SMILE FEARLESSLY

SMILE FEARLESSLY

Bert Healy from Annie said it best, you're never fully dressed without a smile! And what's better than a regular old smile? A white & glowing smile! So today, I wanted to share something that I get a lot of questions about & that is...HOW I WHITEN MY TEETH! 

If you've been following me on Instagram or reading my blog for awhile now, you know I am an avid coffee drinker. I drink at least one cup of coffee everyday and typically that first cup multiplies to two or three cups throughout the day. Drinking coffee is great, but unfortunately, the sad truth is that coffee stains teeth. In order to combat the coffee stains on my teeth, I recently tried Smile Brilliant. 

I tried out their at home teeth whitening kit & I am blown away by the results. My teeth weren't awfully yellow to begin with, but after using the kit, they are much brighter and have a glow to them now. 

This product is really unique because the kit actually comes with molds so you can create custom-fitted whitening trays. The custom-fit trays are really key to the process because that way, the whitening gel can reach every corner of your teeth. The other unique aspect of Smile Brilliant is their vegan and cruelty-free ingredients which is another reason why I'm a fan. 

After you receive your whitening kit, the first step is to create your custom fit impressions. Once you have taken the impressions, you simply mail them back to the lab in the prepaid envelope and then they will send them back to you in less than a week.

Now that you have your custom trays, it's time to make the magic happen! To begin the whitening process, you simply apply a thin layer of the whitening gel to the top and bottom of your custom trays and then insert them in a forward motion. 

After you have whitened and rinsed out your trays, it's now time to use the desensitizing gel. The purpose of this gel is to replenish any vitamins or minerals that may have been lost during the whitening process. 

After that, you're FINISHED! It's as easy as that! I am so thankful to have an extra bright smile now and am happy to share how I made it happen. You can learn even more about the product on their website. And if you are interested in trying Smile Brilliant as well, I have teamed up with them to provide a coupon code for you! Just type allisonschaper5 at checkout to receive 5% off! You can also enter in this GIVEAWAY to win $139 store credit to Smile Brilliant. You can enter here: www.smilebrilliant.com/g/allisonschaper  :)  

I hope you have a happy day & remember, you're never fully dressed without a smile...♡

5 YEARS OF LOVE

5 YEARS OF LOVE

My boyfriend, Brandon, and I celebrated our 5-year anniversary this month! It's hard to believe we have been together for so long, but time sure does fly when you're in love!

For the past couple of years, it's been tricky for us to celebrate because we are in college and have jam-packed schedules. Last year, we celebrated by taking exams throughout the day and then relaxing in my apartment while eating pizza and watching Pirates of the Caribbean. Regardless, it was a sweet celebration, but I'm thankful this time there were castles instead of exams. We were lucky that our anniversary fell on spring break so we could celebrate together ALL DAY LONG.

Since I am such a Disney lover, Brandon thought it would be fun idea to celebrate our special day at the most magical place on earth...Disney World!

We kicked off the celebration by having brunch at Kona Cafe at Disney's Polynesian Resort. Tonga Toast is one of our favorite things to eat on Disney property!

Tonga Toast is banana-stuffed sourdough french toast rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with a strawberry compote. It is beyond yummy and perfect for sharing. We also ordered the Egg-White Omelet and the Fruit Plate which was served in a fresh pineapple! Naturally, as coffee-lovers, we also had to order the freshly brewed Hawaiian Kona Press Pot coffee. 

After Kona Cafe, we headed to our favorite park, Animal Kingdom! We enjoyed walking around and seeing the animals and watching the Festival of the Lion King show.

Then, we headed to Epcot to admire the flowers and try the yummy food at the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival. One of my favorite things we tried was this refreshing Field Greens Salad with fresh strawberries, blue cheese, strawberry vinaigrette, and spiced pecans!

We ended the day by taking the monorail over to Magic Kingdom to grab some more tasty eats and take some photographs in front of the castle. 

As you can tell, it was one of those magically sweet days. I am beyond thankful to have Brandon in my life. We have created so many precious memories together and it's exciting to know that the best is yet to come.

I hope you have a happy day & make some sweet memories with the ones you love...♡

GALENTINE'S DAY 2017

GALENTINE'S DAY 2017

If you know me, you know I am a hopeless romantic and a lover of everything cute. Naturally, Valentine's Day is one of my FAVORITE holidays. Thankfully, I have a sweet boy who I have been celebrating Valentine's Day with for a few years now, however, I can't forget about MY GIRLS!

