Holiday Reads: Wit, Weddings and Happiness

December 23, 2015


All the signs of the holidays are present. Chestnuts are roasting by an open fire. The lights are twinkling and the somewhere the little drummer boy is tap-tap-tapping away, setting up a tempo for our holiday heartbeats to synchronize to. It's cold outside and (if you're lucky) the snow has fallen, and all that's left to do now is curl up with a good book to pass the time until Santa and the gang roll up. So, here are a few merry tales to tide you into the new year.

Note: They are not in the least holiday related, but they are cheery nevertheless.

What is happiness? Or better yet, what makes people happy? A question that has plagued humanity for eons, A secret formula that is unique to every person, and one that our hero, Hector ventures out to find. As his dissatisfaction with his own life impedes his ability to help his psychiatric patients find satisfaction in their own. He sets off around the world equipped with a pen, a notebook and a sheer curiosity for what makes people tick. Along the way, he faces harrowing circumstances and meets fascinating people who help him to put the answer together one lesson at a time. His journey of culture and adventure warms the heart and the soul, as each lesson makes you consider what happiness means to you. Equal parts enlightening and reflective, Hector and the Search for Happiness will leave you with a smile on your face and excited for what the future holds in store.

There's no point in looking before crossing the road if you don't look in the right direction.
~François Lelord, Hector and the Search for Happiness

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan


Proving that all that glitters is not gold, Crazy Rich Asians is a fast-paced read told through multiple perspectives. We follow the story through the eyes of the newcomer (the girlfriend, Rachel Chu), to the head of the household (the mother, Eleanor Young) and everyone in between (crazy aunts, cousins, it-girls, brides-to-be, etc.). Invited by her boyfriend Nicholas Young  to visit his family in Singapore, Rachel misleadingly expects a wholesome, traditional family vacation. However, the opulence and luxury that awaits poor Rachel is as bold as the title of this book. Unknowing and unarmed, she dives headfirst into a world of paparazzi, private jets and personal assistants, in the midst of Singapore's the biggest wedding of the year. As preparations are made and gossip is spread, Rachel must find a way to stay true to herself, as details about her boyfriend's lavish past and her own more mysterious one are revealed. Humorous, entertaining and energetic, Crazy Rich Asians is jam-packed with enough family feuds and festivities to last you throughout the holidays.

Remember, every treasure comes with a price.
~Kevin Kwan, Crazy Rich Asians

By exploring the rise and fall of history's wittiest people and how they became so, Elements of Wit, seeks to show how you too can master the art. This book was as informative as it was engaging. Each chapter provided examples of history's most elegantly spoken bon vivants and how they honed their craft. Filled with plenty of one-liners, zingers, and retorts. Brimming with tales of verbal triumph and strife, Elements of Wit is every bit as humorous as it is helpful. By peeling back each layer of wit, Errett turns the seemingly illusive craft into a magical (albeit, tricky) one to master. All the while proving that in life, practice makes perfect. For earning  a coveted spot among "the great wits", has more to do with a good sense of humor, a spark of creativity, a lot of practice, then a simple stroke of luck.

Wit is comedy minus time.
~Benjamin Errett, Elements of Wit: Mastering the Art of Being Interesting

The Hidden Magic of Christmas Lights

December 14, 2015

As I write this, there are 11days, 12 hours, 12 minutes and 35 seconds left until Santa departs from the North Pole. Oops, there goes another 20 seconds. While I have passed the age where I wait impatiently for the man with the bag to shimmy down my chimney. I do impatiently count down the days until the holidays begin. I love Christmas, the holidays, the lights but most of all the atmosphere. Even though the temperature drops, the warmth in people's hearts seems to rise steadily. They are constantly th-th-thumping away in anticipation for what the holiday season will bring. Like me, they count down the very seconds until they are reunited with their loved ones--and dread the ensuing barrage of questions. The woes of the world are just a distant memory and the aroma of the holiday meals serve as a welcome buffer against the cold. But whether you countdown to Hanukkah, Kwanza or until the winter season premiere of How to Get Away with Murder airs, lights are on and they are everywhere.

Twinkling like stars in the night, burning brighter as the time draws near. In perfect synchronization, one by one families across the world turn them on. Suddenly making the unpleasant walk to school a bit more bearable, as I'm greeted by fluorescent Rudolphs, makeshift Grinches and blow-up Frosty the Snowmen. Suddenly, the skating rinks look like stained glass windows and every lap around the ice under the elaborate decor makes you feel like Cinderella at the ball. I think that in all the hubbub and the bustling that the commercial side of the holidays bring, we forget what makes Christmas truly special. The music, the snow (fingers crossed because Canadian weather has a mind of its own), the reruns and of course, the people. So, as the we get closer and closer to the special day, let your lights glow brighter and brighter.

~Alexandra XO


P.S. Google's Santa Tracker is a great way to get into the Christmas spirit before Ol' Saint Nick arrives.

P.P.S. Still trying to get into the Christmas Spirit? Click here to read more holiday tales.

