Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Celebrating Two Years!

holding sunflowers
I was going to go to a local cupcake store for these photos but then I realized the sunflower festival was happening, so I grabbed my nearest seersucker dress and took my most “on brand” photos to date!

I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for two years now! It feels like I’ve been at this forever but it also feels like I just started yesterday. In this post I’m going to share a little bit about why I started blogging as well as answering questions that you guys had for me, so let’s get started!

Why I Started Blogging

Here’s a little known fun fact: this is actually my second blog! I was inspired to start one because I used to read a blog about physical therapy school and I tried to start one about being a pre-PT but it didn’t last. I wish I could remember what the name of it was but those posts have been deleted and I transformed that blog into Sunflowers and Seersucker.

I started this blog because I was inspired by bloggers like Kate from Lonestar Southern and Lucy from Daily Dose of Prep. I wanted a place to document my style and share my thoughts and I’m so glad I started! Blogging has become such a fun part of my life and I’m glad I have a space where I can document what I’m doing so I can look back on it later!

walking with sunflowers
Probably checking to see if I have any bugs on me.

The Lessons

Something you may realize is that all of these lessons are centered around a common theme. I apologize if you end up thinking it’s repetitive but here we go:

Be authentic.

All of my favorite bloggers show their day to day life alongside the “highlight reel” that is Instagram. From sharing her hair loss and wig wearing journeys to showing viewers her husband’s broken toe, Dani (@daniaustin on Instagram) is the queen of keeping it real.

I personally believe that everyone who blogs should incorporate lifestyle into their pages if you blog/post on Instagram. I think keeps things interesting while also showing people that life isn’t meant to be perfect. We’ve let social media take over so much of our daily lives that it’s time to learn to laugh at ourselves.

Don’t niche down.

If you’re trying to make it big blogging, you probably shouldn’t listen to this piece of advice because every podcast I listen to tells you to find a niche and they have at least 10x the amount of followers that I have, BUT, if you’re blogging as a hobby write about everything that interests you!

People aren’t one-dimensional, so play to all of your interests. I love picking out cute outfits so I started this blog to share my closet, but I also love reading. So once I found out there were book blogs and #bookstagram I wanted to share my reading list too. It’s easy to get caught up in making things fit your niche but you’re still sharing something valuable it just might not be what someone was expecting. For example, I don’t follow any instagram accounts dedicated to making smoothies (although I do love looking at smoothie bowls) but when someone shares a good looking smoothie I usually screenshot it.

The numbers don’t matter.

This is such a hard one! For the past few weeks I’ve been staring at my follower count on Instagram just willing it to hit 1000. But so much of Instagram just isn’t real!

Real talk: when I first started trying to grow my Instagram I joined a Facebook “likes” group. You could comment on a daily likes thread and you and 99 other people would go like each other’s pictures. Sure my likes went up but I didn’t have anything in common with these people, they weren’t interested in my posts and I wasn’t interested in theirs except for the extra like. Not to mention it was stressful. I was always checking to see if a thread had been posted because I wanted to keep up my number of likes. And you had 12-24 hours to complete all the likes. I can’t even tell you how many times I wrote “oops sorry Instagram won’t let me like anymore posts right now” just because I didn’t have the time/energy to go down the list even though it’s a pretty mindless activity.

So next time you find yourself playing the comparing game, tell yourself that whoever you’re comparing yourself to may be using other sources. It wasn’t just small bloggers who are in those groups, some bigger accounts are there boosting engagement too!

Focus on the people.

This is social media we’re talking about. Not thing I want to focus on going forward is making real connections. I’m going to comment on more posts that I find interesting and ask people questions about how they’re doing. I want to find authentic engagement, I want people to comment on my posts because they think it’s interesting or they’re giving recommendations.

I recently joined @bloggersliveboston and I can’t wait to start meeting some New England bloggers! I haven’t been able to make it to an event yet but I’m looking forward to making connections really soon!

girl with her back to camera holding sunflowers, in front of sunflower field
They don’t even look real!

