Love Chic

Korea Diaries: Day 1

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안녕! Back on the grind after a delightful week of spring flowers and 12-degree weather in South Korea. I’m sitting on the front porch of the hanok (traditional Korean house) of Moon Guest House in Unni-dong (dong means “neighborhood”), where my family and I stayed on our first night in Seoul.

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The hanok is owned and maintained by Anna’s family. It was built by her grandfather, a nobleman, 50 years ago, and they welcome guests (including K-pop stars like Exo!) here who want to experience traditional Korean culture.

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Cool Change

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Quick shoot at the airport before my trip to Seoul yesterday afternoon. It’s 8 degrees here when we arrived at night, but of course I couldn’t wear my jacket yet in the sweltering heat of Manila, heh. 

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A lot of firsts come with this, like the first time to (finally!) visit a favorite city, first time to travel with the whole family including cousins, and my first time out of the country on Holy Week.

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They say Lent comes in tandem with conversion—a change in attitudes, mindset, or principles. Sometimes, the change is temporary, like not eating meat or going on Facebook. Other times, the change is as profound as forming a new habit or subscribing to a different way of doing things. 

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The Simple Things

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Hello! Finally a blog post after what seems like forever. I noticed some new names added to the followers list—welcome! Thank you for deeming this little space worthy of clicking that Follow button. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, so let’s ease in my “comeback” with something light and easy in lieu of my occasional thought-heavy posts.

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What’s Your Essence?

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"What is essential is invisible to the eye." Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s words (let alone his name) weren’t easy to spell out for me as a seven-year old reading "The Little Prince." Of course, through the years we come to realize that the seemingly simple, innocent, unassuming stories of our childhood turn out to be filled with meaning. And on essence, Saint-Exupéry couldn’t have made more sense.

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I’ve written about the five elements that make up everything around us: the essences of the physical world. At the launch of jewelry brand Pandora’s Essence Collection February 26, it was all about the elements that make up the essence of womanhood.

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Wear these to your school dance

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I was asked by Beautybook to write about what to wear to Prom (or Grad Ball, or whatever you call your high school dance). Instead of just an article, I decided to take on the challenge myself: put together a head-to-toe look on a student-friendly budget.

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I started around 10 o’clock in the morning and gave myself until the afternoon to cram everything, and this is what I came up with. And since I have no dance to go to, I’m giving away this dress as a personal gift to my high school readers. Read more for details.

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You can find better

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I love my job. I get to do the things I liked doing as a freelancer, but on a paycheck that allows me to spend on myself, my loved ones, and those who could use a little push, as a way to pay it forward.

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It’s not just the material rewards though, or the opportunities for traveling and learning from successful industry leaders and inspiring innovators who care more about substance and less about shallow popularity contests. It’s not just about the flexible lifestyle it has afforded me, or the mentors and friends I’ve gotten to meet who helped reinstate values and virtues I seemed to have forgotten about. Sure, the benefits are awesome. But I love my job for what it represents.

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Seasons of love

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Today is one of the most polarizing universal holidays. Love on a normal day is equal parts bewildering, captivating and frustrating as it is; on Valentine’s Day, whatever effects it has on a person is magnified a hundredfold—single or not, happily taken or secretly, miserably so.

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I must admit that when I was younger (and thus more prone to angst), I wasn’t the biggest fan of February 14th. Sure, I was a hopeless romantic—still am, but it’s also why. I felt that Valentine’s Day tends to become a vehicle for lip service and phony, seasonal gestures of love, done more out of obligation and peer pressure rather than sincere intentions.

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Solace

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I don’t know about you, but I find social media consumption these days to be exhausting. Every five seconds, there’s an interesting new top 21 list (“21 Shapes You Can Make With Ketchup”). A new video of a child prodigy doing something we ordinary adults can’t do (“Watch This 3-Year-Old Dance Ballet While Playing Her Own Violin Accompaniment”). A new slideshow of tips you never thought would be useful until now (“How To Cook Fried Rice Without Rice”). 

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The dizzying pace with which we are served these small bites of information on a daily basis is no wonder the majority of us seem to be developing attention-deficit disorders. Can you imagine going into a café to meet your friends without your laptop to while away the time? Heaven forbid you have to sit at your dentist’s reception area withoutyour tablet to play with while waiting. Let’s not even talk about the time you had to endure a 45-minute car ride without 3G on your phone.

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Yearender

Some say 2013 was a rollercoaster. For me, it was an uphill ride. Here are my top 10 posts why.
   

10. Starting Over [link

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It is never a walk in the park to find out that someone you trusted and loved has been betraying you in every way imaginable for half of your three-year relationship. The pain, humiliation and anger are enough to reduce even the best of people into a shrivelling mess. But it’s the messy breakups that turn out to be our redemption. We are saved from people and situations that were never worth it from the start, and freed from having to be stuck with them for longer. It’s like spring cleaning: we throw away what’s broken and rotten, and when we get rid of trash, we make room for everything beautiful that we deserve. I will always consider this to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.

