Feeling Thankful

It's always around the holidays that I realize how grateful I am to have such a wonderful family. Between manic cooking sessions, struggling to find a perfect gift, and driving from one end of town to the other to meet up with friends, it can be hard to find time to reflect on the importance of family amidst the most stressful season of all.

Living far away from home, too, is another reason why I tend to appreciate my family far more than usual. And so I wanted to take this blog post to thank each member of my immediate family for what they've personally done for me:

Thank you to Bijan for calling. For trying to find any way possible to be involved in my life despite living twice as far away from me as the rest of my family. Thank you for being the person I looked up to throughout my twelve years of playing piano. Thank you for showing me that if you have a dream and work hard towards it, you can achieve it- step by step. And thank you for introducing me to 30 Rock and How I Met Your Mother.

Thank you to Kian for looking out for me since the day I was born. Thank you for always wanting the best for me, and accepting no less than that. Thank you for protecting me- even when I didn't think that I needed it. And thank you for being the best (and most entertaining) co-worker ever- even if the kids do think you're way cooler than I am.

Thank you to Camy for teaching me that happiness should never be taken for granted. Thank you for explaining everything to me that I never understood, and for being the family's expert on the most obscure topics. And thank you for forcing me to watch Love Actually with you when you were shocked to find out that I had never seen it before.

Thank you to Nana for teaching me that kindness counts. Thank you for being exactly the kind of person I would want to be at your age. Thank you for your vivid storytelling over lengthy, wine-filled dinners. And thank you for never losing your spark or your sass, and passing that personality onto me.

Thank you to Grampy for teaching me that learning doesn't have to stop when you grow older. Thank you for showing me that there's always something more to explore in life, and that you should always be curious. And thank you for your "Grampy Jokes"- even the one about the pig with the wooden leg. 

Thank you to Dad for never letting me forget where my family comes from. Thank you for teaching me about my heritage, and passing on the best Iranian traditions. Thank you for letting me plant the green beans in the garden every summer growing up. And thank you for singing in front of all my friends at my graduation party.

Thank you to Mom for always putting my needs before yours. Thank you for sacrificing everything for this family. Thank you for your patience during the shopping trips that ended in tears. Thank you for teaching me that the best way to show love is through baking (preferable chocolate). And thank you for being my role model in every single way.


What I Would Tell My Younger Self After Receiving That Rejection Letter

Around this time two years ago, I wasn't having the happiest of holidays. What was meant to be the most joyous time of the year was clouded over by a single moment of disappointment which lead to weeks of self-pity. It was a moment in which I eagerly logged into my email, hoping that the message sitting in my inbox would be the one that changed my life for the better- an acceptance into my Early Decision college choice. That life-changing message started:

"We regret to inform you..." 

My heart dropped. My eyes welled up with tears. I didn't need to read any further. 

I was so devastated that the next morning I decided to take the day off from school.

In hindsight, I find it strange that a single instance could take so much happiness away from me. Of course, some of that was my own doing. I had a picture of what my life would look like in my head, and the thought of diverting from that image quite frankly scared me- a lot. 

I would tell my younger self at that point in time to take a look at the bigger picture. I wish I had realized that there isn't only a single path in life, and that I could find success and happiness in other ways.

I would tell my younger self that college isn't about the name of the school that you attend, but the unique learning opportunities you have and the longtime friendships you make. Better yet, it's about the stories you tell over winter break that you'll still probably tell when you're 40. 

I would tell my younger self that other peoples' success doesn't define my own. It's entirely possible to be happy for someone else without an ounce of resentment.  

I would tell my younger self that the extreme pressure I felt to not only succeed, but have that success be indicated by attending an "elite" school was a result of the environment I grew up in. With high-achieving students feeding off of one another, my high school was a ticking bomb of stress. As were treated as the standard, and every grade was seen as a reflection of our self worth.   

I would tell my younger self that I have not only the ability, but the strength and the bravery to pick up and leave the place I've called home for my entire life. I've never seen myself as a risk-taker, but knowing that I've taken such a huge leap of faith has given me the confidence to take more.

I would tell my younger self that the place I would end up in would be unexpected, but still exactly right for me. Not every decision has to be made with precision- and sometimes, those end up being the best ones. 

And most importantly, I would tell my younger self that that rejection letter actually did change my life for the better.

But maybe- just maybe- I would wait for her to see that for herself. 


A Coffee Tasting at Burr and Co: Your new favorite cafe

When I was about 13 years old, I remember telling my mom that I would never like coffee. She laughed and said "Oh, someday you will- I promise." As I went through my teenage years I slowly began to acquire an affinity for caffeine. It started with a shot of espresso in a sugary frapuccino from none other than Starbucks, and soon enough milky iced coffee became my drink of choice (and let's be real- it still is). Now I look forward to my morning cup of plain ol' coffee with milk and sugar, and consider my Bialetti to be my most prized possession.   

I'm no coffee snob, that's for sure. But I'll take a strong cup of excellent coffee over the watered down stuff any day. That's why I was so excited to be invited for a barista experience with the experts at Burr and Co


Located on George Street right in the heart of Edinburgh's most popular shopping area, Burr and Co is the perfect place to sit down and relax after a long day of Christmas present hunting. While the cafe tends to be constantly buzzing- especially on the weekends- there are plenty of seats in its warm and cozy interior. One of the most unique aspects of Burr and Co that I've found is that while it serves high-quality artisan coffee, it's atmosphere is highly unpretentious and welcoming- something many new coffee shops seem to lack.  

