Looking Back at the Spring 2017 Semester


I did a look-back last semester and since it happens to be one of my favorite posts, I figured I should do one for Spring as well.

Looking back at your life is eye-opening to say the least. It’s like looking into a rear view mirror and seeing everything you’ve done in that specific timeframe: all the mistakes, all the successes, all the stumbles, all the lessons. I try not to miss out on an opportunity to look back at things if I can help it, but this might be just be because I am a terrible overthinker.

But even though I’ve only been home for a week, Spring semester seems so far removed, like it was lifetimes away. Maybe my mind is so preoccupied by other things, or maybe there are things I just don’t want to remember, but it seems like I have a slight haze over the past semester. January just seems so long ago.

February is a bit clearer, at least. I took a family trip to Punta Cana with my family, which meant tons of quality time, a great sun tan, and time off from school. I came home and celebrated a whole two decades of myself with one of the best birthday celebrations I’ve ever had– at least until I sprained my back playing Just Dance (beware the Rasputin dance, kiddos). In all seriousness though, my birthday totally rocked, so thanks to my incredible friends for everything.

birthday
Seriously, my birthday was incredible.

The next few months honestly kind of blur together. I saw Panic! at the Disco in concert (incredible, in case you were wondering). I saw The Lion King on Broadway (also pretty incredible). I went to some awesome campus events, like Strawberry Fest, where you get all these delicious strawberry-centered foods to nibble on, and Roth Regatta, where teams build cardboard boats and race in them across a pond on campus.

As far as my academic and professional lives are concerned, I got a real job doing social media for Stony Brook’s residential safety program. I also joined Her Campus Stony Brook‘s social media team. I got another internship at the school paper, the Statesman, this time as their archivist. I got to really test out my photo-taking chops at work, in class, and for some friends. I worked really hard in my classes, and got some really great grades. Overall, this semester was really a time of growth and fun.

studio
A snap of me in the photo studio while I was taking my final project

That being said, this semester was not without its lessons. From January to now, here are some things I’ve learned.

  1. It’s okay to ask for help: I used to have this notion that if I couldn’t do something on my own, I shouldn’t do it at all. I often used this argument for why I didn’t need to speak to a therapist about things that made me sad or anxious, or why I didn’t need to see a school advisor. The thing is that this argument doesn’t make sense. Sometimes, you need to get a little assistance, either because you need the support or because you’re not an expert in the topic. Getting assistance isn’t a bad thing, and shouldn’t be seen as such. In fact, asking for help should be seen as a strength, because someone is comfortable enough with themselves to admit when they’re just not sure about something.
  2. But trust your gut: Sometimes, though, you just are right. No matter what anyone else says, don’t let them dissuade you if you’re confident in yourself and what you’re doing. If it fits with your standards, morals, ideals and values, stick to it. Don’t let anyone knock you down.
  3. You’ll never know everything: But also, don’t ever think you know everything, because you just don’t, and that’s okay. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn whatever you can, but remember that there’s always so much more out there to learn. This is a silly story, but it really made me realize just how much I don’t know, and how much more open-minded and humble I have to become: I was still in school when my friends Torie and Lauren had finished, so they decided they’d take a trip to Stony Brook to visit me one morning. We wanted to go hiking, and one place that came highly recommended was Avalon Park and Preserve, somewhere I had already visited with my friend Alyssa. I assured Torie and Lauren that the park itself was just a brief nature walk, not an actual hike, but online sources said otherwise. Despite my protests, we decided to visit Avalon anyway. I was skeptical about the so-called “hiking,” but found myself eating my own words when we stumbled upon an actual hike and then some. The truth was that I didn’t know everything about Avalon, just like I don’t know everything in general, and I can’t claim to be the expert on anything. And that is okay.

    torie avalon
    A shot of Torie and I as we took a break from hiking (yes, hiking) at Avalon Park and Preserve.
  4. Think outside of yourself: Consider how your actions affect more than just yourself. Could they hurt or offend someone? Then maybe it’s best to avoid that action. During this semester, I got into a huge fight with one of my closest friends because I didn’t consider how my actions might have affected them. I truly regret how I let myself become so self-consumed that I didn’t even notice their feelings. I don’t think this is an experience I’ll ever be able to forget, and because of it, I’m trying harder to recognize the affect my actions can have on others.
  5. Communication is key: If something is bothering you, the only way to make them better is to communicate. People can’t read minds… well, most people anyways. You can’t expect something to get fixed if you don’t try to talk to someone about it. Also, if you’re working with a group or a team, you need to be prepared to communicate, and to do so ahead of time. You can’t be giving people orders the day you want something done. Communication means success.
  6. You can change and still be you: Just because your interests or passions change, doesn’t mean you do. When I first came to Stony Brook, I was convinced that all I wanted was to be president of Greek club. I didn’t care about any other extracurricular, as long as I got that position at some point. Now, did I really want that position, or did I just want it because everyone knew me as the Greek girl? I’m not really sure. But now I’m a part of other clubs and activities that I love as well, and I’m beginning to wonder if this me, the one that loves doing social media for Her Campus Stony Brook and the one that loves planning events for the School of Journalism Advisory Board, is the actual me. Not necessarily a changed me, but a self-realized me. Of course I still love being Greek and being a part of Greek club, but that doesn’t always have to be my defining factor, nor does it have to be the only thing about myself that I chase. Changing your passions, your goals and your dreams doesn’t mean you’re not yourself anymore. It just means you’re doing what makes you happiest and most fulfilled in that particular moment.

