Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Style Spotlight: High Waisted Jeans

Ahh, high waisted jeans, popular in the seventies, are coming back. My original reaction to this trend was that there was no way that I could pull it off, but the thing about trends is that they aren't as difficult to pull off as you think. My main inspiration for jumping into the high waisted jean trend was Olivia (What Olivia Did), who looks fantastic in them and pulls of a retro vibe with them. I love how she styled them here and here. High waisted jeans are so simple, yet have a retro feel and can transform an outfit. And although I couldn't see myself wearing them before, I've been rethinking my decision to hold back now that I've tried them out and loved them. So now that I've jumped on the bandwagon, I thought that I would put the style spotlight on one of my new favorite trends. 

A brief history behind high waisted jeans

High waisted jeans originated around the 40s and up until the 90s, it was all that women wore. In fact, lower cut jeans are relatively new to the fashion world. My preference, skinny high-waisted jeans, were popular during the fifties when actresses such as Doris Day began wearing them. High-waisted jeans then took a twist in the 70s and 80s when bell bottoms were created, with more fabric and flaring out. And last but not least in the evolution of high-waisted jeans, the mom jean, which became popular during the 90s. High waisted, tapered jeans that are looser at the top created another variation of the high waisted jean. Today, high-waisted jeans are inspired by all of these vintage trends, but the one that most calls to me are the skinny high-waisted jeans. They have that 50s vibe and I love the style of that time period. 

Where to find high waisted jeans?

As someone with a very skinny waist, these recommendations are particularly specified to people that are a bit thinner, like me. Since I'm small, I have a lot of difficulty finding jeans that fit me. In order to help all of you out there with similar body types, I figured that I would recommend some stores that have great fits for my body type.

Gap // I buy almost all of my jeans from Gap, since they're made out of great, thick material, and they also have smaller sizes, including petite sizes online. I usually buy 24 Regular, but they rarely have my size in store, so I buy online, especially when they have sales. If you need petite sizes, you need to purchase online as well. The pair of high waisted jeans that are pictured are from Gap. Gap has sales all the time too, generally 40-60 percent off, but jeans aren't always included.
American Eagle // American Eagle generally has some nice small sizes and are similar to Gap's jeans, but they have more ripped jeans and such that don't necessarily fit Gap's style. If you like distressed and/or ripped jeans, American Eagle has some great selections that Gap just doesn't have. In addition, the cut is similar to Gap jeans, slim and better for smaller sized people. American Eagle often has buy one get one free sales for jeans as well if you're looking to save money.
Topshop // I'll be honest and say that I have not actually purchased any high-waisted jeans from Topshop before, but they have a huge selection of high waisted jeans, more than Gap and American Eagle, that sell a mix of low rise jeans and high waisted jeans. Topshop has a bigger variety of high-waisted jeans and I've noticed that they have about the same, if not more selections of high waisted jeans in comparison to their stock of low rise jeans. However, Topshop jeans are the priciest of the three stores that I've recommended.

What type should I get?

Deciding on the type of high-waisted jeans is entirely up to you! Obviously, there are only so many variations in jeans, but there are still some things that you can pick from. The number one priority on your list while high-waisted jean shopping should be a killer fit. It's no fun to wear jeans that don't fit you well and you won't look good in them unless they're the right jeans for you. Don't try to fit into a smaller pair or a larger pair than you need, it won't do you any good.
As for wash, I tend to gravitate towards a darker wash, but this is entirely personal preference. I know that one of my friends prefers lighter washes, it's just something that you should think about based on your own personal style and your wardrobe. What would look the best with the clothes that you already have? If you generally have darker tops, you might want to get a lighter wash in order to get some contrast, but that's just my opinion. How would you usually select jeans? This is no different from the average jean, just with a small variation.
Distressed or not is also entirely up to you. I generally prefer to have my jeans not distressed, as it's an issue putting them on in the morning (there are so many holes! how do people do it?!) and they just don't fit my personal style. I do however believe that they can look great on some people and with some outfits, distressed jeans a) make a statement and also in a way b) serve as an accessory. I would use your own style in order to gauge whether distressed jeans are for you or not.

Style ideas

It's really not hard at all to figure out how to style high-waisted jeans, but if you're looking for some style inspiration on styling them to their fullest potential (AKA so they don't look like your average jean), I've got you covered!

Styled with a crop top // I'm generally not a huge fan of crop tops, but there are definitely some out there that are super cute. I'm not big on showing my stomach, especially since it's not always school-appropriate and it's just not something that I like the look of, even though I'm comfortable in my own body. Styling crop tops with high-waisted jeans instead of low rise jeans allows me to wear crop tops without showing more skin than I would like. In this picture, I've styled my high-waisted jeans with my red striped crop top with lace details at the bottom. The shirt just barely overlaps the jeans so that no skin is showing and the waistband of the jeans are covered.

