June Faves

As far as months go, June is one of my absolute favorites.  My birthday, Father's Day, and the first weeks of summer vacation wrapped into one month:  it's a surefire winner.
Although this past month didn't exactly pan out the way I was envisioning (nothing in life ever really does), it was still an experience worth remembering:  full of lessons, obstacles, happy days, and wonderful people and things.  Now I'm here to wrap up a handful of those wonderful things that I couldn't have lived without during the past thirty days--without further ado...
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1. My Camera:  Without a doubt, my Nikon D3300 has been one of the best gifts I've ever received.  I'm still very much a beginner photographer, but everyday I make just a bit more progress towards being fully confident with handling all of the various settings and controls.  I may even be able to switch over to "manual" mode before the end of the summer!

2. Chacos:  Never has a better casual outdoors shoe been manufactured.  Although these shoes aren't meant for everyone (or every occasion), they are wonderful for balmy summer days spent outside.

3. Reading Material:  I've been on an absolute reading frenzy for several weeks now; the stack of unread books in the corner of my room is just one testament to this.  So far I've read Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet, the heartwarming science fiction Flowers for Algernon, C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce and A Grief Observed, and the super helpful Understanding Exposure photography guide.  Do you have any recommendations for me?

4. Kendra Scott Jewelry:  Another of my favorite birthday presents was a lovely Kendra Scott necklace, which quickly re-sparked my interest in the brand.  The new "crushed abalone shell" hue is absolutely stunning (just take a look at these earrings)!

Summer is almost over, and 2016 is already halfway through.  Who knows what the rest of the year will bring?

Any faves from this month that you'd like to share?

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Being A Prep For A Week: 6/19/16 -- 6/25/16

If I had three words to describe this week, they would be as follows:  nerve-wracking, relieving, and exciting.  That's quite a bunch to fit into one week.
For anyone who remembers reading about my driver's ed fiascoes, I have an ending to complete the story:  I passed!  You have no idea how relieved I was when my instructor handed me that certificate.  I've definitely learned a good deal about procrastination from that event.  Later in the week, I drove around a bit, worked on a few school assignments, and even went to work with my dad (meeting his coworkers--now that was exciting).  I topped everything off by seeing a movie with my family yesterday--nothing could have been a better ending to a pretty great week.
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Now, on to some of my favorite links from the past week:
Two of my favorite posts I've ever written were recently published on The Undeniable Life.  If you're a fan of Kate Middleton or classic books, you should give them a look!
These gorgeous photos of Santorini have convinced me to put Greece on my ultimate bucket list...
Want to achieve that seemingly impossible goal of being put together?  Read this post.
How pretty is this eyelet dress?  Perfect for Independence Day.
Speaking of July 4, this feminine outfit is the best patriotic ensemble I've seen.
I'm almost to 1,500 followers on Instagram!  Help me reach it!

So, in light of my completion of driver's education (and all of life's catastrophes), here's a little piece of wisdom:  "The best way out is always through."

How was your week?


The Benefits of Doing Nothing

The act of "doing nothing" has a pretty negative connotation in everyday conversations. It's pretty easy to see why: with all of the high-achievers and motivators being praised as model adults and the Netflix-obsessed "stereotypical" teens being subtly jabbed at by society, it's no wonder that many people cannot stand the idea of not doing anything for a set amount of time. I'm definitely one of those type-A overachieving students who basically schedules out her days to the minute (as seen here), so I completely understand. However, I've started to realize something this summer: doing nothing is not always a bad idea.
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In my personal experience and through a bit of research, I've found a few practical reasons why setting aside downtime can actually be beneficial, so if you think it's high time for you to take a break, read on.

1. To Relieve Stress: This is perhaps one of the greatest aspects of downtime that I've experienced. For some reason unbeknownst to me, stepping back from a slew of tasks allows me to forget all of the stress that accompanied them. To sum it up: if you're feeling stressed, try to allow yourself some time to take a break from whatever is causing the stress.

2. To Give Your Brain a Break: According to researchers, doing nothing actually allows the brain to recuperate and, in a sense, recharge. Taking a break shifts the brain's focus off of a few time-consuming tasks to many miscellaneous ideas; this shift does wonders for your mind's overall health and energy levels.

3. To Look at the Big Picture: Partly due to the shift described above, the brain is able to get a much broader perspective of previous events and confrontations when it's resting. Believe me, when you're doing nothing it's infinitely easier to think of solutions to any of the conflicts you're facing as opposed to when you're in the middle of them.

4. To Brainstorm: Punny, right? Anyway, downtime practically gives you an excuse to daydream and get your creative juices flowing. Research states that people recall most of their best ideas when they were relaxing or on a vacation away from the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives. If you need a good idea, try giving your mind a break and see where it goes!

5. To Be More Productive: This last benefit seems a bit misleading for pretty obvious reasons. However, as paradoxical as it may seem, the fact that your mind and body are able to revitalize during downtime actually increases your productivity levels in the long run. In a way, doing nothing is actually pretty productive in itself!

Now, if you're ever debating whether to stop and take a break, here's all the evidence you need to support your case. Here's to doing nothing!