    sojab
    A photo with this year’s and next year’s School of Journalism Advisory Board (affectionately known as SOJAB) at the banquet that we planned.
  7. Sometimes plans are too ambitious: Take my 2017 resolutions, for example. I could barely get myself to blog once a month, let alone once a week. I was just too busy (sorry, guys). Even more than that, I made a goal to read as many pages of fun books as I did school books. Well, guess what: that didn’t happen. Not that I didn’t want it to, I just couldn’t find enough time in the day to get it all done. My plan may have come from a good place, but it just wasn’t a good fit for my actual life. And that’s definitely something to keep in mind for future plans and goals.
  8. Spread your love: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. It’s so easy to get comfortable with just one group of friends. They become your safe place and, especially in college, meeting up with them takes almost zero planning (thanks, GroupMe). But if you spend all your time with the same people, and never make time for anyone else, like those random friends from your math class or the girl you sometimes talk to at club meetings, you might be missing out on the friendship of a lifetime. Make an effort to spend time with and get to know other people outside of your inner circle. It’s refreshing to hang out with a new face, and it can be even more helpful when you need a brief escape from the people you’re always with. In all seriousness, expanding your circle doesn’t hurt, and you’ll be better for it.

    bria
    A Snapchat of my friend Bria and I. Bria and I had three whole classes together this semester and managed not to kill each other! Jokes aside, we got even closer than we were before because we got to spend so much time together.
  9. Take (calculated) risks: I’m not saying you should run on train tracks or ride a motorcycle without a helmet. What I’m saying is that sometimes, doing something out of your comfort zone isn’t always bad. When my family started planning the trip to Punta Cana, I told them to go without me. I had to be in class and couldn’t risk missing any material. What if I missed a homework assignment, or worse, a test? The problem was, I couldn’t even imagine missing out on what could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance for my entire family to go on vacation together. Plus, I would have serious FOMO if I knew that all my aunts, uncles and cousins were sitting on the beach with my parents and brothers, getting their tan on. So I thought about it and realized that the pros of me going heavily outweighed the cons. So what I’m saying is that sometimes it’s okay to risk what you know to be safe and easy, as long as you’ve calculated to make sure that your risk is worth it.

    cousins
    Vacationing with my brothers and cousins was so worth missing class!

 

With Spring semester finally over, I’m excited to finally turn my attention over to summer, which means high school friends and camp! I’m overjoyed to say that I will be returning to my camp, Camp St. Paul, for my fifth summer, this time as an admin team member. I will be running a session all about service projects, called Diakonia, as well as the camp store. I can’t wait to head to Connecticut and unwind at my favorite place for five weeks, but until then I’ll be home making some Diakonia lesson plans, hopefully hitting the beach, and catching up with some friends.

I’m also going to try to keep blogging. I have a few things lined up for you all, but like I said in my last post, if there’s anything you’d like to see up on Tantalizingly Tasteful, please let me know! Until next time, Tasters!

xx,

Toni

Email: tantilizinglytasteful@gmail.com

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Rebranding Me: Learning to Love Myself


Welcome back to Tantalizingly Tasteful! Today I want to talk about something a little bit out of the ordinary for me: body image and self-confidence. Being confident in yourself and your abilities is much easier said than done, but I think the process of getting there is something that needs to be discussed. I want to share my own personal story with you. This is something I’ve been working on for about a year now, and I’m honestly still a little hesitant, but I know that so many people go through the same kind of situation and I want to open up the discussion. So, here goes.

I’ve spent my whole life being overweight. I knew in kindergarten that I was different from the other girls in the class. When I walked, my shorts would ride up my thighs (what has affectionately been known as thwedgie in my family), I couldn’t run as fast on the soccer field, and I couldn’t easily be lifted up. But as a kindergartner, you don’t really understand that having a bit more body fat than the other girls in class is going to make you stand out in a bad way.  I was also one of the only kids in class that wore glasses, and to five-year-old me, that made me “uncool.” I would play a game with my friends in which I would take my glasses off and say “cool Toni,” then put them back on and say “nerdy Toni.” How did I get the impression that a pair of glasses defined who I was?

thwedgie
A shot from elementary school field day, complete with my classic “thwedgie.”

In elementary school, I was the first of my friends to wear a bra, and it wasn’t because I was the first to hit puberty. And yet, I still didn’t really think anything was too wrong with me. It didn’t really hit me until fourth grade, when a “popular” girl I considered a friend nicknamed me Jell-O. I didn’t understand why she was calling me that, so I was thrilled to think that I had finally made it into the “cool girls” crowd. When I got home that night, I excitedly told my parents about my new nickname, only to have them explain to me that it wasn’t a very great nickname to have. I was incredibly hurt to think that the people that I considered friends saw me that way and, even worse, seemed to be out to make fun of me because of what I weighed. I think about that realization a lot.

effies-wedding
This one’s from my cousin Effie’s wedding. I was 11 and a junior bridesmaid. I had gained weight between the fitting and the actual wedding, so my dress ripped during cocktail hour. I was humiliated.

Fast forward to middle school, when I just continued to gain weight and started growing facial hair due to polycystic ovarian syndrome. At that point, it had become more common knowledge to me that I was the heavier friend, and while my friends really didn’t have anything to say about my “physique,” it was quite evident that I was just different and sometimes had to be left out. I could never share clothes with my friends, I could never eat as much as my friends, I struggled to keep up with them in sports. I had girls pull my bra strap and laugh at me because my bra wasn’t supportive enough for my chest. One of my best friends pointed out to the entire gym class that I was growing a beard. I started to become ashamed of my body, a feeling that I would never wish on anyone. And instead of combating my issues with an improved diet and more exercise, I comforted myself the only way I knew how: food.

bat-mitzvah
A photo of my mother, my youngest brother and I at a bat mitzvah. Clearly I did not know what a bra was.

