Unique Holiday Gift Guide for All Friends

Unique Holiday Gift Guide for All FriendsNow that Thanksgiving is over, the holiday shopping season has officially begun. Hopefully all of you have survived Black Friday! Even I managed to brave the mall and come home with a few goodies this weekend. Of course, as Hanukkah and Christmas loom near, it’s important to start shopping for our friends and loved ones as well.

I absolutely love gift-giving. With so many cool and customizable products out there, I enjoy putting thought into the presents I buy rather than slapping a bow on something really generic and calling it a day.

This week, I’d like to share my holiday gift guide for all types of friends. Most of these products are ones that I either personally own, have sampled, or have purchased for someone else in the past. The best part? You can purchase any of these online in the comfort of your own home! No need to start any fist-fights at the mall this year. 🙂

  • Unique Holiday Gift Guide for All FriendsThe Animal Lover: A custom-made shirt from Pop Your Pup!
    Pop Your Pup creates graphic T-shirts featuring pop art designs of your pets. Choose a shirt style and background color, submit a photo of your/your friend’s pet, and the graphic artists at Pop Your Pup will work their magic to make a one-of-a-kind shirt that really does look like your pet. The turn-around time is awesome, and 10% of proceeds are donated to local Humane Societies. I’ve ordered two of these shirts for birthday presents already, and they were a huge hit!
  • The Friend with School Spirit: A bottle of his or her school’s Masik Collegiate Fragrance.
    Masik Collegiate Fragrances is the brainchild of Katie Masik, who wanted to create perfumes and colognes that evoked memories of certain colleges and universities. Last year, I reviewed their University of Florida perfume and their Florida State University cologne, and even though I’m not a Gator fan, I still sometimes wear the UF perfume! The scents are inspired by the buildings, traditions and local plant-life of each university. Click here for a list of all schools represented so far to see if your friend’s school is listed!
  • Unique Gift Guide for All FriendsThe Sweet Tooth: A box of Wondermade‘s handcrafted marshmallows.
    (Paleo readers: You may want to shield your eyes for this one!) I stumbled into Wondermade one afternoon on one of my walks through downtown Sanford. The café is a local one, where patrons can buy marshmallow skewers and s’mores of all flavors that they can pair with coffee or hot chocolate. Wondermade also has an online store, where consumers from near and far can buy boxes of marshmallows in Christmas and fall flavors, as well as other unique flavors. I love to support local businesses, especially ones with such delicious products!
  • The Healthy Chick: A piece of (totally inedible) Organic Fruit Jewelry.
    Okay, paleo friends, you can start reading again. 🙂 Organic Fruit Jewelry is exactly what it sounds like — real fruit dried and preserved into jewelry! This is an eclectic and fun gift, and no two necklaces/earring sets are exactly alike. I’m obsessed with the lemon slice necklace and will definitely be investing in mine soon!
  • The Single Friend: A copy of The Mathematics of Love by Hannah Fry.
    I’m a nerd at heart, so reading a book that relates mathematical concepts to dating and marriage was obviously right up my alley. This is a great read for anyone — single or not — who wants to see just how applicable these theories and formulas are to our lives. I was never a math lover in school, but I really enjoyed this book! (Check out the related TED Talk if you’re curious.)
  • il_570xN.436081413_kwxfThe Sports Fan: A personalized highway distance sign to your friend’s favorite team’s stadium/arena.
    I absolutely love these stadium signs as a way to support your favorite team! You choose your team’s venue from the Travelsigns Etsy shop, and plug in the number of miles between there and your home. This a great gift for that guy in your life who still hasn’t put anything up on his wall.
  • The Harry Potter Nerd: This Golden Snitch bracelet from Ashley Bridget.
    Seriously, have you seen anything prettier? The Ashley Bridget website features other Harry Potter jewelry as well, along with other gorgeous pieces from their NFL, collegiate, sorority, fairy tale and other collections. 🙂
  • The Career Guy or Girl: A customized business card case.
    You can find these anywhere, depending on your friend’s preferences, but I purchased mine from the ChicMonogram store on Etsy. This is a great gift for someone who recently graduated from college and is just starting a new job. For nearly my entire first year at my current job, I didn’t have a business card case, and instead found myself carrying the cards around at networking events like the unpolished peasant I was. With my personalized business card case (featuring my full name, not just my monogram), I have something to store my business cards and it makes for a great conversation piece!
  • The Fancy Friend: Anything from the Downton Abbey collection at World Market.
    I am in love with this collection’s 2-tiered serving stand and tea spoons, and I don’t even watch Downton Abbey! Buy a few items from this set for your tea-loving friends who like to entertain.

