Monday, September 1, 2014

How To: Blog Housekeeping

You may have noticed that I recently made some small changes to this here blog. I've centered the navigation bar and changed some of the labels, cleaned up my sidebar, redesigned my 'about me' snippet on the right, and added new social media buttons. Since I am not tech savvy this took much longer than it needed to, but luckily the semester has not picked up too much yet (I spent the entire day in the library reading cases for my Constitutional Law class and blogging i.e. perfection!).

I've done a ton of reading about what makes blogs good and the rules you should follow. That, on top of reading so many blogs, has given me a pretty accurate idea of what elements every blog needs. Even small changes, like I mentioned above, can make a big difference. Here are some ideas of easy blog housekeeping that will make your place on the internet better.
  • Get rid of something. Anything. You definitely have more than you need in some part of your blog! I got rid of the labels widget on the sidebar and the home button on the navigation bar. Both of the functions that these elements serve can already be done without them. Less is more.
  • Make it uniform. That goes for fonts, colors, and overall style. A cohesive look is much more pleasing and professional. I had different social media buttons and the font and color on my 'about me' snippet did not go with my design. Fix that now! It may take some extra work but it is worth it.
  • Pick two fonts and two colors. Or three fonts and three colors if you're really bold. The idea once again is that keeping it simple is key. 
  • Figure out how to do something you've always wanted to do. I've wanted to have a rounded image for my 'about me' and I finally learned how to do it! Take some time and get to researching and trying it out.
What do you do to update your blog? Will you try any of my housekeeping ideas?

-Alyssa J Freitas

Friday, August 29, 2014

Lessons of Harry Potter: Book Five

(Check out the whole series here).

this image came from Paper, Pen, and Polaroids and I'm sort of in love!

"I must not tell lies"
-Dolores Umbridge

When Dolores Umbridge gives Harry detention with the punishment of writing "I must not tell lies" she is, in fact, wrongly accusing him of being dishonest. Although this punishment is completely unwarranted, the lesson is an important one. Lying is the ultimate form of betrayal in my mind. Once you tell a lie you discredit yourself not only in that moment, but also in the eyes of others whose trust may not be easy to regain. Later, Harry is able to throw this line back at Dolores when she asks him to tell a lie for her benefit. When he does not, J. K. Rowling also teaches that you must be prepared to practice what you preach. 

Are you truthful? Do you keep in mind that what you preach may come back to bite you? What lessons have you learned from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix?

-Alyssa J Freitas  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

DIY: Kraft Paper & Gold Glitter Notebooks

Last year I found myself without a physical planner because I wanted to save money and try and keep all of my to-dos and homework assignments digital. That plan however did not work out as well as I had hoped. Since I was stranded at school I decided that rather then pay the sky high prices for a planner in the bookstore I would create my own. I kept my calendar and to-do list on my phone so it would always be with me and made a small notebook for assignments. Here's how I did it!

The notebook on the left is the one I created completely from scratch and use for school work. To make this you'll need printer paper or lined paper, gold glitter tape, and thick kraft paper for the cover.
  1. First decide how large you'd like to make the notebook. Mine is 8in by 5.5in.
  2. Next cut your front and back cover paper to these dimensions.
  3. Then cut your blank or lined paper slightly smaller (I used blank printer paper). Depending on how good of a stapler you'll be using you can determine how many sheets of paper the notebook will contain.
  4. Staple the inside paper between the front and back cover in two places, making sure that the inside paper does not show beyond the covers. I put one staple about an inch from the top and another an inch from the bottom.
  5. Finally use the gold glitter tape along the edge of the notebook on both the front and the back to cover the staples.
You can use any colors and paper that you'd like, just be sure that you choose a thick paper for the cover so it will be durable and not likely to rip.

The notebook on the right was not created from scratch, but rather an update on one I already had. For this you need a notebook, a roll of kraft paper, and gold glitter tape (I used American Crafts glitter tape in brown sugar .375").