In high school, I tried to pretend that I was more comfortable with my body. I had accepted that I was just bigger than my friends, but my weight was still a source of contention with my family. My parents have always been super supportive, and when they worried about my weight, it was always for the sake of my health and not my appearance, but it was (and still is) a sore topic for me. My grandmother was notorious for not giving me a second serving of food to keep me from gaining weight. My parents often told me that certain clothes just weren’t meant for my body type. Even my five-year-old cousin told me I was fat. For me, realizing that even my family remarked that I was overweight was heartbreaking. I felt like no one saw me for my personality or interests, but only saw me as the girl who needed to lay off the pasta and hit the gym. This realization brought on a rough time of self-doubt, self-loathing, depression, and self-harm. When I finally got myself out of that slump, I decided I was going to take ownership of who I was and focus on bettering myself and getting healthy, not necessarily skinny. I told my parents that I needed them to support me despite what I looked like or what I decided to wear. I thought this inner transformation would be good for me in so many ways.

Here’s a picture from marching band in ninth grade. I remember loving this picture because I thought my hair looked so long.

But then prom season hit, and two years in a row, no one asked me to be their date. And I couldn’t help but attribute it to the fact that nobody wanted to go with the fat girl. Of course, I was heartbroken, and debated not going to prom both years, but ultimately I went and had a great time. But the idea still remains in my head that no one wants to date me or be friends with me because of my weight.

A picture of me, alone, at senior prom. Luckily I still had a great time.

I had a similar experience at the beginning of college. Before I moved in, I was considering joining a sorority, but at the actual club fair, I noticed that no sorority sisters even considered approaching me. Instead, they were approaching the teeny tiny skinny girls, the girls who were the “populars” that would have made fun of me in elementary and middle school. It was then that I realized that my body weight can sometimes prevent me from achieving everything I would’ve liked to, and it was then that I was inspired to write this post.

This is one of my favorite selfies from freshman year. Before I found my close friends, I would go home every weekend because I felt so out of place.

That was a year ago, during my very first semester of college. I had completely different friends, completely different interests, and a completely different outlook on life. Originally, this post was supposed to be a wake-up call to me and to anyone reading, a cautionary tale that would hopefully teach people that they should keep themselves from getting heavy so they can prevent themselves from getting hurt. Now, I see things very differently.

It’s taken me a long time, but I’m finally getting to the point that I’m realizing I love the person I am. There may be things I want to change and things that I regret doing, but I’ve learned over the years (and especially the last six months) that the only person I need approval, attention, and love from is myself. The only person who can help me is myself. It also helps that the friends I have now like me the way I am, so I’m not forcing myself to be something I’m not.

I wish I could detail how I got myself to this point, but honestly, I think it was just spurred by a sudden realization that if I can’t love myself for who I am, no one else will. I do have some recommendations, though, that I know have helped me feel happier and more confident and empowered.

  1. Read self-help books: Yes, this is corny, but after reading even a few pages of self-help books, I always feel refreshed and inspired. One of my favorites is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, even though I haven’t even finished it yet. I used to read it every night before bed during the spring semester of my freshman year, and it made me feel like I could take on the world just the way I am. Some more on my list of books to read are Yes Please by Amy Poehler and Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur.

    eat-pray-love
    You can get your copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller for $10.96 at Barnes and Noble.
  2. Work out: I’ve been talking about this up and down for the last six months, but working out has made me feel a million times better about myself. Every time I work out, I go into beast mode, and I feel like I can accomplish anything. Find an exercise routine you love and stick to it. Not only is it good for your body, but it’s also good for your soul.
  3. Listen to pump-up music: I literally have a playlist called “I DESERVE BETTER” that’s filled with songs that make me feel better and remind me that I am worth the work and worth being treated well. It’s filled with some of my favorite songs, like Hair and Shoutout to My Ex by Little Mix, Stronger by Britney Spears, and Down in the Dumps by Walk the Moon. I highly recommend putting together a playlist that makes you feel great about yourself and helps pick you back up when you start to fall.
  4. Get motivational wallpapers: Inspirational phone backgrounds and computer wallpapers are my guilty pleasure. I like to change them every month just to get something a little different. I always find it so inspiring to turn on my phone or laptop and get some sort of pick-me-up.

    This is the wallpaper on my laptop right now and I love turning it on and seeing this.
  5. Don’t take things so personally: I’ve always been a very sensitive person, and I always let people’s reactions to me affect the way I feel about myself and everything around me. Recently, I’ve come to the realization that you don’t always know what other people are going through, so you can’t hold things against them or let them get you down. Like I said, the only person’s validation that matters is yours, so don’t let yourself get down because of a stupid comment someone else said. When I dyed my hair purpley about a year ago, one of my best friends made a comment that if I lay down on the grass, it would look like Barney. His opinion meant a lot to me at the time, and I was upset about it for a while. Since then, I’ve realized that it’s my hair, not his, and if I like the way it looks, I don’t have to really consider his opinion.
  6. Do what you’re passionate about: Doing things that you love to do and are good at are great for a confidence boost. Plus, if you get involved with something you’re passionate about, you can find other people who are passionate about the same thing and you immediately have something to connect over. When I started writing for my school newspaper last semester (even though it was for class credit), I met so many awesome people who were also passionate about journalism. It was really inspiring and motivating for me to get pointers from them and just be surrounded by people who loved to interview people and write just as much as I do.
  7. Journal: One of the best ways to release negativity is to write it down. I find that every time I write down what’s bothering me, I can better recognize what the problem is and then find an appropriate way to deal with it. Also, I can write down all the positives in my life and reread them if I start feeling down. I also love picking pretty journals that inspire me to write and work hard, like this one from Barnes and Noble.

