Weekly Wishes #1: The New Year

The reality that 2013 is coming to a close astounds me. I am actually in denial that this year is over. Through the good and the bad, I can honestly say I have grown abundantly this year in more ways than I could have ever expected. I found rekindled loves of so many things (Ceramics, Communications, knitting and design just to name a few). My friends shifted and changed, and hey I got the most incredible boyfriend in the process. I went to Nepal and came back completely changed. I felt so busy this semester that I broke down crying and turned to God once again for support. 2013 has been a semester of ups and down. Yet through it all, I am so confident God was at the center of it all.

Now to focus on 2014. Let the fun begin!

Weekly Yearly Wishes 2014:
1. Enjoy the simple things
I am feeling this is turning into my motto for the year. Stay tuned into how that turns out.

2. Exercise more
Yeah yeah yeah I know that this is on everyone in the nation's New Years resolution's list. Here is the thing, I worked out pretty consistently for a while and then just let life get in the way. I just love the way it makes me feel. I feel energized, powerful, confident and just strong. I want to go into 2014 not exercising to lose weight or alter my body, but to feel strong.

3. Blog regularly
I am so excited I have caught the blogging bug once again! I want to create a regular schedule. Put my DSLR to work.

4. Open an Etsy shop
I have wanted to open an Etsy shop for the longest time. My Mom and I are both crafty and I would be so content creating products and working on that. Here is the thing: I am a perfectionist in the sense I feel like I have to have everything in perfect order to launch the shop. I need the confidence to just launch it and see where it goes!

5. Work on my anxiety
For those of you who do not know, I have some pretty bad anxiety. I am type A through and through. Often I will feel anxious in stressful situations (hello college), when driving in the dark, if a plan suddenly changes or when I begin to think about the future. Now do not be alarmed. This anxiety I promise is not as awful as I make it sound. I am often easygoing when plans change, but every once in a while something will trigger anxiety Alyssa. My goal is for the anxiety to be lessened. To not overwhelm myself and learn to take a couple deep breaths and persevere.

6. Kill School
Academics are not always my strong suit. Most days, I would rather blog or be doing something for my major then worrying about studying for a Chemistry test the next day. However, I want to strive for greatness in every single one of my classes. Honor God with hard work.

6. Take trips (and document them all!)
Now that I have a DSLR, I have no excuse but to document all of my adventures. I plan on having plenty of them.

Well there you have it folks. New Years Resolutions all documented for the world to see. Let us just see if I can carry them out into 2015.

Have a blessed New Year.

The Nectar Collective


Declutter for 2014

Image via, Editing done by me
I was reading The Nectar Collective's post on 8 Natural Ways to Boost Your Happiness and found myself so drawn to #5: De-clutter. The new year is coming. Yet I look around and often feel so burdened by stuff.

I had this same feeling when I came back from my missions trip in Nepal. De-cluttering was how I dealt with the reverse culture shock of being back in the US. I came back to a house full of beautiful expensive things, yet I just left a village where the Pastor's family gave up their own food, beds and were willing to buy a goat for us. Those small gestures seem like nothing, but to them it meant everything. 

I came back from my trip as well as my conference and felt so burdened. So heartbroken for the Nepali people and their country. The hopelessness that so many people deal with. The lack of Christ in so many of those people. So to cope with my new found heart break, I cleaned.

I went through possibly every valuable I owned, packed up 5 huge boxes for Goodwill and felt a huge burden lifted. 

I felt rejuvenated. Renewed. A sense of peace overcame me. 

De-cluttering is good

It creates a sense of peace. It eases the mind. It makes you feel productive. It is like a cleanse of your belongings. It helps you live simply. 

With the new year quickly approaching, I encourage you to look around. Get rid of a few things. Clean through those computer files. Organize your bookshelf. Just purge yourself of all the extra stuff, hence purging your mind.

My Tips:
1. Start off small.
Even a 15 minute cleaning project is better than no project

2. Ladies, work on that closet.
That is where I find the majority of my extra stuff accumulating. No one needs 5 pairs of black flats or 4 white T-Shirts. Work on finding your key staple pieces and going from there. Realize you have very few key staples? Get rid of 5 useless items and I believe you have just given yourself the excuse to invest in one of those staple items.

