Where To Go In Portugal

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Before I get in to the meat of this post, I want to start off by saying something I say a lot: Wow how is it already the middle of August?? Time is flying by so quickly and in less than a month I’ll be back to walking through my campus, carrying tons of textbooks and looking for a Tim Hortons with wifi…God I really miss Timmie’s (I just need an ice cap is that too much to ask?). I hope you guys have all been enjoying the last few weeks of summer and are slowly getting back in to the swing of things when it comes to school and work!

While summer is winding down for us, September is a great time to start planning next years adventures (take advantage of great airline prices) so you can give yourself something to look forward to. If you’re stuck wondering where to go, may I give you a suggestion?

Portugal!

I might be a bit biased since I am Portuguese, but honestly, I’ve been to a lot of places in Europe, and Portugal is still one of my favourites. It’s a tiny country packed full of history, delicious food, kind people and so much culture.

Since it’s not a huge tourist destination (like say Paris or London), Portugal’s premier cities remain inexpensive and are bustling and full of life in the spring and summer months. Today I wanted to talk about my favourite cities to visit, and the ones I think you should add to your travel bucket list!

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Óbidos

Óbidos is a gorgeous walled medieval town that oozes charm and culture. Every summer they hold a medieval festival were you can buy a costume and become a knight or princess, and in the winter months they hold a chocolate festival (yum!) which I haven’t been to, but have heard awesome things about.

The old castle has been turned in to a gorgeous hotel you can stay at, and it’s honestly an incredible experience being in a place that is so old and full of so much history.

If you love history, want to see a prime example of medieval architecture and get to walk on top of a city wall, this is the place for you! As an added bonus, there are prime photo ops at literally every corner of the city (so you can step up your Insta game)!

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Coimbra

Coimbra is Portugal’s former capitol and is home to the gorgeous University of Coimbra. I’ve only been to this city a few times, but it is so full of history and beautiful buildings that I would recommend it.

If old school’s interest you, the University of Coimbra is stunning, and is almost as old and famous UK universities Oxford and Cambridge. The universities famous baroque library, the Biblioteca Joanina, is an incredible thing to see and apparently (I don’t know that they still do this 100%) houses a family of bats who come out at night to eat the bugs and protect the books (crazy I know).

All in all Coimbra is a great destination, and who knows, you might even want to transfer to UC?

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Lisbon

Lisbon, the capitol of Portugal, is an amazing, bustling, and eclectic city. It caters to young, artistic types (and families) and you’ll be able to find any museum or tour to suit your tastes.

While you’re there be sure to take A Tuk Tuk ride through the streets, hop on the old streetcars to climb way up in to the hills of Alfama, and stop in a smokey fado bar for drinks and a moving performance.

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Porto

I wrote a post recently about Porto, but would like to reiterate what a lovely place it is. The food is some of the most wonderful in the country, and it’s bubbly atmosphere makes it the perfect destination for families and couples a like.

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Cascais

Nestled by the water about a half hour away from Lisbon, is beautiful Cascais. If laying on the beach, shopping and eating are your favourite things to do on vacation, this should be your first stop. With tons of beautiful beaches, amazing hotels and incredible seafood, Cascais is perfect for a relaxing beach stay while still being close to some of Portugal’s biggest cities.

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Guimarães

Like Obidos, Guimaraes is a gorgeous example of a medieval city. It was settled in the 9th century and is where the country of Portugal began (how crazy is it to think that a country could begin in a city?).

There are hundreds of winding streets and over the top churches to explore in this beautiful city, as well as many lovely hotels to rest and recharge in.

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Sintra

In the fairytale foothills of Sintra Mountain, you’ll find this lovely city. It has been a royal retreat for hundreds of years, and you can visit the beautiful palace the royal family frequented high up on the mountain top.

Aside from royalty, Sintra is home to gorgeous homes, museums (there’s an amazing toy museum right downtown) and bakeries filled with delicious pastries. It has a vibe very different from that of most Portuguese towns, and is very lush and green due to it’s location. It really does feel like a fairy tale!

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Well, those are my favourite places in Portugal! We may be a small country, but it’s really packed full of beautiful places to visit an explore!

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Beat The Summer Heat

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August is arguably one of the best and worst months of the year. It’s still summer (read: extremely hot) but the promise of fall is on the horizon. School hasn’t started for real, but back-to-school shopping is in full swing, and there is still enough time for adventuring and lazing around before going back to real life.

Here in Portugal it’s pretty darn hot (like 40 degrees celsius everyday) so going outside is often a total no-no! It does get sort of boring being cooped up all day because of the intense oven-like heat, but I’ve figured out a few fool proof ways to a) beat the heat, and b) beat the boredom! So, here are five things to do on (really) hot summer days.

Make Fancy Ice Cream

To many, ice cream looks like one of those things you need professional equipment to whip out, but my friends, that just isn’t true! Making your own delicious chocolate or pistachio ice cream (or whatever your little heart desires) is actually way easier than that! All you need is a cake pan, simple ingredients, and a freezer!

My friend Alex and I made some delicious mocha almond fudge ice cream back in June, and not only was it super easy, but it came out better than like, any ice cream I’ve had before!

If you get really excited with your homemade ice cream, why not set up a sundae station and invite your pals over for a fancy ice cream sundae party? Here are some great recipes to try (you might have trouble picking just one)!

Read A Good Book

In this age of Facebook and Instagram, books sometimes fly under the radar. Still, I don’t think anything is more satisfying than opening a new book and sitting in a comfy spot to read it.

Getting yourself lost in crazy adventures and romances is the perfect way to forget how disgustingly hot it is outside, and will give you a chance to relax and enjoy some coveted me time!

Here are some books I’ve worked through this summer if you need some inspiration!

Craft Something

I can’t lie, I’m obsessed with crafts. If I could live in Michaels, I probably would, but as it is now, I’ll have to settle with spending crazy amounts of money on beads and embroidery floss.

Crafting is the perfect thing to do on a hot summer day. You can do it with your best friend or with your mom and siblings, and not only is it fun to loose yourself in a project, but you’ll come out the other side with a totally brag worthy piece you made all yourself!

Here are a few projects I’m dying to try, the tough part is picking one to start with.

Write Letter To Your Friends

Nobody seems to send letters anymore and that sucks, because getting mail is among one of the most satisfying feelings ever!

Whenever I come to Portugal in the summer I make it a mission to write to as many of my friends as possible, and this year I ended up writing 13 letters! It was tough to write them all, but I was so excited to send them off and get a response!

Even if your friends haven’t gone away, or they live with you, it’s a fun idea to write a little letter and pop it in the mail to surprise them.

Pack a Picnic and Explore

Yes, going in to the heat was exactly what we were avoiding, but seriously, picnics are the best (even when it’s super hot). Pack up your favourite snacks and some treats, call up your Besties, and head to the park or the water (if you’re lucky enough to be near it)!

Picnics are a great way to pend quality time with your favourite people, and lets be honest, are great photo ops! Find some shade and relax in nature with good food and even better company!

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Those are some of my favourite ways to beat the heat, but what do you do when it’s just too hot?

Hope you’re all enjoying this gorgeous day!

