July Faves

It's hard to believe that when I start writing the next post in this series, I will have been in school for nearly a month.  Summer flew by--no, it practically hurtled by.  It's sad to see the bright colors of summer change to the faded hues of fall, but you know the old saying:  "A life that goes on changing goes on living."  I, for once in my life, am somewhat looking forward to the changes that this year should bring, but while summer is still lingering behind, I'll take the opportunity to share a few favorite things of mine from the month of July.
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1. Calligraphy:  It's no secret that I've always loved calligraphy, but until I purchased a calligraphy pen of my own, I only knew that I loved looking at it.  Now I'm absolutely positive that I love crafting the letters and learning about different fonts as well;  to make a long story short, if you want to pursue an activity that will allow you to embrace your creativity, give calligraphy a try (this book is a good place to start)!

2. My Clarisonic:  If you've never heard of these skincare facial brushes, you need to peruse them.  They are extremely helpful tools--my pores have never felt cleaner.  The brush heads can also be swapped out in order to cater to different skin types, which is a wonderful option for remedying acne and other skin problems.

3. Dainty Necklaces:  Whether you're petite (like yours truly) or you're just following one of this year's more subtle jewelry trends, dainty necklaces and chains are lovely staple pieces.  A pendant like this one could be worn with practically any outfit, practically throughout the entire year.

4. Wedges:  Everyone has seen a pair of these espadrille wedges around this summer, and in an uncharacteristic moment, I decided to pop into an Old Navy and try some on.  Lo and behold, I found a pair of wedges that I like--and that I think you would like, too! They are definitely "the shoe" of the summer, and they might even transition into autumn if we're lucky.

Summer may be coming to an end, but who knows what else the year has in store for us?

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

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Being A Prep For A Week: 7/24/16 -- 7/30/16

Can you believe that we're about to enter the last week of July?  As you may have noticed, school supply shopping is in session and the college application process has already begun for a lucky number of students.  I myself have been working on a lovely Spanish II class for several hours everyday (I don't think I'm ready to go on that trip to Spain yet) as well as re-reading The Great Gatsby.  As Jordan Baker famously says, "Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall."  I suppose life does a similar one-eighty in the last week of July!
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Now, on to some of my favorite links from the past week:
This post highlighted so many of the frustrations that I have with blogging--yet it also proved many of the reasons why I continue to pursue it, and why I love it enough to do so...
Seriously considering using this planner for the new year:  gingham, typography, and quotes?  It's a deal!
So you want to move into this Parisian apartment?  Me too, my friend.
Now that I have a passport, I have a legitimate excuse to buy a holder for it:  I'm thinking a quirky case or a durable one (with a twist)...
If this corgi race doesn't make you smile, I don't know what will...

It's time to crack down on school preparations, and you know what that means we have to do:  "Go as far as you think you can.  Then keep going."

How was your week?


School Supplies Inspiration

It's that time of year...when the world's children start scrambling frantically in order to get themselves prepared for a new school year.  Honestly, preparing for junior year has metaphorically hit me like a truck, so that's why I haven't been very active on any blogging platforms lately.  Anyways, one thing I've always liked about going back to school is shopping for school supplies--there's something so very satisfying about crossing every item off of a list:  a literal representation of organization and preparedness. However, it isn't very fun if you can't find what you're looking for or if the only things you can find are, shall we say, not your style.  Of course, that's where I come in.

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Navy and Gold Backpack -- Purple Transit Backpack -- Mint and Gray Backpack
-- Navy and White Stripe Backpack

No school year is complete without the right backpack.  I'm trying out this huge LL Bean pack so I can accommodate for more binders and textbooks, but if you're looking for a smaller and/ or more stylish variety, I suggest looking at Herschel Supply Co. and The North Face.

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Floral Agenda -- Black and White Stripe Agenda -- Pineapple Agenda -- Spotted Agenda

I think we can all agree that shopping for an agenda or planner is one of the most enjoyable parts of school supplies shopping.  From Rifle Paper Co. to Day Designer to Kate Spade and more, there are thousands of agendas out there to choose from.