A tucked in top // Literally any top looks great tucked into high-waisted jeans. Tucking in a top allows the high waist-band to be seen. In the past, I used to hate tucking in tops, but I love it now. I do it basically all the time. I don't know what about it that transforms the look and not only makes an outfit more interesting but also more put together. It has a lot cleaner of a look and lets you show off the jeans.
Bonus tip: Add a belt as an extra accessory. There are a ton of fancy waist belts out there that you can wear with your high-waisted jeans. It's as simple as tying a ribbon around your waist and tying it into a bow. 

A simple knit sweater // I've been most inspired by this picture for the styling of a simple knit sweater and high waisted jeans. There's just something about the higher waistband that accessorizes and dresses up an outfit in a whole different way. It can transform a simple solid color sweater and jeans into almost a whole new outfit. I've tucked my green v-neck sweater into the jeans so that the sweater is still baggy at the top, kind of like an oversized sweater, but the jeans tie the look together.

How do you wear high-waisted jeans and what are your thoughts on them?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

3 Easy Snacks + Creative Dip Ideas!

I love snacking. I love eating. Lots of times, I come home, ready for a snack, but I have no idea what to eat. This happens all the time with my clothes too while I'm getting ready to go, but that's beside the point. I love snacking, but sometimes I'm in the mood for something a little bit different than the basic granola bars or goldfish. So for this post, I tried to think out of the box a bit and come up with some fun snack ideas that defeat the average snack. All of these snacks are super quick, they literally take five minutes (I'm not exaggerating) and put some great twists on the snacks that we know and love. All of these snacks have dips that are a bit different than your average dip, since there's more to life than ranch and hummus. 

Cookie butter apples

As someone that loathes peanut butter, this is a great twist on the typical peanut butter and apples. Cookie butter has been all the rage lately, but I've been finding it a little difficult to figure out what it would taste good with other than plain bread or waffles. Since I don't necessarily want to spend time making waffles for a snack, it's quicker to just slice some apples and then dip them into the cookie butter. This tastes similar to caramel, but has a whole new and fun taste. The sweetness of the apple and the cookie butter go great together and it takes no time at all to whip this up.

The recipe:
Pick your favorite apples, green ones would taste great with cookie butter, the sour apple plus the sweet cookie butter, what a combo. Chop your apples into slices. You may need to use a knife to spread the cookie butter onto the apples, or you can dip them right into the spread. 

Crab crackers

So maybe we can't eat lobster rolls every day, but this snack gets pretty close. I found this crab dip the grocery store and it's fantastic. (This is a recipe for crab dip if you can't find it at your local grocery store!) It tastes similar to a crab cake too and I LOVE crab cakes. Make sure that if you plan to make these crab crackers you use some nice crackers. Not those simple Ritz crackers, but some nice table water crackers. Forget cheese and crackers, these crab crackers are classy and delicious. These may not be lobster rolls, but I'd say that these are a pretty good consolation prize. 

The recipe:
All you have to do for this snack is a) buy the crab dip if you can find it b) make your own, which may take a while, but you can always save it. After that, pile that dip onto some nice crackers of your choice and dig in. 

Caesar dip

Newsflash, salad dressing doesn't just have to be used for salad, it can be used for so much more. For example, turn your ordinary salad dressing into a rich and creamy dip. I dipped multi-grain chips and baby carrots into the caesar dressing and it tasted great. It's just like ranch, only better. I know that this is coming from a person that doesn't personally like ranch, but let me tell you, this is worth trying out. Some great options for things that you can dip the caesar dip in might be crackers, pita chips, carrots, celery, even broccoli. The caesar dip puts a new twist on a classic.

The recipe
Gather some crunchy snacks that are in desperate need of a new twist. Pour some caesar dressing into a dip bowl or onto a plate and then dip your munchables into the dressing. It works just like ranch, but I personally prefer the caesar dip. 

What are your go-to snacks?

 I'm always looking for some creative eats to make snacktime a bit more fun. Let's share snack ideas, I've shared mine, so let me know what you like to eat on a day to day basis!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Reality of Instagram

Bloggers tend to have this great talent at making things seem much better than they actually are. As you scroll through a blogger's Instagram, you swoon over their pictures, every one absolutely perfect. The lighting, the styling, the photography, the background, everything, perfectly picturesque. I constantly find myself in awe of how gorgeous an Instagram feed is and immediately become envious of their life. Their daily lattes (with the most gorgeous latte art), fun adventures that they seem to be constantly on, magazine-worthy outfits every day, everything about their lives seem to be what we all would love to live. However, is this really what their daily lives look like?

