Gap Year Goals

Last weekend, I graduated high school.

My gap year has now officially begun and I’ve created some goals to work towards throughout the year before I begin college.  Check them out below!

Atlanta Botanical Gardens: After Dark

Last weekend, in celebration of Mother’s Day, my family ventured to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens to experience their “Chihuly in the Garden” exhibition at night.
My family actually first saw the Chihuly exhibition years ago at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, but seeing it a second time after dark was an even cooler experience.
All of the pieces were created by Dale Chihuly, who has been a glassblower since the 1960’s.  Chihuly’s pieces have been shown all over the world, and they don’t disappoint.  Each piece is so whimsy and colorful, and each part is so intricately crafted.
The fact that the exhibition was hosted at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens only made it more beautiful: the gardens are so extensive and well-manicured that they were the perfect setting for Chihuly’s unique pieces of art.
All in all, we had a fantastic, relaxing evening of strolling around the gardens at night.  After exploring the gardens, we rushed over to the nearest Whole Foods where we grabbed some vegan desserts (chocolate coffee cake and vegan brownie, you have my heart) and some surprisingly delicious non-dairy milk (Califia Farms Vanilla Protein Almond Milk is where it’s at!)

Take a look at some of my pictures from the night in the photo gallery below.

 

 

The Nitty Gritty: My Favorite Adventures with Mom

Over the years, my mom and I have done some pretty cool things together.  We’ve explored New York City, competed together at a national competition for archery, attended numerous film festivals, partied at concerts, and road tripped all over.  If I wanted to tell you about each and every incredible adventure we’ve been on, you’d better wish you have a nice, padded seat and a hot cup of tea, because you’d be reading for a while.  So today, I’ll restrict myself to telling you about some of the coolest hiking adventures we’ve been on.  From local hidden treasures to distant, otherworldly summits, we’ve conquered a lot of trails and peaks, and we can’t wait to do more.

Canyon Climbers Club Challenge

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Last summer, my mom and I set out to climb into Georgia’s 4 canyons: Tallulah Gorge, Amicalola Falls, Providence Canyon, and Cloudland Canyon (read more about our adventures here!).  We ended up completing the challenge in just over 48 hours.  It’s one of my favorite memories from 2015 because of all the beautiful spots we got to explore – some of which we never even knew existed.  Looking back, it’s one of my favorite memories from 2015, and an accomplishment I’m definitely proud of!

Bear Butte, South Dakota

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This hike was so special in so many ways: not only were we revisiting one of the hikes we used to take when I was a kid, but we also got to take my nephew on his very first proper hike!  The highlight of this hike was getting to accomplish it as a family, and hopefully we sparked a sense of adventure in my nephew that he’ll get to pursue later in life after he’s done being the cutest baby in the world.

Appalachian Approach Trail

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Man oh man, was this hike an adventure.  To get a recap all of the craziness that went down, check out this post.  Despite various threats of murderous hobos, bloodthirsty bears, and possible hypothermia, this trip was fun from beginning to end.  As my first overnight camping trip, this was certainly an experience I’ll never forget (although not one I’d like to repeat).  After getting a few more serious hikes under my belt, I can see some of the mistakes we made on this trip (like going camping last-minute in November, for instance), but I’m so thankful I got to share this experience with my family.  At the end of the day, it really cemented my desire to continue hiking and camping, and it made me proud to see how determined and positive my mom is in the even the most unpleasant situations.

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My mom is one of the coolest, funniest, toughest, most determined, and kick-butt people I know.  She has never let her circumstances or setbacks define who she is or what she is capable of, and she has always pushed me to become the best person I can be.  Today, I thank her for all the moments we’ve shared together: all the weekend trips, the donut and coffee dates, the hours spent stuck in traffic, the college tours, the movie viewings, the late-night kitchen conversations, the half-asleep Catfish watchings, and the out-of-breath trail talks.  Thank you, mom, for being my biggest supporter, my friend, my confidante, my role model, my source of wisdom, and my best friend.  You really do have Grit.  I love you!

Plan Your Own Galentine’s Day Gathering!

