Archive | November, 2010

How to Get Some Sleep – Even With Finals (or Other Stress)

29 Nov

Diana Ross and the Supremes Sleeping

For all those college students out there, chances are, finals are just around the corner. These are the precious last weeks you can spend studying for the exam that can decide your fate in a particular class. You’ve got a lot on your mind and tons of stress – even if finals aren’t on your plate (lucky you!). This can mean two things for your sleep pattern: either you find it more difficult to sleep or you can’t seem to find the time! And trust me, I understand. I’ve been known to haunt the library at an indecent hour, cramming for a test, double espresso coffee in hand.But keep in mind that robbing your body of sleep is detrimental to your success, even if you do manage to cover that last bio-chem chapter.

For all you finals week insomniacs, hitting the books without a wink of shut-eye, this is for you.

Use Your Time Wisely!

  • Plan for assignments and exams AHEAD of time – If you’ve been steadily reviewing for the past few weeks, the urge to spend the night cramming will be less intense.You can even do a broad sweep over your notes – highlight the key points for each section and explain them to yourself. It’s a simple way to know what you do and do not understand, which will help you waste less time.
  • Include sleep in your schedule – Create a stopping point for yourself, even if it’s 3:00 in the morning. And stick with it. You may be less likely to mess around if you know you have a time limit. Also, if you’re feeling exhausted, get some rest! Your mind is far less productive when tired and you’re more likely to synthesize and absorb information with adequate sleep.
  • Keep a routine – You’re less likely to throw your body out of whack if you keep up a consistent sleeping schedule, even if it is a “finals” sleeping schedule. Allowing yourself to pull all-nighters may cause your body to attempt to catch up on sleep at a highly inopportune time.

Clear Your Mind

  • Maintain a sleeping environment in your room – try to study at a place other than your bed, so your mind associates it with rest. Yes, this may mean cleaning off your desk. I understand your pain.
  • Try to keep clutter at a minimum – I know when I’m stressed, it’s reflected in the state of my bedroom. If clutter is unavoidable, try to concentrate your mess in a location that’s out-of-the-way, or clean up at the end of the day or week. It can make a great study break too, if you need to get up and stretch your muscles!
  • Focus on rest – It’s difficult to sleep when your mind is thinking over physics equations or trying to keep track of a lengthy to-do list. My suggestion? Keep a notebook by your bed to keep track of errant thoughts, including what you need to get accomplished the next day. When you know you won’t forget things (or at the very least are able to remind yourself), you can rest easier.

Substance Use

  • Or lack thereof – Don’t drink caffeine four hours before you plan to sleep – there’s no point in sitting in bed if you’re still hopped up. Also, try to eat ahead of time – I know that if I’m hungry, I can’t get to sleep.
  • Try Melatonin – Melatonin is a naturally occurring compound that regulates your sleep cycle. You can also buy it in most pharmacies. While it is non habit-forming, it can really knock you out. I don’t suggest taking it (and half a pill at that!) unless you intend to get a night’s sleep.

Hopefully this helps! Do you have any finals week (or other crunch time) sleep tactics? Share them in the comments!




Light up Night

22 Nov


In case you didn’t know yet, I absolutely love the holiday season and I firmly believe that it is one of the most wonderful times of the year. So it was a no-brainer that I would want to head down to Downtown Pittsburgh for Light up Night, an annual celebration to kick off the holiday season. The tree you can see above  is one of the many trees in the area that were lit for this special night, but none other than Pittsburgh’s mayor, Luke Ravenstahl was present to initiate the lighting of this tree in particular. I especially love how they incorporated the building behind it as well! This year was special – it marks the 60th Anniversary of Light up Night in Pittsburgh, and accordingly, they did it big, with a celebration that spanned two days instead of one. Unfortunately, I only went on Friday as I spent Saturday enjoying Harry Potter and picking up my sister, but that is an entirely different story!

This year, I went with a group of friends and unlike last year, where I had a bit of an epic fail, I managed to not only catch a glimpse of the tree as it was lit, but also get a good view of the fireworks as well. Downtown Market Square was absolutely packed with spectators from all over Pittsburgh. Here’s a video I took of the tree as it gets lit:

Here’s another video, of the tree flashing as well as the fireworks that were shot off in the area (one thing I’ve noticed about Pittsburgh is that it LOVES its fireworks). Of course, these were nothing compared to the firework extravaganza that was to come later on that night.