    be-awesome-today-journal
    Be Awesome Today Bound Lined Journal, $9.95 at Barnes and Noble
  8. Find support: The biggest thing that has helped me come to terms with the person that I am has been my religion. I was born and raised Greek Orthodox, but I didn’t really get into learning about my religion until I was 16 and went to Camp St. Paul for the first time. Since then, I’ve become more confident in myself and my abilities because I know that God made me the way I am and only sends me challenges that He knows I can handle. Now, I’m not trying to tell you to start going to church every single day or to convert right this second. All I’m saying is that everyone needs someone or something (healthy!) to bring you back when you start fall. For those of you who are not religious, I’d recommend finding something or someone that always has your back and best interests at heart. I have a handful of really close friends that constantly cheer me on and pick me up when I fall. I’d be nowhere without them. Even my parents are there for me whenever I need them, and I can tell them absolutely anything without them judging me or putting me down. The bottom line is that it feels amazing to know you have people who love and support you all the time and can pick you up if you start doubting yourself.

I hope this post gave you a bit of a look into my life and some inspiration and motivation to start loving yourself completely and entirely. Don’t forget to keep me in the loop as you embark on your journey!!

xx,

Toni
Email: tantilizinglytasteful@gmail.com
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My 2017 Goals + Tips


I’m all about setting goals for myself, but sometimes, deciding exactly what I want to accomplish can be tough. After two weeks (yes, two full weeks), I’ve finally compiled some New Year’s resolutions that I’d like to share with you, as well as some helpful tips I use to narrow down my thoughts.

My Resolutions

resolutions-2017resolutions-2017-1

Above are my resolutions for the new year (which I typed out on Canva, a great site for designing everything from cards to resumes). I chose to organize them by category (more about organization to follow!) and list one way I can go about actually achieving each goal. I think this will help give me a good start and keep me accountable. While there a lot of things I’d like to be able to accomplish this year, these 20 tasks are the things I felt were most important and most attainable. I’ll probably print these out and hang them up on my desk to keep me inspired and remind me what I set out to do.

Tips

Like I said, setting goals can be just as hard as actually achieving them. Here are some pointers on how to successfully set your own 2017 resolutions (and it’s never too late to do it!)

  1. Write them down: Last week I mentioned to my friends that I hadn’t written down my resolutions yet and they all said something along the lines of, “You write them down? That’s smart. Maybe I’d be more successful if I wrote mine down.” I’m not even kidding. I really believe that writing them down holds your more accountable and can inspire you to keep on chugging. Write them down or type them out so that they look nice, then put them somewhere you can see them and be reminded of the things you want to accomplish.
  2. Record your thoughts: I found that I had a lot of visions for myself and things I wanted to change, but no concrete goals to set for myself. So I picked up my journal (for the first time since June… oops) and wrote down all of my thoughts. Five pages later and I had a better idea of exactly what I wanted to accomplish. Take the time to write down your thoughts and desires and watch how clear your goals become. Bonus points if you use a cute journal like this Shoot for the Moon journal!

    journal
    I have this journal and I’m absolutely obsessed with it. I used it to record all my interviews last semester, and it really served me well.
  3. Organize: One way to help make making resolutions easier is to organize them in some way. I like to organize mine by categories that correspond to the different things going on in my life, but I have also seen people organize theirs by priority or even by month. Find a way to organize your goals that will help you to stay inspired and know what you actually need to do.
  4. Limit yourself: I know people usually say the sky’s the limit, but in this case, I’d say limit the number of goals you set for yourself. It can be tempting to set 100 goals, but it’s just impractical. The reason I was able to set 20 goals for myself was because they were relatively small goals that can be accomplished within the scope of my average day. There’s no way, however, that I’d be able to achieve 20 big goals. Limit to yourself to what you are confident you can achieve and apply into your everyday life.
  5. Look it up: Sometimes you’re just out of ideas or can’t find the words to correctly convey what it is you want to accomplish. So what do you do? The same thing you always do: look it up. I love checking Pinterest for resolution inspiration. I literally just type “resolution” into the search bar and so many ideas come up. If you’re stuck, don’t be afraid to do a little research!

    resolutions-inspiration
    Here’s some inspiration I found on Pinterest, posted by Easy College Coupons!
  6. Set achievable and measurable goals: My last tip for you is to set goals you are confident you have the ability to achieve and can easily measure your progress with. When I was writing my own resolutions, I was very tempted to write something like “go on a weekend trip,” but I didn’t because I’m not sure if that will be achievable for me when it comes down to time and money. It can still be something I’d like to do, but not necessarily something that I’m recording as a New Year’s resolution. The same goes for something like “lose weight,” but more so because it’s not quantifiable. Losing one pound still counts as losing weight, but that definitely would not be my goal. Even saying something like “lose 50 pounds” might be unrealistic because you can’t be sure that’s achievable. My recommendation would be to set smaller, achievable, quantifiable goals like “work out x times a week” or “record food intake” that are easier to accomplish and can still lead you to the outcome you desire.