5 Important Life Lessons The Mindy Project Taught Me

December 07, 2015


I don't normally obsess over a television series, but when I do, it's generally for a good reason. The whole month of November has been a blur of sports, school and The Mindy Project. I discovered it one Friday night, and the next thing I knew it was already Saturday morning and I was halfway through season one. Needless to say, it was love at first sight. I'm hooked on the show, Mindy Kaling is my new role model and Mindy Lahiri is my spirit animal. I've chatted just about everyone'es ear off about this show (sorry, guys!) and successfully convinced a few of them to give the show a try (thank you!). Now as I near the end of season 3, I've been graced with a few nuggets of Mindy Lahiri wisdom that I'm thrilled to pass on to you.

The (Insert your name here) Project

Mindy's quest to find true love came once she realized that she wasn't leading the life she truly wanted to live. Determined to stick it to the man, get herself a man and have a little fun, she turned life's lemons into lemonade and got to work on herself. A trying task, but a noble one that's well-worth the effort in the end. Reminding us, that life is what we make of it and the sooner and harder we work on making it better, the greater it will be.

Life is a balance

Mindy Lahiri's current boy-crazed state is a product of too many romcoms and years of focusing solely on getting her degree, becoming a partner in her firm and mastering her craft. By watching her maneuver from dancing with her friends to prepping for a baby delivery, I've learned that you've got to focus on what's most important to you. In other words, some things are worth setting aside in order to create more opportunities in the future.

Roll with the punches

Whether it's falling ill halfway through your mission's trip or having your heartbroken, sometimes you've just got to roll with the punches. Mindy gets herself in some pretty precarious--although humorous--situations, where everyone from best friend to co-worker eventually gets involved. Not one to wallow self-pity, she handles these hiccups with class and often with a funny joke or two. Her attitude towards the trials and tribulations she faces show that the breadth of a problem is partially due to how you react to it.


Be authentic 

If she wants to wear bedazzled workout attire or join a rigorous OB/GYN program at Standford, then she will. Never without something to say or an opinion of her own, she is unabashedly herself in everything situation. Ultimately, being yourself is like a breath of fresh air-- real, important and something that everyone wants more of. And on that note...

The three Cs

This lesson comes in two parts, in theory from the real Mindy (Kaling) but in practice in Mindy's (Lahiri) personality. Combined the real and TV Mindys seem to have mastered the three Cs-- confidence, courage, and creativity. In life, you can't have one without the other, forming the perfect recipe for a life well-lived. It takes ample amount of courage to share your version of creativity with the world. The more you do it, the more certain of yourself and your abilities you become (aka you boost your confidence levels). After all...

"If you've got it, flaunt it. And if you don't got it, flaunt it. 'Cause what are we even doing here if we're not flaunting it?" 
~Mindy Kaling

Bonus!

Dress to impress...

yourself first, and then others. After all, you can never be overdressed or overeducated.

There's somebody for everybody...

but you may have to go through a lot of nobodies first.

Food = Happiness

And don't you ever forget it.

~Alexandra XO

From Fake to Free

November 24, 2015


Today, I've decided to switch things up a bit (literally). I've teamed up with the amazing Destiny Rose from Breakfast at Destiny's to bring you (my lovely readers) a new post from a fresh voice. Although she hails from far away Dallas, Texas, we both share a mutual admiration for all things Audrey Hepburn related, cute cafés and (of course) writing. Her blog is a great place to read up on everything from faith, to fashion, to friends and beyond. So once you've finished up here, make sure to pop on over and say hi.