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How To Kick Butt In First Year

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As August moves along and September appears on the horizon, back-to-school activity begins in ernest. First time Kindergarteners hurry around Staples clutching their parent’s fingers and pick up crayons and craft paper. High school juniors wonder how they can possibly make it through another two years of school, and college freshman sit around selecting courses, paying tuition and buying things for their dorm rooms.

They all ask the same question: what will this year hold?

While elementary and high school are slightly more predictable, university is a total mystery to those of us on the outside. Sure you’ve watched the movies, read the articles and seen the meme’s, but what is it really like to sit in a lecture hall of 1500? What is it really like to spend all your waking hours in the library during exams, and what is it like to specialize your studies?

Last fall, before I moved in to my residence, I had no idea what to expect. Though some of my older cousins had gone to university before me, I didn’t exactly know how to ask them for advice, and while my parents tried their best too calm my nerves, university had changed since their schooling days. So, instead of turning to actual people, I searched Pinterest and Blogs across the internet, reading article after article titled: “What To Expect In Dorm Life” and “20 Ways To Make Your First Year Rock”. Knowing that other people were going through the same messy emotions helped me through that entire summer.

As a sort of thank you to all the blog posts that helped me out, and as part of my Back-To-School Month posts, today’s is all about tips, tricks, and advice so you can kick butt in first year!

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Buy an agenda before school and force yourself to use it. Write everything down. I mean everything (yes, even what you want to eat that day)! My agenda is my lifeline, and honestly, I don’t think I’d make it through the year without it.

Also use a big (pretty) wall calendar. Agenda’s are great for carrying around, and a big wall calendar is perfect for putting over your desk. It’ll help you see busy weeks in advance so you can stay organized and ready.

Plan your readings. Use your agenda to plan what work you need to get done everyday. Sit down on Sunday night and plan your readings/homework/assignments for the week so you can stay caught up (or ahead). This extra time also lets you see what’s coming up that week (maybe a friends birthday) so you can make room for important extra curricular’s or social events.

Protect your syllabus at all costs. This packet of papers is your life line for that class. Keep it safe, make a photo copy (seriously having a back up is a life saver), and highlight any important information. Transfer important dates to your agenda and calendar immediately and keep in with your notes for that class.

Don’t fall in to the “wear pjs and sweats all day everyday” state of mind. It’ll make you feel more tired and lazy. Dress up for yourself and I promise you’ll feel 10x more confident and ready to tackle your school work.

Don’t force a relationship with your roommate. It will come with time, and if it doesn’t, it’s no big deal! Not everyone ends up being best friends with their roomie. As long as you’re civil and respectful, you’re good as gold!

Do assignments right away. This is always easier said than done, but your stress level will lower drastically if you start the essay the day it’s assigned or brought up in class.

Find your library. Some libraries work for some people, and others don’t. Take the opportunity to try out different libraries and study spaces on your campus until you find one that’s perfect for you. Once you find a space you can study in easily, it’ll take a lot of the pressure off.

Work out every day. For the love of God, please get out of the library and move. It can be a dance class, a run, a yoga break or even a brisk walk through campus, anything. Just get up and do it. Not only will your body thank you, but your mind will be more focused to learn afterwards.

Don’t be afraid of taking morning classes. So many people tell you not to, but it’s a great feeling to be up early and done with lectures by noon. It’ll give you lots of time to be productive and get things done during the rest of the day.

Wake up early. Even if you decide not to take morning classes (sorry 8ams, I’m just not feeling it) consider waking up early. Building a routine helps you fall asleep easier (and sleep better) and if you wake up early, you can get the bulk of your studying out of the way so you can enjoy the rest of your day! If you’re not a morning person don’t worry, I wasn’t either, but if you force yourself to get up at say 8am (whether you need to or not) you’ll notice a big difference in productivity.

Get out of your comfort zone! Join the intramural team, rush the sororities, take a really weird art history class or just go to student plays and art shows. Whatever you do, learn new things and step outside of your boundaries. Chances are you’ll find a new passion or hobby.

Don’t worry about dating. If you have a boyfriend, great, but if not, don’t sweat it! Statistically people in university aren’t the ones getting in to long term commitments. You’re in school to learn and grow as a person. Take new chances and focus on expanding your mind and interests. The right person will come around eventually and you’ll be glad you didn’t rush it.

Flash cards are sent from heaven. Make them, read them and then read them fifty other times. They’re perfect for studying and you can have your parents or sibling or roommate or the guy you tend to sit near on the subway quiz you at literally any point in the day. Make them and use them.

Go to class. This is pretty self explanatory, but a lot of people still skip. You’re paying a lot of money to be there, so show up and get the most out of your education. However, if you’ve weighed the pros and cons, and skipping really is the smarter course of action, don’t be afraid to miss a class or two. You’re the only one who knows what you need to do in order to succeed.

Do the readings. I was always told that it’s impossible to get all your readings done in uni, but when I started, I found out that that wasn’t true at all. If you budget your time properly and are studying effectively, you should have no problem completing the required readings. Make the effort, because having already read the textbook helps a lot the night before your exams.

Rent your textbooks. If your student bookstore has the option, rent those babies. Textbooks are so expensive and renting is usually way cheaper and easier to go about than buying. Most schools give you the option to pay the difference if you decide you want to keep it.

Talk to your professors. Go to office hours, and student/staff mixers. Ask them questions after lecture and email them (as a last resort) if you really need to. Contrary to popular belief, your profs want you to succeed but they can’t help you if you don’t reach out!

Set goals. When you know what you want to achieve and the things you need to do to reach those goals, it’s so much easier to stay motivated. Figure out what these goals are, write them down and stick them on the wall near your desk or in your agenda. Read them when you’re finding it difficult to open a textbook.

Take breaks. Sitting for twelve hours straight in the library is not good for you. Your brain needs breaks to properly store the information you’ve learnt and honestly, after that many hours in front of your books, you probably aren’t giving your work 100% anymore (Instagram and Facebook start becoming really important). Get up, take a walk, listen to music, or eat a (healthy) snack.

Nobody cares if you go to the party. It’s no surprise that there’s going to be drinking and rowdiness all over campus most nights of the week (students party when they can). If you choose to go to those parties, all the power to you, stay safe and have fun! But if you aren’t an avid party goer (like myself) nobody really cares. Stay in and do your own thing of go bowling with friends. It’s all your choice.

Nobody cares if you drink either. As someone who doesn’t drink at all, I was really worried that people would judge me in university. Would they think I wasn’t cool? Would I get made fun of? Would the pear pressure be too much to handle? Nope! Nobody really cared, and if they did comment, it was usually to say that they thought it was cool I could go to parties sober. So if you don’t drink, have no fear, just do you!

You might not make many friends. I thought I was going to make a bunch of really good friends in my first year, but the truth is, I only made a couple, and that was totally fine. While quality is way more important than quantity, you will find your group of people as the years go on. Universities are often gigantic, but your homies are hiding in there somewhere!

Keep in touch. Call your parents and your grandparents. Send your high school BFFS letters and care packages. University is scary, and sometimes all you need is a reminder of the love you have back home. Don’t use distance as an excuse for letting important relationships fade. A text twice or three times a week is all you need.

Try to get a job. It may be hard to juggle with homework and clubs etc. But you’ll be so thankful to have some extra cash coming in!