  1. First measure the cover and then cut your thin kraft paper with an extra half inch allowance on three of the sides for the front and back cover.
  2. Next wrap each cover with the paper, taping it on the inside to secure it.
  3. Decide on a design with the glitter tape. I wanted horizontal stripes so I cut four strips the proper width of the cover with a little extra to wrap around the edge. 
  4. Put on the glitter tape and then enjoy!
I only decorated the front cover but you can do the back as well and get creative with the design! Will you give this easy craft a try?

-Alyssa J Freitas 

Monday, August 25, 2014

How to Save Money on Textbooks

I hate buying textbooks. If I had unlimited money I would just go to my campus' bookstore and it would be easy and life would be good. Unfortunately I can afford to do no such thing so I have gotten crafty. Today I'm going to share some of my secrets for getting the best price on your textbooks!

image source; modified by Alyssa J Freitas

  • Always rent. Let me repeat that. Always rent. The likely-hood of you needing to actually refer to a college textbook again is so rare and if you truly need that information it should be in your notes. Of course there are exceptions but as a general rule you should always rent. 
  • Check around for the best price. SlugBooks and are two really helpful sites that comparison-shop for you.
  • Only get required books. If it's recommended that you have a certain book, don't waste your money initially. You can always get it later if you feel like you really need it. 
  • Find out if you need an access code. Access codes are the man's way of taking college students for all they are worth! Don't get trapped by the man. Email your professor to find out if he plans on using the code and if he does, see if you can get it for less from places like Amazon instead of from the publisher. It is usually less expensive to rent the book and buy the access code separately.
  • Ask if you can use an earlier edition. Don't think that you need to have the most up to date version of the book. Most of the time there are only minor changes from one edition to another so getting an earlier edition can save you a ton of money. Once again, just email your professor to find out. 
  • Even better, borrow. Ask around to see if any of your friends or a friend's friend has taken the course and is willing to loan you the book or rent it to you. It helps to make older friends in your major so you can learn from them and so you can get dibs on their books.
Hopefully these tips will help you to save money this semester. Do you have any other advice for the misers like myself out there?

-Alyssa J Freitas

Friday, August 22, 2014

Lessons of Harry Potter: Book Four

(Check out more of the series here).

this image came from Paper, Pen, and Polaroids and I'm sort of in love!
"If you want to know what a man's like, take a look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals" 
-Sirius Black

How true, right? The way a person interacts with those who can do very little for him is so telling. Does he make them aware of their inferiority or does he do what is in his power to put them at ease and ensure that they feel valued and heard? One of the hallmarks of etiquette is being cognizant of the comfort of those around you and etiquette is the standard by which I feel we should all be measured. This quote wonderfully sums up the idea that we all have a duty to be the best we can to anyone we come in contact with; and by looking at how others handle themselves with inferiors we can learn all we need to know about their character.  

What did you learn from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire?

-Alyssa J Freitas

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Liebster Award

I was pleasantly surprised when Zoe from La Vie en Zoe made me a recipient of the Liebster Award which encourages blog readers to "discover new blogs."

The rules are to post eleven facts about yourself, answer the eleven questions provided by the person who nominated you, create an eleven question set for your nominees, choose bloggers to nominate, let your nominees know they've been nominated, and try to nominate blogs with less than 200 followers.

Alright, so here are my eleven facts:

  1. I kept a daily journal religiously from 2009 until 2012 and am doing my best to return to that now.
  2. I try to wear a different outfit everyday, do well for a while, and then revert to my old favorites.
  3. I am a complete miser and can actually get angry when I have to spend money.
  4. Even if I'm not enjoying a book I am reading I feel obligated to finish it and always hold out hope that it will improve.
  5. I want to own a boat one day but know I probably never will because it is so much work to maintain.
  6. Going with the nautical theme, I have secret dreams of becoming a pirate but not actually doing anything wrong. Just sailing around in the 18th century, wearing period clothes and saying things like "aye" and "mate."   
  7. My life goal is to set foot on all seven continents.
  8. Most of the time I am walking around in a Bollywood fantasy, imagining everything as though I am in India, wearing a lengha and there is music playing.
  9. When I was young I had a fear that we would run out of space on earth but then my family was driving through the countryside and I realized that wasn't likely to happen.
  10. 3 is my favorite number.
  11. I have absolutely no propensity for learning foreign language.
Now for the questions from the nominator, Zoe:

