Best Practices for Surviving School

The other day I ran into a girl that I used to baby-sit while I was in high school. She’s a little older now so it was fun to catch up and see how she’s grown. I couldn’t believe when I heard she was finishing university this year, and her younger sister is just starting out at my old alumni. She asked me if I had any advice, so here it is. For those of you just starting out in post-secondary school, or for those of you looking to turn over a new leaf this year- I hope you find it useful. For the girls I used to look after- this one is for you.

Practice self-care. Exercise, sleep and eat healthy. These are the habits you’re most likely to let go of when you go to school so I encourage you to make them a priority. It’s not just about avoiding the Freshman 15- not taking care of your basic needs messes with your focus, your understanding and your mood. (I lost 15 lbs. instead because of all of the stress!)

Practice time management skills. Your success depends on well you can balance your classes, your job, your social life, your family, your home responsibilities, and any activities you engage in when you have free time. (By the way, if you don’t learn this quickly, you won’t have much free time.)

Practice discipline. It’s hard juggling all of those different hats you wear, especially if you’re without parental supervision for the first time. School can be fun, but you have to find a balance between work and play or you’ll find yourself suffering the consequences in your academic and/or personal life.

Practice organization. Your life will be a lot easier if you have everything you need, and you know where it all is. Be prepared. You won’t think I’m silly until the moment your pen dries up during an exam and you have to ask the proctor for one in front of 300 people.

Practice thrift. School is expensive and life can be to. It could mean a lot of trouble for you if you don’t learn how to manage your expenses quickly. This is also the time when many of you are starting to build a credit history, so it’s important to make paying bills – on time and in full – a priority.

Practice being open-minded. You’re going to meet a bunch of different people who come from different places and backgrounds and who do things, say things and think things that are different than what you’re used to. Please keep in mind that your way isn’t always the right way- it’s just all that you know because that’s where you come from. We all have things to learn from one another.

Practice kindness. When no one knows who you are or where you come from, all you have are your actions to represent yourself. Make your first impression a good one and the kindness will come back to you ten-fold during your time at school. I’m so grateful to all the friends I made that helped me through that time- they made me food when I was hungry, brought me coffees when I was tired, gave me pep talks when I was down and even loaned me a laptop when mine went on the fritz the night before a deadline. It really does pay to be nice!

Above all, I hope you keep things in perspective- school is not just about the credits, and the lectures, and the piece of paper at the end. It’s about expanding your horizons, challenging yourself and discovering your own talents and skill sets. It’s an exciting time and one I’ll certainly never forget. I wish you all the best of luck.

What’s your biggest takeaway from your time at school? Share it with the class below or let’s chat about it- you can reach me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com.

If you’re looking for more ways to juggle that whole work/school/life balance thing, click here to find more solutions that worked for me.

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Baking with B: Chocolate Spice Cookies

Do you ever get tired of making the same thing, over and over again? (I used to feel that way about birthday cakes.) I was searching for something to serve during a recent family visit and none of my old standards were really grabbing me. Trying something new didn’t really appeal to me either- I didn’t have the time or energy for experimenting.

I was beginning to feel discouraged until I thought- hey, why reinvent the wheel? You know a lot of great classic recipes, B. Why not spice one up so you can have the best of both worlds?

I took my own advice. Literally. I whipped together the ingredients for my favorite butter cookie recipe (also featured here) and turned things up a notch. I’m pretty pleased with the results, too- these Chocolate Spice Cookies melt in your mouth just like a butter cookie, but taste like a gingersnap, with an extra splash of chocolate to keep things sweet.

Chocolate Spice Cookies (makes 28)

3/4 c. butter, softened

1/2 c. sugar

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. nutmeg

1 1/2 c. chocolate chips, melted

Cream together butter and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, sift together spices and flour and mix with wet ingredients, adding one spoonful at a time until ingredients are fully combined. Divide the dough and shape into two flat discs. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F. Remove dough from refrigerator and unwrap. Use your hands to shape dough into desired shape, before placing on a parchment-lined cookie sheet approximately one inch apart. Press down each cookie with a fork before baking 10 minutes. Remove from oven and place on cookie rack until fully cooled.

Melt chocolate in a double-broiler or microwave until smooth. Dip each cookie halfway into the chocolate before placing on waxed paper. Refrigerate until chocolate is set.

