Monday, December 2, 2013

14 Days to Happy

Over the past few weeks, I've had a bit of a struggle with bitterness - there wasn't any ONE situation that caused it, I've just been annoyed with everything for no reason really. While I want to blame most of it on stress and anxiety from end of the semester projects and presentations, I know there's still a portion being caused by just a bad attitude in general. It hits me every once in a while, and it's just not super cute. 

So I decided to come up with my own self-help program to get me back to smiley-perky-Katie, and it's kinda fabulous. Every day has a portion of Scripture to read, a daily task to complete, a super presh uplifting photo, and a random blog or column to read for smiles (plus some days have a bonus-happy video). It's totally unconventional, but it should be fun. Feel free to do it with me for a super happy two-weeks!

Day 1:
Scripture – Psalm 96
Daily Task -  Spend a full minute just smiling at yourself in the mirror. It may seem silly, but smiling releases endorphins that will reduce stress and boost your mood. If this leads to another five minutes of silly faces, that’s okay too.
Uplifting Photo of the Day

Leisure Reading for Smiles

Day 2:
Scripture – Romans 8
Daily Task – Give three random compliments to strangers. It’s always nice complimenting people you know, but it will brighten your day and a totally random person’s day if you surprise them with kind words.
Uplifting Photo of the Day

Leisure Reading for Smiles

Day 3:
Scripture  2 Corinthians 3
Daily Task – Bring your friends at work some sort of special treat, whether it be a chocolate bar or handmade card expressing your gratitude towards them (or a combination of both!)
Uplifting Photo of the Day

Leisure Reading for Smiles -

Day 4:
Scripture – Proverbs 16
Daily Task – Wake up early this morning to give yourself time to get super cutesie and dressed up. Looking good typically means feeling good, and plus you’ll have time to relax and enjoy your coffee while you’re getting ready, meaning happy feelings all morning.
Uplifting Photo of the Day

Leisure Reading for Smiles

Day 5:
Scripture – Deuteronomy 6
Daily Task – Build a blanket fort in your living room and watch your favorite TV show on your laptop with your favorite snack or a cup of coffee. This means happy cozy feelings everywhere. 
Uplifting Photo of the Day

Leisure Reading for Smiles

Day 6:
Scripture – Colossians 3
Daily Task – Tell five people VERBALLY that you love them. Texts and Facebook messages don’t count. Saying it out loud gives your heart a happy buzz.
Uplifting Photo of the Day

Leisure Reading for Smiles

Day  7:
Scripture – Hebrews 11
Daily Task – Take a nice, long bubble bath as a treat for the end of the week. You deserve relaxation and distressing, and this is a good way to do it. Finish it off with a face mask and a self-given mani/pedi if you have time.
Uplifting Photo of the Day

Leisure Reading for Smiles -

Day 8:
Scripture – 1 Corinthians 13
Daily Task – Take a random funny picture out in public and post it on Facebook, whether it be absolutely fabulous or totally unflattering. And by funny, I mean rolling on the floor laughing funny.
Use this photo of my friend Forest as inspiration, because if this isn’t true happiness, I don’t know what is.
Uplifting Photo of the Day

Leisure Reading for Smiles

Day 9:
Scripture – 1 John 1-2
Daily Task – Treat yourself to a snack from the drive-thru today – but most importantly, treat the person in the car behind you by picking up their tab. Nevermind if it turns out they’re ordering for an entire family of people, it’ll still be just as worth it and make your heart happier. 
Uplifting Photo of the Day

Leisure Reading for Smiles

Day 10:
Scripture – John 14
Daily Task – Make dinner for your family or your roommates. Be sure to choose some sort of comfort cooking, or a recipe that you know you love – this way you’re more comfortable preparing the meal and you know you’ll be super happy after you’ve got it in your tummy.
Uplifting Photo of the Day

Leisure Reading for Smiles

Day 11:
Scripture – Matthew 13
Daily Task – Wear a rubber band on your wrist and don’t allow yourself to make a single complaint for the entire day – if you do, you have to snap the rubberband – obviously you can be sneaky and barely pop it, but you’d really just be cheating yourself.
Uplifting Photo of the Day

Leisure Reading for Smiles -

Day 12:
Scripture – Psalm 30-31
Daily Task – Take a special treat to a family member’s work place – donuts if it’s in the morning, cookies in the afternoon. This way, you surprise that family member and give them another reason to feel blessed AND it becomes a special treat for their coworkers as well.
Uplifting Photo of the Day

