Touring Santa Barbara, California!

Santa Barbara

santa_barbaraA few years back, I took an awesome trip to California for a conference of young leaders from around the country. I ended up getting a full travel scholarship to fly there from Maryland. It was a long weekend full of great speakers and meeting some really neat people! Unfortunately, I also lost my luggage full of favorite clothing items on that trip but whatever. I’m over it. Almost. Ok, I’m not. I fought with American Airlines over where it was for a couple months and then they finally just gave me money for reimbursement. They never found my luggage.

Anyway, moving on! Santa Barbara was wonderful. The people were incredibly nice and had nothing but good things to say about their town. The main street with all the shops and restaurants was called State street and it was always bustling no matter what time of day it was. If I had been 21, I might have taken advantage of the classier night life there. However, I didn’t want to be caught for sneaking in and then have it ruin my career. I’ve worked too hard to let alcohol take it all it away.

The mountains were absolutely stunning and they drained into the sea in such an incredible way. The west coast reallysanta_barbara_beaches does have a little bit of everything- dessert, ocean, mountains. I took several walks during our free time to just explore and look at the landscape. It was rugged in spots. Other places looked like something out of a magazine. I really enjoyed that time to just walk and think about how amazing our world is and its beauty.

young_americas_foundationOn a particularly fun outing, the organization sponsoring the event, Young America’s Foundation, took all conference attendees on a trip into the mountains above Santa Barbara to visit Rancho del Cielo meaning, “Ranch of Heaven.” It was originally owned by President and Mrs. Reagan and they visited often during his time in presidency. We toured the ranch house, which was surprisingly small and modest, and a few of the other buildings including the trailer where secret service would hang out and the tack barn for the horses.

reagan_ranch The ranch house was my favorite though. It was western themed obviously and had some old relics from the past few hundred years. One thing we learned about the Reagans was how frugal they both were. There was apparently a stove in the kitchen at one time that was prone to being a bit dangerous due to it’s age. Mrs. Reagan refused to throw it away because it still worked to a degree (she actually cooked for both of them when they were at their home). To get rid of it, a secret service agent had to tell her that they had found a “dead rat” in the stove and it was no longer healthy to use.

From another area on the ranch we could look down into the valleyfog_in_california behind the mountains and see some of the riding trails the president would take to get exercise with his horses. It was so stunning. On the other side of the mountains we could see the Pacific Ocean if the fog hadn’t rolled in. That was a very strange thing about southern California. The fog would be incredibly thick at moment’s notice and you literally couldn’t see a thing in front of you. The humidity did a humdinger on my hair when that happened. It would go from straight to messy beach hair in about 10 minutes.

During the evenings, a few of us would walk out onto the pier to listen to the seals bark in the distance and watch the birds dive bomb for little fish. Those were the quiet moments that reminded stearns_pierme of how far I was from home. 3000 miles is a long ways to be from the place you love. California just had a certain way of making it still feel ok. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the people. The food made it easier too. Mahi Mahi Tuna fish tacos are amazing in case you ever want to try something a little different.

Something else unique I encountered was the pelicans there are quite friendly. The one pictured here, eyed me the entire time I was on the pier. I don’t know what he wanted but he had no trouble coming very close topelican_on_a_pier me and scrutinizing what I had in my hands. It made me a bit nervous but he was kind of cute in his little bird-like way. He was an awkward animal though. It was right about this time when the fog rolled in and my hair was ruined. The girl I was with understood my troubles and we went back to the hotel we were staying at.

It was a really wonderful trip full of memories and I was really lucky that I got to go. If you’re interested in what the organization does and when these kinds of conferences are going on visit this website for more information. I’ve been involved with them since I was in high school and have gotten to do some cool stuff and meet really influential people.

I hope you enjoyed this little peak into Santa Barbara, California and my trip there. Honestly, a blog post doesn’t do it justice and I really can’t give you all the details of my trip because it would take way too long. All I can say is go to California and see what all the hype is about!

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How to Organize Your Life

Guest Post from the Writer of ‘Lollipops and Longchamps’

Hello Readers!

Most of you are either in high school and college, which means in a couple of weeks, you will be heading back to school and starting a new school year full of assignments, tests, extracurriculars and more! Organization is super important for sticking to deadlines and making sure you don’t go crazy during some of the most hectic weeks of the year.

Since elementary school, I have always been extremely organized: I kept a binder and a folder for each of my classes, each of my planners from fourth grade through the present are color coded by class and activity and my desk is full of sticky notes, to-do lists, calendars and highlighters (which is usually a huge mess- I’m still trying to work on that!).

For those of you looking for some organization tips and inspiration, here are five of my organization tricks that have helped me over the years!

  • color_coding_ideasColor coding is your best friend: Studies have shown that you are more likely to remember things if they are written in a different color other than black or blue. In my planner, I use a different color for assignments, appointments, deadlines, meeting and more.

For each color, I write down what it corresponds to along with a short description. For example, blue corresponds to due dates for projects, essays and presentation, and pink corresponds to birthdays and holidays.

  • meal_calendar
    This is my September meal calendar. I have all of my meals- breakfast, lunch and dinner- planned out as well as a grocery list and recipes for each meal.

