Thursday, August 23, 2012

Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette

Today, I'd like to share a simple recipe for one of my favorite salad dressing, Balsamic Vinaigrette.  Although you could easily buy it from a store, it's so easy that there's no reason not to make it yourself.

Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard

- Whisk the mustard and vinegar together in a small bowl first.
- Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir while slowly adding olive oil.

Try using a variety of lettuce other than iceberg.  There's really no way to make iceberg lettuce taste good other than to drown it in ranch, cheese, and bacon bits.  For my lunch salads, I like to have romaine lettuce with Balsamic Vinaigrette and grated Pecorino Romano cheese on top.

Monday, August 20, 2012

BTCG: General Guide to Writing an Essay

Back to College Guide

Today, we're offering some tips on how to write a good essay in college.  Since I worked at my university's writing center, I saw students every day to  help them improve their writing, and I quickly learned that there are several easy steps that everyone can take to improve writing quality.  While I've labeled these tips for college papers, most of them work for anything that you write in college or out of college.

Guide to Writing an Essay

- As you begin, make sure that you follow the prompt, answer the question, or do whatever the assignments asks for.

- Make it clear to the reader exactly what your thesis or purpose is.  You wrote the paper, and it makes sense to you.  Since your reader can't read your mind, you must give your readers a topic sentence (thesis), supporting evidence, and a conclusion.

- Ask yourself if everything you've written is important to your thesis.  If a sentence or even an entire paragraph is off topic, it needs to go (even if you need it to make your paper long enough.)

- After you've taken care of the content (the most important part of the paper), you can move to style.  There are two changes I usually suggest for style.  First, vary your sentence structure.  All of your sentences shouldn't be simple, but they shouldn't all be super complex either.  Second, check for overused words or repeated phrases and replace them.

- "I can't do grammar."  You can fix more than you think simply by reading your paper out loud.  You will probably be able to hear things that sound awkward and catch typos.  Both of these are the easiest problems to fix.

- Finally, if you don't know a grammar rule either look it up, ask someone who knows, or use another construction that you do know.

All of these tips are very basic, but following them will greatly improve your writing.  Since writing tips are an area that I know lots about if anyone has anything to add or any questions about other writing issues (whether you're in college or not) that I didn't cover, please leave a comment.  I'll definitely respond, and I would love to write more detailed posts on a similar topic if there's any interest.

If you missed the first two parts to our guide be sure to see Microwave Recipe Treats and DIY Recycled Decorating Projects.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Thoughts on Writing Letters

Boy putting letter in mail box

While I worked at camp this summer, one of the highlights of the day was going to check the mail.  Like most people, I love getting actual letters in the mail, and while working at camp, I discovered that I enjoy writing letters, too.  I found that even though it's not the fastest form of communication, letters have a personal quality that makes them different from texts, emails, or facebook.

I've been trying to figure out a good way to include more letter writing in my life even though camp has ended.  Because it isn't nearly as common as it used to be, I feel like people my age don't know how to write letters, and it's difficult to figure out how to use letters in a way that enhances the other forms of communication that we're already using.  We like the idea of letters, but we aren't too sure how to make them happen.  I thought about the idea of making a personal letter writing guide, but since I've only recently begun writing letter, I'm still figuring out what works for me.

So, here's what I've been doing so far in my new letter writing spree.

  • Birthday Cards - These are probably the easiest way to begin sending mail.  Everyone has a birthday, and a card that arrives in the mail is much more exciting than a wall post on facebook.  It's also fairly simple if you buy a nice card because all you have to do is add a few lines at the end. 

  • Pretty Note Cards - This includes thank you cards and other kinds that come in packs of multiples.  If you have a few different kinds, than you'll be covered for any occasion to send a card.  These are also fairly easy because depending on how large your hand writing is, the amount that you can write in these is still not too much.  It's perfect for a quick thinking of you and update note.

  • Stationery - For people who like to write long letters, using stationery is the best option.  I enjoy writing, and while I am capable of writing concisely when necessary, I like to send long letters.  After all, you send short messages via text or email, so you want your letters to differ from those mediums.

Since I'm just beginning to make an effort to write letters, I'd like to hear from anyone else who likes to write letters.  Who do you send them to and why?  What role do you think letters play in communication today?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fast Morning Makeup Inspired by Jennifer Garner

Jennifer Garner
As a college student, you end up pulling a lot of all-nighters. If you're like me, these all-nighters mean the next morning you'll hit the snooze button on your alarm clock until you absolutely have to get up. For those mornings, you need a quick strategy for pulling yourself together so that it looks like you got plenty of beauty sleep. I think this look the always lovely Jennifer Garner sports is the perfect inspiration for fast, natural looking makeup.

Fresh Fast Make Up Tips

Fresh Fast by jenniferleigh33 on

1. To quickly get Mrs. Garner's dewy glow, start with Aveeno's Positively Radiant Tinted Moisturizer or your favorite light foundation. I choose the Aveeno Tinted Moisturizer because it eliminates the step of applying sunscreen and because it gives you a very natural non-matte finish.

2. Next, with a light hand, apply your favorite bronzer to the apples of your cheeks, nose, chin, temples, and neck. I would recommend using a large brush to make sure the color gets blended well. After you've applied the bronzer, smile and dust your blush onto the apples of your cheeks and towards your hairline. Jennifer Garner's blush is a bit more peachy and bronze than the blush above, so, if you like her look, choose a less pinky blush. I chose the blush/bronzer combo because it's really convenient to have them together in one place.

