Sunday, December 29, 2013

Happy Holidays

This has been a whirlwind of a winter break.  I am heading back early this year (I'm actually sitting in the airport right now!) to start an internship, so we tried to cram quite a bit of holiday into the two weeks I was home.  My brother and I did last minute shopping and checked out the local giant Christmas tree....

On Christmas Eve, we went down to Balboa Island to walk around and enjoy the lights.  It was really beautiful, and so crowded!

And finally, we cooked our traditional Christmas feast.  And yes, it was amazing.  Great job, Dad!

Happy Holidays, everyone!  What did you do with your family?

Friday, December 20, 2013

DIY Bookish Christmas Presents

Let's be honest; there's always a couple of people that we forget about while Christmas shopping.  While I can't go back in time and remind you to pick something up, I can give you some easy DIY ideas that are particularly good for the bookish people in your life.

Idea #1: Bookmarks

Everyone at one point in their childhood cut up a bunch of paper and "made" them into bookmarks.  I know I did; I added scribbles, stickers, and wandered around my neighborhood trying to sell them for a quarter each!

You can do the same for family and friends this Christmas season.  You can decorate a scrap of cardstock festively like I did in (1), or add a drawing, photograph, or quote to make it more personalized.  Or if you want to get a little more fancy, try taking a small piece of ribbon and gluing a button or jewel at the end.  It's a really simple DIY, but it dresses the ribbon up nicely and is really easy to personalize.

For a more fancy bookmark, take an 4" x 3" piece of paper.  Fold it diagonally as though you are making it into a square.  I then drew a fox face because I was using orange paper, but you can customize the animal to go with the color of your paper.  Once you've sketched in the face, color it in with pencils and/or markers and try it out in your book.  It should look something like this:

This is a bit of a different kind of bookmark, with a tab on the side of the book instead of the top. To make this more personal, pick an animal or drawing that is going to mean something to whoever you're gifting this to.

Idea #2: Quote Sheets

These quote sheets are my favorite gift this season, and I gave a bunch of these out for graduation presents.

All you need for these quote sheets is paper or card stock, pencils, and markers.  Oh, and some quotes!  I think it makes an especially cool gift if you pick a quote from your friend's favorite book, author, movie, or a quote that some how applies to them.  The actual process is quite easy: sketch out your quote, outline the letters, and then start decorating!

You can decorate these any way you like, and again it's fun to use colors or designs that are specific to whoever will be receiving this gift.  And that's it!  If you decide to use card stock, you can give the sheets just like this as a little poster, but you can also elevate the gift slightly by putting it in a cool frame.

I've done three sample designs for those of you who aren't so artistically inclined, which you can download and print here.

Idea #3: Book Bag

Again, this gift is super easy to personalize.  All you need is a blank canvas bag, which you can find at any crafts store and either some Sharpies or fabric paint.  You can really put anything on the bag: a random drawing, a quote, etc.  You could even print a photograph onto an iron-on paper and do that instead.  However, since this is a book-themed DIY post, I will be doing a design featuring some of my favorite books.

First I sketched it out and then added a bit of decorative color.  Tadaa, so easy!

So I hope you guys enjoyed these really easy, basic DIY Christmas gifts.  I wanted to make sure to do something that could be done at the last minute, with minimal supplies or skills needed.  If you do make any of these, I would love to see pictures!  Please Tweet them to me @littlespider9, or tag me on Instagram @littlespider.

Happy holidays and happy creating!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The End of the Semester in Instagrams

Hello, all!  Creative post title, I know.  I apologize for my sudden disappearance the last couple of weeks, but I honestly can say I have never had a more challenging finals-season in my 3.5 years of undergraduate studies.  Seriously, this semester was brutal beyond belief.  It involved many 10-12 pages essays... well as a lot of time spent huddled in odd corners of the library, fighting for the few plugs available and the critical sources for said papers.  I really was beginning to feel like a hermit.  Thankfully, when Thanksgiving rolled around, I was able to take a bit of a break.  My dad came to town, and together we did some exploring...

... and some cooking.

This past week was not only our official exam week, but also graduation.  So between frantically writing papers and attending grad-events for my friends, I just managed to squeeze in some DIY graduation gifting.

Now I am finally home for a 2.5 week break.  I am sleeping through the night, reading what I want, eating what I want, and overall feeling incredibly grateful for evening this short period of rest and for the fact that my family prefers to keep our holiday celebrations fairly low-key.

Speaking of which, I better finish wrapping presents.  I hope your last couple of weeks have been less stressful than mine!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday Feature: Matt's Dorm Room

Happy Friday, lovely people!  I've decided to try a bit of a series of features here on the blog, and as it conveniently happens to be Friday, I'm calling it Friday Features.  Yep, I am just that talented.