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Cambridge Style Notebook Set -- "I Am Very Busy" Notebook -- "Notes" Typography Notebook

Although shopping for an agenda is fun, shopping for little notebooks and journals is pretty enjoyable too.  Whether you want one with a motivational cover or one that just comes equipped with hundreds of pages, I've got you covered.

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Mint and Gold Pencil Pouch -- Pen Set -- Gold Stapler -- Gold Stripe File Folders
-- "Oops" Eraser

Ah, the pièce de résistance of the entire experience:  the desk accessories.  Although these things are very aesthetically pleasing, they are also very useful when it comes to everyday tasks.  Besides, who can resist a gold stapler?

Hopefully you're feeling a bit more inspired about back-to-school season, whether you're a student or a parent or just someone who has to see school supply advertisement every time the television is turned on.  Never fear:  with the right attitude and the right supplies, you'll be starting the year off with a bang!

Do you like shopping for school supplies?

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Being A Prep For A Week: 7/17/16 -- 7/23/16

Another week has passed by, meaning that summer is only a couple weeks short of ending, and my junior year is only beginning--and I still haven't finished that English essay (at least I plowed through the chemistry).  Now all that's left is school supply shopping, which is actually simultaneously one of my favorite and least favorite activities in the world.  I'm curious:  if you're still a school-goer, when are you going back (or are you back already)?  If the date's August 10, we'll have something in common!
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Now, on to some of my favorite links from the past week:
If you're a high school student who's thinking about a career in any sort of science and/ or math field (and you really want your name to be visible to colleges), you should check out STEM Premier!
The ultimate American dream home, according to Pinterest--I must say, they nailed the kitchen...
Hello, lovely white maxi dress;  how fair is thy lace?
Did you catch my last post about lessons I've learned from blogging?
Just ordered this, and I can't wait to test it out!
Everything about this phone case is just lovely...

As we're facing the week ahead, I know that I could use this little reminder:  "The best way to get things done is to simply begin."  Wish me luck on that English essay!

How was your week?


Ten Things I've Learned from Blogging

When I started a blog almost two years ago, I had absolutely no inkling as to what I was getting myself into.  Blogging seemed pretty simple from my reader standpoint--but I couldn't have been more wrong.  Now that I'm somewhat a seasoned blogger, I feel more confident about sharing some of the valuable lessons that have presented themselves throughout my experience with this website.
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1. Instant success rarely happens.
Not much time passed before I as an amateur blogger realized that I wasn't going to develop a steady audience overnight.  I wasn't going to gain one thousand Instagram followers in one month.  I wasn't going to become an online sensation in a matter of minutes--but really, does anyone?

2. Quality trumps quantity.
I have always admired bloggers who turn out new content several times a week, especially those who are full-time students like myself.  While it is feasible for them to post so frequently, I simply don't have the time to write that many multi-paragraph posts;  so, rather than trying to throw together several watered-down versions of what I'd truly like to publish, I've been learning to take the extra time to write a lesser amount of more meaningful articles.

3. Internet friendships are true friendships.
The fact that some like-minded people converse through emails and blog comments rather than face-to-face conversations doesn't lessen the "credibility" or the "realness" of the friendships formed online.  I've conversed with some truly incredible people via the blogging platform, and I wouldn't want to have that any other way.

4. Software engineers, professional coders, and other various technology-oriented workers deserve a round of applause.
HTML coding sounds intimidating because it is (or, at least, it is for someone who has absolutely no prior experience with it).  Graphic and web site designers, I salute you.

5. Writing and effective communication skills are essential.
Your teachers weren't lying when they said that no matter what field you go into, you must be able to communicate with those around you, whether through spoken words or written ones.  Blogging has definitely prepared me for the latter of the two.

6. Don't jump on the bandwagon (if you don't want to).
It's difficult to stray away from the crowd, just like it's difficult to break out of the mold of the stereotypical brand-obsessed fashion blogger.  Writing for my own website has allowed me to discover a balance between keeping up with modern trends and staying true to my own values.

