Step Away from the Microwave

Growing up, including while you were in high school, you likely had the luxury of a parent cooking for you on a regular basis. Each morning, you had breakfast ready to go before school, a lunch packed (or lunch money ready), and dinner waiting for you when you returned home. If you’re at all like me, you completely took this for granted.

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Even during my first year of college, I didn’t realize how nice it was to never have to cook for myself. I lived in my college’s dorms, so I had a meal plan, meaning that anytime I wanted to go to the cafeteria, I knew there would be a variety of options waiting for me when I arrived. My sophomore year, when I lived in my sorority house, we had a chef who cooked all of our meals. Again, I never appreciated how nice it was to have hot meals available 24/7.

That is, until my junior year. That is the year I moved into a house, and I had to start grocery shopping, cooking for myself, and cleaning my own dishes. This was not something I was prepared for. At first, I did what many people do the first time they grocery shop for themselves — I bought all junk food, which was awesome for about two weeks until I started to feel sick.

Even after I put down the Cheez Its and mint chocolate chip ice cream, I noticed something: I began to buy food that required either no or very little preparation. I bought food like cans of soup or frozen chicken nuggets, which I could just throw into the microwave, or yogurt, which I could simply grab and go.

This food, while not as bad for me as the junk food I had been eating, was not providing me with proper nutrients. Home cooking is important for overall health, and can save you money in the long-run. Nothing brings out the nutrients in food like freshly preparing a meal, and frozen meals (often packed with chemicals, salts, and other preservatives) do not count as healthy substitutes! In addition, if you believe you can get the same benefits of home cooking by eating out, I implore you to add up how much all of those $5 meal deals cost you.

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I, of all people, understand that life gets in the way. We get busy and don’t have the time or energy to prepare meals for ourselves at home. So don’t worry, because there is nothing wrong from grabbing a salad or sandwich from your on-campus deli every once in a while, nor is there anything wrong with the occasional Lean Cuisine — so long as neither of these become your go-to routine.

Instead, spend some time each week meal-prepping or learning a new recipe. Once you learn the basics of cooking, the task doesn’t seem so daunting. Planning out your meals ahead of time, and putting time and energy into preparing your own food can incentivize you to eat healthier. As an added bonus, preparing a home-cooked dinner can be a super romantic date. And let’s not forget that all the money you save can be applied to your weekend shenanigans!

What will be the next meal you learn to cook? Tell me on Twitter and I might retweet you!

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Yes I Read… But Not Because I Have To

It’s Monday night. You just finished the worst day of the week. You could really use a way to relax. So what do you do? Do you open up a bottle of wine? Well, obviously. Do you draw yourself a bubble bath? Perhaps. What about cracking open that book in your nightstand?

Now, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Why would I want to jump right into studying after a long, stressful day?” But the type of reading I’m referring to is not related to studying. I’m talking about reading for pleasure.

Many people, especially college students, are so overwhelmed with other types of reading that they forget how pleasurable reading a good book can be. Last summer, I got back into pleasure reading, and I’ve noticed a few things:

1. I feel more relaxed every day.

There is nothing like unwinding with a good book. Reading is such an easy activity; it allows me to take my mind off of all my stresses and just enjoy one simple pleasure. When I put aside time to partake in a relaxing activity, I feel stress-free both while I am reading and in all other aspects of my life.

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2. I sleep better each night.

I tend to read just before bed. Unlike watching TV, which requires a bright light to shine on my face, reading requires only a simple book. Reading is soothing, and relaxes me enough to fall asleep. When I awake, I feel happy and refreshed, which doesn’t always happen when I opt to watch TV before bed.

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3. My brain feels sharper.

Also compared to watching TV, which is a completely mindless activity, reading requires me to use my mind to read and interpret the words in front of me. You may think that would actually wind me up before bed, but as I said, it doesn’t. While I’m reading, the only thing working is my mind, which not only relaxes me, but keeps my brain sharp every day.