Blog: Breakfast at Destiny's (destinyhoperose.com)
Twitter: @hi_destiny_rose
Instagram: @destinyrose____
Pinterest: Destiny Rose

 ~~~

Every single person wants to be accepted. The human species is really good at recognizing patterns that develop positive results and then replicating those patterns. If one activity receives praise, another person will take part in the activity to receive that same recognition. Most of the time this copycat mentality is a subconscious mentality. So what’s wrong with this tendency?

Ever since we were very young, we have been told to be unique and to chase after our individual dreams. However, we grow up looking like clones. For societies to function, we need all different types of people. All of us know that, but then we chase after what is comfortable. The need to chase the familiar is rooted inside the soul, and it blooms throughout our feelings, conversations, and actions. Talking to a fake person is one of the hardest things to get through. You feel insignificant. When people refuse to let their guards down in order to speak with people, we are left with a lot of hard-hearted people that are desperate for authenticity.

Mark Twain once wrote, “All emotion is involuntary when genuine.” How lovely would it be to witness each person expressing his or her real feelings? Now, I understand that it is easier to be guarded- to simply get from one item to the next on your checklist, but what is the point? If we aren’t striving to meet extraordinary people and cultivate relationships with them, won’t we just be selfish jerks trying to pass each other in order to get to the finish line? News flash: there is no finish line.

Everyday you get the opportunity to truly get to know others- to be inspired by remarkable people! Martha Beck said it best. “When you meet people, show real appreciation, then genuine curiosity.” Will you be everyone’s best friend? Absolutely not. Will everyone like you? No. But honestly, does everyone like you now? No. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. This remodeled life of authenticity requires effort but indeed reaps the benefits. Nice falsities and small-talk are getting in the way of inspiring friendships. Instead of worrying how others view us, let’s be our whole selves, inviting those people to be their phenomenal selves. Let’s create authenticity in a world full of fake.

The Classics: Roses, Romance and Rocinante

November 07, 2015

I love reading classic novels. I like how by choosing a few different books, we get to witness the evolution of man's thought processing and prose. By visiting the past, we can clearly see how far we've come and just how small the world really is.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

A cliché, but a classic one. Meet Elizabeth Bennet, the second of five sisters, bright, pretty and at the ripe age for marriage. A girl with big aspirations of love, in a world where it (and she) is defined by money, beauty and reputation. Along comes Mr. Darcy, the insufferable, handsome and debonair bachelor who earns (gasp!) £10,000 a year. We follow along as she and the rest of the characters are torn between love and duty, with their judgements clouded by their every growing sense of prejudice and pride. As we are vigorously lead through the intricacies of British Regency society, the often redundant story of boy-meets-girl blossoms into a truly evocative piece. A tale that gets better with every read and causes me to fangirl every time it's mentioned.

“You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.
 ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice 

A heartwarming account of a little prince, his beloved rose and desert stranded pilot. We are taken on a journey full of hidden wisdom, where we are taught the power of friendship, the weight that responsibilities have on us and the virtues of love. Accompanied with small illustrations, every page is coated with magic that grabs hold of you and your imagination. Every word takes the reader deeper and deeper into their own childhood (emotionally and mentally), until the lines between age and time blur. Within every line, there are tidbits of wisdom and advice, stirring the soul, memories and tears of happiness. Reading Le Petit Prince brings a smile to your heart, and has us longing for the days when we were as unabashedly curious, hopeful and confident as the mysterious little boy with the golden hair. Short and sweet, it's a great read whether it's in the original french or any other language. 

 “You - you alone will have the stars as no one else has them...In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night...You - only you - will have stars that can laugh.” 
~~~
Quand tu regarderas le ciel, la nuit, puisque j'habiterai dans l'une d'elles, puisque je rirai dans l'une d'elles, alors ce sera pour toi comme si riaient toutes les étoiles. Tu auras, toi, des étoiles qui savent rire !

        ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saveedra


A classic story about a man named Don Quixote, who dreams of being a knight and saving his true love. With the help of his friends and a great imagination, he takes off on his quest leaving behind everything he's ever known. One man's determinations, sparks a loyal following, whimsical encounters and comic scenarios, that have been etched into my memory since the first time I read this book in Grade 5. It perfectly captures the way we all become entranced by the worlds we explore when we read a novel. We've all dreamed of being the hero in our own story, and the efforts of the well-meaning Don Quixote de la Mancha astride his trusty steed Rocinante (and accompanied by his squire Sancho Panza) proves that some dreams are worth fighting for.

“Thou hast seen nothing yet.” 
 ― Miguel de Cervantes Saveedra, Don Quixote de la Mancha

~Alexandra XO


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Chilly Weather: Ways to Fight the Cold and the Winter Blues

October 30, 2015



Winter is coming. And with it comes one of the things we love (and hate) the most about this time of the year, the cold. The transition from warm Summer weather, to the chilly Autumn temperatures often creates a lack of motivation.

Get Scented

By scented, I mean scented candles, of course. For those of us who don't have fireplaces, there's nothing like a good ol' scented candle to melt away the cold weather blues. Scented candles aren't the only way to enjoy a fresh aroma though. I love wearing scented creams, so that by bed sheets and PJs also smell like apple blossoms, vanilla woods or wild orchids. Also, putting a few drops of essential oils like lavender into water (to make a mist) or onto fake flowers (to make a DIY diffuser) gets the job done.

Shake it Up

Music is food for the soul, and a rekindled spirit is just the spark necessary to jumpstart your determination and motivation to persevere until winter break. Spend a few minutes to make several playlists that combat each of your cold weather moods. For example, I'm crankiest on my way to school, when the air is crisp and chilly and I am still sleep deprived. So the soundtrack on my walk there is full of Beyoncé, Michael Jackson and Christmas songs. Also make sure to give the playlists a fun name to give you a visual pick-me-up every time you scroll through your iPod.

Wrap it all Up

Scarves are the answer to everything, in my opinion. Feeling cold? Wear a scarf. Need to make a quick getaway? Use your scarf as a rope ladder. Feeling a little underdressed? Well a nice scarf can take your style to a whole new level. They're extremely versatile and come in all shapes and colors, allowing you to add a pop of color or a splash of patterns anywhere on your body.

Get Crafty

You can never have enough room décor. I love making colourful pieces to add around my room to liven up my environment. Get festive and be inspired by the beautiful fallen leaves outside (or a few YouTube videos) to start decorating your room according to the season. It doesn't have to be a whole revamp, just a few new items or pictures here and there to breathe some life into your bedroom.

