the bus system, but I can find my way across my school’s campus and have successfully ordered from a French Starbucks. They only messed up the names a little bit… 


(btw… These are the cups of Lucie and Amanda)

I think that the one thing I miss the most about my home back in the States is the woods. This may sound strange to some people, but I spend a lot of time outdoors wandering through the woods or sitting on the golf course behind my house listening to music, and there just isn’t anywhere here for me to do that. I’ve recently discovered that sitting in my windowsill gives a similar effect, but it’s still not the same as being surrounded by trees and birds with nothing man-made visible in any direction.


Here, there are a lot of fields and not so much forest.

Because of this, I’ve been forced to find beauty and serenity in other things here. Two weeks ago, my host family took me to Bruges, Belgium, a town known as the Venice of the North, and I finally felt the flutter in my chest that I get when I’m sitting outdoors with my headphones and the wind whips by.


It was a cloudy, windy day, my favorite type of weather, and as I stood in front of the river looking at the willow trees drooping over the water, and looked at the old, beautiful buildings that lined the cobblestone streets, I realized that Europe’s charm is in its cities.


History tells its story along the streets of cities like Bruges, just as the muffled whispers and chirps in New England Forests tell their own tales. I ate a Belgian Waffle instead of a granola bar, and listening to French conversations instead of Woodkid’s Run Boy Run, but the same shivers ran down my spine.


I’ll find ways to enjoy the scenery, even if it looks a little different from home.

Mandy Signature

WARNING: There’s No Ice in the Water

France Diary; Week One 

Orientation, Boston MA –> Normandie, France

Before I left for France, I had been warned about this peculiar little sensation called “Culture Shock” that is seemingly unavoidable when traveling to another country. I was thinking that this “Culture Shock” was going to include things like weird meal times, school day differences and odd bathroom situations, but in truth, the biggest shock I felt my first few days in France was the lack of ice cold water.

In the US, we complain about too much ice in our beverages, and while it is true even I get frustrated when my iced coffee is really a cup of ice with a bit of coffee on the side, I never realized how accustomed I was to ice cold beverages until I got to France. That’s not to say that no restaurants will give you cold drinks, but the majority of water you’ll find at schools or public places is room temperature.

There are infinite differences between France and the United States, some I have already realized and some I have yet to notice, but for some reason, the ice water stuck with me, surprising since I didn’t even notice at first. It was one my fellow American exchange students who pointed out the difference. Afterwards, I just couldn’t get over it. That being said, there are so many things here that are so amazing and different and I couldn’t even begin to describe them all in a single blog post that isn’t 100 pages long. I will note however that the best thing about this trip so far has been the one thing that remains the same no matter where I travel: friendship.

Honfleur Pier

I don’t have the words to describe the amount of amazing people I met during the CIEE and STS program orientations, and it broke my heart to say goodbye to all my new friends as we headed off to our host families. You would think that a week is not a long enough time to form lasting bonds with anyone, but I’m here to tell you that there’s something about a mutual feeling of both absolute terror and extreme excitement that can really bring people together.

I experienced my first steps in Europe alongside these people, and there’s something about traveling with someone that gives you the perfect opportunity to open up and reminisce about home, which just so happens to be a great way to get to know someone.

All throughout this first week in France I’ve been waiting for it to sink in that I’m in France, and to be honest, it hasn’t yet. As I’m getting off the plane I think “This is it… I’m here!” And I wait for a whoosh of nervous jitters, but all I feel is a migraine because my poor brain is caffeine deprived. The bus rounds the corner into the heart of Paris, I see the Eiffel Tower, I walk up the staircases to Sacre Coeur… “Look around, Amanda, You’ve finally made it!” Again, I wait for the whoosh and end up squinting into the sun on a 97 degree day and really wanting a bottle of water.
I didn’t get it… Why wasn’t I feeling anything? I was in Paris! This was a city I had dreamed about for years, yet it didn’t feel magical, and I was disappointed. I thought maybe France wasn’t going to be that amazing city of my dreams, but then I arrived in Honfleur. 


