September 26, 2011

Beginnings and Birthdays

20th Birthday

I get very excited about beginnings. I LOVE the beginning of school especially, with all the new books and binders and schedules. Yes, I’m a nerd, but I love it and embrace it. This is my last year of school, which means I had my last ever “First Day of School”. Sad.
This year is also an extra special beginning because I turn 21 in 3 days. To me, this signifies the beginning of a lot of freedom. I don’t have to be scared of being caught with alcohol or (more realistically) being caught with a fake ID. I can go out when I want to, where I want to, and not feel like a criminal. Finally. I have learned in the past few months that older does not equal wiser. Let's leave it at that.
For my birthday I’m going to spend the morning with my family, come up to school and go out with my friends and boyfriend at night, and then go to San Francisco for the weekend. I’m SO excited! I can’t wait to explore the city and see the sights and eat the food and drink the coffee and everything else.
I feel like this year my birthday signifies much more than just an ability to drink legally. I’m really growing up and figuring out who I want to be and starting to plan what I want to do with my life after school. Kinda big stuff, if you ask me.
So, I’ve decided to make 3 “New Year Age” resolutions, starting on September 29, my 21st birthday:
1.   BALANCE – I’ll continue to strive for balance in my life. I know I’ll be going out a bit more than I was previously, but I have promised myself that I will not get sucked into making partying a priority. I need to do well in school, try my hardest at work, stay healthy, and also have fun. I need to find the balance.

2.   GO WITH THE WIND – I am tempted to start planning the rest of my life immediately after I finish school in December. I get extremely anxious when I think that I don’t know where I’ll live after graduation, if I’ll be able to find a job, or if I’ll have roommates that I can handle. I want to travel, have a career, and be closer to my boyfriend. I’ve decided, though, to give this a bit of a rest. I still have at least a year to live in my college town (even if I won’t be in school), so I’ll enjoy that and cross the other bridges when I get to them - - or at least when I get closer to approaching them.

3.   DON'T STRESS THE SMALL STUFF -  With all that I have going on between my birthday, school, work, relationships, working out, the sorority, and many other things, some things are going to have to give way for others. I promised myself that I will not stress out about missing the gym one day, about missing a night out with my friends, or about only giving 95% effort on a 5-point homework assignment. If I want to find the balance, I have to be willing to accept that I can't do EVERYTHING 100% perfectly 100% of the time, and that's ok. I have my priorities (#1 of which is being happy and making sure that the people I love are too), and I'll try to give myself a bit of a break if I can't do it all. Easier said than done for me, but worth a real try.

I can't wait to upload pictures from this week/weekend. I intend to fully make up for the lack of posts this week with TONS of updates next week.
Do you make resolutions for your birthday? What do you wanna work on as you get older?

xo Toni

September 23, 2011

Saved by the Blog

This is where I would like to be today. On a calm river, in a luxurious gondola, being serenaded by a funny Italian man and sitting next to someone I love. Many times, this is my happy place.

This week has literally been the craziest for me in a long time. I had my first day of school, which was great because I love school, but I've also been doing recruitment, going to work, and getting far less than 5 hours of sleep a night.

I'm trying my very best to keep it together and stay sane. If you saw me last night at 2:00am attempting to scratch my elbow with my toes, you would know that sanity is often not within my reach when I'm exhausted.

The best way to maintain cool, calm, and collected for me is to stay in contact with my parents and boyfriend who all tell me it'll be over soon. I try to not take my tiredness out on them, but this is often easier said than done. I also rely heavily on coffee while trying to eat as many fruits and veggies as I can - also easier said than done.

With all this madness, I find it hard to carve out even 15 minutes of blogging time. I've seen such incredible blogs about amazing girls and guys that have these fun, adventurous, busy lives. Where - I have to ask - WHERE do you find the time?! I've SO enjoyed starting this blog. I enjoy writing and meeting the other bloggers. In fact, it has in many ways helped me achieve sanity, and I am going to try keep it up as much as possible. I apologize in advance if the time between posts increases slightly and the content becomes more flustered during times like finals week and throughout the rest of recruitment.

