Home.

Home. A place of refuge and warmth. Familiar and welcoming. Withstanding the test of time.

 

Home. A place of community, laughter, and memories that last a lifetime.

 

 

 

Home. A place of peace and calm among unfamiliar surroundings.

 

Home. A place that resonates with your soul, and brings back memories of a past long gone.

Home. A place with furry tails and frosted faces that remind you of the unconditional love you have been given for eight years.

 

Home. A place of true connection, despite its physical location.

 

Home. A place of adventure with others who share life visions.

Home. A place you will always have in your heart, no matter where you are.

Home.

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

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6 Minimalist (and green!) Travel Tech Essentials

This post has not been sponsored. There are affiliate links within this post, which means that I get a percentage of a purchase you make when you click on them. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make The Wise Willow possible! (Also, as always, everything I promote I personally love! 🙂 )

I have been traveling abroad for one month and two days now, and I have learned a lot about what I use on a daily basis. As a minimalist traveler, I had to choose carefully what I packed with me on this trip. After one full month I have realized that I keep reaching for the same six items over and over–so I wanted to share them with you!

1. RFID Blocking Passport Holder

I knew that I was going to be traveling through airports and streets, and was aware of having my passport physically taken or lost. However, I was not aware of digital data that can be taken from passports as you travel. I decided to get the Travelambo RFID Blocking Passport Holder, and store my passport with all of my important IDs in it. Not only does this make it easier for me to keep track of my passport (I got it in purple, my favorite color and one that is easy to see in my bag), but it gives me peace of mind during my extended travel. It also makes it easier to go through security!

2. PowerAdd Portable Charger

I have definitely been in one of those travel situations where my phone is running low on battery and there are no charging stations available. This adds extra stress, especially if you are traveling somewhere you have never been before. I bought the PowerAdd Slim Portable Charger to use for my phone, and I can tell you that I have reached for it quite a few times after long travel days. Each full charge will give me an extra 8 hours of full phone use, which has saved me from many a stressful situation. On my second weekend we had a massive storm that cut the power where I was staying for a full day. I had charged up my portable battery in preparation, and am so glad that I did! I was able to let everyone know that I was safe, and to keep updated on conditions and use my phone flashlight.

3. Eagle Creek Undercover Money Belt

Many of you know that I own what I call my “keychain of life” aka a lanyard that has the most anyone has probably tried to put on a lanyard… and I knew that this would not be the ideal wallet to use while abroad. It had many items I did not need (cards for local stores, etc.), and was bulky to carry around. I knew that I would be carrying three bags on my own, and have only one free hand. I decided to use this Eagle Creek Money Belt to store my cash and credit/debit cards under my clothes. This made it discreet, but also allowed me to easily access money without being worried about holding on to lots of items. It is also very comfortable for walking long distances or wearing for long periods of time (I have definitely tested this out), and sometimes I forget that I’m wearing it!

4. Reusable Water Bottle

I decided to leave my Nalgene water bottle at home for my travels, because one liter is simply too big to carry around consistently and with ease. However, sustainability and health are two of my primary concerns when it comes to minimalist travel so a reusable water bottle was a must. I opted for one that was easy to distinguish, and that holds half a liter of water. It is easy to clean, and has saved me lots of money at airports when I can pass on buying $6 disposable plastic water bottles. As someone who recognizes the importance of hydration as well, it has ensured that I stay healthy and minimize dehydration risks from long travel days and changing climates.

5. Mable Bamboo Toothbrush

Sustainability is something that I am very passionate about, and bamboo products are one of the best ways to manage your environmental impact while traveling. MABLE bamboo toothbrushes are self-standing and gentle on the gums, which makes them perfect for my sensitive teeth. They also have removable bristles so that you can reuse the handle for sustainable projects! (I think I am going to use mine as a label for an herb garden). For $10 they are more than worth the investment! You can read more about their initiative and goals here!

6. Dollar Shave Club Razor

Last–but not least–is a Dollar Shave Club razor. I joined back in May when I realized that I was paying way too much for a razor. As someone with dark hair, I shave quite often. I was intrigued by the idea of a razor subscription service, and decided to give it a go! Now I am someone who uses blades for longer than they probably should, but the Dollar Shave Club lets you change how often you receive replacements. As someone who cares about the environment but who knew that a safety razor would be hard to take traveling, this made perfect sense. The handle is durable and well-made, with detachable razor blade cartridges. It cost a grand total of $5 for me to get a razor and five blades, and I still have four of them left. I used to pay $10 for a good disposable razor that would last me a few months, but would have to throw the entire thing away and repurchase). Not only did I spend a lot of money, but I created a lot of trash. Now I have reduced my costs and my environmental impact! If you are interested in joining, click here!

