Boosting Creativity

When thinking back to some of my favorite projects and academic activities from elementary school until today, many of the most memorable assignments that come to mind are tasks that have involved creative thinking. I remember participating in Invent America in elementary school and (with some help from my dad) creating a kid-friendly apple slicer, which I believe my family still owns! I remember my presentation on Food in the Middle Ages my sophomore year of high school where I served a three course meal (including two types of homemade bread!) to my classmates. I remember my physics project my junior year of high school taking slow motion videos and freeze frame photographs of throwing a water balloon at my brother's face (sorry Jonah, but pictures turned out super cool!) Creative projects were "my thing" throughout elementary-high school and I remember countless other awesome projects that turned into family team-working and bonding efforts! 

From a young age, I have loved taking every opportunity possible to think outside the box and turn my imaginations into reality. While there seemed to be countless outlets for creativity in school when I was younger, I noticed that academic opportunities geared at boosting creativity began to decline somewhat throughout my high school experience. Over the years I have learned that creative thinking can and should be used in a much greater variety of settings, including outside of the classroom! I have also learned that boosting creativity can come in a variety of ways, including through actions even as small as trying a new recipe or learning a new word!

Sometimes when I feel like I've been studying for too long and need a brain break or have a sudden creative urge, I turn to some of the ways I have discovered help exercise my creativity! Here are just a few helpful, easy (and fun!) ways I enjoy unleashing a bit of my creative side!
1. Make a New Recipe-
Since cooking and baking are both things I love to do, experimenting with a new recipe is a great activity for when I'm having a creative urge (which is often)! It's so fun to try something completely new or take a shot at making some crazy difficult dessert! Creme brûlée is always fun (especially blow torching the sugar on the top!) Macarons are also a fun dessert to try making- check out my macaron post! 

2. Learn a New Language (or even a few words/phrases in a new language)-
I love learning foreign languages and spending some time learning new words or phrases in another language is such a fun way to me to use my creative thinking skills! I really enjoy the site/app Duolingo, a fun (and quite addictive!) language learning program, and I have completed the whole Duolingo Spanish program and am now working my way through program in French!

3. Exercise-
Just like your body, your brain needs exercise in order to "stay fit" and get the creative juices flowing! Taking a fun fitness class, going out for a run, or doing something fun like playing tennis or swimming are great ways to inspire creativity!

4. Write a short story-
Creative writing is such a fun practice that many people seem to stop after elementary or middle school! Once the focus shifts to writing papers and essays, it seems like creative writing is often ignored by many people but is such a fun way to exercise the brain in a new way. Last year I took a creative writing course and every day the teacher gave us a creative writing journal exercise that I came to love and really looked forward to! I have to admit, I haven't done much creative writing since, but really want to get back into writing fun stories and/or poems!

5.  Sit Outside-
When you're stuck in the classroom for hours each day and live in the confines of a small dorm room, sometimes having a change of scenery and sitting or studying outside is a great way to give your brain a fresh take on things! Though the snow in Boston has kept me inside quite a bit these past few months, lately it has been gradually warming up and I can't wait to soon be able to sit outside and enjoy the sun!

6. Create Something-
Creating something is one of my favorite ways to express creativity. Babysitting is such a fun outlet for me to utilize my love for arts and crafts, and I am quite the finger painting, card-making, and coloring pro! I have a box of markers and some paper in my dorm room and have taken out the art supplies multiple times this year!

7. Journal-
The past few years I have discovered that carrying a small journal around with me in my purse is a great way to record those random creative thoughts that seem to come up in the weirdest times! Instead of worrying about remembering the sudden life revelation or genius idea you thought of on the train, having something to jot down your thoughts or "brain dump" is a simple solution! If only they had something like that for me to record the genius ideas I come up with while in the shower... (apparently there is actually such a thing! Check out Aqua Notes...)

8. Organize-
I may or not be alone on this one, but one of the ways I also like to keep my creative juices flowing is through organizing! Thinking of creative ways to organize my desk drawers and/or closet is sometimes a fun activity, and something you'll thank yourself for later!

9. Listen to Music-
Listening to music is another way to exercise many parts of the brain and boost creativity! I love listening to music on Spotify, and really enjoy the different "genres and moods" of music they offer!

10. Read for Pleasure- 
Engaging in pleasure reading is a great way to exercise your brain and make more creative connections! I have read a variety of books this year from subjects such as food, health, psychology, and some great fiction reads! The latest book on my must read list is Eat Nourish Glow by Amelia Freer! Need to put it on the bookshelf ASAP!

