Sunday, January 25, 2015

5 classes to add to your university schedule

You may already have too many classes scheduled for this year, to begin with. Also, your hobbies and social life barely fit into the few free hours left. How can you add more classes and keep your life together? Fear not because these particular classes will actually maximize your time and will add quality to your university experience. 
Here are the extra classes you should consider this year:

If you only choose one class, then this must be it. The first thing you should master before you dip into the pile of textbooks and projects is your time and energy. If your university doesn’t offer such a class, you will have to find your own source. A few good places to start are Creative Live, Skillshare, Iversity and Udemy, that offer short courses or in depth classes, usually for free or a small fee. Podcasts are another great source of information, that can be listened to while on your commute, during breaks or while exercising. If you prefer the good old way of learning through books, pick one or two and go through them. If all else fails, read trustful websites (Lifehack, Popexpert and Levo are a few great ones) and blogs that provide helpful advice on the topic.

Taking a sort of time management class will help you get more organized, focus on long term goals and cut down your time by developing optimization systems for daily tasks. If you embrace the right habits, you will get more done in less time, worry a lot less because you will have control over your schedule, time and energy.

If you already play a certain sport or are part of a team, this is already crossed off your list. For the rest of you, going to the gym will require additional time and effort, especially in the winter months, so having your physical activity in your university schedule will make it easier to stick to it. Consider anything you like, from swimming to yoga. Persuade a friend to attend the class with you, so it will be more fun.

Committing to a physical activity class will give your body a break from the long hours spent sit or in front of the computer. It will also prevent you from crushing down during stressful and sleepless exam periods. Not long into it and you will appreciate all the negative feelings being released and welcome the fresh energy burst.

Whatever it is that you already enjoy doing or something you have been curious to try for a long time, it’s time to sign up for a class. Most universities provide a wide range of extra curricular classes and it will be easy to find something you like. If not, try to join a group of people with the same interest. It could be as simple as a book club or as specific as you like. In case you prefer more individual hobbies, sign up for an online class, which you can find on Craftsy, Skillshare and many other websites.

Scheduling time for your interests and hobbies is a healthy practice to keep a balance between what you have to do and what you love doing.

Having an extra class in what you are studying will help you shift the perspective and boost your confidence. At the end of my first year of studying Architecture, I invested in a private AutoCAD (a technical drafting computer program) class. The same lectures were held during the second year at the university. What I got out of taking the class early was confidence during the class, more time to practice (which I wouldn’t have during the second year with all the load) and more experience to tackle other classes and projects (for example, I could represent an idea better in less time for most other classes). 

This concept takes different meanings for each field of study, so find what might be of interest to your subject. Invest on a private coaching session with an expert, take an advanced class or use your summer break to get ahead of next years most challenging areas for you.

While not technically a class, you should preferably apply for an internship as soon as you can. This will not only make it easier to gain a paid one (or several ones) and land a great job upon graduation, but it will give you what no class can – practice. We are aware that things in every industry are far from what we learn through books, so getting out there on the real world as early as possible will help you gain knowledge and will also give you confidence to prioritize your time and effort according your goals. 

The internship should be tightly related to something you are passionate about, otherwise you will find reasons to drop out of it. Being around encouraging people will help you evolve and be proud of the extra time you are spending. Just try to land a flexible opportunity, with a few hours commitment each week, so it won’t eat up time from your studying. 

Doing several internships from early on is particularly beneficial for those of you who are considering freelancing or entrepreneurship before or after graduating.

| Love, Lisa |

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Book review - “Marina” by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

About the book

"Marina" has a similar veil of mystery as “The shadow of the wind” by the same author, which I had read before. The plot is made of a dark history from the past, solved by two teenagers.

The history takes place in Barcelona, a city described in a very poetic way by the author, making it able for the readers to imagine sights, architecture and landscape. This effort was probably pretty intentional of the author, as not to make Barcelona boring for the readers, since used as a context in other books too.

Writing style

As with any complex stories, a lot of names are involved, which are a little hard to recall and connect to each other once you interrupt the reading by a few days. The storyline goes on quite fast, not leaving you wonder for what seems like an eternity. 

However, the author is actually quite generous on descriptive passages and he gives all the necessary details to emerge the reader into every single scene. I personally believe that is the main factor that makes Zafón a great writer. He can fearlessly stand by the classics in terms of descriptive writing style.


It’s interesting to state that the main characters (Oscar and Marina) are not introduced thoroughly from the beginning, but they develop through the story instead. Their feelings are also left on a second plot layer most of the time, letting the mystery take all the focus. 