7. Having unrealistic expectations for yourself is just as bad as having no expectations at all.
As I stated above, it really isn't feasible for me to publish four lengthy posts like this one every week because of the limited amount of free time I have on my hands;  however, it took me a ridiculously long time to come to terms with that.  I kept telling myself that I would have to make more time for blogging, even though that was practically impossible.  Long story short:  don't allow any unrealistic goals or dreams to cause you an undue amount of stress.

8. Never fall into the comparison trap.
Anyone who has been a blogger knows that the comparison trap is one of the most negative aspects of the blogging world.  It's incredibly easy to compare your own content and following to the bloggers you follow, and it's even easier to allow that comparison to distinguish others' blogs as "better" than your own.  When you start getting discouraged, it's important to remember that you cannot see the whole picture, unless you've actually had access to other bloggers' analytics profiles.  After all, it's impossible to compare apples to oranges.

9. If you're going to do something, do it well.
If I'm being honest here, blogging isn't always incredibly fun.  There have been times (especially during the school year) when I have dreaded typing out another post, for one reason or another.  However, I've had to learn that I cannot have such a negative attitude about whatever I'm writing because the quality of it will suffer--and just like in school, I know that if my name is going on it, I have to finish it to the best of my ability.

10. Be proud of how far you've come.
After all that's been said and done, I still know that I love blogging--I wouldn't give it up for anything in the entire world.  Looking back through my posts is akin to looking through a photo album:  from a freshman finding her way, to a sophomore seeking herself, and now to a junior who's looking forward to whatever lies ahead.  It's amazing to see how much I've changed, and even if you don't have a blog, it's important to look back and see how you've transitioned into the wonderful person you are today.

Who knew that blogging could teach so many life lessons?  I'm looking forward to learning even more in the future.

What are lessons that you've learned from blogging or another hobby?


Being A Prep For A Week: 7/10/16 -- 7/16/16

Another week has passed by!  Why is it that when I was younger, summer seemed to last an eternity, but now it seems like it lasts for only a few fleeting weeks?  Getting older really isn't all it's cracked up to be.
It was a pretty uneventful week, but I tried to squeeze in some shopping and family time in between the studying and the camera lessons.  Also, I'd been reading books galore in order to prepare for that whopping reading list I posted a few days ago.  A student's summer at its finest, am I right?
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Now, on to some of my favorite links from the past week:
Just purchased these espadrille wedges (under thirty dollars!) and I'm already in love with them...
I've found what may be the most relaxing, beautiful account on Instagram: @calligraphyvideos...
The top ten things to do in Santorini--who's ready to hop on the next flight?
This simple cup might be the cutest coffee mug I've ever stumbled upon...
Watch American adults take the US Citizenship Test in this video--the results are hilarious!

Now, to conclude this week in the wise words of Mother Teresa:  "Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love:  a gift to that person, a beautiful thing."

How was your week?


Twenty Summer Reads

Nothing could be better than curling up with a good book on a lazy summer day.  After all, "Books are the quietest and most constant of friends."  There's only one problem: with so many books to choose from, how does one make a good choice?  Never fear; that's why I'm here.  I've rounded up twenty of the best summer reads, from every type of fiction to heartwarming memoirs to helpful guides.  All that's left for you to do is grab a chair and a pair of reading glasses--so read on!

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Outliers:  In what I consider to be one of the most fascinating books ever written, Malcolm Gladwell affably debunks the myths that surround the "outliers" in society:  the geniuses, the professional athletes, the billionaires.  From hockey players to technology superstars, this novel really has a topic for everyone.

When Breath Becomes Air:  The brilliant memoir of a neurosurgeon-turned-cancer-patient, this novel gives rise to many of the questions that linger on the surface of humanity:  how does one go on existing, even in the face of death?  what makes a life worth living?  The book is truly unforgettable.

Redeeming Love:  In her usual style, Francine Rivers tells the tale of a young, embittered woman, a deeply religious man, and a love that comes not only from their romance, but from Heaven above.