One of my favorite quotes about creativity is by Maya Angelou, who states "You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have." While I may still be amazed at the crazy creative projects I have completed in the past, I can continue to foster creativity and grow my creative capacities even through simple things such as these ten activities!

 I hope you engage in something creative this week!

5 Things I'm Loving This Week

I hope everyone had a great week! I am very excited for this weekend, as I will be volunteering for the OWN IT Summit here at Boston College so thought I'd share some of my favorites from this week before the next two crazy days!

1. Lilly Pulitzer for Target Lookbook-
I had heard about the Lilly Pulitzer for Target collection a few months ago, and knew that it came out sometime mid-April. I did not know they would be publishing the lookbook in March, so was very very pleasantly surprised when I came across a link to the lookbook yesterday! Oh my, are some of the things cute! I need to get my hands on one of the dresses, and the navy espadrilles, and there are many other cute things from jewelry to totes to towels and home accessories! I am sure everything will sell out incredibly quickly on April 19th, but I am still going to try and snag a few things! Such a fun, happy collection!

2. Cauliflower Tacos Recipe from Design Love Fest
I occasionally check out the Design Love Fest website for cute and free desktop backgrounds, and was surprised when this week I stumbled upon this amazing looking recipe! I absolutely love cauliflower (and I like good tacos too..) and these look amazing! Using panko breaded cauliflower in place of taco meat is genius and the combination of cauliflower and the mango black bean salsa looks amazing! This one went on my recipe list right away!

3. Caitlin Wilson Textiles- 
Lately I've been doing some Pinterest searching for ideas on decorating the common room in my dorm next year, and my love for the happy and fun Caitlin Wilson textiles prints resurfaced big time! I had seen Pinterest pictures of Caitlin Wilson fabric in the past, but only recently discovered how much I love the bright colorful prints and patterns! Now I want to fill my room with colorful Caitlin Wilson pillows, and the custom headboards I have seen made with her fabric are gorgeous! Aren't these color and pattern combos just adorable?

So fun and colorful!
4. Public Greens Urban Kitchen-
Mary just found this place while browsing online and told me about it today! Public Greens is an amazingly cool "urban cafeteria and microfarm" in Indianapolis, Indiana where all the profits generated and go to the Patachou Foundation, a foundation that works to provide nutritious after schools to at-risk children! All the meat and produce from Public Greens is also locally sourced, and the menu really looks delicious! Sounds like such a cool place with great food for a great cause. If I'm ever in Indy Public Greens will be a must visit!

5. Wool Felt Flowers via MyCakies-
While browsing Pinterest this week, I also found a super cool spring craft that I will definitely have to attempt soon! These wool felt flowers are so fun, and I love the wreath idea!

                                                       I hope you all have a great weekend!

Midweek Macaron Mania

In honor of National Macaron Day (which was apparently last Friday, March 20th!) I thought it would be fun to share my experience with these delicious, beautiful, but incredibly temperamental desserts! I have made macarons various times, and while luckily they have turned out looking great more often than not, Mary and I have still had some not-so-beautiful looking batches! 

A few years back when Mary and I first endeavored to make a batch of macarons, luck was in our favor and they seemed to turn out pretty well for our first try! At the time we were both working at Marcel's Culinary Experience, a lovely cooking store in our hometown that sells the cutest things and offers the best cooking classes, and when we saw a Macaron class on the class calendar we both signed up right away! 

The cooking class was SO much fun and Mary and I were some of the only ones in the class who had previous experience making these finicky desserts! We made a few varieties, including mint with chocolate filling, chocolate hazelnut with espresso filling, lemon with lemon curd filling and vanilla with raspberry filling! They all turned out pretty well (a tad bit flat) and I was sure to snap an artsy pic of our gorgeous creations! Since then we have made macarons a few times, though it seems we haven't made them in a while!

Macarons from the cooking class!
Macarons made after cooking class! (You can see we got a little better!)  
When making macarons, being precise about measurements and mixing the ingredients properly really is key for achieving the perfect texture and taste! While in many dessert recipes it won't hurt to accidentally add in some extra ingredient or stir the batter a little too long, these guys are quite tricky and have to be made just right! There are lots of cookbooks and tutorials on making the perfect macarons, and I love the easy-to-follow recipe from Annie's Eats linked here! You can get pretty creative with flavors, fillings, and even designs!  Lately I've been in the mood to bake another batch and have found some lovely looking recipes! Here are just a few! 

