all of my written work through college

I’ve written so many articles during my three and a half years as a journalism major, and now, I think it’s time to publish them. Most of these I just wrote for class with the hopes of publishing them in an established news media outlet. But I thought, why feel defeated just because some newspaper or website doesn’t have time to edit real writing? I’m proud of my work, and I want others to enjoy it. After all, that’s the whole point of writing isn’t it?

Without further ado, here is the first installment of a weekly series in which I share a journalistic article I wrote.

Written for a Feature Writing (Magazine) class in 2013

It’s a Tuesday night and Lauren Thomsen just walked in the door to her apartment after a six hour shift at Starbucks. She has a paper due Friday, laundry piled in a basket and a hungry, needy cat named Lemon eyeing her pathetically. The clock on her stove reads 7:15 p.m., and she hasn’t even started dinner.

Thomsen’s night isn’t even considered hectic by many of her peers. Between classes, work, social events and homework, students don’t think twice about ordering pizza two nights out of the week. But eating out regularly doesn’t make for a healthy wallet or weight.

In a 2012 suvery conducted by 21st Century only 9 percent of college students out of 100 buy groceries more often than eating out. That means the average student spent $735 on meals off campus in one year.

There is a pervading misconception amongst college co-eds that cooking is difficult, time-consuming and expensive. However, for a quick, healthy meal, fresh produce and a little creativity go a long way.

“Simply cutting an onion and a little bit of garlic takes little to no time, but it’ll make something easy like pasta, even if it’s pre-made pasta sauce, a little tastier and a lot more authentic,” Thomsen said. “You can even cut up fresh peppers and throw them in there. It’s a little bit of work for a lot of gain in the flavor department.”

Thomsen, not quite a seasoned chef but a cook all the same, worked at a barbecue restaurant and a catering company over the summer. It was there she learned the importance of prepping meals and using simple, fresh ingredients, she said.

For those less comfortable in the kitchen, Pinterest and food blogs provide tops and recipe ideas. However, that garlic chipotle salmon with mango salsa may be as hard to make as it is to say in one breath.

Brandon Cruz, the Sunspot kitchen manager, admits he frequently uses Pinterest for inspiration. The only downside? Some recipes don’t live up to their drool-inducing photograph. The safest bet is to make classic dishes with a twist.

“A good standby is a grilled cheese, but it doesn’t need to be plain-jane American cheese,” Cruz said. “Get a really nice loaf of bread from the bakery at Earth Fare, or add several different types of greens, like spinach, or heirloom tomatoes. Even throw some bacon on there!”

Popular college pantry items, such as tomato soup and Ramen noodles, are cheap but bland. Cruz suggests forgoing the Ramen seasoning packet for a simple, homemade tomato sauce, or amping up tomato soup with a dash of Tabasco sauce.

In fact, the key to getting the most bang for your buck is picking versatile foods and using them creatively. Rotisserie chicken for example is convenient, affordable and nutritious.

Alexandra Payne, the blogger behind Sweet Betweens, suggests using the chicken for three different meals throughout the week. Cruz ate a fair amount of pre-cooked chicken in his college days, he said, because of minimal prep time, budget-friendly prices and adaptability.

As far as appliances and kitchen tools go, the general consensus amongst foodies is quality over quantity. A sturdy chef knife, a cast iron or stainless steel skillet and a food processor or blender make up the list of basics every student should have on-hand.

Successful meals don’t have to be complicated or expensive. All it takes is a little creativity, fresh ingredients and the right instruments to make a simple meal special.

“On campus or off,” Payne said, “preparing quick and healthy meals with just a microwave or countertop appliance is something you can tackle quicker than that essay for Psych 101.”

decorating for a party on a budget

This is a guest post written by Heather Hewitt from Shutterfly. Heather Hewitt is a seasoned writer and guest author who enjoys connecting people with thoughtful products, services and ideas as they relate to crafting, photography, gift giving and personal expression. She reached out to me about writing for my blog.

