5 Ways to Destress

Since I started high school, I think I've been in a constant state of stress. Going to university only made it worse because now in addition to dealing with school work and jobs, I'm also trying to take care of myself and pretend to be an adult.

It's easy to get tense and anxious when you have too much going on. Sometimes, I have to take an hour and do something to relax just to protect my mental health. An hour of relaxation now is much better than a few hours of mental breakdown later. 

Here are my tips for five ways to unwind when life is just too much:

(1) Have a meal with a friend.
It's far too easy to get into a pattern of eating all your meals while working on something. And there's nothing bad about working while eating one or two meals a day...it's when you realize that you always eat by yourself that you have a problem! When I'm very stressed, I try to take a little bit of time to eat lunch or dinner with my roommate, Lauren. Talking to her about my problems while I eat always puts me in a better (and typically more productive) mood and helps me avoid burning out.

A pizza bagel lunch from last week

(2) Take a bath. 
A lot of people only have showers at university, but if you're lucky enough to have a bathtub, take advantage of it! A 20 minute bath is such a great way to relax...if you have a lot to do, you can even review material for a test while in the bath.

My favorite bath products are by Zoella Beauty

(3) Listen to inspirational music. 
I had a very difficult week last week. The kind of week that would typically end in me crying in a corner somewhere. But, last week the Hamilton cast album was released and I spent every moment walking around campus listening to it. Listening to upbeat music that makes you feel like you can conquer the world while you're studying or just walking to your classes can help you so much! #imnotthrowingawaymyshot 

(4) Watch some YouTube videos. 
Sometimes when I'm stressed, the idea of watching a movie stresses me out even more. Taking a two hour break? Not something I can justify to myself. Spending 15-20 minutes watching YouTube videos is much better for me. Sometimes I watch haul videos or vlogs, but a lot of times I watch concert videos when I'm stressed out. Tell me you can watch this video without smiling and I'll call you a liar. ;) 

(5) Treat yourself. 
When I'm quite worried about something, I like to treat myself to my favorite food to make my mood better. I can't be unhappy when I'm eating a macaroon with my lunch!

Mini Chicago Vlog!

I went to Chicago this past weekend with my family to celebrate my grandfather's 88th birthday. While there, I took a few short montage-y bits of video to share with you all! We went to the American Girl Doll store, Topshop, and Eataly. x

Friday Internet Finds

Happy Friday everyone! It seemed like this week would never end. This weekend is exciting for me because I'm headed up to Chicago this afternoon to celebrate my grandfather's birthday (and go shopping at Topshop...). What are your plans for the weekend?

1. In case you've been listening to something other than the brand new Hamilton cast album this past week, it's been on NPR! But today it goes for sale on iTunes....it'll be so much more convenient to listen to it that way!

2. Ever wondered who the ideal guy for you is? This Buzzfeed quiz can tell you. Apparently, I should be looking for suave gentlemen. (Not sure we have those on university campuses...)

3. Was this week as incredibly stressful for you as it was for me? I certainly hope not. In case it was, here's 6 Ways to Stop Worrying from The Haute Notes. #muchneeded

4. The best part about the Emmy's is the fashion in my opinion. After looking at this recap, I think Sarah Hyland's was my favorite outfit. Whose was yours?

5. For my video this week, I wanted to throw it back to one of my favorite videos on the Internet...

Review: Hamilton Cast Album

Composer/lyricist/actor Lin Manuel Miranda broke the internet this Monday when he dropped the cast album of his new hit musical, Hamilton, on NPR's website. The album is released on iTunes this Friday (and on physical CD in October), but I wanted to go ahead and write my review since it's all I've listened to since it was released.

The Show
Lin Manuel Miranda's musical tells the life story of Alexander Hamilton, Founding Father of the United States. It's gained media attention for two reasons: its hip-hop style and its racially blind casting. Miranda, who is of Puerto Rican descent, plays Hamilton himself. The show's Off-Broadway production was met with rave reviews and since its opening on Broadway on August 6, it has become almost impossible to gain a ticket. I'm personally impressed by its very modern telling of historical events and by its heart-wrenching love triangle (who knew that a good love triangle was still possible?). 

The Style
To be entirely honest, I didn't think I was going to like the music of Hamilton. The idea sounded great and the plot sounded interesting, but hip hop isn't exactly my thing. I'm typically very much a Boubil and Schoenburg girl. I've never been happier to be proved wrong. I'm strutting around campus singing "I'm not throwing away my shot!" I officially have a favorite rapper for the first time: Lin Manuel Miranda. The musical is a mix of rap, hip hop, pop, classic musical theatre, and so many other influences I can't even name. 