1. Fruit Macarons from Sugar and Cloth- 
While this is not a recipe, as they are decorated bakery bought macarons, the designs are still too cute and made using food markers and royal icing leaves! I'd love to take a shot at these with homemade macarons! 

2. Lemon Raspberry Macarons with Lemon Curd and Raspberry French Buttercream 
The flavor combination sounds delectable and these look gorgeous! 

The "ultimate" macarons seem to be from Ladurée, a French bakery with locations in France and in New York City! It's definitely on my bucket list to visit Ladurée and eat one of their world-famous, beautiful desserts. Last year Bailey gave Mary and I a Ladurée dessert recipe book, and there are so many recipes I have been wanting to try! 

image via Barnes and Noble 
Aren't these the cutest desserts? They are so fun to make and also so tasty! Délicieux!

Have a great Wednesday! 


Easter DIY Ideas

I hope everyone had a Happy Monday! I can't believe Easter is quickly approaching! Time seems to fly by so fast here at school with all the busyness of classes, studying, and school activities! I'm so excited to be going home for Easter and can't wait to spend a few nice days with friends and family at home! Ten days until I'll be flying home, I'm counting down!

Easter is one of my favorite holidays and such a happy and joyful time spent going to church and having brunch at my grandparent's! I can't wait to see some of my cousins and aunts I haven't seen in a while, and hopefully the weather will be nice for my family's annual Easter egg hunt! (no, I am not too old!)

Mary and I make an Easter dessert every year, and this year want to make something extra special since we miss cooking and baking! Usually we make a "Bunny Cake" baked in a bunny shaped cake pan and covered in shredded coconut, but last year we decided to make Hummingbird cupcakes in addition, which are great for spring with pineapple, bananas, and pecans (recipe linked here)! We made fun pineapple "flowers" for the top by baking thin pineapple slices in cupcake pans!

Our Hummingbird Cupcakes! 

After scoping out Pinterest and some of our favorite food blogs, here are some adorable Easter dessert and DIY ideas we found! I can't wait to make something fun and festive and share it here on the blog!

1. Speckled Egg Cake by The Cake Blog-
This cake is beautiful and the colors are gorgeous! Looks like a piece of art!

2. Easter Basket Cake by The Cake Blog-
This cake is just as cute as the last one! The Cake Blog is such a fun website. I love the color combinations of the pastels and shades of brown! 

3. Pantone Easter Eggs from How About Orange Blog-
The designer in me loves these DIY Pantone Easter Eggs! The letters were printed on temporary tattoo paper and transferred to the eggs and they were dip dyed in traditional Easter Egg dye! So creative. 

These marbled eggs are so cool and don't look too hard to make! They are made using metallic gold leaf and a glue-like liquid for applying the leaf to the eggs! 

I hope you enjoy these fun ideas and are as excited for Easter as I am!


5 Things I'm Loving this Week

Here's another edition of a few things I'm loving this week! It's been a crazy but exciting week for me filled with midterms, interviews for activities next year, and a blog re-design!

About the blog re-design- Throughout this blogging process, one thing that has really interested me is designing a blog that truly matches my style! Since starting the blog in mid-February, I have gone through a few different "looks" and think that for now I am happy with the latest design! I customized a blogger design from 17th Avenue with my favorite colors and elements of my style! I can't wait to see where this design takes me!

1. Well + Good Boston Fit Guide-
A few weeks ago, Bailey told me about Well + Good, a cool site devoted to wellness, nutrition, and advice on living a healthy lifestyle! I check out the Well + Good website a few times a week and was surprised this week when they published a Boston Healthy City Guide! While I've been able to explore quite a bit of Boston, the Well + Good Fit Guide lists lots of healthy restaurants, fitness studios, and other cool spots I will have to add to my list of places to go!

2. PopSugar Article- 101 Amazing Pieces You'd Never Guess were from Home Goods
I think sometimes stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Home Goods get a bad rap, but over the years I have learned that if you look around and check out these stores on a consistent basis, you can find some great deals on quality items! I have purchased lots of accessories from Home Goods for my dorm room, and my aunt who is an interior designer finds cool accessories and furniture from Home Goods quite often! Some of these items are such great buys you would never know came from Home Goods! After you check out this article I'm sure you'll want to be visiting the nearest Home Goods to do a little spring decorating.