3. Go through one cabinet in your Kitchen.
Trust me, there are some gadgets that could use a better home there. For me it is mugs. I have piles of mugs that could use a better home on a goodwill shelf.

4. Go in with an open heart.
Be willing to realistically look at the things you own and say "do I use this? Will I use this?" Sometimes de-cluttering is hard. We are all burdened with materialism. It is ok to find it hard to let go of your stuff. Just remind yourself your identity is not in that pile of National Geographic's you cannot bring yourself to scrap.

5. You cannot give up everything.
There are some things you just cannot give up quite yet. For me its my endless amount of scrap booking supplies. Just organize it and accept that you will hold on to it for while.

6. Make Goals
You cannot go into any task without goals. Strive to pack up at least 1 box for Goodwill this weekend. Get rid of the first 10 things you see that you do not need. Be realistic with your goals, but do create them.

Use this time as a chance to start out fresh. Allow yourself to feel renewed. Take the time to purge.
Strive to live simply in 2014.

"Live simply so others may simply live" - Gandhi


Red Velvet Cookies

Red Velvet Cookies

Christmas break has been such a time of relaxation and rejuvenation. Truly, whenever I come home from college, I crash. Then, I just strive to enjoy the simple things. Like baking.

Today I tried a recipe from my favorite Blogging Baker - Sally from Sally's Baking Addiction. These are her Red Velvet Cookies. Truly such an easy recipe to follow and work with. 

Now those of you who know me, I know what you are thinking - "why did Alyssa make a chocolate dessert when she does not even like chocolate?". Well it is essentially a win win. I get the joy of baking, just without the calories part. 

Red Velvet Cookies
Red Velvet Cookies
Red Velvet Cookies
Red Velvet Cookies

 Tips for the recipe:
Do not underestimate the thickness of the dough. It was definitely hard for me to thoroughly mix everything. 

Use an ice scream scoop to get the dough. It is extremely hard after chilling for an hour. 

Definitely use parchment paper to ensure the cookies stay soft. 

Make sure your egg is room temperature. Just do it.

Red Velvet Cookies
Red Velvet Cookies
Red Velvet Cookies
Red Velvet Cookies

 Overall, awesome recipe to try. Plus the color is fantastic. I am off to watch ARGO with my family. Have any great baking recipes you have tried recently? I am looking for something to bake for New Years Eve!


Favorite Friday: Layering

I am no fashion blog. I mean I adore fashion, do not get me wrong. However, Fashion is not the main priority of this blog. I am just not all about those OOTD posts and what not. 

However, I decided to launch a new feature to the blog - Favorite Friday!

 I not only love theme days for the blog, but I then get to tell you about some of my favorite trends at the time. Whether it is fashion, home decor, crafts or music, you get some trendiness to your day on Fridays! 
Photo Credit 1 2 3
My favorite thing now? Layering.

For those not above the Mason Dixon line, it is cold. I mean, I have not taken my L.L. Bean boots off in the past 10 days cold. So with cold comes, layers upon layers. However, you do not want to layer so much you are a bulky mess. 

My go to is utilizing staples in creative ways. I love using my button down shirts and throwing a crew neck or quarter zip on top. I also love down vests. When you layer underneath a bit, a down vest does provide some extra warmth. Plus they are a great way to add a different color to your outfit.

Another must? A great coat that you will be able to handle all your bulk underneath. I tend to lean towards longer wool coats (as pictured above) to be able to cover my longer sweaters I own. No one wants that corner of knee length cardigan peekaboo-ing under your cropped pea coat.

As for bottoms, I tend to lean towards skinny jeans that can easily be tucked into boots. However, I have done a lot of great layering with a maxi skirt. Definitely invest in a long black one if you do not already own one. 
Photo Credit 1 2 3
There are a ton of post-holiday sales out now! Grab some layers before that January freeze.


A Very Merry Christmas

I am honestly surprised I am even writing this. I cannot explain to you how in the zone I have been the past 48 hours. With family functions, new presents and my rekindled love of knitting, I have become something of a robot.

Ok so I may be over exaggerating just a bit, but really.