  1. What is your biggest fear? My biggest fear is that I will be unhappy with my work.
  2. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? To realize that most things are not a big deal and nearly every decision you make can be modified or even changed completely, so don't worry too much!
  3. What is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you? My mother surprised me by taking me to a show called Mystic India over my spring break. It was a Bollywood dancing spectacular and I could not stop smiling and singing along the entire time!
  4. What is your order at Starbucks? I don't drink coffee or tea so I don't really go to Starbucks often, but when I do I order hot chocolate (although I don't like it too much so maybe even just water).
  5. If you could be a character from any book, who would you be? I would be Jacky Faber from the Bloody Jack adventure series (fulfilling that wish of being a sort-of-pirate).
  6. What is your favorite movie? I'm going to cheat a little on this one. My favorite Hollywood movie is Midnight in Paris and my favorite Bollywood movie is Chennai Express. 
  7. If you could have a meal with any famous person- living or dead- who would it be and what would you eat? It would be with John Adams and we would have prime rib and baked potatoes.
  8. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you go? New York City because of the access that you have to everything (I'm assuming that money is not an object).
  9. What is your guilty pleasure tv show? The Bachelor/ Bachelorette.
  10. If you could have any celebrity's wardrobe, who would it be? Can I just take my entire clothing Pinterest board instead!?!? 
  11. What words do you live by? Keep it simple.
Next are my eleven questions for my nominees:
  1. What is your life goal?
  2. What do you wish you had more time for?
  3. How many languages do you speak?
  4. What never fails to make you smile?
  5. Is the glass half full or half empty?
  6. How many siblings do you have?
  7. What is your earliest memory?
  8. What is your all time favorite book (and yes you must pick just one)?
  9. What should you do less of?
  10. What should you do more of?
  11. What is your passion?
Finally, here are my nominees:
  1. Bess from Belles In Bows.
  2. Alyson from The Preppy Writer.
  3. Evelin from Evelin Kivi.
  4. Sophia from Plaid Is My Favourite Color.
Thanks again to Zoe for the nomination! I had fun answering and making up these questions. Did any of my responses surprise you?

-Alyssa J Freitas

Monday, August 18, 2014

What You Need to Know Your First Month of College

As I'm busy with CA (community advisor, aka residential advisor) training, I have been thinking back to what I wish I had known coming into freshman year. Only so much advice can really prepare you for your first month, but I am going to give you some insight into what I think you should know.

image source unknown; modified by Alyssa J Freitas 
  • Do not go home. I wanted to go home on the weekends during my first month at school. Luckily, my parents absolutely would not let me come home and I am so thankful for that now. The first few weeks, although scary, are really the time when you can form friendships with all the other people who are as nervous in their new environment as you.
  • Take your school work seriously. Although I just encouraged you to socialize, it is so important not to let your school work take a backseat. Even though it may not seem like it during the first month, those papers really will be due soon and that test truly is coming up! Just stay on top of it now and you'll thank yourself later.
  • Go to a ton of events. The way I see it you're paying to be at school so you may as well make sure you take advantage of all it has to offer. I loved going to see improv shows and a cappella performances but there is something for every taste. If you love sports why not go and see a tennis match and if you're into concerts see when student bands are playing. 
  • Take care of your health. As you transition into college there is so much that can take up your time and attention, and health may not be at the forefront. Be careful that you make good choices at the dining hall and walk as much as possible. Nothing is worse than having to sit through class while feeling awful.
  • Do not skip class. You can not skip class. Ever. For any reason except debilitating illness or family emergencies. If you do it for another reason it will become a habit (and one of the worst habits at that). Going to class allows you the possibility of making a connection with a professor or fellow student, but if you don't go that can never happen. 
  • Spend a lot of time outside of your dorm. It is the only way you will make friends and have fun new experiences. So get out there and explore!
What do you think incoming freshman should know? If you are a future freshman feel free to leave a question in the comments below! For more posts about college click here.