3. Habits and Happiness Article-
I am always so fascinated by the psychology of human behavior and research on related topics and recently came across this cool article! Lately, I have seen lots of articles mentioning best-selling author Gretchen Rubin's new book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives and I need to get my hands on a copy soon! The article talks about the process of forming habits, and discusses four broad human tendencies identified by Rubin which influence how we develop routines.  Instead of aiming toward large, often unreachable goals such as "New Years Resolution" type-aspirations, the article discusses working towards developing very small habits, and associating these habits with positive emotions or feelings of celebration! It is a good read, check it out!

4. Air Plants-
This is a bit of a random one, but last week while running in Walgreens, I came across a cute little air plant in a tiny owl pot! I was so shocked to see it, especially in Walgreens, as I love owls and air plants! It was a must buy and only $3! I love air plants and succulents, as they are so fun and pretty easy to take care of! I have a few potted succulents, a glass bamboo planter, and now this little air plant in my dorm! It's nice to have some living plants in my room! And by the way, Pinterest has so many cute succulent and air plant terrarium/potting ideas!

5. J.Crew Factory New Arrivals-
Now that most stores have started to switch to spring and summer clothes, I have seen lots of fun bright pieces! J.Crew Factory has some great new arrivals, including some adorable light sweaters perfect for this beginning of spring (still chilly in Boston) weather! They also have 30% off new arrivals!

Have a great first weekend of spring!

Fave Foodie Instagram Accounts

Coming to college and living in a dorm, one of the bigger changes for me was the fact I would not have a kitchen (at least not freshman year!) I have always been used to delicious home-cooked meals and having such fun in the kitchen either cooking or baking! Often on sites like Pinterest or Instagram, I find so many wonderful recipes that I add to my collection of dishes I want to try this summer, or next year when I will have a kitchen! Right now the collection of recipes I want to try is huge, and my excitement and anticipating to be able to cook has resulted in me finding more awesome food blogs, websites, and Instagram accounts than ever! Today I thought I'd share some of my favorite foodie Instagram accounts, all which truly make food into an art with beautiful photographs! I love when the pictures are also linked to recipes, making it easy for me to replicate the delicious dishes. If you are hungry before reading this post, you probably won't be able to look through it all as some of food looks just too good! The accounts range from healthy eats, dessert-focused, local fare, beautiful food art, to everything in between!

 9. Wright Kitchen (@wrightkitchen)- mostly photography, but so cool nonetheless! 

I added a few more recipes to my collection just writing this post! Everything looks SO. GOOD. 

Enjoy and please share your favorite foodie Instagram accounts!

5 Things I'm Loving This Week

Now that I'm back in the swing of things here at school after spring break, I'm excited to get back into sharing some cool things I have come across each week! I'm hoping to share another fun post this weekend to break up my studying, it is definitely midterm season here at BC!

1. The Kitchn (no, not a typo!) Steel Cut Oats
One thing Mary and I love eating for breakfast is steel cut oatmeal! For those who don't know, steel cut oatmeal is definitely not like the instant oatmeal packages, it actually takes quite a bit of time to cook and has a much softer texture. For the past few years, our dad would make us steel cut oatmeal almost every morning, and we would get very creative with toppings such as fresh blueberries (sometimes blueberry compote!) blackberries, apples and cinnamon, unsweetened coconut flakes, and on more rushed mornings dried cranberries and pecans! We have always made steel cut oatmeal either on the stovetop or in a crock pot, so didn't know how we would make our favorite breakfast work in our small kitchen-less dorms! At the beginning of the year we purchased a small, 2 quart crock pot, and now more than ever Mary and I love steel cut oats for breakfast especially given the lack of nutritious choices in the school dining hall. This week I came across a recipe on The Kitchn for pre-making steel cut oats, preparing them in small mason jars, and having make-ahead breakfasts for a week! We usually make multiple batches a week, so will have to give this a try! I also think it's great they used chia seeds as a mix-in! Chia seeds are the best, I will have to add them to my mix-in options!

The topping options are endless! Image via The Kitchn

2. H.M. Willow
I stumbled upon the company H.M. Willow on Instagram a few weeks ago, and need to snatch some of their gorgeous stackable bracelets ASAP! H.M. Willow sells handmade jewelry using beautiful natural gemstones and they have so many style and color options. All of their products are so unique and definitely eye-catching pieces! Since coming across H.M. Willow, I have seen many bloggers and Instagram users that I follow also raving about H.M. Willow's beautiful designs! Everything is fairly reasonably priced, I can't wait to start my stack of their lovely bracelets.