Synopsis of Christmas: 
I got a new Camera! Nikon D3200 with two lenses: an 18-55mm VR and an 55-200mm Non-VR DX. Plus a few filters and an ever so glorious camera bag. (Note the sarcasm. It is hideous but durable)

I also got a Patagonia 1/4 Zip Better Sweater. I am never taking it off.

Now that I have an SLR, I have been furiously sweeping the internet for the most idiot proof guide to taking pictures with it. My goal is to always use manual mode. My personal favorite guide so far is Darcy's 31 Days to a Better Photo. So what I may have been going a little faster than 31 days?

Also to discuss my knitting kick:

I have always been a knitter. I learned it with my Mom middle school and have loved it since.
In case any of you need clarification, I did say with my Mom. We both decided to learn from a group of old ladies at our Church. How precious is that.

My waves come and go, plus my skill level varies. However I love it a lot more than crocheting, which it seems that everyone at my college has picked up. 

I have dreams of opening up an Etsy shop with my Mom in the next 6 months. That entrepreneur spirit in me.  So on begins the knitting. Photographed are a few works in progress. I will post the finished results!

Have any beginner SLR photo tips? Or have a guide/blog that is helpful? Please let me know. I am a little stressed out about this new challenge I cannot seem to easily pick up.

I have some craft endeavors up my sleeve. Get excited.


Wanderlust Wednesday: Ireland

Christmas in Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful" - Norman Vincent Peale


Christmas Reflection

I wish I did not wake up at 11:30am this morning. 

I have been making an initiative to reclaim my mornings. Get a cup of coffee, sit in the stillness and just be. 
Soak in the presence of the holy spirit around me

I look around my house, with the mess of presents everywhere and the glowing of the tree. The smell of dinner cooking and the subtle roar of my parents arguing over something unimportant.

This stillness is one of the most beautiful aspects of the Christmas season. Jesus came into this world to die for us. His joyful birth is something to celebrate. Cheer for. Dance for. Yet with all of this, Jesus's birth is something to reflect on. 

The holidays are hectic. Full of expectations, hurt, materialism and busyness
Allow time for stillness. To just sit, reflect and bask in the presence of the Lord's birth.

Take time to Be Still.

Have a Merry Christmas.

Strip District-Pittsburgh

Pamela's Diner

Today has been the first time I have been in my beautiful city of Pittsburgh since Fall break.
That is about 3 months people. Not really OK in my book. 

I got off for Thanksgiving break last Wednesday and headed straight to the Boy's house in Ohio for some much needed family bonding. By family bonding, I mean meeting approximately 15 different family members and spending more time with his family. I would be lying if I said it was not a little bit overwhelming. Yet, it was truly so great to spend more time with all of them.

However, being back in Pittsburgh means spending some much needed quality time with some long lost friends. I met up with one of my dearest friends from High school, Melanie, at Pamela's in Pittsburgh. Pamela's is a binge fest on the best crepe like Pancakes in Pittsburgh. Oh and lets not forget the bottomless coffee. 

My adventure then took me into wandering the streets of the Strip District, visiting familiar places as well as unfamiliar. The Strip District is a maze of eclectic shops, Pittsburgh food staples, street vendors, Steeler's fans and no parking. Plus during the holiday season there is this essence that is magical. 

Here in no particular order are 8 places in the Strip you need to visit.

1. Pamela's Diner 

Well duh.

I did not manage to make a stop today and boy do I regret it. Not only do they have the classic Caramel, Cheese and Kettle flavors, but PPC has changing flavors with every couple of weeks. Currently they have Candy Cane Corn, Buffalo n Ranch and Jalapeno Popper until the 26th. 

Strip District Street Art

Want an art gallery, store and classes in one? Well, the Society for Contemporary Craft is an incredible gallery right on Smallman Street that focuses on the art of mixed media and crafts. I love their use of beading in a lot of their art, as well as the innovation behind many of their exhibits. Plus I am actually addicted to looking up their different workshops.

Society for Contemporary Craft

You want a hipster coffee shop? Well here you have it. 

5. Kaya

A blend of Caribbean and Pacific food. I absolutely adore this restaurant and the vibe it has. I recommend making a reservation and getting the Black Bean and Pineapple Quesadilla.

Pittsburgh has a great deal of Italian roots, including Mancini's. They have the best bread in Pennsylvania without a doubt. Plus their Pepperoni Rolls and Pizza dough are to die for. Stop in to pick up a loaf of Italian bread and any other concoction you can find.