These are the six items that I find myself using almost every day, and ones that I know I will continue to use as I travel through Costa Rica and Serbia for the rest of the year. What are your minimalist travel tech essentials?

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

 

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Advice from a Double Major

For this week’s post I decided that I wanted to focus more on my college life, seeing as the semester is already progressing to a close. It’s hard to believe that I am almost halfway done with my college experience as a whole! I’ve been a double major since October of this year (and an intended double major for quite some time before that!), and thought I would talk about all that I have learned.

When I started my college journey, I thought I was going to major in Economics and potentially specialize in studies of global development. However, as I progressed on my college journey and through my college classes, I felt a spark of passion for Religious Studies. I declared this as my first major in my second semester of college, and only then did I start to think that I might want to add another major to the mix. I had always been interested in politics and policy, and after taking a few classes officially added Political Science as a major last semester.

Being a double major is definitely not easy, but if there are two subjects that you are interested in it’s well worth the effort! Since my college does not offer minors, double majoring is an in-depth study of two disciplines. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

Be Prepared for Many Advising Appointments and Four-Year Plan Drafts

Planning for one major can be difficult in of itself, and planning for a double major is much like figuring out a difficult puzzle: it takes a lot of work to make it all fit. But once it does the effort is more than worth it! I think I have made about seven or eight full four-year plan drafts in my almost four semesters of college so far. I’ve made countless appointments to meet with both of my major advisers, and have also met with the career office and registrar. Because each major has different requirements, it’s important to talk with both of your advisers to see if a department allows dual credit for a class–that is, the class counts for major credit in both disciplines.

Think About the Type of Work that Each of Your Majors Requires

Both of my majors are reading and writing intensive, and because of this planning is key. I usually have a paper due each week at the minimum, plus reading assignments and other commitments. Using my planner effectively was a skill that I learned to value during my first year of college.

That being said, don’t let your double major prevent you from participating in extracurriculars and campus/community events! I volunteer and participate in a number of community organizations, have two campus jobs, and am on the student committee for one of my majors. I also blog and make YouTube videos. 🙂 But I manage to fit it all in, and still focus on self-care.

Don’t Let your Double Major Prevent you from Studying Abroad

This is important. I wasn’t going to study abroad because I thought that it wouldn’t be physically possible for me to fit it into my schedule. When people asked if I was going abroad, I told them that my double major was too full to let me do so. But I still decided to look at the programs being offered, and I found one that resonated so completely with the goals of both of my majors and my future aspirations.

Intrigued, I made appointments with both of my advisers and the registrar to see if it would be possible. And to my surprise it was! The application process was a bit stressful since I waited so long, so I recommend looking into it ahead of time if you have any interest in studying abroad. Don’t eliminate the possibility until you check the requirements! 🙂

Use Your Double Major to Pursue What You’re Passionate About 

A double major allows you to become immersed completely in two subjects that you’re passionate about. The downside to this is that there isn’t much room for exploring other classes or topics, but many colleges offer the option to audit classes you’re interested in! I’m taking 18 credits each semester this year, with Italian being the two credit class that I added on to my usual schedule. Plus with two majors you can usually take a wide variety of classes despite being “limited” to two subject areas.

Learn How to be Meaningfully Busy

When you pursue a double major, you will definitely be busy. Between all of your classes and appointments, scheduling will be an art! But there is a difference between being busy just for the sake of it, and being meaningfully busy. This might be one of the most important things that I have learned as a double major, because I definitely used to fill my schedule with things when I had the time. But now I have found out what I love to do, and how to prioritize what I love. I fill my time with interesting campus events, working in the community, classes, assignments, spending time with friends, and self-care. I am still very busy, but the nature of my schedule has completely changed.

I hope you enjoyed this post about being a double major! What have you learned in your college studies, or from being a double major? Are you looking to double major but still have questions? Leave a comment below or feel free to send an email! 🙂

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

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Minimalist Spending Tips for College Grads

During college it’s easy to get used to dorm or apartment living where the furniture and other necessities are already provided for you. Even though I have yet to graduate from college, I found myself starting to think about the investments that I am going to make and how to save for them ahead of time.

