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3 Ways to Foster a Habit of Gratitude

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November 27, 2014

I love my church. I don't talk about my faith much on this blog just because I generally view religion as a private thing (but not a secret!). I go to a very small (think 50 people) Lutheran church twice a week, once for a service and brunch and once for community with other college students. If you're not familiar with churches, specifically Christian churches, the reverend or pastor will give a short message (at my church, it's about 15-20 minutes) using verses from the Bible. Sometimes, it's theological teaching, but other times it's simply practical tips on living better. Last week, in preparation for Thanksgiving, our priest talked about three habits you can make to practice gratitude and, as he said, change your life. 

And so, very quickly, since I want to get back to my family (and hello, the food!), I wanted to share these three practices with you.

Testimony of thankfulness // Testimony is sort of a church word (or an infomercial word!) but it really just means a story of how someone has affected you. I challenge you to write a short testimony (but at least a paragraph or two) about someone who has positively affected you in your life. Then, (this is the tough part) you have to call up that person, meet with them in person if possible and read it to them.

Blessing Bowl // Find a spot on your desk or bathroom counter and place a bowl/bottle/jar and blank slips of paper. Every time you pass by the bowl, you must write down something you're thankful for and place the slip in the jar. 

Use a gratitude app // There's a huge variety of options out there, but my favorite so far is called Day One. Or, you can be a little more minimalist and either keep an ongoing list in your notes app of your phone. Finally, if you like pen and paper (like me!), you can set an alarm each day and write in a gratitude journal. Sometimes I also just journal right when I get up or before I go to bed.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!! Have a wonderful day with your family and don't be in too big of a rush for it to be over so Black Friday can be here! :)

How do you stay thankful? 

Quotes to Inspire Your Passion

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November 25, 2014

Something that I knew I wanted to focus on when I rebranded my blog a few weeks ago was passion. For awhile, I worked really hard trying to figure out how I could identify with people reading my blog. After some thought, I realized that it comes down to passion. I might not have the same history or interests as you...but as soon as you let out what you are passionate about, I can identify with you since I know what it's like to be passionate. 

I'm passionate about living the best life possible and helping other people do the same. I'm passionate about agriculture and plants and the intensely complex world that I study. I'm passionate about being fearless and bold and becoming a better, happier version of myself every day.

And so, to inspire your passion, here are a few quotes that remind me to bring more excitement and fun and enthusiasm into my life.

"Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you." -Oprah Winfrey

"Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow." -Anthony D'Angelo

"There is no passion to be found playing small--in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living." -Nelson Mandela>

"You can't fake passion." -Barbara Corcoran

What are you passionate about? 

Curated / 3

| On
November 21, 2014

This week, I've had three GREAT pieces of news. First off, last week I mentioned that I've decided to get a French minor + I took a placement test to see how much (if any!) French I remembered. Turns out, I scored well enough to skip 10 credits of French! Which, at least at my school, is two or three courses. So that's awesome. 

Second, I got a research position! I had to interview a professor for a class project + at the end we were chatting about the work that he does and he offered me a position! It's in the plant pathology department and I'll largely be working on a fungus called Sclerotinia sclerotiorum (I linked to a picture in case you're interested!). So that's a big deal for me! 

And last, I recently auditioned for a course in fitness instruction at my school, and was accepted! We auditioned in a practical doing different group fitness routines and an interview and they ended up accepting only about twenty out of ninety five applicants! Basically, this means I get to go through the training process and then work as a group fitness instructor at our gyms (think kickboxing, yoga, conditioning). 

So I've had a pretty lovely week. How about yours?

Delicious natural home scents (citrus basil? yes please!).
A guide to Reykjavik (I've always wanted to go to Iceland!)
+ How technology is sabotaging your sleep (even though you already know)

I'm really just counting down the days until Christmas music is acceptable (seven days!!!) so this is the last bit of normal music. This Christmas I'm planning on expanding to different "genres" within Christmas music. I've always loved 50s Christmas music but I'm gonna look around for some other genres. If you know of any cool Christmas songs, let me know!!

But what have I been listening to in the meantime? The Frozen soundtrack. Freaking over and over. It's wonderful. And NO it is not Christmas music. Gosh. 