Don’t hold yourself back. Just because you’re frightened or anxious, doesn’t mean you should stop yourself from doing things. If your scared of taking a semester abroad or taking an internship, chances are, it’s a perfect opportunity for learning and growth. Don’t be silly, take the leap!

Have fun! University is stressful and pretty scary, but it’s also an amazing time! You’re learning so many new things and there are opportunities to help you grow around every corner. While school is often crazy busy, make sure you take time during the week to hang out with your friends and do something fun.

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I think I probably could’ve come up with more advice (it’s one of my favourite things to write about if you couldn’t tell), but I’ll save that for another time. I hope this has been slightly helpful to a few of you who are heading to uni for the first time (or even if you’re a fourth year veteran)!

If you have any advice or suggestions, leave them in the comments, I’d love to hear what gets you, through a hectic year!

Hope you’re all enjoying this lovely Tuesday!

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Three Days In Madrid

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Earlier last week, my family and I had the pleasure of driving down to Madrid to explore for a few days. I’d never been to Spain before (which is kinda sad because the border is less than an hour away from where we live in Portugal), and was really excited to experience a whole new culture!

Spain’s geography was drastically different from that of Portugal (a lot flatter with big huge farms, almost like prairies) and we were actually really surprised at how quickly the scenery and land changed as we crossed the boarder. While Portugal is all mountains and hills, this part of Spain was impossibly flat and full of fields! Madrid was also totally different from any city I’ve seen in Portugal! It had countless tree lined boulevards (but seriously, there are so many trees in this city) and a bunch of little parks and water features. We visited a few different parts of the city, went to the Royal Botanical Gardens and walked through the stunning Plaza’s scattered throughout!

Personally, I think my favourite part of the city was Malasaña, which I would describe as Madrid’s hipster neighbourhood. I could’ve spent days just wandering the little streets and peeking in to adorable cafes and out of the box stores!

We walked a LOT during the few days we were there, and let me tell you, Madrid is HOT. Like really, really, really hot! If you ever visit in the summer months, light clothing, hats and cold water (or sangria) will be your very best friends! There’s so much to see (because it’s a huge city), so we only really scratched the surface!

As I did with my Porto post, I’ll share some photos of my favourite spots and places because, as they say, a picture says a thousand words!

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The Plaza Mayor (above) was one of our first stops in Madrid! It was so beautiful, and had a bunch of little shops and bakeries lining the square! A great place to grab a bite, the Mercado de San Miguel (which I’ll talk about later), was just outside the Plaza as well!

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The Crystal Palace in Madrid’s Buen Retiro Park was absolutely gorgeous! It was quite the hike to get there from our hotel (and it was pretty darn hot) but the park offers a lot of shade and great photo ops so it was ok! The pond behind the palace also features a bunch of adorable turtles who swim around and wait for you to give them food, which was adorable! As soon as I walked in, I couldn’t help but think about what a great venue this would be for a wedding (in the fall or spring)! It would be a total fairytale!

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We also checked out the Royal Botanical Gardens (which were beautiful), saw the Bonsai collection and went inside the big green house! I loved the three different environments in the green house, and it totally felt like I was hiking through the jungle!

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My favourite blogger, Geneva of A Pair & A Spare, recently went to Madrid, and in her travel guide for the city she mentioned a little espadrille store called  Antigua Casa Crespo, so of course I had to check it out! As it happened, the hotel we stayed in was only a few blocks from the store itself (fate?) and I took the opportunity to do some browsing! I ended up getting two pairs of classic espadrilles (white and pink) because they were only 9 euros, such a great deal and I love, love, LOVE them! The store itself was also adorable and had so much charm!

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We stopped at the Mercado de San Miguel for some snacks, and let me tell you, this place is popping! It’s right outside of Madrid’s beautiful Plaza Mayor, and there are tons of food stalls which sell every type of tapa you can think of. The atmosphere is so lovely and electric! It was easily one of my favourite stops during the trip!

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The above photo is of the gorgeous Royal Palace of Madrid. We didn’t actually get to go inside (it was closed by the time we got there) but I can only imagine how beautiful it is (I think it’s been said to rival Versailles)!

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We only stayed a few days in the city, and while we did see a lot, we didn’t see everything! I really hope I can come back to visit one day to explore a little more thoroughly!

Have you been to Madrid? If so what was your favourite part?

Hope you guys are having a lovely day! I can’t believe it’s already mid August! Summer is flying by way too fast!

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University Fashion: A Guide

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Last summer I did a lot of research on university. I read countless articles on dorm life, searched every corner of the internet for information about college fashion, and scrolled through Pinterest for hours, pinning outfit inspiration for the year. Clothes had always been important to me, and I wanted to know what the fashion expectations would be like in university as apposed to high school. While I found some really helpful articles, many of them catered to universities with a different atmosphere than my own, and as I went through my first year, I realized that much of what I had read, did not apply at my school.

Because I go to school in a big city, student’s are rarely seen walking around in their pjs or workout shorts and oversized t-shirts (unless their coming back from the gym). Some schools value comfort above all else, but I love the fact that being in an urban centre pushes people to dress up everyday of class (yes, even for exams)! Girls wear makeup, and carefully put together outfits everyday, and guys do the same. While it might seem exhausting to some, I appreciate being surrounded by people who look good and prioritize their appearance, even during stressful times of the year.

So, I’ve decided to start a little series on University Fashion from a big city school point of view, and my first topic is about making that jump from a high school wardrobe to a university one.

As a kid growing up, there was no better time for me than back-to-school. Sure it sounds odd, but it was the end of summer, new adventures were on the horizon, and my parents would take me shopping just for school supplies and clothing for the new year. While some of the excitement has washed away, back-to-school remains one of my favourite times of the year, and buying new things to prepare for it is something I (and probably most people) still do.

In high school, my style was quite different from what it is now. I was a fan of bright colours and belted dresses. Big colourful necklaces and bright patterns. As my first year progressed, my style changed drastically. Classes were busy, and when I wasn’t in a lecture, I found myself in the library or a lab. I still wanted to look put together, but no longer had the time (or energy) to create the more elaborate outfits I’d worn in high school. Moreover, I found I no longer identified with that type of clothing at all. So, without even realizing it, my personal style became more minimalistic and based on the principles of a capsule wardrobe.

For those of you who have never heard about a capsule wardrobe, I suggest you google it and read up, because it’s total gold! Essentially, the premise is to pair down your closet to a set number of items, all of which can be worn and styled together. While I am not yet ruthless enough to take my wardrobe down to the numbers suggested in some capsule wardrobes (ranging between 15-35 pieces of clothing), I’ve adopted some of the same principles and it has really affected the way I dress and see fashion.

Bellow, you’ll read about how I suggest transitioning your wardrobe from a high school student, to a sort-of-adult student, and I hope you take away and apply some of the techniques I use in your own closet!

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Clean Out Your Closet — The first step in transitioning your wardrobe from high school to university, is cleaning out your closet. This step might take a while, but if you dedicate an afternoon to the task and turn on some good music, I promise it’s really fun!

