One and a Half Years of Blogging: How My Life Has Changed

Guest Post by Alyssa DeBella of The Wise Willow

A few years ago if you had asked me what I knew about blogging, the answer would have been simple: not much. At the time I was more wrapped up in finishing my high school studies and writing seemingly endless college application essays. Something that involved yet more writing was definitely not in my life plan. Yet, oftentimes I find myself wondering where my life would be without my blog. Arguably, maybe it wouldn’t be that different. But a part of me begs to differ.

Jumping into the world of blogging was like deciding to commit to taking a trip without having much of a real plan. Sure, I knew the general idea, but I was in no way prepared for what I was getting myself into. That being said, much like traveling it was the journey that had the greatest impact on my life today. I never knew that there was so much to learn about the blogging world, and I had yet to discover all of the skills that blogging would give me.

That summer day when I launched my blog seems like ages ago, though it has only been about a year and a half. I signed up for all of the social media platforms and began my journey. As the days passed and the time drew near for me to start my college journey, I found my following on Twitter start to grow. I was surprised by this because I had heard from every blogger that it feels as though nobody is reading for the first few months of your blogging career.

Like many things, however, I knew that trying to measure success quantitatively was not the best approach. Especially in the world of blogging, which is a very personal endeavor for many, it can be disheartening and even lead one to abandon their passion in light of feeling as though they weren’t making a difference. Though this was difficult, I made sure to not allow myself to focus on the numbers. Instead, I focused on community. I would scroll through Twitter and Instagram, and find people that I resonated with. I would read their posts, send them encouragement, and engage in lasting conversations. After a while, I started to recognize their name and their brand on all social media sites and felt a bond growing. A little while after that, I started to join Twitter chats and I found that sense of community blooming right before my eyes.

This is when I learned one of the most important lessons: finding happiness and fulfillment through celebrating the successes of others. There are so many wonderful people doing amazing things with their creative talents, and I love being a part of that! Every day when I scroll through Twitter, I love reading through and responding to Tweets that express a journey. I now have a community of people that I wouldn’t hesitate to call friends, who have shared in this experience with me.

Through building community and taking creative risks, I have learned more about myself. My blog is a journal of the past two years, and one in which there is a significant amount of change. From my first few months at college (that seem like forever ago!) to detailed accounts of my successes and challenges, I can see the progress of my own personal journey. My vegan experience, my health and college challenges, and my newfound joy for life. Blogging has taught me to open up to others and to share my experiences, and create a community of support. I have become more outgoing, more willing to take risks creatively and try new styles of writing or videos. I have met people from all over the world that have had similar experiences, or have wise words of wisdom to share about something that I am going through.

Blogging has changed my life for the better and is something that I know I will always have. It has taught me important lessons about my journey into adulthood and has proven to be a passion that I had forgotten that I had.

Totally agree, Alyssa!  Blogging is the best–especially the sense of community!


Blogger Bio:

Alyssa is a second-year college student and part-time blogger who finds her inspiration in living simply and simply living. She’s passionate about her studies in religion and government, living a plant-based lifestyle, radiating positivity, and learning from the world.

“Once Every Day, Your Life Starts Again….”

“Here’s how it starts, and here’s how it ends;  two different hearts, maybe lovers or friends.  No one knows the ways the long road bends…. Once every day, your life starts again, no one can say just how or just when, somehow the world turns inside out and then…then, what if, what if, what if you wonder what if, what if?”  —What If?, If/Then

I seriously feel like I’ve started a whole new chapter of life now that I’m in the UK.  If/Then has been the soundtrack of my adventures thus far (plus it’s just amazing, so check it out).

That being said, there’s quite the lengthy blog post on the way to cover the magic that is Bath so far!  Don’t be too mad that it’s taking awhile;  you’ll have plenty TO&E to read soon enough!

In the meantime, be sure to check back tomorrow for a guest post from the lovely Alyssa DeBella of The Wise Willow!


4 Ways to Add Flavor to Vegetarian Meals (Guest Post from My Little Box of Tricks)

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m thrilled to welcome Kristine from My Little Box of Tricks to TO&E to feature this wonderful guest post!  Be sure to check out her site, too! 🙂

When you think of ‘vegetarian’ food, what do you think of? Odds are tofu, soy products, rice and pasta come to mind – maybe a vegetable or two. For years, I thought that eating a vegetarian diet meant bland, texture-less food that would cost me a fortune. With a sister and fiancée who have vegetarian diets, I quickly learned that it didn’t need to be that way. Here are the ways that I add extra flavor to vegetarian meals.

Ways to Add Flavor to Vegetarian Meals.png


There’s a reason that nearly every chef on The Food Network has a stockpile of wine in his or her kitchen. Both red and white wine can add another layer of flavor and body to an otherwise run-of-the-mill dish. White wine goes great in butter/cheese sauces, risottos and simple pasta dishes. Red wine is typically better suited for heartier dishes like stews or tomato-based sauces.