For me, Instagram started out as a way to connect with friends, post pictures and see what everyone else is up to. But as of lately, not just for me personally, Instagram has become all about the aesthetic. Your pictures have to be crisp and interesting, it's not about whether you should use Valencia, Lo-Fi, or X-Pro II, it has become something that we put a lot of effort and thought into in order to get it to look just right. This especially is true for bloggers and people that are "Instagram-famous" like Kylie Jenner. The rise of social media stars is picking up speed faster than ever. And because of this, the dynamic for the use of Instagram has changed drastically. So how do these "Instagram-famous" people do it? How do their lives seem constantly exciting and always so picturesque? 

The thing is, they aren't. Okay, maybe it might be a little more exciting if you're Kylie Jenner, but my point is that not everything is as it seems. The reality of Instagram is that most posts are posed. While most posts seem like effortless snaps that people just took when they rolled out of bed (and they just happened to have perfect lighting), the truth is that they probably aren't as effortless as they seem. "Instagram stars" are good at what they do, making what they do appear easy, as if it's part of their daily life, even if it isn't exactly the best representation of their life. You see, Instagram pictures are snapshots. They capture a single moment in time and only what's within the frame. However, there's so much more, outside of the frame, outside of that single moment that the photo was snapped during, than we see in that post. So today I thought that I would show some Instagram posts that I snapped and how the process of taking them actually panned out, which is much different than what you saw online. 

The Instagram:

This picture is definitely over-edited, I think I went a little too crazy with the contrast, but that's not the point. What appears like a picture that was just quickly snapped in front of a white wall actually took dozens of practice shots. Maybe the camera wasn't in focus or it just didn't look right, but this picture took numerous shots until I got it just right. The reality is that I don't have a pure white wall in my house, contrary to what it appears like, This picture was taken with my camera on a timer and me holding a white poster board in front of my face, to create the look of a a white wall. 


The Instagram:

This picture was taken on the same day as the previous one, which you can probably tell by the shirt and the ponytail. Like the previous one, it took dozens of shots until I managed to get it just right. For this one, I rested the white poster board against the couch and then tried to angle the camera so that you couldn't tell that I was sitting on the ground. When I began editing it, I realized that after I cropped the picture into a square, you could still see over the top of the poster board. To solve that problem, I used a healing tool over the whole top part so that the entire background would be white. Then, it was lots of brightening and editing until the picture turned out the way that it did.


The Instagram:

What was posted on Instagram is crazy different from what the picture actually looked like. It looks like a quick snap that I took of my coffee that was a one and done, just one snap and it was up on the gram. In reality, this photo was taken early in the morning, so it was still dark outside and the lighting was not ideal. I took the photo in front of one of my green walls with my iPhone and as I was editing it, I noticed the water mark on the wall that I couldn't quite delete using the healing tool. What I actually did to this picture was remove the background by making only the background black and white (I used an app for it) so that I could saturate the coffee color. After that, I brightened the picture background up a ton (Snapseed is the BEST) and this is the final product. The thing is, I've always wondered how those big Instagram accounts have pictures that look prettier than my pictures ever look. That's because of all the processing that the picture goes through. As you can see, the original picture looks more like your Snapchats and such, with bad lighting and decreased saturation. 


The thing about Instagram is that we only show specific moments in our lives, but the reality is that sometimes, these Instagrams are anything but truthful representations of our lives, sometimes they're staged. Stages moments that don't tell a true story. We have to remember that the reality of Instagram isn't as glamorous as we think that they are. There are some moments that we have, that are absolutely incredible, and never shared online (related post: If You Didn't Post It On Social Media, Did it Really Happen?) and there are others, that are posted online, glamorizing one moment in particular, or creating a new, fictional one all together. When it comes to Instagram, it's important to keep in mind that there's more than meets the eye. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Non-committal Friendships

Ever heard of toxic relationships? Noncommittal friendships are similar, but somehow on different sides of the spectrum of friendship. The thing about non-committal friendships is that recently, I've been trying to figure out whether or not they're important to hang onto or let go. So what are non-committal friendships? I'm not positive whether or not there's another term for this, but this is what I call when it seems like friendships are one sided.

Let's clarify things before we get started on my rant about noncommittal friendships. By doing that, we're outlining the spectrum of friendships, since there's definitely lots of different levels of friendships that can apply.

Frenemies: Frenemies are the people that you act like you like, act polite to, smile, but all of that is fake. In reality, you don't like this person one bit and neither does the other. And both of you know it. However, you still act civilized around them, but in your mind, you're secretly trying to plan an escape route to avoid them.