For the past few years now I have been hosting a little Valentine's Day get-together. There's nothing sweeter than enjoying some yummy treats and spending quality time with the ladies who provide constant love in my life. 

I made this cooper wire word art to add as a statement piece for the party! You can find the tutorial   here

I made this cooper wire word art to add as a statement piece for the party! You can find the tutorial here

These tasty cinnamon rolls were as yummy as they look! I simply used a ready-to-bake cinnamon roll package and decked it out with some Lucky Charm marsh-mellows and sprinkles.

These tasty cinnamon rolls were as yummy as they look! I simply used a ready-to-bake cinnamon roll package and decked it out with some Lucky Charm marsh-mellows and sprinkles.

My #ootd featured this DIY heart patch collar that I made with a thrifted blouse and sew-on heart patches!

My #ootd featured this DIY heart patch collar that I made with a thrifted blouse and sew-on heart patches!

I'm so thankful my Valentine's Day 2017 Brunch was a success and I can't wait for next year! I hope you got a little lover's day inspiration and have a happy day...♡

ROOM TOUR #MYgoldenspotofgainesville

ROOM TOUR #MYgoldenspotofgainesville

Welcome to #MYgoldenspotofgainesville! When I moved back to college, I wanted to create an atmosphere that inspires me. I wanted my room to be bright, airy, and dreamy so that I could come home to a place that made me feel refreshed and ready to live my dreams.

I created a video tour taking you through my room and to share where I purchased everything.

I hope you enjoy and find some inspo in #Mygoldenspotofgainesville!

The pink castle print that you see in the middle of my gallery wall is easily one of my favorite pieces in my room. My mom was actually part of the opening-cast of Disneyland Paris in 1992 and cut this print out of a newspaper. She's saved it all of these years and gave it to me a few months ago. I fell in love when I first saw it and knew I wanted to make it a focal point in my space. 

WEEKEND IN ATLANTA

WEEKEND IN ATLANTA

Last weekend, I went on a little road trip to attend a stunning wedding in Buckhead, Georgia. We left Orlando on Saturday morning and came back Monday afternoon. It was a short and sweet trip, but thankfully we were able to explore a bit!

One major highlight of the trip was Ponce City Market. We loved it so much that we ended up going twice! The market is located in downtown Atlanta near Piedmont Park and along the Atlanta Beltline. It is filled with neat shops and a wide array of restaurants.

I especially loved prancing around in this adorable dress from STYLEWE. It's so comfy and incredible quality. I would wear it everyday if I could! You can shop it here: https://goo.gl/t4JwXY

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As I was researching what we should do while in Atlanta, I stumbled upon #TinyDoorsATL. From what I understand, there is a group of artists who create little doors and stick them all around the city. If you look up the hashtag you'll be able to see a few other tiny doors and their locations. I just think this is the cutest thing and was determined to see one in the flesh. Luckily, there is one located right by Ponce City Market along the Atlanta Beltline, and I was able to walk over and see it in person!

Seeing this tiny door was icing on the beautiful cake of a weekend. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to travel and for people who create art that brings joy to my life and the lives of others. Who knew a tiny door and a weekend in a new city could carry so many happy memories? Remember, when one tiny door closes, another opens...

WILD AFRICA TREK

WILD AFRICA TREK

This year, my boyfriend, Brandon, gave me the best gift for my birthday and took me on the Wild Africa Trek at Animal Kingdom! This has been on my bucket list for awhile and I am so glad that we finally made it happen!

Going into the trek, I had some pretty high expectations since I have been daydreaming of it for so long. However, I am pleased to report that it did NOT disappoint. Especially, for such an animal lover like myself.

It was even more special because not only was the weather lovely, but it turned out that Brandon and I were the only two guests on our tour! Needless to say, we had the ultimate VIP experience. 

Brandon & I with our amazing tour guides!

Brandon & I with our amazing tour guides!

Disclaimer: The Wild Africa Trek is a 3 hour tour that takes place in Animal Kingdom. It is an additional purchase separate from standard park admission. You can learn more about pricing & availability here.

WHAT I WORE

Top: Tan Cotton Tee

Bottom: Athletic Leggings

Shoes: Nike Running Shoes

I accessorized with a hat from Forever 21, a cheetah neckerchief, and some of my favorite safari inspired pins! 

Everything that you take on the tour must be attached to you. They provide complimentary sunglass straps for you once you arrive!