One of the common misconceptions of minimalism is that it means owning the least amount of materials possible. In reality, it simply means consuming with intention. In this way, you have to think through each purchase that you are considering in order to determine how much you would use this item on a daily basis. Since minimizing my life, all of the items that I have in my dorm room are things that I use consistently on a daily basis. Everything has a purpose, and everything is being used regularly.

I want to continue this lifestyle once I graduate from college, as it has been refreshing and rejuvenating to have only what I need for day-to-day life. In thinking about what I want to invest in once I leave college, I came up with a list of items that I think would be important to research and invest in for an apartment or living space post-graduation. When researching items to invest in, one of my main considerations was purchasing something that would last for a long time and be of high quality.

As someone who loves quality sleep (because in college quantity can often be lacking…), investing in a mattress is one of my primary considerations. This is something that very few people think about until moving in to a new space, but doing research beforehand is definitely worth it! I personally like really soft and supportive mattresses for my sore muscles at the end of my long college days. Casper mattresses come in all sizes and they even get shipped to your door! They also have sheets and pillows so you only have to shop in one place for everything. They are space-saving mattresses with a convenient, and there is only one model so you don’t have to do extensive research to figure out which mattress to buy! They combine softness and support, which is perfect for many different preferences. They even have dog mattresses, which is perfect for a dog-lover like me!

Another worthwhile investment, both monetarily and time-wise, is an indoor herb garden or herb jars. As someone who is passionate about plant-based living, fresh ingredients, and cooking, having fresh herbs to reach for many recipes would be well worth the effort. They make your space look bright and fresh, and also make fresh ingredients readily available and inexpensive! Along these lines, investing in cookware and environmentally friendly food storage is also very important. I know that I will want to invest in environmentally friendly cookware that has many functions, having the fewest number of high-quality cookware items as possible. Ecolution and other brands have different lines that allow you to pick and choose what you will use the most (for me it’s soup pots and sauté pans). This will give you reliable cookware that will last, and serve many purposes.

Dishware, bakeware (measuring cups, etc.) and spices are also worthwhile investments. I like to think about what I do every day (sleep, cook, work, and exercise) and base my purchases off of this. I’ve always wanted to have a small space, but have it encompass all of my favorite things within easy reach. I also like to support smaller businesses (especially for spices and cooking oils), and the products are very high-quality!

I hope that these suggestions help to get you thinking and budgeting for what you want to invest in post-graduation! Do you have any minimalist spending tips or favorite investments that you have made? Share them in the comments below!

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

*This is not a sponsored post, and all thoughts and opinions are my own 🙂 

 

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Where Are We Now?

Since that day, the tightness in my chest still remains. It ebbs and flows, but never truly disappears. For the first few days it was hard to breathe. Each step felt like a mile. Each morning I kept waking up, hoping it was all just a dream. My vision was cloudy; my eyes were a glistening crystal-clear window into the sadness in my soul. They say it takes time to heal, but it seems that time has frozen.

All throughout my life I have been drawn to compassion. Giving to others brings such a pure happiness and elation to my entire being. I love getting to know what has guided others throughout their lives,what has brought them joy, sadness, grief, passion, and every variety of emotion that we can express. Everyone has their own unique light to add to the world, and I love seeing it shine. Compassion is truly the gift that keeps on giving, but it is also one of the rarest gifts of all.

It takes the same amount of effort to love as it does to hate. But why, then, does the latter seem to be more pronounced in the world? Well, perhaps it’s because it’s often easier to see differences over similarities. We look for what makes us different, not the same. In reality, we all have something in common. We just need to take off the blinders to see it. We love to feel safe. We love to feel loved. We love to feel alive. We love to adventure. To play. To learn. To laugh. None of us are immune to sadness. To pain. To loss. To anger. To fear. To heartbreak. The beauty of life is something that we all share. And there’s nothing that can change that.

I do not write this to disparage, in fact, that would be the opposite of my intention. I write this as an invitation to reflect. To open your eyes to what is around you, and think about how you relate to the world around you. And ask yourself this: how does compassion fit into my life?

In my own life experience, compassion has meant transitioning to a vegan lifestyle and valuing all life. It has meant giving back to my community and helping others as much as I can. It has meant embracing minimalism, and living simply so that others may simply live. It has meant smiling at every person I pass, and learning more about their lives. It has meant letting go of anger and instead providing support. It has meant loving myself as much as I love others.