Toxic friends: These people are the kinds of people that you think you're friends with and maybe they think you're friends with too, but secretly, the relationship is emotionally straining. Maybe this friend is selfish and expects way too much from you and gives you nothing in return. Or maybe they say things that they think are jokes, but actually hurt your feelings? Toxic friendships are basically people that you say that you're friends with, but most of the time, you don't really like spending time with. However, at the same time, you're scared to let go.

Acquaintances: Acquaintances are generally people that you know the name of and would maybe smile or say hello to if you ran into them in public. (AKA out of classes or wherever you knew for sure that you would see them at) If you saw them at Kroger, you wouldn't hide behind a stack of bread to avoid them.

Filler friends: These are the people that I like to call your "last resort." In a lot of social situations, we get scared to stand around and be alone. We think that we would look like a "loser" or that we have no friends if we weren't surrounded by people. Filler friends are the kinds of people that you don't necessary like spending time with that much, but you still decently like them. You have their phone number, but you would never text them unless you needed something from them. You would only spend time with them if you didn't have your close friends around.

Non-committal friendships: These friendships are very similar to filler friends, but they're the people that in a way, pretend to be your friends. They love chatting it up with you in group chats and taking cute dog filter Snapchats with you, but their love only extends so far. When it comes to spending time with you, especially one-on-one, they flake out. They would rather wait for something better to come around, but at the same time they act like you and them are super close. There are times that you have with them that make you remember why you're friends in the first place, but when things get difficult, they don't have your back. It's a friendship that feels like work. You have to initiate conversations with them, suggest to make plans, step out of your way to help them, and it feels like you get little in return.

Friends: This is where most relationships fall, since finding best friends aren't always as easy as you think. The general friend would be the person that you would spend one-on-one time with and text them with silly life updates. You would gather with them at parties when everyone grouped off, but you wouldn't spend every second with this person. You love spending time with these people, but they don't quite yet classify as a best friend.

Besties: I think that this definition doesn't really need to be defined on too much. Basically, this person is the person that you would do anything for and would always hang out with (assuming that you had time and your calendar was open).

Toxic vs. Non-committal Friendships: What's the Difference?

Now that things are nice and clarified, you can get the idea of what kind of people non-committed friends are. So how are non-committal friendships like toxic friendships if they're on different sides of the spectrum? The thing about non-committal friendships is that they tend to have the pendulum effect. One day, it feels like they're great friends and you remember why you became friends. In the moment, all your doubts about them fade away and you feel bad for ever having those doubts. However, the next day, they do something that is a bit questionable. Maybe they ditch you when you make plans with them because something better came along. Maybe they didn't show up in the moment that you needed them. Whatever happened, something comes along that makes you wonder if they are actually a toxic friend. 

So how can you differentiate the difference between a non-committal friend and a toxic friend? The line is blurry, because in all honestly, I'm not quite sure what the difference is myself. The main difference between a toxic friend and a non-committal friend is that for toxic friends, you feel like they're constantly hurting you, except for some rare occasions. When you need them, you don't really expect them to be there at all. Either that, or you rarely need their help and they constantly need yours. On the other hand, a non-committal friend will be there 50% of the time, but you can't always count on them. If you need them, there's a possibility that they might be there for you, but you can't guarantee it. You usually don't lean on toxic friends because you know that they won't come through, whereas for uncommitted friends, you sometimes lean on them and they sometimes let you down. The key words that differentiate them are "most of the time" and "sometimes." Toxic friends aren't dependable most of the time, but uncommitted friends can sometimes be dependable. In addition, toxic friends generally hurt you, but uncommitted friends let you down. Non-committed friends are kind of like the weather. There are some days that are sunny and happy and others that are stormy and gray. Toxic friends are more straining, where you see more bad days than good. 

Are uncommitted friends worth keeping?

There's one last thing that we need to address that I too have been wondering. If these friends are so uncommitted, then why are they still my friends? You see, these non-committal friendships are most of the time, easy friendships. They're not really what you would call, emotionally straining, it just feels like they don't care about you as much as you would like them to. I have quite a few friends that could fall under the category of non-committal friends because they never put in any effort to connect with me. This is especially true for people that I haven't seen in a while, they'll tell me how badly they want to keep in touch, but when I try to connect with them or make plans to catch up, they either flake on me or they just don't reply at all to my text messages.

What drives me mad about non-committal friendships is their lack of reciprocated feelings. Friendships are defined as mutual bonds of affection between people, the key word being mutual. Friendships are just like relationships with significant others, you have to put in a little effort to make things not just about you, but about the other person as well. If only one person is putting effort into a friendship, could it really be classified as one? If the friendship is to work, both have to put in effort in order to reap the benefits. Friendships are teamwork. If your teammate in a two-person team is down, then how are you two ever going to win? The lack of effort from the other person is what makes me consider whether the relationship is beyond repair. As I put in effort to try and save the relationship and the other doesn't, then who is to say that it will ever get repaired. 