Anyways, you can listen to it on Spotify here

In case you ever doubted that food can be art, look around the @julieskitchen instagram!

This week, I'm repeating my goal from last week because it's a good habit I need to work on--being proactive about schoolwork. I'm fairly good about not procrastinating but I feel even better when I start thing early and am on top of things. Over Thanksgiving this week, I plan to squeeze in some time to get ready for finals. They'll be here before I know it! What are your goals for the week?

4 Entertaining Podcasts You Should Be Listening To

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November 19, 2014

Over the last few weeks, I've started walking--a lot. I don't have a car and I try to ride the bus as infrequently as possible. I get more exercise in (I usually get 10,000 steps in by 3pm!), I get fresh air and I like to think I'm helping the environment out a little bit. A few weeks ago, I was taking a bus to get dinner just two blocks away. But now, I walk to almost all of my classes, even when they're about a thirty minute walk away. 

So what brought about this change?


I've always liked podcasts. I'm not a good listener by nature. I'm an unapologetic visual learner. I'd much prefer to read than listen to someone talk, but gradually, I've become a believer. I've made a policy that I don't listen to podcasts unless I'm walking + now that I've found some podcasts I love...well, I'm walking everywhere. 

And of course, I don't want to keep these to myself (though I'm sure you've heard of some). 

My favorite podcasts:

1. Serial / It's new and it's all the rage among podcast-listeners. Serial is pretty much a long, audio-only CSI episode. Over the course of many episodes, a journalist investigates the case of an 18-year old boy who was accused (and convicted) of murdering his girlfriend in the 1990s. I change my mind at least three times an episode as to whether he did it or not! It's so exciting, sometimes I find myself speedwalking out of stress! ;) If you listen, make sure you start on episode one! 

2. Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me! / I've only just started listening to WWDTM and I already love it. I was trying to describe it to my roommate and it's like a comedy meets a newscast meets an SNL sketch of a weird Hollywood gameshow. It's super fun! Just yesterday, I was walking back home from one of my classes and burst into this huge grin after something funny was said, and this girl walking towards me on the sidewalk thought I was smiling at her and gave me the weirdest look. Point of story: it's funny and it'll make you feel up-to-date on current events.

3. This American Life / Yeah, yeah, I know. If you listen to podcasts, you listen to TAL. Most recently, my favorite was episode #504: How I Got Into College. TAL always has interesting takes on life and curious stories. 

4. All Songs Considered / I've talked about ASC before on the blog, but I thought I'd mention it again. ASC is my favorite podcast for discovering new and interesting music. I particularly like how the two guys on the show tell a little history about the artist or band and comment on what they like about the songs. Plus, they always choose random genres of music that I might not otherwise listen to. Most recently, I discovered (click to listen on Youtube) "I Don't Want to Change You" by Damien Rice and "Slow" by Leonard Cohen on All Songs Considered.

So! I'm challenging you to listen to one (or more!) of these podcasts this week while getting outside and getting some fresh air and being active. It's always worth it!

What are your favorite podcasts? Do you have any other strategies for making long walks fun?

9 Ways to Calm Your Brain After a Busy Day

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November 18, 2014

Last week, I was with my wellness coach (and yes, those are a very real thing) and we were talking about relaxation and destressing in positive ways. Like a lot of you, I work all day and think all day and then at night, somehow we're supposed to be able to just stop thinking. Just like that. 

And I'm sure you've found just doesn't work that way, especially if the thoughts running through your head all day have been intense or complex. So my coach has been teaching me that those feelings are natural. We can't just think-think-think all day and then go to sleep; we need to transition our brains to calm the heck down and let them know they can shut up for the day. 

