Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Perfect Study Playlist for Getting Stuff Done

Nothing beats a great homework playlist that really gets you in the zone. Personally, I get totally distracted if I listen to songs with lyrics (especially ones that I know) while studying. But when I turn on good instrumental music, like classical music or movie soundtracks, it boosts my concentration and helps me be productive. I find that I particularly like epic soundtrack music ~ something about it just gets me energized, motivated, and focused on getting stuff done.

My go-to places for music online are Pandora and Spotify. I like Pandora because of the variety it gives you ~ I've discovered so many new artists and songs that I like through it! My favorite Pandora stations for studying are my Lord of the Rings station and my Two Steps from Hell station, both of which play an awesome variety of epic soundtrack music. Give them a try on your Pandora next time you need study music!

As for Spotify, I like to use it when I want to listen to a specific song or set of songs. I've been working on compiling my perfect study playlist on Spotify for a while now, made up of my favorite songs from my aforementioned Pandora stations, with some of other personal favorites mixed in. It includes some Lord of the Rings, some Chronicles of Narnia, some Two Steps from Hell, Faure's "Requiem," and lots of other good music. Give this playlist a try ~ maybe it'll get you in the study groove as much as it does for me!

What is your favorite study music?


Friday, February 19, 2016

A Few Changes around Here

As you can tell, I've made a few changes here on the blog ~ and I am so excited about them!

As I've gotten more and more into blogging over the last year with "Vita Bellissima," and now as I have plans and dreams to grow my blog even more, I decided it was time to do some revamping! So first off, I renamed my blog, and it's now called "Sincerely, Stephanie" ~ something a bit more personal, easily identifiable, and in English (ha!). Please note that this means my blog's URL has changed! It is now www.stephanietherese.com. Secondly, I invested in a blog template design, which is what I'm most excited about! It's simple, clean, and cute, and fits my style and my blog quite well.

I've also decided to narrow the focus of my blog a bit, while still leaving it versatile and not constricted to just one or two topics. So as you can see under the title, the main focuses of my blog will be God, college, travel, and life:
  • God:  I'm a Catholic, and as such faith and prayer are the most important things in my life ~ so naturally I love to write about anything related to them.
  • College:  As a college student, I hope to write more about college-related topics, such as study strategies, tips and tricks for students, and college life in general. 
  • Travel:  Since travel is such a significant and exciting thing for me, I plan to continue writing about my travel experiences, as well as about any tips or recommendations I come up with along the way. 
  • Life:  This is a more general category that will encompass any miscellaneous topics I decide to write on, such as "currently" posts, style, tea (you better know there are more tea posts coming), or my random musings and reflections.
I hope you like the changes I've made around here, and that you'll stick around as I continue in my blogging adventure! Personally, I can't wait!

Loves to all my dear readers!


Thursday, February 11, 2016

How to Make (and Enjoy) the Perfect Cup of Tea

As you may already know, I’m slightly obsessed with tea. For real, there are few things I love more in this world than a fresh, hot cup of tea! I have a few favorite types of tea, as well as teas that I like to drink at different times of the day (which you can read about in this post). But honestly, I’ll take any cup of tea, any day, any time!

So, as a seasoned tea drinker, allow me to share with you a step-by-step guide to making and, most importantly, enjoying the perfect cup of tea.

1. Boil water.
Use a tea kettle or a hot pot (which is what I use in my dorm room) to bring water to a boil. You can even use a Keurig, if you have one ~ if you fire it up with no pod inside, it will give you hot water. Either way, be sure to actually boil water, instead of heating up a mug of water in the microwave ~ it will make for a much better cup of tea.

2. Steep for the right amount of time.
Check the instructions on the tea’s bag or box for how long it should brew, as the brew time varies for different types of tea. Then steep the tea bag in freshly boiled water for the allotted amount of time. Avoid over steeping your tea or not steeping it long enough, so that you really get the full flavor of the tea. I recommend setting a timer so that you get exactly the right length of steeping time!