So is it worth hanging onto these friendships or should they be cut loose? These friendships are somewhere in-between salvageable and beyond repair, but you're not quite sure which one it's leaning towards. There are days that I feel like non-committal friendships can be repaired, but every time I try, I remember why I wasn't able to classify them as a general friend, but as a non-committal friend. Maybe I'll send out a text asking to meet up and they'll agree. However, most of these times that I've "extended an olive branch," have ended up in them flaking on me when we start discussing specifics. I'm absolutely okay if they happen to be busy, but the true test of whether or not someone is a committed friend is if they try to arrange to meet up on a different day. The majority of reactions I get from these non-committed friends is either "I'm busy" and then no further attempts to connect or they don't reply at all, which is basically ten times worse. 

While I would like to give a straight answer to help you out in any situations with your non-committal friendships, I'm still trying to figure it out myself.

So what do you think? Are non-committal friendships worth hanging onto or are they beyond repair?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

DIY "Open When" Letters

I've recently been seeing these "Open When" letters all over Pinterest and Tumblr. They're basically envelopes that you open when the topic applies to you. For example, "Open when you're sad" would be opening if you're not really having a good day and need to be cheered up. Inside each "Open when" envelope, there's something inside that is supposed to apply to the topic. These "Open when" envelopes are absolutely adorable, so I figured why not make them? I'm 90% sure that these are meant to be given to significant others, but since I don't have one, I made these to give to a friend. As I was making them, the biggest issue that I had was trying to figure out what to put inside. All of those Pinterest posts only show the envelope decorations, but they don't tell me what's inside. So I've decided to share what I filled these envelopes with if you're feeling stumped with what to fill them with. 

DIY "Open When" Letters | Sunny Rebecca

Filling the envelopes

"Open me now."

The first letter should contain instructions for opening in the letters. I put some rules in there, such as that you can open a maximum of one letter per week, mostly because I wanted to space out the usage of these letters. I also wrote any other information that I needed the receiver to know so that they understand how these letters work. 

"Open when you need a favor."

Remember when you were little and you made little coupon cards for your parents to use, like "free hug" or "No chores?" That's essentially what I put inside this envelope! Using the Meri Meri Paper Love Tokens as inspiration, I made little ticket cards that can be redeemed to receive different things. I included, "Lunch date" and "Free Starbucks hot chocolate," that the receiver can redeem from me. This is your chance to personalize these coupons to fit the person. While the love tokens that you can buy from stores are absolutely adorable, you can save money and make them personalized by making them yourself. I used cardstock and some markers, and then cut them into the shape of tickets. 

"Open when you're sad."

I filled this envelope with hot chocolate packets, but you can put other things, like tea bags or stickers in there, something to cheer the receiver up. Some other ideas of things that you could put inside might be chocolate.

"Open when you've had a great day."

I filled this envelope with confetti, which I made using a hole punch, colored paper, and glitter. I put the confetti in a plastic bag to be sure that it wouldn't leak out. Basically, what you can put in here can be anything that would celebrate a great day. When you have a great day, it's possible to make it even better, so fill the envelope with things that will do just that. It's time to celebrate, because it's a party in this envelope!

"Open when you need to love yourself."

Sometimes, we forget how awesome we are and need someone to remind us how great we are. I filled this envelope with ten things that I love about her, so that on a day that she feels like she hates herself, she can remember how fantastic that she truly is. It's kind of like 10 Things I Hate About You, but it's the opposite. 

"Open when you're feeling sick."

Sick days are the worst. But what if you could make them just a tiny bit better? I filled this envelope with a few things. A pack of tissues labeled, "for your nose," a tea bag labeled, "for your throat," a picture of us labeled, "for your heart," and some band-aids labeled, "for where it hurts." You can also fill this envelope with other things to help them get better, like cough drops or vitamins. 

"Open when you're bored."

This could span a few potential gifts, I put a short story that I wrote about a girl that became friends with a dog. You could put word searches, crossword puzzles, links to funny YouTube videos, something that they can do to pass the time. 

"Open when you need some encouragement."

Ever have those days where nothing seems to go right? This envelope has one of those "take what you need" tear off flyers. If you don't know what I mean by that, it's basically a sheet of paper, but you can rip off the things that you need, like "hope" or "courage." Kind of like those flyers where you can take someone's number from by ripping off a tab, this flyer has traits that someone might need to cheer up.