First off, take everything out of your closet, and I mean everything! Lay them out on your bed, in the living room or on the floor and take a minute to think about each piece. Separate them in to three piles: keep, donate, sell. If you haven’t worn it in a year, it doesn’t fit well, has holes you can’t fix, is the wrong colour, or is one of those impulse buys you made and never wore, out it goes! It’s really hard to be ruthless with your closet, but the more times you go through it (I typically do this four times a year, or more if I feel I need to) the easier it becomes to separate things you adore and wear over and over again, from those you don’t. Don’t be afraid to keep a few pieces you only wear for certain occasions. Wardrobes are made up of basics, but you also need some statement pieces to fill it out.

As you go through your closet take note (like physically write down) what styles you love, what colours you tend to buy and what shapes fit you best. This list will help you in the next phase of your closet makeover!

Know What Works — I’ve mentioned this in the step above, but we are all different shapes and sizes, so it’s incredibly important to know what suits you! A black body con dress might look awesome on one person and not so great on another. That doesn’t mean you’re what isn’t working, it just means you need to find your shape.

Knowing what works on your body is especially important when it comes to pants and dresses. If you have a pair of skinny jeans because they’re trendy but never wear them because they just don’t fit right, why keep them around? Invest in pieces and shapes that make you feel your best and are things you find yourself consistently reaching for. While it’s totally fine to experiment with different looks, it’s nice to have a basic you can fall back on.

Choose a Colour Pallet — A lot of you might find this step a little bit odd, but allow me to explain. It’s common knowledge that certain colours work on certain people while others don’t, and if you want to build a wardrobe where you can mix-and-match everything in your closet, it’s helpful if you stick with a general colour scheme. This will help you get the most out of your wardrobe, since everything can be worn together, so you’ll have a pretty large selection of possible outfits.

First, choose a few basic colours which you find yourself gravitating to again and again (mine are blue, black, white, and beige) and then choose a few colours for those statement pieces (mine change with the season, but tend to be pinks, red and canary yellow). Your colour pallet is not the end all be all of course. If you find certain things that deviate from your basics but are still styles are shapes that flatter you, don’t be afraid to add them to your closet. As I said before, while your wardrobe should mainly be filled with basics, you need statement pieces to round it out and tailor it to your personality!

Plan — Now that you know your shapes, styles and colours, you can go shopping and use these criteria to help you buy items that you’ll love to wear. Don’t go crazy with shopping right away though. Try out your new, smaller closet for a few weeks to see what works and what doesn’t. At the end of this trial period you might want to get rid of some other pieces, and you can make a more thoughtful list of the things you’d like to add or replace before heading out to do any major spending.

This is the point in your closet makeover where you can start planning your spending. You can choose items you’d like to splurge on (like a new purse or winter coat) or others that aren’t as necessary. This might seem like overkill, but as someone who is known to make a ton of impulse purchases, planning what I want to buy has been really helpful for me, and is a great way to make sure you’re staying in your budget.

Another plus is that you’re essentially making a wish list, so the next time your parent’s ask you what you want for Christmas or your birthday, you’ll actually have something concrete to give them!

Invest In Basics (but don’t go crazy) — We are but lowly university students, so this next step has to be taken with a grain of salt. Basics are so important. A fantastic pair of jeans, white blouses, and little black dresses are items that can be styled millions of ways and mixed and matched with most things in your closet.

So many posts I’ve read about wardrobe basics emphasize splurging on these items and making sure that they’re the best quality you can afford, but I’ll be honest with you, I don’t exactly think that’s realistic for students. University is expensive enough with crazy tuition and living costs. You don’t need to add expensive basics to your list. Once you’re settled in a paying job post-grad, it makes more sense to start investing in pieces from higher end brands, but until them, buying your basics from places like Forever 21, The Gap (my go to store for jeans) or Old Navy is more than ok.

If you’re using a spending plan like I mentioned above, splurging might be more feasible, but curating a wardrobe full of these higher end basics will take longer. It all has to do with your priorities and what you’re comfortable with at this point in your life!

My go to basics include: dark wash skinny jeans, light wash boyfriend jeans, white blouses, black blouses, a little black dress, a little white dress, motorcycle jacket, jean jacket, striped long sleeve top, trench coat, white button down, and a white t-shirt. Though my closet is significantly larger than this (I have a slight clothing obsession) these are the pieces I often build an outfit off of (and they’re all endlessly versatile)!

Be True to You — This is probably one of the more important points of this post, and at the same time, it might be one of the most difficult to implement. Trends come and go, but your personal sense of style is forever! It can be daunting, especially in a time in your life where you are constantly meeting new people and doing new things, to fully embrace the style that you feel the best in. There’s so much pressure from the media to look and dress a certain way and when our personal style doesn’t exactly line up with what we see in the magazines, it can be hard to stay confident and rock what you like.

If there’s anything I’ve learnt in my life, it’s that it really doesn’t matter what people think, and this is especially true when it comes to what you wear on a day to day basis! If you like a certain trend, rock it! But don’t feel you have to just because every celebrity is seen wearing the same thing. Be uniquely yourself (which is so much harder than it sounds) and I assure you, you’ll be rewarded!

Accessories Make All The Difference — Shoes, purses, jewelry, scarves, hats, and sunglasses. These are the things that can ultimately make (or break) an outfit. You can wear a simple jeans and t-shirt look and then style it four or five different ways just by switching up which accessories you use!

Call me a stereotype, but I can’t help myself, I LOVE shoes…and purses, and jewelry, and scarves, and hats, and sunglasses…but especially, shoes. There is so much potential in a good pair of shoes. They can dress up an outfit, or make it more casual. A spunky pair can add personality to the simplest of dresses, or take the edge off of something a little more risqué. Shoes, in short, are a fashionista’s secret weapon!

There are of course the basic shoes you should have in your closet, like sneakers, flats and pumps (I think I might have to make a post on this at some point), but I love shoes, because they provide a perfect opportunity to add a little je ne sais quoi to a look. They provide a perfect chance to be adventurous! So, while there are the obvious basics, I like to go for shoes that are a little different, shoes that are brightly coloured, or have fringes etc. These often serve as the statement piece in my outfit, and are so fun to play around with.

All this to say, that accessories (especially shoes for me) are your chance to play around. Don’t stick to just the basics here, go for things that you love, things that are quirky and a little different. This is what will mark your personality on an outfit and give you a chance to be creative and playful in your closet. Patterns are great for shoes, so are metallics and bright colours. They serve to add dimension to the basics we talked about above. Anyone can wear jeans and a t-shirt, but making jeans and a t-shirt interesting and fashionable, is all in the way you accessorize, and no-one accessorizes quite like you do!

Learn The Joy of Thrifting — Ah, thrifting, my favourite pass time. As a kid, my mother and I frequented Good Will and Value Village, on the hunt for unique pieces and good deals. We always found something, and to this day, thrift shopping is my favourite way to shop. It’s good for the environment, is usually better for your wallet, and the whole hunt for something spectacular is way too much fun!

Thrifting is sometimes seen as taboo in our consumer culture. Buying second hand clothes and accessories is often looked down on, people tend to want brand new items. I however, strongly believe that thrifting is the way to go. You often find really unique pieces (vintage sweaters or dresses) and your creative side gets a work out! As a student, thrifting is especially important because of our general lack of funds, and honestly, hunting through a second hand store is a great way to work off school anxiety.