I hope that my New Year’s resolutions and tips helped inspire you to chase your goals and dreams this year. I’m looking forward to another year of sharing my life with all of my Tasters. Wishing you all your best year yet, full of love, laughter, and happiness!

xx,

Toni

Email: tantilizinglytasteful@gmail.com

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Winter Style: Holiday Outfits #1 +#2


It’s holiday party season, which means it’s time for red everything, velvet dresses, high heels, and tons of tinsel. Stay tuned for some cool outfit ideas!

Holiday Outfit Inspiration #1: Red Peplum Top

I love wearing red to holiday parties. I think it’s such a great, festive color. So a red peplum top is a great central piece for this outfit. Peplum tops help whittle your waist and create and hourglass figure. Pair with a pair of black leather or coated pants and a patterned sports jacket for a cool-girl kind of look and a bit of shine. Finish off the look with black stilettos with red accents, a black bag with some silver hardware and a solid silver choker to polish the entire outfit.

outfit-1

Peplum Top: Time and Lace Wine Red Lace Peplum Top, $18.50 at Lulu’s

Choker: O-Ring Snake Chain Coker in Silver, $3.90 at Forever 21

Pants: Moto Babe Coated Leggings, $15.87 at Go Jane

Shoes: C Label Napoli-28 in Black, $32.99 at 6pm

Purse: Ida Clutch by Carlos Santana, $29.99 at TJ Maxx

Jacket: Jealous Tomato Floral Raglan Scuba Bomber Jacket, $29.99 at Century 21

Holiday Outfit Inspiration #2: Denim Mini Skirt

Another look I really love is the denim mini skirt. Though people may traditionally associate denim skirts with springtime, I happen to love a denim skirt paired with a long coat and long sleeves for the winter. This look is definitely more casual and fun, so it would be great for a small New Years gathering. I’d start with a straight denim skirt, paired with an athletic-looking all-black long sleeve shirt. Pair this with sneakers (bonus style points if they have a platform!) and layered necklaces for a street-style vibe. Top with a brightly colored peacoat, flashy clutch and ultra-cool minimalistic digital watch and voila! You’ve got an effortlessly cool holiday look!

outfit-2

Denim Mini Skirt: BDG Pencil Denim Mini Skirt, $59.00 at Urban Outfitters 

Top: Varsity Stripe Ponte Crop Top, $15.00 at Charlotte Russe

Peacoat: Anne Klein Double-Breasted Peacoat in Cobalt, $89.99 at Macy’s

Necklaces: Black Tattoo Choker with Layered Arrow and Turquoise Spike Pendant Necklaces Set of 3, $5.00 at Icing

Purse: Colorful Embroidered Clutch in Black, $33.60 at UrbanOG

Sneakers: Superga Acot Linea Sneaker, $79.95 at Nordstrom

Watch: White Digital Activity Tracker Watch in White, $9.99 at Rue 21

I hope these holiday outfit inspirations gave you some ideas on how to amp up your style game for this holiday season! Hope your holidays are wonderful and full of happiness, love, laughter, and great fashion!

xx,

Toni

Email: tantilizinglytasteful@gmail.com

Twitter: @TTasteful

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Looking Back at the Fall 2016 Semester


After a three-week hiatus, I am happy to say that finals are finally done and I am finally back in action. Now, I’m all yours. At least for the next month or so.

On Friday, I moved out of my dorm room and back into my bedroom. It’s weird not having my friends in the room right next door or a (half-service) Dunkin Donuts a few feet outside my window, but I’m looking forward to getting a chance to clear my mind and get my life back in some semblance order. Plus, I’ll finally get some time to catch up with my friends from high school.

I learned some really great things this year, academically and professionally speaking. Between my (favorite) journalism writing and reporting class and my internship at the school paper, the Statesman, I feel like I’m really starting to hone in on my reporting skills. I love going out and getting to hear people’s stories. I was fortunate enough to serve as a Teaching Assistant for an Honors 101: Introduction to Stony Brook class and it helped me realize how much I love working in a classroom setting. I even got the incredible opportunity to assist a visiting journalist with research for a biography she’s been writing. It really was an incredible (and incredibly busy) semester.

But academics and work aren’t everything this world has to offer. In honor of the end of the Fall 2016 semester, the first semester of my sophomore year, I’d like to share some reflections and inner musings I’ve accumulated from August to now.

  1. It’s never too late to make friends: I really thought that after my freshman year, the friends I had would stay my friends and that there would be no changes. Though my core group has stayed the same, I’m really happy that I’ve met and gotten to know some super awesome people over the last few months. I’m excited to see how our friendships grow as we get deeper into the journalism program and the Honors College.
  2. Or to find a new hobby: College really is the perfect time to find out what you’re interested in and good at. I’ve always been interested in photography, but never actually learned the necessary skills. I finally took a photo class this semester (two, technically, if you count my journalism multimedia course), and I feel like I found something I love and might actually be good at. I love having the ability to capture beautiful moments. My new-found love led to plenty of impromptu photo shoots and thousands of pictures over the semester. The moral of the story is that if you’re interested in learning something new or picking up a new hobby, it’s worth putting in the work to learn the new skill and make it a part of your life, no matter how late in the game you or others might think it is.