Compassion has a domino effect in this world, one kind act leads to another and another. It adds to your own happiness as well as that of others. It changes the path of action, and calls for healing in times of pain. It brings us closer together, and allows us all to see what makes us the same not what makes us different.

I write this today to ask you to both reflect and enact on compassion. One small compassionate change can make a world of difference.

© 2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

 

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Tips for New Bloggers: What I’ve Learned

I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite a while, and as I was thinking through my blogging goals for 2017 I realized how much I have learned in my time of blogging that I would have loved to have known when I first started out. Being a new blogger can be quite overwhelming, especially if you start out self-hosted like I did. But I learned so many things along the way and read so many helpful posts from other bloggers (usually that I found on Pinterest), that I wanted to make my own post one day in hopes that it would help new bloggers love the journey they are about to take! This is going to be quite a long post, and none of it is sponsored (it’s simply resources I’ve been using after many months of trial and error). If you find it helpful, I would love it if you would share it so that others can learn about the resources that helped me get to where I am today! 🙂 So without further ado, let’s get into it!

All About Hosting:

I had read from a number of other bloggers about all of the intricacies of hosting, and determined that self-hosting was the best way to start out. There are two main options for hosting: free hosting sites and self-hosting platforms. Free hosting sites (such as Blogger, Weebly, WordPress.com, etc.) allow you to create a website for free and start blogging right away. Self-hosted platforms (of which there are quite a few, Hostgator, FatCow, and SiteGround to name a few) have a monthly hosting fee and usually have sites through WordPress.org (the paid-for service). There are many pros and cons to both, and I thought I would create an infographic outlining these! If you would like to download this infographic, click here: All About Hosting!

I currently use SiteGround for self-hosting, and I couldn’t be happier! They have amazing customer service that is available 24/7, and their servers are always working properly with no website downtime for updates. They currently have a holiday sale going on, and you can click here to learn more and sign up! By clicking that link, they’ll know that an existing customer has recommended you to them and they will be able to get you set up with that in mind!

All About Branding:

The next topic is personal branding for your site and your social media. You’ll want to have a name in mind before you create your site, regardless of what hosting option that you choose, because it will be a large part of everything that you make from there on out. Additionally, if you purchase a domain name (and own that part of the internet, as a result) you cannot change your name without having to buy another domain. As you are thinking about a name, think of one that you’ll be able to use for the foreseeable future regardless of whether you change blogging niches (which happens often!) or not. I thought about my blog name for a few weeks, thinking through everything until one came to me as I was washing dishes in the sink. The Wise Willow, I thought, and immediately knew it was the one. Logos starting appearing in my mind, and I rushed to the computer to check if the domain had already been taken. Once you have a name you love, and have checked that the domain is available (if you are going to purchase and self-host), you’re ready to go!

Branding is one of the most important parts of blogging because it draws readers to your site. Your brand tells them about you and your blog, and should be a visual expression of what your blog represents. I have rebranded a few times (not changing names, but changing logos and color schemes) and my current logo is one I plan to keep for a long time. Now, like me, you might be thinking how do I go about making a logo? When I started blogging I made my logos with Word, which is not an experience I would recommend. The formatting was never consistent, and it took ages. That’s when I stumbled upon Canva.com, a free graphic design website with all of your design needs! I use Canva for everything and cannot express how much I love it! You can sign up for free and keep all of your designs archived to free up space on your computer. There are size dimensions created for you, and you can also create your own based upon what your website banner is supposed to look like (themes vary in terms of what the logo looks like). They have free and paid-for elements but I have yet to pay for something because you can upload your own content to the site and use it in your designs. Now, another question you might have is how can I legally use images I find? It’s important that you only use images and illustrations/elements that you own or have created, or ones that have no rights tied to them. Pixabay.com is my favorite website where all of the images are free for commercial use. I download their images (the small size usually), and upload them to Canva to create personalized designs. I also use some of these images in my posts if I haven’t taken any that suit the subject matter. You don’t have to cite them, and you are legally protected. Once you have established your brand, you’re ready to spread the word about your site and content!