For the first feature, I would like to introduce you to my lovely friend Matt.  He's a junior here at school and he's a resident advisor (RA) in my old dorm.  He has his own YouTube channel, MattNazario, where he makes videos about college life and traveling and whatever else strikes his fancy.  He's got a super funny, quirky way of putting things, so I'd highly suggest checking him out.

Anyways, for those of you who have followed the blog for a while you know that I attempted a few different decoration ideas during my time in the dorms, which you can find here.  Once I moved in with my grandparents I also decorated that room, and I think it's safe to say that my decorative skills have definitely improved.

But I have nothing on Matt.  He's a three-time dorm room survivor, and his room always looks fantastic!  After weeks of bugging him about it, last week he uploaded a tour of said amazing dorm room, which you can find above.  I'm still in awe.

Do you guys have any tips for decorating a small/dorm room?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Happy Movember!

So, remember when I said I would be posting weekly LSAT prep updates and lots of content?  Well, obviously that was a lie.  This month has been far more crazy than I was anticipating, and I literally have not had time to get out my tablet and draw up a little check list.  Suffice it to say that prep is going well, and that I probably should stop using it as an excuse to not do my actual homework.

This past Friday, however, I let myself have a little fun by going to my university's basketball game.  It was a very special game in that the basketball team decided that they wanted to show their support of No-Shave-November (aka Movember).  They did this by attempting to break the world record for the largest gathering of people all wearing false mustaches.  Yes, this is a very strange world record (kind of makes you wonder who decides what to actually record, doesn't it?).  They passed out free mustaches and wristbands at the door and we recorded our attempt on video during half-time.  It was a really fun event and I have to admit that I don't look half-bad with a 'stache.

Happy Movember, everyone!  If you guys would like to know more about the mustache-movement and their quest to raise awareness for men's health issues, you can check them out HERE.

Friday, November 8, 2013

How to Not Go Broke in College

Last weekend, I went shopping for the first time in a long time, and I will admit to getting a little over-zealous.  Granted, most of my purchases were gifts as part of my early holiday preparation, but I still felt like I had spent more than I wanted to.

I know that being able to manage their own money is not a skill that most kids bring with them to college.  Personally, I definitely over spent during my freshman year and have since learned to be more money conscious and responsible.  So, in the interest of helping you guys learn from my mistakes, I thought I would compile a few pieces of advice for how to have occasional shopping weekends like I did and still not go broke while in college.

*Please keep in mind that I am in no way a financial professional, and I am not being paid by any of the mentioned companies to pitch their services/products.  I'm simply sharing tips from personal experience.

The Amazon Student App
1. Sign up for Amazon Student
Seriously, Amazon is a lifesaver.  Not only do they sell practically everything (seriously, everything), but Amazon Students gives you all of the free, two-day shipping benefits of Amazon Prime, but at half the cost.  As I've mentioned before, I highly encourage everyone I know is attending students to first try and purchase their course books from Amazon and their affiliated sellers before buying from their campus bookstores, where book prices are often astronomical.  If you'd like to sign up and help me out a little, you can do so through my referral link HERE.

Walgreens Balance Rewards Card
2. Sign up for a local rewards program.
After the first month or so at school, you'll know the stores that you go to most often and have the best selection of products.  Most grocery and drug stores have a rewards program that is free to sign up for, in which you get special discounts and sometimes cash rewards.  I personally have signed up for the Walgreens Balance Rewards program because that is where I do a lot of shopping for food, health items, etc.

Everyone loves Starbucks cards!

3. Limit your off-campus expenses.
If you live on campus and have a meal plan that is included in your tuition fees, use it.  Think about it: you or your parents have already paid that money, so you're really just wasting it if you never eat on campus.  If you do need the occasional off-campus treat like a drink from Starbucks, try this: buy yourself a Starbucks card with just $25 dollars on it and limit yourself to one card a semester.  If you only buy Starbucks when you have money on the card and are not allowed to refill it, you will stop wasting money on expensive coffee and save it for weekend trips and events instead.

Along the same lines, if you live off-campus and don't have a meal plan, pack yourself a lunch.  Consider this: a loaf of bread costs me $3-$5 and will last me at least 2.5 weeks.  Fresh sandwich meat for the week is about $3.50 and my favorite mustard is also $3.00.  Now compare that to the $5+ dollars you could end up spending a day if you buy lunch.  Yeah.  Pack a lunch.

Bank of America Mobile Banking App

4. Download a mobile banking app.
Most banks now have some sort of a mobile banking application for all smart phones, and it's a really easy way to keep track of how much money is on your account at any given time.  Just make sure that you keep a close eye on your phone and never save any account information outside of the secure app.