Photo courtesy of Heather Hewitt

Photo courtesy of Heather Hewitt

Throwing a party – whether it’s a birthday shindig, a bridal shower, or a holiday celebration – can get expensive. You’ve got holiday or birthday cards and invitations to send out, food to prepare, activities to arrange, and a venue to book. In addition to all of that, you’ll want to decorate in order to present a certain theme or focus. But while there are certain areas of a party you can’t scrimp on – food and drinks, for example – decorations don’t have to break the bank. Here are four ways to save on party décor when your budget is tight:

  • Do it yourself. As in most cases, it’s much cheaper to make something yourself than purchase it outright. If you roam the aisles of your nearest party supply store, you’ll see just how expensive premade decorations can be, whether you’re throwing a dinosaur-themed birthday party, a Cinderella-themed bridal shower, or a casino night party. Get your creative juices flowing by checking out DIY party décor ideas online, recruiting your most crafty friends, and busting out the scissors and glue.
  • Shop at discount stores. There are certain themed items you’ll have to purchase, such as colored plastic tablecloths, plates, cups, utensils, etc. Your first instinct may be to head to the party supply store, since they’ll likely have exactly what you need. But first consider whether you have any dollar or discount stores in your area. In addition, some bigger stores like Wal-mart, Target, or Big Lots may have discounted party supplies during certain times of year.
  • Create favors that double as centerpieces. Why buy both favors and centerpieces if you don’t need to? Consider what would be a nice gift for guests to take home with them, and then make them as attractive – or theme-appropriate – as possible. For example, if you’re throwing a children’s beach-themed party, purchase tiny pails and fill them with treasures. These can be placed in the middle of the table (or tables depending on how many you have) and fill the space a centerpiece might normally have taken.
  • Use décor you already have. Before you go out and spend lots of money on decorations, consider what home décor you have sitting around that can be put to use. Are you throwing a holiday party? Then cover wall art with wrapping paper and a bow for a festive look that costs practically nothing. Throwing a pretty bridal shower? Move that vase full of silk calla lilies in your bedroom out to the kitchen and use it as a centerpiece.

It doesn’t matter the kind of party you’re throwing – it doesn’t have to cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars, especially when it comes to décor. Get creative and use what you have, and your decorations will create the perfect ambience for the party!

2014 Emmy Awards Red Carpet

I know, I know. It’s been months since I’ve written a post. But let’s get past that shall we and enjoy the gorgeous ladies of the Emmys red carpet. It’s always so hard to narrow down my favorite looks from award shows, but alas, uploading 20+ pictures to a blog post is quite an undertaking (and time suck.) So, without further ado, my 11 favorite looks from the 2014 Emmy Awards red carpet.

What were your favorite looks?

the westbound rangers

Thank goodness the BF introduced me to a new band. The music on my iPod right now is depressingly overplayed and far from “fresh” or motivational. Every season I like to update my music library with seasonal or just good ole’ enjoyable tunes. Right now, I’m going through an Americana/Bluegrass/Avett Brothers-esque phase. The Westbound Rangers fit the new-folk sound perfectly. Seriously, listen to their 2011 album and wonder how these guys haven’t made it big yet.

here’s why mindy kaling is the best

She’s the most fabulous OBGYN on television. Her recent red carpet choice was not revolutionary, just a sartorially savvy choice. Her book is laugh-out-loud hilarious (as is her show), and Kelly Kapoor’s one-liners will forever be some of my favorite quotes. Bottom line: Mindy Kaling is awesome. If you need further proof, just watch this interview from Jimmy Kimmel.

easy fish tacos + coleslaw

fish tacos with cole slaw

There is obviously nothing better than fresh fish on a beach vacation. If you disagree, then you’re wrong. Seeing as I was spring breaking in Destin, Florida and The Kitchn recently posted a recipe for a quick weeknight meal of fish tacos and quick cabbage slaw, I decided to take full advantage of the caught-that-day fish available at any local grocery store. Keep reading for the full recipe!

Continue reading

knoxville fashion week

Knoxville Fashion Week

Knoxville Fashion Week is certainly no competition for New York Fashion Week. They have a long way to go before even reaching the level of Nashville Fashion Week. It was a little disorganized and too casual to be taken seriously. If they booked more designers instead of just brands (ahem, Buckle and Tommy Hilfiger?), it would go over better.

Gage Modeling and Talent Agency kicked off KFW on Wednesday night at G&G Interiors. Thursday featured emerging designers at Latitude 35; Friday’s show at Relix featured menswear, lingerie and swimwear; and Saturday was the grand finale at the Holiday Inn at World’s Fair Park. Fellow blogger, Ashlyn Kittrell, and I attended most of the shows together, bouncing critiques off of each other. There was at least one line from each night that I liked. Below are some of my favorites.  Continue reading