All About Social Media:

Social media is one of the most important aspects of blogging. It helps you find an audience, potential customers, brands to work with, and a community of other bloggers to go to for support and friendship. I have made so many amazing online friendships, and feel as though the blogging community is one of the most supportive out there! There are many social media sites to pick and choose from, and by no means do you have to be on all of them. In fact, I encourage you to only be on ones you know you will use. Quality over quantity! I am on Instagram, Facebook (pages), Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, and Bloglovin’. Admittedly, I don’t use Google+ often, but I have the page created in case I have an audience that prefers that medium. I am expanding my involvement with YouTube, but I am always on the other social media platforms. Twitter is my favorite platform, followed by Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Bloglovin’.

Canva will allow you to create banners for all of these social media sites, so that your branding can remain consistent and recognizable over all formats. Create accounts for the social media platforms you are interested in and get started! I could write for ages all of the things I have learned about each of these sites, but I think I will start a series for each platform since this post is already quite long! Let me know in the comments if this is something you would be interested in! 🙂

Skilled.co recently developed an incredibly helpful social media infographic that has lots of information about the pros and cons of sites, who typically uses each platform, the best times to post on each platform, and more! If you would like to take a look, click here!

All About Blogging Niches:

You may have already heard of blogging niches, or areas of expertise that bloggers will associate with. These can include travel, food, cooking, college, parenting, and many more. You most likely have thought about what you would like to write about, and may be thinking of one of these niches. Niches are great for finding online communities of like-minded creators, and for keeping your content organized under one umbrella topic. I personally am a Lifestyle Blogger, and I chose this niche for a few reasons. I am currently in college, and have written many posts about my college experience. However, I also like to write posts about DIY projects, book reviews, thoughts and inspirations, music, my vegan lifestyle, and more. Because of this, I identify under the umbrella of Lifestyle, since my topics all fall under a variety of categories. This niche allows me to expand my content, but also has drawbacks as it is sometimes harder to find online niches that fit my content.

All About Saving Your Content:

A blogger’s worst nightmare is to have their site crash and all of their content to be lost. I tend to have bad luck when it comes to technology, so I back up all of my text and media with a free DropBox account. I simply copy the text of the post when I write it, and then put it in a word document. I then upload that document to DropBox along with a folder of all of the images I used. It’s just another way to make sure your content is safe! You can use other sites as well, such as Google Drive, for the same purpose.

All About Posting Schedules:

When I started my blog, I wasn’t sure how often I had to post. I saw bloggers who posted every day, and some who posted twice a month. All of them had amazing blogs and a large following, which left me in the dark about the best approach. To be honest, it’s completely up to you! I have always had the mindset quality over quantity, and with being a part-time blogger I knew that posting once per week during the semester (and more during breaks if I wanted to) was the best way to go. I was able to stick to this schedule because it accounted for my personal circumstances, and it made me feel accomplished over time. There’s no need to rush into your blog to create content right away, write when you feel inspired and create a posting schedule that you know will be realistic for your own life and writing process. 🙂

All About Monetizing Your Blog:

This is something that I am still relatively new to, and I didn’t start working with brands until August of 2016. I started my blog for my passion of writing, and still keep that in mind every time I receive inquiries from companies. So how does all of this work? Well, for me it all started when I received an email from a brand asking if I was interested in working on a collaboration with them. How did they get my email, etc? The more that you engage in your online social media platforms, join Twitter chats and Facebook groups (something I will write a post about soon!), and comment on other blog posts the more that your name will get exposure across the Blogosphere. It took a full year for me to get my first offer, and I hesitate to get more involved in the world of monetization. I only work with companies that I know support my visions, which means that I don’t take many opportunities. I also don’t currently have ads on my blog, because I want to keep my blog as personal as possible. Because of my limited experience with monetization, I highly recommend searching “blog monetization” on Pinterest or looking at my Side Hustle: Blog! Pinterest board for posts that discuss monetization options more in-depth! 🙂

I hope you found this post helpful! I would love to start a series that includes my tips and advice for bloggers on a variety of subjects, let me know if that is something you would love to see! If you like this post, please share it on your social media or on Pinterest so that others can see these tips! I hope to help as many people as possible, because I know posts like these definitely helped inspire and encourage me when I started blogging! As always, if you have any questions I would love to help in any way I can! Send me an email to thewisewillowblog@gmail.com! 🙂

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

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How I Organize During Winter Break

I am officially on my Winter Break, and am in the process of organizing after my finals week. During finals week and many other busy weeks during the semester I saved many of my files in the wrong folders on accident, and saved lots of blog images to my desktop so that I could find them again. But it’s definitely time to do my yearly clean with my accounts and computer files to get ready for the New Year! I thought I would go through my typical routine for organizing all of my files and accounts, as a lot of it involves blogging as well!

