Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Years Resolution 2016: Small Acts of Kindness


During the holiday madness I braved the mall quite a few times, as most people inevitably do. There are few things worse than trying to find a parking spot right before Christmas. Besides it being absurdly crowded, people can also be super aggressive; it's like the Christmas spirit goes out the window when people are driving, am I right?

On this particular day, I drove into the mall's parking lot, got my little ticket, and was about to go on the hunt for a spot when I saw there was a parking attendant standing across from the ticket booth. He smiled and waved at me as I drove past even though I didn't know him (it's not like I'm a regular that he recognized). It was something so small that he probably thought was insignificant, but it really brightened my day. To the point where once I found a spot (after about 15 minutes), I sat in my car and quickly jotted down this encounter.

Later that day I found myself still thinking about the attendant and how often times people are afraid of being interpreted as weird so they hold back from these small acts of kindness. I decided that this year my new years resolution would be to follow in his footsteps.

Wave at a stranger.
Smile at someone.
Say "thank you" more.
Voice compliments more often.
Hold the door for someone.

These simple and easy things may mean more to someone than you know. 

Thank you to the kind soul that day who inspired this post.

With love,

Esra

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Final Countdown (Sort Of)

Less than 3 weeks until I'm boarding a plane and traveling across the pond to the land of tea and crumpets to finish off my junior year of college (okay so maybe it's not the final countdown considering I still have some time to go, but after months of filling out forms and applications, I can't believe it's almost here!).

I've already spent the majority of my downtime reading different articles about London, and here's what I've gotten from them so far:

  • the whole "it rains a lot" thing should be taken very seriously (and should be prepared for)
  • a tell-tale sign you're American is when you look the wrong way when crossing the street (this is going to take some real adjusting)
  • don't ask for chips and be surprised when you get fries (chips = fries and crisps = chips)
  • tea time is all the time 
  • Nando's is all the rage
  • rickshaws aren't the best idea

What will I be doing for 4 months?
I'll be taking three classes and also interning (where is still TBD). I'm most excited for "London Architecture and Urbanism" — apparently we go on a bunch of field trips, which is always great, and I love that I'll actually be seeing and experiencing London as part of that class instead of just reading about it in a book. 

What will I be up to for the rest of break?
Practicing my British accent.
Kidding. 
Realistically I'll be reading even more articles (because I'm too exited!!), and trying to figure out how to pack my life into 1-2 suitcases. More on that to come!

I couldn't be more thankful for this opportunity to study and work abroad. I'm a strong believer in the idea that immersing yourself in other cultures helps you grow as a person. It's so easy to assume the whole world is like your hometown, but that couldn't be further from the truth. This world has so many beautifully different customs and traditions, and I can't wait to experience England's.

With love,

Esra 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Low-Fat Gingerbread Christmas Tree Cookies


Some of you may already know my love for Skinnytaste -- Gina is an absolute food genius. I've been craving gingerbread cookies recently, and found a recipe she posted for gingerbread Christmas tree cookies (aka perfect if you don't have fun cookie cutters because you can just use a knife). 

My mom and I gave it a go, and here's how we did + my thoughts on the recipe:



These came out better than I could have hoped. They're just the right amount of spiciness, AND they're still soft and light! I was partially expecting them to be hard and crunchy like most gingerbread cookies I've had before, but then again I've never made homemade ones before (are homemade ones normally softer?). Essentially, these are perfect tea cookies.

Now I will say this, I do prefer milder levels of sweetness, so if you're looking for super sugary cookies, these probably won't be your first choice. The sweetness definitely comes from the icing, so you can put as much or as little as you'd like. Without icing, they're hardly sweet at all. 

Speaking of icing, I used Gina's icing recipe as well and had some issues getting the consistency right, but it still tasted great! If you're feeling lazy then you could totally use store bought icing (or another icing recipe). 

All in all, these were a success in my book, and I can see myself making them again in the future. 