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4. My schoolwork has improved.

Because I’m taking that time each night to sharpen my mind and relax, which helps me sleep better, I am better prepared to take on the school day. Each night, I give myself a few hours to study before diving into the books I read for fun, which gives me incentive to study efficiently. And after focusing on boring books for hours on end, it’s nice to read about something I enjoy.

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5. I’m happier and more invested in my personal life.

While you’re in college, everything in your life can feel like it either has to do with getting a good grade, getting a good job after graduation, or partying. It’s nice to set aside time to partake in an activity that is just for your enjoyment.

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So, my friends, I urge you to put down those textbooks (after you finish your studying), pick up a good book, and enjoy the simple pleasure of reading again! What will be your next book? Tell me on Twitter and I might retweet you!

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So You Have to Give a Presentation? Here’s How to Get an ‘A’

Last semester, I took a capstone course that required each student to give a presentation at some point during the semester. Mind you, this was a 400-level university capstone course, meaning the it was comprised primarily of juniors and seniors, all of whom were at least 21 years-old. Imagine my surprise when, before his presentation, one student admitted that he had never given a presentation before.

How does that happen? This guy was 20-something years-old, two months from graduating from a four-year institution of higher learning, and giving the first presentation of his life. How. Does. This. Happen? Clearly, the education system failed this student at some point during his education. I digress.

Public speaking, although nerve-wracking, once mastered, is an important and impressive skill. At some point or another, most of us will have to speak in front of a group of people — whether that group consists of five people or five hundred. It’s best to get those nerves out of the way as soon as possible, for the longer you put something off, the bigger your fear for it grows.

Not to brag or anything, but I have received AT LEAST ONE endorsement for public speaking on my LinkdIn profile. So, yeah, I’m pretty much an expert in this topic and many other topics. Here are my tips on how to give an amazing speech or presentation, even if you’re just telling a funny story in front of your friends:

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Confidence

Although probably the most difficult part of public speaking — to be (or pretend to be) confident in front of others while you internally fear that you will say the wrong thing — I believe it is the most important. Confidence carries over into other aspects of public speaking, and sometimes, when you pretend you’re confident, you can actually kill your nerves. Just as it’s best to get the most difficult things out of the way first, I got this tip out of the way from the start!

Practice, practice, practice

Again, if it’s just an anecdote or joke that you want to impress others with later, there is no better way to ensure a smooth delivery than to practice your speech. Practice the timing, cues, and your facial expressions. The more rehearsed you are, the more confident you’ll be in your delivery!

Smile

No one likes to look at someone who looks unhappy, so make sure you will look pleasing to your viewers! Smiling while you talk also makes you sound friendlier, making people more likely to listen to you. (Also a great phone tip, by the way.)

Be authentic

People can sense when others are being fake, so make sure to be as open an genuine as possible while you speak. Take questions, don’t be arrogant, laugh at yourself, be genuine, and have a good time!

Dress to impress

Another tip that can help boost your confidence — dress well! People will be looking at you either way, so you might as well look good, right?

Best of luck to everyone who will be giving a presentation in the coming weeks for midterms! Let me know how it goes on Twitter and I might retweet you!

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Every Emotional Stage of an All-Nighter

At some point during everyone’s four or nine years in college, the inevitable happens — you have to pull an all-nighter. They can be more common for some than others, but everyone is bound to have at least one before they cross the stage on their graduation day. Freshman may even look forward to their first college all-nighter, not realizing the psychological, physical, and emotional torment they put you through. Let’s break down each stage:

7 p.m.

Um, excuse me, when did it get dark outside? I still have so much more work to do…

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9 p.m.

Complete darkness. This is real. I’m studying at nighttime. I did not plan for this. What is civilization doing outside? Are they having fun without me?

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10 p.m.