Computer Clean-Up:

Since I use my computer for my college and blog work, it can definitely get a bit cluttered! I always make new folders before each semester for my new classes, but somehow I always end up with files all over the place despite my attempts at being organized. So at the beginning of break I first go through my old files to see if there are some that I can delete from a year or two ago. I then open up a few Finder file windows to do the rest of the clean-up! With this process, I go though and determine the files that need to be moved to a certain class. I also look in folders that I’ve already created, because the default saving function sometimes puts them in the wrong place.

Once I’ve sorted all of my files, I then create a new folder for the new semester and new class folders for all of my upcoming assignments. This saves room on my computer, and also ensures that I start the semester off organized and sure of where everything is. I also go through all of my blog photos and delete them from my desktop or downloads folder, and start fresh for the New Year. I also backup all of my existing content in DropBox just to be on the safe side!

Email Clean-Up:

Between my email accounts, it can be hard to keep on top of deleting messages I don’t need on a regular basis. Because of this, I make sure to go through all of my email accounts over break and delete unnecessary and old email messages. I also go through my spam folders, which actually accumulate quite a few messages! Having a decluttered digital presence makes me feel much more organized and ready to handle what’s ahead!

Photo Clean-Up:

My phone photos (and photos that get uploaded to my computer) also tend to get quite out of sorts, and cleaning them up makes room for new memories! I also like to save photos to my hard drive and to DropBox or Google Drive to make sure that they last through any mishaps (such as when my phone of almost two years decided to stop working properly a little while back). Sometimes I’ll even edit a few and make fun collages for celebrating the end of a year. 🙂 It’s always great to have a fresh start for a new semester!

Subscription Clean-Up: 

I also take the time to look over my subscriptions for YouTube and other social media sites to make sure I am still interested in them, and take the time to find and follow new ones. It’s always interesting to see how much my interests have shifted in a year! I also like to clean up my Pinterest boards, likes, etc. to make sure that I am up-to-date on everything for the New Year. With Spotify, I clean up my playlists and make new ones based upon my current music interests. I’ve been listening to so much music lately (especially during my delayed travel day) and have been meaning to make more playlists!

I hope you enjoyed this post! I’m getting back into the swing of blogging, but am also planning lots of exciting things for next year! Stay tuned! 🙂

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

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Blogmas Day 11: My Winter Skincare Essentials and Giveaway!

Winter has officially arrived (the snow is falling as I type this), and with it the woes of winter skin. Many of you probably know that I’m a little bit obsessed with skincare, because when my skin is healthy I feel amazing all around! There are small, everyday things that I do to keep my skin healthy like hydrating and eating nutritious foods, but in the winter my skin definitely needs all the help it can get!

I thought I would show you all of my winter skincare essentials, and what my winter skincare routine is (especially for Finals!). At the end of this post there is an exciting giveaway announcement, so stay tuned! 🙂

Winter Skincare Essentials: Face Masks

Sparkling Pear Pore Cleansing Mask

Face masks are one of the most relaxing ways to take care of your skin in the winter. I love to put one on while I am cleaning my room, reading for a class, writing a paper, or relaxing and watching YouTube. They are very versatile and each have their own benefits for your skin! I have been loving three that I recently got, and they have helped to keep my skin clear when it normally flares up from stress.

The first two that I am loving at the moment are both from the Feeling Beautiful line: the Dead Sea Minerals Anti-Stress Mask and the Sparkling Pear Pore Cleansing Mask. Both of these are very cooling for the skin, and each have their own benefits depending on what your skin is in need of. I love to use the Anti-Stress mask to calm irritated skin, or when the wind has been particularly harsh.

Dead Sea Minerals Anti-Stress Mask

It tones down redness and calms irritations! The Pore Cleansing mask is perfect for when you feel as though your skin needs a little extra detox from the stress and environment of exams and hectic schedules. One of the things that I love most about these masks is that they don’t dry and crumble like most masks I’m used to. I’m not sure why, but I am definitely not a fan of that tight and crumbly feeling, so I love these for that reason. They are also quite cheap, and the bottles are huge! They are perfect for ending the semester on a good note.

Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask

I am also loving the often-raved about Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask. I was given this as a holiday gift and tried it out today after coming back from a long paper writing session at the library. Besides the fact that it has an adorable pig wearing a face mask on the front (and we all know how much I love pigs…), this is one of the strangest masks I have ever tried. It has a very odd consistency, and when you put it on your face it tingles and foams up. After about six minutes the mask is completely foamy! As soon as I washed it off (which definitely took some effort because there was a layer of product under the foam) my skin felt very hydrated and healthy! I highly recommend it, especially since it always gets some great laughs and is a fun way to take care of your skin! 🙂

Winter Skincare Essentials: Moisturizer

Lumene Bright Now Vitamin C Moisturizer with SPF 15

Over the years I have come to realize the importance of wearing sunscreen on your face every day. This may sound odd to some people, especially during the winter, but the sun’s rays are damaging to skin all year round. I started using sunscreen on a daily basis a few years ago, and the difference is phenomenal. All of my dull skin is gone, and my skin is left a lot softer and hydrated.

I love moisturizers that have SPF in them, as this is a great way to combine the benefits of both. The moisturizer that I have been loving lately is the Lumene Bright Now Vitamin C Moisturizer in SPF 15. This moisturizer wakes up your skin with Vitamin C extracts, and also protects it with its sunscreen formula. It wears well under makeup, and isn’t oily on the skin. I wear this under another tinted sunscreen for my skincare routine, as this gives my skin an even tone.

Winter Skincare Essentials: Facial Cleansing Tools

The ULTA Dual Action Cleansing System

I have always gone the route of using my hands to apply facial cleanser, without thinking too much about it. When I was on ULTA the other day, I saw the Dual Action Cleansing System and knew I had to look up reviews and learn more. The reviews were raving, and I thought I might as well try it out (especially since I was approaching one of the most stressful times of the semester).

In all honesty, my skin has never felt cleaner. The brush isn’t too rough, and never leaves any irritation. It cleans away more dirt than I thought possible to have on my face after washing it with a facial wipe and balancing toner. I use it with my Burts Bees Deep Cleansing Cream, which has menthol in it for soothing irritation and cleaning pores.

I use this brush at night to make sure that I thoroughly cleanse my face of all impurities before bed, but don’t use it twice a day just to make sure that no irritation develops. In the morning I use my balancing toner instead to cleanse my face before applying moisturizer and sunscreen. So far my skin has improved, and it feels much cleaner with this new routine!

Exciting Giveaway!

I knew that I had to give one of these cleansing brushes away, because I am such a huge fan! I am running a giveaway through the New Year, which is open to all U.S. residents. I promise I will have a worldwide giveaway at some point! 🙂 Enter below (there are three different ways to enter), and good luck!

Click the link below to enter! 🙂
a Rafflecopter giveaway

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

 

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Blogmas Day 4: What I’ve Learned About Stress

top-20-tipsBeing in college has taught me a lot about stress–more specifically, how to handle stress. I was originally going to post about the Winter Waltz that is put on by my college, but as I was at Waltz I kept thinking about how the ways I face stress have changed. With finals coming up, I wanted to address how I tackle day-to-day stress and the more significant stress that comes with the end of the semester.

My Waltz outfit!
My Waltz outfit!

Tonight was the Winter Waltz at my college, where everyone dresses up for the evening–think of it like the Yule Ball from Harry Potter! It is held close to finals at the end of the semester, as a way to help students de-stress. I spent all day catching up on chores and going shopping for groceries, so I was definitely excited to get a break! We went out to dinner and had a getting ready party, and then it was time to dance! I had an amazing time, and it was great to catch up with people that I hadn’t seen for most of the semester! Those of you who knew me in high school know that dances were never really something I enjoyed. I often spent the evening studying, usually not efficiently, instead of taking the night off to go out. In college this changed, and I am glad for it. I have learned the importance of taking time to connect with others away from the stresses of school. My connection to my campus and my peers is much stronger as a result, and I am much happier and am able to get more work done in general.

The academic rigor of my classes this year is at least twice that of last year, which definitely has the potential to spike my stress levels. I was quite stressed last year, and because of that I actively sought ways to avoid those pitfalls this year. Prioritization has helped me focus on what is important, and to move from task to task. A sort of ‘tunnel vision’ of sorts. I will still have a general sense of where I am going, but I no longer write out extensive to-do lists. Instead, I focus on what needs to get done and intentionally tackle those tasks while building in time for self-care and relationships with others.