This is the tree that was standing in Fifth Avenue Place – it also got lit, but unfortunately, I missed that one as my group and I spent a few minutes looking for it, only to realize we were around the corner! I don’t have any pictures that would give it a good sense of scale, but this is a tree decoration that is draped across the surface of a building downtown. If the one in the first few images was thirty-three feet tall, this one must be gigantic! Most of the Light up Night festivities were going on in this area, with music, food, ice sculptures, light up toys and decorations and even performers:


This Buddy lookalike was walking around on stilts in front of Fifth Avenue Place downtown. He agreed to take a picture with us, but my friend Jess had to kneel on the ground to include all of us in the shot!


After we spent time in awe of the trees and navigating the ultra-crowded food court in the mall, the group made our way to the Andy Warhol bridge to take in the fireworks. We came early to get a good spot, but we had to endure the biting cold and classic rock covers while we tried to pass the time. I don’t know why my face looks so angry – maybe it’s because I had to use my scarf as an ear-warmer before they fell off my head. That, or I wasn’t a big fan of the music. Either way, the fireworks were well worth the wait and started promptly at the advertised time of 9:38 (don’t ask me why the time was that specific, I have no idea).


Here is an excellent glimpse of the fireworks they shot off that night. It was an epic twenty-plus minute show, that included a medley of Christmas music and at one point, a shower of fireworks raining down from the Roberto Clemente bridge itself, the bridge directly facing the one we were standing on (!!). It wasn’t possible to get the entire show on tape, but here’s the grand finale for your consumption, if you couldn’t be there:

(Psst! You can watch this and most of the other videos on this entry in HD!)

After that, we braved the heavy crowds from both Light up Night and that evening’s Pittsburgh Penguins game to catch a bus back to Oakland. If you want to see the rest of my pictures from Light up Night (including the photos I took last year!), just visit this link.

xoxo, Tara

Slowed Down Sunday – 11.21.10

21 Nov


Light Up Night 2010! (More on Monday)

Happy Almost-Turkey Day! I’m sitting in bed with my sister, counting down to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert while eating some Five Guys. Anyway, my love letter to this week:

♥My Sister is Here! – So, as you may have guessed from the opening couple of sentences, my sister is here visiting me in Pittsburgh. It was an adventure trying to find her (who knew finding the downtown Greyhound station would be so difficult?) but we finally managed to get her back into my dorm room. We’re going to go to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert together tonight, but before that, we’re going to spend some quality sister time, eating food, shooting the breeze and catching up on the latest episodes of Modern Family. This is the first time she’s ever been up to see me, which is awesome – plus, it helps pass the time before…

♥Thanksgiving, which is [almost] Here! – I absolutely love Thanksgiving. Not just because it is the precursor for Christmastime, my favorite time of the year, but also due to the fabulous food, good times with family, and the annual Thanksgiving parade! And no, I’m not ashamed to say I faithfully watch the parade in its entirety every year. Then I catch fleeting moments of the dog show while I help my parents with cooking for that evening. I can-NOT wait!

♥Pittsburgh in Autumn – I wanted to make a bullet just about Light Up Night, but that was so fantastic that I’m going to dedicate an entire blog post to it on Monday. On the other hand, this autumn brings wonderful things to Pittsburgh, from the leaves changing to the unseasonably warm weather we’re having – I’m not sure what’s causing it, but I will enjoy it while I can! Plus, there’s the farmer’s market, fall festivals and college basketball! What’s not to love?

♥Miscellaneous Items – The Pop/R&B Holiday station on Pandora Radio; Architecture tumblrs; Michael Buble; putting the new Girl Talk album on my ipod to listen to on the four-hour ride back to Maryland on Tuesday; white chocolate peppermint lattes; looking forward to family; new beginnings; errant alfalfa hairs sticking straight up in the middle of my head; friends both in Pittsburgh and ones at home; seeing people I haven’t seen in AGES; new starts; being better late than never; HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1; Straight No Chaser, big news for this blog…

Do you have anything to share? Let me know!

xoxo, Tara

Weekend Links – 11.19.2010

19 Nov

Hey everybody! I hope you’ve had a wonderful week and for my American readers, are geared up for an awesome Thanksgiving! I’m on my way to Light Up Night, a holiday extravaganza in downtown Pittsburgh. Expect pictures! Anyhow, here’s some reading for you this Friday evening!

◊ Like always, here’s Danielle LaPorte, dropping truth bombs all over the place. Just read.

◊ Here’s an interesting documentary about Shadeism, the prejudice and divide that exists between darker and lighter skinned members of the same community. It isn’t very long, and is definitely worth the watch.

◊ Amazing art by Lerms on Kiss My Black Ads.

