Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Every year, many, many stupid people graduate from college. And if they can do it, so can you.

I'm a worrier. No, not a warrior, but a worrier. Stress is probably a part of my personality by now. This school year, I've been trying to work on handling the stress better, and so far, it's been working quite well, but I'm feeling a wave of stress lurking in the distance. Luckily for me, I finished my first round of mid-terms before fall break, but unfortunately for me, the second round has already begun. After this, I'm flying over to the west coast for Thanksgiving break (provided I manage to get myself to the airport, through it, and onto the plane) and after that I'll be back for finals. Prepare for battle!
START YOUR DAY RIGHT // Even if you aren't a morning person, you gotta admit that it's relatively free from distractions, and thus is the optimal time to be productive. Batch all the mundane tasks together and do them at the start of the day, because the easy repetitive stuff will get the ball rolling. If you really can't bear mornings, then just start as early as you can and do your best to keep away from distractions: disable notifications, turn your phone on airplane mode, and place it face down. If you don't enough self-control, download it! Yup, that's right. You can now download Self-Control! How it works is you set up a blacklist of distracting websites, and anything on that list will be blocked while the app is running. Or, you may opt to use the whitelist, which is the opposite of the blacklist: only websites on that list will be available while the app is running. However, personally I think that the second option is a little risky, because once you start the app, you won't be able to change your blacklist/whitelist until time is up. You won't be able to quit the app either (until the time is up), and even if you restart your computer, the app will continue running (I've tried). Of course, it would be best to start your day completely offline and to plan things on paper where there are less distractions. When it's time to leave the house, try to leave for everything five minutes earlier than expected. This way you're less likely to arrive in a frazzled state of mind. If you're one of those people who take forever to get ready to leave the house, make a "leave the house" mixtape and try to leave the house by the time the mixtape finishes playing. Even if you don't start your day exactly how you planned it to go, there are still ways to save it:  how to save a sh*tty dayhow to restart a bad/annoying/unproductive day.
EFFICIENCY IS KEY // To wake up early, you not only need to sleep early, but you also need to get the right kind of sleep. Learn about sleep cycles and rest when you need to. Don't wear yourself out. There's no point in studying if the information just goes in one ear and out the other. Spare fifteen minutes from every hour to get out of your chair and walk around. Make time to exercise. It can be as simple as walking everywhere or taking five minutes in the morning to stretch and breathe. If you're feeling anxious, pinpoint what's making you nervous, write it down, focus on breathing, get moving, and maintain perspective. Remember that life is more than getting good grades in school. If what you usually do to make your day better doesn't work, try something different and let good deed doing bring you joy squared. For me, all I really need is to get sleep, though sleep is understandably hard to come by, especially for a college student. To maintain energy throughout the day, we need as many sleep hacks as we can get! Especially when you're finding it difficult to focus, toiling through textbooks that are meaningless to you can be a very hard task. Sometimes after I finish reading a whole page of information, I still have to re-read it two or three more times, because absolutely nothing is processing. Spreeder helps increase your reading speed, and in a way boosts your alertness (at least for me). All you have to do is copy and paste the text onto the website, and then it will show you the text one word at a time at a speed you set. On the other hand, sometimes all you need is to slow down; soak up Sundays, keep in touch with friends, hold simple evenings, and BREATHE.
DEFINE YOUR WORKSPACE // Ideally, I would do my homework in a coffee shop every day after school, and maybe even over the weekends, but winter is a'coming and biking to Starbucks isn't very practical. If you have a corner to spare, you could consider making a DIY cafe, but I have a hunch that us college students don't have even that. Although studyspo sometimes makes me uneasy, I must admit that a great surrounding, colorful pens, and pretty stationary really does brighten my day. If you're like me and you love working in coffee shops but can't bring yourself to actually go there, recreate the coffee shop ambiance with Coffitivity. This is an especially great noise generating website for people who sing along to songs and so are unable to work with music, or are heavily distracted by things happening around you. I recommend having a warm cup of coffee as well, just to boost the coffee shop experience. If you'd prefer to have more options, Noisili and Soundrown also provide great customizable background noises. If anything other than white noise distracts you, use the White Noise Player. If all you want is to chill out, Calm down. For a classy experience, *insert like a sir meme* open these three tabs at the same time: one, two, three. Once the mood is set, whichever one you may choose, declutter your workspace. Stay tidy and organized, but also accept a little clutter and mess. Have inspiring photos laying around for moments when you feel completely brain dead. Work with a friend who is also working. Sometimes all you need to do is talk it out. If things really aren't working out, experiment with a change of location or reimagine your workspace and make it suck less.
RECLAIM TIME // We all have the same hours in a day. You may not ever have "enough" time, but everyone has the same amount, so no complaining (no time for it anyway). It's what you do with it that counts. Let no minute go to waste! Create a routine and write your to-do list the night before. Prioritize effectively focusing on three direct and achievable goals per day. Show it to a friend to keep yourself accountable. Set a time limit to some tasks, and don't forget to set a stop time. Don't overwhelm yourself, learn to say no, and don't be afraid to ask for help. If possible, designate no meeting Wednesdays, which will allow you to take a break in the middle of the week, but will also allow you to work without interruptions. Single-task at your desk, but also consider doubling up (i.e. have a quick meeting while walking over to a coffee shop for a mini-break). Schedule tight, because if you give yourself less time, it'll take less time to accomplish, but be reasonable. Listen to educational podcasts while you commute. We spend so much time waiting for things like classes/meetings to start and public transportation to arrive. Reclaim these unexpected bits of time. Carry around a book or magazine to read during these waits. If there's something you can do in two minutes, do it right away and only handle it once. Develop a 30 second habit, and make the most out of your last five and first five minutes of the day. Be decisive; when you're having trouble making decisions, flip a coin. Most importantly, work on something you're passionate about. Lunch time is sacred you-time: time to eat healthy food, journal, read blogs, people watch, nourish your soul, be inspired, be creative, be silly, be happy.
YOU'RE ONLY HUMAN // AND YOU'RE ABSOLUTELY FRIGGEN AWESOME. Keep track of your achievements. You could use the Seinfeld X technique, or you could use my personal favorite method, which I borrowed from Nicole: construct your own Tetris grid, and every time you accomplish something, color in a tetromino. Reward yourself when you do well, and accept yourself when you don't do so well. Here are ten inspirational quotes to make you feel better about not getting anything done today. For the days you really aren't feelin' it, craft an emotional emergency plan to pull out, including things such as but not limited to who to call, what to do, and where to go. If there is one thing you remember from this post, remember to BELIEVE. The time you spend worrying about how screwed you are could be better spent actually reviewing the material. Don't psych yourself out and don't give up.