The biggest way we can do this is through relaxation techniques and calming activities. But all of the suggestions that my wellness coach offered just didn't me. I'm not a huge journaler and I have never gotten into the habit of meditation, so she encouraged me to find some other ideas and try them out. 
  1. Read (in bed!)
  2. Cross-stitch/knit/crochet/doodle/do some sort of repetitive hobby.
  3. Do a little yoga--here's a great end-of-day yoga sequence.
  4. Take a slow 15-20 minute walk around the neighborhood.
  5. If you don't like journaling, try taking a scrap piece of paper--or even a sticky note--and writing down your highs and lows of the day. You don't even have to keep it; just toss it in the trash when you're done!
  6. Take a long shower (once in awhile is fine!) and try to let all the bad moments of the day go down the drain. 
  7. Clean up your living space. At the end of the day, I tend to clear up my desk. It's a pretty mindless task and I like to think it sort of symbolically tells me brain that I'm done at my desk for the day. Plus, then your desk will be clear for you in the morning!
  8. Watch a little TV. Haha we all know I love television, but as long as we use it intentionally! At the end of the day, I love relaxing to an episode of Dance Moms or Lost or something!
  9. Listen to binaural beats, nature sounds or white noise as you finish up your work. I really like the Deep Relax app for both binaural beats and relaxing sounds. Plus, these are perfect to transition you into sleep!
How do you relax and destress after a busy day?

Curated Weekly / 2

| On
November 14, 2014

Curated Weekly is a new series with installments posted every Friday where I share a variety of moments or interesting things (like links or photos or songs) that I've collected over the last week. I hope that this series gives you a snapshot into my world and my brain!

Once again, if you have not yet taken the reader survey for fall 2014, I would appreciate it so much if you would! It's just a few short questions about you and your goals and plans so I can get to know you better! 

These week was so was a nice little breather from last week, which was insane! Tuesday, I had the day off for Veteran's Day (THANK YOU veterans, and not just for the day off). My current roommate and I and another friend of ours spent a good bit of the day looking at apartments for next fall. It's actually impossible to find an apartment within walking distance (I like walking), with a balcony (I like plants) and that's pet-friendly, without paying over $2500 a month. Who knew apartments were so expensive?

I've recently decided to look into getting a minor in French, which no, has absolutely no practical application with my major (Plant Pathology). But I've always enjoyed French and wanted to live abroad so I'm really considering it. I'm on track to graduate a year early and I'm not in a rush to get out of college, so why not?! So last night, I took my placement test to see if I actually retained any of my five years of French (probably not). I'll get those results sometime today!

+ 3 simple ways to be (slightly) less obsessed with your phone.
+ crazy yummy lemon bars
+ 10 Bible verses for an anxious heart
+ make a diy iPad sleeve
+ a collection of top-notch skillshare classes
+ 5 easy lifestyle changes to make in a month
+ creating personal rules for blogging
+ An anthem of hope: four ways to recharge.
+ 5 ways to clean up your blogger template
+ The "I don't want to work out" workout

I'm trying out a couple new methods for linking to music. I asked about it in the survey (linked above) but if you have any additional comments as to which methods are better for you (i.e. grooveshark like last week or a link to 8tracks like this week), feel free to leave them below. But I'm trying to make sure I don't use any methods that require you to have an account or sign in. So for today, I'm using 8tracks, one of my favorite websites for playlists. LISTEN TO THE WHOLE PLAYLIST HERE. Here's the list:

Where Have All the Flowers Gone / Peter, Paul and Mary
Goodnight Irene / The Weavers
The Circle Game / Tom Rush
Lady Came from Baltimore / Tim Hardin
Always Something There To Remind Me / Naked Eyes
This Land is Your Land / Woody Guthrie
Make Your Own Kind of Music / The Mamas and the Papas
(Don't Fear) the Reaper / Blue Oyster Cult

These beautiful deconstructed embroideries by Sophia Narrett.

Last week, I felt like I did a pretty good job of managing my time. I focused specifically on not wasting time on dumb things, especially when I had tasks left to do. This week, my goal is to go above and beyond my tasks and start reviewing notes and material for my exams. I've learned the hard way that most exams cover too much information to review in just a few days so I'm planning on starting early!

What are your goals for the week? What's going on in your world?

How They Do It: Amber

| On
November 13, 2014
How They Do It is an ongoing series in which I interview creatives, bloggers, students and freelancers about their productivity and time management strategies for creating awesomeness. Today, we'll hear some thoughts from Amber, blogger, coffee-lover and productivity master.