9. Meeting Troian [link]

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"Days like these remind me that we must appreciate the small victories, the baby steps we are able to take towards becoming our better selves. And that, when things are meant to be, they will fall into place without us having to exhaust ourselves in struggle." This was the day I drove 85 kilometers to see Troian Bellisario and Patrick J. Adams in the flesh. I got an interview and a photo with her, and I got this and a birthday greeting from him. As a fan of SuitsPretty Little Liars, and these two, this post makes it to the highlights of 2013. What made it more special are my two best friends, Joanne (who made the videos possible) and Abi (who drove half the way, waited with me and took photos).

8. Graduation [link]

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Written after my brother’s college graduation and my birthday celebration at a home for orphaned and street children. Coming back to Ateneo to attend the ceremony, and listening to the messages of Cardinal Tagle and the professors and Jesuits I admired, brought back memories of my late teens and early twenties and of the ideals and values I hoped to live by back then but had forgotten through the years. They say our lessons will repeat themselves until we learn them, and I realized just how true this was. Needless to say, it wasn’t just my brother who graduated that day.

7. Dive, Don’t Drown [link]

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Few events are more life-changing for me than this. For one, I took swimming lessons thrice and failed. I can swim when the water is shallow enough that I can stand up in the pool… which is to say that I can’t. I’m not a beach person, either. I don’t even own a bikini. But my best friends Joanne (a wanderlust with a thirst for new experiences) and Magel (a certified diver and avid adventurer) have been urging me to try things I’ve never done before, and one crazy day, I found myself telling them I wanted to dive. I conquered my fears, found a new friend in an amazing person, and discovered new things about myself. I actually love the sea! I’m ready for that fourth attempt at swimming lessons.

6. Transition [link]

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I have a pretty accurate read of a person from my first conversation with them, regardless of whether they’re being real or not. I turn out almost always right. Despite this, I found myself in toxic relationships left and right. I didn’t feel comfortable with myself, compromised my values for majority approval, traded secrets with and confided in people who I knew deep inside weren’t listening with genuine intentions. Afraid to break away and burn bridges, I chose to participate. When I wrote this post, I was seeing the consequences of this choice. I was able to see which were my friends for as long as they had something to gain, which ones left without hearing me out, which ones were afraid to rock the boat standing by me, and which friends truly cared how I was, asked what happened, reprimanded me for my mistakes and loved me anyway. They’re the ones I have with me now.

5. Skinny Love [link]

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Thoughts at a Coffee Bean while Birdy’s version was playing. “All we really want, deep down inside, is to be loved… But are we really willing to make do with a love founded on co-dependency than none at all? A love of two halves desperate to have someone complete them at the cost of losing their individuality? Skinny, undernourished, lightweight love? When you’ve had one too many, you tire of chasing after a kind of love that is bound to last only so long as the novelty and euphoria of the feeling is there. You resolve that this time around, you will love yourself first… that perhaps, when you are whole and with so much to give, another whole will come by when you least expect it.”

4. Charmed [link]

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Reflections on being twenty-something, and wearing a charm bracelet for the first time. “The cross with heart to be reminded of the One who makes all things possible and beautiful. The flower, as a reminder to bloom where I am planted, and my birthstone aquamarine (March) as a reminder that we are born for a purpose, and it is up to us to seek and fulfill it… Two turquoise beads to represent sea and sky, because adventure is out there! The white hearts to represent pure love—what I believe in and look forward to finding, feeling and keeping.”

3. Wildcard [link]

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Baseball caps were all the rage this year, so the sport became a springboard for this post. “In many other sports and competitions, it essentially means the same thing: a second ‘in,’ a chance to redeem oneself despite failing to make it under normal circumstances. Many times in life too, we only either win or lose. And when we lose, there’s no going back. But every now and then, wildcard opportunities present themselves and offer a way back in… This time, we know so much better… We are more than ready. This is why many wildcards end up as winners.”

2. Autumn [link]

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I have a fascination for the five elements and the four seasons. This post is a conclusion to the parallels I made between the seasons and the events of this year. “Now, it is autumn. The season for shedding the bits and pieces that aren’t needed, in order to make room for an eventual and inevitable rebirth. For more amazing challenges and experiences. I’d like to believe this is the season I have come full circle.”

1. In Order To Bloom, You Have To Pull Out The Weeds [link]

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A celebration of the outpouring of blessings that has come my way. “I look at the vast garden of people who have helped me blossom throughout the past year. Familyold friendsnew friends, old colleagues who knew better than to believe fabricated lies, new work colleagues in a new industry filled with intelligent, mature and accomplished individuals. People who heard all sides but didn’t take sides, saw the mishaps and saw me through the mistakes, gave me a tough time out of tough love, and stayed throughout everything. The happiness and contentment I feel today is for and because of them.”
    