    Use daily, weekly and monthly calendars to map out your life: This is where your phone comes in handy. If you have a Gmail account, you can easily use Google Calendar to plan meetings, organize your schedule and even plan your meals (this is very handy for college students who want to save money!) I also like to use the monthly calendar in my agenda to keep track of events and meetings.

  • Sticky notes can help prevent sticky scheduling situations: I use sticky notes to write down my to-do
    how_to_organize
    Sticky notes are also perfect for writing assignments and due dates if you don’t have enough space in your planner or if your professor gives you a new assignment during class

    lists, goals, reminders and important information. I use the standard sized sticky notes to write out my to do lists and the smaller, “flag” sticky notes to write reminders or mark my place in my planner.

Sticky notes are great for writing motivational notes to yourself or even little quotes to put on your mirror to read in the morning.

  • Start early: I like to give myself at least a week to complete assignments and another two weeks for important meetings. This semester I am vice president of my university’s pre-med association and co-president and founder of our Operation Smile chapter- not to mention, I have a part time job, I blog, and I am a full time student. Needless to say, I am extremely busy and its important for me to know what’s going on before it even happens.
  • Make use of freebies: Pinterest is full of organization printables that are absolutely free! They range from meal planners, to- do lists, water intake trackers, goal lists, shopping lists, chore lists and more!  These printables are so cute and are perfect for your agenda, bulletin board, or bag. I mostly use a water tracker sheet, shopping list and meal planner, and a daily routine sheet that is basically a condensed version of my planner (perfect for when you are super busy!) Some printables cost money because they are sold through a blog or Etsy- most of the ones I’ve seen are notepads or personalized planners- for under $10. I’ve included links to my favorite printables below. Enjoy!

Staying organized doesn’t need to involve a complete remodeling of your life- you can take small steps like cleaning out your desk once a week, sorting papers, or even cleaning out your purse or backpack! Once you find organization methods that work for you, it becomes so much easier to keep track of everything going on in your busy life!

xoxo,

Fanta

http://lollipopsandlongchamps.wordpress.com

Links to Free Organization Printables:

  1.  Hello Monday’s weekly planner: She has a sheet for every day of the week with sections for writing out your hourly schedule and breaks down your to-do list into six categories (work projects, meal planning, beauty, appointments, cleaning and fitness). This printable is great for people who like to categorize their to-do lists instead of having one long list of tasks that are completely unrelated. Click here for the download.
  2. I Heart Planner’ s 31 days of Free Printables: Last year, she devoted an entire month to making free organization printables! Some of my favorites are the half letter daily schedule, day habit tracker (perfect for those having difficulties starting a new habit), and the library book tracker (that way you have all of your due dates in one place!) She also has a free organization course to help find  your “perfect” organization system; she sends one lesson a week each with a tip for improving your organization!
  3. Clean Mamma’s Water Tracker: I told myself that I would drink more water; thanks to my busy schedule and the abundance of coffee, tea and juice around me, I stopped sticking to my goal. This printable is perfect because the sheet is small enough for your planner and when you flip to your weekly agenda, your water tracker will be right there looking at you. Each sheet comes with two trackers (two weeks’ worth), so you can print off copies to last a couple of weeks, or laminate one copy and use a dry erase marker to track your water consumption. I like to see my progress, so I’ll probably make a bunch of copies to last a month and see how I like that versus printing one copy.

 

Blogging 101: A Short Intro for Newbies

I was in your position a few months ago and I know how hard it can be. You see all these famous, successful bloggers (think Rach Parcell’s Pink Peonies blog) and wonder how they got there. Truthfully, I’m not sure. I haven’t figured that out yet. What I do know I’m going to share with you and I hope you’ll share it with others.

lilly_pulitzer_agendaThe first thing I learned is that consistency is key. Posting routinely will not only improve your SEO Google rankings but it gives your readers an idea of when you will post. I haven’t always been great about this but recently I bought a Lilly Pulitzer daily agenda to help organize myself (blog to come on this).

The second thing I learned is that it’s important to get involved with other bloggers. Commenting, liking, collaborating (which I love doing), and exchanging ideas is all part of gaining a following and increasing your likability. Eventually, it isn’t just fellow bloggers following you, it’s people without blogs who love you enough to sign up for email alerts every time you post a blog.

The third tip I have for you is to connect your Instagram with your blog. This Instagram_profileis pretty simple because Instagram already has a widget set up in WordPress for you to use. All you need to do is activate it. You can use photos from every post and put them on Instagram to drive people to your blog. Be sure to include the link to your blog in your bio!

Finally, learn to use the “attachment details” every time you insert a photo. Particularly learn alt text. Essentially what this means is tagging your image for Google to index. For example, in my last post I had a photo of my Ann Taylor dress, the alt text I put in the image was “ann_taylor_dress.” Do you see what I mean here?

If there are any questions you all have for me leave a comment and I’ll be happy to answer them! Hopefully, I’ve helped you somewhat already. Don’t get discouraged that you don’t have thousands of followers and companies aren’t giving you free products yet. That takes a long time. Just be consistent and write about what you love.

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