3. Add sweetener, if necessary.
For most types of tea, I honestly recommend just drinking it straight, without any added sweetener. Just enjoy the tea’s natural flavor! But when drinking certain types (especially black teas), or if you find the taste of tea bitter, you might just need a little sweetener. In those cases, I recommend using honey. It’s a much healthier, more natural sweetener than sugar or Splenda or some such artificial sweetener ~ not to mention it’s delicious!

4. Drink it while it’s hot.
In my opinion, tea is best consumed hot. So let it cool off enough that you won’t burn your tongue, of course ~ but don’t wait too long! Once it reaches a comfortable drinking temperature, bottoms up! If your tea ends up getting too cold, you can reheat it in the microwave, or alternatively, you can turn it into iced tea by adding some ice cubes or chilling it in the fridge for a while.

5. Find a cozy spot.
A cup of tea isn’t complete without a lovely setting to consume it in! Your tea-drinking setting could be a number of things, depending on the tea-drinking occasion. Here are some possible scenarios: Curl up in a cozy chair with a book in one hand and your teacup in the other. If you’re studying, bring your books and your tea to a table by a window. Share tea and conversation with a friend on the living room couch. Drink some morning tea at the kitchen table, with some reading or prayer time to go with it. Wherever or however you drink your tea, enjoy it!

Are you a tea drinker? How do you take your tea?


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

My February Goals

Can you believe it's already February?! It's crazy to me that we're already a month into 2016. Time flies!

As I mentioned in this post and in this post, 2016 is going to be all about focus for me, and about delighting in being a student. To help myself grow in these ways, I'm going to start setting concrete, baby-steps goals for myself in some key areas of my life. This will include monthly goals, which I've decided I will share here on the blog, partially to hold myself accountable and also in hopes that it will help or encourage you in your goals too!

So here are my goals for this brand new month ~ my academic, personal, and spiritual goals for February.

School goals:
(1) Work on my thesis for 90 minutes every day.
I'm only a junior, but one of the junior-level literature classes requires us to, essentially, write our thesis for the literature major. So guys, I'm writing my thesis this semester (yikes)! I have so much work to do for it over the next two months, from researching, to analyzing poems, to researching some more, to writing a 20-page paper, to presenting and defending that paper. That said, I've decided that I need to devote time to my thesis every single day. Thus, I'm aiming to spend at least an hour and a half a day working on it (or more time when I can).

(2) Stay on top of readings.
This is crucial for me this semester. I'm taking two literature classes and two theology classes, so needless to say, I have a LOT of reading this semester. Since reading is one of those things that I tend to fall behind on (because I'm both a slow reader and a procrastinator ~ bad combo), I'm determined to do my readings consistently ~ one assignment at a time, as it is due, for all of my classes ~ to stay on top of readings and not get behind.

Personal goal: Limit my spending.
I don't have a lot of money to spare anyways, so I don't spend much money as it is. But nonetheless, I want to shrink even the amount I do spend. I'm currently saving up and paying for a big trip that I have coming up this summer (which I promise to reveal on the blog sometime soon), so I need to hang onto as much money as I possibly can. So, this month I'm going to limit my trips to the coffee shop and the vending machine, and ban myself from any shopping that is not necessary or essential.

Spiritual goal: Discern and stick to my Lenten resolutions.
I can't believe that Lent starts next week ~ wasn't it just Christmas like, yesterday?! But Lent does indeed begin next week, and so my spiritual goal for this month is twofold. In the next week or so leading up to Ash Wednesday, I'm going to discern what Lenten sacrifices + practices will best help me to grow spiritually this Lent and prepare for Christ's passion, death, and resurrection. Then from Ash Wednesday and beyond, I will put my Lenten resolutions and sacrifices into action with a disciplined, willing, and penitential spirit.

What are your goals for this month?

God bless,
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