DIY "Open When" Letters | Sunny Rebecca

How to decorate the letters

I had so much fun decorating the letters, I found most of my inspiration on Pinterest. there are some really creative letter designs on there, a lot of the ones that I did are from there. Basically, it's best to use a mix of different fonts. Try capital letters, cursive, lower case, big letters, small letters, spaced out letters, condensed letters, thin letters, fat letters, short letters, tall letters, there are tons of ways to create different fonts with your handwriting. Experiment with mixing different font designs, because the style of font can make a huge difference in terms of design. 
You can also use a mix of lines, arrows, banners, leaves, dots, and other doodles to make the envelope a bit more fancy. I personally love the mountain design (which I found on Pinterest) and the banner designs. Don't worry if your drawing isn't great, because the point of these letters is to look handmade, kind of like doodles. 
I chose to decorate both the front of the envelope and also the tab where you open it. I would write when to open the letters on the front and then on the back, I would write a little message that related to the topic. For "You should open me now," the back corresponded with the same colors and says, "Your adventure begins now." Similarly, the letter that reads, "For when you need to love yourself," has "because Justin Bieber wasn't lying" on the back tab. 

DIY "Open When" Letters | Sunny RebeccaDIY "Open When" Letters | Sunny Rebecca

DIY "Open When" Letters | Sunny Rebecca

I think that the best thing that you can do while making these "Open when" letters is to just have fun with it. Decorating these letters was so much fun, I got to be creative and artistic. It also feels great to make these for someone else, thinking about how they would react when they opened each envelope and how to help with whatever they're going through. You can make these "Open when" letters for a friend or a significant other, anyone that is important in your life. It's a great creative gift to give to someone that's incredibly thoughtful or even just a nice gift to remind a someone how much you love them. If you do end up making these "Open when" letters, I would love to see how they turned out! Feel free to tweet them to me so that I can see them!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

China Travel Diary - The Great Wall + Olympic Village

I had a chance to visit one of the seven wonders of the world, the Great Wall of China! And let me tell you, that it lives up to the name. While the day was hot and a bit rainy for a while, we were still excited to see the famous Great Wall. While I originally thought I was prepared, I wasn't nearly as prepared as I thought for the tiring walk. We woke up bright and early to head to the wall, since it was a long drive from the hotel to the Great Wall. The road there was windy and hilly, making it even longer. By the time that we arrived, it was about nine or ten in the morning (I can't remember exactly), so there was still plenty of time to explore. 

History corner: The Great wall of China, originally build to keep invaders out of the capital city, winds up and down deserts, grasslands, mountains and more. It spans for about 5,500 miles and is over 2,000 years old. It begins in the east, in the Hebei province and finishes at Jiayuguan in the Gansu province in the west. The warring states originally built up large walls, but the Great Wall wasn't actually formed until the Qin dynasty. The Han and Ming dynasty also contributed to the wall, building more upon it and also repairing it. Today the Great Wall is still repaired, but since it spans such a great distance, some parts are repaired better than others. For example, the area where the tourists walk is very well maintained, making sure that the trees are not overgrowing onto the wall. The wall allowed the city to not only be more protected, but allowed for a lookout so that the soldiers would know when the enemy is approaching.

If you're ever planning to visit the Great Wall, be warned, that it is a lot of physical work. The stones on the wall tend to be bumpy, so it's pretty easy for you to trip on them. In addition, the wall winds up and down the hills, calling for walking up the steep hills. My legs were so tired after walking the wall and we didn't even walk that much. I would suggest that you wear a comfortable outfit and some comfortable, preferably closed toed, shoes. I wore sandals and I was fine, but I know that if you wear some loose sandals, it may be easier for you to trip. I also wore a dress, because it was a loose and comfy dress, so I wouldn't get too hot. Shorts would probably be the best, but since the dress was a good length and nice and loose, it worked for me. Some of the people I traveled with described the Great Wall as "the biggest workout of their life." While I would say that it's definitely a bit of a challenge if you're not super active, as long as you pace yourself and stay hydrated, it's definitely a manageable trip. We walked until about eleven in the morning, so it was only about one and a half hours, but I was still exhausted and very sweaty. 
You should also bring plenty of water. I drank maybe two bottles of water, but most of my friends that went along with me only brought one bottle with them, which wasn't enough. I was glad that I had extra water in my bag, because it got really hot and all the exercise was definitely calling for hydration. 