Spice Up Your Life

From the Spice Girls to Pumpkin Spice Lattes, there's something for everyone to look forward to. Chilly weather makes me crave warm meals and hot drinks with lots of spices and flavour to combat the drabness of the landscape without all of the greenery. I generally prefer my homemade pumpkin pie, but opting to watch the Spice Girls: Spice World movie works too.

~Alexandra XO

Autumn Reads: Advice, Adventure and a Bookstore

October 05, 2015


 

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan


Brilliantly told and full of old-fashioned fun, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore won me over from the page one. We follow the young, talented, yet unemployed Clay Jannon as his new job as a bookstore's night clerk leads him (along with a medley of characters) on a quest to decode the book, unveil the secret pasts of its bizarre clientele, and unlock the key to everlasting life. Funny and thrilling, we are quickly drawn in to Clay's 21st century San Francisco and thrust into a world full of century old cults, hidden messages and Google. One part suspense, two parts adventure, one hundred percent entertainment, at the end of the ride we are left with warm smiles, open eyes and a heart left pounding from all the excitement.


After that, the book will fade, the way all books fade in your mind. But I hope you will remember this:
A man walking fast down a dark lonely street. Quick steps and hard breathing, all wonder and need. A bell above a door and the tinkle it makes. A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then: the right book exactly, at exactly the right time.”
― Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore


Pretty Honest by Sali Hughes


Engaging, helpful and honest (of course), I loved reading this book. Even with the lack of pictures that generally fill the pages of most beauty books, I still managed to clearly understand what she was describing. If you are looking for a step-by-step explanation of how to apply makeup, then this book isn't for you. However, if you are searching for the tidbits of wisdom about all things beauty related, then you've chosen wisely. In the end, it was the author's personality that shined through and made her advice truly sink in. Frank, funny, and full of amusing anecdotes, her suggestions flowed with the rest of the prose, making me feel as if I was talking to a wise older sister, rather than some guru. Her lessons were more than just skin deep, proving once again that it takes more than a few stokes of lipstick to reveal your inner beauty.


We are not rehearsing here. We are alive now and deserve to look and feel great. Buy the neon lipstick, pour the luxury bath foam with abandon, light the candle for no discernible reason and wear Chanel No5 to the Co-op. Lovely things deserve too be seen, use and enjoyed, not hidden away. And you deserve to live well and feel great now, not later. Life is really bloody short, so stop saving things for best today.
~ Sali Hughes, Pretty Honest 

~Alexandra XO

What are you reading this fall?


Your Body is Not a Temple

September 25, 2015

Exercise and I haven't always seen eye to eye. Ex-er-cise. The very word would send shivers down my spine while unleashing a roar worthy of any lioness. A daily 30-60-minute lung torturing, body aching sweat session? No, thank you. I much rather partake in some Net-flix instead. Where at least the only pain is the emotional kind.

Alas, adolescence hit along with all the insecurities and other unnecessary tumultuous baggage that comes with it. As the homework load picked up, I began to play sports less frequently. I found myself trying to turn to exercise to fix the problems that I believed only it could mask. Boy was I wrong.

When you do things from a place of love (self-love), it's a lot easier than a place of dislike. I saw working out as the bane of my existence. A cruel tactic to make ordinary people suffer and make the extremely nimble and quick look like gods. I tried to burpee and calorie count my woes away, in the hopes of making a change, all the while reminding myself that my body is a temple.

My body is not a temple. Sacred? Yes. Important, beautiful and strong? Yes, yes and yes, but still not a temple. You are constantly changing as the years rush by, and while a temple somewhat stands the test of time, it is a fixture that doesn't adapt and evolve with its surroundings. So at one point, as the pollution and the calamities of the outside world begin to take their toll, slowly it crumbles into a pile of ancient rubble. Your body is not a temple, you will not collapse into a pile of ruins. Like a vast forest, you will continue to thrive, adapting to the change of seasons and giving birth to new ideas and dreams. Like a beacon of hope, you are are a testament to the world, as you continue to grow and reach for the sky.

Although mighty, it can take a while to see your body in this positive way. But I promise you that it is well worth the effort. Changing my mantra, helped my to see exercise under a new light. Now I actually look forward to going out and doing something that helps improve my health. Whether it's cooking up a healthy meal or working out. Personally, the gym and calisthenics weren't really for me. I prefer sports (rugby, basketball, and taekwondo), dancing (YouTube has tons of great routines to learn) and running (with friends).

I realize now that as long as your body is moving and that you are having fun, that it's truly a great tool to boost your mood and your heart rate. Ultimately, you define what healthy looks like for you, and you decide under what form you want to achieve this model of health.


“Listen to me, your body is not a temple. Temples can be destroyed and desecrated. Your body is a forest—thick canopies of maple trees and sweet scented wildflowers sprouting in the underwood. You will grow back, over and over, no matter how badly you are devastated.”
― Beau Taplin

~Alexandra XO 


What do you do to show your body some love?