The Great Divorce:  Ever wondered what Heaven looks like?  Take a bus ride from the grayness of Hell into the realm of paradise in this C.S. Lewis classic.

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Proof of Heaven:  Another heavenly tale, Proof of Heaven tells the true story of neurosurgeon Eben Alexander's journey to Heaven:  what he found there, how he got there, and how the experience altered him forever.

Flowers for Algernon:  If you've been reading the blog for a while, you probably know that I recently finished this classic science fiction novel.  It's a heartwarming and emotional book that digs deep into the concepts of intelligence and acceptance;  I couldn't recommend it more.

1984:  This book has remained a staple of classic literature since its publication, and it isn't hard to understand why.  George Orwell's eerily accurate predictions about the future of society make this novel a very thought-provoking read.

Blogging for Creatives:  Whether you're a blogger, an aspiring blogger, or a blogging enthusiast, you'll find all of the tips in this guide to be super informative, especially for beginners.

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A Grief Observed:  C.S. Lewis's memoir about the loss of his beloved wife is more than just a memoir:  it's a collection of writings, rife with reality and heartache, that allowed Lewis to slowly overcome his grief.  If you've ever lost someone important in your life, you'll find that Lewis's words ring very true.

Pet Sematary:  In what has been described as the "most frightening novel Stephen King has ever written," explore the seemingly idyllic lives of Dr. Louis Creed and his family, including their family cat, Church.  Only two factors disrupt their idyllic lifestyles:  a busy street that flanks their home and woods that house a terrifying presence--even stronger than death itself.

The Trials of Apollo:  If you loved the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, you've probably heard of the newest installment to the demigod world;  this time, the unlucky god Apollo takes center stage.  If you've never heard of the series, see this as an opportunity to start reading.

Thirteen Reasons Why:  A high school girl commits suicide.  While everyone is grappling with the terms of her fatal decision, Clay Jensen finds several cassette tapes recorded by the girl, Hannah Baker.  Her voice takes him through the steps leading to her ultimate death, answering how and when it occurred, and most importantly:  why.

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The Gene:  An Intimate History:  If you're even remotely interested in the field of genetics, this is the novel for you.  Mukherjee brilliantly relates the biography of the gene, including its journey through history and its overall effects on our personalities, identities, and decisions.

The Bell Jar:  A more modern American classic, The Bell Jar explores a woman's journey from beauty and success to mental instability and chilling rationale.  The book does a wonderful job of taking readers inside the head of an individual struggling with her own sanity, making it a must-read.

The Emperor of All Maladies:  Mukherjee's other masterpiece focuses on one of the most destructive diseases in human history:  cancer.  He analyzes it with "a cellular biologist's precision, a historian's perspective, and a biographer's passion" in order to portray both the true nature of cancer and the worldwide hope that it will be eradicated.

The Nightingale:  Fans of historical fiction (especially pieces like All the Light We Cannot See) will love this World War II tale of two sisters who become entangled in the German invasion of France.

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The Problem of Pain:  In typical C.S. Lewis fashion, this novel explores facets of human nature as well as man's relationship with God in order to answer the single-most controversial question in many religions:  "If God is good and all-powerful, why does He allow His creatures to suffer pain?"

Sisi:  Empress on Her Own:  Sequel to the hit historical fiction novel The Accidental Empress (one of my all-time favorites, I might add), Allison Pataki's newest book focuses around the later years of Empress Elisabeth of Austria.  Let's just say that this royal's life consists of so much more than grand parties and glittering gowns--it's chock full of unlikely romances, stifling protocols, and recurring tragedies.

Pride and Prejudice:  This charming, witty novel is perhaps one of Jane Austen's best;  its sweeping regency romances, Victorian witticisms, and hints of humor make it the perfect beach or lazy day read.

Understanding Exposure (3rd Edition):  If you're interested in learning about photography, this is one of the best-recommended books for beginners.  Bryan Peterson uses easy-to-understand metaphors, simple exercises, and his own photographs to explain tricky concepts like aperture, shutter speed, and white balance.  You'll be shooting with manual mode in no time!