1. How would you describe the work that you do (whether it's an actual job or around the house or hobbies)?

I’m a full time student by day, and part time blogger and creative by night! I spend most of my days running from classes, to meetings and then to my part time job as an office assistant. When I’m not doing that, I’m brainstorming and creating over at Ember & March.

2. Would you (briefly) describe a typical work day for you? 

All of my days vary a bit, but here’s the general flow of things:

6:30am : Wake up, and convince myself to get out of a warm and cozy bed! Make coffee, and breakfast before spending a few minutes answering emails and getting ready for class. I sometimes use the morning to study.
9:30am - 12:30pm: Class
12:30pm-4:00pm: Work/homework… also, a second cup of coffee usually happens.
4:00pm-6:00pm: Meetings (or on down days, grabbing coffee and catching up with friends...or Netflix.)
6:00pm-bedtime: Read blogs, edit upcoming posts, do some writing for my upcoming ecourse and a few other projects!
11:00pm: Shower and (hopefully) bedtime

3. What's your workspace like? 

My desk is pretty simple, and usually very tidy under the sea of post its. I love working in my room during the morning and afternoons because it’s filled with natural light which keeps me productive!

4. When you are working, what is your biggest struggle as far as staying motivated and focused?

Eliminating distractions --especially social media. I’m always tempted to “check in” to what’s happening, which leads to me getting off task. Keeping my phone off my desk when I’m working has been a big help.

5. When you feel drained, what inspires you or pushes you to keep doing what you do?

I’m really big on setting goals, and seeing the bigger picture. Knowing that I’m working towards a much bigger goal than the small tasks at hand is a huge motivation to me.

6. Do you have any favorite resources for organizing your work and time?

I love Evernote to keep track of notes and projects. I use the web app and the Mac app to keep everything together. I’m also a huge fan of Google Drive for storing and sharing work when I’m on the go. To stay on tasks daily, I’m pretty old fashioned --a standard weekly planner helps get me by without getting lost in everything going on.

7. How do you refuel your soul after a long day?

At the end of the day, I can be left feeling pretty drained (especially when most days I leave my house by 8am and don’t get back until 7 or 8pm). Two things really help me to refuel: making a delicious dinner for myself, and spending some time alone in my room for at least an hour. The introvert in me loves the alone time, and no matter how tired I am after a long day, taking the time to cook myself a meal does wonders for the soul.

Lastly, just for fun, would you list a few songs that you listen to while you work (or while you're not working!)?

My playlist changes based on what work I’m doing! I’m a huge fan of Sara Bareilles radio when I need a tranquil setting, and Beyonce radio when I’m into something more upbeat. I also love old 90s r&b (think Toni Braxton and Boys II Men).

Big thank you to Amber for sharing today! She inspires me to be a better blogger and live a more inspired and minimalist lifestyle. Now, if you wouldn't mind, would you take my super short survey! Thank you bunches!

5 Ways to Kickstart an Unproductive Day

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November 11, 2014
Y'all this is my first official post on the shiny, new, updated Call Me Sassafras (and updated it is!) and I am so glad you're here reading this! Big yay! 

So this here post is very representative of my vision for the content I've planned for the blog. When I was reconsidering the topics that I post about, I knew I wanted to put more focus on writing things that are helpful and useful while still writing things that I have experience with and are personal to me. 

As a student, I care about productivity because it helps me waste time on the things I want to waste my time on. Instead of spending three hours sort of working on a task, sort of on facebook, sort of texting my friends, focusing on my productivity means that I'll spend an hour and a half on the task and then I have an hour and a half to read, blog, find new music, or try to make victory rolls look as good on my hair as they do on Victoria's (spoiler: they never do). 

As much as I try to be productive, sometimes I have days where I'm just plain not. Whether I overslept or got sidetracked early on in the day, some days I get in a time-wasting groove and can't getting out. You feel me? Well, these days suck + I've started practicing some of these tried and true ways to pick yourself out and get going again.

Reprioritize and refocus.

If I get stuck on a task and I'm not making progress, I like to stop what I'm doing, physically move somewhere else in the room to distance myself from the project, and reconsider my priorities. I'll brain dump a list of things I need to do an quickly prioritize them by numbering them from highest priority to lowest, consciously thinking about why my important tasks are important. Then I'll choose one of my higher priority projects and focus on it. 