Leisure Reading for Smiles -

Day 13:
Scripture – James 1
Daily Task – Send flowers to your grandmother(s). They love you very much and have helped take great care of you since you were born – this is a kind way to express your gratitude and let them know that you’re thinking of them.
Uplifting Photo of the Day

Leisure Reading for Smiles -

Day 14:
Scripture – 1 Corinthians 15
Daily Task – Clean your room from top to bottom – out with the old mess and clutter, in with an organized, happy new outlook on life.
Uplifting Photo of the Day

Leisure Reading for Smiles -


Thursday, November 21, 2013


It’s that time of year - the leaves are getting crinkly, the air smells beautifully smoky from the chimineas in our neighborhood, and plans for gift-giving are becoming ever-present in our minds.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve sat down to work on budgeting for Christmas shopping, which I’ve vowed will not catch me off-guard this year. And so far, it hasn’t – I’ve already finished shopping for most of the people on my list, and I have solid ideas for the remaining gifts I need to purchase and with which paycheck I’ll be able to buy them (yeah, I’m getting THAT detailed). 

But for some reason, this gift-giving season has already felt so materialistic to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love cutesie gifts and sparkly things, but for the past few days, I’ve just felt like I’ve been preparing for “empty” giving. Sure, I’m giving out of love, but my gifts are really going to people who have no “need” – it’s just a gesture of kindness (and let’s be real – we need a LOT of kindness these days).  

While reading Glamour Magazine’s “Gift Guide,” I came across an article called “31 Days of Giving,” a calendar for the entire month of December which has a different charitable organization to give to for everyday of the month. The missions of these organizations range from sending books to those in need in Africa, to providing instruments for US schools who have been undergoing severe budget cuts, to funding the rescue of dogs in puppy mills. 

As a college student, I’m basically too broke to give every day – but I was still inspired to pick a few of my favorite organizations and charities to donate to, and then do more research for others that weren’t included on Glamour’s list. Over the course of the next couple of months these are some of the ways I plan on giving – and I encourage you to give too! Find a group that holds a special place in your heart (whether it be on this list or not), and give back – because the fact that you even have access to a phone or a computer to read this blog entry is proof that you have been blessed abundantly, and it may be your time to bless others.

Along with a brief description of the different charities, I’ve provided a link to the organizations’ websites, so just click on the title of the group! 

As their website states, this is a non-profit organization which “encourages working actors, artists and musicians to voluntarily dedicate their time and talent to children who are battling serious medical conditions.”  This California-based group provides workshops and camps for kids and their families, and donations given will be used towards providing artistic workshops for hospitalized children. 

For each half-dozen of cookies ordered ($22 per half) through this partnership with Momofuku Milk Bar, a portion of the proceeds will be used to provide meals for those in need through the organization FEED, founded by model and designer Lauren Bush and activist Ellen Gustafson.

This organization seeks to develop educational programs for communities in need in Laos, Ghana, and Guatemala. Every $25 donated to the organization will pay for a student’s entire tuition for a year.

Bead for Life is a non-profit that allows for women in Uganda to sell hand-crafted goods such as jewelry made of hand-rolled paper beads, which helps to “[lift] their families out of extreme poverty.” These different goods are available for sale on the organizations website, and they also give the opportunity for supporters to host Bead Parties, where many of the products will be shipped to you to sell amongst friends and family so that you can send the proceeds back to the company along with the unsold goods. 

This Christian organization allows many different ways to give to those in need around the globe – the site allows for you to choose how you want your money to be used, whether it be feeding needy children here in the US, providing clothing and education, and even donating Bibles, soccer balls, chickens and other gifts to children and families around the world in need. Just look under the Gift Catalog section for all of the different options.

This company is a good way to sneak in Christmas shopping for book lovers (they have super fabulous jewelry, clothing, accessories, and gifts) and give at the same time: for every product sold from this website, Out of Print has partnered with Books for Africa to donate a book that will be sent to those in need. 