This is Honfleur, a seaside town littered with cafés, soap shops and boulangeries with a slight salty scent that wafts up from the water. The minute our bus began to wind through the streets of this town I felt it – the whoosh of France.

Although Honfleur is definitely a tourist destination, the ambiance is a lot more like Cape Cod than a city like New York or Paris. I think that was my problem with Paris, everywhere I turned there was a sign in English or somebody trying to sell you cheap Eiffel Tower Keychains. That kind of stuff really can impede on your ability to immerse yourself in a city; that was my issue in Paris… why I didn’t believe I was even there.

It wasn’t until a group of friends and I decided to take a walk down a street in a slightly more remote part of the city of Honfleur that I really began to feel that pitter patter of thrill and truly realized I was in another country – a beautiful country. While walking down a street in some neighborhood, we arrived at a cemetery.

Cemetery, Honfleur

I don’t know if you know much about American cemeteries, but they certainly don’t look like this. Each grave was customized and constructed from marble or stone littered with flowers, photographs, messages and statues, and I can’t really explain why, but to me if seemed beautiful.


I know what you’re thinking… “That girl’s traveled all around France and the thing she likes the most is a cemetery?” Well, yeah. Shockingly, I wasn’t the only one who thought this place was really cool; we spent quite a while meandering through the pathways and wondering who those people could possibly be, what their stories were, and marveling at the beauty that the French people had made from grief and sorrow.

I guess the point of this is to show you that a country is more than it’s greatest accomplishments. The Eiffel tower, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, are so familiar to us that sometimes we see them in person and it can feel like just another photograph. It’s when you stumble across something unique and authentic that you begin to feel a countries true culture,  and that’s exactly what I plan to do with the rest of my time here in France.

We cannot live with our agenda’s glued to our hands and use a guide book to lead us towards nothing but a city’s best and brightest. I once heard that the best way to learn about a city is to get lost and find your way home. Well, I can inform you that I’ve already been lost once so far, and I loved what I found.

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Songs I’m Into

Current Playlist: September 2016

A little update → Straight from my Spotify

In no particular order: 

  1. Honest – Kodaline
  2. She’s American – The 1975
  3. What A Catch, Donnie – Fall Out Boy
  4. Sober – Broods
  5. Cancer – My Chemical Romance
  6. Broken – Lifehouse
  7. Singing Low – The Fray
  8. Fuel to Fire – Agnes Obel
  9. Closing Time – Semisonic
  10. The Anchor – Bastille

Stay tuned for an upcoming music themed Rainy Day Rant…

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How Words Find Their Meaning

A Tissue is not Despair

Have you ever seen something or felt something and said to yourself “Dang, I wish there was a word for that?” The truth is that the word to describe whatever it is you want to name does exist, just not in your language.

A few months ago I purchased the most precious book that a foreign language nerd could ever find, “Lost In Translation” by Ella Francis Sanders. The concept behind this book is genius; a collection of words from around the world that don’t exist in English. This book contains everything from szimpatikus which is a hungarian adjective used to describe the feeling you get when you first meet someone and you can just feel that they are a good person, to a Malay word, pisanzapra, which gives a name to the amount of time it takes to eat a banana.

Flipping through the pages of this illustrated work of art, I realized that there are so many things that I see or feel everyday that I’ve never been able to name. This got me wondering, how does a word find its meaning?

We’ve all wondered who got to decide that a dog was a dog and a cat was a cat, but there are some words that couldn’t have been named by simply pointing at an animal and saying “I hereby declare you, animal that goes woof, a dog.” Take, for example, a word like happiness. This is such a common word that we use all the time, however the word has thousands of different meanings for different people. Sure, has defined happiness as “the state of being happy,” but who defined “happy,” or better yet, who decided that the happiness was a positive feeling?