Actually, you know what? A warrior I shall be, a worrier no more! Time to kick donkey butt!
Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor. *cue mockingjay whistle*

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The ripeness of autumn fills the air, and time is quiet and mellow

ONE // Almond butter cinnamon mug cake

I miss licking raw batter with the aroma of freshly baking cookies wafting through the air. What's a celebration without some food? Jump into the holiday season with these college-friendly recipes: pumpkin pie mug cakeeasy raw apple pie, and pumpkin cream donut sandwiches. If you have the luxury of an oven or an open stove, try salted butter caramels, salted caramel pumpkin cheesecake, hard candy caramel apples, cinnamon pumpkin pancakes, apple pecan pie, and pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple bourbon cream cheese icing. If you're looking for something more healthy, try the pumpkin protein bar. As you're chewing away, consider feasting with a purpose.

TWO // Autumn sangria

Wash down those solids with honeycrisp apple sangria, pumpkin fizz cocktail, or (and?) a swamp spice flip cocktail. Don't forget to throw in a monster cocktail stirrer! For the underage folk, mix up a candy corn mocktail or apple cider pomegranate mocktail. Give your stomach a warm hug with a pumpkin chai latte or pumpkin spice almond milk. If you're looking for something healthier, try the pumpkin pie protein smoothie, or just suck it up (lol) and indulge in a salted caramel cookie dough smoothie.

THREE // Foliage decoupage pumpkins

Pumpkin carving is so last year. Carving pineapples is what it's all about. Jk, but you only have two days until Halloween and you probably don't have time to carve a pumpkin (or pineapple). No fear! There are so many easy no-carve pumpkin ideas (and some more). Plus, you won't have to worry about your pumpkins molding into a sloppy mess. Get fancy with a DIY menu pumpkin. Want to take care of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all in one go? Try this fall pumpkin decor inspiration with terrain, AKA a pumpkin Christmas tree.