Answering Your Questions

And now to your questions! I had a lot of similar themes so I tried to tie them together but if I missed your question, comment below/send my a DM and I’ll answer it!

How I grew my followers?

I’ve tried a few different ways to grow my followers so here’s the rundown:

  • In the Facebook groups I was talking about earlier I have also participated in follow for follow threads. So I would put my link down and then you would either have to follow everyone or pick a certain number of people per thread and follow them. If this is the route you’re going to try to grow followers I would definitely recommend the latter. While following everyone will get you more followers, it’s better long term wise to pick people that have similar interests to you!
  • I’ve also done a few loop giveaways. I did find these to be beneficial as I always gained a ton of followers and only lost a few in the days after the prize was announced. My advice if you’re trying this method: find giveaways that match your/your followers’ interests and make sure the giveaway account unfollows you before the prize is announced. Matching interests is important with the authenticity factor, for example I don’t think too many of my followers would want to win a gift card to Game Stop but they may want to try to win a gift card to Lilly, especially when After Party Sale season comes around (if anyone wants to do this as a giveaway hit me up it sounds like a good idea!). And as for the unfollowing factor, it’s easier for people to unfollow you if all they have to do is go down a list of everyone that participated in a giveaway 😉
  • I have had some luck recently with my new and improved authentic engagement strategy. It is a slower process than the methods above but I’m okay with that! All that’s required for this one: comment on people’s photos! People that you follow and people that you don’t! Think like Oprah: you get a comment, you get a comment, everyone gets a comment. The important thing here is don’t just say “cute” make it meaningful, make it something you would want someone to comment on your page. Although I’m definitely guilty of throwing some “so cute girl”‘s around too.

Advice for new bloggers?

Have fun with it! This is your corner of the internet so share whatever makes you happy! Think of what interests you and share that. I am a firm believer in “your vibe attracts your tribe” so share what makes you smile and you’ll find people with common interests.

Biggest thing I’ve learned?

The biggest thing I’ve learned is definitely apparent throughout this whole article but it’s important so I’ll say it again: stay true to yourself! At the end of the day if you’re happy that’s all that matters! I actually just finished a book that is about social media and staying true to yourself and while the post is still being typed up, it was a good reminder that sometimes social media doesn’t feel social at all.

girl in sunflower field
Cheers to 2 years!

And so you have it! What have you learned from having a blog?

This dress is from Banana a few summers ago so here is a similar style from Tommy Bahama! Unlike mine, it has pockets which always seem like the best thing when it comes to dresses. I tried to find cheaper alternatives but it’s the end of the season so you’re best bet is looking on Poshmark!

xox,

Marissa

Uncategorized, What I'm Reading

What I’m Reading: The Enlightenment of Bees

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, The Enlightenment of Bees by Rachel Linden is the perfect mix of self discovery, a love story, and an honest reflection about voluntourism. This story is well thought out and each theme plays out very well and compliments each other. 

This story starts out with a proposal gone wrong and follows Mia on her journey to find herself. After a six year relationship, she realizes she had been in a relationship that forced her to compromise rather than fostering her growth. But it’s not just her love story, Nana Alice and her best friend Rosie also find themselves looking for love. 

As for the voluntourism aspect, Linden does not shy away from addressing the savior complex. If you’re not familiar with it it can be easily explained by @barbiesavior on Instagram. This book brings up two really good points about changing the world:

  •   It’s a two way street. You can’t go into a different culture and assume you’re the only person of value, you need to build a community.
  • finding where your passions meet the worlds needs

It’s a hard discussion to have, but this book definitely paves the way for the discussions to happen. As someone who has always wanted to do a volunteer trip abroad this has made me realize that without the community aspect no real change can be made. 

Another important lesson from this book was that the refugee crisis does not stop at the border. The true test comes as people are trying to acclimate into their new lives. 

There was one thing that was totally lost on me, the bee analogy. Bees are scattered throughout the text and I’ll be(e) honest I was confused. Until, I couldn’t take it anymore, I felt like they must mean something for them to show up that often. So I turned to Google and saw that bees represent community, brightness, and personal power. Well played Linden, well played.