The Cast
There's no denying that Lin is the star of the show. His Hamilton is complex and compelling and his voice is sublime. Jonathan Groff plays a hilarious and ridiculous King George III. Phillipa Soo's voice portrays an incredible range of emotion as Eliza Schuyler and it's become my goal in life to rap like Renee Elise Goldsberry who plays Angelica Schuyler (because I know that I could never attain her incredible vocals). There truly don't appear to be any weak players in this entire cast. 

The Songs
Thus far, my favorite songs probably belong to the Schuyler sisters. "Satisfied" has quickly become my go-to song, but I can't resist the 90's pop goodness of "Helpless." "Burn" is Eliza Schuyler's ballad and one of the strongest songs on the album, in my opinion. I predict that "My Shot" will become iconic and I don't think my friend Ashley would forgive me if I didn't mention the brilliance of "The Room Where It Happened." 

This album is a gift to the theatre world. It's one that I will listen to again and again to find the subtle references (who else has found the reference to The Last Five Years?), to attempt to memorize all the rap sections, and to relive the heartache. It's somehow both the perfect musical to get you pumped up and to listen to when you're upset with the world. I, for one, can't wait to buy the album on iTunes this Friday so I can keep listening to it all day (every day). 

Birthday Vlog!

My 21st birthday was last Tuesday and I decided to vlog it so that I could share my day with you all. Enjoy! xx

Friday Internet Finds

Who else is super excited for Friday? Of course, I'm mostly excited for this Friday because I'm having my 21st birthday party today!

1. I recently found studyblr, the student-focused side of Tumblr filled with study tips and photos of pretty study areas. One of my new favorite bloggers has a Wordpress as well.

2. This "Which Non-Prince Disney Guy is Your Soulmate?" Buzzfeed quiz is adorable.

3. I'm absolutely devastated that War Horse is closing in the West End. I saw it several years ago and it was by far one of the best things I've ever seen. If you're in or near London, definitely go see it while you can!

4. Chloe Grace Moretz's style is exactly the aesthetic I aim for in the fall. I love this feature of a week of her outfits!

5. I might be late to the game on this one but....I'm fairly convinced that this is what my future children will be like. Absolutely adorable. x

Review: Cool Rider Live Album

In honor of the new Cool Rider Live album finally being available on American iTunes, I figured I should finally review it. I actually won a giveaway of the digital album, so I've had it for months and I listen to it nearly every day. High praise indeed from someone who doesn't even like Grease.

In case you don't know, Cool Rider is the sequel to Grease. This new West End recording of the music was actually funded by a KickStarter, which I definitely would have backed if I'd known about it. While I'm not a huge fan of the storyline (cheesy musicals have never been my forte), this album quickly became one of my most played. It has lots of feel-good, pump-you-up songs that are exactly what I need on a Monday morning.

Ashleigh Gray has killer vocals on the title song, but my favorites include light-hearted and upbeat songs like "Who's That Guy," "Girl for All Seasons," and "Score Tonight." (I never would have thought that a song about bowling would have me dancing around my room.)

Admittedly, I discovered the project because Niall Sheehy sang the vocals for the "leader of the back" Johnny. Though I'd seen Niall as Feuilly in Les Miserables and Chris in Miss Saigon, I had no idea he had the style and charisma to pull off "Prowlin.'" The song is unapologetically ridiculous...and somehow utterly addicting.

I would absolutely recommend buying this album. While the talent of the cast may surpass the material they're singing in my opinion, it's the perfect album to listen to while getting ready in the morning or in the car.

You can buy the Cool Rider album on iTunes or in their store. You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Before 30

Birthdays are a strange thing, to be honest. I haven't really comprehended yet that as of tomorrow, I will be 21 years old. It's an age where you have to admit that for all intents and purposes, you're an adult.

Last year, I reflected on 20 things that I'd learned during my first 20 years of life. This year, I'm looking ahead and sharing ten things I hope to achieve in the next nine years. Turning 30 seems a long time away, but it's only 9 years....How the heck did that occur?