FOUR // Autumn garlands

All I could think about over the summer before moving into my college dorm was how I would decorate it with faerie lights. But don't be basic. Instead, decorate with fall foliage, or get into the Halloween spirit with skull succulent planters and more decorated skulls. Got more time (and space) on your hands? Have a swamp soiree or just have a nice meal on a rich table for fall. Hand out spiced latte hand soap for goodies! Just need some me time? Settle down with an autumn playlist and make your house cozy.

FIVE // Wildly printable animal masks for kids

I hate to be the one showing up in some lame costume consisting of ambiguous animal ears and a monochrome outfit, but there's only so much you can do in two days, considering that you still have school going on (lame). For the procrastinators like me, quick costumes can be built upon DIY masks like these woodland creatures felt masks. Or maybe you'd rather just paint a mask directly on your face; give people something to talk about with this alternative lace detail, so avant-garde. Got a little more time to invest and some friends to spare? Try this Pinocchio themed costume!

Post by Ryder.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of

I've been to New York City three times before, and every time I went, there was always something new to see. During each of my short stays, I found myself exhausted trying to take everything in, but I was hungry for it. I, one story walking among millions, want to learn about yours. Over my Fall Break, my [new! college!] friends and I made a trip to NYC, and let's just say that we weren't ready to leave.

I've already completed a quarter of my freshman year of college!! A break was very much needed, and I made good great use of it. I packed for two days (ukulele and everything), but little did I know I'd actually be gone for four. First stop was Princeton University to visit Kathleen with Kevin.

The three hour trek up there was a pain. First of all, it was raining. Second of all, the SEPTA was delayed. I planned on taking the 8:50AM, but ended up leaving at 9:00AM on the 8:20AM (there was some kind of health emergency with a passenger and there was an ambulance and everything). So yeah, third of all, I got on the wrong SEPTA. It was the express, so it wouldn't stop at Haverford for Kevin as we planned, but we worked it out to meet at the first transfer. Due to SEPTA schedule delays, we were short on time for transfers, but had just enough time to get breakfast from a vending machine. Alas, (fourth of all) the flappy thing in the vending machine didn't flap, the Doritos got stuck, and Kevin's coins were swallowed. Being the problem solvers we are, we decided to get a pack of Starbursts, hoping it's weight would cause the flap to flap, bringing the Doritos down with it, but (fifth of all) to no avail. Good thing I packed a little Tupperware box of trail mix.

At this point, the world was in such a state of imbalance--tipping under the weight of our morning misfortunes--that it needed to start working in favor of us to restore the balance. While waiting at our last transfer, we stopped mid-conversation and looked up. Lo and behold, we saw someone Kevin knew from Forensics who was also headed towards Princeton University to visit a friend.

When we finally made it to Princeton University, we said our goodbyes and, after long last, got to start spending time with the wonderful Kathleen! As great as the box of trail mix I packed was, it was not enough to sustain us, so lunch was in order. For the main course, we had a buffet at an Indian restaurant called Méhék. I stuffed myself with as much rice as I could, because it's been too long since I've had any good rice; dining hall rice just doesn't cut it. For dessert, we had bubble milk tea from Fruity Yogurt. There was a buzz in the air, the kind you feel at lively little coffee shops, so we stayed awhile and had many interesting conversations, some of which may inspire my future posts. We stopped mid-conversation and looked up. Lo and behold, we saw someone Kevin knew from summer camp three years ago who is currently attending Princeton University.

We made a few attempts to jam, but weren't very successful with my one-month ukulele experience. How do you get yourself out of a jam? *harharhar* Cookies!! Cookies make the world go round. Apparently, Princeton University provides freshly baked cookies for its students every night at the Murray-Dodge Cafe. As if you needed more reasons to love this place.