If you’re looking for a thought provoking read that has a seamless storyline, this is your next pick.

Happy reading!

xox, 

Marissa

Uncategorized, wellness

Wellness Wednesday: Bodies Alive

Today’s Wellness Wednesday is a little different than usual. While we’ll still be talking about the human body, it’s not in the way you may be expecting.

This Sunday I was at the Museum of Science in Boston/Cambridge (the museum is actually split between Boston and Cambridge) and I got to see the Body World exhibit and it was amazing!

I went to see Bodies: The Exhibition when I took anatomy in high school and now that I have taken two more years of anatomy I feel like my appreciation for the human body and traveling exhibitions has only grown.

One thing that really amazed me about Body Worlds was that it was educational beyond just the bodies. They had rooms dedicated to different body systems and would include education about how to remain healthy through diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices in each section. As someone who just learned about workplace ergonomics one of my favorite parts was the video about adjusting posture while sitting at a desk and a model about proper lifting technique. I may be on summer break but it was a great way to review some key concepts from last semester!

A section on cataracts. I had no idea Monet and Degas both had problems with vision and it was interesting to see what they saw vs what they painted.

My favorite part of the exhibit besides being able to look at the bodies was the section on centenarians. Body Worlds featured a few people who have made it to 100 years old and had them speak about their lifestyles. While diet and exercise was mentioned, they centenarians also talked about their role in society. One woman discussed how important it was for her to be able to still be an active participant in her life, she still volunteers in her community and spends time with friends and family.

I had to feature this one on the blog! Mobility is medicine!

When you leave Body Worlds you can pick up a chip and pledge to make a lifestyle choice that will improve your quality of life. I was happy to see “exercise more” had a ton of pledges but since mental health is just as important as physical health, I pledged to stress less.

“Eat less sugar” was another popular one and if we weren’t in peak ice cream eating season I may have put my chip there…

But let’s get to the good stuff! The bodies! They are preserved through a process called Plastination and were absolutely amazing. It’s no secret I am a huge nerd when it comes to this kind of thing but they were breathtaking. You could see each of the muscles so clearly and the bodies were posed in such interesting ways, I could go on and on.

It wasn’t just the bodies that were on display, they had the nervous system and plastic replicas of the heart and all of it’s arteries and veins. The nervous system had to be the wildest thing for me because I was able to just stare at the brachial plexus I had learned about in class and look at in our cadavers but there it was laid out in front of me connected to all of the other nerves in the body.

I know not everyone may want to actually see the bodies so here is your warning: the donors are below!!

Could you imagine being the person to set this up?

That’s it for my review of the exhibit itself but I encourage you to keep reading below and learn about how these companies get the bodies. It’s an important discussion to have so let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Something important to keep in mind when looking into these types of exhibits: where the donors come from. In our anatomy class our professor mentioned that while these traveling exhibits are informative they don’t always get their bodies in the right way. Body Worlds’ donors come from people in Europe and the United States who have agreed to donating their bodies to medical students and the general public to learn from. Body Worlds is even stricter with their donations now after discovering some of their bodies were coming from Russian human trafficking rings. In an interview with NPR the founder of Body Worlds said, “What I certainly never use for public exhibitions are unclaimed bodies, prisoners, bodies from mental institutions and executed prisoners.” The key phrase here is public exhibitions. The founder of Body Worlds has admitted to selling unclaimed bodies for educational purposes. These bodies come from Chinese medical schools and have no written confirmation.

Bodies: The Exhibition is another story. The spokesperson for the company openly admits the bodies on display are unclaimed. The founder of this traveling cadaver company used to work with Body Worlds and then created a rival. This is the exhibition I had seen in high school and while it was one of my favorite field trips I had ever gone on, knowing that these bodies may not have been acquired in an ethical manner makes me cringe. But at least they are honest about not being able to verify who was donated to them.