The trek starts with a stroll through the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. The tour guides provide a plethora of interesting facts about the animals seen along the way. 

After a short little walk through the trails, we took a secret pathway to the next adventure...hanging out with hungry hippos! 

Did you know that hippopotamuses are related to dolphins?! Thats one of the many fun facts that our tour guides shared!

Up next, it was time to reach new heights...literally.

Walking along this jungle suspension bridge was quite an incredible experience. It was so neat to experience the safari from a whole new perspective. I have enjoyed the Killamanjaro Safari countless of times, so it was especially exciting to be on this bridge while safari trucks drove by under us. 

It was also extremely exhilarating to walk over crocodiles while they were sleeping and relaxing by the water. Did you know they only eat once a week?! Since they send most of their days laying in the sun, they don't work up much of an appetite. What a life!

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After having some close encounters with some crocodiles, it was time to take a ride to the Savannah. Although I enjoyed every aspect of the Wild Africa Trek, the moments spent relaxing and overlooking the Savannah is my favorite memory. 

It is obvious to see that my time spent on the Wild Africa Trek was priceless to me. Asante sana (thank you in Swahili) to the tour guides and conservationists who work daily to protect this beautiful world & incredible creatures who inhabit it! 

CHICAGO FEELS

CHICAGO FEELS

I took a short trip to Chicago this weekend, and it was nothing short of a dream. I have been lucky enough to visit the Windy City a few times, so I have grown quite fond of it. You can see my post about my last trip here

Also, my Great Aunt Monna lives there, so I love to visit her every chance I get. 

This is Aunt Monna getting photobombed on The Nichols Bridgeway. Isn’t she the cutest? 

Since I have visited Chicago a few times, it has been a fun challenge to find new things to see and do. Although, I did have to visit some of my favorite iconic spots, such as The Bean, The Art Institute of Chicago, and Millennium Park.

A couple of highlights from this trip included seeing In The Heights at Stage 733. If you are not familiar, In The Heights is a Tony-Award Winning musical that appeared on Broadway and was conceived by Lin-Manuel Miranda (the creator of Hamilton). The cast, score, and energy were impeccable, and I left feeling emotional and inspired. I love how a night at the theatre can fill you with so many happy feels.

Another unconventional trip highlight was Uber. I had so much fun making friends with my drivers and sharing rides via uberpool. Last night, I shared a car with a man going to the Cubs game (World Series 2016, kind of a big deal I guess) and a girl headed to a Halloween costume party. The girl was dressed as Spogebob’s house with barnacles and all. There are interesting people all around us and it turns out that I enjoy sharing a car with them. 

I also really enjoyed visiting The Art Institute and eating lunch in the courtyard with my Aunt Monna. While browsing through the Moholy-Nagy Gallery, I read a few words that really resonated with me and are worth sharing.

“Every citizen should be a student and every student should make art”

 

“Production not reproduction” 

I hope we can do this. Let's be students and create something incredible and fresh. Sometimes, all it takes is a little getaway and a few pistachio donuts to feel inspired, but I also believe you can find inspiration right where you are. So... let's find it.

EPCOT FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL

EPCOT FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL

I look forward to the Epcot Food & Wine festival every year and this year's lineup of yummy eats did not disappoint! 

From Ireland's Chocolate Pudding to Morocco's Spicy Hummus Fries, my taste buds were soaring to happy places all over the world.

Since I am not of age to enjoy an acoholic beverage yet, The Food & Wine Festival is mostly just the Food Festival for me. But there is no need to complain because there is plenty of delicious food options to indulge in.

Here are some photographs of my favorite festival dishes:

GREENHOUSE GURU || Heirloom Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese, Aged Balsamic, Vinegar and Micro-Basil

GREENHOUSE GURU || Heirloom Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese, Aged Balsamic, Vinegar and Micro-Basil

MOROCCO || Spicy Hummus Fries with Cucumber, Tomato, Onions, and Tzatziki Sauce

MOROCCO || Spicy Hummus Fries with Cucumber, Tomato, Onions, and Tzatziki Sauce

CANADA || Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup served with a Pretzel Roll

CANADA || Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup served with a Pretzel Roll

CHOCOLATE STUDIO || Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey-Caramel

CHOCOLATE STUDIO || Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey-Caramel

What is YOUR favorite Food & Wine Festival dish or drink?! Keep living out your dreams!