5. Get a part time job.
This is honestly the best advice I can give you.  Even if you didn't qualify for work study, ask around campus about assistant, TA, and reception jobs.  Work in the cafeteria or the admissions office as a student ambassador.  You don't have to work 14 hours a week like I do; even a few hours a week can help pad the inside of your wallet.

And when you get that first pay check, be sure to put a least half of it in your savings account.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

October Wrap Up & Favorites

Yes, I will be taking a bit of a break from "Booktube" for the next month or so in order to focus a bit more on school.  Wondering this is suddenly necessary?  Refer to yesterday's post.  However, writing up and creating images for blog posts does not take half the time of planning, filming, and editing a video, so expect plenty of content here!

What have you guys been reading and loving this past month?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

LSAT Countdown: Week One

 photo lsatweekone_zps9d421457.jpg

There are exactly five weeks until I take the LSAT exam, which means I have to step my preparation into high gear. For those of you who don't know, the LSAT is the exam that is used to determine acceptance into law school, and it has been terrifying potential law students for years.

For my part, I feel shockingly calm about the whole event.  However, in order to push myself to stay on top of things, I thought I would share my last weeks of preparation here on the blog in order to remain accountable.  Yes, I realize that this isn't the most exciting thing for you all to read about, but it will really help keep me on track.  And I will be posting other things as well, never fear.

Well, I'm off to keep studying!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mid-Semester Slump

Half of last week was fall break, which means I got to go home and visit with my puppies and family.  It was absolutely beautiful at home which made it feel like summer all over again.  Which was fun for a few days, but now I have run into a problem: the unavoidable mid-semester slump.

Getting back to school even after those few days off, it's been difficult to focus.  I'll have a really productive day, generally sandwiched between a few really unproductive days.  I think the problem this year is that not only do I have school work, but I'm also slogging through test-prep for the LSAT in December, which is actually rapidly approaching. I can't wait until I'm actually being paid to work on the same thing for hours on end!

I did have a nice break this weekend, when some friends threw a pasta-bake.  Yep, that means we sat around eating amazing Italian food for three or so hours.  Seriously, this was a fantastic way to decompress.

Good luck with your Monday, folks.  Any tips on mid-semester motivation?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Delarosa Pizza

It has certainly taken me a long time to get to this post, so without further ado, let's talk about some awesome pizza!  While out shopping in the Marina last month, my friend Christine recommended that we try a small restaurant called Delarosa on Chestnut Street.

I'm not really sure what I was expecting when we walked in, but I was definitely not expecting it to be quite so busy!  Delarosa has a very modern interior in bright oranges and futuristic grays.  There is a bit of bar seating available, but for the most part the restaurant is one large room full of long wooden tables.  I believe they call this dining "Roman style," when multiple parties share the same large table.  Overall, it was a totally different, really fun environment.

Now on the to the actual menu.  My only problem with it was that there were too many amazing-sounding options!  Seriously, it took us forever to decide what we wanted.  In the end we ended up getting their pizza with spicy Fennel sausage, onions, and scamorza.  It was fantastic balance of all of the ingredients, thought be warned: when they call the sausage spicy, they really mean it!

Christine also ordered a cocktail (I'm not entirely sure which it was... maybe the Salty Dog?).  She was a bit disappointed that it didn't come in a fun glass, but it was quite tasty.  And yes, that does mean that I had a little sip and, as someone who doesn't drink at all, thought it was quite good.

And just in case you need one more reason to go check Delarosa out, it's just down the street from Kara's Cupcakes.  So naturally, we stopped there as well for our favorite red velvet cupcakes.

The moral of this story?  Chestnut Street is a food-lover's paradise!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Senior Retreat

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to go on retreat with my academic program to the beautiful Applegate in the Sierra Foothills of California.  We stayed at the Jesuit Retreat Center and it was an absolutely magical place.  The buildings were of fairly modern construction, yet simple enough to really feel as though we were getting a "natural" experience (if that makes any sense).

They had a little chapel on site, along with a recreation/cafeteria building, a gathering hall, and a few different dormitories.

We were only there for one full day, so we really tried to cram a lot of activities in.  We began the day with some guided meditation and reflection and then headed out to enjoy the great outdoors.  We started off playing kickball...

A few members of our group had been on retreats there before, and planned on leading the rest of us on a short hike to visit the local river.  We were all packed and excited, when a random thunderstorm decided to descend on us!

We ended up sucking it up and going on a short walk anyways, but our completely soggy shoes forced us to turn back.  We ended the day with a pasta dinner (yes, the food is very good!) and an interesting Japanese film.