B’s Tip: Just because I used chocolate chips doesn’t mean you can’t use your favorite baking chocolate or chocolate bar to make the melted chocolate! You may want to drizzle the chocolate over the cookies instead, or skip that step altogether and throw your chocolate chips into the dough before baking.

The best thing about making over a classic recipe like this is that the variations don’t have to stop there- you can change up the chocolate, switch out the spices, or add nuts or your favorite dried fruit for even more flavor. Your cookies don’t even have to be the same shape- I tried molding mine into logs before squashing with a giant serving fork, instead of the usual circular cookies I make. See? Spicing up your old routine can be addictive. I highly suggest you try it too. You never know what you might come up with!

Happy baking!

B

Baking with B appears every other Monday on the Keeping Busy with B Blog. Find out why I like baking so much here. For more of my baking, click here. And for even more recipe inspiration, check out my Pinterest full of food eye candy that will have you licking your computer. Promise.

What’s in my Beach Bag?

Guys, I live near a beach so I got this one down pat. (Ok so it’s not the ocean-only a lake- but it’s still pretty close.) I can’t get enough of the fresh air and sunshine after being cooped up indoors all winter, and apparently people around here feel the same way, because in the summer this place gets packed.

Lucky for me and my dog, we’ve lived here long enough that we know all the best places to steal a quiet moment to contemplate the water, listen to music, read a book, or simply enjoy the feeling of the sun on your skin.

Here’s some of what I take along to make the experience enjoyable:

  1. A large towel to sit on, although you may want to bring a second one in case you decide to go swimming.
  2. I read somewhere once that the majority of the skin’s aging process is largely attributed to sun damage so I never leave the house without sunscreen. Vanity aside, there’s also a history of skin cancer in my family which is exacerbated by my pale, pale skin.
  3. As such, my line of defense also includes a large floppy hat and sunglasses, although the glasses are mostly so I don’t get recognized. (Kidding!)
  4. Hydration is important so I always have two reusable water bottles; one for me and one for my dog.
  5. I practically never leave the house without a book, and if I’m going to the beach it’s almost certainly a guarantee. (I blog about what I’m reading all the time here, if you’re interested.)
  6. I have a little emergency kit that goes everywhere with me in my purse- I just pop it into whatever bag I happen to be carrying that day.
  7. As mentioned in this post, I’m kind of a grazer when it comes to eating, so I usually stash a granola bar or a piece of fruit in case I get too much sun, or feel like my blood sugar is too low.
  8. My beauty routine doesn’t involve too many lotions or potions, but I do enjoy indulging in a face misting spray to throw into my beach bag. It’s good for setting make-up on sweaty skin, a light cleanse after going swimming, or simply helps to cool you off after sitting out in the sun.

I keep my beach bag pretty simple- it’s hard to relax and enjoy yourself if you’ve brought too much to carry, or you constantly have to rummage around to find things.

Of course, depending on your lifestyle the contents of your bag may look a little bit different than mine. Maybe you’ve got some sand toys in there if you’ve got little kids in tow, or maybe you’ve got lots of food and drink for a picnic with friends.

Some of the stuff on my list may change if I have my dog with me. In that case, I’ll bring her water bottle (see above) as well as some treats and maybe a ball or a Frisbee to play with. Honestly, she’s pretty into hanging out on a towel with me which makes her a total beach bum.

The best part of my list, in my opinion, is the fact that I haven’t included any electronics and I don’t really plan to. I’m so attached to my phone that I’ve taken to not bringing it with me on my dog walks so I can enjoy the experience more. I might bring it along with me if I’m planning to meet up with friends and I need to be reachable; other than that, I prefer keeping my beach visits blissfully phone-free.

After all, what’s the point in staring at a screen when you’ve got that beautiful summer weather to breathe in and enjoy all around you?

KBwB-BFlower-50

I want to know what’s in your beach bag! Are the contents sweet and simple like mine, or do you really go on a big adventure when you make a beach trip? Have you even been to a beach? Let me know! I’m looking forward to your answers below, or in my inbox at keepingbusyb@gmail.com.

For more tip on having more summer fun, I’ve got some ideas here. (As if you needed advice on how to have fun, right?!)