ARTLANDO

ARTLANDO

"ONE DAY. ONE FESTIVAL. ALL ART."

Yesterday I attended Artlando which is a lovely art festival right in the heart of Orlando. This was my second year attending and I'm happy to say that it still has it's charm. Orlando is such a special place full of eclectic people with interesting and unique stories. I love how events such as Artlando are able to bring people together who typically would never cross paths. 

Conveniently, Artlando takes place in Loch Haven Park which is right next to the Orlando Museum of Modern Art. This year, the museum had a designated room where you could decorate postcards that were designed by artists to commemorate the tragedy at Pulse Nightclub. It was a beautiful opportunity to reflect and unite in love.

There are so many incredibly talented artists in this city and I loved admiring their work. I hope you enjoy these photographs I snapped and maybe you'll find yourself enjoying Artlando 2017.

Keep living out your dreams.

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LAYERED LATTE

LAYERED LATTE

It's #nationalcoffeeday so you better believe that I will be paying homage to my favorite cozy beverage!

One of my favorite ways to enjoy coffee is to make it. I love learning new ways to prepare some homemade brew. Recently, I learned how to brew up a layered latte and I still cannot believe how simple it is! With that being said, I thought I would share this easy little tutorial. Enjoy and cheers to #nationalcoffeeday!

STEPS:

1. Add a layer of chocolate syrup to the bottom of your glass (optional).

2. Steam & froth about half a cup of milk.

3. Scoop some of your frothed milk into your glass.

4. Pour the rest of your milk in but leave a couple of spoonfuls of foam.

5. Gently pour in your espresso.

6. Top of with the rest of your foamy milk.

7. Enjoy! 

SUPPLIES:

• Unicorn glass cup: http://bit.ly/2bL1s92

• Frother: http://bit.ly/2bRYyfC

• Moka Pot: http://bit.ly/2bRquPz

• Espresso: http://bit.ly/2bzJfJo

• Steel Pitcher: http://bit.ly/2c5iMkY

CELEBRATE #NationalCoffeeDay AT DISNEY

CELEBRATE #NationalCoffeeDay AT DISNEY

Take a moment to close your eyes and imagine this. You're strolling down Main Street USA and the Dapper Dans are serenading you with every step. You smell the sweet aroma of sugar coming from The Confectionary and then you catch a whiff of some freshly brewed...COFFEE! Instantly, you have been taken to a magical coffee lovers heaven and grab your favorite caffeinated drink to fuel your day in the parks. 

Although this may not be your reality on #NationalCoffeeDay, I hope you brew up some of your own magic at home. Here are some of my personal favorite places to grab some coffee in the parks:

1. Snag some Starbucks on Main Street USA then head over to the Train Station to enjoy the most beautiful view of the castle while you sip on your coffee. 

2. Pick up a drink from Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie at the France Pavilion in Epcot and then find a vacant bench or table at the pavilion to admire the Parisian atmosphere. 

3. Take a break from all the shopping at Disney Springs and relax by the outdoor fire place at one of the most beautiful Starbucks I have ever visited.

4. Snag a cup of freshly brewed coffee from Starbucks on Main Street then head to Jolly Holiday to sit at a pretty yellow table to enjoy it.

5. Grab a latte at your favorite resort then find a cozy little spot in the lobby to unwind and enjoy it.

TIP! If you happen to be in the Disney Parks today, make sure you stop by Joffrey's to get a hot (16 oz) or iced (24 oz) cup of coffee for just $1.00 to join in the coffee lovers celebration!

What's your favorite coffee drink? Keep living out your dreams!

MICKEY'S NOT SO SCARY HALLOWEEN PARTY

MICKEY'S NOT SO SCARY HALLOWEEN PARTY

The pumpkins are glowing and the autumn leaves are showing that Halloween time has come to stay. What better way to celebrate than with Mickey and The Sanderson Sisters? I attended Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at the beginning of September and I have been smiling about it ever since.

I attended the party with a few friends who, like me, were very excited to dress up for the event. My friend Robbie dressed up as Duffy, Katie dressed up as ShellieMay, and I dressed up as Gelatoni. If you aren't familiar with Gelatoni, he is BFF's with Duffy and is popular over in Japan/DisneySea. Gelatoni entered Duffy's life when Duff & Mickey were strolling through Italy while on a spring voyage with Minnie and ShellieMay. Duffy was snacking on some gelato when he suddenly dropped it on the ground. In the midst of his disappointment, Gelatoni walked up and introduced himself and then proceeded to grab his tail and start painting with the fallen gelato and they were best friends ever since. How cute is that?!  