Make Room For Business Wear — While it’s likely you won’t be working an office job until after post-grad, it’s important to start making room in your closet for versatile business wear pieces. You don’t have to go crazy here (a fancier white blouse, black pencil skirt and blazer will do just fine) but as job interviews and internships do come up, you’ll have to be able to dress the part!

Make sure that these pieces are easily integrated in to the rest of your wardrobe so that they aren’t just hanging in a corner of your closet waiting for Google to call you in for an interview. A blazer should pair just as easily with a t-shirt and jeans as it does with your blouse and slacks, and your pencil skirt should be able to do double time as a work place staple and dinner date statement!

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Essentially, when all this advice is taken together, your wardrobe should become smaller, but more versatile. You’ll be able to make more outfits out of less pieces, and because these pieces are all ones you love, you’ll look great no matter what. As a student, life gets crazy hectic, and sometimes picking out an outfit for the day is daunting because we don’t have the energy or time to thoughtfully put something together. If your wardrobe is only full of pieces you love, that work together, choosing a killer outfit takes no time at all, and you’ll feel comfortable in the styles and shapes you love.

Personally, my style has evolved to be more minimalistic and simple. I focus on adding personality through interesting shapes and accessories and tend to wear the same three or four colours every day. Someone else’s capsule-esque wardrobe might be entirely different, focusing on bright colours and patterns. Either way, if you love what you’re wearing, that’s all that matters!

So this post was incredibly long and detailed, almost like an essay about closets, but I enjoyed writing it so I hope you enjoyed reading it (and hopefully you learned something or got some ideas about how to work with your wardrobe).

It is so incredibly hot today in Portugal, but I hope you’re all enjoying your summer, and are having a lovely day!

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A Lovely Day In Porto

Untitled design.jpgCurrently, I’m lucky enough to be in sunny Portugal on vacation with my family! We have a lot of other family here to visit and escaping the humidity of Toronto in August is greatly appreciated. Portugal is also the perfect opportunity to rest and re-charge from the busy lives we lead in Canada. While Toronto is hectic and always go go go, life in Portugal is way more relaxed.

We’ve been coming here in the summer for just about as long as I can remember, and every year I seem to find some new reason to fall in love with the country. It might be the gorgeous weather, the heavenly bread, or a mixture of the two, but either way, Portugal sure is a spectacular place! Because I love showing off my country and heritage so much, this is going to be one of a few posts highlighting beautiful places in Portugal, and some of the adventures we’ve had here!

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Last week we stayed overnight in one of Portugal’s premier cities (and a UNESCO world heritage site)! Porto is a bustling city perched on the rolling hills of the Douro Valley over looking the Douro river. Like Lisbon, Porto is a mixture of beautiful tree lined boulevards and tiny medieval streets winding up the hills.

Porto is a port city in two ways. First, in the traditional sense, it’s location on the Douro allows it to be easily reached by ships, making Porto a bustling hub for trade. Secondly however, if you’re a fan of port wine, welcome to it’s birth place! Big names in the port industry have enough tours and tastings to keep you busy and satisfied and you’ll have the opportunity to learn about it’s history from the people who started it themselves!

If walking and taking in the sights are more your style, the bright tile covered buildings and ornate cobblestone sidewalks will provide plenty of Instagram opportunities. You can even cruise around most of the city in streetcars that have been running since the 1900s (don’t worry they’ve been fixed up since)! Boat cruises on the river are also a great way to relax and see the city from a new perspective.

Porto might also be one of the best places for avant-garde cuisine in the country, so if you love food (especially seafood), searching the tiny streets for local favourites might take up most of your time!

We stayed overnight at the beautiful Pestana Vintage Porto Hotel, which is gorgeous inside and out, and is in the perfect location for exploring! Our room had river views, we were within walking distance from many of the main tourist destinations in the city and were literally steps away from the river! While there are tons of restaurants around this hub of activity, I recommend hunting in other parts of the city for local favourites and hidden gems. Most of the restaurants along the river cater to tourists and backpackers and while the food is generally edible, it gives a really poor representation of Portuguese cuisine, which is pretty amazing! If you look hard enough, you’re sure to stumble on to a cute ma and pa restaurant that has great prices and equally great food!

Words can only do so much to describe something, so here are some of my favourite photographs from our day trip which we spent walking through Porto’s tiny medieval streets, peeking in to beautiful old courtyards, and riding the old streetcars!

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A beautiful (half) view of the bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel (yup that Eiffel) in 1877. The bridge connects Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia on the other side of the Douro river! If port wine is your thing, head over to Gaia for days filled with tastings and winery tours from some of the biggest names in the industry!

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A view of our hotel (the orangey yellow building farthest on the left) and the other surrounding buildings which were equally stunning! I love the bright colours and beautiful tiles we use to cover our buildings. Many of the tiles found throughout the country are hand-painted (even today) and many are also 3D (my personal favourites) due to many years of Moorish influence!

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I just love the tiny little streets winding their way throughout the city! If you take these back roads, chances are you’ll stumble on to local secrets and more authentic sectors of the city! Walking the many hills of Porto is also the perfect way to earn your next big meal!

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A collection of adorable little cafes cornered by beautiful tiled buildings! No better setting to take a break and have a drink! When I took this picture there was also a man playing the guitar in the background, so it was extra dreamy.

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A view of old buildings and some laundry out to dry taken from the window of one of Porto’s old street cars! I wasn’t able to take a picture of the streetcar itself because we had to run to catch it, but they’re super cute and if you’re in the city (Lisbon has them too) they’re the perfect way to see everything, with minimal hill climbing!

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Two of the many beautiful doors found in Porto! I love, love, LOVE taking pictures of doors and am happy to add these two beauties to my collection.

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These beautiful buildings of the gorgeous Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square) are reminiscent of Paris, with their clean white stone walls and domed roofs! The sun was just starting to set and I was so blown away by how different this part of the city looked from the others. This beautiful square boasts some spectacular stone work, and some amazing photo ops (I even caught some seagulls flying around)!

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So, there’s a little look at Porto (though I’ve just barely scratched the surface)! It really is a stunning city, filled with so much history and personality! If you ever have the opportunity, I really suggest visiting!

I hope you’re all enjoying the lovely August weather!! Not sure how this last month of summer has crept up on us so quickly, but I can’t believe it’s almost back to school season!!!

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What Not To Do In First Year

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As July comes to a close (wow how is the summer flying by so quickly????) I’ve decided to dedicate most of the posts this month to one of my favourite times of year: Back To School! I’ll be talking about preparing for university and sharing some things I’ve learned for getting through that crazy first year! If any of you guys have ideas for posts or want me to cover a specific topic, just leave it in the comments and I’ll fit it in!

Starting University is a scary and exciting adventure. For some, it’s their first time living away from home. Others, are worried about making friends, and others are worried about the tornado of academic work. Either way, uni is a huge change from High School. Teachers are not as hands on (how can you be in a huge class?), the work load is much larger, and you’re meeting new people everywhere you look.

This summer I’ve been thinking back to my first year a lot. Going over the mistakes I made and wondering what things I could’ve changed to avoid certain experiences. While there’s no right way to go through university, there are some things you might want to avoid to make your first year go a little more smoothly, so, I’ve decided to curate a few things I wish I’d been told (and a few I wish I’d believed more) before starting school last fall!