In terms of my classes, I have learned that asking for help is never a weakness. Especially when you are balancing a large course load of diverse classes, asking for help is essential. In my statistics class, for example, I have done just this. Math has never been my forte (hence why I am a humanities double major), but I have found a few strategies that have led to greater success than I thought possible in this class. First, I take the time to understand the material and its applications instead of rushing through the homework. I take notes on the textbook chapters, and make sure that I understand the concepts being built upon. The homework is graded on accuracy, which has inspired me to become more thorough. In addition, I have asked the professor for help outside of class as soon as something confuses me. I have even visited the data center late at night to make sure I was understanding the ins and outs of the software program. Because of this, I have seen a huge improvement in my math skills and I haven’t had to worry about quiz and exam grades. I am also using this math in one of my politics classes this semester, which has helped me to see real-world applications. In short, seeking help before I feel overwhelmed has significantly reduced my stress and increased my confidence.

Drinking more tea has helped me unwind
Drinking more tea has helped me unwind

I have also adopted a new strategy this year for dealing with stress in general: not allowing myself to stress until absolutely necessary. In essence, I don’t allow myself to dwell on things until they need to rise to the forefront of my agenda. This prevents that overwhelmed feeling that would often lead to me not getting any work done last year.

I have also been a lot kinder to myself, and have redefined success. Since I am tackling so many things at once (18 credit hours, a double major, extracurriculars and committees, blogging, volunteering, working, etc.) I celebrate all of my successes, no matter how ‘small’. I have redefined what success means to me in light of my endeavors, and as such have surprised myself with what I have been able to achieve.

This year I have refused to let stress control me, and as a result have been able to live in the moment and enjoy the now. Time has flown by, and I have enjoyed all of my endeavors. I can count on one hand the number of times I have felt overwhelmed, which is a massive improvement from last year!

How do you control stress? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

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Journeying into a New Decade

textOn Monday I embarked on a new life journey: my twenties. For the past few years, it feels as though life has been moving at the speed of light. Ten years ago I was entering middle school, which feels as though it was a completely different lifetime. High school passed even faster, and college feels as though it has gone by in the blink of an eye. Though we have just started the year, September is almost over which I can’t even believe! Come May I will be done with half of my college career, which doesn’t seem possible. I had always heard that life passes us by, but never fully realized the truth behind this mantra.

I feel ready to start this new journey in my life. I am pursuing my passions, and growing into who I am as a person. My nose piercing has helped to establish this change, and I feel as though the difference between 18, 19, and 20 has been very grounding. At 18 I graduated high school. At 19 I learned how to live on my own, and how to build a life for myself. At 20 I hope to learn how to follow my passions and help others to do the same.

magnolia-trees-556718_640The most important change that has occurred over the last two years is my outlook on life. Now that I am making my way in the world, I can see all of the gifts that it has to offer. I wake up and cherish all of the small blessings that often go unnoticed. In high school I allowed myself to be caught up in small inconveniences, and never stopped to think about my blessings and the beauty that surrounded me. There are so many beautiful things in the world, and it is so easy to get caught up in our problems and life stresses.

During my 19th year I also went through a time of struggle health-wise. As someone who never thought that I would develop sensitivities to food or chemicals, I thought that I could always live with the same patterns. After realizing that my health problems weren’t going away (even after many months), I knew I had to make a change. This pushed me into a space of uncertainty, and I felt as though I had a new challenge that I had to face. Not only did I have to adjust to life on my own, but I had to adjust my diet and routine. After a few months of reconciling with this new reality, everything else just fell into place.

reed-546250_640I’ve often heard people say that the universe (and life) knows when you need to be somewhere else. You may not agree or even see this as a reality, but it will push you further and further from your current situation until you accept change. It took months for me to realize that I couldn’t go back to the routines I had always adopted in high school, and the past few months have brought me to where I’m supposed to be. I’m living simply, and have a new consciousness about my health. A newfound sense of positivity has come alongside my physical health improvements, and the world has gotten much brighter.

The last decade of my life amounted to significant change, and I think that this coming decade will as well. I’m excited to live in the moment and explore the world with my developed sense of self. I think that the twenties are a unique decade in which you can explore the world and choose your path.

If you are in your twenties or older, what has been the best part of this decade? Is there anything that you would tell those who are just beginning on this journey (like me! 🙂 ) about what to expect? Let me know in the comments or via email (thewisewillowblog@gmail.com)!

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

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Alyssa DeBella

Hi there! Welcome to my blog! I'm a third-year college student passionate about writing, minimalism, vegan living, and coffee. I would love for you to join my online family!
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