Guess what we spent our evening doing? Eating cookies at Murray-Dodge! We hung out until 1AM just talking, and I even ran into a BMC student visiting a friend at Princeton. Oh don't you love run-ins? It's a small world after all. Anyways, originally, this was going to be my only evening at Princeton, and the plan was to head back to Bryn Mawr the following evening, but my friends called me up for a Monday-Tuesday trip to NYC, so I decided to stay an extra night, and then leave straight from there for NYC.

Finding good friends doesn't come easily to me. I'm an introvert, and it takes a lot of effort for me to get to know other people and to allow them to get to know me. Maybe I just use my introversion as an excuse for my social awkwardness, and not the "she's so cute when she's awkward" awkward, but the "she's so awkward, I'm really uncomfortable" awkward. It was comforting to visit someone familiar and talk about how we're really doing, because "fine" really doesn't mean "fine"; it means "F.I.N.E." as in "Feelings I'm Not Expressing." I actually try my best not to be cryptic, because after watching too many K-dramas, I have concluded that saying how you really feel or what you really mean will save you and everyone else from a whole bunch of drama/trouble. Unfortunately, I'm just not an articulate person.

But after letting out a massive brain fart and talking it out, I was finally able to pinpoint the root of my anxiety. There is so much pressure in college not only to fit in, but also to build lifelong relationships. Yeah yeah, "be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind" (Bernard M. Baruch), "if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best" (Marilyn Monroe), and all that, but if you think about it, you still want to fit in to some extent. After all, the whole point of the college application process is to find the one that is the best fit for you. [Kathleen and I had fun trying to figure out our college characters. What makes you look at someone and say "oh, she's so Princeton" or "oh, she's so Bryn Mawr"?]

Before leaving for college, my mom beat it into me that the world is all about connections, which I also believe is true, and that the strongest ones are made in college; the people you hang out with now in college are going to be the ones who stick with you/be associated with you for the rest of your life (high school friends, not necessarily, as sad as it is)--be strategic about it. Making friends is already hard enough for me, so I don't even want to worry about making friends strategically. I just want to make good friends. The thought of making friends strategically is too depressing anyways.

I miss my best friend. I miss having a best friend around. Sometimes when I have too much time, I just lie there and think about all the amazing people I've met at college and wish that we could be best friends. Then I start worrying about whether I'll ever find a best friend or if I'm doomed for a best-friend-less life. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has wondered about this (I mentally roll my eyes every time someone says "omg you too?? I thought I was the only one!" because did you really? Did you really?). Well I have good news for you. You have time. I relieve you of the pressure to find your best friend at year one. Heck, I didn't find my best friend until seventh grade after being at that school for two years!

I cringe every time someone uploads a selfie with irrelevant song lyrics as a caption, but I swear I have a good reason for quoting Alicia Keys for the title of this post. Do you ever like to sit in the car with your earbuds in and stare into the distance to create a real-life movie moment? Well, on the Megabus, Steph played "Empire State of Mind" while crossing over to NYC. Oh, and the three of us arrived at NYC on different forms of transportation: Steph on the Megabus, me on the train, and Miriam on the amtrak. We had a bit of a hiccup at the beginning with Miriam missing her ride, but we made it!

Also, we were greeted in NYC by a parade which we initially thought was an Italian Pride parade, complete with floats and a marching band. At one point, the performers started singing "Empire State of Mind" and it was glorious. Unfortunately, we later realized that the celebration was for Columbus Day. Why is Columbus Day still a thing?

our condo on roosevelt island

our view overlooking queens

Our trip to NYC was unreal. I can't believe how well everything worked out. Originally, our plan was to make a quick one-day trip to watch a Broadway show, roam around the city with whatever time we'd have left, and then head back to Bryn Mawr. However, considering how short this trip would be, we'd be burning a lot of cash, so we decided against this plan. Our plan for NYC was put on hold until Miriam called me while I was at Princeton (talk about last minute haha) (but it worked out).