-Alyssa J Freitas

Friday, August 15, 2014


So I decided that I wanted to jump out of a plane 14,000 ft above the ground. I figured since I've gone on all the major roller coasters in the Northeast and have gone parasailing I needed to try something else that would give me a great thrill (perhaps I'm an adrenalin junkie?). My friend Ally and I booked a tandem skydive with Skydive Sussex and had an amazing time!

I was attached to the front of my instructor while we rode in a miniature plane with two small benches. The hatch was open and I could barely hear above the roar of the wind but I did not feel nervous at all; on the contrary I was quite excited and felt sure that everything would go smoothly.

My instructor and I were the last to make the leap and I can hardly describe how amazing it was to free fall! He tapped my shoulders to let me know that it was ok to let go of my harness and allow my arms to go straight out as we fell parallel to the ground. When I gave my instructor the thumbs up he started to spin us all around as the free fall continued. After at least a minute and a half he pulled the parachute and we soared up into the air!

I could see the New York City skyline and was finally able to spot the other divers. In order to make me more comfortable, because the harness was very tight, my instructor had me stand on his feet while he loosed all of my straps (the picture above was right after the dive and that is how loose the straps were! Looking back, I definitely should have been more apprehensive about this part...). He gave me the chance to steer us by pulling on the cords attached to the parachute and it was absolutely amazing. I kept gasping as I was able to take in the views; especially after I removed my goggles and only had my eyeglasses on.

We landed so easily and I was upset it was over but had a truly unbelievable time. I hugged my instructor and then took a few pictures with Ally to remember this breathtaking experience by. Can't wait to go again!

Would you ever go skydiving? Have you gone? 

-Alyssa J Freitas

All photos credit of Alyssa J Freitas

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Nike+ Running App

This summer I've done my best to stay active by running. Now, I am not an experienced runner by any means so I wanted to find a resource which would help me monitor my progress and all that (I'm saying 'all that' because I'm not even sure what else there is. Oh dear, I really don't have any authority on this subject!).

image source; modified by Alyssa J Freitas
I downloaded the Nike+ Running App to do this job. I LOVE this free app. It allows you to set runs by distance, time, speed, etc and add a playlist with a power song option. I do runs by distance and a voice tells you when you're half way and when you're done. I also chose to have motivational words spoken when I am almost at my goal. The app keeps a record of all of your runs and you can add notes to each one. In addition you can set challenges and connect with friends (although I have yet to do this I imagine it is motivating and convenient to have the app to monitor it). 

My favorite feature is having a playlist with power songs; nearly all of my songs are from Bollywood movies. Something about them is so uplifting and motivating!

I highly recommend this app to anyone who is a runner or is interested in starting. What fitness apps do you use?

-Alyssa J Freitas

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Lessons of Harry Potter: Book Three

(Read the intro to this series and other lessons)

this image came from Paper, Pen, and Polaroids and I love it!

"The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse..."
-Albus Dumbledore

How often have you thought to yourself "What if I had only done x, y, z..." ? I know I am guilty of wondering about the unchangeable past to the extent that I make myself crazy. What if I had gone to a different high school, or chosen to participate in a different sport, or studied something else? All of the consequences of these choices could have made a difference in one area of my life, but then that would spill over into all of the other aspects of who I am. As Dumbledore says, the consequences of what we do are so complicated and unpredictable that it is not worth it to dwell on them. Not only that, but we also can't change the past or who we are today because of that; and should/would we really want to? Rather than spending time and energy wondering "what if," we should focus on the choices we have control over in the future (without obsessing!). 

Do you wonder about what would have happened had you made a different decision? What did you learn from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban?

-Alyssa J Freitas