Since the character I decided to dress up as is not an obvious choice, many people didn't know who I was. With that being said, it was a million times more exiting when someone did recognize me. We even ran into two ladies who were visiting from Japan and one of them was even carrying a little stuffed Gelatoni with her. Needless to say, we were extremely excited when we ran into each other. It's little magical moments like that that made my night at MNSSHP so special!

Since my friends and I are lucky enough to be able to visit the parks quite frequently, we decided that we did not want to make riding rides our biggest priority. Instead, our main focus was to indulge in the entertainment and special characters. We watched the Hocus Pocus stage show and the Boo to You parade twice. We also danced the night away at the Monsters Inc Dance Party and of course we watched Hallo-Wishes. The entertainment blew me away and was definitely the highlight of the party for me. 

Here are some of my best tips for having a successful party night:

1. Take a nap before and fuel up on coffee so you'll be energized enough to spend the whole night parting like theres no tomorrow! The party starts at 7:00 PM, however, you can enter as early as 4:00 PM and then lasts until midnight.

2. If trick or treating isn't necessarily your biggest priority, I would save it until the last 15 minutes of the party. That way, there will be shorter lines (if any at all), and you won't have to carry a 5 lb bag of candy all night.

3. Dress up! Crafting up a fun little outfit to wear to the party will definitely enhance your experience. Characters will notice you and it will get you into the Halloween spirit even more.

4. Although I suggest to watch both viewings of the Boo to You parade since it is that good, if you only have time for one, the second showing tends to have less of a crowd so your chances of snagging a better spot will increase.

5. Perk up your ears right at 7:00 PM when the party starts. You will hear a spooky voice projected all throughout the kingdom that will certainly get you excited for the thrilling adventure ahead. 

Will you be attending MNSSHP this year? If so, what are you looking forward to the most?!

FALL FEELINGS/LIFE UPDATE

FALL FEELINGS/LIFE UPDATE

Fall is among us and most of my friends are back in school and as busy as a bee. However, this semester I am not in the glorious “swamp.” Instead, I am spending the semester at home in Orlando! Naturally, I have some serious FOMO moments but I am thankful to have this time to take it easy and I am also thankful that the University of Florida is only two hours away because boy oh boy…I love that place.

Thankfully, this semester I was blessed with the amazing opportunity to intern at Gravitational Marketing which is an advertising agency here in Orlando. After months of applying to countless internships and not hearing back, finally, I got a call from Gravitational Marketing and the rest was history. This place has provided me such a source of inspiration and friendship. Everyone has been so encouraging and the company culture is incredible. I am thankful and I surely believe that the best is yet to come.  

I hope you are having a lovely start to this new season. Keep living out your dreams.

CACTUS LOVE LANGUAGE

CACTUS LOVE LANGUAGE

Taking care of your poky little plants can be frustrating sometimes. It's tricky to understand how much water they need and what kind of sunlight is best. I’ve done some research and learned the ultimate cactus love language. Hopefully these tips will help keep your plant friends as happy as can be!

*Disclaimer: I am not a plant expert by any means, I’ve just grown (pun-intended) to love them and wanted to share some of the tips that I have learned. If you have any other tips I would love to hear them!*

SUN

If you keep your plants inside, then, the closer to the window, the better. However, if the window is facing the sun directly, it potentially could be too bright. If the leaves seem a little bleached, this could be due to an excess amount of sunlight. 

WATER

I lightly spray my plants with water about three times a week. Once a week, I disperse about a tablespoon of water for each cactus.  It REALLY helps the plants if you use cactus soil or add rocks to the very bottom of the planter. That way, the plants can drain the excess water that they don't want.

ADMIRE

Overall, these plants are easy to maintain and perfect for people who haven’t fully developed their “green-thumb.” Be sure to admire them regularly to make sure they are adjusting well to your space. They have the potential to grow and last a long time. I hope they bring you joy and inspire you to keep growing too!

PATCH MAGIC

PATCH MAGIC

This past week, I traveled to Disneyland with my mom and my love, Brandon. My mom travels to the West Coast frequently for work, and, this time Brandon and I decided to tag along. It was a dream to be at one of my favorite places with two of my favorite people, even through my mom had to work for most of the time.