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    Nature pictures are some of my favorites to take. This was taken at the High Line in Manhattan.
  3. Being involved is great: Like I said, this was a busy semester. I interned at the school paper, served as a teaching assistant, assisted with research for a biography, served on the School of Journalism Advisory Board, and served as the treasurer of the Greek and Cypriot Student Association. I’ve learned that it’s the activities you take part in outside of the classroom that make the college experience what it is. If I didn’t have these things to participate in or work on, I would be so bored and un-busy. I love being busy (even if I do complain about it in the moment.) Really, I’m not myself unless I’m busy and running around like a maniac. I thrive in chaos. Plus, being involved in things you’re passionate about helps you meet new people and make essential connections. Being involved in university activities is a great way to distract yourself from the mundane every day of the college experience while still being productive.
  4. You can’t let your mental state control your life: I am way too guilty of this. If I start feeling down, I’ll let the mood take over my life entirely. I won’t get out of bed, I won’t clean my room, I won’t eat, I won’t hang out with my friends, etc. It’s an awful downward spiral. I’m beginning to learn that sometimes you have to force yourself to stay positive and be motivated even if you’re feeling exactly the opposite. Sometimes the only way to get things done and get yourself out of the slump is to not let yourself give into your negative mood. This is definitely something I need to work on in 2017.

    Just found this on Pinterest… Pinterest always has exactly what you need when you need it!
  5. Only buy as much produce as you will actually use: Not as deep as usual, but still important. Long story short, I tried to eat healthier this semester, and in the process, brought way too much produce (sorry, Mom and Dad.) I seriously wish I had bought less. Just trust me and learn from my mistake. It’s much better to have to buy more than waste food.
  6. It’s okay to play Just Dance by yourself: It’s okay to do anything by yourself, really. Even though people thought there was something wrong with me when they walked past my dorm room door and I was dancing by myself, it was kind of fun. So was going to the campus art gallery right now. And eating dinner by myself. And going to the gym. I think there’s something really powerful in doing things alone. It’s easy to fall into the idea that you have to do things in groups or else you’ll be judged, but I think this makes it a lot harder for us to get to know ourselves as individuals. Seriously, treat yourself to some time alone and get to know what you’re into and what your inner thoughts are telling you. We spend so much time working on our relationships with other people, so why can’t we spend some time on our relationships with ourselves?

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    I took this when I went to an art exhibit by the Guerrilla Girls on campus… alone. And I have to say, it was oddly refreshing to walk around the gallery by myself. No pressure, no distractions. Just art.
  7. Writing is hard but worth it: I’ve always loved writing, but sometimes getting words on paper is easier said (or thought) than done. This semester, I became a lot more serious about and devoted to blogging, and also participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November, in which you “win” if you write a novel of 50,000 words or more. (I didn’t win, in case you were wondering, but I’m still proud of my progress!) Writing well is definitely a challenge. It can be hard to make characters come to life or convey the right feeling. It can be even harder when you’re inspired and motivated to write but you don’t have the time to do it. Even writing my stories for the Statesman and my reporting class was challenging, especially because I wanted everything to be perfect. This semester, I really learned that even though the process can be challenging, writing stories and blog posts is worth it, because it’s something I love. Being able to record my thoughts and communicate stories through the written word is one of my favorite parts of this life, and one of the biggest parts of who I am. So yeah, in a nutshell, even though it is definitely a challenge, sometimes the most challenging things are also the most valuable and enjoyable.
  8. I’ve got things to work on: Yes, this one is totally obvious. Everyone has things they need to work on, but I think this semester really helped me narrow down a couple of things that are at the top of the list. I’m beginning to understand that I can’t control anyone or anything except myself, and I can’t always fix other people’s issues. I’ve realized that I have a tendency to romanticize and idealize situations and forget the bad things when the good things come along, but I can’t keep returning to situations that hurt me. Also, relationships go two ways, and I can try over and over again to fix things, but if the other person isn’t doing their share, it’s not worth it. Basically, I’ve learned that I need to work on seeing my own value, that I’m not someone to be taken advantage of just because I care so much about other people, and that I don’t need to change myself in order to fit other people’s ideas of what I should be. I am who I am and I should be proud of and happy with that. I need to learn that it’s okay to put myself and my opinion first sometimes. Now I just need to actually figure out how to work on these things…
  9. Experiences>stress any day: I’d rather make memories than stress out over classes any day. Ten, twenty years from now, I’m going to remember the stupidly fun things I did with my friends, not the extra hour of studying I could’ve gotten. I’m not even going to lie, I cut class once this semester to go on an adventure at a local park and preserve with my friend Alyssa. Was it the best idea for my education or grade? No, probably not. But Alyssa really wanted to go and it was beautiful out. And you know what? I don’t regret it. Just like I don’t regret getting midnight bagels. Or midnight McDonald’s. Spontaneous adventures with my friends are the highlight of my life. Grades, classes, and work aren’t everything, guys. Don’t let society make you forget that. Live a little. Do what you love.

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    Here’s a picture I took of Alyssa when we went on our adventure. Not pictured: Alyssa bonding with the geese. Honestly, this is one of my favorite memories of the semester.

With Fall semester finally over and Spring semester so close, I’m glad I had these thoughts now and left room for more improvement come January. I’ve got great things to look forward to next semester too, including the next phase of the journalism program, another photo class, more Greek dancing (finally!), and more! In the meantime, I’m taking an online business class over the winter break just to get some credits out of the way. I hope you stay tuned for more life reflections and upcoming holiday and New Year posts! Happy holidays, Tasters!

xx,

Toni

Email: tantilizinglytasteful@gmail.com

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My Love-Hate Relationship with Packing: Washington, D.C. Edition


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Decisions are hard, to say the least. I’m definitely not great at making decisions, even though I have somehow become the go-to decision maker for my friend group at school.

Style decisions, at least for me, are some of the hardest to make. I’m heading to Washington, D.C. for Panhellenic Weekend 2016, held by D.C. Greeks, and since I’m traveling by train and bus, I want to pack light. The thing is, this event is basically a giant party, including one event that is “cocktail attire optional,” so the type of clothing that I’m packing this time around is incredibly different than the type of clothing I packed for my (unsuccessful) trip to Connecticut.