OK, 15 minutes is up. Back to work.


September 16, 2011

Food For The Soul

Some people say that "time heals everything". While I can agree with this, I must admit that I am also a firm believer that food can cure (almost) anything, as evident in The Case for Coffee and Cupcakes.  

Yesterday was a particularly stressful day for me. On top of preparing for school to start next week and working 8 hour days, I have to be part of recruitment for my sorority. I'm using all the self- restraint I have to not write too much about this because if any of the girls in the sorority see this blog, I don't want to be exiled. They all know that I hate recruitment; I don't keep it a secret. If you have ever been around a stressed-out woman and felt the stress rub off onto you, you can only imagine what a house full of 150 stressed, over-caffeinated women is like. Not pretty. Not pretty at all.

When I got home last night, I was irritated and stressed. I needed some time alone to calm down and regain a positive attitude if I wanted to attend the party that my house was hosting to kick off the new school year. After some encouragement from my boyfriend, I decided to not let the chaos and stress defeat me. So, I turned to food to turn my frown upside down. 

I only had about an hour before I needed to start getting ready, so I made this wonderful, heavenly snack - Honey Wheat Pretzel Sticks dipped in peanut butter, raspberry jelly, and Nutella. Yes, you read that correctly. Chocolatey, berrilicious, peanuty goodness. It was fantastic. The protein from the peanut butter kept me full and energized, the carbs from the pretzels soaked up the subsequent "party beverages", the chocolaty hazelnut spread put a smile on my face, and the berries were delicious. Perfect food for the soul.

Try it yourself. But make sure to work out the next day. Delicious, yes. Healthy...maybe not so much.
Nobody's perfect and that's how it should be.



ps: sorry about my less than amazing pictures. I plan to work on this in the future.

September 14, 2011

Wordless { Well, Kind of } Wednesday

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. 
Here are a few of my happiest pictures:

(I didn't include any with other people - which are really my favorite - because I don't want to post photos of anyone else without their permission. Maybe later.)

September 12, 2011

4 Feet Are Better Than 2

Sometimes its hard to exercise. You don't have energy, you just ate a huge meal, or you have so many other things that you need to do that spending an hour working out seems almost counterproductive. With school starting in less than 2 weeks, I see all these excuses looming in the not-so-distant future.

The truth is, however, that a good workout - which can actually be as short as 20 minutes- improves your energy, allows you to eat more, and helps you stay more focused when doing other tasks like writing papers or organizing a trip. I find that the days that I work out end up being more productive, more energetic, and overall more enjoyable.

If you are lacking exercise motivation, here are a few things that I have found encourage me to get up and work out even if I would way rather get up and go straight to the couch.

1. Find a Buddy - Find someone with similar fitness goals as you and make a plan to work out together a few times a week. Having someone holding you accountable for your workout will ensure that you don't give in to laziness. Plus, a little healthy competition never hurt anyone.

Why can't it always be this easy?
2. Buy a Drink... or a Bar - I don't eat them everyday because they are often overpriced, but I really love granola/energy bars. Since they've become so popular, there are many great tasting varieties that fill you up and give you lots of energy, carbs and protein. If you're not working out, however, they have way more carbs and protein than you need. So, I tell myself that if I eat one during the day at school or work, I have to work out that day to make it worth it. I do the same with sports drinks like Gatorade or FRS. If I drink a sporty, electrolyte-filled drink or eat a 250 calorie peanut butter protein bar and then don't exercise, I feel like a fool. Plus, honestly, I feel cool when I think I "deserve" to eat and drink athletic things. Maybe that's just me?