After we went to the Great Wall, we were pretty tired, but we still managed to make our way to the Olympic village. (after eating of course, because I was STARVING after all of that walking) We didn't spend long in the Olympic village, since we didn't enter, but we did look at the buildings from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube. It was kind of nostalgic in a way as we looked at the Olympic village, since it was just about time for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Can you believe that it's been 8 years already? Yikes!
You can go inside the water cube, but it's definitely a pricey visit just to see a pool, even if it was where the Olympics were held. I'm not sure if you can go into the Bird's Nest, but we didn't go inside. In the Olympic village, you could see the hotels where all of the athletes stayed, sculptures, and the buildings. I honestly don't remember much about the Olympic village, I was still so tired from walking the Great Wall. We spent about thirty minutes to an hour there and that was definitely enough time to explore and snap some pictures. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Me vs. Everything Else: Fitting Your Responsibilities into a Busy Life

Sometimes it feels like the world has it out for you, like it's too difficult to fit everything that you need to do into one day. The daunting to-do lists mock you and you're torn between doing what you need to do and what you actually want to do, curl up in bed and binge watch Netflix. There are so many moments that I've had that all I've wanted to do was to freeze time, just so that I could have a breather and take a moment to get refreshed. It's just that everything feels so overwhelming that you want to have a moment to catch your breath. However, as much as I wish that it existed, being able to freeze time doesn't exist. And it sucks, because it feels like it's just you against everything else, all of your responsibilities piling on top of each other. So when you have a million things to do, how are you supposed to get it all done while avoiding burnout and stressing yourself out too much? 

Me vs. Everything Else: Fitting Your Responsibilities into a Busy Life

I'm entering a stressful time in my life, where I'm getting pulled closer and closer to adulthood, and it's honestly crazy scary. I feel like I'm not ready to tackle the millions of things that I need to do, the piles of work that I have, totally amplified compared to previous years, my out-of-school activities, social plans, blogging, daily responsibilities, and more. I haven't gotten desperate enough that I've had to pull all-nighters (thank goodness!) but I have to admit that things are speeding up in my life. It's like I'm on a one-way roller coaster to adulthood that I don't ever remember boarding. Nowadays I've been finding myself with less time to spare, coming home and immediately getting to work instead of watching something on Netflix or surfing the internet. Sometimes it feels like I don't have enough time to get everything I need to get done, let alone any time for myself or my passion projects. So how do I even begin to tackle these responsibilities without throwing myself into a spiral of stress? 

Don't bite off more than you can chew.

Sometimes it seems like there's so much that you want to do and not enough time, I get that. However, the last thing that you want to do is burn yourself out. I'm all for doing lots of different activities and courses to enjoy yourself and challenge yourself, but you don't want to push yourself to the point that it comes to bite you in back. Try to consider what you value most to do with your time and the pros and cons to engaging in things. For example, I don't want to take a class that is too difficult for me, since it would only cause me to get bad grades and to be constantly stressed about it. Examine the benefits to a challenge and see if they outweigh the negatives. Remember that we're aiming for quality, not quantity. Just because you're in all AP classes or you're in 10 different clubs, doesn't mean that it's worth the effort that you're putting in. Don't think too much about the number of things that you do, instead think about the value that it would grant you for personal growth and/or personal satisfaction. Obviously, I'm still going to try to challenge myself, but I still want to be reasonable about my capabilities. I want to get in the stretch zone, where things are just a little bit more difficult than mine comfort zone, where it's a little tricky, but not overwhelming. I dare you to take challenges, but to take a few challenges, instead of filling your whole life with them. 

Set a bedtime.

I know what you're thinking, "A bedtime? I haven't had one of those since I was a kid!" Although you may not be a kid anymore, setting a bedtime is like setting a goal for yourself. Instead of just going about things randomly to try and get everything done, you have a deadline. It's like saying, I want to get all of my things done before 11pm. Obviously, it won't be nearly as enforced and strict as your childhood bedtime might have been, but it's a way for you to set a goal and also helps for you to get enough sleep. I like to be in bed by 10, 10:30 at the latest, because that way I get at least 8 hours of sleep. Stressed students tend to not value sleep enough, they rely more on coffee. While coffee may keep you up, it doesn't keep you as healthy and/or alert as actual sleep is. Think of it this way. If you don't have a bedtime (or a deadline), then it's fair game. It'll feel more acceptable to procrastinate, because you're not thinking about time management, and you could end up finishing your work anywhere from 7pm to 4am the next day. Setting a bedtime is a great way to ensure that you finish all of your work by your ideal deadline and also ensures that you get enough sleep to function properly. You may laugh now, but trust me, in due time, you'll be thanking me for this. 

Set aside time for yourself.

I cannot function without having some me time. Without having some quality time not doing anything but what I want to do, I get so stressed. It keeps me sane. I like to set aside a portion of my day every day that I spend 100% on me. Usually it's an hour, the hour before I go to bed will be spent doing whatever I want to do, instead of working. I'll surf the web or catch up on Netflix, maybe read some blog posts or work on a passion project, something that I'm not obliged to do. It's somewhat of a mini party for one every day. It's an hour (or however much time you delegate to self-care) where you put yourself first, above all the other madness in your life. In my opinion, the biggest reason why people are so stressed out is that they spend too much time on other things and not enough time on themselves. It's my secret weapon to staying sane and calm about everything, because when it's me against the world, I need to spend some time strengthening my own arsenal so that I'm ready to tackle my responsibilities when the time comes. When you have a weak foundation, (you), then how can you ever build all of your other tasks on top of it?