What are some other benefits of doing nothing?


Ten Lessons from My Father

I'm back, back, back again with a treasure trove of wisdom, courtesy of an important person in my life.  You read about my mom's no-nonsense teachings, and in honor of Father's Day, you're about to experience my dad's side of the story.  My dad has this uncanny talent for making me laugh even when I'm terribly upset;  in fact, he has that effect on nearly everyone he meets.  He excels at making the people around him more at ease, and that's a skill that all of us could learn.  Read on to discover more of my dad's practical and comical advice.
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Lesson One:  It's okay (even when it doesn't seem like it).
Whenever I am extremely upset or frustrated about something, my dad is the first to say those three words:  "It is okay."  In the heat of the moment I tend to disagree with him, but looking back, he is always right about putting things into perspective.  Don't let yourself be completely pessimistic concerning the outcome of any situation, even if it looks bleak.

Lesson Two:  Take your time, and don't rush through things.
Honestly, if you have to do some sort of task, it is much better to give yourself the time to do it well rather than rush through it and face the consequences of a shabby job.

Lesson Three:  Stay focused.
From college searches to ACT preparation, my dad definitely emphasizes perseverance in anything scholastic.  Beyond that, life is full of learning experiences, and it's best to get as much from them as possible in order to reach long-term goals and dreams.

Lesson Four:  Always be yourself;  after all, that's all you can do.
In life, you really only have one choice as to who you can be:  yourself.  If that course of action isn't preferable to other people, that's their dilemma, not yours.

Lesson Five:  Life is too short to avoid laughing.
This is one of my father's unofficial mantras, I believe.  Not a day goes by without him laughing in some way, and the best part about that is the fact that his laughter is infectious;  in other words, everyone around him receives a healthy dose of laughter as well.  Take it from him:  laughing is medicine for the soul.

Lesson Six:  Consequently, life is too short to avoid good food.
Of course, everything should be in moderation, but your years on this planet are too few to not eat at least a few wonderful meals...

Lesson Seven:  If it doesn't smell good, chances are that it won't taste good either.
A wonderful piece of wisdom for use in restaurants and house parties alike.

Lesson Eight:  Boys are (simply put) clueless about most things.
You know how you're tempted to think that adults are exaggerating when they are sharing tidbits like this?  One lesson I've taken away from my dad's stories about his teenage years is this:  the majority of teenage guys really are perplexed about everything from romance to social skills (can't say that I blame them).

Lesson Nine:  Don't wait until the last minute to start planning.
Funnily enough, some things go much more smoothly when they've been planned in advance (especially vacations and other trips);  so whatever the occasion, make sure to do plenty of research and preparation beforehand in order to make it more enjoyable for all parties involved.

Lesson Ten:  Just be nice.
This is the greatest lesson my dad has ever taught me, and it's a lesson that can carry one beyond the borders of society and bridge the gaps between people everywhere.  If just one person decides to be amicable in just one situation, imagine how many people could be affected by that one act of kindness!  Overall, just be kind to each person you meet; everyone has the right to a little warmth and compassion, after all.

Even though Father's Day has passed, remember to appreciate the father figures in your life.  Believe it or not, their guidance can have a huge impact on your life--I know my dad's has done wonders for mine.

What are some of the lessons you've received from your father?


Sixteen Quotes That Changed My Life

It's not every day that a girl turns sixteen, but nonetheless June 15 was my sixteenth birthday.  To celebrate my ascension into this new phase of my teenage years (and the fact that I can finally sing "Sixteen Going On Seventeen" from The Sound of Music), I've rounded up a few of the words and sayings that have truly impacted me over the course of my short life.  They have challenged my ideas, fueled my passions, and even given me hope when I didn't think life had any to spare.  I have no doubt that the quotes can speak for themselves, so without further ado, let's begin.
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For dreaming and doing:
"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." -- Eleanor Roosevelt
"Dream no small dreams, for they have no power to move the hearts of men." -- Goethe
"It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them.  They went out and happened to things." -- Leonardo da Vinci
"Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire." -- Unknown

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For the bad times:
"There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind." -- C.S. Lewis
"It takes nothing to join the crowd.  It takes everything to stand alone." -- H.F. Hansen
"I do not at all understand the mystery of grace--only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us." -- Anne Lamott
"When you do something beautiful and nobody noticed, do not be sad.  For the sun every morning is a beautiful spectacle and yet most of the audience still sleeps." -- John Lennon

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For the happy times:
"Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created." -- Esther 4:14
"The Earth has music for those who listen." -- Shakespeare
"To live is the rarest thing in the world.  Most people just exist." -- Oscar Wilde
"Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy." -- Anne Frank

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For living a better life:
"Ask yourself, 'If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?'  When you have found the answer, go and do it." -- C.S. Lewis
"And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good." -- John Steinbeck
"Use what talent you possess;  the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best." -- Henry Van Dyke
"People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.  If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.  If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway... If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.  The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.  Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.  In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway." -- Mother Teresa

Whatever life throws at you, there is always a quote that can echo your thoughts and feelings perfectly.  And if I can live sixteen years on the stuff of quotes, so can you!