Sometimes secondary characters are described in a few sentences or paragraphs, while special attention is reserved for Marina’s father at the beginning of the book.
General thoughts

Quite often, the details of the action scenes are quite intense and scary, making it feel like you’re reading pure fiction, crime and mystery literature, something I found unexpected from Zafón.

A few of the final events and explanations unfolded at the end of the story can be easily guessed, so some things shouldn’t have been treated as a huge mystery to begin with. But then again, it’s two teenagers solving a story which started hunting them against their will, so maybe things should actually be presented as they are – quite terrifying.

Overall, the read is quick, as long as you don’t interrupt more than twice and relatively light. Although the author has build the whole book based on the most universal pillars of life, such as love, wealth, greed, generosity and the need to conquer death, he has still managed to keep it quite light on the top level.

It’s a nice balance between narrative and dialogues, mystery and history, love and action, details and crucial matters.

Of course a few tears were shed at the end, but that could just be my hypersensitive self.

The odd bits

At times one can wonder how people like doctors and police officers open up, trust and reveal they old secrets to two very young people. I wonder what made 15 year olds trustful, appealing and why people told them the truth, while still protecting them from the possible dangers, warning them all the time. They sure had material proofs once or twice, but for the rest of the meetings they had nothing but insecurity, fear and a few of Marina’s “straight to the point” questions and answers.

In general, I was left with a slight feeling that several secondary stories within the book were left unfinished. I wouldn’t mind reading about Oscar’s relationship with his family, because it’s unbelievable for things not to have changed after all he went through.


- Try not to interrupt the reading more than a couple of times. Ideally, the book is better read from start to finish.
- Pay attention to the story when it is unfold for the first time, as it won’t be explained again as a whole and you’ll find it difficult to keep track of the characters and their relations.
- Appropriate for teens, vacation days or a quick winter read before bed.
- Will be appreciated by all fans of Carlos Ruiz Zafón and everyone that favors an excellent writing style over a fascinating plot.

Read: January 2014
Language: Albanian


I'd love to know what you think about the book, whether you've read it or not. Also, any other fans of Carlos Ruiz Zafón? I am so glad I discovered him two years ago and truly believe he should be called a classic. 

| Love, Lisa |

Friday, December 26, 2014

Post-Christmas traditions for the whole family

Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone! I hope you are spending these days with loved ones by your side and in your hearts.
The major excitement for this holiday fades a little after Christmas Eve and everyone gets slightly quiet right after the 25th.
To keep the post-Christmas blues away and introduce something meaningful to your family, you could give these ideas a try. They involve the whole family and can be as quick or as long as you wish.

1. The wrapping paper from the open presents
Don't trash the pile of torn wrapping paper from the open presents yet. Instead, choose a couple or one for each family member (or kids only) and write on the back. It can be your favorite moment from this holidays, your favorite present, the blessings you can count as a family, your wishes for other people or hopes for the next holiday. The options are endless, but pick what is the closest to your heart. After that, you can put all the wrapping paper pieces together and store them with the holiday ornaments until next year, put them in a scrapbook or photo album, assemble them into an art piece for the home or create your own unique ritual.

2. The tree trimmings
When time comes to put down the Christmas tree and all the decorations of the house, make a ritual of slowing down a little. For every bauble or tree trimming that you remove, take a second to associate it with its meaning, a dear memory or just a wish or blessing if it's newly bought. Kids will love to help with this and they can come up with hilarious things. It could teach you all something deep and meaningful, or at least reflect how blessed you were these holidays. Nevertheless, it must be fun to try.

3. The extra food
If you've cooked more food than your family needs or you have items in your pantry that you're not using anytime soon, consider giving it away. Leftovers can be portioned and packaged individually for neighbors, postmen, police officers, cleaning teams, guards and everyone who would appreciate your thoughtful gesture. Driving around the town with your kids and delivering the packages would be fun.
If you want to make this more significant, you might consider teaming up with other families and gather enough food to donate to a shelter, senior house, hospital, orphanage or any other institutions in your area that might need extra help this time of the year.

Here you go! Three simple ideas to try, if you feel like there's nothing exciting until the New Year's Eve or your life needs a little intention.

Leave a comment below if you try them please.

Wishing each and every one of you all the best! Enjoy these days, as they fly by sooo quickly.

May your heart welcome everything it wishes for during this magical season!

See you in 2015 :)

| Love, Lisa |

Friday, December 19, 2014

23 gifts for better living

Today I thought about sharing a bunch of gifts that the receivers would enjoy in their home. The focus is on items that can be shared as activities between all family members and objects that induce positive initiatives. Also, there are a lot of other gifts that promote comfort, along with a heavy doze of planning and organizing help.