image via H.M Willow

3. How to Fake Calligraphy
The past few years I have really gotten interested in hand lettering and while I have developed my own hand lettering styles, I love the look of "fake" or "cheating" calligraphy, similar to calligraphy writing but created with a gel-ink pen! I really like the tutorial for creating fake calligraphy by Lindsey on The Postman's Knock  and I have been using Lindsey's advice to work on my hand lettering lately! Soon I hope to share one my own creations!

image via The Postman's Knock

4. Boston College OWN IT Women's Summit
A few weeks ago I signed up to volunteer for an amazing conference held here at Boston College in just a few weeks on Sunday, March 29th! The conference is called OWN IT! Summit and some renowned female leaders and entrepreneurs are coming to speak about their successes and roles as female leaders. The Summit consists of keynote speakers (including Kate White, best-selling author and former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan Magazine) as well as breakout sessions on specific topics such as STEM, Education, Business, among others. I can't wait for the event and know it will be a very empowering day! Boston College always has the coolest events on campus and it seems like there's always a great speaker or discussion going on!

image via OWN IT BC
5. Penguin the Magpie 
On a heartwarming final note, check out this cute story of "Penguin" the Magpie bird in Australia! After a family found the very young bird abandoned on the ground, they took her in and helped her grow up healthily and safely, and since then the bird has become a part of the family! In the article, the family describes "Penguin" as a "family pet" and describe how she flies in to spend time with the family and even snuggle up with the kids in bed! What a crazy and fun story! I can't even imagine how much fun the boys must have with their unique family pet!

photo via Daily Mail UK

Hope you enjoy some of these things as much as I do! Have a great weekend! 


Spring in your step: Espadrille Edition

In honor of the weather being 55 degrees and sunny in Boston, I thought I'd share one my favorite spring shoe trends- espadrilles! Over the years these colorful, fun rope-soled shoes have become a staple in my spring and summer shoe collection and the options for colors, styles, and patterns are endless! Another great thing about espadrilles are that they are so comfortable and easy to throw on! They are perfect for spring and summer weather, and can be dressed up or down with options for wedges as well! Some of the great espadrilles I have purchased in the past have been from Sperry, Soludos, J Crew, and Nordstrom, and now so many retailers have many different styles on their racks! I recently checked out the Soludos website and their new spring collection is oh so cute! Three of the shoes in the photo below are from Soludos! 

Here are just a few pairs of adorable espadrilles I found while browsing the web! The links are below.

 1. Navy Ikat (LOFT)  2. Brown Leather (Soludos)
5. Leopard Calf Hair (Soludos)  6. Tribal Patterned  (J Crew Factory) 

It's beginning to feel a lot more like spring! 


Spring Break!

Last week I had the best time soaking up every moment of my spring break and spending time with friends and family!  It was so nice to be able to stop home before heading to California to see my brother in his high school play. He was Bert (the chimney sweep) in Mary Poppins and did such a spectacular job! He sang, danced (including tap!), had a pretty spot-on British accent, he does it all! Mary, Bailey, and I went to see the play with two of the girls we babysit for and we all had such a great time together. It was a quick trip home but so nice to see my family and some of my friends.

The next day Mary and I headed off to Palm Springs with our grandparents! While the weather wasn't as warm as usual the first two days, the rest of the week was gorgeous and in the 80's! The combination of the bright colored flowers, palm trees, mountains, and the bright sun was unreal and the perfect remedy for the winter blues we have been experiencing!

Downtown Palm Springs
During our trip, we did lots of shopping (as usual) and were able to check out some of our typical favorites (TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Rack, a large outlet mall) and also some smaller, more unique shops! Between Mary and I, we were really able to find some great items and some excellent deals! I was beyond excited to find an adorable, fun pair of Kate Spade for Keds sneakers for $40 from the Rack and also a pair of navy Sperry's for $40! It was nice seeing stores filled with bright, summery colors and shorts instead of dark colors and sweaters!

Deals from the desert! Sweater from Loft Outlet ($17!), Shorts from TJ Maxx! 
Since our grandparents stay in a house on the golf course, Mary and I were able to drive a golf cart around the neighborhood and had lots of fun driving alongside the mountains! I was also able to go to the driving range a few times with my grandpa, and I am slowly becoming a better golfer!

View from our backyard! 
Mary and I had such a great time soaking up the warm weather and enjoying some great company, delicious food, and excellent shopping! I am already looking forward to the next visit to Palm Springs! It is a must visit place, so beautiful and lots to see and do!

Had to get a picture of Mary with the flowers!

                                               Can't wait for some fun posts in the next few weeks!