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.

Monthly Goals Collab: December

Angela and Jazmine, of The Clutter Box and Fairy Lights & Dreams, respectively, came up with the brilliance of a Monthly Goal Collaboration, and I’m thrilled to be joining them and the other bloggers yet again this month!

An InLinkz Link-up

A Monthly Intentions post from TO&E on time?? Madness.  Pretty exciting, regardless.

First order of business:  Let’s look back on November.

Some high points:

  • Successfully Got Out More Often per Eventbrite’s GOMO concept. I went outside.  I saw people.  I did things.  And?  I didn’t die.
  • I made a conscious effort to see more people.  I had the college’s Thanksgiving dinner with a group of friends from freshman year—some of whom I hadn’t talked to since!  I had some friends in town over Gettysburg’s Remembrance Day weekend and got to see them.  I bonded with my roommate.  I visited my family.  Not too shabby.
  • VEGAN HAPPINESS!! Not only did I get a lovely vegan Thanksgiving dinner both at school and at home, but I acquired vegan marshmallows, vegan hot chocolate, vegan nuggets (though not quite as good as VLife’s Noble Nuggets), AND vegan pudding.

Needs improvement:  

  •  As usual, the blog can only move upward from here.  My beloved Mac died on me early last month, so I’ve had to go to the dark side… If you follow us on Instagram, you’ve already met Bernie…send him your thanks for the better posting/social media/etc. to come here at TO&E!
  • Money. So, #NoSpendNovember didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped.  Bills came, Black Friday came (granted, I allowed myself room for gifts, so I’m not that far off).
  • Things still haven’t been great, so my mood hasn’t been much better.  Need to remember to breathe.


Second order of business:  Goals for December (the last goal set of 2016!!)

Money, Money, Money.

Step One:  Pay off the credit card (thanks, Black Friday). Step Two:  Make a payment on my Federal loans.  Step Three:  Win the lottery to pay for everything else (even though I don’t actually play it.


Once again, improving the blog is a priority.  Send me your best tips!

Self Care?

I’m still not sold on the title of this goal.  But I really need to stop and breathe, do something for my own wellbeing.  I can do that.

Finish the Fall Semester with relative success

I’ve been way too stressed all this semester to not finish it out with something resembling good grades.  With all of my issues in the past few months, I’m not setting my standards too high, but finals are important for any sort of excellence!


I’ve finally taken my dad’s name legally!! Despite all the excitement to go along with that, I’ve got lots of technicalities to deal with—time to call the SSA, the DMV, all of my banks and schools, and work…. Time to buckle down and get a nice pen ready.

So…here’s hoping the gals of this collab can keep my motivation high! Feel free to let me know if you have any tips!

How to Have an Awesome *Vegan* Thanksgiving

For most Americans, Thanksgiving is a time of friends, family, and food.  For vegans like me, the food part can be a bit complicated—after all, the star of the meal is supposed to be a dead bird!

Nevertheless, with a little planning and preparation, vegans can enjoy Thanksgiving with the best of them.

Help with the cooking.

Don’t expect someone else to do all the work in accommodating you AND whoever else is coming for dinner.  Not hosting yourself?  Offer to prepare a veg-friendly side or meat alternative.  Sam at It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken has some awesome options, like these “8 Traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas Sides Made Vegan.”

It’s not that hard to replicate your favorite family recipe—almond milk and egg replacers and Earth Balance exist for a reason!  Many times, it’s the traditional methods that require these things, and a simple substitute is barely noticeable.

For the “meat and potatoes” portion of the feast, there are plenty of meat-free options available, if you want to substitute it (some people prefer to fill up on veggies and the like instead, and that’s totally okay too!):  check out Tofurky for everything from deli slices to Holiday roast!



Be prepared for the comments.

And don’t let them bother you.  Dad, Aunt Martha, and Uncle Joe might not understand  your reasons for not partaking of the “normal” food.  You’ll likely hear “oh, just eat it!” a few times.  It’s okay.  Take a deep breath and eat your non-guilt.


Remember the “True” Thanksgiving.

You know when Christmas comes to town and people get all huffy about commercialization and the true meaning of Christmas?  Do that for Thanksgiving.  There’s more to it than food and heading to Target two hours before they open.


If you still need some inspiration, be sure to check out this AMAZING Vegan Thanksgiving rap!   Most importantly, remember that I’m thankful for you all 🙂

‘When I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead.’

This year’s New York City trip was unofficially endorsed by How I Met Your Mother.  My best friend and I (note:  her Facebook album chronicaling the trip is titled “That time me and my platonic soulmate spent the day in the city.”  Platonic soulmate right here.  That’s me!”) spent the day travelling up and down the streets of Manhattan, getting lost a few times thanks to incompetent GPS (fun fact:  Central Park apparently confuses Google Maps profusely), stalking dogs, and compiling awesome quotes for posterity’s sake.  