Move to a new location.

Especially outside, weather permitting. Changing locations forces our brain to process new information, really waking up your brain cells so they can process new information! Plus, we could all use a little more fresh air. My new favorite (because it's still in the 60s here in Florida!) is setting up my eno behind my building and studying or reading emails. 

Do some quick exercise.

Sometimes, I'll do fifty jumping jacks or a couple minutes of yoga flows (modified plank, cobra, downward dog, plank, child's pose, and again). Usually this is enough to wake me up + get blood pumping. Whenever I do quick spurts of exercise, I can feel my brain start to pick up speed and prepare to get work done.

Consider what's stopping you.

Did you not get enough sleep? Take a 30-minute nap. Is social media distracting you? Turn on a web filter. Is your project too large? Break it into five steps and just do one. On top of that, take note of the things that made you have an unproductive day + try to make sure they don't happen again. When I sleep late, it takes me forever to get focused. So now I know getting up on time is a huge priority for me.

Dig deep and work.

If you try, you can come up with a hundred reasons why you aren't productive. Sometimes, the solution is just to grit your teeth and get back to work. Set a timer for 15, 30, 60 minutes and work. Be sure to reward yourself afterwards--you worked hard! 

Thank you for reading today, you guys! Do something amazing today! And please take the short reader survey :)

Curated Weekly / 1

| On
November 08, 2014
Curated Weekly is a new series with installments posted every Friday (even though today is Saturday!) where I share a variety of moments or interesting things (like links or photos or songs) that I've collected over the last week. I hope that this series gives you a snapshot into my world and my brain!

First off, I'd really appreciate if you'd take the reader survey! The questions are different than most surveys but I wrote them specifically because I really want to get to know you and what you love and what you need out of a blog. Thank you for taking two minutes to fill it out!

Naturally, this week I was very focused on getting all ready for the launch yesterday! If you've been around long, you know I like my life busy and busy I was. I signed up for some of my classes for next semester and I'm really excited about a few of them...along with chem 2 and a few other required classes, I'm pumped to be taking entomology (bugs) and fungal pathogens. If you're new, let me explain and say that I'm a college student studying plant pathology, which pretty much means I study bacteria, fungus, insects, and viruses that harm plants. It's fun stuff!

Yesterday was (you guessed it) pretty busy as well. I met with my wellness coach (more about that another time) and we discussed my goals for the semester as far as working towards better sleep habits, time and stress management, and overall health! If you're in college, I highly recommend looking into resources in your counseling and wellness center. My school has so many amazing, free resources and I'm so thankful for people that want to help me succeed!

And to wrap up a busy week, today is actually my sorority's semi-formal at Disney so I will not be responding to comments today! But for those of you who left them yesterday, thank you. I'm so glad you're here!

DIY morse code bracelets -- what a creative way to carry a message with you!
Cat Ipsum and kitty image placeholders -- in case you can't decide if you like design or kitties more.
Tribal nail art -- just for fun!
This beautiful marine-themed moodboard in honor of Rachel Carson

Danielle Kroll - Floral No. 4
(images by Danielle Kroll)

For some reason, I'm really into Hawaiian folk these days. Seriously! If you're having a busy day and you want some thing calm and soothing but still thoroughly happy, this is the way to go! Plus, it always reminds me that I need to work harder so I can graduate and get a job that pays enough so I can get to Hawaii. Logic, right?!
This week, I intend to work really hard at prioritizing how I use my time. I've talked about this before and I'll talk about it again...I'm a big believer in wasting time intentionally. If you're going to procrastinate, do another important (but less unpleasant) task while you gear up to work. If you're going to rest and relax, do something you really enjoy like reading a book or blogging or watching your favorite movie instead of being a potato and watching that same episode of House Hunters for the third time because there's nothing else on. 

Something that I definitely don't prioritize enough is SLEEP. Whenever more tasks get loaded onto my ever-full plate, I always think to myself, "oh it'll be a late night." Because when something needs to get cut, I cut sleep. Instead, I'm going to work on cutting Facebook or other social media and Netflix before I cut my sleep.

What have you been up to this week? (And yes, I actually want you to answer that question!) What will you prioritize this week?

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