This organization, founded by Texas natives Shawn and Whitney Koonce, partners with different groups and individuals in their missions to do good around the world. As stated on their website, they “are not starting new programs, constructing buildings, operating schools or orphanages, providing micro-business opportunities or building a church. [They] are helping those who have a passion and desire to do these things, get over the bumps of finances, strategic partners, personnel, etc.” In other words, Tin Roof Society acts as a guide and help to those who seek to change the world, which is an absolute necessity to those getting started.

As most of you know, my dad is a Fire Fighter, and so it goes without saying that anything involving our heroes in the Fire Department holds a very special place in my heart. As stated on the website, “The Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Fund was founded in 1976 to recognize and honor professional fire fighters and emergency medical personnel killed in the line of duty and to provide funds and assistance to their families.” Every year they hold the IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Service. As the daughter of a fire fighter, I couldn’t IMAGINE losing my dad in the line of duty, but I know it happens across the country, and I think it’s important to support the families going through these situations. 

Though the Kimbell isn’t exactly a charity, I believe it is always important to support the arts and the preservation and maintenance of art collections. For that reason, I encourage you to donate to museums of your own preference – I feel like I practically live at the Kimbell through my school work, and so it holds a special place for me.

And finally, I encourage those who attend church to give abundantly this Christmas season – your church needs help monetarily to maintain the facility, and the money you give can also be used to support missions across the world. OR if you would rather give in other ways, consider purchasing Sunday School materials or craft supplies for your Children’s Ministries. There are SO many ways to be a blessing within your own church home. 

Happy Giving! 

Friday, November 8, 2013

How to Stay Awake When You're Basically a Zombie

If there's one thing my friends can attest to in regards to my life, it's that I'm basically always tired.
Like two-seconds-from-passing-out-in-my-chair-at-a-restaurant-sleepy.

So basically I've had to come up with survival techniques so that I don't just completely fall asleep standing up, and since it's basically that point in the semester where everyone is pulling all-nighters at the library, I thought I'd share a few of the best tips you'll ever read. Some of them are more effective than others, but I'll let you be the judge of that <3

-Energy Drinks. They're awful and unhealthy for you, but they're no joke - just maybe bring one of those mini-disposable toothbrushes with you because otherwise you'll cry when you realize how icky your teeth feel.

-Coffee. Not because the caffeine actually works for me, but because it's warm and it makes me feel all fuzzy inside, and that's the most exciting.

-Invest in a tube of Soap & Glory Sexy Mother Pucker lip gloss. SOOO TINGLY! When I start dozing off in class, I put some on and my lips freak out so it wakes me up. So not only does it give me a jolt, but it makes me cutesie. Genius.

-Smack yourself a couple of times. Don't question it, just do it. Don't give yourself a black eye or anything, but just enough to turn your cheeks red and get your blood flowing.

-Look at this dog. Boom. 10 minutes of energy. 
-Do the Macarena. If you download the song, even better.

-Pinterest.  Enough said. Yeah you won't get anything productive done, but you'll be awake, and that's something, right?

-Allow yourself to buy one item that is $15 or less on Etsy. Nothing will wake you up quite like that shopping high you get after pointless spending!

- Have a selfie-session for Instagram. Your friends will hate you, but who really cares! I sure don't. Bonus points if you use up to 10 different emoji in your captions.

-Try waxing your leg. Just one strip. I haven't tested this theory, but I'm pretty sure it'll help.

-Imagine one of those creepy aliens from Signs is chasing you, and you don't have any water. Those are the worst. 

-Make up a brief song. But not like a lame one, one about a princess or something. And then you can sing it to me, because I love princesses. 

-Bake something! It takes like 20ish minutes depending on what you make, and the smell will wake you up ASAP. Plus snacking always wakes you up.

OR just basically, you could go to bed. Because that's what normal people do when they're tired, and your body hates you when you don't just sleep. So maybe skip watching Pretty Little Liars and go to bed at a decent hour. But whatever, who has time for that. I sure don't!
But really, I'll take a coffee now please. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

{il mio cuore appartiene a Italia}

**Oodles of thanks to Miss Kendall and my Glenny, who let me use billions of pictures to supplement a few of my own so that I could share our Italy experience with you! 

It's been a little over 5 months now, and still, I can't get Italy off of my mind. I still get mildly depressed and weepy when I'm at World Market and pass by the authentic Italian wines and foods. I'm even teaching myself Italian with an app I found on my iPhone.