After a lengthy, nap-filled bus ride, our day started off with Apple Maps (I’d just had to reset my phone, so pre-installed navigation app it was) deciding we weren’t actually walking and therefore that we had to follow the one-way streets several blocks away before arriving at our much-anticipated breakfast spot, a little vegan cafe called VLife (read about my first foray here!) .  With limited confidence, I decided I apparently knew the city better than the navigator and adjusted (admittedly using said map as backup, just in case).  We finally arrived at Vlife, anxiously awaiting food, when we realised that its weekend hours began at 11…another ten minutes or so.  With so much of our excitement based on eating at this specific place, we decided to wait it out, checking out the local Pret A Manger and some intense gothic architecture in the meantime (my art professor would later get to what about my lecturing Shelby [the other platonic soulmate] on flying buttresses—she never expected a spontaneous lesson in art history).  

The buttresses though. FLYING buttresses.

Finally, we made it into VLife, the first customers in just as they turned over their “open” sign a few minutes past eleven.  The big deal?  VEGAN BREAKFAST SANDWICHES.  Do you know how long it had been since I’d had a breakfast sandwich?  Me neither.  Regardless, this one was SO worth the wait.  Made with tofu (“egg”), veggie ham, and “cheese” and topped with a creamy sriracha mayo, it was a pretty perfect sandwich.  At Shelby’s brilliant suggestion, we also picked up an order of “Noble Nuggets,” which somehow replicate meat without all the grossness.  Bonus:  they came with ranch dressing!  Long before veganism and dairy allergies, I was the kind of person who put ranch on almost everything.  This reminder of it’s wonderfulness (in cruelty-free form) was pure happiness.  

From here, we headed uptown toward Central Park and Fifth Avenue, aka Tiffany’s, aka the primary reason I’m in love with this city.  Of course, we had to stop to see the sights along the way.  

One of these sights was the Empire State Building, at which we were those tourists with the selfie sticks—this was a therapeutic vacation, no shame y’all.  One of the men hocking touristy things outside stared chatting with me;  once it was clear we knew where we were going (when we weren’t utilising Google/Apple Maps), it turned into “oh, are you engaged?” (as I had my Tiffany ring on my right hand).  “…but is there someone in your life?”  

“Yes, there is,” interjected my soulmate/knight in shining armour.  The man pointed us toward Central Park (“just in case”) and we continued on our way.  

Continuing our tourism trend, I carried an almost empty Starbucks cup and a large snickerdoodle until we got to Tiffany’s.  What better way to express my appreciation than to recreate the iconic Audrey Hepburn scene?  Id berated poor Shelby with Breakfast at Tiffany’s facts every few minutes for our entire commute (to which she interjected Deep Blue Something lyrics), and now she became my photographer.  

“And I said what about eating a cookie awkwardly posed outside of Tiffany’s?”

We stepped into a few more stores, but eventually made it to Central Park.  Neither of us had really explored the park in all it’s glory, so we were excited to wander, even if we were about to walk a few thousand more steps than my already injured leg should have handled (heck, we’d long since surpassed that point).  

My biggest goal for this stop was to snap photos from one of my other nerdish obsessions—The Last Five Years. Unfortunately (for them), they blocked me from posting on their social media after I shared an earlier post I’d written gushing about the show (only a little bitter there).  Nonetheless, I remain a fan and dutifully passed by the Beresford, San Remo, and the Dakota, even struggling past the still-undefined covering over half of the latter.  

We also spent a good half an hour looking for Strawberry Fields (strawberry fiiieeelds FOREVER), then another twenty or so looking for the IMAGINE mosaic.  Thank you, Beatles, for an extra couple thousand steps.  

Then we made our way to what was arguably the highlight of our plans—McGee’s Pub.  For those of you have seen How I Met Your Mother, this was the inspiration of the legen…dary MacLaren’s!

Now, as Shelby hasn’t yet turned 21, we were a little worried I wouldn’t be able to have my all-important HIMYM cocktail.  Luckily, the “Pizza Hut exception” apparently applied, and I got my Gay Pirate.  Believe it or not, this thing was STRONG.  

Cutting through Times Square Like good little tourists, we headed back to Penn Station.  Jumping just slightly out of the way, we grabbed some dessert and teas from VLife and Dunkin before boarding—a worthwhile time investment!  

Here’s to next year!

Vegan Cooking with Jules: Peach Muffins

*I received this item for free or at
a discounted rate in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are 100% my own and completely honest.*


I have a friend who works for a local fruit company.  When he sent me home with half a bag of peaches the other day, I was ecstatic.  Free fresh fruit (try saying that five times fast!)??

The same day, I was thrilled to receive a new silicone muffin pan from Keliwa.

I texted my mom—what should I make in my new pan?  After hearing about this and my peaches, she suggested what, in retrospect, should have been the obvious answer:  peach muffins, of course!

So, like any good internet user, I headed to Pinterest.  I quickly fell upon Multi-Testing Mommy‘s recipe and was psyched to try it out.

The changes I made to MTM’s recipe were subtle, and primarily due to my wanting to use ingredients I had on hand.  With egg replacer, applesauce (and a touch of water) instead of milk, and unskinned peaches, these were absolutely amazing.


A friend inquired as to how the muffins turned out.  My response pretty much says it all.


In short, the pan worked perfectly and the muffins were to die for.  What more could a girl ask for?