Valentine’s Day: for some, it is a day of celebration and romance with that special someone in your life, but for others, it is nothing more than just another day in the life of a single Pringle.  This year, I propose we cast aside our relationship statuses and gather to celebrate Galentine’s Day.  What is Galentine’s Day, you might ask?  I’ll let my friend and role model, Leslie Knope, answer:

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To better answer your question, Galentine’s Day is a special day created by the ever wonderful, uplifting, magical (but sadly fictional) being that is Leslie Knope of the TV show “Parks and Recreation”.  You see, Leslie Knope is all about girl power, and celebrating your fellow woman, and showing the people you love just how much you love them, and Galentine’s Day is all about doing those things!  It’s a day for gathering with your best gal pals, doing something fun, exchanging some heartfelt words and/or gifts, and having a super fun day of positivity.  The best part about Galentine’s Day is that everyone is welcome to participate, regardless of whether you’re in a relationship or not!
Last year, I got to celebrate Galentine’s Day with some of my awesome friends, so I have a couple tips for organizing your own celebration:

  1. Do something fun and casual
    Whether you decide to go for a group hike, see a movie and grab dinner, or just meet up at a coffee shop and talk, pick a place and an activity that the whole group will enjoy! Keep it casual and fun, but get creative: try a new activity or take a mini, group road trip and see what happens!
  2. Gather a group of uplifting friends
    Maybe you plan your day with a big group of friends, or maybe you just meet up with one close confidante: either way, celebrate the day with good friends that you know will make the day awesome. Don’t feel an obligation to invite every single girl you know, but don’t be exclusive!  Reach out to some friends you haven’t talked to in a while, or some you’re just starting to get to know.
  3. Take a moment to commend each other
    One of my favorite parts of my Galentine’s Day celebration was taking a moment to give a little shoutout to everyone there and let me know some of the things I love about them. This can be a really special moment, or a fun opportunity to remember hilarious moments from your friendship – just keep it sincere!
  4. (Optional) Give a small, thoughtful gift
    At my Galentine’s Day celebration, I gave each attendee a different plant that I felt reflected a specific quality about them. It was really fun seeing my friends’ excitement and getting to share with them why I chose specific plants for specific people.  Don’t feel obligated to spend loads of money on these gifts – and don’t give any at all if you don’t feel compelled to!  It may sound cliché, but it really is the thought that counts: even a simple, handmade card with a little note inside is a really sweet gesture that your friends are sure to appreciate.

And there you have it!  I hope you have a lovely Valentine’s Day this year, and I hope you take the opportunity to plan your very own Galentine’s Day!

Tips for Relaxation

Listen – I am in no way claiming to be a chill person.  In fact, I have very little chill.  But throughout high school, I’ve come to realize that one of the most important things you can do is take time for yourself to just hit the pause button and relax.  I think it’s time we start introducing mindfulness to our lives and creating time within our schedules to get comfy and de-stress, whether that means scheduling a full day of relaxation or carving out a quick hour or two in between tasks.  To get the most out of your relaxation time, here are some of my favorite tips to just chill out:

Write it Out

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A lot of times when I get stressed throughout the day it’s because my mind is racing with everything I have to do and when it needs to get done.  Before you dive into your relaxation time, take a moment to actually write out what you need to get done throughout the next day or week, whether that means making a quick list or committing some time to scheduling out your tasks.  After you’ve written out your to-do list, let it go and completely forget about it (at least for the next couple hours as you relax).  Anytime your mind starts to wander back to everything you have to do, simple remind yourself that you know what you need to do, and you’re going to get it done, and then return to the moment.

Dress to De-Stress

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Aside from leaving the house for school, work, and other errands, I pretty much live out of pajamas and sweatpants.  To me, there is nothing more relaxing than changing into a T-shirt and a comfy pair of pants after a day of jeans and assigned shirts.  I encourage you to put on your comfiest pair of pants to get into a relaxation mindset, whether those are funky yoga pants, a reliable pair of sweatpants you’ve had for years, or some downright awesome pajama bottoms that combine your love of food and comfiness.

Snack On, But Snack Smart

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Let’s be honest: if you’re spending some time lazing around the house, it’s really easy to just snack on anything that’s quick and tasty (I’m talking chips, cookies, trail mixes, and all other kinds of food that I am definitely guilty of stuffing my face with).  But during your relaxation time, I encourage you to be mindful of what you eat, and why you’re eating.  Don’t just snack around because you’re bored or you want something to do: eat when you’re actually hungry, and only eat until you’re satisfied, not until you’re uncomfortable or stuffed.  And try to keep your snacks and meals balanced: commit to eating more fruits and veggies as snacks, but don’t be afraid to treat yourself to a delicious vegan espresso chocolate chip cookie.  Most importantly: stay hydrated throughout the day and keep a water bottle handy.  You’ll end the day with a refreshed body and an especially happy tummy.