There is not much really to say. I am obsessed with handmande pottery. I could be in this store all day. 

Penn Avenue Pottery

Penn Avenue Pottery

8.  Pennsylvania Macaroni Co.

The lines may be long (I am not exaggerating, they are enormous), but you will find the best cheese and pasta sauce.

Pennsylvania Macaroni Co.

What are some hidden gems in your city? Where are your favorite places to go to be tourists in your own city?



Christmas in 8 Days

Now that I am done with finals, I finally can whole heartedly celebrate the Christmas season. Due to the way Christmas and Thanksgiving fell this year though, I essentially only get 8 days at home celebrating without the stress of school. Another factor, I am staying with my boyfriend for 4 of those days.

Its time for me to fit every ounce of the holiday season in 8 days. How do you get the most of the holiday season?

1. Wear every ugly sweater you own.

If you do not own one, what are you doing still sitting at your computer. Run to your local Goodwill and pick one up before some hipster snags one up.

2. Seek out new Christmas music. 

Trust me. I am the biggest advocate for traditional Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby Christmas music. But there is something that truly gets you into the holiday spirit like some new Christmas music. Some of my favorites? Folk Angel, Sufjan Stevens

Folk AngelSufjan Stevens Songs for ChristmasMy Morning Jacket We Wish You a Merry Christmas

3. Only find Christmas themed pins on Pinterest

I have found so much inspiration for Christmas decorations, crafts and cookies the past few weeks on Pinterest. Do not let the opportunity pass you by while your news feed is flooded with Christmas pins. 

4. Get that Starbucks holiday drink. 

There are only here during the holidays. From the college kid whose nearest Starbucks is a 20 minute drive away, take advantage of those beautiful red cups.

Starbucks Christmas Cup

5. Drive around any nearby neighborhood to look at lights.

Some of my most memorable moments at Christmas consist of me driving by myself, Christmas music blaring and the glow of Christmas lights flooding my car. Even if you do not live in a neighborhood with light fanatics. Take a moment to just sit and stare at your Christmas tree. 

6. Choose your Christmas movies wisely. 

8 Days. That means realistically only 4-5 movies will actually be watched. My favorites? A Christmas Story, The Year without a Santa Clause, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and White Christmas.

7. Snow? Play in it.

If you have snow where you live, do not let it pass. Play in it. Build a snowman. Have a snowball fight. Do not be afraid to bring out your inner 10 year old. Snow is a beautiful thing God has given us. Embrace it. Plus its an excuse to wear my cute L.L. Bean boots. 

8. Write heartfelt letters.

Everyone, including me deals with the stress of Christmas cards.Well 9 times out of 10 I usually never get them done. So why not take the opportunity to write my closest friends and loved ones truly heartfelt letters letting them know how much they mean to me? Even if it arrives a few days late, it hopefully will make their holidays. 

Enjoy the last 8 Days of the Christmas Season!

Wanderlust Wednesdays

Moraine Lake, Canada | by Deidre Lynn 
Moraine Lake, Canada

"Travel. It leaves you speechless, then turns you into storyteller." - Ibn Battuta


The Artistic Mind

Another semester under my belt. Lets just say if feels good.

Today I finished up what is the end of my finals. If definitely was a crazy two weeks to end the semester but so undeniably worth it. I can finally say I finished up my Entrepreneurship minor which truly has wore me down the past two years. Now I can just focus on my Communications classes as well as my regained love of art classes. Plus lets not forget about my beautiful sorority sisters. Spring semester consists of pledge, new freshman, double the bonding and even more love to go around. Let us not forget about the endless Coffaro's Pizza runs that will also arrive to the doors of our hall next semester.

Gamma Sigma Phi Sorority Coffaros Pizza

Today my last final, aside from a presentation, was a Civilization and the Arts final. This class is a required class by the school that looks at the history of art and applies it to the Christian mind. These humanities classes are the things students grown about. Absolutely dreadful to take.

This class, even though the lectures itself were not my favorite, continued to open my heart once again to the world of art. As I studied my enormous stack of note cards into the wee morning hours, I found myself at such a sense of peace. The fact that God has given his creation the ability to create beautiful art astounds me. Just looking and listening to all of the art and music of the past five centuries, I fell into such a sense of awe. Gods incredible plan for these artists was to create beauty. 