Date That Boy — In the first few weeks of university you’re going to meet so many people, and some of them just might be people you’re madly attracted to. Whatever the case, and no matter how well you get along, or how “right” it feels in the first few months of school, do not date the boy! By all means, keep up the relationship. Flirt, text, hang out and giggle, but wait until at least mid semester before making any serious commitments. School gets stressful and you’re at university to work on yourself and your academics. Focus on that before jumping in to something that could go south really fast. Trust me on this one. It has bad idea written all over it.

Forget The Readings — While home work might seem light and easy (reminiscent of high school) in the first month of uni, do not let yourself fall behind in readings. When things start to pick up (and trust me, they will) you’ll thank yourself for keeping up and even getting ahead. Going in to midterm season with a pile of work you’ve neglected multiplies your stress by at least 1000%!

Shut Yourself Away — While school is incredibly important (that’s what you’re paying tons of money for of course) don’t lock yourself away in the library or your dorm room. Being social is just as important to your experience and well being as academics, so make sure you take time to talk to the people on your floor and go out once in a awhile.

Miss That Opportunity — If you go in to school knowing you’re interested in a certain type of club, don’t miss joining it! I went in to first year with a few clubs I wanted to join in mind, but was either too scared too go through with it, or got too busy. Looking back on it now, I regret that decision and have decided to follow through with those clubs this year! Student groups and associations are a great way to meet like minded students and people who could ultimately become your best friends! Don’t give up on things that could really improve your uni experience.

Wear Only Pyjamas — I know school gets hectic. Assignments pile up and it feels like you’re living in the library. But please, don’t go from well thought through outfits, to sweats and pjs every day! As silly as it seems, dressing up and wearing clothes that make you feel awesome and beautiful are really important for feeling confident. If you feel good in what you’re wearing it’ll translate to how you act to others and how people react to you. And hey, when things are crazy, it’s always great to look in the mirror and know you look damn fine!

Worry About Your Major — Things change. You learn new things and take classes that you’ve never heard of. University is made for this! The more you learn, the more your ideas of the perfect major might change…or not! I know so many people who came in to school in one program, and by the end of the year, had completely switched. I also know people who came in with one idea, and realized it really was the perfect program for them. It’s all dependent on the person, and there’s no right way to go about it! Just know that figuring out your course of study is a process, and it works out in the end.

Forget About Yourself — This is my last, and probably most important, piece of advice. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Workout, take breaks, eat well and be gentle with yourself. School is crazy, and when stress starts to get to you, it’s important to take a step back and make sure you are keeping yourself healthy and happy. You absolutely cannot function optimally if you’re not sleeping enough or are incredibly anxious. Your mental and physical health are both so important and school should never overshadow that!

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So, those were a few of the things I want to warn incoming freshman about. It’s a scary time, but don’t let the new experiences and change throw you off. You are a strong person and scary experiences are the perfect opportunity for learning and growing!

Again, if there are any “Back-to-School” topics you’d like me to cover, let me know in the comments!

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Toronto’s Best Cupcake

TORONTO'S

A few months ago, amidst finals stress and sleep deprived study sessions, my friend Alex and I decided we wanted to find Toronto’s best cupcake. We’d just been sorrily disappointed after eating some cupcakes from the Eaton Centre (they may look good, but the Urban Eatery cupcakes are a trap), and felt morally obligated to find a tasty treat worth eating.

Thus, the cupcake challenge was born!

We googled “best cupcakes in Toronto”, compiled a list of four bakeries (Bunners, Prairie Girl, Dlish, and Bobette & Belle), which seemed to appear on every blog post we pulled up, and made up a rating scale to judge each treat!

Our scale consisted of: Prettiness, moisture, frosting to cake ratio (if there is the right amount of frosting for the cake), balanced sweetness (between the frosting and cake), texture (for both frosting and cake), size, flavour overall, and value. Each item on the list was rated out of five, and then we tallied up all the points!

To help make our rating easier, we standardized the type of cupcake we would buy from each location, settling on a classic, chocolate cake with vanilla icing.

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Bunners

Firstly, excuse my (very) poor photography skills here. I didn’t realize that every single picture we took was blurry until after we ate the whole thing up!

Our first stop was Bunner’s on Dundas (there’s another location in Kensington Market)! This bake shop prides itself on gluten free and vegan products and is highly spoken of. Bunner’s didn’t offer a chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing, so we just got chocolate on chocolate.

Review — Firstly, we noticed that the store itself was not exactly welcoming. There was nowhere to sit (it was quite small) and though it was early in the morning, somehow it was quite dark inside. Their selection of cupcake flavours was quite small, and we were a little disappointed to see so few combinations. Atmosphere aside, the Bunner’s cupcake ($4.20) was very large and the icing was nicely piped. The cupcake itself was pretty moist, but the texture was off, it was very grainy and clumpy and the cake was very heavy. The icing also had a strange texture and didn’t sit well on the tongue. There was just the right amount of icing (which proved to be hard to find at the other cupcake locations) and while the icing was sweeter than we would’ve liked, it was balanced out well by the cake.

Overall, we were pretty disappointed with the texture and general flavour of the cupcake.

Prettiness — 2.5/5

Moisture — 3/5

Frosting to Cake Ratio — 5/5

Balanced Sweetness — 3/5

Texture — 2/5

Size — 5/5

Flavour Overall — 1/5

Value — 1.5/5

Total: 23/40

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Dlish

Dlish, a cute little bakery on Queen, was ranked Toronto’s Best Cupcake in 2014 and runner up this year! We ordered a chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing, but they boast a big selection of flavours.

Review — What really killed it for this cupcake (in our opinion) was the icing. The cake itself was pretty standard in texture, moisture and flavour, but the icing was way too sweet. Vanilla is usually a sugary flavour when it comes to icing, but this one was a bit over kill, and to make matters worse, it was grainy and didn’t taste all that authentic. The sprinkles on top were a great touch and they added a lot to the texture.

Overall, this was a pretty average cupcake, nothing all that special. We would’ve been happier had the icing been less sweet, but if you’re in the are, definitely check them out.

Prettiness — 2.5/5

Moisture — 3/5

Frosting to Cake Ratio — 3/5

Balanced Sweetness — 2/5

Texture — 4/5

Size — 2.5/5

Flavour Overall — 2.5/5

Value — 2.5/5

Total: 22/40

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Prairie Girl Bakery

Also excuse this poor photo. Lighting in the PATH is not ideal!

This gem is hidden under the heart of the financial district, in the PATH. It’s a little out of the way, but they have so many options it’s totally worth it! Again, we got a chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing.

Review — Let me start by raving about the cake from this place. It was airy, light, moist, everything you could want in a cake. Alex and I were barely able to speak we were so pleased. Sadly, the icing was the downfall of this cupcake as well. Not only was it too sweet and too thick, but it was barely vanilla at all! In fact we got a really strong cream cheese flavour (which is usually fine, but not when you’re expecting vanilla). Honestly, the unexpectedness of it threw us for a bit of a loop.

Prettiness — 3/5

Moisture — 5/5

Frosting to Cake Ratio — 2/5

Balanced Sweetness — 2.5/5

Texture — 5/5

Size — 5/5

Flavour Overall — 3/5

Value — 3.5/5

Total: 29/40

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Bobbette & Belle

This Leslieville gem is honestly one of the most adorable little bakeries I’ve ever been to! Alex and I were happily surprised by an inviting and stylish sitting area, and we’ve already made plans to go back just because it was so cute! The music was also on point if that’s your kind of thing! Once again, we got a standard chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing.