So what can you do with this information? Weigh the options. Both companies have some shady deals going on, whether it’s the bodies they display publicly or sell to medical schools they both obtain bodies in an unethical way. If this is something you are really interested in seeing you just have to decide if you’d rather look at the bodies that were donated or if you are okay with seeing bodies who were not willing but the company is upfront about the means of getting them.

All of the information on donors to Body Worlds and Bodies: The Exhibition came from two NPR articles from 2006. While it is older information, this is the most trustworthy website I could come across.

I’m a huge quote person so I loved that there were quotes about life scattered throughout Body Worlds.

That’s all I have for you this Wednesday! Stay tuned next week for a more traditional Wellness Wednesday post!

xox,

Marissa

Uncategorized, What I'm Reading

What I’m Reading: The Woman in Cabin 10

This book was a Christmas present and I have to say it is my favorite book I’ve read this year. While it started out slow, I’m not exactly sure why I thought it was slow because there was a home invasion but I wasn’t really feeling it. But then I got to Lo’s time on the boat and wow I could not put it down!

Maybe it’s my unhealthy obsession with the Titanic and tragedies at sea (a story for another time) but I was hook line and sinker for this book. I would describe this book as a psycho-thriller, I was on edge the whole time and just as I thought I figured it out, there was a plot twist to hide the truth yet again.

I will say I had some serious Shutter Island vibes going on here. But I was completely wrong, there’s so much going on here and that’s the least of Lo’s worries.

If you’re looking for something to keep you on the edge of your seat that isn’t scary (I’m not good with horror movies) this is it!

Let me know what you’re reading in the comments!

xox,

Marissa

College, Uncategorized, wellness

The Twenty Four Hour Rule

When I was younger my grandmothers used to watch me after school. One time when I was sick my Nana told me the 24 hour rule. The rule is that you’re only allowed to sit on the couch doing nothing for one day. Then you have to get up and carry on.

So why am I sharing this? I’ve started to apply this to when things aren’t going so well too. If you do bad on a test you deserve your 24 hour mourning period but at that point there is nothing you can do. You can’t go back and change how you studied, what you studied, or the answers you filled in. So why dwell on it?

Say you don’t get the work study job you really wanted? There’s more out there! I promise there is going to be something else out there. From my personal experience I have found that every time something has not worked out for me in the way I wanted I end up getting something even better in the long run.

I’ve definitely mentioned it before but it is so important to keep a positive state of mind going into anything. If you go into your next job interview with the feeling of not being good enough it’s going to show in your body language. If you’re constantly thinking you’re not going to be good enough, your interviewer is going to see you in the same light.

So give yourself 24 hours, your feelings are valid but don’t let yourself dwell on it! You can still be in your feelings after 24 hours you just can’t let your negative thoughts consume you!


Photo from: http://spiritualcleansing.org/it-does-not-do-to-dwell-on-dreams-and-forget-to-live/

Let me know how you shake off any bad juju in the comments!

xox,

Marissa

College, Uncategorized

Heels and a Blind Date

Before I went back to school I took a solo trip to Boston so I just wanted to let you guys know what I was up to!

So I took the commuter rail in and got off at the Jersey Street stop.

Then I headed to the Museum of Fine Arts. My main goal of the day was to get Lilly Pulitzer shoes for my graduation but I love exploring museums so that was my first stop.

My view on the way to the museum.

The MFA was amazing! They had so many interesting exhibits but my favorite was all of the Egyptian stuff. I started and ended my day in two different Egyptian sections. Looking back on it, I probably should have grabbed a map but I had so much fun just wandering around.

The most amazing thing about the way they set up the museum is how immersive it is. The ancient worlds sections looked like you were in an Egyptian tomb, you were able to step in a replica at one point, and they also had a reconstructed old New England house!

This is the third building in Boston I’ve been in that connects new and old wings with glass.

I also was able to stop by the Ansel Adams exhibit which was so amazing! I discovered one artist who takes pictures in reflections but I am completely blanking on their name!

After spending four hours wandering the hallways I still had so many different sections to explore but I set my sights on my new shoes.