How are you shopping for the holidays? Share your favorite finds in the comments section below!

Easy Whole30 Sweet Potato Recipe – Perfect for Thanksgiving!

Get excited, friends – Thanksgiving is almost here! You might not have realized that, with all of your neighbors’ Christmas decorations already up, but it’s time to break out your favorite stretch pants and start fighting fellow shoppers for the best turkey in the store. (At least I think that’s how people celebrate?) 🙂

In all seriousness, Thanksgiving is a time to remember all of the wonderful things you are thankful for, and in my case, I’m thankful for being able to spend the holiday with my family. I’m also thankful for this easy and fabulous sweet potato dish I’m about to share with you today!

I’ve always loved sweet potatoes, but I’ve never really understood why people were so quick to add sweeteners and marshmallows to theirs. Aren’t sweet potatoes sweet enough on their own? My method takes very little time to make, includes no added sugars, and is so simple that I almost feel guilty calling it a recipe. I love to make these sweet potatoes when the weather starts cooling down – it’s a great way to warm up for breakfast, lunch or dinner! They are also paleo and Whole30 compliant. How much better can life get?

My recipe serves one, so adjust your quantities accordingly!

Whole30 Sweet Potatoes - No sugar added!

Ingredients

  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 cup applesauce, unsweetened (read your labels!)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

Directions

  • Peel your sweet potato and roughly chop into a few medium-sized pieces.
  • Bring a pot of water to boil and add in your sweet potato pieces. Cook on medium for 5 minutes.
  • Drain, then add the sweet potato pieces to your food processor.
  • Pulse for a few seconds until it starts to reach a desired consistency.
  • Add in 1 cup of applesauce, and pulse again.
  • Add in cinnamon, then pulse one more time.
  • Transfer to bowl, add a little more cinnamon for garnish (optional), and serve.

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think! Please share and subscribe to my blog for more recipes, Whole30 resources and other goodies!

The Freshman 15: Mid-Semester Motivation Tips

Can anyone believe it’s almost March? As so many of us find ourselves inundated with midterms, essays and appointments, we sometimes forget how to cope with our hectic workloads and instead allow the chaos to overcome us. While some of us may become complacent and decide we just don’t care how we score on that psych exam, others feel completely overwhelmed and buried by all of our stressors.

For February’s Freshman 15, I will discuss just a few ways to tackle that mid-semester slump and remain motivated throughout the year. Feel free to add your own in the comments section below!

The Freshman 15: Mid-Semester Motivation Tips

1. Stop telling yourself (and everyone else!) how stressed you are. (Tweet this!)
First of all, stress isn’t always a bad thing — in fact, it gives us that “fight or flight” response that allows us to act in emergency situations! A little bit of stress is good because it helps us perform to the best of our abilities. Second of all, although too much stress can be harmful, chances are that when you complain about it, you’re only making it worse. The more that you tell your friends (who most likely have a lot on their plates as well!) that you’re “stressed out,” the more that you hear those words in your own mind and the more stressed out you become.

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2. Reassess what you want.
During the fall semester of my freshman year, life wasn’t easy. Not only was I constantly sick, but I was in the middle of muddling through my general education requirements, many of which were not of interest to me. In fact, although I had a soft spot for my speech class, I had trouble feeling enthusiastic about any of the classes I was taking, in part because I didn’t have an end goal (a major) in mind. Once I finally chose a major to stick with, I found myself much more excited to go to classes and learn about the subjects I wanted to learn. Moral of the story? Choose a major that you’re going to be happy with. If your gen ed requirements are completed and you still dread going to classes, perhaps it is time to choose a new major.

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3. Cut something out of your schedule.
Grades should come first. If you find yourself so over-extended on extracurricular activities that you’ve worn yourself thin, it’s time to cut back and prioritize what activity is the most important to you. So many of us don’t know when to say “no” because we’re so excited about the myriad of opportunities we have in college, but it is better to do a few things well than to do many things halfheartedly.