What are some of your all-time favorite quotes?


Being A Prep For A Week: 6/5/16 -- 6/11/16

I know I'm a day late on my weekly update post, but I was rather preoccupied with the ACT yesterday morning (and afternoon);  standardized tests and blogging just do not mix, unfortunately.
In my sphere of the universe, the days have been bright and productive, the hydrangeas have been blooming marvelously, and the corgis have been even more energetic than usual.  In short, it's been a lovely week, and I hope the following week is even lovelier on account of my birthday looming on the horizon!
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Now, on to some of my favorite links from the past week:
This post sums of the beauty of the Italian coasts of Positano just incredibly!
A quirky pair of espadrilles is a perfect summer staple, right?
Have you watched the teaser trailer for Disney's new production of Beauty and the Beast?
Feeling stressed?  Check out this post.
Finally, nothing can beat a classic Audrey Hepburn-inspired engagement shoot.

To top off this post, here's a delightful reminder to brighten your week:  "If you stumble, make it part of the dance."

How was your week?


A Happy Balance (Collab)

Contrary to popular belief, this post will not be discussing diets or various lifestyles--if it were, we'd all be in serious trouble.
Today I'm writing about a concept that I love, along with another concept that my fellow blogger, Gabby, loves.  The two are directly related and, if properly balanced, result in a happy and fulfilling life.  To cut to the point, today's topics are idealistic dreaming and happy living, ideals that most of us fantasize about and cherish. However, it's essential that we establish a healthy medium between the pair in order to really achieve happiness.
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Allow me to elaborate.  Last summer, I promptly decided that I would spend my days being completely productive:  studying up on various subjects, researching colleges, and improving my blog content.  I practically scheduled out every day to the minute, positive that all of that productivity would lead to tremendous things.  I had distinct goals in mind:  completely redesign the blog, gather together everything I could possibly need for college application time, be rather close to scoring perfectly on the ACT (among other things).  Sounds a little too idealistic, right?  Right;  however, my problem was that I held firm in my belief that achieving those lofty goals was my only ticket to living happily.

Looking back on that summer, I see that I wasn't working my way towards happiness; in fact, I was doing the exact opposite.  During all of that meticulous scheduling I had failed to allot any time for recuperation, resulting in a stressed and overworked student who, ironically enough, was supposed to be taking a vacation from those qualities. That's where Gabby's idea comes in handy.  Happy living isn't produced by simply meeting goals (especially unrealistic ones);  it comes when one learns to live life to the fullest, embracing every hour and every minute.  This doesn't mean that you should forget about realizing your dreams--rather, you should realize what dreams are realistic for your own situation.  You can't just tell yourself that you'll become a brain surgeon tomorrow, but you can set short-term goals that will ultimately allow you to reach that dream--and a blissful state of happiness.

If you want another perspective on creating a proper balance in your life, peruse Gabby's post and her delightful blog (rightly titled A Blissful Life).

How would you go about achieving this balance in your own life?


Summer Inspiration

Something about summertime gets all of the human population into a frenzy;  for example, in some European countries nearly everyone takes a month-long break from jobs and other responsibilities to embrace summer's sunshine.  I can't exactly blame them because I, along with several other bloggers, have been just as excited about the season's arrival.  We're all linking together summer-related posts in order to honor the sunny days ahead;  I opted for sharing a few of my favorite summer-related items (I'm already envisioning days spent by the pool).
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High-Neck Swimsuit -- Pineapple Float -- Playing Cards -- White Drop Earrings -- Lace-Up Espadrilles -- Swim Tunic

So whether you're craving a few pool time accessories or some wardrobe staples, summer is back in full force--and it's better than ever before.

What trends have been putting you in the mood for summer?

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Being A Prep For A Week: 5/29/16 -- 6/4/16

I feel like a horrible blogger for saying this, but I feel obligated to say it nonetheless:  life has quickly overrun my plans for becoming a blogger extraordinaire, and it has done so in the form of two tiny words:  driver's education.
Everyday from the morning hours to the late afternoon, my head has been jammed with car facts, driving techniques, and boating details.  As soon as I've escaped that world of gory wreck documentaries and nightmarish simulators, I've headed home to hop behind the wheel and accumulate more driving experience.  Long story short, this blogger hasn't had any time to devote to blogging (or much of anything, if I'm being honest). To conclude, my blogging may continue to be a bit sporadic throughout the month of June, but I'm working on establishing a set schedule;  I won't abandon you without a word!
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Now, on to some of my favorite links from the past week:
If I didn't already own a wonderful planner, I would probably be deciding which of Lilly Pulitzer's new agendas to purchase...
Are you thinking about studying abroad in the near future?  Check out this list of unique study abroad destinations (I'm definitely considering Budapest and Zagreb)!
The anti diet:  possibly the best alternative to a diet that I've ever stumbled upon
J Crew's newest wave of gingham pieces is the best yet--just take a look at these gingham flats!

If you need me, I'll be perfecting the art of driving (but I'll respond promptly to any email you send);  until then, I suppose I need to follow my own advice:  "Take time to do what makes your soul happy."

How was your week?