Our after-hours experience began with an opportunity to try something called "cupping." Cupping is the process of using your senses to observe and enjoy coffee in its purest form.

Few of us were "experts" on the subject, so Burr and Co's coffee genius and head barista Luke guided us as we tried to understand coffee as more than just a morning energy boost.

Once the hot water was added, we were told to sip on our coffee in spoonfuls as if we were drinking hot soup. Hilarious slurping noises ensued, and we tried to point out the differences between the four different roasts. To give us amateurs an even greater challenge, Luke had us guess which cup matched up to the bag of coffee beans. In the end we were 2 for 4- I'd consider that a success!

After trying our hand at cupping, the moment we had all been waiting for was upon us- it was time to make latte art! As most of us were bloggers and student journalists, we were all incredibly excited to have our Instagram dreams come true- I mean, who doesn't love an adorable design on their latte? 

Luke quickly demonstrated how to steam the milk and pour it to create the heart shape. As you can see from the photo, there's a reason he's head barista!

And as a stark contrast... here's my attempt. And I even managed to make a mess on the table. It's safe to say that I will not be taking over Luke's job anytime soon. 

And finally we were able to taste some brewed coffee! I usually take mine with a little milk and sugar (or sometimes even a pump of caramel) but drinking the coffee black allowed us to truly appreciate its complex flavors.

We were very generously gifted with a bag of Burr and Co's signature George Street Blend, as well as some tablet! It's also worth noting that upon returning from this event I was absolutely wired on coffee- which wasn't the best thing at 9PM on a Wednesday. 

Still, I had such a wonderful experience that I returned to the cafe for a latte and a slice of millionaire's shortbread this past weekend. I was clearly too hungry and eager to take a photo of it, but trust me- the latte art was impeccable and the cake was scrumptious. 

Thank you so much to Luke and the rest of the team at Burr and Co for such a lovely evening! And a shout out to my editor at the Lifestyle section of The Student for passing along the invite to me. 

P.S. I had such a funny moment that evening when about halfway through the night I realized that I was sitting across from Juliet of Ever So Juliet. I love her blog and her Instagram, so it was really strange that we just happened to be at the same event!


How to Survive Exam Season While Celebrating the Holiday Season

It can be difficult to get excited about the holidays when there's an entire week of exams standing in your way. Long gone are the days of Christmas sing alongs and cookie swaps in the classroom. Holiday fun isn't provided for us anymore, so it's up to us to seek out some cheer between study sessions.

You don't have to be a total Grinch during finals week, but you also don't have to go full-on Buddy the Elf (unless you really want to annoy your studious friends). So here are five ways you can celebrate the most wonderful time of the year, and not sacrifice those grades.

Add festive touches to your workspace // While an entire Christmas tree might not be suitable for your flat or dorm, there's always alternatives! Whether its a mini Christmas tree that you picked up at the grocery store or a dinky little fake one like mine, having a few cheery spots on your desk will remind you of the good times ahead- talk about extra motivation!

It does the job.

Leave (some) evenings free // As a pro procrastinator myself, I find it far too easy to let the day slip away, forcing me to work into the wee hours of the morning. But if you let your study schedule slide too often, you're sure to miss out on a few evening parties. Because I'm never one to say no to an invite, I'm constantly trying to complete most of my revision by the late afternoon. And even if I don't have anything on my social calendar, leaving evenings free allows me to take some time to myself and catch up on The Mindy Project.

Reward yourself with holiday themed flicks // Speaking of television, the holidays are prime time to watch heartwarming movies and catch some of the best episodes of your favorite shows. Once you've checked everything (or nearly everything) off of your long to-do list, reward yourself with a little bit of solo Netflix and chill (literal chill if you live in a flat like mine). And you're not just limited to movies here- get nostalgic and watch the holiday themed episodes of your favorite childhood shows! Both the Christmas and Hanukkah episodes of the Rugrats are my personal favorites.

Bake your heart out // An easy way to amp up the holiday spirit without leaving the flat and wasting too much precious study time is by baking. Whether it's the Christmas cookies your mom always makes (text her for the recipe and then FaceTime her when it all goes wrong) or some crazy dessert mashup you found on Buzzfeed, the sweet smells of chocolate and gingerbread are sure to put everyone in your apartment in a good mood. Make sure to have Michael Buble's Christmas album playing in the background- it makes all the difference.

I made a swiss roll the other day and didn't completely fail! The swirl isn't on point though.
Don't try to do it all // As cliche as it sounds, this piece of advice is probably the most important of all. It's hard enough trying to study for exams under regular circumstances, but when the Facebook events keep rolling in and you're itching to fly home to put ornaments up on the tree, it seems like it's nearly impossible to focus on schoolwork. Remember that doing well on your exams is really important, but keep in mind that it might be a good idea to be social every once in a while to maintain your sanity and not become a complete hermit.

It's also important to remember that everyone is feeling stressed- we all have exams coming up, and most of us haven't even started our Christmas shopping yet (myself included- sorry, family!). But all the craziness will be worth it when I'm sitting on the couch watching reruns of House Hunters International with my mom, drinking tea and not worrying about essays or exams.

So here's to that final push before the holidays- good luck!
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