Like I said in my September Haul, I recently purchased a bunch of new clothes specifically for this trip, but honestly, I might have bought too much. I mean, I’ll definitely wear all of it, but I might not actually need it all for this specific trip. Following the tips I outlined in the Connecticut post, I tried to make my decision by mixing and matching and knowing my itinerary. That actually was pretty easy, considering that I already had a preference for some outfits over others, so as far as clothing goes, I ended up packing:

The hardest fashion decision I had to make was picking which dresses I wanted to bring. I had purchased three for the occasion, but in all honestly, I may only need one. I decided that I should bring two out of the three with me, just in case I do need a second one.

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I had to pick from these three dresses: (from left to  right) JAX Side Lace Scuba Dress, Forever 21 Contemporary Grid Print Dress, and JAX Square Neck Mixed Media Sheath Dress

I already knew that I was obsessed with the grid-patterned dress from Forever 21, so that immediately stayed in the running. Now, I had to eliminate one more dress. This was a little harder because the dresses are the same brand and kind of similar, so I followed my tips from Connecticut and tried to make my decision. I ended up making my choice based on the concept of mixing and matching. I’m very weird and particular about mixing metals, and honestly, I have a preference for silver over gold. The Mixed Media dress prominently features gold, but the bag I was planning on bringing to the events features silver accents. I’m just not comfortable with the way that would look together, and I didn’t want to pack an extra purse, so I decided to eliminate the Mixed Media dress.

 

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Both of these dresses match well with my bag (similar here), so mixing and matching is easy!

 

 

That rest of my packing was actually pretty easy, so as far as clothing goes, I ended up packing:

  • two fancy dresses
  • one casual dress
  • one jumpsuit
  • Spanx (hey, sometimes a girl needs her shape wear!)
  • one corduroy skirt
  • three sweaters
  • three pairs of heels
  • one pair of jeans
  • one pair of leggings
  • one strapless bra

I found that the real struggle, however, was in choosing what makeup I wanted to bring with me.

 

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Some of my fave beauty necessities, such as Garnier’s Micellar Water, elf’s Poreless Face Primer, and EcoTools’s Bamboo Finishing Kabuki Brush. Also, peep my super cute and colorful makeup bag (similar here)!

 

Since I was supposed to go to Connecticut for a church retreat, I packed very minimal makeup. But since I need to get completely dolled up for this shindig, my makeup decisions are much more imperative. Here are some tips for how I made my decisions.

  1. Get a good makeup bag: This is essential. I’ve had the same makeup bag for a few years now, but I love it because it’s sturdy and has plenty of compartments for me to stow my products. It even folds into a smaller package to easily fit in my luggage. Look to something with zipper or snap compartments so you can pack a lot in there but still make sure your precious makeup is safe and secure.
  2. Don’t skip steps: Don’t sacrifice priming or finishing products just to pack light. Especially for an event like Panhellenic Weekend, where I’m going to be dancing all night long, it is imperative for me to make sure I prep my face well before applying makeup so it doesn’t budge while I’m on the dancefloor. Also, finishing products like a setting spray or finishing powder make your makeup picture perfect, so don’t skip this if you know you’re gonna be snapping a ton of selfies!
  3. Pick your faves: I have a handful of beauty products that I save for very special events, either because they were too expensive for me to use on a daily basis, or because it’ll look silly if I wear them to class. This is one of those weekends where I bring those special products out to play. Not only will they make your makeup look extra special, but you’ll finally get the chance to use your products. At the same time, don’t skip out on the everyday products that you absolutely love! Your favorite eyeliner, foundation or lip gloss should still have its place in your routine.

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    These three products by one of my favorite makeup brands, NYX, are my special event go-tos. The Born to Glow Liquid Illuminator is just a touch too shiny for my everyday routine, but perfect for a night out. The NYX Wonder Stick for highlighting and contouring is a little too drastic for my school-day look, so I save it for when I know I’m going to be taking a ton of pictures. The Highlight & Contour Pro Palette gets reserved for incredibly special occasions because it is the most expensive piece of makeup I’ve ever purchased (I’m a drugstore beauty queen, what can I say?), but I love being able to finally use it!
  4. Mix and match: Just like with clothes, try to mix and match your makeup looks while traveling. You can stick to the same basics, like eyeliner, eyeshadow, and mascara, to save space and pack lightly, but pick ones that work for multiple outfits. For example, you can pick  one eyeshadow palette that can match anything you wear while away instead of bringing multiple palettes with you.
  5. Splurge: But at the same time, I understand that sometimes choosing is hard. You don’t want to limit yourself on the way you look, so choose one item that you’re going to allow yourself to pack multiple of. I am a lipstick addict, so I packed several different colors. Plus, since my outfits are going to have all different shades of purples and reds, I don’t have any one color that will really match perfectly with all my outfits. I couldn’t just limit myself to one.

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    I own more lipsticks than I care to admit, mostly by NYX, but also with some colors from elf and Revlon.
  6. Skip Supersizing: I know they say bigger is better, but that isn’t always the case when traveling. Yeah, it can be tempting to bring a big container of some beauty product on a trip with you, but only bring what you need. I use Vaseline on my lips a lot, so I keep a giant pot of it right next to my bed. But when I travel, I only need a tiny pot, because there’s no way I’m even going through that in three days. Same goes for toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo and conditioner, makeup wipes and face wash. By using the travel sized options, you’re leaving yourself room for larger must-haves that don’t come in smaller sizes, like leave-in conditioner or other hair products.
  7. Don’t Forget Removal: Just because you’re going away for a few days doesn’t mean you get to skip taking care of your skin. Make sure after your night on the town you remove all your makeup and wash your face to prevent build-up. The last thing you want is to come home and have to deal with breakouts!