Next stop: Newbury Street

If you haven’t been to Newbury Street you are missing out. It’s a bunch of stores that I hope one day I can afford all on one street! My first stop was to pick up these shoes that I cannot wait to show you!

Next I went to Trident Books on the complete other side of Newbury Street to pick up a book from their “Blind Date” with a Book section. This is a really interesting concept where they cover the books and draw pictures on the cover so that you have no idea what you are getting yourself into.

At this point in the day I was craving some pizza. Leaving Newbury Street behind me I headed to Eataly, and ate at their Pasta&Pizza restaurant. It was such a good margherita pizza! And I couldn’t go to Eataly without getting dessert so I got this amazing trio dessert!

After that it was time to catch the train and head home! I hope you enjoyed reading about another day in Boston, there’s so much to do there that every day is a new adventure!

xox,

Marissa

Uncategorized, What I'm Reading

What I’m Reading: Autumn

Welcome to What I’m Reading Valentine’s Day edition! You might be thinking “The book was called Autumn but it’s February” and well get to that!

Over break I went into Boston and while I was on Newbury Street I stopped by Trident Books. It’s right next to Pure Barre and I don’t know how I never stopped there before!

They have this cute bookshelf at the front of the store called Blind Date with a Book! Ta-da! So I’m writing today to tell you all about my blind date. How this works is that all of the books on this shelf are covered in paper bags and have pictures drawn on them so you have no idea what’s underneath.

The shelf was filled with so many books and I was so torn on what to pick until I saw this:

If you haven’t picked up on it yet I’m a huge fall fan so this was just calling my name!

I took the commuter rail in to the city and on the way home I finished the book I was reading at the time and so I was left with a decision: open the book now and risk tearing the paper or wait until I could show my mom (she’s also a huge fan of Trident Books). Still having 30 minutes left on the train I opened the book. Very. Carefully.

The cover was absolutely stunning. I fell in love with the book almost immediately.

So now onto the real deal…

Autumn by Ali Smith is the first in a series of 4 seasonal novels. Summer has not been released yet which is fitting as it seems summer is years away at this point.

At first glance, I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. Smith’s writing can be overwhelming until you get used to it. She alternates between the story and another narrative that took me awhile to pick up but I’m so glad I did.

If you like linear plots, this is one you should put aside (unless you want to challenge yourself and expand your bookshelf of course). Smith switches between past, present, and everything in between. This book covered everything from intergenerational friendships, a pop-artist, feminism, and Brexit.

The wise people of Goodreads have put my feelings into words and I will share that with you know: I’m not exactly sure what I’ve read. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed what I read, I’m just not exactly sure I picked up on all of the references she included. I think Smith is a brilliant writer and I will definitely be picking up the other two, and eventually a third, but I don’t think there’s anyway I could have possibly picked up all of the things Smith addressed.

While I was able to understand the relationship between Elizabeth and Mr. Gluck, and I fell in love with it, the Pauline Body part was just too much for me. If there had been less Body I think I would have enjoyed it more but it tied together Elisabeth’s childhood to finding her thesis. It’s just that it kept going on and on and on.

That being said, I am very excited to pick up the next few books in her series. Something I find extremely interesting about this series is that it’s called a “series quartet” in that they’re stand-alone books that relate to each other as seasons do.

Let me know what you’re reading in the comments!

xox,

Marissa

College Cooking, Uncategorized

Kung Pao Quinoa

I wanted to start sharing easy recipes on my blog because as a college girl on a budget cooking can be hard! Living in an apartment on campus is so much fun, you have your own space with your friends but it comes with a huge responsibility: you have to feed yourself. While you can chose to get a meal plan, you end up saving so much money by making your own food! When I go grocery shopping I tend to stick to a budget of $20 a week. This makes me get a smaller amount of food that I tend to actually use rather than forget about.


I typically do my grocery shopping at Walmart because I find better prices there than at Stop&Shop and Big Y. The day I picked up the ingredients for this that was all I ended up getting and it only cost me $11! The recipe above makes about three servings and I’m only 3/4 of the way through the quinoa box!