These can serve as hostess gifts too, with many being under $20. You can also find inspiration for family members, friends, relatives, bosses, coworkers and everyone else.

Let's jump into each of the items and find out why I'd give each gift to someone in particular.

1. Stationery set
The set can be enjoyed by one person, shared amongst family members or serve as a planning and organizing capsule for the house.

 2. Heatable doll
This heatable doll will be a hit for both kids and adults, providing extra cuddles when needed.

3. Kid's apron and hat set
Imagine how much fun a family can have in the kitchen baking all together, or at least the uninterrupted time you'll give to the mother, while the children pretend to be cooking, wearing these cuties.

4. Botanical desk calendar
Not only it this item useful for everyone leading a busy life, but it's created by Rifle Paper Co., which equals fabulous design.

5. Piggy bank
This half piggy bank gets attached to any container and instantly turns it in into a bank. Perfect for committing to no-brainer saving in every room.

6. Love letters
Love is such a powerful word and I believe should be the first thing promoted and encouraged in a family. Let them be reminded that whatever they do needs to be done with love and whatever happens, love is what matters most. Seems so cheesy, but it's universally true. Also, it doesn't hurt that the letters are gold and would look good everywhere, from the living room to the kids room.

7. Bubble calendar
What I like most about this calendar, beyond the fun of popping the bubbles, is that you have all the days of the year lined in front of you. You have the whole year ahead to make anything you wish, but the days are limited and you better take advantage of each. Such a simple and powerful message to give!

8. Instagram projector
The miniature projector is used to display Instagram pictures. The cutest way to hold on to the favorite memories of the year, share moments with family and friends and simply enjoy your life in square pictures.

9. Grow your own chilli kit
It's one of those perfect for every age gifts again. There's nothing like the joy of actually growing something with your own hands. Caring for a plant is proven to be a remedy for stress and eating out of it is pure delight.

10. Cookie cutters
Don't be a fool to underestimate the power of a few cookie cutters. The gift receiver might already have a lot at home, but some new shapes in bronze color never hurt anyone. It might actually make them want to bake a batch right now with their family or they even pick up baking again after forgetting what a joy it is. The result (cookies) is a gift that keeps giving when shared with friends and neighbors too.

11. Family calendar set
For all busy families, with conflicting schedules and all students sharing a house with roommates. Easy breezy planning and chore sharing process.

12. Heating set
The necessities for the winter presented in such a festive way makes for a great gift. Beautiful enough not to be hidden away and warm to keep one comforted. It will definitely be used and cherished.

13. Playing cards
A set of playing cards that comes with instructions on how to play different games will make for endless fun in the family. It will also be such a major entertaining base when guest come over. 

14. Saving kit
While being created for kids, I wouldn't mind using this one. It's genius because it teaches money management in such a simple way. Perfect for teaching the kids or for any adult that hasn't got his/her way around money yet.

15. Photo box frame
Photo frames get a bad rep and people usually hate them. This is not your usual frame. It's a box with five sides for pictures and one lid to open and put things in. A great way to keep all your loved ones together or to serve as a compilation of memories in photos and written notes hidden inside.

16. Meal planners
A necessarily planning tool for every household, designed in a simple eye-catching way will help people be organized and never have a headache on the "what to cook" matter again. The whole year will run so much smoother because of you.

17. Magnetic board game
Group games are the best and they provide even more pleasure when they involve physical effort. The board is magnetic, which means it won't get ruined fast and the game will be more intense and more exciting.

18. Elephant timer
While being a beautiful home accessory, this elephant is a modern timer. The receiver can use it to track their time or create their own version of the "pomodoro" technique altering their work time and fun time. Such a productivity booster!

19. Travel diary
This diary will be perfect for all travelers and those who dream of traveling. Some people might take advantage of your gift to start putting down memories from the last trips, while others will be inspired to book a ticket in order to fill the diary with interesting things.

20. "Laundry day" candle
It's the particular scent that makes this candle perfect for anyone. Smelling of fresh and light is great for days in need of calming and finding some peace. On the funny side, it can remind you that the laundry is overdue or it can actually substitute the actual process of doing laundry when you don't feel like it.

21. Picnic set
With the cold winter days ahead, staying in will be the normal activity. Gift this exciting set to be used for indoor picnics now and taken outside come Spring. Perfect for couples, families and when having friends over.

22. Little pig box
Every woman has tiny treasures they always misplace, so this beautiful box will come in very handy and will be proudly displayed in every bedroom.