Have you ever cooked a meal that tasted pretty good, but left you feeling like something was missing? I’ve found that a lot of time that something “extra” is citrus. I’m a big fan of all types of citrus and have an especially weak spot for limes. I’ve been cooking for years and feel as though lemons, in particular, can add a welcome brightness to most dishes and cuisines. Limes on the other hand are more tart and lend themselves to different types of cuisine like Mexican and some types of Asian cuisines.


This may seem like a no-brainer, but even my vegetarian-for-three-years sister has difficulty combining spices. Spices alone can seem very intimidating, never mind when you combine multiple spices together. However, spices contain so much flavor in their condensed form that you’re doing yourself a disservice by turning a blind eye to them. Spices are especially fantastic for vegetarians for a few reasons: they are widely available, typically cost effective and add a lot of flavor. I understand that the spice aisle can be intimidating, especially when you’re first building your spice collection, here are a few I recommend starting out with: garlic powder, red pepper flakes, dried basil and bay leaves (in addition to your run-of-the-mill salt & pepper).

Cooking low & slow

Let me point out the obvious: cooking food at a low temperature for a long period of time (slow) is time consuming. As most of us are college students, we can be pretty short on spare time. However, if you’re seeking to thrill your taste buds with extra flavor, I highly recommend trying this method at least once. Cooking low and slow allows for the ingredients to develop deeper flavors and come together as a pretty spectacular final dish. However, this isn’t suited for every single meal, but does apply to many staples: risotto, pasta sauces, chili, soup, and stew, just to name a few.

These are the ways that I add flavor to the vegetarian meals I cook on the regular. I’d love to hear other ways that you add flavor to your meals (both vegetarian and not). Feel free to leave me your tip down in the comments or shoot me an email at!

Such great tips from Kristine!  I know I’ll be trying them out ASAP—my diet could use some more lime. 🙂  Be sure to check out her blog and social media to check out some more wonderful content!


“Crazy, but that’s how it goes….”

“Crazy, but that’s how it goes;  millions of people living as foes.   Maybe it’s not too late to learn how to love, and forget how to hate…. Mental wounds not healing; life’s a bitter shame.  I’m goin’ off the rails on a crazy train….” –Ozzy Osbourne, Crazy Train

I’ve been slacking a bit in blog-land lately—sorry, guys.

But I promise I have good reason.

Simply put, life has been CRAZY.

Prepping for abroad is hard work.  Not that I expected an easy time of it, but gosh.

Who needs sleep, anyway?

With my current state of insanity in mind, I’m super excited to have Kristine from My Little Box of Tricks around for a guest post later this week!  It’s going to be pretty great (I’ve seen it already, so I can tell you that much for certain! 🙂 )

Want to get to know her in the meantime?  Check out her blog (linked above) and….





and Google+!

And, if you’re really sad about not hearing from me for a while, check out my Study Abroad Tumblr here.

Guest Post: College Involvement (Life, Christ, and Exercise)

As one of my recent guest posters, Nicole from Life, Christ, and Exercise has been wonderful!  A fellow college student, she’s also super-involved on her campus and is undoubtedly making the best of her time there.  Read on to hear more about her involvement!  

So many people see college as a great opportunity to find themselves, or make a new life for themselves, but it’s important to remember not to lose yourself as well!  You have to really take what’s important to you and prioritize it (yes, classes should be in this category).

Say you love art, writing, computers, or basketball…. I can almost guarantee there is something on campus that can get you involved with others who share the same passion.

I’m in four major organizations at my school: UNT Christian Students, Intramurals, a research lab, and my hall association: my faith, athleticism, mind, and voice are exercised throughout the week with these organizations. These are some of the most important aspects of my life and I am so grateful to have been able to find a place where I enjoy them all! And, if sleep becomes a priority, you know taking a nap every now and then can’t hurt!

Don’t be afraid to try new things and take risks either. If you start out being part of something and then want to quit, that’s OKAY! I quit one Christian club and it was hard to tell them, but I knew it just wasn’t the place for me. With the extra time I have become an independent Beachbody coach and I can’t tell you how excited I am to begin this part of my career. I cannot wait to improve my fitness life while also helping others!

Feel free to find yourself, just make sure not to lose yourself in the process! If you want to try new things, don’t fear. If something doesn’t work out there may be something better just around the corner. College is wonderful, but it’s truly up to you to make the best of it!

Guest Post: Anxiety, Depression— Handle With Care (Ann Miszczak)

As those of you following my TO&E may know, I’m diagnosed with anxiety and depression, along with my plethora of other “issues,” as my doctor playfully calls them.  Today, I’m thrilled to welcome Ann from Ann Mszczak:  Live Your Dream with a guest post explaining some of her oh-so-similar struggles.  

Hi, I am Ann Miszczak I am a fellow blogger who battles with Anxiety, Depression & PTSD. I have battled with them since I was a pre-teen. I went untreated for most of my life. Since 2013 I have been going through Psychotherapy & doing Personal Development.