3. Take a Workout Class -  If you've read through my previous posts, it's pretty easy to tell that I'm a big fan of workout classes. I find that I push myself harder and continue working out longer with an instructor than without. I belong to 24-hour fitness, and I love their TurboKick and BodyPump classes. I also love yoga and pilates, especially if I can get some cardio in before the class. Plus, because the classes are at set times, you can't tell yourself "I'll go later" and then end up on the couch until the next morning.

4. Get (or Stay) Dirty - If you think you're going to shower and then accomplish some other task and then go to the gym or for a run and then shower again, you are sorely mistaken. I find that it's easiest for me to go straight from work to the gym, because I already feel like I need a shower, so the idea of sweating isn't so off-putting. For girls, the fact that you have to wash your hair afterwords can alone be enough of a reason to not work out. So, if your hair was washed on Monday and it is now Tuesday night but you haven't exercised, tell yourself that you will exercise on Wednesday and wash it then. Come Wednesday, you know you're going to have to wash your hair that night anyway, so you might as well get sweaty. (Note - Please still feel free to shower on the Tuesday, but don't wash your hair).

If all else fails, go through a checklist of reasons why you want to exercise, including better health, better body, and more ways to justify eating dessert. Chances are, even a 20 minute run will seem worth all those benefits.

What do you do to trick motivate yourself to work out?



September 9, 2011

Match Made In Heaven

I believe in soulmates. I just know that sometimes two people are meant to be together. If I told you the story of how my boyfriend and I met, you would probably agree. But that's for another time.

I also believe that, like people, some edible/drinkable items are just meant to be together. They complement eachother, and balance eachother out - just like a perfect couple should!

Here is my list of The Top 10 food::food and food::drink Matches Made in Heaven (in no specific order).

  • Berries and Dark Chocolate
  • Peanut Butter and Milk Chocolate
  • Cookies and Ice Cream
  • Tomatoes and Mozzarella Cheese
  • Steak and Mashed Potatoes
  • Milk and Cereal
  • Hamburgers and Coca-Cola
  • Tacos and Beer
  • Tea and Biscuits
  • Pasta and Wine

What would you add?


September 8, 2011

Male Birth Control - - A Wonderful Plan or a Big Joke?

Would you feel secure jumping off a building if you couldn’t see the safety net at the bottom? Would you feel at ease sprinting straight ahead if you couldn’t see that the path was clear? Would you feel safe having sex with a man who reassures you that he has taken his birth control pills, even though you cannot physically see a condom?

Although the most popular and effective form of birth control in recent years has been the female oral contraceptive, the responsibility of preventing unwanted pregnancy may soon be available to males.

This new discovery would encourage both males and females to stop and think about their own forms of birth control and decide whether or not they would be willing to test the boundaries of contraception.

Since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of legalizing contraceptive use in 1960, birth control methods for women have become increasingly varied and popular. Before this time, however, women had to be more creative in their attempt to avoid pregnancy. Beginning in 1900, some women inserted lemon halves that had been hollowed out into their vaginas hoping that the fruit’s skin would block the sperm, and its acidity would kill any sperm that managed to escape. Other women followed old wives’ tales that instructed them to do things like jumping up and down or swallowing bees after intercourse.

Today, women have many more contraceptive options that are much more effective and reliable including rings, patches, injections and diaphragms. The concept of male contraception has evolved in a similar manner. As early as 1000 BC, men were using thin layers of linen, leather and silk paper to prevent conception. In 1855, rubber condoms were invented. Men were instructed to wash them after use and reuse them until they crumble.

It wasn’t until 1912 that the disposable, latex condom was created. In the 1950s, condoms were improved with a tip on the end that collects the sperm to further increase their effectiveness in preventing pregnancy. Although this condom is more effective than its reusable ancestor, its success rate at preventing pregnancy has failed to match that of female oral contraceptives. This is due to the fact that condoms can break under too much pressure and are not always used correctly.