Still hanging on to that glimmer of hope that maybe I’ll be done soon. Maybe not in time to go out and enjoy the evening, maybe not even in time to enjoy some tv, but maybe I’ll get to bed at a somewhat reasonable hour. Is that too much to ask for?

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11:55 p.m.

WHAT? It can’t already be 11. It’s not even 11:30, it’s straight up 11:55. THAT’S ALMOST MIDNIGHT. How is this possible? Wait, how did I study for almost two hours straight without once looking at the clock? Note to self: maybe these all-nighters aren’t such a bad idea…

12:30 a.m.

These are definitely a bad idea. How was I so much less tired just 35 MINUTES AGO?

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1:05 a.m.

When did 10 p.m. turn into 1 a.m…This is the absolute WORST time to fall asleep. If I go to bed now, not only will I not have finished all my homework, I will be tired all day tomorrow. But if I press through… Well, we know what happens when I press through. Maybe I’ll just see how I feel in 10 minutes…

2:40 a.m.

Welp. I guess there’s nothing I can do about it now. The all-nighter has taken ahold of me. It’s time to give in.

2:45 a.m.

YOOOOO I’LL TELL YOU WHAT I WANT WHAT I REALLY REALLY WANT SO TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT WHAT YOU REALLY REALLY WANT

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2:47 a.m.

Maybe I’ll just close my eyes for a few minutes…

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2:48 a.m.

Why can’t I close my eyes

3:10 a.m.

Must. Make. Coffee. But. Can’t. Feel. Legs.

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3:40 a.m.

I think that coffee actually made me more sleepy…

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4:01 a.m.

*~wHaT aRe ThEsE sTrAnGe FeEliNgS i’M hAvInG~*

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4:02 a.m.

WHAT WAS THAT I SAW SOMETHING

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4:20 a.m.

Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’… keep those fingers rollin’

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4:21 a.m.

Why am I so weird

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4:22 a.m.

What is existence

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4:23 a.m.

Have I had any actual thoughts for the last 60 seconds or was I just staring at the wall?

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4:24 a.m.

Wait am I hungry?

rev up those fryers

4:25 a.m.

Maybe this all-nighter has gotten the best of me. Maybe I really should give in and power nap for just, like, two hours.

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4:26 a.m.

Still contemplating sleep…

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4:27 a.m.

Not sure if still contemplating sleep or actually sleeping…

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4:28 a.m.

OKAY MAKE UP YOUR MIND

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4:29 a.m.

Alright, alright. I’ll set my alarm for 30 minutes. No, 40 minutes. Okay let me just finish this one small thing first…

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6:10 a.m.

Oh. Is that sunlight? I forgot that was a thing. I was beginning to think I was trapped in my own eternal nightmare.

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6:40 a.m.

….Aaaaand I’m finished with my homework! Just in time to lay down and get a full twenty minutes of sleep before my alarm goes off.

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7:00 a.m.

*Alarm going off* Is this real? Is anything real? Did I honestly just fall asleep? Wait, did I really pull an all-nighter or was that just the most elaborate dream ever? Ugh, just five more minutes…

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7:05 a.m.

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Whether planned or unintentional, all-nighters are cornerstone learning experiences in anyone’s college education. Here’s to hoping I never have another one after I graduate!

What are some of the weird things you do during an all-nighter? Tell me on Twitter and I might retweet you!

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Your Guide to the 2015 Academy Awards

February 1st was perhaps one of the saddest days of the year this year, as it marked the official end of the football season. Baseball won’t start for a few more weeks, and honestly, who cares about basketball? With that being said, there is one good thing about this time of year, and that is award season!

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My favorite of the awards shows is the pinnacle — the Academy Awards — or as some of you miscreants prefer to call it, the Oscars. With eight incredible and diverse nominations for Best Picture, and five über-talented stars for both actor and actress, the 2015 Academy Awards are shaping up to be an exciting event. Let’s break down the nominations:

Best Picture

American Sniper — An intense drama about an American Hero with a beautiful family. And, um, hello Bradley Cooper! You can’t go wrong.