What is Anxiety? “Everyone experiences anxiety. However, when feelings of intense fear and distress are overwhelming and prevent us from doing everyday things, an anxiety disorder may be the cause. Anxiety disorders have one thing in common: persistent, excessive fear or worry in situations that are not threatening.”-

What is Depression? “Depression is more than just feeling sad or going through a rough patch. Some people have only one episode in a lifetime, but for most people depression recurs. Without treatment, episodes may last a few months to several years. People with severe depression can feel so hopeless that they become a risk for suicide. Left untreated, depression can be devastating, both for the people who have it and for their families.” –

Depression is probably the hardest when you are aware because you cannot really give a logical reason to why you are depressed. I know that for me personally, people have told me that it’s all in my head, or that I should just get over it, or just let it go. I know that in life I have blessings, and I am grateful for them, but when depression gets the best of me I feel trapped within myself. Like I am stuck watching this really moody film and I can’t change the channel. Now when Anxiety hits me it’s the complete opposite, I am on high alert watching everyone around me and waiting for something bad to happen. I constantly feel that I have to keep things in order so that nothing bad happens. I get really overwhelmed trying to control situations and I know that it’s unrealistic.

Now Anxiety and Depression have commonalities as well. Things like their symptoms, cause, treatment methods and even some other related conditions.

Symptoms: Feelings of apprehension or dread, hopelessness, Physical aches & pains (headaches, fatigue, insomnia) and changes in sleep.

Causes: Genetics, Stress & Trauma.

Related conditions are ADHD & substance abuse.

There are also things that separate the two, Anxiety for instance; there are 4 types where depression is a much generalized statement. You can have Panic disorder, Phobias, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social anxiety.

There are a lot of emotional and physical symptoms to Anxiety. such as things like feeling tense & jumpy, restlessness or irritability, anticipating the worst & being watchful for signs of danger. Pounding or racing heart with shortness of breath (commonly mistaken to be a heart attack) upset stomach, bowel issues and even sweating, tremors and twitches.

Treatment is often the hardest part for those who struggle with these disorders. I personally do not call them an illness because that implies that you can “cure” it when in fact you are “treating” the symptoms instead. The two treatment options that they share are psychotherapy and medications. Another thing that you can do to help treatment of Anxiety is stress and relaxation techniques.

Depression has a wide variety of ways of treatment; Brain stimulation therapies, Light therapy, Exercise, Alternative therapies (acupuncture, meditation, nutrition), Self-management strategies & education, Mind/Body/Spirit approaches (Meditation, Faith, Prayer).

I personally have been in psychotherapy for over 2 years and honestly for me personally it has helped with my depression a ton. I was on medications over the course of my 3 pregnancies to try and keep me balanced but after each of my children were born I stopped taking the meds. I have been medication free for a full year now & I am very thankful for the meds they helped when I was unable & unwilling to help myself. Along with my therapy, I am doing personal development (self management strategies & education) which has helped me by leaps and bounds to improve my mental health.

I hope that you found this post helpful and insightful. I want to say thank you to TO&E for letting me guest post. I want to remind you that is a site where you can learn more about mental health disorders. Just remember that there is hope to improve your anxiety and your depression.  – Ann Miszczak

Guest Post: Back to the drawing board (Dating Chaps on Apps)

In honour of today’s chapter of the 30-Day Writing Challenge, I’m here to share with you a post by Jen from Dating Chaps on Apps.  Her blog launches into the struggles of dating as a divorcee in the world of Tinder and OKCupid in a way that’s comedic and absolutely endearing.  

In her latest post, Jen discusses the emotional struggles of getting back on her feet and facing some speedbumps along the way.  Be sure to check out her site for more of her adventures!

Wow…so talk about deflated.  After clowning around with that loser, I felt totally dejected and pessimistic.  Is this what I had to look forward to? I just left my husband for lying to me and being a creep and now I’m out in the dating world dealing with the same thing. I figured since that feeling of bitterness that I had become so familiar with started creeping back into my psyche, it might be a good idea to take a break.  Took myself off that dating site for a few months.  Had to regroup and pull myself back together.

I know some of you may be reading this thinking, “damn girl, relax, it was just one guy!” And you’re somewhat correct…yes it was my first dating experience and it sucked…boo hoo…pick yourself up and get back out there-right?! Well easier said then done.  For those of you new to the dating world after divorce, I think you can empathize with my feelings.  After being with one man for such a long time, you can’t help but feel insecure and unfamiliar when trying to get back into that world.  I mean, I couldn’t help but wonder…would anyone ever find me attractive, would they think I was fun, would they look down on me as damaged goods?

So here is the pity party in me…I’m in my last year of the “dirty 30’s”, knockin on 40’s door, divorced with kids, financially getting back on my feet, and the list goes on and on! Believe me there are days I want to just climb into bed and never get up.  It would be soooo easy to  give up and give in to this tough, lonely battle. I know if you have walked in my shoes you know exactly what I am talking about.  But there’s that little fire in me…the one that ignited when I decided to leave my husband, the one that is burning brighter each day I get out of bed, work out, put make up on, get dressed up, go out to bars with girlfriends, etc.  I know I need to put myself back out there, you gotta be in it to win it-right?!   How is it that as women we love and support our friends, children, and family with such unfailing intensity, but completely abandon ourselves when we need that fierce strength the most?


Check out the original post here and Jen’s entire site for more of her real-life endeavours!