DIY Chalk Message Boards

September 11, 2015
DIY Chalk Message Boards

 I love chalkboards. I adore how the board can be easily reused, like a never ending canvas that allows for continuous creativity and self expression. I also love making lists, and so I find that these boards are a great way to reduce the amount of papers I have lying on my desk. This alleviates some of the guilt I have from wasting so much paper on my daily to-do lists, and makes my tasks more easier to see and ultimately accomplish. Not to mention, using chalkboard markers are much more fun then using a regular pencil. So, I made this simple DIY to keep you calm, cool and collected through the roller coaster that is life. Drum roll please. Cute, simple to make and even easier to use, I present to you DIY Chalk Message Boards.

Firstly, you will need the following tools:

Tools for the DIY Chalk Message Boards


I wanted to make this craft extremely quick and bought some spray-on chalkboard that dries in a day or two (please ensure to read the instructions on your own can). Following the directions, I searched around the house for flat objects that were dying to be up-cycled. My chosen victims were my old taekwondo boards, and my even older desk place-mat. After sanding the boards to perfect smoothness and wiping down the mat, I gave each board a quick spray or two (outdoors), let them dry (outdoors) and voila! Once completely dried, I rubbed the surface with chalk and wiped it clean.

Click here for more DIYs

I recommend using chalkboard markers or pencils instead of regular chalk--especially if the board is constantly in use--to reduce dust and preserve the writing. After purchasing a brightly colored pack, I decided to turn these planks into motivational message boards, and so I rounded up a few of my favorites from my Pinterest and hung them on my wall.

Enjoy!

Alexandra XO


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Movies: My Back-to-School Favorites

September 04, 2015


If back-to-school shopping and preparations haven't been keeping you busy all week, then you are probably already in school. The big day for me is next week. And as I prepare myself physically for school with new clothes, accessories and supplies, I still can't shake the feeling of nervous excitement for my final year of high school to begin. At this point some people turn to food, others turn to working out and I turn to books (I mentioned my back-to-school faves last week), music and most importantly, movies. Other than a good read, there's nothing like a movie marathon to help you forget your woes and give you the motivation to start the new year off on a good note. So here are a few of my favourite films that I turn to when the going gets tough. They each serve a different purpose, but all manage to make me (and hopefully you as well) feel better.

For the Team Spirit: Remember the Titans


Based on a actual events that took place in 1971, the journey of a newly integrated football team is a one filled with obstacles and eventually, triumph. As the players learn to put their differences aside and work as a team, so does their hometown. Soon the high school team serves as a unifying symbol, as prejudices and hate are pushed aside. Coach Boone steers his team and the whole community towards a place of heart, mutual respect, a sense of family and "perfection" as the boys dominate the year's football season. We watch as every tackle, touchdown and successful play is more than a few points for the Titans, but a win for race relations in Virginia. An inspiring story that I have watched countless times in class and at home, it serves as a good reminder to take pride in whatever you do and to be a little friendlier to my classmates.  

Favourite Line:


Alice, are you blind? Don't you see the family resemblance? That's my brother.

For the Friendships and Music: High School Musical 1-3


A staple of my childhood and a Disney classic, I present to you High School Musical 1-3. While the trilogy did give me unnaturally high hopes for high school, it did teach valuable life lessons through the power of song, team spirit and dance. While my friends and I have yet to master the gravity defying "High School Musical jump"and I have yet to meet my own singing, dancing, basketball dunking Troy Bolton, the nostalgia brought on from seeing the movie magic unfold is priceless. While my own school may not be as cool as East High, the film taught me to not "stick to the status quo" and that sometimes all you need is a little music, a few good friends and an open mind to have the time of your life.

Favourite Line (and the best line to chant before a big game, just insert your team for Wildcats):


Chad Danforth: WHAT TEAM?
The Basketball team: WILDCATS.
Chad Danforth: WHAT TEAM?
The Basketball team: WILDCATS.
Chad Danforth: WHAT TEAM?
The Basketball team: WILDCATS.
Chad Danforth: WILDCATS?
The Basketball team: GETCHA' HEAD IN THE GAME.

For the Globetrotter: Funny Face


Starring the beloved Fred Astaire and the always elegant (and my all-time favourite) Audrey Hepburn, Funny Face is a true Cinderella story. Starting as a "funny-faced" bookstore salesgirl, Jo Stockton's intriguing appearance earns her a modelling gig , after a chance encounter with the photographer Dick Avery. The dynamic duo (plus one) head to the City of Lights for a photo shoot. Funny Face not only provided a few excellent gowns (the red Givenchy number is divine) and songs, but a fantastic dance number, serving as inspiration for everything from commercials (Gap's 2007 "Gap in Black"ad) and music videos (Countdown by Beyoncé ). It's an excellent movie when you want a change of scenery, or a reminder to take everything in stride and to never let an opportunity pass you by, whether it's running for class prez or joining the soccer team.