Before the trip, I decided to make some fun DIY’s to wear while frolicking through the park. My first DIY was my character inspired Disney patches. I found this denim jacket here and the patch DIY on DisneyStyle and decided to add more of my favorite character icons. I made a classic Mickey hat, Minnie bow, Rapunzel sun, Monsters University logo, Baymax, and a cactus. There isn’t really a Disney reference for the cactus patch, I just like it. If you think of a reference let me know. Maybe there will be a Disney Pixar cactus movie in our future...Can’t you picture it already?!

Brandon was so sweet and patient with me because, naturally I needed a photograph of every single inch of the park. I hope you enjoy them and there will be more magic to come. Let me know if you make your own Disney patches. I would love to see them!

Keep living out your dreams. 

#MYgoldenspotofgainesville

#MYgoldenspotofgainesville

Welcome to my room!

While I was preparing to embark on my college career, one of my favorite things to do was find room inspiration through various media outlets.

Since I was able to find inspiration from other people, now is the time for me to return the favor. Here you'll find some photographs and a few tips that really helped me put everything together. 

I definitely believe having a place that you like to come home to in college is vital to a smoother transition and creating an overall positive experience. With that said, I hope you enjoy and find some inspiration in #Mygoldenspotofgainesville!

TIPS:

  • Plan ahead! Start gathering inspiration as soon as you can, that way you will be less flustered and you will have less impulse purchases. 
  • Get crafty! Don't be afraid to pull out that glue gun. The more things you make by hand, the better. 
  • Green is the new black! Channel your inner green thumb and add some succulents or air plants to add a fresher feel to your space.
  • Keep coffee in arms reach! If you're like me, coffee is a must in the morning. Keep it nearby or if you are not able to have a coffee maker in your dorm, stock up on some chocolate covered espresso beans. 
  • Be you! Getting inspiration from other people is great, however, you should make your space YOUR space. This is where YOU will be spending your time and making memories.

DISNEY DREAMERS CLUB

DISNEY DREAMERS CLUB

As I was looking through the 1,000+ clubs and organizations here at the University of Florida, I noticed something was missing...there isn't a Disney club!

Of course, I was shocked and appalled by this revelation, and, naturally, I feel as if it is my duty to create a Disney club for Gator Nation. 

Some of my ideas for this club include:

  • Disney movie nights
  • Disney-themed baking sessions
  • Dream-planning seminars
  • Lightsaber battles
  • Current cast member lectures
  • Entrepreneurship studies
  • And many more!

This is a new thought, and I am still working to brainstorm more ideas and develop the constitution. I plan to host some unofficial meetings before we can make the club official in the fall of 2016. However, if you have any interest in this, please leave a comment or message me through social media or my "contact" page. Thanks for reading, and I hope we can make some magical memories together soon!

P.S. Does anyone have some witty name ideas? I am certainly open to any and all suggestions! 

#goldenspotsofgainesville

#goldenspotsofgainesville

 
 

#goldenspotsofgainesville is a hashtag that I started once I knew I would officially be attending the University of Florida. To be honest, as excited as I was to attend UF, I was a little underwhelmed by the city. I was used to having Disney in my backyard and Downtown Orlando to explore. However, I was determined to find the best little spots that make Gainesville unique. So far, I have found so many hidden gems and I definitely underestimated this city's charm. 

 

You can follow my search for the best spots of Gainesville on Instagram. I have also been sharing some college apartment inspiration with #MYgoldenspotofgainesville. 

AUTUMNAL EQUINOX

AUTUMNAL EQUINOX

 
 

You can feel it in the air, you can see it in the leaves and you can taste it in your pumpkin spice lattes.

Summer is dwindling down and fall is quickly making its presence known. You can spend a little time mourning the loss of our precious hours of sunlight while you dig out the box of sweaters from the back of the closet. (It’s still 80 degrees outside, so you can just stare at the box, you don’t have to use it.)

If you like to do some late-night pondering like me, you are left with many questions about this seasonal shift. What is the autumnal equinox? Why does it happen in September? What changes can I expect?

Have no fear, I found the stargazing guru who is full of answers.

James Albury is the planetarium coordinator at Santa Fe’s Planetarium, co-host of PBS TV series “Star Gazers” and a total star enthusiast. His passion for astronomy is unmatched and he knows everything about this mysterious autumnal equinox.

First, let’s start with the basics.

An equinox occurs when the sun’s rays directly shine on the equator causing everyone on earth to experience 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness.