Tend to Your Scentsitivity

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If you’re like me, you might be an especially scentsitive person, meaning you may have strong reactions to certain smells, and even get bad headaches or have other physical side effects if a bad smell lingers too long.  So take a moment to make yourself and your house smell good: burn a little incense, rub some lightly-scented lotion on your hands, knees, and elbows, or go for the gold and break out those essential oils.  I love putting a drop of orange essential oil in my water bottle for a refreshing twist, or you can take your favorite scent and rub it on your wrists and temple.  Sometimes it’s also nice to put a few drops of lavender or peppermint oil on a tissue and carry it with you throughout the day.

Stretch it Out

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Doing yoga is one of the most relaxing things for me, personally.  I get to really notice how I’m feeling (both mentally and physically) and focus on being present in the moment and stretching out any sore or tense areas in my body.  Check out Yoga With Adriene’s channel for some awesome yoga videos: I love her “Yoga for Stress Relief” and 30 Days of Yoga videos, and if you’re interested in starting a regular yoga routine, I encourage you to dive into her Yoga Camp, which started January 1st of this year (although you can join whenever you like – it’s totally flexible and totally free!).  Her “Quick Stress Fix” video is also a great resource for anyone who just wants to take a quick stretch break before moving on with their day.

Cozy Up

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It can be really beneficial to take a chunk of time and dedicate it to a calm and engaging activity, so I encourage you to cozy up with a blanket and do just that.  You can watch that movie that’s been on your Netflix list for ages or catch up on whatever you’ve been reading.  This is really an opportunity to settle in and treat yourself to some quiet time doing something that you enjoy.  If you end up feeling sleepy, embrace it and take a nap – your body may need the rest.  If you watch your movie or read for a good half hour and then feel ready to move on: get up, stretch it out, and find another calm activity to do.

Create Something

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Whenever I have a couple of hours to relax, I love to spend part of that time creating some art or doing another constructive activity along those lines.  I always find it rewarding to invest some time in creating something, whether it be a quick drawing, a piece of origami, or a much-needed journal entry.  This is also a great time to write letters to family or friends or make some homemade cards or thank-you notes.  If you’re not a particularly artsy person, I still encourage you to do something creative and constructive: you can always go online for tutorials on quick, fun projects (like how to make an origami swan or use cool patterns to cut intricate paper snowflakes).

I hope you are able to implement and benefit from these tips and that you are able to create plenty of relaxing moments throughout the year.  Stay chill, my friends.

A Note on New Year’s

Christmas is (sadly) over and New Year’s Eve is right around the corner which means we’re right in the thick of that exciting, scary, “how did the year go by so fast” season.  On one hand, the prospect of a new year and a fresh start is exhilarating and promising; on the other hand, the thought of the upcoming year and all the twists and turns that may unfold can become unsettling.
Another trademark of this “in-between-season” is the mounting pressure to create a set of resolutions for the year: activities you want to begin, changes you want to make, and dreams you want to realize.  Although I appreciate the general idea of New Year’s resolutions, I think the mindset of becoming a new person overnight and pressuring yourself to be a certain way or do certain things can become very dangerous.  Instead, I think we need to realize the importance of setting healthy, challenging goals, and making practical changes that we can actually maintain throughout the whole year.  So this year, let’s promise ourselves to:

Remember it all – whenever something fun, crazy, or exciting happens, grab any nearby paper and write a quick note about the event, including the date.  Gather the scraps of paper in a jar or bowl and go through them all at the end of the year.

Listen to our bodies – eat food that tastes good and makes you feel good.  Push yourself to get active; experiment until you find something that makes you want to stay active.  Sleep in when you need it.

Create quiet moments – read in bed until you fall asleep.  Burn incense and practice yoga.  Take a walk (or a hike).  Bake cookies and watch a movie.

Get uncomfortable – go to that party you’re unsure about.  Host your own event.  Talk to someone new.  Try an activity that secretly interests you.  Embrace embarrassment and laugh it off.

Adventure – explore a new, local area.  Take a mini road trip to a nearby town.  Travel out of the state, or out of the country.

Take care of yourself – get in tune with what you need, physically, emotionally, and mentally.  Open up to someone you love and trust about how you’ve been feeling.  Spend time with people that make you excited about life.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Explore your interests and find what you love: don’t just dream about it, figure out how to make it happen.  Organize your life once in a while: clean the house and do the laundry, even if you don’t want to.  Love yourself, especially when it seems impossible.  Be mindful of what you say, and the impact of your words.  Acknowledge your imperfections: identify and strive to improve those that you can influence, and move on from those that are beyond your control.  Laugh as often as you can.  Cry and scream until you’re exhausted and then pick yourself up and move forward.  Become the kind of person that you looked up to as a kid.  Try to accept that life is messy and terrifying and thrilling and rewarding and ultimately an opportunity to create and fail and experience and accomplish and learn and adventure.