Favourite Quote:


Every girl on every page of Quality has grace, elegance, and pizazz. Now, what's wrong with bringing out a girl who has character, spirit, and intelligence?

For the Drama and Group Dynamic : Mean Girls


Three words: high school classic. I have been watching this movie way before I could properly understand any of its content. It has been the entertainment on numerous school road trips and on sleepovers. The comic one-liners and scenes has shaped the way numerous students imagine high school to be, a jungle filled with popular girls clothed in pink, outrageous school-wide fights and of course, a burn book. While most of what is depicted will probably never occur in ones high school career, the film reminds us that school--especially high school-- isn't half bad. Or at least it makes us grateful that "fetch" hasn't caught on, and that Regina George isn't real.

Favourite Line:


One time, she punched me in the face. It was awesome.

For the Future Ms. Career Gal: 13 Going on 30


I have yet to watch a movie with a dance scene to Michael Jackson's Thriller of this calibre. Not to mention the whole concept of the film itself. A 13-year-old miraculously turning into a 30-year-old, earning her a glimpse into her future as a self-made woman. Yes, please! If the dance scene doesn't cheer you up, Jenna's mistakes and mishaps as she tries to connect the dots, correct her past mistakes, while managing her career, makes next week's slew of assignments seem a little more manageable.

Favourite Line:


Thirty, Flirty and Thriving

For the Peppy Prepster: Bring It On


This high-flying-hip-hopping-spirit-finger-wielding movie is bound to put you in a better mood. It's like Mean Girls,  full of sass and attitude, mixed with lots of pep, spirit sticks and team curses. As the new cheer captain Torrance tries to steer her team to victory, she faces a few obstacles in the form of their school rivals, the Clovers. Old squad secrets are brought to light, serving as a true lesson on plagiarism. Torrance's championship Toros must start from scratch, and are forced to search for inspiration in the most unlikely of places in order to redeem their title and have what it takes to "bring it" against Isis' Clovers.

Favourite Line:


Follow me, or perish, sweater monkeys. 

Here's to great year everyone!

Alexandra XO

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#MsBookworm: My Back-to-School Favourites

August 26, 2015

As the summer draws to a close and changes begin to take place, having a bit of familiarity in my life helps to make the transition from the routine of leisure, to the strict and time-crunched schedule that school creates. There are many vices I turn to in order to cope with the arrival of the new school year, such as watching a movies on Netflix, tackling a tough recipe, or revising last year's notes (it is always on my list but never actually gets accomplished), but reading is the most effective one. Cracking open an old book is like revisiting an old friend. The familiar words are like a warm hug, and flipping through the pages is like leafing through an old scrapbook, with each new chapter evoking a strong sense of nostalgia. 

The key word for me this school year is balance, a healthy balance. I will no longer spend hours and hours on school work while depriving myself of the ability to experience and take part in activities that bring me happiness and keep me sane. In regards to reading, last year was my worse by far. My list of books to read grew longer as the months dragged by, but very few of them actually made it into my hand or off of my shelf. In an effort to change that I've relaunched this segment, in which I will share a short review of a few books (approximately 1-3) that I've managed to read over the months. I am aiming to add a few more novels every month, but as you well know, life happens.

For Romance and Magic: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson


The "true" story of Wendy, the Lost Boys, Peter Pan and of course Tiger Lily, told by the beloved (and mischievous) Tinker Bell. Although small and mute, the fairy puts aside her tricks long enough to give us insight into this new version of Neverland, and the origins of Princess Tiger Lily.  The author does a fantastic job at pulling our heartstrings and sending us back to a time and a place where fairies and man coexisted, and to grow old was an impossibility.  By closely mirroring the world that J.M. Barrie created all those years ago in the original Peter Pan, the tale of romance between the wild Peter and the brave Tiger Lily seamlessly incorporates itself into the already beloved tale. Captivating, riveting and full of intrigue, I love reading this book again and again.

Favorite Quote:


 “Sometimes I think that maybe we are just stories. Like we may as well just be words on a page, because we’re only what we’ve done and what we are going to do.”Tiger Lily

For an Adventure and Mystery: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

One boy. One dog. One mystery which sends our young protagonist Christopher Boone on a  path towards adventure, independence and uncovering his family's secrets. Through his unconventional way of seeing the world, be prepared to have your own eyes opened as well. While overcoming the difficulties of an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), he uses his talents to show us a much more logical world, that is no less devoid of heart and emotion than a "regular" one. Get ready to "feel" for Christopher on his journey, as one curious incident unfolds right after the other. Be prepared to cheer at his triumphs and sigh at his unlikely encounters. One event leads to a whole slew of them turning Christopher and our lives upside down.