Albury shared that there are only two equinoxes’ every year — one in September and one in March. These are commonly known as the autumnal and spring equinoxes’ that mark the start of fall and spring.

Each year, the autumnal equinox will occur on September 22, 23 and 24. This year, the equinox will occur this Wednesday at 4:22 a.m.

The North and South Pole undergo something a little different. In the North Pole, the sun will set and not rise again until the next equinox on March 20. In the South Pole, it’s reversed. The sun will rise and then will stay shining until March. Basically, if you’re looking to catch a killer tan, the South Pole is your place to go and if you’re craving an extended nap, head to the North Pole.

While the weather does change, the equinox marks more than just a difference in temperature.

Many religions celebrate and partake in festivals during this phase. One example is the Moon Festival in China, which applauds the abundance of summer’s harvest and rejoices in all the gifts of the season.

This equinox also aligns with the pagan holiday, Mabon. For many pagan traditions, this shift of seasons is time to give thanks for all they have. They rejoice in the balance between light and dark and celebrate the gifts of the earth.

Although the change from summer to autumn isn’t an obvious one in Florida, we still notice some slight changes.

The most obvious change you will notice is the decrease in daylight. Those long summer nights are retiring for a few months, so don’t be alarmed when you wake up for that 8 a.m. lecture and it’s as dark as the coffee brewing in your Keurig.

Whether you’re up at 4:22 a.m. this Wednesday or not, take a few moments to be grateful for all the hazy summer days. (You don’t have to be a pagan to give thanks, people.) Soak in those last few bits summer and start getting cozy, because autumn is coming our way.

As James Albury always says, “Keep looking up!”

FRESHMAN FEARS

FRESHMAN FEARS

 
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Growing up as a self-proclaimed “goody two shoes”, I have always had mixed feelings about parties. From the high alcohol intake to the smoke in the air, the party atmosphere has never been my cup of tea — or should I say, my cup of booze?

As an incoming college freshman, I am incredibly intimidated by this whole party craze. I am constantly wondering if I will be alone in my dorm every night while everyone else is “having fun” at a frat party. The stereotypes of college life are built up in my head — I suppose I have pop culture to blame for that. After all, have you ever watched a chick flick without a classic college party scene?

However, this week’s pop culture surprised me when my ears met Alessia Cara’s vocals through the radio.

Immediately, my little freshman fears took a rest. Few songs truly have the power to instantly give you goose bumps, but Cara’s debut single, “Here,” does the trick. She starts the song insolently with the lyrics, “I’m sorry if I seem uninterested/ or I’m not listening/or I’m indifferent.” We can all relate to that awkward feeling whether at a party or not.

In an interview with Ryan Seacrest, Cara explains the true inspiration for the song. She talks about a party she attended the eve before this lyrical masterpiece was born.

She felt angst toward the girls gossiping, the dudes smoking weed and the guy throwing up “cause he can’t take what’s in his cup no more.” Throughout the music video, you see Cara recreating those same scenarios. She even enlisted many of the teens from the real life bash that provoked the song to recreate their roles.

One of the biggest struggles I face as a goody two shoes is doubt from adults and the labels of our society.

It seems that young people are automatically expected to embrace partying and everything that comes with it. Whenever I mention my conservative ways to someone of an older generation, a sly smile automatically crosses their face. They instantly doubt that I am telling the truth. It’s almost as if they want me to fall into the temptations in order for them to gain self-satisfaction.

They partied when they were our age, so we are expected to party too — It’s a domino effect. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Throughout my life, I’ve had a hard time conveying these frustrations. But I am thankful Ms. Cara was able to do all the hard work for me through a song. She is bold enough to speak against this cliché, and the way she conveys it is wildly intelligent. She has shined a light on those, including myself, in the corner. The ones who don’t want to sacrifice their hopes and dreams for a night out.

So now I am left with these questions.

Is there anyone else on the same page as Ms. Cara and I? Is it really possible to have just as much fun without any sort of stimulation? And does indulging in drugs distract you from your dreams?

I may be a biased prude, but I have had my fair share of laughter and silly stories, all in the absence of any kind of fluid influencing me. And do you want to know the best part? I can remember these moments the next morning.

Regardless of your personal opinion of the whole party scene, this song is undeniably a summer hit that is bound to end up stuck in your head at some point.

Meanwhile, you can catch me “over here”, listening to this inspiring track and working towards my dreams. Care to join me?