Lighting was also incredible at this location (as you can tell in this not terrible photo)!

Review — We had big hopes for this little cupcake. It was pretty (prime piping and sprinkle work), and it was from a really pretty place. Sadly, it was only average, and the frosting again, was it’s downfall. The icing was way too sweet, and I know I said that about the others, but somehow, this was the worst of them all. Had the cake been less sweet, it would’ve balanced out the icing, but alas, this was not the case.

Prettiness — 4/5

Moisture — 4/5

Frosting to Cake Ratio — 5/5

Balanced Sweetness — 2/5

Texture — 4/5

Size — 3.5/5

Flavour Overall — 2.5/5

Value — 2.5/5

Total: 27.5/40

A Note From Alex:

Someone once said “a cupcake can make even the worst day a little bit brighter”. Ok, that someone was me, but honestly a good cupcake – or any dessert for that matter – can help ease some of life’s problems. That’s why Lauren and I knew we had to go on a mission to find Toronto’s Best Cupcake!

Obviously, this can be kind of tough, especially since judging foods can be a pretty subjective sport. Some people like a cupcake with really sweet frosting, others only want a little bit of frosting; the list of preferences could really go on forever…That’s why we tried to stick with a set of criteria that we could use to rate them in an unbiased way (as you can tell we have this whole cupcake judging thing down to a science, we could get PhD’s at this point tbh).

As Lauren said, we went to four different bakeries and ate four cupcakes. One cupcake looked pretty but didn’t taste all that great, another was just average, the third had super amazing cake, and the fourth was sold from the cutest shop which definitely made up for the lacklustre cupcake. Oddly enough, at each bakery we found that the frosting was their downfall – I would label myself as a lover of all frostings so that was pretty disappointing to me.

All in all though, I got to tour around Toronto with some amazing company eating cupcakes all day so regardless of the outcome I had a super fun time!

Official Verdict: Toronto’s Best Cupcake? Yet to be found.

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While we were happy to have spent the day eating cupcakes and exploring our amazing city, Alex and I were a little bit disappointed after these treats failed to live up to our expectations. Of course none of them were terrible, but they all followed a similar downfall. Decent cake, and incredibly over sweet icing. As we walked home from Leslieville, something dawned on us! Why couldn’t we, try to make our own perfect cupcake? So, in the next instalment of The Cupcake Challenge, we’ll be taking you through our recipe for creating the best (or our best) cupcake!

I hope you enjoyed this segment, and if you’d like to see something similar but for other foods (like pizza, hamburgers or ice cream) don’t hesitate to sound off in the comments!

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10 Things I Learnt In First Year

PRACTICE

 

Last fall I embarked on a crazy, scary, exciting new adventure…University! In September I showed up at my beautiful residence, unpacked and organized my dorm, said adios to my high school days and hello to the new ones ahead. It was a crazy year overall. I made friends, lost friends, studied really hard, pushed myself, and have come out the other side a completely different person! The whole year was a rollercoaster and though it was difficult and scary, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

While it was an exciting time, it proved a big change (obviously) and I faced a lot of challenges in my academics and social life. I struggled to make the grades I thought I should, missed my parents, and didn’t make nearly as many friends as I had imagined. Though it certainly was crazy, I learned so much about myself and the type of life I want to build for myself, so I am grateful it went the way it did.

While I learnt a lot of things, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the major lessons I learnt, so here are the ten most important things!

Trust The Universe

Sometimes things get out of hand and you feel like you have no control over your own life! Things and people start running away from you, or it feels like you’re drowning in school work. First year is a time of great change, and we all face a ton of challenges in those eight months. So many things are thrown at us and we’re expected to react properly with only a moments notice. While things can often feel overwhelming, I learnt that everything happens for a reason. Sure that boy you sort of dated, hurt you, and yes, there were some mean girls and petty drama. Maybe you really bombed a test, had a crazy house mate, or one of a hundred other negatives, but all of these things are opportunities for learning!

I’m a very spiritual and superstitious person (not in the typical religious sense mind you), and while I’ve always believed things happen for a reason, I’ve never been more sure of it until now. The universe has it’s own plan for your life. It twists and turns, drops and jumps, but ultimately, it’s going to take you to exactly where you want to go. As soon as I accepted and believed this from the very bottom of my heart, it became a great comfort to me and was one of the things that got me through the hardest parts of the year.

Some Things Are Temporary

It’s the truth. You likely won’t stay friends with the people you meet at frosh, you don’t have to be BFF’s with your roommate, and it’ll take some time for the new people in your life to stabilize and settle. You might start the year with one group of friends, and end it with a totally different bunch — that’s ok! In fact that’s how it’s supposed to go! Learning what you like in social relationships is a hug part of growing up. In first year (and university in general) you are thrown in with entirely new groups of people, many of whom you won’t gel with. It’s going to take some time to find those you really click with, and sometimes, even when you really want someone to stay, it’s best that they don’t.

The universe has a path for you to follow, and some people just don’t fit in with it. That doesn’t mean you won’t find your place at all, it just might take a little bit longer than it did in High School.

You’re Your Own Hero

This is self explanatory really, but I think it’s been one of the most important things I’ve learnt thus far. Life will get hectic and intense, that’s just the way it is, and you can’t expect someone to always be there to lean on. People are dealing with their own stuff too. This doesn’t mean your best friends won’t help you out when you need it, it just means that you have to be there for yourself every step of the way.

You always have the power to pick yourself off the floor and on to better things. Once we recognize this “superpower” in ourselves, the world doesn’t seem so scary and taking risks doesn’t seem as difficult.

It’s All About Priorities

This is something my dad has always said, and it’s proven true again and again! As much as personality defines ones self, priorities are often the major motivator for any action a person takes and everyones priorities are different.

Keeping this in mind is helpful when you’re in a difficult group work scenario, or if the people you’ve recently become friends with turn out to be the kind of people you don’t want to hang around. Everyone has different things that drive them. If your priorities are really different from someone else’s and you clash because of it, it’s ok to not stay close with that person. It’s ok to pull away from things that are bringing you down, and it’s ok to put yourself first. Recognizing this, though it can be hard to put in to practice, is so helpful in the long run. You (and those other people) deserve to find friendships you can thrive in, and there’s no shame in realizing someone might be the wrong addition to your group.

Not Everyone Has The Same Heart As You

This point builds on the previous one. While everyone has different priorities, everyone also has a different heart. The way you handle hurt, or stress, or anger, are all very different from the way others handle with them. The sooner you accept that everyone is going to react or behave differently in stressful situations, the sooner you’ll be able to stop expecting certain behaviours from them.

People don’t react the way you do or say the things you say in bad situations, and while it’s easy to say “I would’ve done this…” or “I would’ve said that…”, it’s even easier to accept people as they come and recognize that while they may not have done what you would’ve liked, they are doing the best that they can. This takes the stress off everyone, and leads to more open relationships built on trust and acceptance.