Tip: be patient and wait for the cookies to cool before icing them. I'm always too excited and then the icing just melts off and doesn't look as pretty.

Also, here are the ingredients for those of you who want to try it out: 


Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup dark molasses
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves


For the Icing:

  • 1 1/2 tbsp egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 5 to 6 drops green food coloring
  • colored sprinkles

Full details, nutrition facts, and instructions for the recipe can be found on Skinnytaste.com, which I linked above. 

With love,

Esra

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dear Roommates



Dear Roommates,

*all of whom are not pictured*

Thank you for being you. 

Thank you for being there to cheer me up on all the days I've come home feeling defeated, sick, or fed up with society. You've all been there to complain with me even if what I'm complaining about is irrational.

Thank you for making me laugh until I cry (and fall out of my chair).

Thank you for LITERALLY scooping me out of bed and refusing to let me mope around on particularly dramatic days. 

Thank you for supporting my impromptu dance sessions or "concerts" (me pretending I can sing) in the common room (and thank you for only snapchatting said dance sessions and concerts to our other roommates).

Thank you for letting me drag you to the dining hall at all hours of the day/night because I'm forever hungry and you've accepted that (and thank you for using your meal swipes on me when I run out...).

Thank you for never hesitating to offer me your clothes for work events, formals, and basically anything else that would require me to wear a dress.

Thank you for supporting my love of ABC Family even though its the fuzziest channel we get (especially 25 Days of Christmas).

Thank you for keeping our common-room-box-of-snacks full of chocolate.

Thank you for letting me play the same playlist of songs 358206543 times until you can easily recognize all of them. 

Thank you for making going abroad next semester so incredibly bittersweet.

Much love in 607,

Esra

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Most Underrated Hand Cream



Dry hands are hard to escape this time of year. Hand cream is one of those things we all tend to overlook buying, but desperately need at some point or another.

Unfortunately, not all hand creams are created equal, and the "good" ones tend to be overpriced.

CUE Neutrogena Hand Cream!

It's only $5 at your local drugstore, and I don't understand how this isn't more well known because it is hands down (no pun intended), the BEST hand cream I've ever used.

It heals even the most painfully dry, cracked, pealing, gross (great visual, I know) hands. It has a thicker consistency that needs to be rubbed in, but afterwards there's no slimy residue like some creams can have.

Thank you for being one of my winter staples, Neutrogena.

With love,

Esra

Friday, December 4, 2015

Book Recommendations

Grab your blanket, a nice cup of tea, and one of these fantastic books.

I know what you're thinking: Esra, why would we want to do readings over break?!

Reading may be the last thing on your mind considering the never-ending scholarly articles, textbook chapters, etc. that you have assigned for your classes, BUT that shouldn't scare you away from the amazing books out there. I'm personally a huge book nerd (as we've perviously established on my blog) and even still I barely read anything non-school related during the semester because honestly there isn't enough time. While you're relaxing at home over winter break, enjoying doing absolutely nothing, consider checking out these books.

If you liked The Hunger Games...

Try: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
If you've read my previous book posts, you know I'm a huge fan of futuristic/dystopian/utopian novels. This is the first book in the trilogy and I think it's one of the most unique in its genre (you know how some books seem super similar to others in terms of plot, character, etc?). It follows a girl named Juliette who can't touch anyone  the last time she did, the Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why her touch is fatal, but she has now intrigued the higher-ups as a potential weapon.

If you like romance novels...

Try: Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover
This isn't your average romance novel, which is why I think I liked it so much. One of the main characters is a deaf musician and it talks a lot about how he taught himself to play guitar. It's a beautiful story that makes you feel for all the characters.

If you need some life inspiration...

My mom recommended this book to me, and it's applicable to absolutely everyone. It takes life lessons, if you will, and breaks them down to you in a really understandable way through mini stories. It's one of those books that you can read multiple times and take away something new each time.

Happy reading everyone!

With love,

Esra