I only hope and pray that is my plan. I want to create beauty, but a beauty that will honor God. 

Here is some Debussy to float your boat this week.


A New Love: Ceramics Edition

As most of you know, I love art. Crafts, Painting, Ceramics, basically I love it all. Well in the midst of projects and sorority events this semester, I have found a new love.


Pottery, pueblo art, mugs, pots, abstract clay pieces. Literally anything that you can make with clay I have fallen in love with. I took a few pottery classes in high school and had the chance to take ceramics again this semester. A few of my pots are pictured below. More to come!

In my class we had three hand building projects as well as some time to learn the wheel. Lucky for me, since I knew a great deal of the intro stuff already I was ready to go. I found myself going into the studio everyday just wanting to be surrounded by the walls of pots. I loved looking at past students projects, pieces in the development stage and just being able to get my own frustrations out on the wheel.

To say ceramics is an obsession is now an understatement. I have legitimately looked into ceramics studios in Pittsburgh for the summer. I now only search ceramic artists on my pinterest. I even have dreams about ceramics (pretty embarrassing but true). My goal within the next year is to open my own etsy shop selling beautiful ceramics creations.

Have you ever gotten so hooked onto something that your obsession never fades?


When Life Drives You Crazy

Well it has definitely been a while.

Seeing that my last post was an update on Nepal, the typical Alyssa business has set in with being back at school. It is crazy to see how I have been trying to cut out so many things in my life to be more free and functional, yet the pressures of day to day college life have dragged me down. Booo. 

However, in spite of all of the craziness, God has revealed his incredible faithfulness and the importance of placing my full trust in him. Truly, I would not have been able to get through the past couple months without his presence constantly there, even when I was not seeking it. 

Here is the classic life update that I so often revert to when I do not have time to actually post anything significant:

My August/September were characterized by my ability to go absolutely insane for a week as a part of my college's Orientation Board. This also included catching up with friends, my sorority sisters and getting back into the daily school grind.

September 5th was by birthday! The best present? Getting to go see the Avett Brothers for the third time with the boy. He is a champ and is the best at getting presents (even though he will avidly deny it).

School school school school homework exam school test school kill me. This stream of endless business and activities streams into today.

Also as social chair of my sorority, I had the privilege of planning so many wonderful events from our homecoming float, to fall party and our charity event Battle of the Bands. They were fantastic. Plus I love event planning. However, to say I am exhausted now from all of this planning is an understatement.

Also for Halloween Josh and I went as an old resort couple...so there is that.

I am working on some writing in the midst of internship searching and finally getting to the million things on my idealized to do list. Any creative writing, art or photography projects on your to do list? Let me know.

Keep it real. Expect to hear from me soon.


That time I went to Nepal

Long time no post right? Story of my life. I have no excuse for the semester. I guess just busy with life, trying to keep investing in friends, people, my undeniably complicated schedule, oh yeah. I also was preparing to leave for weeks to travel to Nepal for missions work.

I cannot begin to explain how impactful and incredible this summer was. Truly a transformative time where I realized more than I can ever describe. Here is a small summary:
  • God is so good and so much bigger than we understand
  • Missions is hard. I do not care who tells you otherwise, but sharing the word of God and figuring out how God wants you to minister wherever he has called you is hard. Yet it is so worth it.
  • Nepali fashion is incredible. Why do we not wear baggy pants/tunics everyday in America
  • My passion for human trafficking has been made so clear. It has always been there, but I have found such a reignited passion for this cause.
  • I love America, but I kind of hate America. I am so over our materialistic, burdened culture
  • Tea is almost as good as coffee. Almost.

This is only a small summary of everything I have been able to realize in the few short weeks I have been back. I cannot describe how much I miss my incredible team and the beautiful people of Nepal.

Below are a few links pertaining more to my trip if you want to check them out. If not, I guess that is ok too. Also question of the day: tell me about your experiences with eye opening trips or missions experiences. Aaaaaand go. 

New Wilmington Missions Conference - group I traveled through/best week of summer
Summer Service blog - the blog I worked on with my team