Seize your opportunity, and have a beautiful year.

My Favorite Movies of 2015

From huge box-office hits (Jurassic World) to acclaimed indie films (Room) and all the highly-anticipated, soon-to-be iconic films inbetween (The Revenant, The Hateful Eight), 2015 has been quite the year for movies.  As the end of the year approaches, I’m taking a look back at some of my favorite films from the past year:

Mad Max: Fury Road
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Image courtesy of youtube.com 

As one of the earlier big-budget releases in the year, this film really set the stage for a pattern of huge box office returns and a resurgence of already-established movie franchises.  Fury Road was one of my favorite films this year because it perfectly combined insanely choreographed action sequences, beautiful cinematography, and a host of crazy cool characters.

The Stanford Prison Experiment
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Image courtesy of nuvo.net

Based on the real-life controversial Stanford Prison Experiment of the 70’s, this movie is moody, claustrophobic, and quietly disturbing.  The cinematography is dark and monotone, often reflecting the tone of the action, and the cast expertly anchors all of the panic, viciousness, and violence that erupt.

The Martian
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Image courtesy of foxmovies.com

One of the most unique things about The Martian is that it truly created its own place amongst some of the greatest space movies in history.  Where it could have veered off into unrealistic science fiction or hopelessly doomed drama, The Martian is unafraid to explore the full reach of human emotions, and it succeeds in keeping the storyline grounded and actually plausible.

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
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Image courtesy of rollingstone.com

For die-hard Nirvana fans, this was probably one of the most exciting releases of the year, and the film’s inventive use of home footage, sit-down interviews and animated sequences narrated by personal recordings from Kurt Cobain himself should place this film on anyone’s top list of documentaries.  Tracing the musician’s journey from his troubled youth to his massive success, and interweaving stories from his career and personal life, this documentary is a heartbreaking, all-encompassing, intimate exploration of Cobain, with a notable focus on his life rather than the circumstances of his death.

Ex Machina
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Image courtesy of blastr.com

The beauty of Ex Machina is really in the horror of it: the film seeks to explore the question of what might actually happen if we one day succeed in creating artificial intelligence, and the answer is not very assuring.  The whole movie has an undercurrent of ominous anticipation, and almost every aspect of the film – the characters, the setting, the score – could be summed up as “beautiful but deadly.”

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
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Image courtesy of theatlantic.com

At first glance, it would be easy to compare this movie to The Fault in Our Stars, and although both movies deal with the emotional baggage that comes along with being a teenager and dealing with cancer, that’s pretty much where their similarities end.  This movie is charming, quirky, darkly funny, and incredibly moving.  Every scene feels completely sincere: from the awkwardness of trying to cheer someone up at their darkest time to the depression and anger that result from undergoing cancer treatment, this movie will leave you laughing, crying and emotionally exhausted in the best way possible.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
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Image courtesy of gamespot.com

Simply put, this movie is incredible: the score, the action, the visual effects, the editing, and the characters are impeccable, and this movie masterfully revives a franchise that some had feared ruined after the unfortunate trilogy of prequels.  For those who grew up watching the Star Wars films, this movie is both familiar and refreshingly new, and will hopefully launch a new set of equally dazzling continuations and spin-offs.  For the people out there who aren’t as familiar with the Star Wars universe, this movie is equally enjoyable, having skillfully blended homages to the original trilogy with an exciting new story and set of characters that are straight-up kick-butt.  I can promise you, almost nothing can compare to the experience of sitting in a theater and hearing the iconic score begin as the audience erupts into cheers.

This list is really just a taste of all the incredible movies that came out this year.  As 2015 comes to an end, I’m excited to catch up on all the great movies I missed, and get excited for all the new movies that will be released in 2016.  What were your favorite movies of 2015?