Birdman — A washed-up actor struggling with regret and ego problems? How original.

Boyhood — All you need to know about this film is that President Barack Obama named it his favorite film of last year. Do with that information what you will.

The Grand Budapest Hotel — If you saw The Royal Tenenbaums, then you saw this film. Next.

The Imitation Game — Fascinating. Enthralling. Brilliant. I only understood about half of it. Give it an Oscar.

Selma — I had such high hopes for this film, but unfortunately, I believe the filmmakers relied too much on Oprah’s celebrity to boost the film. Not enough artistic value to win an Academy Award in my opinion.

The Theory of Everything — A bit long, but beautifully done. This movie shows the untold romantic version of Stephen Hawking’s life. I would not be sad if this film won.

Whiplash — I’m sorry, which movie?

Best Actor

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher — It’s always a bit off-putting to see comedians switch into serious roles, but Steve Carell does an amazing job in Foxcatcher. A+ for sure.

Bradley Cooper, American Sniper — Very, very good. Better acting than I could ever do. But, dare I ask, Oscar worthy?

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game — Again, another great film, but I’m not sure Benedict Cumberbatch’s acting quite lived up to the brilliant writing and directing of The Imitation Game.

Michael Keaton, Birdman — I mean, yeah. I can see it.

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything — HE PLAYED STEPHEN HAWKING SLOWLY DEVELOPING MOTOR NEURONE DISEASE AND IT WASN’T OFFENSIVE. IT WAS INCREDIBLE AND TEAR-PROVOKING. YES. A THOUSAND TIMES YES.

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night — Snore.

Felecity Jones, The Theory of Everything — Yeah, it’s impressive the film was nominated for so many Academy Awards, but her performance was nowhere near as phenomenal as her costar’s.

Julianne Moore, Still Alice — I am not going to lie, I did not see this one. I won’t even try to fake a review.

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl — Seriously? This film was way too Hollywood blockbuster to be worthy of any Oscars in my opinion. And her performance was just so…bleh. I think the Academy just threw it in there so both Best Actor and Best Actress would have five nominations.

Reese Witherspoon, Wild — She essentially carries the movie. The movie is just her, and it’s still riveting. This is a no-brainer.

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall, The Judge — Eh.

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood — No.

Edward Norton, Birdman — Yes.

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher — Double yes.

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash — We. Are. Farmers. Ba ba dum da da da dum.

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood — Eh.

Laura Dern, Wild — No.

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game — Eh.

Emma Stone, Birdman — Yes.

Meryl Streep, Into the Wild — What’s new?

Best Animated Feature Film

Frozen did not come out last year, so who cares?

Best Cinematography

Please, not The Grand Budapest Hotel. We get your weird style of filmmaking, Wes Anderson. We get it. Go home.

My vote: Birdman.

Best Costume Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel or Into the Wild. I would say Maleficent, but I don’t want anything associated with Angelina Jolie to win. #TeamAnistonForever

Best Director

Anything but The Grand Budapest Hotel. Okay, I really didn’t hate the movie, the style of it just drove me nuts. Like…why did I never feel settled into its plot or characters? Ugh.

…Beyond this point, who really cares? The only other part of the Academy Awards worth watching isn’t even officially part of the show — it’s the red carpet! Personally, I can’t wait to see what everyone wears.

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If you’re not into the cultural aspect of the Academy Awards like I am, you can still enjoy by playing a fun drinking game, like this one from BuzzFeed. The Academy Awards start this Sunday, February 22 at 7 p.m. EST. Lights, camera, action, cheers!

Who do you think will win in each of these categories? What are your Oscar party plans? Tell me on Twitter and I might retweet you!