  1. Present at a research conference. I am currently working on my thesis and will be presenting my very own research at research conferences across the country (and potentially internationally). As someone who doesn't intend to continue a career in academics, I'm so excited that I'll get this opportunity before I graduate. 
  2. Graduate from university. I will (hopefully) graduate from Elon University in 2017. I can't believe that I'm almost done with my formal education after so many years. 
  3. Find a job that I love. Whether that translates to working for a PR agency in Raleigh or doing social media for a theatre website (the ultimate dream!), I want to work at a job that I can't wait to go to every day. 
  4. Move to New York City. It's always been my dream to live in New York City and it's definitely something I want to do before I turn 30. (In fact, I intend to have moved 
  5. Fall in love. I've never been in love before, but I love the very idea of love. I'm a hopeless romantic at heart who cries when Mr. Bingley proposes to Jane Bennet and adores the moment in Les Mis when Marius and Cosette first meet. I hope that I'll experience love myself within the next nine years. 
  6. Attend the Broadway opening of Miss Saigon. Supposedly Miss Saigon is coming to Broadway in the near future. I've promised myself that I will be there opening weekend and I intend to make it happen! 
  7. Go to Copenhagen. I've wanted to visit Copenhagen for years and hearing about my roommate Lauren's summer abroad there only made me want to visit it more. 
  8. See my sister graduate high school. My baby sister, who is just 12 right now, will graduate high school within the next nine years...which is a very scary thought for me, but I know I will be so proud of her. 
  9. Attend a Broadway premiere. Whether working it for a theatre publication or attending it, I want to be on the red carpet of the premiere of a Broadway show. It might be the craziest of all these dreams, but I will hopefully find some way to make it happen. 
  10. Get married. No, it doesn't have to happen by the time I turn 30, but I would certainly prefer for it too. Of course, I have to achieve #5 first. ;) 

Friday Internet Finds

Happy Friday everyone! Who's ready for the weekend? I'm super excited for this weekend, because I'm going home to celebrate my birthday with my family (my actual birthday is Tuesday). I hope you all have fun plans too!

1. Apparently divorce selfies are a thing? #nowiveseeneverything

2. This is a (nearly) comprehensive list of all the movies coming into theatres this fall. There are SO MANY that I'm excited about.

3. Ever wanted to know "Which Famous Tom is Your Soulmate?" (Yes, I just love Buzzfeed quizzes that tell me I should marry Tom Hiddleston.)

4. I'm so happy that masala is one of this fall's trendy colors. This article on three ways to wear it has made me so excited.

5. The lovely London Cosette, Zoe Doano, has been running their Twitter account this week! As part of that, she's uploaded some hilarious backstage vlogs onto YouTube, which are definitely worth checking out.

Madewell Lust List

Madewell recently released their fall collection and I am absolutely in love. Fall clothes are by far my favorite and Madewell's collection has exactly the vibe that I love for autumn: muted colors, lovely soft materials, and unique (high-waisted) pants. Here's what I would buy if I had a spare $1,000...what are you loving lately?

City Grid Coat in Colorblock, $298
Is this coat not gorgeous? From the beautiful color ("midnight spruce") to the unique zipper, it has everything I look for in a fall and winter coat. 

The Elin Loafer, $158 
I've never particularly been a fan of loafers, but these shoes completely changed my mind. They would look so beautiful paired with jeans or printed pants. 

Asymmetrical Mini Skirt in Pinstripe, $88
The asymmetrical trend is clearly still around this fall and this skirt's pattern is absolutely gorgeous. How pretty would this be paired with a cropped black sweater and ankle boots? 

Floral Lace Shift Dress, $168
I love lace dresses and this one in maroon is absolutely stunning. I might be a bit biased because maroon is my favorite color and my school color, though. I love lace dresses in dark colors because it toughens up the material a bit. 

9" High Riser Skinny Skinny Jeans in Bristow Plaid, $128
Out of everything on the list, these jeans are the item I will most likely actually purchase. Just when I thought I couldn't love Madewell's high-waisted skinny jeans any more, they made them in this plaid pattern. #saygoodbyetomymoney

9" High Riser Skinny Skinny Jeans in Bristol Wash, $135
Like I said, I adore Madewell's high-waisted jeans and these lightly destroyed ones are beautiful. I think that ripped jeans are such a great fall look especially when paired with more feminine pieces. 

The Disney Tag!

I love all things Disney, so I decided that it was about time that I film the Disney Tag! Enjoy xx

Friday Internet Finds

Happy Friday, everyone! Who's excited for the month of September? I certainly am...and not just because it's my birthday month. ;)

1. Ever wondered "Which Disney Supporting Man is Your Perfect Match?" Well, wonder no more. I'm just excited that The Huntsman is my one true love...we're going with Once Upon a Time casting, right? #jamiedornanwhereareyou

2. I recently discovered the blog, Freddy My Love, even though I've been watching her YouTube channel for months and I absolutely adore it. Freddy's posts are very enjoyable to read and her photos are always gorgeous.

3. The new Amelie musical starring Samantha Barks looks absolutely beautiful. I can't wait to see more photos!

4. I love this Thought Catalog article called "23 Small Promises You Should Make to Yourself." I'm definitely going to try to keep these promises to myself!

5. It's no secret that I love Maxwell Glick's videos and I like him even more after meeting him at Vidcon this summer. He recently released a song (go buy it on iTunes!) and music video that he wrote about Disney. At his meet-up at Vidcon, I got to hear the song before it premiered...and I'm so proud of how magical the music video is!