This is such a great recipe because you can make the quinoa so many different ways, switch out the vegetables or the type of sauce you’re using and it’s a different meal entirely!

Step 1:

I would recommend to follow the directions on your box of quinoa to cook it but generally, if you are cooking 1 cup of quinoa you should boil 2 cups of water.

Step 2:

While the water is heating up start chopping your vegetables. I used 1 bell pepper and a handful of snow peas.

Step 3:

The quinoa should take anywhere from 15-20 minutes to cook based on the type you get but once you have about 5 minutes left you can start sautéing the vegetables. I put a little bit of olive oil on the bottom of my pan and then I put the kung pao sauce in and dumped all of the vegetables in. You can keep frying them on medium heat until it looks like they’ve been grilled.

Step 4:

You can now take a little but of quinoa in a bowl and mix some vegetables in. If you want to add a little more kung pao sauce to the quinoa itself you can do that now as well.

Step 5:

Enjoy! You should have about two more servings of quinoa left for later!

Here’s the type of quinoa I use and a little bit of a progress picture. The sauce I bought way Kung Pao Stir Fry Sauce from Panda Express!

Huge pro tip: only fry the amount of vegetables you need! Take it from me, reheating the vegetables in the microwave is not your friend. They get super mushy and it’s like you never grilled them at all!

I’m looking forward to experimenting more with different quinoa recipes and I can’t wait to share my findings! If you have any great recipes let me know in the comments!

xox,

Marissa

Style, Uncategorized

A Preppy Penny: A Dressy Valentine’s Day

Alright ladies it’s time to break out the LBDs. In true “ballin’ on a budget” style, we’re using your go-to black dress for a night on the town.

If you didn’t know, I work at Banana Republic Factory Store and I love my job! The people I work with are great and the discounts are so helpful! I was working one of the markdown shifts last summer and as soon as I finished all my work I put this on hold.

One of the ways to get clothes on a budget is take advantage of factory stores! They often have the same quality clothes for much cheaper!

The best part of this outfit is that everything I’m wearing I already had (or borrowed from my mom’s closet!) But, while my grandmother taught me everyone should have a LBD I have linked some below incase you need to invest!

Here is the link for the first dress: cute off-the-shoulder This one is much similar to the one I chose to wear and it is $49 at Lulu’s.

Here is the link for the second dress: little black dress- scalloped dress I love the scalloped details on this one, it’s os fun! This one also comes from Lulu’s and is $46. Neither of these photos are mine they come from Lulu’s website!

While both of these are on the more expensive side, I like to look at thing in how many hours at Banana it’s worth and both of these dresses come in at about 4 hours, but they are dresses you can wear again and again. They’re also more expense because they’re made in the U.S.! I’m working on a post really soon about the importance of being mindful while shopping and paying attention to who made your clothes!

To all my high school/college girls: you get an extra 20% off at Lulu’s. Another huge way to save money: flash that student ID! So many retailers will give you a discount for being in school. Always be on the search for discounts, one I just learned about the other day- all restraints at the mall I work at give 10% to employees who work at the plaza. There’s a discount out there for everything you just have to find it!

Accessorizing is always a must! I went with my classic pearls and two pearl bracelets I got from Claire’s forever ago!

And if you’re from New England you’re going to need a coat!

This is the same coat I wrote about in my dressed down Valentine’s Day post. While Old Navy doesn’t have the same exact coat they have a very similar one you can find here on their website and it’s on sale for $45!

Last but not least: the shoes.

Now shoes are definitely my weakness, my first part time job was at DSW and I bought so many shoes while I was there. These shoes are anything but cheap, they’re from Lilly Pulitzer and I’m so lucky my Nana, my mom, and a $25 off coupon helped fund them. Graduation here we come!

Here is a link to the embellished Amber Lynn sandals.

Here is a link to similar, and way more affordable pair from Indigo Rd. called the Sadie Sandal. They’re on sale at DSW right now for $30! The photo below is from DSW’s website!

Well that’s all I have for you! Have a happy Valentine’s Day! I can’t wait to see what you all wore!

xox,

Marissa