23. Faux fur throw
Gift warmth and comfort with this luxurious throw. Pick a neutral color to go with everything and you'll be the reason behind many cuddles and movie marathons on the couch this winter.

I hope you find some inspiration and get motivated to tackle the last of your gifts for this season.

Have a festive weekend!


| Love, Lisa |

Monday, December 15, 2014

The best gift guides of 2014

Even though I like to hunt for presents all year long, I can't wait for the end of the year gift guides to be released. A lot of them feature sponsored content, so you get to spot a few items in every gift guide. But there are many bloggers who put thought and work into them, providing great ideas and new picks. Shops have been creating awesome gift guides the last years too, especially the online versions.
Here is a list of my favorite gift guides of 2014, a mix of blogger ones and retail productions.

Hope you enjoy browsing them and find some great ideas for your remaining gift giving marathon!

| Love, Lisa |

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2 non-traditional holiday wreaths

Wreaths are great to bring the festive atmosphere at home, while occupying little vertical space. The bigger the wreath, the stronger the effect it creates is. However, you can get easily bored with the same wreath year after year. To avoid this, you can switch up the ornaments, add quirky items and even go for an entirely unexpected color palette. Here are two ideas for you. Continue reading to find out how you can make your own and where to get similar decorations.

The first one has a light blue, purple, silver and pink palette, on a green base. It combines mate, glittery and satin finishes. The coastal tone and slightly fantasy theme makes it perfect for a beach cottage, a children's room or anywhere it fits the mood.

To make a similar one, you'll need to start with a traditional green wreath. Tie a big pink ribbon into a bow at the top of it. Continue by placing the shiny and glittery blue baubles and adding silver stars. At the end, place some small purple baubles for interest. As a general tip, the wreath should look balanced, but it doesn't need to be symmetrical, especially when it's on the smaller side.

Where to shop similar items:

The second wreath has a kind of exotic look, with a more muted color palette, consisting of gray, green, purple, pink and lime. Everything is built on a crystal wreath that wasn't looking exactly holiday related at first. The fanciness of this wreath makes it appropriate for neutral spaces, living rooms, entrances, corridors and even bedrooms. It's a good choice for when you don't want to decorate with very contrasting colors or don't feel like going the traditional route.

To make your own version, you need a crystal wreath or any white or gray one. Add the purple stems first, to make sure the most saturated color is spread evenly. Than add the blue baubles close to them, either on the inside or outside part of the wreath. You can even tuck them inside the stems, depending on the shapes and sizes you are working with. Continue with the green branches, adding volume where needed or balancing out the purple stems. With the lime ribbon, make small bows and place them where the purple stems meet the wreath. I added one for each stem, but you can put additional ones is between too, if the wreath is bigger. It will make everything pop. To finish it all, hand a small purple bell close to the bows and you're done. Instead of bells, you can choose any small and sharp ornaments for contrast and a punch of color to tie everything together.

 Where to shop similar items:

Which of the wreaths did you like more? Are you going with something similar for you home this year? Let me know in the comments.

| Love, Lisa |

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

DIY: Easy festive snowman

I had this piece of foam in my closet for months. It had the perfect shape of two stacked circles and it was just begging to be turned into a snowman. You can cut your own shape out of a foam piece, balsa wood, thick paper, cardboard and whatever material you have on hand. Also, the shape can vary from a small ornament for your tree to a super big installation for the children's room.

Materials I used:
- piece of foam (1cm thick)
- scissors
- glue/tape
- ribbon for the scarf
- ornaments for the eyes and nose
- thin ribbon
- star shaped confetti for the buttons
- bell ornament for the hat

 1. Start by sticking the ribbon on one side of the "neck", just between the two circles
2. Go around the "neck" just as you would when wearing a scarf. After a full circle, make a loop to fold the scarf.
3. Let it hang a little and take it on the back side, securing with tape
4. Take two baubles for the eyes and place them to estimate the right position. Dig two holes respectively. I used scissors for this, because I am impatient, but any precise tool can do.

5. Put some strings through the baubles and push them through the holes. I did this easily with a cotton swab.
6. Secure the baubles as tight as you can and tie the strings at the back. Cut the extra if needed.
7. Find a bent or sharp shaped small object for the nose. I used a bent mini pine cone.
8. Open another hole for it. Be sure to secure it in place.

9. You can use anything you like for the buttons on the lower part of the snowman. I used star shaped confetti because they were the perfect size and complemented the theme.
10. Don't forget to put a hat on it. That little bell fit perfectly.
11. Hang your cute snowman on the wall or make it part of a big display.

Let me know if you liked it and plan on making your own snowman.

| Love, Lisa |
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