It just so happened that Miriam had family friends in NYC who were renting out their condo, but hadn't yet rented it out, so they offered it to us for our Fall Break. We were spoiled rotten! They even baked us cookies! I reiterate: cookies make the world go round. We couldn't have asked for a better place to stay or for better hosts. The condo overlooked the river and the huge windows provided a great view. As the condo was up for rent, all the furniture had been removed so we had to bring our own sleeping bags, which we decided to unroll in the living room--fall asleep with the city lights, wake up with the sun.

bethesda fountain at central park

Central Park was our first stop, but Central Park is pretty big, so we took a few breaks sitting on whatever flat surface we could find, soaking up the city and its people. There was an adorable couple who was getting candid shots professionally taken (probably for their wedding), spiffy men and women who I suspect were fashion bloggers, children running around popping ginormous bubbles, an old Chinese couple playing erhus, and some people just looking pensively into the distance.

naumburg bandshell at central park 


street performers by the christopher columbus statue at central park

I wish these guys had CDs or something, but all they had was a donation box. I'm so in love with their voices! That guy in the middle is playing a stringed instrument with his hands and "drumming" on the box with a foot and playing the tambourine with his other foot. I can hardly walk and chew gum at the same time. Jk I can, but Maddie-Fitzpatrick-in-an-alternate-universe can't. Sigh. If anyone recognizes these people, please redirect me to a place where I can get their music! I could listen to them all day.

baked desserts at magnolia bakery

Magnolia Bakery is known for its cupcakes and banana pudding. Last time I visited (three years ago), the banana pudding was all sold out, but thankfully this time it wasn't. It did not disappoint! The bakery is tiny but popular, very 热闹. I couldn't enjoy the adorable interior to its full extent as it was super crowded, but all my problems were solved as soon as I took a bite of my banana pudding.

grand central station

And who am I? That's a secret I'll never tell. You know you love me. xoxo, Gossip Girl.

Steph was dying to visit Grand Central Station because of something to do with Gossip Girl haha. I think the most amazing part about Grand Central Station is that although it has been open for a long while and is now a tourist attraction, it is still presently and actively in use. While at Grand Central Station, don't forget to visit the Whispering Gallery, right in front of the Oyster Bar & Restaurant.

one world trade center 

I thought that this building was so tall that it looked like it was disappearing into the sky, point of perspective and all that. But the building is actually constructed of triangular panels (which are constructed of rectangular ones), so that's why it seems to be disappearing into the sky. This building is actually really tall, just not quite so tall that it disappears into the sky. It was, however, tall enough that while I was pointing my camera up towards it, the coffee in my hand tilted and spilled onto my shirt.

9/11 memorial

on our way to the tenement museum 

This was the place that Miriam was most excited about. Unfortunately, photography wasn't allowed during the tour. The one we went on was Shop Life. This museum is very different from any other museum I've visited. You are led into a recreated shop (complete with molds of food and everything), given the history and story of its former inhabitants, engaged in roleplaying the community members of the time, and finish off with seeing its modern day significance, complete with really high tech tech.

new york public library

It was difficult navigating the New York Public Library, and I felt really self-conscious while taking pictures, because although this is a tourist attraction, it is also an actual library where people are being studious. I think I would have enjoyed this place more if I was on a tour. The librarians did not seem to enjoy my presence. I was hoping to get shots of the main reading room, but that part of the library is under renovation and will not be completed until Spring 2015. Who's up for a Spring 2015 NYC trip? :)

So far my college experience has been quite hectic; it feels like I'm always running from place to place, never with a moment's rest. At the end of every night, I write out a schedule for where I have to be and when, what form of transportation to take, what to pack, when to nap or blog or do some quick skims of readings right before class. My days are very structured, and there never seems to be time to properly hang out with friends, as I am usually surrounded by people from my classes or extra-curricula. I would like to say that the best friends I've made so far come from my classes and extra-curricula, seeing as I interact with these people most days of the week, but I'm not sure that that's the case for me. Don't get me wrong, there are many people in my classes and extra-curricula I completely admire and wish to be thee best of friends with, but... I don't know. How?? Tips greatly appreciated.

I guess that that's what made this Fall Break extra special--the independence and spontaneity of it all. I still can't believe how well it all worked out. Sure, it was nerve-wracking traveling from place to place without having my parents around to follow, but it made arriving at the destination so much more rewarding. I set off expecting nothing more than to reconnect and catch up with old friends, but came back with more friends, new friends that I won't single out in this post in case they get weirded out (I don't think we're at that stage of our friendship, yet haha).

Good luck to everyone with surviving the rest of the semester, and surprise visits are welcome!

Brunch at Audrey's © 2013.

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