Since then, little had been done to improve or innovate male contraceptives until now. According to The Science Channel, researchers began working on a way to make a male form of the birth control pill in the 1950s. They soon became discouraged, however, after hearing testimony from men around the world saying that they would never use such a product. These men showed skepticism towards the possible long-term effects the drug could have on their fertility and their sex drive.

Recently, pharmaceutical companies such as Wyeth, Schering and Organon have once again been working on developing contraceptive pills and injections to be used by men. These companies are currently pursuing clinical trials and awaiting FDA approval. It is unlikely that these contraceptives will be available for public use for at least ten years. Some hormones being tested are expected to stop sperm from being ejaculated. Others merely make the ejaculated sperm unable to fertilize an egg. Male birth control pills would hopefully be 99.9% effective at preventing pregnancy, just like the female form. According to Science Daily, researchers found that androgenic hormones work in the testes to control normal sperm count and therefore affect fertility. These hormones are controlled by the amount of testosterone in a man’s body. Researchers stumbled upon this discovery when attempting to find a solution for men who were unable to have children due to a low sperm count. Slightly more testosterone than average was found to produce an increase in fertility. However, a large excess of testosterone proved to dramatically decrease fertility. By altering these hormones, a man’s fertility can be turned on and off rather easily.

A majority of middle-aged, married couples are in favor of trying male contraception, according to a study published in the Journal of Sex Research. William Marsiglio, along with researchers in the Department of Sociology at Ohio State, found that women are more hesitant about men using birth control than the men are themselves.

"A woman could be hesitant to rely on her partner’s actions when the consequences of his mistakes would affect her body," Marsiglio said. "This could be because she does not trust the man to use the contraception correctly or that the physical act of taking the pill gives her a sense of control."

Since the subjects were middle-aged and married, the study did not answer the question of whether younger, unmarried people would be as willing to welcome the idea of male contraceptives into their lives.

"I would never take a pill that messed with my ability to reproduce," said Tyler Smith, a student at San Diego State University who is currently not in a relationship. "It is too risky, and we don’t know what the possible long term effects could be. I always use a condom, and other than that it’s not in my control."

Daniel Major, a California State University, Chico student who is currently in a romantic relationship, cited other reasons why he would never consider using a form of male birth control. "This may sound ridiculous, but I feel like it would make me feel less masculine," Major said. "Birth control has always been associated with feminine things. Messing with my sperm count or forcing me to ‘shoot blanks’ would make me feel like I had been neutered."

College women seem to have similar reasons to the middle-aged, married women for being hesitant about the concept of male birth control. Katie James, a University of California, Santa Barbara student, has been dating her boyfriend for over a year. Although she claims that she trusts him completely in every other aspect of their relationship, she would be unwilling to trust him with the full responsibility of contraception.

"I just know that I would be too anxious every day, asking him if he had remembered to take his pills on time," she said. "If he messes up, I end up pregnant. I
just feel more comfortable knowing that I am taking my pills correctly, and if something goes wrong, I have no one to blame but myself."

Although most of the college students questioned were completely against male contraception, one man thought of a way that the birth control could be used to his advantage.

"For players like me, this new idea is a blessing," said Joseph Shank, a UCSB student who dates several women. "I could fool around with anyone I wanted and have no fear of getting slammed with paternity accusations."

There may be other reasons besides promiscuity that could tempt men into trying these new methods of contraception as well. According to John Schieszer, a writer for, many men have been targeted by women for the sole purpose of getting pregnant. These male victims are often actors or famous sports players who are financially stable. The pregnancy would allow the woman to raise her child without monetary struggle or perhaps it would give the women her sought-after fifteen minutes of fame.
It has also been the case in the past that married women have stopped taking their birth control without telling their husbands in order to have a baby and hopefully save their marriage.

According to the Helium Pregnancy & Parenting Site, this tactic is unlikely to work successfully. The man often feels betrayed and the true problems within the marriage would still remain unsolved. In these cases, male birth control would help ensure that men also have control when it comes to deciding whether or not they are ready to have children.