Hope you guys enjoy the pictures and video!  Have you taken any weekend trips lately?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Tips for Packing for College

1. Be weather ready.
I know this sounds pretty basic, but do take the time to research the typical weather for your campus during different times of the year.  This way you won't get stuck in a rainstorm without an umbrella, a snowstorm without a coat, or a heat wave without at least one pair of shorts.  And as weird as it sounds, being mentally prepared for how cold (or hot) the weather is going to be makes the transition a whole lot easier.

2. Be prepared for casual, professional, and dressy events.
Within the first week of my undergrad career I had hiked part of Marin county, worked at a food bank, gone to classes, and attended a formal dinner.  You never know what you might end up doing!  So while I'm not advising you to pack your entire wardrobe (yes, there is such a thing as being over-prepared) bring enough of a variety to allow for different activities.  You don't want to be left out of a trip, for example, because you didn't bring a bathing suit or good walking shoes.

3. Buy school supplies at home.
This might be difficult for those of you flying to college, but seriously, buying your school supplies from stores like Target and Office Depot at home will save you so much money.  Most campus bookstores have ridiculously high prices because they know that they are the most convenient location for students to buy books and supplies.  Yes, this tip applies to coursebooks as well.  If you have the option to get your book lists ahead of time, I highly suggest browsing both Barnes and Nobel and Amazing rather than just buying books from the school bookstore.  Trust me, I saved about $100 myself just this semester by bargain hunting online.

4. Don't bring fragile or emotionally important items.
Consider the following scenarios: You don't know your roommate very well.  It turns out they're a total klutz, and one week in they've already knocked a picture frame off your desk and broken it.  Or how about this: after going to a party one weekend, you and your friends return to your room a bit intoxicated (yes, this is a possibility!) and someone accidentally gets sick on your vintage book collection or rips your favorite poster.  Are you starting to see a pattern?  Basically, don't bring super fragile or important items to college with you.  Things will get broken, stained and stolen.  That's just the nature of the beast!

5. Pack in boxes you can reuse.
Most dorm rooms don't have a ton of storage space, so packing in things like plastic boxes can be really helpful.  You can then repack these with items that don't fit in your limited closet space and store them under your bed.  Save cardboard boxes as well for sending packages home at the end of the year, or even for that random art class you decide to take.

6. Pack enough, but not too much.
I think that the most important thing to remember about packing for college is that you're not moving out entirely.  You're parents will expect you to come home for a least a few of the breaks and so it's perfectly fine to leave most of your clothing and possessions behind. If you're having separation anxiety for that one coat you just couldn't fit, never fear.  Every year when I go home for Christmas, I swap clothes out, leaving things that I'm tired of wearing over and over again and picking up that sweater that would look great with my new dress.  Always be aware that you'll probably accumulate quite a bit of stuff, especially if you live on an urban campus like I did.

I hope you guys find these tips helpful.  Happy packing!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

El Rancho Grande

I have always believed that - Mission District or not - the only way to get really good Mexican food in San Francisco was to hold out until my next trip home.  But today I have the pleasure of announcing that I have found a restaurant that not only has amazing tacos, but is also perfect for the college budget!

Yesterday, after shopping all day with my good friend Christine, I suggested that we simply grab something to eat on the way home as neither one of us felt like cooking.  She directed us to this little taqueria, El Rancho Grande.  Located on Divisadero right on McAllister, it's a little hole-in-the-wall with bright paint, friendly staff, and a constant stream of South-American soccer.  It is a clear favorite of many, as just after we ordered the restaurant filled up with patrons of all ages.  I ordered just their Regular Taco with carne asada filling (pictured above) and was happy to find it completely delicious.  The portion is also large enough that if that's all that you want, that's all that you need.  But next time I think I might explore the menu a bit.  I have it on good authority that their Super Taco is killer...

All in all, probably not the best Mexican food I've ever had, but definitely the best since coming to the city!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Introducing: Buzz!

*photo credit to Trevor J

As someone who frequently posts pictures of my favorite furry friends, I thought it appropriate to take a minute to introduce you all to Buzz!  A cute little Schnauzer-mix, this cute little guy is the most recent four-legged addition to my family.  One of the last weekends I was at home, my mom and I just happened to walk past a dog-adoption fair and absolutely fell in love.  The actual adoption was just this past Tuesday, and apparently Buzz and my brother are already the best of friends.

Unforuntately, we didn't actually receive him until I had already gone back to school, but I've been getting daily updates and apparently he's quite the energetic, inquisitive dog.  Our older pups aren't quite sure what to do with him, but they're getting along so far.

I cannot wait to go home and play with him in person!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Roadtrip in Instagrams

I'm finally back in San Francisco after yet another long drive up. I feel like I should be used to the drive by now, but it still feels long and tedious every time!