Homemade Christmas Presents

With Christmas so close, there’s a lot of pressure nowadays to buy gifts for friends, family, and other loved ones.  I love getting my friends fun, meaningful gifts, but as a busy teenager, I don’t have a lot of extra money to spare to buy gifts for everyone I love.  So I’ve come up with 5 fun, homemade gifts that your loved ones are sure to appreciate.  Check them out:

1.  OrigamiPresents1_edited-1

Origami may seem really complicated, but it’s actually not!  There are loads of great tutorials on YouTube, and you can learn how to make pretty much anything.  I especially love this tutorial on how to make a tiny origami elephant.  It’s cute, fun, and actually really soothing to make.

2.  An Adventure BookPresents3
Last year, I made my mom an adventure book, full of pictures and little notes from all of the hiking adventures we’ve been on so far.  All you need to do is find an empty journal book, get some pictures printed of your favorite adventures or memories with your loved one, and put it all together!  Be sure to leave room for you to add more memories and adventures to the book together.

3.  Minimalist Painting/Drawing
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I’ll be the first to admit that I am not particularly gifted in the painting/drawing area.  However, it can be really easy to give your loved one a super simple piece of art: if you know of a picture they have that they really like, try to paint or draw it yourself!  You can always pull the picture up on your computer, put a piece of paper on your screen and lightly trace the picture.  For this painting, I simply found a picture of my dog, traced the outline, and painted the outside in purple (my mom’s favorite color!).  Be creative and don’t worry if it isn’t perfect: they’ll appreciate the effort and consideration anyways!

4.  A Coupon Book
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I’ve actually been making this gift for my parents since I was a little kid, and it hasn’t gotten old!  For each month of the upcoming year, pick either a date or fun adventure you want to do with your loved one, or offer to do a chore or small favor for them throughout the month.  Get creative!

5.  A Story Book
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This gift is super fun and thoughtful: simply write a short story about your loved one and make a little book for it!  If you know your loved one has a specific goal or dream they want to accomplish, include that in the story – or just make it completely random and fun.  The book itself is really easy to make, and you don’t have to worry about drawing anything if you’re not very good at it: simply print out a bunch of different pictures of your loved one, you and them together, or other things or people that are important to them, cut them and out, and include them in the book along with your handwritten story.

I hope you find these homemade gift ideas helpful and are able to try some on your own this year.  Just remember: get creative, don’t worry about it being perfect, and most importantly, let your loved ones know they are loved.  Have a very merry Christmas!

 

Sweater Collection

Thanksgiving is fast approaching which means Christmas isn’t soon after – I love this time of year for a bunch of different reasons (getting together with family, enjoying fires and holiday movies, consuming unholy amounts of cookies, etc.), and one reason I love it so much is I get to break out my sweater collection.
Sweaters are basically the perfect piece of clothing.  They’re warm, cozy, fashionable, and easy to style, and I’ve gathered a pretty fun collection of sweaters over the years: check them out!

realsweater1The One From Goodwill

I recently rediscovered this sweater after picking it up at a local Goodwill last year and I’ve been wearing it nonstop!  This sweater always keeps me warm and is really versatile – I love pairing it with a pair of dark skinny jeans and some ankle boots.

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The Hand-Me-Down

To be honest, I actually stole this sweater out of my dad’s closet.  He hadn’t worn it in years and I loved the dark cranberry color.  The sweater was a bit too broad in the shoulders so I ended up cutting the collar – now I can easily pair this sweater with a fun tank top (like this daisy halter-top one!).

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The One From Middle School

This is the only sweater in my collection that wasn’t bought at a thrift shop or vintage store (or stolen from a family-member): I got it at Forever 21 way back in middle school!  I love the color of this sweater – it looks great with both simple accessories or other colorful pieces.  In the summer, I like to pair this sweater with some loose black-and-white shorts for a relaxed, fun look.

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The Crazy 80’s Sweater

I love this sweater.  So much.  I spotted it at a fun vintage shop near downtown Atlanta and knew I had to buy it.  Admittedly, the sweater is a bit short on me, but I love it anyways.  This is another sweater I love to wear year-round: either in the winter with some dark jeans and sneakers, or with light bottoms in the summer!

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The One I Always Get Compliments On

I picked this sweater up a couple of years ago at another local Goodwill for an ugly sweater party at my school.  This sweater is an extra large so it’s definitely pretty roomy on me, and the pattern and colors scream 90’s, but strangely enough, this is probably the piece of clothing I get the most compliments on!  I do love this sweater, despite the unlikely colors and extra-large-fit.  It’s super comfy and looks fun and casual with some dark jeans and sneakers.

And there you have it!  I’m not usually one to post about fashion, because I always go for comfort over style, but I am pretty proud of my little collection of sweaters.  They’re fun, versatile, and still downright comfy.