As an Art History major, I had always wanted to go to Italy for the obvious reasons - to see the Sistine Chapel, take photos next to Bernini's fountains, the basic art nerd stuff.

A photo from our trip including both the Cypresses and the Umbrella Pines
But as soon as our plane began to land at the Fiumicino – Leonardo da Vinci International Airport (which, first of all, UHH I'm already basically obsessed because it's named after one of the most amazing artists and inventors in all of ever - so fabulous) everything just became so real. I couldn't stop staring out the window - even though it was about 18 miles from our hotel in Rione Monti, everything was already SO so Rome. More than anything, I was just amazed by the trees - studying Italian art, all of the landscapes had seemed so fake to me, like the painters were just putting in a bunch of fluff to fill space behind portraits and human subjects. But on my flight into the aeroporto, all of the trees I had ever seen in paintings by artists like Raphael and Giorgione were becoming real life - Umbrella Pines and Italian Cypresses dotted the landscape, and made me realize how absolutely ignorant I was about basically just art and life in general.

And so I immediately fell in love with not just the city of Rome as I was before, but the entire country of Italy, including the not-so-artsy rural areas.

As soon as I landed at the airport, my cousin Glen, the World Traveler, met me so that I wouldn't get horribly lost taking the train to city center. The airport, though nothing incredibly fancy, was complete with an enormous, wooden Vetruvian Man sculpture after the famous drawing by Leonardo. I was basically like a giddy little five year old, and I'm pretty sure Glen regretted taking this trip with me after how excited I got about the airport-art.

Even more exciting was when we got to our residence for the week at Hotel Saturnia, where our friend Kendall was waiting for us and studying travel guides to get ready for the day. Our hotel, in an ally caddy-corner to Santa Maria Maggiore (don't even get me started on how great it was to wake up and see this every morning), was very small, and our room ended up not being directly inside of the hotel, but in an extra room a short distance down the ally from the hotel lobby. Sounds a little sketch, but it was so great, like having our own home in Italy. Not to mention, some of our hotel staff were super amazing and would make us cappuccinos when we came home at night (even though that's totally not okay - just FYI, cappuccinos are breakfast only. and Italian coffee will make you miss Starbucks, hardcore.)  

Our hotel key
Hotel Saturnia's ally
The old Fiat that sat outside our room

Our favorite pizza shop - you can see me in line in my grey cardigan
And from our little home-base at Hotel Saturnia, our trip began.

Pizza by the Pantheon
So obviously, most of yall are wondering how amazing the food was - and to keep it short, the local food is probably some of the most delicious stuff you will ever eat ever. Being there for a full week though, we found favorites - our absolute fav was a small pizza shop right outside of the Pantheon. The owner was amazing and sarcastic and seemed like he probablyyy didn't love American's, but I think he was okay with us because he was apparently a fan of Dallas. Needless to say, we got pizza from this shop at LEAST 3 times during the week we were there. The food was amazing, and one of our favorite things to do was go get our slice, which was really just a huge, rectangle of pizza folded in half and wrapped in paper, and go sit on the steps of the fountain in front of the Pantheon. Sometimes we would share with each other, mostly because Glen and Kendall were adventurous and would try new pizzas and I was a super-nerd and obsessed over one with a spicy-tomato topping. I think this is probably one of my absolute favorite memories of Italy.

And some of the other foods we had on our trip-

But despite the amazing food, the best thing ever was just getting to see the different parts of Italy, and getting to spend time with some amazing people.

So I leave you with these photos - we probably took three million pictures each, but these basically summarize my favorite parts of our trips and some of the best memories I'll ever have.

Gelato was an everyday event for us
Filling my water bottle in a fountain by Pietro Bernini, Gian Lorenzo's father
Cousin teamwork on a photo project
We absolutely LOVED the Colosseum, especially lit up at night
Firefighters in Rome
Rubbing the hogs snout in Florence

Climbing Vesuvius...
...and the descent

My travel buddies in Florence
Borghese Park
Glen at St. Peter's
Our slightly-pervy tour guide in Pompeii
My amazing travel buddies/the best dinner dates ever
Ponte Sant'Angelo
In St. Peter's, with Bernini's baldacchino behind us
Overlooking Rome
Our favorite lunch spot - the Pantheon
Overlooking Florence
Licking the Colosseum (but not really). Just because I'm weird like that.
Tossing a coin in the Trevi
Galleria Borghese