Listen To Your Mom

As annoying as it is sometimes, your mom really does know more than you. She always has, and it’s important to listen to her. When she tells you not to date anyone, it’s not because she doesn’t want you to be happy, it’s because she knows it’s not a good time and doesn’t want you to get hurt, and when she tells you everything will be ok, it almost always is.

Keep in touch with her, tell her what’s going on and she will always be there for you. That’s what mom’s do, they fix, and heal, and love when it feels like everything else is going south.

Your Mental Health Matters

This. Is. So. Important. University is crazy. Things are hectic, you’re stressed beyond belief, and people can be rude and hurtful. While ultimately you’re there for academics, never ever, prioritize school work over your mental (or physical) health.

If you are too anxious to focus, take a break. If you can’t open a text book because you’re too sad, seek professional guidance. If you need to drop courses to be at a comfortable spot, do it. Do not ever make academics and school work  worth more than your health and sanity. The only way you can perform optimally, is if you are healthy, happy, and stable in all areas of your life.

Your health matters, so listen to your body, and take breaks or talk to a professional when necessary.

Be Gentle With Yourself 

This point builds on the one above. When you didn’t do as well on a paper as you thought you would, bombed a test, or didn’t read a chapter. Be gentle with yourself.

University is such an adjustment, and you are doing your absolute best. Be gentle with your self talk, encourage yourself, and make sure you praise the hard work you’re doing. Acclimatizing to the social and academic aspects of college life is hard, it’s stressful and there’s no right way to go about it. There is a right way for you though, so don’t compare your experience with that of anyone else’s. You are doing what you need to do for you, and that’s exactly how it should be!

One Day You’ll Meet “The One”

You’re going to meet so many boys (or girls)! You’re going to meet one you click with right away and they might break your heart. You’ll meet some you admire from a distance, and others still that you just don’t click with. There will be tons, and while it seems like an endless game or a string of heart breaks, don’t worry about it, eventually the right person will come along.

Statistically people in our age group aren’t in long lasting relationships. They’re not finding the one yet, and while it might seem like everyone around you is falling in love and getting married, it just isn’t true. You’re not weird or abnormal. Your soul mate is just doing their own thing right now and you should be too.

Quality > Quantity

This lesson applies to everything. Friends, studying, eating, working out, literally everything! The long and the short of it, is that life is special! We’re blessed with so little time on this amazing planet and our job is to build something out of what we’re given, which you can’t do when negativity is tearing you down every step of the way.

Always remember, quality, is far more important than quantity!

Just because you have a million “friends”, doesn’t really mean they all care about you the way they should. If you spend eight hours “studying” for a test, but really just scroll through Instagram, that test likely won’t go well. And if you workout an hour everyday, but barely move a muscle, you won’t reach your goals the way you wished you could.

With social media being such a prominent form of communication, it’s easy to feel like you aren’t cool or popular enough. People are constantly posting pictures of their gazillion new friends and the cool things they do at school, so naturally we  compare our lives to theirs. Really, we should be focused on building our own network filled with people who love and support us. While you might not have a million friends like everyone else seems to, it is far more important to have a few quality buddies.

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Man, this post took so long to write! I’ve honestly been working on it for about a month and finally finished it while waiting for my flight at the airport. Finally! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it, because I really enjoyed the process of writing this post. It got me thinking about all the little ways I’ve grown as a person, and helped me appreciate a difficult year.

What are some things you’e learnt this year?

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Carry On Essentials

 

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Deciding what to use as a carry on and what to pack in it, is probably one of life’s greater challenges (#FirstWorldProblems). However, having travelled a great deal with my family I like to think I have carry on packing down to a science. Here are my carry on essentials, and some bagspiration if you’re still searching for “the one”.

As for my own carry on: last fall I got (thank you mom and dad) a beautiful Roots leather backpack, and since then, it’s been my go to travel bag (check it out HERE)! While the bag is a major investment, the quality and timeless shape will serve you for years and years (school bag to diaper bag?) and it honestly looks good with everything.

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A Good Book – A good book will keep boredom at bay if your flight is annoyingly long. I always bring a few so I can read on the plane, during my vacation, and on the way home! Currently Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, and How The Mind Works by Steven Pinker are my carry on reads!

Laptop – In this day and age, bringing laptops on vacation is a no brainer. Whether you use it to get some work done in-between sight seeing, or for movies too and from your destination, it’s a useful extra. If you’re going on a shorter trip, consider excluding this from your packing list, but if not, make sure you put it in a case to stay protected.

Camera – A camera is an obvious companion for any trip and keeping it in your carry on ensures safety and easy access for those moments of inspiration.

Water – While airports don’t let you bring your own water in, be sure to buy a water bottle near your gate, or bring one to fill up! Staying hydrated is so important on long flights which often leave your skin dry and irritated.

Personal Hygiene Stuff & Hair Ties – This stuff is all a no brainer. Hair ties keep your hair up and away from your face, and lip balms, mascara, deoderant, etc. are great for applying post 8 hour flight so you can start your trip with a fresh face and confidence!

Wallet & Passport – These are important for obvious reasons and if you forget one or the other, well my friend, you’ve made a serious boo-boo.

Phone & Headphones – Whether or not I’m actually using my phone on vacation, I like to bring it along to listen to music and to connect to free wifi whenever it’s available!

Journal & Pencil Case – Journaling is another great pastime for a long flight, and is something I’ve begun doing more often this year. Documenting your journey by writing is a great way to stay creative, and is something you can look back on years later!

Thick Socks – Trust me on this one. It gets cold up there in the sky and I do not like having cold feet. A pair of fuzzy socks are the perfect thing to pull on while cruising to your destination, so you can catch some shut eye instead of focusing on how cold your little toes are!

Sunglasses – These babies are mandatory. Not only will they be useful for the rest of your trip, but after an 8 hour night flight, sunnies are my best friend. They hide the gigantic circles under my eyes until I can wash my face, and make me look more chic and put together, and less tired.

Neck Support or Stuffies – Yes I am an adult, and yes I do still travel with my stuffed animals. Honestly, it’s more of a comfort thing than anything else, but it’s always nice to bring a piece of my home with me. They also make for pretty good pillows if necessary.

Something Comfy – I always make sure to bring an extra sweater or big blanket scarf (no matter the temperature of our destination) because, as I said before, it gets chilly up there in the sky!

Gum – It’s good for keeping bad breath at bay and for stopping that annoying ear popping feeling during landing, so make sure to bring a pack (or two) with you.

If you noticed, I didn’t add snacks simply because airports are weird about letting outside food in (better to be safe than sorry) and while things past the security section can be expensive, it’s a great idea to eat something before heading to the airport at all. Whether it’s a light snack or a full meal, you’ll feel ready to take on all the annoying things airports can throw at you!

If you’re still looking for the perfect carry on for all your adventures, here are some great bags that fit the bill!

  1. Longchamp (these bags are amazing and black is the perfect neutral)
  2. Bando’s Everything Tote (pink and metallic. Need I say more?)
  3. Band0’s Getaway Duffle (love the adorable floral print on this one)
  4. Kate Spade Tote (perfect if you’re travelling for business)
  5. Madewell Transport Tote (this bag is absolute perfection)
  6. Madewell Transport Crossbody (perfection with an extendable strap)

There you have it, everything you’ll need to rock that long plane ride and arrive in your destination ready to go!

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