To everyone who has touched my life this year, please know that I think of you every day and I thank you and wish you all the happiness in the world. You have made 2013 the best year ever, and it can only get even better next year. Happy New Year! ♥ 
   
All the love,
Shai

Love Chic mail

Send me your questions and letters via Tumblr Ask! Here are some that I can answer publicly :)

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I rarely use lipstick. If I’m wearing one on a post, it’s usually borrowed from someone during the shoot. Haha. For eyebrows, I use The Face Shop’s Design My Eyebrow pencil and Color My Eyebrow mascara. That’s all the makeup I put on most days. Here’s a tutorial

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Sakto lang iyan kasi panganay ako, haha. Salamat! 

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Hi Mira, I checked out your blog and I have to disagree that it isn’t good enough. I think you’ve established what your personal style is—can’t say the same for myself when I was your age, and having a solid sense of style is key. My suggestions would be to keep doing what you’re doing, interact with other bloggers, and learn as much as you can about your passions (clothes, makeup, graphic design) online. Having many readers is awesome, but it takes time and can’t be forced. Just make sure you like what you put out there, that you think it’s good enough—others are bound to notice. Good luck!

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I don’t know if it was aired on ETC Vibe, but yeah, I hosted a movie screening for them. Thanks!

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Hi Allyzon, my current theme is actually a combination of my previous themes! I’ve had about five so far, and I customized by getting my favorite features from each one and using Rank & File as my “base.” Hope that helps. Have a blessed 2014 too!

Ask, say or request anything here. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @shailagarde :)

Autumn

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Five months ago, I wrote “Transition.” It was the middle of spring, and although I live in a country that only has sunny and rainy days, the events in my life seemed to be changing the way the seasons do. I had just come from a harsh and dark winter, and in time, the cold melted and ushered in a lush, vibrant spring where everything was growing.

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In the summer, I moved on to a fresh new start and decided to “Keep Walking.” When I turned my back on all the baggage weighing me down and the garbage bringing out the worst in me—the things and people that were keeping me from being my best and most genuine self—everything became clear as day. That “Clarity" made me take responsibility for the choices I made in the past couple of years. I saw clearly the short-term consequence: a wounding, a purging, an emptying out. 

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I also saw the long-term consequence: a healing, a rediscovering, a filling up with real love and genuine happiness. Now, it is autumn. The season for shedding the bits and pieces that aren’t needed, in order to make room for an eventual and inevitable rebirth. For more amazing challenges and experiences. I’d like to believe this is the season I have come full circle. ♥

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Outfit details: Shop Enna olive green one-shoulder bodycon dress. I enrolled in 360 Fitness Club last September and aside from most obvious reason being to take good care of my health, clothes like these are why.  

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Japanese Candy green contact lenses, SM Accessories emerald green earrings, Silverworks aquamarine pendant.

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The birthstone for March. I also wore it with this sporty outfit.

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Pandora charm bracelet. The silver flower also has an aquamarine stone, while the Murano beads are in the same color. The meaning of this bracelet and all its charms are on this post

Hype this above and vote on Chictopia here.

Peace, love and sneakers

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Filipinos are still on a high from Megan Young’s Miss World win, and rightfully so. It isn’t every day that a simple lady from a small town in Olongapo gets to fufill her and every other girl’s childhood dream of becoming a princess (in this case, a queen).

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Wearing glamorous gowns, beautiful heels and a glorious crown over your crowning glory? Bringing honor to your country amidst pork barrel scams and celebrity sex scandals? Being given a chance to make a profound difference in the world? Check, check and check. 

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I possess neither the height nor the body proportions it takes to even make it to the preliminaries of any significant pageant of beauty and physiological symmetry (save for the occasional local santacruzan, which hardly counts), but here are three reasons I’m completely okay with that.

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One, I’m average. I’m only 5 feet and an inch tall. My skin is far from perfect, with little scars here and there and breakouts every once in a while when I wear makeup for more than a few hours or don’t drink enough water or get enough sleep. My hair is always all over the place: if I comb it, it looks like I have a household broom on my head. If I don’t, it looks like I slept on it and headed out. I have braces to align my crooked teeth, but there are no braces for my crooked grin. I may meet society’s standards in terms of butt size, but I can’t say the same for my chest size. Haha. I am average, and I say that with pride and loving self-acceptance, holding the torch for average girls all over the world.

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Because there are more of us, and we are faced with a happy challenge: that of learning to love our physical average-ness, while at the same time discovering which aspects about ourselves enable us to be above average. Intelligence? Charm? Sense of humor? Musical talents? Artistic skills? Numerical aptitude? A penchant for finding the perfect gift or gesture for anyone’s birthday? Whatever they may be, they are the brushes with which we can paint the beautiful portrait of our above average-ness on a blank canvas of average-ness. 