I’m really excited to head to D.C., catch up with some friends and dance the night away! Hopefully, I’ll get to share some details with you when I return. I hope you guys have some awesome trips coming up and can use these packing tricks to make your experience a little less stressful! Let me know about any cool adventures you’re taking and any packing stories, mishaps or tips you may have. Happy and safe travels, Tasters!

xx,

Toni

Email: tantilizinglytasteful@gmail.com

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Building Your Support System: What You Need to Know About Bras


 

Yeah, you read that right. Last week, we may have celebrated National No Bra Day in the United States and the United Kingdom, but as a big-chested gal, I can personally say that going braless can be dangerous. Though No Bra Day is totally important because it helps raise awareness for breast cancer, it is also crucial to know what to look for in a supportive bra and what to avoid.

  1. Shape Trumps All: Yes, pretty bras are in fact pretty, but they’re not at all worth it  if they don’t give you the right shape. TMI moment: I was looking at some old pictures from 2013 yesterday morning and realized with disappointment that my boobs looked like they were a mile apart from each other. The problem? I spent my early high school years shopping for cute bras with polka dots in bows instead of focusing on the shape and support they gave me. I’ve learned my lesson, though. All my bras are now super supportive and keep my ladies looking shapely and in place. But they can still be super cute! Most of mine are lacey and classy, but I also have some pink ones and one floral and polka dot one. The moral of the story is make sure that if you are going to opt for a patterned or cutesy bra, make sure it all gives your girls good shape.

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    I love my bras because they’re cute and totally supportive!
  2. Strapped In: The type of straps that you have on your bra are oh-so important. For starters, a thicker strap will keep you in place better. But the style of strap is also crucial. Of course, you’ve got the regular strap bra for everyday affairs, but sometimes you may need a racerback bra, or a halter bra, or even a one-shoulder bra. You can totally invest in bras for all of these occasions (I for one have several crisscross back bras that I love), or you can simply buy a bra that has adjustable straps. These bras are great because they can be worn any way, even strapless. There’s even this awesome hack for strapless bras with attachable straps!

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    Just a few bra options, via looksgud.comlooksgud.comlooksgud.comlooksgud.com
  3. The Good Stuff: Picking a bra that’s made with durable, but flexible and comfortable material is key. If you choose a bra that’s flimsy, not only will it wear out quickly, but it will also fail to support you. Also, some materials can be itchy or too tight or too stretchy. If you invest in a good quality bra, you won’t find yourself constantly needing to replace them.
  4. Color Matters: Color does indeed matter, but only based on what you’re wearing it with. You don’t always want your bra to show through your clothes, so having a nude bra you can wear under whites is essential. Otherwise, I find that there are no official rules about bra colors and clothing. Test things out to see what color bra looks best with what you’re wearing.
  5. Get Felt Up: Please don’t be afraid of the ladies walking around the store. If you don’t know your bust size, ask them to measure you! They are very helpful with giving you a starting place. They can save you from buying bras that don’t actually fit you, and their measurements can be a lot more accurate than your friends’ eyes.
  6. Try. It. On.: Nothing is for sure unless you try the damn bra on. Just because a bra looks fabulous on your friend does not mean it’s going to hold up your knockers in the same way. Do yourself the favor of trying them on beforehand to make sure the hold your boobs correctly, the straps are comfortable, and the back is just right. Nothing is worse that buying a bra you think you love only to go home and find out it doesn’t really fit.
  7. Repeat Offender: Well, not really. If you love a certain bra style or company or store, trust them. Of course, your body and style can change over time, but if you really love your bra, stick to your guns. You’re more likely to be content if you go with something you’re pretty confident you like. My friends have repeatedly recommend Aerie, but their bras just don’t work well with my chest. I have tried corsetiere after corsetiere but my favorite place to buy bras is still Victoria’s Secret. I have found that their bras support me the best and make my ladies look fierce. They’re comfortable and durable, and ultimately affordable, especially when they have their sales! They come in so many colors and styles and I have for sure been the happiest there. You can take a look at one of my favorite Victoria’s Secret bras here.

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    Most of my bras… all of which are from Vitori
  8. Be a Good Bra Mom: This is one of the most important tips out there. If you want your bras to last and make your ladies look phenom, make sure you’re taking great care of your over the shoulder boulder holders. I’ll never forget the first time I walked into Victoria’s Secret, I tried to buy a push-up bra (long story). I was only 12 or so, embarrassed to be shopping for “grown-up” bras, and at the mall with my best friend, Torie. I was trying to hide the bra from other shoppers, so I put the two cups inside of each other and tucked it under my arm. When I went to the register, the sales lady, who, in retrospect, was also probably a little crazy, scolded me for trying to ruin the bra cups. To this day, I still make sure my bra cups maintain their shape when I put them in my drawer, simply for fear of ruining one of the most important pieces of clothing I own. So make sure you take the best care of your bras by being gentle and delicate with them, and hand-washing them when they get dirty. Basically, make sure you love and support them, because they’re loving and supporting you.
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    That bra love though

     

     

Hope you all learned a thing or two about bras and can use them in your own lives! Please let me know if you try any of these tips or bras out or if you have any questions!!

 

xx,

Toni

Email: tantalizinglytasteful@gmail.com

Twitter: @TTasteful

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Lookbook: http://lookbook.nu/tonirose08