Make a game plan.

How can you ever conquer all of your responsibilities without having a game plan? Planning ahead makes things so much easier. Whether it's planning out something like how you can get all your work done, fitting in time for yourself, or doing adult duties like cooking and cleaning, it's great to plan ahead so that you don't have to think as much later. For example, I never think about what to cook for meals or what to prepare for lunch, because I plan it ahead of time. This is especially helpful if you're a struggling college student without a meal plan, you can plan out your meals for the whole week during the weekend and then go out and buy everything you need. During the week, you never have to stress about how you're going to feed yourself, since it's already planned out. You see, making a game plan simplifies your life and saves time during the week. When you have only 24 hours in a day, you don't want to spend precious time that you could be doing work with trying to figure out what you can cook with zero food in the fridge or stressing over running out of time. Make your game plans when you have free time, so that when the time comes to enact it, you don't have to think twice about it.


I know, all the bloggers say this, but that's because it's true. Prioritizing is a game changer for time management and is echoed over and over, not because people are unoriginal for thinking of time management tricks, but because it's a fool-proof strategy that always works. I like to prioritize in terms of deadlines, I always do the things that are due first and then I do the things that I have more time on second. I'm pretty sure that most people prioritize this way, but it's also great to prioritize in order of importance. For example, I always prioritize schoolwork over blogging, so when I get home, instead of writing a blog post that should go up the next day, I do the homework that has the same deadline, because it's more important to me. (Trying to balance blogging with schoolwork? Here's some tips!) Your time is precious, so attack the things that are worth your time first and then move on to the things that are "nice to have" second. Some people also choose to prioritize by doing the small, easy to finish, tasks first, since they like seeing things disappear from their to-do list. This is great if the amount of work that you have in front of you seems daunting, because you see all of these potential stress factors fade away. Some people like to do a mix of a few prioritization forms. Figure out with form of prioritization works best for you, because it all depends on personal preference.

Step away from long-term distraction factors.

What classifies as a long-term distraction factor? By this, I mean things like Netflix, that will plague your thoughts often. While I love Netflix, things like TV shows can really divert your attention from your responsibilities. What TV shows do is they hook you and draw you in, so that you need to keep watching. Let's put it this way. Let's say that you're doing great on all of your responsibilities, so you take a break to watch an episode of Breaking Bad. Forty five minutes later, you click the next episode. And then the next. Before you know it, you're caught in this vicious cycle. Whenever you go to start doing work, you think about what might happen on the next episode, and are tempted to watch the next one to find out. If I know that I'm going to have a busy week ahead of me, I try to find a good stopping place on a show or finish the season so that I don't have to think about the show anymore. If you're tempted by things like TV shows often, you might want to spend your break times doing things that are a bit more short-term, like watching a YouTube video or watching a movie, things that end, so that you're not constantly thinking about them. 

Make social plans in advance instead of at the last minute.

When we talk responsibilities, we sometimes forget the social lives are a part of time management. Like how you want to save some time for yourself, it's also great to put some time aside for spending time with friends and/or family. One thing that my friends do often is that they wait until the last minute to make social plans or they don't finalize the details until the night before. If you make social plans ahead of time, you're able to plan your game plan of work around it. It's basically a way that you can put the time aside. While I know that it's important to set time aside for friends, I need to know what exact time I need to save for my social plans. By planning social events ahead of time, it's an indicator for what I need to take into consideration while arranging my schedule. In addition, waiting until the last minute does nothing but cause unnecessary stress. I don't need to waste my time stressing over the fact that my friends haven't decided on a solid time for brunch yet or they haven't picked a place to eat at the night before. Instead, I can have them finalized before and know exactly when and where the plans will take place.

So when it's you against all your responsibilities, it's not impossible to rise victorious. It is possible to do it all without getting too stressed. The secret to your success is not just these tips, but it's also having the motivation and the will for everything. If you don't put in the effort to try and manage your time well or you only do things halfway, then you're not truly succeeding. At the end of the day, it's all about how much you care about succeeding. As long as you're putting your all into everything that you do, you can be the winner against your stack of responsibilities. When you have a million things to do, the only thing you can do is keep your chin up and smile as you attack that to-do list. It doesn't have to feel like it's you against everything else. And since freezing time doesn't exist, I'll just have to stretch the time that I have, whether it means I'm doing work, appreciating myself, fulfilling my passions, enjoying time with friends and family, or living my life to the fullest.
I'm going to to make the most with the time that I have, value every second of it. 
And that time starts now.