One important thing to remember when considering male birth control is that it does not necessarily need to take the place of other forms of birth control. A couple could choose to use more than one type of contraception if it would make them feel more confident and in control. Birth control pills may lose their effectiveness due to certain antibiotics, if they are not taken at the correct time, or if a person throws up within 3 hours of taking them. To have both partners on a birth control pill would help decrease the likelihood that one of these situations would result in an unwanted pregnancy.

Also, no form of birth control, other than the condom, works to prevent the spreading of sexually transmitted diseases. For this reason, partners that are sexually involved but not in a monogamous relationship are advised to use birth control pills as well as a condom, according to the CDC.

Clara Levy, a UCSB student who has never been in a romantic relationship, says that every one of her female friends is on birth control pills, even if they are not currently involved in sexual relationships.

"Not all sexual acts are planned out like they should be," Levy said. "People often make bad decisions, especially when they drink. Being on birth control can help alleviate the possible negative consequences of those experiences for men and women."
Levy does admit that there are some differences between the sexes, however, when it comes to birth control needs. She says that unprotected women could become
pregnant if they are raped, which is not as uncommon as some might believe. By being on birth control "just in case", they could eliminate this possibility.

"Plus, many men go out just looking for any girl to have sex with," Levy said. "Perhaps the possibility that they may impregnate a woman might be the one thing stopping them from acting on every urge. If men are able to let go of all sexual responsibility by taking birth control, know knows what might happen?"

There were many repercussions of legalizing female contraception in 1960. Once they were alleviated from the burden of having children when they were not financially or emotionally ready, women began taking on more powerful roles in the workplace. They became more independent. They gained a sense of control over their own lives that most of them probably wouldn’t have imagined possible in their wildest dreams. As birth control became more popular, women began initiating more sexual experimentation. They were able to enjoy having sex without constantly worrying about the consequences.

There is no telling the effects that a male form of contraception, whether it be a pill or an injection, could have on society. There is the possibility that women will slowly become more comfortable sleeping with a man without using a condom, especially if she is able to trust him when he says that he has been taking his birth control correctly.

Male birth control may be a continuing factor in the ever-changing, interdependent roles of males and females in modern world. In fact, having to take responsibility for birth control may force males to be more conservative in their sexual conquests than was previously the case. There is also the possibility that the hormones
in the birth control will negatively affect the man’s libido and sex drive, much like the female version does for many women.

Who knows, maybe 50 years down the line a typical couple will consist of a women begging for intercourse while the man lays in bed and simply states, "Sorry, baby, I’m just not in the mood."

* This was an article I wrote for a Journalism class I took, but all the information is true.
* The image above is not my own
* All names have been changed to protect the privacy of those interviewed

September 6, 2011

Chill Out, Bro -- How To Calm Your Mind and Get Some Sleep, Naturally.

Being a student and having a job, I always have something on my mind. I'm either thinking about how to fit in a workout, what to take for lunch, when to do my homework, or who I'm forgetting to call back. I like being busy, so during the day I don't mind all these thoughts running through my head like mad men on a race.

I do not appreciate these thoughts when I want to go to sleep, however. As I've gotten older, I've come to cherish my sleep like a long lost lover that I can't wait to get back to. The warm covers of my bed beckon at me in the early evening, and I feel the most phenomenal wave of release when I can rest my head and drift off to LaLa Land. 

While I admire people that can stay up all night and be ready in the morning with a spring in their step, I cannot. I need my sleep in order to function. The nights that I can get at least 8 hours of sleep result in much more productivity, energy, and overall happiness and agree-ability the next day. By far. I notice it. My family notices it. My coworkers notice it. I need sleep, period.

So, over the years I've come across some tricks that help me ease my mind and allow me to fall asleep. If you are a serious insomniac, call a doctor. If you just need a little help letting go of counting how many calories you burned or remembering if you locked your car, I can help.