From what I can tell, a word goes through several stages before it becomes integrated in our daily speech. First, someone has to identify a specific object, feeling, or concept and give it a title. Next, they give the word an definition; an outline for what can be classified as this word. Then the word is send out into the world where society puts it into context, thereby developing the word’s connotation through a cultural lens. At this point, the word may have been translated to another language or been spread across continents where more and more cultures decide their own meaning for that particular thing that guy over in some other country wanted to define.

I think the most fascinating thing about this entire process is that it’s really like one continuous game of intercontinental telephone: each time the word is used, the meaning is warped just a little bit.

Sometimes I wonder how we would feel about certain things if the telephone wire had been wound a little bit differently. What if the first person to define sadness didn’t think that it was such a bad thing? What if that person thought that sadness was something to celebrate, or that tears made eyes more beautiful? Or what if nobody ever gave sadness a name? Just because a feeling doesn’t have a name, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but without a name, we couldn’t develop connotation. If sadness wasn’t classified as a negative emotion, or laughter was thought of to be painful or annoying, how would our lives be changed?

Words are capable of doing damage and creating beauty because we’ve decided that they can. Language was built by humans to express ourselves and our thoughts to others through oral communication, grammar gave that communication guidelines, while cultural context built connotations to further develop the meanings behind each phrase we spoke. Language is fluid and alive and we have the ability to manipulate it; to mold it whichever way we choose. We can never go back in time and change the path of the telephone, but we can push it it a new direction by changing the meanings we associate with certain words.

Beauty doesn’t have to mean size 2 Victoria’s Secret models with flawless skin and perfect hair. A decade or so from now our generation will be in charge of passing on our language to our children, and when we do, we can teach them that beauty is a universal term used to describe a positive feeling one receives when looking at themselves or another person. If that’s the case, we all become beautiful simply by feeling happy when we look in the mirror. Next time somebody asks what equality means, we can express the term as mutual acceptance and shared opportunity for all people.

Let’s not further clarify words with exceptions and categorizations. Treat language as a tool and build whatever you want and make it mean whatever you wish; build yourself a new reality out of letters bound with feeling.

Mandy Signature

“Teachers don’t fail, only students do”

Here But Still Forgotten

An anticlimactic and disappointing article about Trump was why I first picked up the Boston Globe magazine sitting on my kitchen table, but it left me unsatisfied. To fulfill my want for a good morning read, I continued to flip through the magazine to find the cover story about the future of my state’s standardized test, MCAS. I discussed my opinions on standardized testing in the past so I wasn’t planning on writing this post, but a quote jumped out at me and I just had to respond.

Linda Hanson was introduced as a literacy tutor/teacher for the Arlington schools who applied to the state’s committee for redefining the test. In response to not being selected she offered up this quote “Teachers are the only ones who really can see how students react to the tasks that’s put in front of them. Why would you want to produce something that doesn’t have strong teacher input”? I wholeheartedly agree because this is something I have been saying for years, although I typically argue that students should have the input.

There is a lot of money, time, and effort spent on bettering schools and improving education. Tests are created and recreated constantly; new curriculum is introduced each year, but student input is never asked for. Us students are more aware of our needs than a committee of adults who attended school 30 years ago. Naturally they are stuck in the past, an era of less stress and less tests. A picture from the article shows test creators sitting around a table, 3 out of 6 have white hair. Yet here they are designing more tests because they are blissfully ignorant of the students’ reactions.

It’s almost as if the education board forgets that the students are living, breathing children who don’t want a state test every other month. Not only this, the test questions are scanned by adults who know the material better than the students. How is that fair? If a 59 year old man can answer this question, then surely an 8 year student can as well. It’s impractical and clearly not well thought out.

Yet despite being a test designed solely for children and teenagers, the article focuses primarily on how tests affect educators. But what about the students? A question I’m sure is never asked at these meetings. How are the people most negatively affected by testing forgotten? The students are the ones losing sleep, developing depression and anxiety, learning how to test rather than learning, not eating, becomingly dangerously stressed, and feeling the need to cheat.

Students continue to be forgotten and left behind although they are the ones most affected. It’s tragic.

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