3. If you have time, swipe the lightest shade of eyeshadow from your lashes to your brow bone. Then, use the darkest shade and apply it from your lashes to the crease of your eye. Now, apply mascara to your top lashes. Even if you didn't have time for the shadow, I would definitely try to make time for mascara because it makes your eyes standout and you'll look much more awake.

4. As a last touch, apply Burts Bees tinted lip balm to add healthy color to your lips. I like the rose shade, but you may find that another shade compliments your coloring better.

Later this week, I'll follow up with a post about how to quickly achieve a look similar to the effortlessly pretty hairstyle that Mrs. Garner is wearing. In the meantime, let us know what some of your tips and tricks are for looking put together when you're in a hurry!

BTCG: Microwave Treat Recipes

Back to College Guide

Welcome to the second post in our Back to College Guide.

One of the strangest things for me about living in a dorm was not having a kitchen.  While some dorms do have kitchen access, most college students living on campus are usually stuck with just a fridge and a microwave.  There are endless types of microwave meals available, but these aren't the only options you have.  It's actually possible to cook some pretty tasty things using just a microwave.

Here's a few ideas for microwave cooking that we've gathered from different sources.  These all make a single serving, so even if you have a full kitchen available, you can use these recipes for when you want a treat, but don't want 23 extra cookies hanging around afterwards.

Single Serve Brownies
Recipe for Single Serve Brownies by Christi at Love from the Oven

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Cake in a Mug

Nutella Mug Cake
Nutella Mug Cake by Angie McGowan on Babble

Mug of Mac and Cheese
Mug of Mac and Cheese by the Naptime Chef on Babble

Quick note:  So far, I've only tried the first two of these, and they've turned out well.  In these recipes, I usually replace an egg with 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil and 1/2 tsp baking powder.  Then, you can undercook the cookies without having to worry about getting sick.

These turned out to be more microwave baking recipes rather than microwave cooking recipes.  I know that there's lots more out there that can be made in the microwave.  Does anyone have any other suggestions for easy microwave recipes?

If you didn't catch last week's BTCG post, why not see our suggestions for DIY Recycled Decorating Projects.  You can also see the third part - Guide to Writing an Essay.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Life of Lovely now on pinterest

We're happy to announce that Life of Lovely is now on pinterest.  We'll be sharing our favorite pinterest finds there as well as some of our posts from here.

Follow Me on Pinterest

Let us know in the comments if you have a pinterest.  We'd love to follow you too!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Book Review: Ella Minnow Pea

Ella Minnow Pea

It might seem odd to review a successful novel that was published in 2002, but I enjoyed reading Mark Dunn's Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters too much not to share it with you.  I had never heard of the book until a professor assigned it in one of my English classes.  As much as I like English, sometimes reading for class turns into making it through a book rather than enjoying a book but with Ella Minnow Pea this was not the case at all.  I couldn't put it down once I started it.

The plot focuses around a small community on a fictional island off the coast of North Carolina.  This community has a strong culture of exceptional writing and expression.  Through a series of events, the freedom of expression is taken away from the community.  The main character Ella is a girl who works to regain this freedom.  Not only did the plot draw me in, but the author's style made the book even more enjoyable to read.  The story is told through letters and as each restriction is added to the characters' world, the mode of communication becomes increasingly more creative.

This book has the perfect combination of intriguing plot, writing style, and thought-provoking theme.  A book can be good if it has two of these three things, but Dunn's book is exceptional to me because it has all three.  If you haven't read Ella Minnow Pea yet, this is a read I would advise to anyone who loves books.

Monday, August 6, 2012

BTCG: DIY Recycled Decorating Projects

Back to College Guide

Welcome to the first part in our Back to College Guide.  Even if you aren't a college age student, I hope you'll find these posts interesting and please feel free to share them with any college students that you know.

It's about that time when college students begin moving back into dorms, apartments, and houses near campus.  This means calling roommates and going shopping for furniture and decorations.  Since extra funds can be limited for most college students, DIY is a good way to decorate with unique pieces without creating financial stress.

There are so many sites that feature creative decorating ideas.  Today we're featuring projects that involve using recycled materials you probably already have because respecting the environment and saving money are a combination that make a good start to the school year.

T-shirt shag rug tutorial

craft storage
Craft Storage at BH&G

bathroom organizer

chalkboard tutorial
Chalkboard Tutorial by Sweet Mint Studios

metal flowers from soda cans
Metal Flowers from Soda Cans at Crissy's Crafts

Of course, all of these do it yourself recycled projects are suitable for decorating any space, college dorm room or not.

Check out the second and third posts in this series - Microwave Recipe Treats and Guide to Writing an Essay.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Blog Updates

Hi readers,

You've probably noticed that the posts here have been lacking lately.  Now that I've finished with a few things and have consistent internet access once again, Life of Lovely will be more active again.  You can look forward to seeing Jennifer's recipe for Blueberry Breakfast Cake and my book review of Mark Dunn's Ella Minnow Pea soon.  Throughout the month of August, we'll also have a weekly post featuring some tips for girls heading to college so be sure to look for this and share it with anyone who might be interested.

Keep checking back for more from us in the near future.



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