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Two, I am unique. I may be average, but I am not generic—big difference. Average has the chance to command attention by standing out; generic stays in the background unnoticed, with nothing new or different to offer. I can pull things out of my pocket that no one else can have up their sleeves. The movie Hugo got it right about unique individuals: “I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason.”

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Three, life is one big pageant anyway. Society is one big panel of judges, and there are universal criteria wherever we go. We are judged by how we look, what we wear, how we carry ourselves, what we want to say and how we say it, the culture and values we represent, the people we associate ourselves with, the beliefs we express and convictions we uphold, how we answer questions we are presented. 

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In this way, the world indeed is a stage, and every day is a part of the competition where we get to prove our grace, poise, skills and intelligence—not only to the judges and audiences, but more importantly to ourselves. In this way, we can all aim for peace, love and balance in the world, even in our tank tops, jeans and sneakers. :)    

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Outfit details: “Love” striped tank top from my cousin, Human dove-printed pants. Hype this on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here.

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SM Accessories transparent cuff and bird-and-flowers pendant.

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Bags In The City “Xavier” handbag. 

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World Balance “Vanity” sneakers. Apt sneaker name for today’s thoughts, yes? Apt, and ironic that there is none of the discomfort or superficiality that usually come with the word: these sneakers are about as simple, soft and comfortable as you can get. If you’re following me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you can win a pair for yourself.
    

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Charmed

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In the TEDTalks video “Why 30 is not the new 20,” psychologist Meg Jay talks about how we young people may lead more meaningful lives and invest in a future with purpose and fulfillment as we reach our thirties and beyond. It might be a few more years before I get to that stage, but Dr. Jay’s talk got me thinking of all my quarter-life qualms: the uncertainty at where the paths I’ve taken were headed, the desire to make a significant contribution to society, the realizations that turned mistakes into lessons.

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As she underscores in her talk, our twenties are meant to be stepping stones, not “throwaway” years. Do something that adds value to who you are,” says Dr. Jay. It reminded me of steps we can take to get there, and I thought I’d wear these reminders on my sleeve—well, my arms—every day from now on.

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On one hand, a watch to be reminded that time doesn’t stop for anyone, and that we must spend it wisely because we can never take a second, minute or hour of it back. On the other, a band of reminders for getting started on the me I want to be and the life I want to grow into. 

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(Paper Dolls top, Human jeans, booties from Korea, Esprit Time watch. Hype on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here.) I got the charm bracelet from the jewelry coffers of Pandora. I’ve loved these things even as a little girl, and I used to tell myself back then that the perfect time will come when I can start building one and start filling it up, one life journey at a time.

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I chose Pandora for many reasons, starting with my fascination with Greek mythology and the particular story of Pandora’s box which attempts to answer the question of why there is evil in the world. In grade 6, I wrote an adaptation of this story for a school play and got to play Pandora, the world’s first woman whose name literally means “she with all the gifts.” She opens a mysterious box out of curiosity and releases all the evils of humanity, leaving only Hope inside as she scrambled to close it again. It’s a tragedy, but it ends with that hope, and I’d like to think life is like that too. 

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My Pandora’s box opens up to a silver bangle with two locks and five charms: a silver cross with a heart in the middle flanked by turquoise Murano glass beads, a silver sphere with mother of pearl hearts and a silver flower with aquamarine stones. 

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The silver band, as a reminder that of two things: that things will always come full circle, and that precious things last. We will always reap what we sow, which is why we should take care to plant only seeds whose fruits we want to eat. Financial success and career achievement are undoubtedly important, but more so are our relationships. Are we making time for our parents, our siblings and cousins, our true friends? Will we be there whenever they need us? Do they know that we appreciate them for everything they’ve been doing for us, and are we able to give the same back to them? 

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The cross with heart to be reminded of the One who makes all things possible and beautifulThe flower, as a reminder to bloom where I am planted, and my birthstone aquamarine (March) as a reminder that we are born for a purpose, and it is up to us to seek and fulfill it.

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The rest are reminders of my aspirations. two turquoise beads (my favorite color!) to represent sea and sky, because adventure is out there! After trying out scuba diving despite not being a beach person and not knowing how to swim and ending up loving it, I realized that there’s so much more out there that I want to see and explore. As they say, traveling is the one thing you spend on that makes you richer. And finally, the white hearts to represent pure love—what I believe in and look forward to finding, feeling and keeping. 
      

Thank you Joanne for helping me build my charm bracelet—literally and figuratively, Magel for helping me rediscover the spirit of adventure, Robbie for helping me learn when not to give a darn, Anton for helping me find the right words, and you readers, for being there. Next to my family, it’s friends like you who make this a charmed life. :)