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4. Discover a new hobby.
When I think of people with a lot of stress in their lives, Harry Potter always comes to mind. After all, his only surviving relatives despise him, he is constantly in detention, his Potions professor is out to get him (or so he thinks) and every year he has to save the world from the wrath of Voldemort. Harry’s friends provide some solace in his life, but when he hits the Quidditch pitch on his Firebolt broomstick, Harry is at peace (except, of course, when someone tries to bewitch his broomstick or send Dementors after him during a game). The point is – we all need a break, whether we find it in a game of Quidditch or a DIY project. If you don’t already have something that calms you down, find something. Too many hobbies will make you a little eccentric, but one great one will help you ease your mind when you have time to take a break.

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5. Change your scenery.
Sometimes when you’re in one place for too long, you become a little stir crazy. That’s why it’s important to change it up every so often! I tend to study in my room, but if it’s a beautiful sunny day outside, I might bring my textbooks out to the garden at school just for something different. Whether you relocate to Starbucks, the library or a hilltop, you will surely feel invigorated by your new surroundings.

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6. Give thanks.
You may be thinking that this has nothing to do with motivation, but ever since I started this gratitude challenge back in mid-January, I have felt infinitely happier and more inspired than ever. By writing down five things you are thankful for each night before you go to bed, you are challenging yourself to find the good in a sometimes bad day, and you begin to put your own problems into perspective. Try it!

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7. Surround yourself with positive people.
It’s hard to be optimistic when everyone you encounter is constantly whining about how difficult everything is. Find friends who know how to look at the glass half full – you can always learn from those people, and their happiness is usually contagious. Life is too short to be grumpy.

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8. Ditch the social media.
Studies reveal that using Facebook while studying tends to result in lower grades. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know that liking your friends’ statuses and browsing pictures from last weekend’s party will not help you get an A in English class. With exams around the corner, you’ll need to know that Romeo and Juliet were star-crossed lovers, but you do not need to know that Robbie and Julia are now in an open relationship. Besides, your mind will be a lot clearer if you spend a little less time on Facebook.

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9. Find a role model.
Having a mentor is an amazing thing when it feels like the walls are closing in on you. If you’ve met an older student that you aspire to be like, ask yourself what that person has done to become so successful. Better yet, ask him or her about it in person! People love to talk about their successes, and if you meet someone that you look up to, then when you feel like you’re about to give up on something, you can always ask yourself, “Would ____ do that?” Role models give us that extra boost of inspiration when we need it.

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10. Practice relaxation methods.
For many people, yoga and pilates are two phenomenal ways to burn calories and calm down from the day-to-day hustle and bustle. For others, they aren’t enough. Find something that helps you slow down when things become too much to handle. Learn how to meditate and breathe properly. These are just a few healthy ways to keep yourself grounded.

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11. Set new goals.
Feeling complacent? Do something about it! Challenge yourself with a new goal to reach. Apply for a study abroad program, learn a new skill, or join an organization that sounds appealing to you. Find ways to keep your college experiences fresh and exciting.

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12. Remind yourself of your positive attributes.
If you feel completely stuck and unable to accomplish what you need to accomplish, this handy trick will help get you out of your rut. In this exercise, you’ll need to list 100 things that you love about yourself. Think you can do it? In early February, I tried this out and was proud of some of the attributes I came up with. You’ll have to think outside the box a bit on this one, but once completed, this exercise really does boost your self esteem/self efficacy and help you regain motivation.

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13. Up the ante on organizational skills.
Sometimes, you just need to be a little more disciplined than usual to get the job done. Perhaps you’ll need to keep a more detailed agenda than usual, or maintain a more organized study space. Click here for tips on managing your time and organizing your life!

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14. Seek help when you need it.
Go to office hours. Meet with tutors and academic advisers. Make an appointment with the counseling center. Do what you need to do to stay on your game; don’t worry about what others are going to think. You should be your biggest priority.

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15. Be sure to address any deeper issues.
Sometimes we aren’t held back by a lack of motivation; rather, we have been affected by something farther beyond our control. Know the difference, and take care of yourself and the issue at hand.

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What topics would you like to see in the future?!

The Friday Five: Holidays to Observe All Year

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s nearly impossible not to have the holidays on your mind. Of course, as much as I enjoy pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce, I absolutely love the holiday’s vibe – the reminder that we should be thankful for all that we have and more. Of course, November 24 is not the only day we should set aside to give thanks — that day should be every day!

This week, I would like to take a look at some of the holidays we should observe more often. Feel free to chime in with your own in the comments section below!