1. Warm, Decaffeinated Beverages - While a nice hot cup of coffee can really wake you up in the morning, a piping cup of SleepyTime Tea (or any other herbal chamomile tea) will do wonders to slow your brain activity and get your body ready for relaxation. Avoid adding sugar which will have the opposite effect. Sip slowly. Doze off. Enjoy.

2. Books - One of my favorite ways to forget all the things that are stressing me out is to immerse myself in stories. I find that reading works best, but movies work too. This method is like an escape. All of a sudden you are so caught up in other people's drama, you forget about your own. Or you see someone else's problems and all of a sudden your project due at the end of the week doesn't seem so bad.

3. Writing - Try writing about something besides what is keeping you up. I find that trying to remember a good memory and write it down in excruciating detail is a good way of tiring your brain while also giving you a memoir of some great times. I've had the same journal since 7th grade, and I love looking back at the stories and reading how excited I was to turn 13 or how I wondered for 4 years what my senior prom would be like. 

4. Yoga - Doing some easy yoga moves is a good way to calm your body and your mind. Stay away from fast movements that will make you hyper, though. Anything where your hips are higher than your head is good for circulation and relaxation. I recommend a few moments in:
Downward Dog - hands and feet on floor, butt in the air, back straight, weight on feet
Shoulder Stand - back on the ground, legs up in the air, hands on lower back
Bridge Pose- souls of feet on floor, pelvis up, hands either to the side, on lower back, or behind the head

Downward Dog
Bridge Option 1
Shoulder Stand
Bridge Option 2

* I do not own any of these images

Hope this helps. I know that there's nothing worse than staring at the ceiling and trying with all your strength to just fall asleep. It's just like falling in love, really - you can't force it, the harder you try the less likely it is to happen, and when it finally does happen it feels SO good.

You need sleep and you deserve sleep, and if you are anything like me, everyone around you will appreciate you trying out some of these tips. :)

September 2, 2011

The Case for Coffee and Cupcakes
Day in and day out I try to eat as healthy as possible. I try to drink a lot of water and get a perfect balance of grains, veggies, and fruit. Today, however, after an unfortunate morning incident at the DMV, I knew that my usual breakfast of oatmeal or dry cereal (because I can bring it in a bag to work) would not help my mood. I needed some TLC - the kind that can only come from a really good hug or from the combination of a perfect hot drink and an equally magnificent sweet treat.

Today my comfort came in the form of a packet of Starbucks VIA Instant Coffee and a Crushcakes Red Velvet Cupcake. It really was like a hug in liquidy, sugary form. Unfortunately for everyone that I saw or talked to today, both of these things occured mid-morning and therefore I was not all too pleasant to be around for the early part of the day. Sorry.

Growing up in a South African family, I have been taught that a hot cup of tea or coffee can cure pretty much anything. When I think about the top 3 or 4 most terrible moments in my life, I realize that the first thing I did was make a cup of tea (or have one of my parents make it for me if that was an option). Maybe it's soothing because its warm, or maybe its totally in my head, but it works. Maybe I would generally be better off with a cold shot of tequila to calm down, but that is frowned upon at work and many other places, plus it lacks the comforting quality of a hot cup of tea or coffee. Today was definitely not such a bad day that I would call it one of my worst, but it was definitely a day that needed some warm coffee and a cupcake.,8599,1927544,00.html

Sometimes, no matter how careful you are with eating healthy foods and monitoring the amount of chemicals and preservatives that you put in your body, your mental health takes priority. In my humble opinion, grains, veggies, and fruits all have their place. They are necessary to keep a healthy, active body and mind. But when it comes to a healthy heart and spirit - I would say there is a strong case for coffee and cupcakes when a big hug isn't an option.

Happy September!! This is the best month ever (not just because it contains my birthday!), but it is really a wonderful time of the year. I hope everyone can enjoy it - with lots of great hugs, cupcakes, and coffe!