Favourite Quote:


"Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them." --The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

For Advice and Inspiration: What to Wear, Where! by Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power


I love the website Who What Wear. It's where I turn to fulfill my fashion fix, and for inspiration for a new outfit. So as soon as I heard that the creators of the site had published this book-- albeit a few years late--, I ran to my local library and quickly read the book from front to cover. The book is a feast for the eyes and ignites the fashion spirit in all of us. If you have ever been invited to an event and stressed about what or what not to wear, or need inspiration for a back-to-school outfit, then this is the book for you. Although a lot of the outfits shown might be too glamorous for an academic environment, the advice is sound and the looks can be tweaked to your liking. Clear and concise, every outfit has an accompanying picture, description of the event, and suggestions for further arrangements. From first dates to first interviews, the book truly offers an outfit for "every occasion A to Z". 

Favorite Quote:


"When it comes to fashion, there are very few rules that apply to everyone, all of the time." --What to Wear, Where!


If you have any suggestions, I would be thrilled to hear and take a look at them! Leave a comment below, or tweet me at @itsMsTLilly!

~Alexandra

 
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Senior Year Musings (or the Hidden Wisdom of Paper Towns)

August 05, 2015



Finally, this is the moment I have been waiting for my whole life, Senior Year. The time when I am the eldest among the youngest, and the wisest amongst the foolish. There has been so much building up to this year that I can't help but wonder where all of the time has gone. I have reached that scary point where what actually occurs in the movies is somewhat relevant to my own life. Where I can find myself within the books I read and can find familiarity in the tales that others tell of their own "teenhood".

Senior Year. The more I say it, the more I hope that it will sink in. It's the dawn of a new era, and the ending of a world that was so familiar to me not-so-long ago. "It is a whole new experience!" they say, "Enjoy it!" they cry and "You will miss it!"they assure me. Miss it. It? I never really understood what it was until a few afternoons ago. While sitting the chilly mall theater with a few of my old friends, I watched as the characters contemplated the culminating events of their own Senior Year. The year full of first and last times, full of it.
 
“I'd had nearly four years of experience looking at these clocks, but their sluggishness never ceased to surprise. If I am ever told that I have one day to live, I will head straight to the hallowed halls of Winter Park High School, where a day has been known to last a thousand years.”
― John Green, Paper Towns   

And where a year has been know to last an eon. An entire lifetime gone in the blink of an eye. A whole world where time is spent following a repetitive schedule, doing things that you will probably never do again. That my friends is it. The people, the memories, the fears, the laughs, the mistakes and yes, even the classes. It,  a two letter word with a double meaning. It itself contains all of the moments that make up life. All of life's fleeting moments that will never happen again, but that will never leave you the same way.


You will remain forever changed, but in order for this change to take place, you need to be present. You cannot keep waiting until the next Senior Year, or the next big chapter in your life, you need to willingly turn the page. You need mount your trusty steed, sword in hand, and gallop in the search of it.

As John Green wrote in the book Paper Towns, “At some point, you gotta stop looking up at the sky, or one of these days you'll look back down and see that you floated away, too.” While I am not thrilled that school is starting, I am excited for this new year, to finally stop floating and begin rising to the occasion. I look forward to not just floating amidst the clouds, but taking control of the winds and blow them in the right direction. While, the beginning of Senior Year may be green light that launches me onto the right path, I can assure you that the ending of it will not be marked with a red or yellow light. I will not pass Go and collect my 200 dollars, I will speed up and reach new heights. And while I don't know what is in store, but in the words of John Green, I do know how I will feel,


"Young. Goofy. Infinite.”

― John Green, Paper Towns  

  

~Alexandra XO 

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The 2015 Pan American Games: A Life-changing Summertime Adventure

July 27, 2015
Original Picture via Designerspics.com

I've always scoffed at movies which showed summertime as being some sort of yearly renewal of enlightenment. Regardless of genre or age group, they all follow a similar timeline in their quest to craft the perfect coming-of-age tale. Usually, the unhappy protagonist is tossed into a leadership position, they inevitably succeed and then return home confident and wiser. Generally, the film is characterized by a bully -- it can be a strict parent, an even stricter boss, or a ruthless ninja assassin-- who gets kicked to the curb near the end of the film. With such a promising premise, I, like so many others look forward to the beginning of summertime.

In retrospect, I was a probably a bit jealous. I wanted to go on a thrilling 2-month long adventure in which I got to slay the dragon, save the kingdom and win the prince's heart. I waited impatiently for the day when some Sherlock-level mystery would fall at my doorstep, and I would find myself sorting through salicious gossip and cold-hearted fiends to solve the case. Yet, in all of my time spent waiting, it never occurred to me that in order to take part in the stories that I loved to read and watch, that I would have to be the author of my very own narrative. I failed to see how I was standing in my own way of finding this so-called "summertime enlightenment". Cliché, I know but the truth nevertheless.

I had promised myself last summer that this one would be different. Not only would I rest up from the long-months spent hunched over my textbook, fingers cramped from typing and bloodshot eyes held open by toothpicks and Washi tape. I would prep for the scholarly "New Year" - the first day of school (A much more sullen "holiday". Instead of ushering in the year with cheery music, you are welcomed to the sound of your 7am alarm ringing). I would create my own coming-of-age story, and take the first step towards my grand adventure.