I hope everyone was able to find a new novel to peruse after looking at this list.  As always, happy reading!

What are some of the books that you've read this summer?


Being A Prep For A Week: 7/3/16 -- 7/9/16

The first week of July is slowly fading into the past--sadly, that means summer vacation is coming to a close.  I've been especially reminded of this fact during the past week that was rife with chorus camps and class ring reveals.  However, I'm going to try to enjoy the weeks of summer that I have left while I still have them--wish me luck!
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Now, on to some of my favorite links from the past week:
Jenna Lyons's favorite pieces from the new J Crew collection--those off-the-shoulder pieces are calling my name...
A blog post that pretty accurately sums up fifteen of the most frustrating situations for bloggers everywhere...
I can't decide which is cuter:  these watercolor desktop backgrounds or these Parisian-inspired designs...
Ten signs that you're a nerd--being a self-proclaimed nerd, I can say that these are uncannily accurate!
How pretty (and inspiring) is this quote print?

Summer may be dwindling down, but I know this to be true:  "Start each day with a grateful heart."

How was your week?


The Best Athletic Shoe Brands

The summer weather provides an easily missed opportunity for exercising and training; I say that the opportunity is "easily missed" because, based upon personal experience, the last thing that many of us want to do is go outside and do physical activities.  However, I've been somewhat forced to participate in physical activities recently, and it's amazing how much a few minutes' worth of exercising can improve your overall mood.  No physical activity is complete without the right equipment--that isn't limited to specialty pieces like treadmills or weights, either.  If you want to exercise, you need to find the right pair of shoes.
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1. New Balance:  Light, flexible, and stylish, the shoes made by New Balance are perfect for runners and sports players alike.  The newest women's shoe line incorporates lovely color combinations with super lightweight footwear (my pair seems lighter than clouds);  plus, this brand stresses the fact that its are products made here in America. What could be better than that?

2. Asics:  If you want a shoe that's fit for professional athletes, this is the brand for you to shop.  The name ASICS is actually derived from an acronym that translates to "a sound mind in a sound body" and was trademarked by the company's original founder.  These shoes are some of the most comfortable ones on the market, which explains why even Olympic athletes are training in them.

3. Saucony:  This brand is serious about its passion for crafting the best running shoes. The fact that Saucony has been manufacturing shoes since the early twentieth century is testament to this.  So whether you're a hardcore runner or you just love vintage-styled shoes, you should check out this company.

4. Nike:  Perhaps the most well-known shoe company in today's society, Nike definitely has perfected its shoes in order to dominate the market.  If you're looking for a brand that caters to a wide range of athletes, Nike is a great option.  Another bonus of buying from Nike is the unique customization opportunity that you can have:  a chance to design a pair of shoes to completely suit your tastes.

Are you feeling the urge to sprint outside and exercise yet?  I know I am!

What are your favorite athletic shoe brands?

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Being A Prep For A Week: 6/26/16 -- 7/2/16

Who can believe that Independence Day is only a couple of days away?  This summer really has flown by!
This week was another lovely (and somewhat productive) stream of days, capped off with a visit to my aunt, uncle, and a couple of their friends in Birmingham;  it was absolutely wonderful to see them again.  As this weekend rolls around, I'm wishing for other parts of the world to experience a similarly hopeful stream of days (they need them infinitely more than I do).
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Now, on to some of my favorite links from the past week:
Calling all bloggers and businesses:  Instagram will be implementing new business profiles that allow followers to "directly connect" with account owners, among other things.  Who's thinking about getting one?
A dual profile of the hippest neighborhoods in Rome--now all I need is a passport and a ticket...
My mom and I just tried this blueberry scone recipe;  the lemon glaze is to die for!
Someone finally made a nearly exact replica of Audrey's sleep mask from Breakfast at Tiffany's--and even if you aren't an Audrey fan, you can't say that this mask isn't just beautiful.

To close with a happy little reminder for the week ahead:  "Very little is needed to make a happy life."

How was your week?