The Friday Five: Holidays to Observe All Year

1. Thanksgiving.
Well, if that wasn’t a given, I don’t know what is. 🙂 We should take some time out of every day to reflect upon how fortunate we are, regardless of how stressful life can be.

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2. Valentine’s Day.
Telling someone “I Love You” shouldn’t be restricted to February 14. Doing something spontaneous and sweet for your significant other will mean a lot more to that person if it happens on a random Tuesday rather than a holiday when everyone feels obligated to be romantic. Similarly, you should show small acts of kindness toward everyone throughout the year, instead of saving up for one grand gesture and a remainder of mediocrity and halfheartedness.

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3. New Year’s.
This doesn’t mean you need to get rip-roaring drunk every night and cheer when the clock strikes 12 — you can save that until December 31. However, many people wait until the New Year (and occasionally Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year) to make amends for past mistakes and to create new goals and resolutions. However, we should spend the whole year working on ourselves, not just one small window of time. If we set reasonable expectations throughout the year, we are more likely to stick to them and see some real results. Besides, it is never too late in the year to reinvent yourself.

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4. Independence Day.
Most people tend to be patriotic around the Fourth of July, Memorial Day or a national disaster, but when barbecues and fireworks aren’t taking place, a lot of us forget what it means to be American. You don’t need to be in-your-face about your nationality, but it is important to be present by recognizing how lucky you are to be where you are. (I understand that some readers do not live in the U.S., so feel free to replace this one with one of your homeland’s own national holidays!)

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5. Halloween.
The spookiest holiday of the year is all about overcoming your fears and allowing yourself to have fun. As Robert California from The Office says in a recent episode, “Fear plays an interesting role in our lives. How dare we let it motivate us? How dare we let it into our decision making, into our livelihoods, into our relationships?” By stepping out of our comfort zones more than once every year, we allow ourselves to develop and grow as human beings (or ghouls).

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What are your favorite holidays, and what have they taught you?

Happy holidays, everyone! 🙂

The Friday Five: Things To Be Thankful For

Back in my hometown until Sunday, I’m excited to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family and friends. With the crazy schedules customary of my family, we get to celebrate twice this weekend, and therefore I have even more time to think about all of the wonderful blessings in my life. Even when the semester feels like too much to handle, we have to remember to appreciate the little things in life.

In honor of this Thanksgiving (which we celebrated on Thursday and will celebrate again on Saturday), I would like to dedicate this Friday Five to the things we should all be most thankful for.

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The Friday Five: Things To Be Thankful For

1. You have food on the table and a roof over your head every night.

2. Even when it feels like the world is against you, there are always those few people who support you regardless.

3. You aren’t Amber Portwood… or her daughter, Leah, for that matter.

4. You have survived Black Friday without becoming one of these people.

5. There are only a few more weeks of classes and exams before you can call it quits for the rest of 2010!

What’s Hot/What’s Not: November 2010

As we reach the middle of November, let’s take a look at some of the latest trends and stories that have affected our lives and touched our hearts.

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What’s HOT
Love is in the air! Kurt’s got a cute new beau, Blair and Chuck have been more or less back together, and Pam and Jim are still going strong. TV romance has never been so wonderful.

What’s NOT
People who choose ignorant slurs over the love. Grow up!

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What’s HOT

Thanksgiving is fast approaching!

What’s NOT
It’s smack dab in the middle of the worst season ever.

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What’s HOT
Feeling vintage and listening to oldies — REO Speedwagon, anyone?

What’s NOT
Watching vintage music videos. (I’m not sure which incarnation of the Hoff is the worst!)

 

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What’s HOT
Getting all dressed up for the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1!

What’s NOT
The fact that there’s only one installment left after this!

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What’s HOT
Seeing a place that’s familiar to you in the news for something harmless and mildly innovative.

What’s NOT
Seeing a place that’s familiar to you in the news for something embarrassing and awful.

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What’s HOT
Having fun with Star Wars and stormtroopers.

What’s NOT
Those who don’t embrace the wonderful dorkiness that is Star Wars.

 

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What’s HOT
The upcoming release of Tangled, the new Rapunzel movie, for all of the Disney lovers out there!

What’s NOT
Being the oldest non-parents in the theater!

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What’s HOT
Cher’s commentaries on celebrity and non-celebrity life.

What’s NOT
The fact that any of the people she’s talking about are actually famous.

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What’s HOT
Ryan Reynolds, according to People Magazine. And, okay, according to me.

What’s NOT
His high school quotes. What does forever really mean, anyway? 😛

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