◊ On Miseducated (one of my new favorite blogs!), How to See People for Who They Really Are. Hmm…

◊ For every order of Festive Light underwear you purchase, Pact will donate a solar-powered LED lamp to Haitian earthquake victims, many of which feel unsafe at night with the energy scarcity in the area. Plus, your booty will have bokeh on it! What’s to lose?

◊ Hearing my boyfriend’s stories of how amazing Istanbul was makes me want to go there – but this post on Decor8 makes me even more hopeful to pay a visit to Turkey!

◊ Is gossip and negativity something you have to deal with? It’s been an issue in my life recently, but this is a really great article (from Oprah magazine no less!) That sheds an interesting light on it.

◊ I admire crafty people! Here is a template to make a cute little owl calendar via What About Orange.

Awesome. (via Kiss My Black Ads)

◊I’m a huge fan of paying it forward – random acts of kindness tend to spread, you know. If you’re stuck on how toss love bombs throughout your community, look no farther.

◊ Did you know there’s a new art exhibit that is visible seen from space? Well…now you do.

◊The controversial drink Four Loko has been all over the news lately – and now the FDA is taking a stand. I’ve never tried it, but I’ve heard the stuff can be dangerous if you aren’t careful. Also, for your enjoyment, a man drinking Four Loko for the sake of journalism.

Todrick Hall Does McDonalds

That’s all from me! Have anything to share? Leave it in the comments!

xoxo, Tara

The Girl Effect

17 Nov

So, we have a situation on our hands.

This is a cause I feel very deeply about. While I’ve mentioned The Girl Effect in posts before, I felt that it was necessary to dedicate an entire post because ladies (and gentlemen)? This is extremely important. I’ll keep it brief, because as I said, all of these videos express the sentiment far better than I can.

I’ll Do it Later…: Tips to Vanquish Procrastination

15 Nov

Are you making like my cat when you should be working?

We’ve all been there. Deadlines. Many times it’s a homework assignment due in a matter of days, perhaps it’s a project or exam that will come up weeks down the line. Sometimes, you have no real timetable for completion, making it even worse! If you’re currently enrolled in some sort of school (High School, University, etc) or are in a profession where deadlines are common, you’ll understand what I mean.

I know – often I procrastinate like it’s my job. Over the years I have gotten better (I was absolutely horrible in my grade school years before college) but I understand the feeling. As defined by Stay Focused, the application I use to help curb my procrastination habits:

The procrastinator is often remarkably optimistic about his ability to complete a task on a tight deadline; this is usually accompanied by expressions of reassurance that everything is under control. (Therefore, there is no need to start.) Lulled by a false sense of security, time passes. At some point, he crosses over an imaginary starting time and suddenly realizes, “Oh no! I am not in control! There isn’t enough time!”

Is that you? It’s certainly been me. There’s no definite way to end procrastination – different things work well for different people. Plus, if it’s a really ingrained habit, breaking it is difficult, even if you complete a task before the last-minute. But even so, certain things have helped me, so here are my tips to kick procrastination’s ass!

Write down the task and due date – where you’ll see it!

The “where you’ll see it” is probably the most important part. How many of us have dutifully gotten a desk calendar or day planner and written an assignment down a week ahead of time, only to remember right before it’s due? If you can’t see when things are coming around the bend, make sure you remind yourself in a way that you’ll remember.


  • Get a monthly desk calendar – that way you can see your projects that month at a glance, not just what you have due that day or that week.
  • Write up post-its and place them in highly visible places – if you see “schedule an eye appointment” on your bathroom mirror, it’s hard to forget!

Plan Ahead

Some things are relatively simple – sending a quick email, for instance. Other things need a greater amount of time – planning an event or studying for an exam come to mind. It’s best to get these big deal items out-of-the-way quickly to see the best results – so plan accordingly. If you think you need a week to do something, make sure you give yourself that time!
  • Schedule your tasks not just by the day you need to finish them, but also by when you need to start working on them. For an exam, just don’t note the day and time it’s happening, pick an appropriate starting point so you aren’t scrambling to a professor’s office hours the day of the test because of a last-minute question.