My saving grace came in the form of applying to volunteer for the Pan American Games. An experience which has simultaneously stripped me of my energy physically, while electrifying my mind and my motivation for the future. My short month spent there has taught me more about the world and about myself than anytime spent in school could provide. In three weeks, I have met so many volunteers who have redefined the meaning of dedication, heart and unity. In this small period of time I've attended my first opening and closing ceremony, olympic level sport's event and concert (Pitbull, Kanye and Serena Ryder are great live). In one short month, I've made the leap from a sure teenager to a confident young adult.

I have learned resourcefulness, spontaneity and quick-thinking as my fellow volunteers and I strived to solve problems with what little knowledge we did have (with the help of our supervisors we turned into a troop of customer service MacGyvers. I have seen firsthand how much  the pwer of a sincere smile, a quick hello and little bit of confidence can brighten someone's day. Although I've never left my city, my countless encounters with members of the participating 41 countries have left me feeling as if I had just taken a tour around the world -- at this point I fully expect a mild tan or to find seashells and sand in my purse. I encourage everyone to seize the opportunity to take part in some sort of similar event, because I promise you that it will be a truly unforgettable experience which leaves you with too many fun pictures and lessons that I can't possibly share in one blog post. You will see things and do things which will make you grow and expand your horizons, which ultimately is what a (life-changing) summertime adventure really is.

~Alexandra XO

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The Benefits of Drinking Water and 7 Simple Ways to Drink More of it

July 13, 2015



Water equals life. The only and original fountain of youth, how hydrated you are affects your health, the shininess of your hair and softness of your skin. So rather quickly a lack of it can drastically affect you inside and out.

A perfect example of this was during the summer when my sister and I were caring for our sunflower. We were supposed to water it every day before heading out to do whatever activity that we had planned, but eventually we started slacking off. Two days later we checked on our beloved sunflower again, only to find that the petals were wilting and the leaves weren't as green as usual. Feeling ashamed we quickly watered it before we left and prayed that life would return to the poor sunflower. Three hours later, we returned to find it looking healthier than it was ever.

Water has more healing properties besides bringing plants back from the verge of death. As you know, a large percentage of our bodies is composed of water, and so it's essential to our overall functioning. Seeing as we lose some through tears, sweat, saliva, etc., it's important to replenish your stores in order to stay in shape. The more you sip, the more it replenishes your muscles and the more your kidneys to filter any waste from your body fluids, keeping your inside and outsides looking fresh. It's an excellent and natural way to flush out toxins from your system, ensuring for great and healthy skin.

Sipping H2O is also a natural way to reduce the amount of food that you eat. Sometimes when I feel slightly hungry, it's mainly because I'm thirsty. Like the sunflower, after a cup or two I'm feeling a whole lot better and more energized. Drinking a glass of water before a meal also helps to curb your hunger and makes you eat less than you usually would. H2O also has a powerful affect on reducing the amount of sweets you eat too. There are days when a craving for something sweet, turns into a whole meal devoted to the sugariest, stickies treats available. On days like those, drinking water after the second or third treat, helps to cleanse the pallet and get rid of the craving. 

I know that it's not the tastiest drink out there (if I could power my body on lemonade I would), but it is essential. So, in order to help you become the healthiest you can be, here are a few simple way to drink more water.

Drink Tea 

Tea is filled with health boosting properties, which makes it a perfect way to up your intake of H2O. However, in order to reap in the benefits from the tea itself and the water, you are going to have to either not put sugar in it or use a minimal amount of sweetener (try honey instead of sugar). 

Use an App

There's an app for anything and everything. As more people are trying to stay hydrated, there are more application available to make drinking water easy and fun. Two of my favorites are Plant Nanny for the ease and cuteness of the plants, and Fitbit for the look of the interface and the ability to record all of my health information in one place. 

Infuse your water with fruits

I love adding a bit of lemon juice to my water whenever I drink. If you like to add whole fruits like oranges or berries, there are tons of bottles available with specialized fruit infusing compartments which make giving your water a fruity punch a breeze.

Bring it with you

If you keep a water bottle with you wherever you go, you have no excuse to not drink it when you get thirsty. Even if you run out, water fountains are available almost everywhere helping you to save money and your skin.

Drink with your meal

When you sit down to eat your meal, drink a glass before you take a bite of anything. Like I said previously, it will help to reduce the amount of food you eat and allows you to add a few more milliliters to your daily H2O intake.

Buy a funky bottle

There's nothing like cute accessories to make even the most mundane tasks more fun to handle. Putting your water in a funky bottle or special glass will motivate you to drink more of it.

Fruits and veggies

Most fruits and vegetables are mostly composed of water, so snacking on foods like carrots, watermelon or cucumber can help boost your H2O intake.


P.S. Check out this article for more information on the benefits of water.

P.P.S Read my article on Plant Nanny here.

How do you stay hydrated? What's your favorite drink?

@itsalamb