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Don’t Forget About Mom and Dad

It happens to all of us — we get busy with classes, homework, studying, our jobs, extra-curricular activities, our social lives, relationships, getting enough sleep, staying fit, and everything else that we’re supposed to do as young, prime-of-our-lives college students, that we forget about two of the most important people in our lives — our parents! They raised us, fed us, bathed us, taught us right from wrong, and loved and supported us along the way, and we can’t even take five minutes out of our day to let them know we’re thinking about them? Come on.

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College is such a stressed-filled time with so many new things happening, it’s easy to forget about your values and where you came from. That’s why it’s so important to stay grounded by connecting with your parents. You may not realize it when you first come to college, but your parents were right about so many of those things you used to fight them on. At some point during everyone’s college careers, we realize how much our parents truly did for us. When that happens for you, I urge you to call up your mom and/or dad and just say “thank you” for all they’ve done for you.

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With that being said, it’s also important to spend some quality time with your parents. In fact, research shows that children who spend more time with their parents tend to be more well-rounded than those who don’t. Spending time with your parents leads to having better values, a desire to love and build relationships with others, a sense of purpose in life, confidence in our schoolwork and personal lives, and and overall feeling of satisfaction and happiness in life.

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I realize that, while in college, not everyone has the luxury of visiting their parents on a regular basis. Some students may be only a five minute drive from their parents’ house while others may be a nine hour plane ride away. Personally, I feel lucky to live a cool three-hour drive from my parents, which is why I try to visit home about one weekend a month. I love when I get to spend time with my parents, catch up on each others’ lives (even though we talk on the phone practically every day), eat some home-cooked meals, and get my laundry done by mother dearest. I can’t wait to see my parents this upcoming weekend!

How often do you visit home while in college? Send me pictures on Twitter of your reunion with your parents and I might retweet you!

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Why Every College Student Should Get a Starbucks Gold Card

Those who know me, and even plenty who don’t, know that I am rarely caught without a Starbucks cup or tumbler in my hand. Why? Because I love Starbucks coffee. Black coffee, coffee with cream, iced coffee, macchiatos, lattes, frappuccinos, chai, green tea lemonade, holiday drinks and more — I am obsessed.

So I’m sure it’s no surprise that I’ve held a Starbucks Gold Card since 2009, when I was still in high school. And as much as that obviously makes sense for a Starbucks lover like me (Taylor Swift, anyone?) I believe it also makes plenty of sense for anyone who goes to Starbucks…like, ever!

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If you live under a rock or somehow otherwise don’t know what a Starbucks Gold Card is, allow me to explain. The Starbucks Gold Card is the highest level of the Starbucks Rewards program. Registering for the rewards program costs nothing, and requires customers to simply enter the code on the back of any Starbucks gift card online. Customers can reload the gift card with more money at any time, and each time the card is used to purchase either a drink or food item, the customer earns a star. Earning thirty stars in one year qualifies customers to become Gold Card holders, for which they will receive a personalized Gold Card in the mail. Who doesn’t love something with their name on it?

Gold Card holders are entitled to some sweet perks, such as free drinks or treats on their birthdays, customized member-only offers via email, free in-store refills on hot or iced brewed coffee and tea, and, my personal favorite, a free food or drink item for every twelve stars earned.

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How great is that? Not only does it cost nothing for customers to sign up, the rewards program gives customers free food or drinks based on their purchasing frequency. In addition, Gold Card holders receive regular promotions and free refills. The rewards program is essentially no-risk and high reward.

It’s often been said that college is the time when many people get addicted to coffee, due heavily to finals, term papers, and all-nighters. Most college students have a Starbucks Coffee near, if not on campus, meaning the likelihood that the average college student will drink Starbucks Coffee at some point in his or her college career is extremely high. To me, it seems like a no-brainer to sign up for the Starbucks Rewards program; the more coffee you drink, the more coffee you get in return.

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What drink would you buy with your first free Starbucks Reward? Tweet me a picture of it and I might retweet you!

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