Break down big tasks into small steps

When you have a big, abstract task to get done, for instance “Write Sociology Paper”, or “Study for Chemistry Exam”, it can seem daunting. For many people, if they don’t know where to start, they’ll hardly start at all, so it will sit on the top of their to-do list, sadly going undone until it is almost too late. Don’t let this be you! Take the time to consider what doing these tasks entail, exactly. Do you need to print out review notes? Re-read a selected set of chapters? Go over in-class quizzes? Write those down instead. That way, when you head to the library (or wherever), you’ll know ahead of time what you intend to carry out and how.
  • Breaking these tasks down sequentially may help. When planning programs for my residents, I might spend one day making flyers, the next printing them and posting them, and the day after that, reminding them to come out via e-mail. If I know what order I need to work in, I don’t have to stare at my to-do list wondering which to start on first.
  • For an added dose of productivity, arrange your to-do list not by task, but by “place”. For instance, if you have various things to get done at a computer lab (print lecture notes, send e-mails, scan pictures, etc), group them together so you can get them done at the same time.

Crack the whip – on yourself

I know, I know – some of these sound great. And many times, you may try them and realize how gratifying it is to finish something ahead of time, allowing you to sleep the night before without worry…but old habits die hard. Good intentions are often not enough and you’ll find yourself stalking random high school acquaintances on Facebook and reading semi-interesting articles on Wikipedia and not doing any sort of work. You may know in the back of your mind that a single sheet of paperwork will take you fifteen minutes to complete, at max – but you just need to finish this tenth game of Solitaire! Sometimes you need to give yourself some tough love. This requires some self-control because it’s hilariously easy to cheat sometimes, but sometimes a gentle shove in the right direction is all you need.
  • Move out of your room – Sometimes eliminating the home environment can make you easily more productive. Even though I have the same amount of distractions at my disposal, I’m much less likely to mess around on Livejournal in the campus computer lab than in my room.
  • Eliminate distractions manually – this is where things like Stay Focused come in. Sometimes you have to give yourself the extra reduced incentive to mess around, unfortunately. If you’re writing a paper, shut down your internet browser, turn off the television and set your phone to silent.
  • Delay gratification – This one works for me, sometimes. Maybe I have a craving for something from the vending machine, or I want to watch the latest episode of Modern Family on Hulu. Perhaps I want to hit the town with my friends. I’ll refuse to indulge my desires until my task gets completed, so I’m forced to get it done if I want the reward.
  • Set an ahead-of-schedule deadline – When I write papers, I usually try to finish them a day ahead of time so they someone can critique them at my campus’ Writing Center. While it is great to have another set of eyes read my work, it’s also a great way to make sure I finish my papers before the night before or day of.
These are some tips that have served me well in the past – but I’d love to hear more suggestions! If you have more ideas, or just suffer from procrastination yourself, drop me a line in the comments!
xoxo, Tara

Slowed Down Sunday – 11.14.10

14 Nov

Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope your week was filled with happiness and abundant sunshine. Here is my weekly list of things that made me happy!

♥Care Packages – Okay, so see that shirt up there? It was among the items my mom mailed to me in a care package this week! I’m not exaggerating when I say this shirt is older than I am – I think she got it around when the Thriller album came out. Either way, I will wear it with pride because I absolutely love it. Here’s the back if anyone’s wondering:

I think I squealed and ran into my hallway when I got this shirt! So excited!! A package of watermelon pull-and-peel Twizzlers didn’t hurt either.

♥Movie Nights/Quality Time with Friends – In other words, hanging out and shooting the breeze with people I enjoy being around. Even though very little in the way of movies were watched, I had a fantastic time. I also sat through an informational session on various forms of Italian gourmet cheese before I got to go crazy and taste every last one (although one tasted like body odor, I swear!). I also went out to Thanksgiving dinner with a few friends and although they ran out of turkey (!) we had a great thing discussing everything from afros to questionable wigs to the merits of houndstooth. I also got to go to the release party for the  And who can forget having an impromptu RuPaul’s Drag Race marathon in my room?

♥Learning Lists – One of the things that makes me really excited is learning new things. Recently I’ve been brainstorming a list of things I’d like to learn in my lifetime (preferably soon), among them are knitting, cooking (beyond the super-simple), conversational French, scuba diving, proper make-up application and beekeeping. We’ll see how these go…is there anything you plan on trying to learn?

♥Miscellaneous – Sitting around on a lazy Sunday in a t-shirt and some leggings; seeing “Our RA” as something my residents are thankful for (thanks guys!); Hello Kitty band-aids to cover kung-fu battle wounds (I’m serious!); doing punching and kicking drills to Too Hot by Kool and the Gang (almost as great as doing push-ups to Hootie and the Blowfish!); the Firefox beta (although it looks suspiciously like Opera); knowing my sister is coming to Pittsburgh in less than a week (expect to hear more about that weekend, which is bound to be fabulous); the re-injection of the word “fabulous” into my daily vocabulary; cancelling plans to sleep in; daily Skype sessions with my boyfriend.

What about you all? Let me know!

xoxo, Tara