On Grief, Loss, and Living Life

A few days ago, the Broadway community was shocked and saddened by the death of Kyle Jean-Baptiste. Kyle was a 21-year-old actor, who'd recently made his Broadway debut in Les Miserables playing Courfeyrac and understudying Jean Valjean. When he went on as Jean Valjean, he became the youngest person and the first ever African-American to play the role on Broadway.

However, Kyle was more than just a record-breaking Broadway actor. As his Twitter bio states, he was a "literal teddy bear." His cast mates and friends described him as being enthusiastic, kind, and passionate. The theatre community, and the world, has lost an incredible soul.

I never met Kyle, though we did follow each other on Twitter and he actually favorited a tweet of mine just last week. We'd talked before about how I would love to see him in a show on my next trip to New York City and his dreams of playing John in Miss Saigon. The news of his death hit me very personally and made me reflect on my life. Kyle was only a few months older than I am now and seemed like someone who was destined for future greatness. I'd been looking forward to watching him grow as a performer and hoped to meet him at stage door for his next show. I cannot begin to imagine the pain that his family and friends are feeling now. And I do not envy Ramin Karimloo, who had to sing "Bring Him Home," the night of the death of his young friend and cast mate.

In truth, I've been reflecting about life and death a lot this summer. In June, my grandmother--my Memaw--passed away. It was somewhat sudden. While her heath had been failing for years, she'd been moved out of the hospital and into assisted living following another health concern. We visited her on a Friday afternoon and she seemed her usual self, if a bit frustrated with being surrounded by people in far worse condition than her. She watched my sister do her recital dances, looked through photos from Scotland on my phone, and laughed and joked as always. Little did I know that day that it would be the last time I talked to her or hugged her. 

That following Monday morning, she passed away suddenly. Her body simply gave out. My parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered at the rest home that day to say goodbye to her one last time. The next weeks flew by with funeral preparations, a funeral service where I felt farther from her than I ever had, and cleaning out her house. 

In cleaning out her house, I learned what a truly incredible woman my Memaw was. Despite being raised in a family with significant wealth, she was never snobbish. Indeed, she was one of the least prejudiced people I've met in my lifetime. She was in pageants and school plays and was a very stylish lady. She had an incredible love affair with my granddaddy and she doted on her many grandchildren. She had lived her life to the fullest. She had seen her children married and her grandchildren born. In fact, she'd even gotten to see most of her grandchildren married and starting families of their own. While I'm disappointed that she won't get to see me graduate from college, from a school so important to her family, I know she will be with me in spirit. 

The thing I've learned about grief is that it doesn't necessarily get any easier. There are still moments when I forget that she's passed and think, "Oh I'll have to tell Memaw about this the next time I talk to her" or assume that she'll be at our house for the next family gathering before suddenly remembering. My heart goes out to Kyle Jean-Baptiste's parents and siblings, for I too know the feeling of dreading Christmas because of the heartache it will bring from the absence of a loved one. 

In the past few days, reflecting on the frailty of life, I've been reminded of two things. The first is to never forget to tell people that you love them and appreciate them. Life is beautiful and terrible, but most of all, it is unpredictable. It is impossible to know when someone you love will be taken from you. Don't hesitate to let people know how you feel, whether it's your parents, your best friend, or the teacher who changed your life. It's better to stumble over your words or risk sounding repetitive than to have regrets. 

The second thing that my Memaw and Kyle have taught me is to live life with passion and love. My grandmother always had a smile for everyone she met. She was quick to tell you that you were her favorite person (yes, we grandchildren all realized that we could not possibly each be her favorite grandchild and yet, we appreciated hearing it). Even the people who worked at her bank were sad to hear of her passing and reminisced how friendly and warm she'd been. 

Kyle had an incredible passion for theatre and a light that he spread to those around him. In his 21 tragically short years, he accomplished so much, including one of his life dreams. His untimely death made me question if I'm living the life that I should be. So often, it's easy to live with the thought process of "It will get better later" or "I might not like my life now, but it'll be better in a few years." I know I've sunken into a "life will be better once you're done with school" mindset. But you can't count on those years being there.

In short: Do what you want to be doing. Spread love freely. Tell people what they mean to you. Live in a way that would leave you with few regrets were you to find out it was your last year. 

My heart goes out to Kyle's family, friends, and all those who knew him. If you would like, you can donate to Kyle's alma mater for a scholarship in his name. 

**The person who filmed the video above was encouraged to share it by Kyle Jean-Baptiste when he was told about it at stage door. He wanted to put his name out there to advance his career and give him more opportunities. It seems only fitting to share it, in hopes that his name and incredible accomplishments will not be forgotten despite his only living 21 years. 
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