Coffee Review: Chick-fil-a! ☕

I seriously love Chick-fil-a. I've been a vegetarian for years, and let me tell you, I don't miss meat at all. However, if I miss anything, it's Chick-fil-a chicken. It's the only thing I miss about eating meat. But hey, it's not worth it because it's still meat. I just think the seasoning and breading they use on it is amazing. *patiently waits for them to make a vegetarian chicken sandwich*

Regardless, I still go to Chick-fil-a frequently because of their fries, hash browns, and salads. They still have vegetarian options which is pretty cool. OH, AND THEIR SAUCES ARE THE BEST SAUCES EVER. I eat the buffalo sauce out of the container, literally. Andrew and I go to Chick-fil-a for the fries and the hash browns and we just dip them in all the sauces because why not?

They recently have been trying to promote their coffee with 'free coffee February.' All February long, you could get a free iced or hot coffee daily with no purchase necessary.

I've had their hot coffee before, but it seems they are taking coffee more seriously now. It really is quality, in my opinion. They like to call it 'coffee with a story,' and they are right. It comes directly from reliable farmers. Never burnt, always roasted correctly. Very impressive for a corporate company. To read more about their coffee, click here.

You can get it hot or iced. I prefer iced, even though its been below zero for days!

The iced comes in original or vanilla.
Original is the coffee, with cane sugar syrup and 2% milk.
Vanilla is the coffee with vanilla syrup and 2% milk.

Because I prefer to avoid milk, I get the original without the milk, and then I add two french vanilla dairy free creamers, that they offer at their condiment bar! Yay! The creamer they offer is cane sugar, palm oil, & water so you can order your coffee vegan. It tastes unique and a perfect balance of coffee, ice and creamer. Yumyumyum. So, yes, vegans, you can get an iced coffee and hash browns for breakfast. Yay for vegan hacks, right?

Chick-fil-a is known for offering awesome promotions all year long, and to get free coffee all February is pretty amazing to say the least. I probably would've never tried their coffee, and now I plan to get it all the time. I can't believe I'm actually giving something a 10/10 but I am because I was shocked at how good it is. I usually spend 5 dollars on my iced vanilla soy latte anywhere else...but now I can only spend 2 dollars on something that tastes just as good. Thank you Chick-fil-a!

A Letter to Everyone and No One

Dear everyone but also no one,

Sometimes at night, I feel so vulnerable. I feel filled with emotions and words that I cannot ever express to you guys. But I will try. This letter goes to anyone who has ever known me. If you are reading my blog right now, you know me in some way, right?

One of my first "selfies," taken in 5th grade. Aw. 
I care about you. I enjoyed our memories together. Yes, even if it was one day. Yes, even if it was five years ago. Perhaps even ten years ago.

 If I ever touched your life or inspired you, that makes me happy. If I hurt you, I'm sorry.
Tell me if I hurt you, I will send my empathy.
Tell me if I inspired you, I will send my love.

I never do anything without meaning.
Every move I make is symbolic
and has reasoning.
There's an explanation for everything I do - ASK, don't assume.

If I get showered with success, it won't wash away my appreciation for you. It won't cleanse my mind of memories of us. It won't erase who I am. I do not change. I am grounded. I am humble. ASK, don't assume.

If I drown with failure and doubt, it won't wash away my hopes and my dreams. It won't cleanse my mind of possibilities. It won't erase who I am.

ASK, don't assume.

I am the type of person that will give you life advice regardless of who we are or our relationship.
I will take you out to coffee and suggest my favorites on the menu.
I will catch up with you.
I do not care if you are in middle school or if you are on the brink of retirement.
I do not care if we've only talked once.

Because I do care about you.

My entire life people thought I was intimidating, or not approachable, and they are wrong about that.
You've always been wrong about that.

I hold you in my heart and I do not hide it. Sometimes I listen to songs and they remind me of you. I'll see your favorite candy in the grocery store and think about you. And God knows Andrew and I talk about you, too.

I hold you in my heart and I do not hide it. I will never know if you hold me in your heart. I will never know if you think about me too. I will never know if you care. And I need to be okay with that, accept that, and live my life in a forward motion. The past is something we carry with us, but it is not something we live in.


Maria Elena

"If I'm lost at sea, tell my mother, my father, my sisters, my brother, my friends and my foes, and all my past lovers that I will miss them so. But lord, I had to go."
Summer 2014.

10 Reasons Why We All Miss Crash Bandicoot

Crash Bandicoot was always there for us in our childhood. Years later, a lot of us are wishing a new game will be released. While it’s doubtful, at least we can get super nostalgic and talk about why we miss Crash so much. OODIBIGAH.

  1. It Was All We Play Station Kids Had
Nintendo fans had the entire Super Mario franchise and the hundreds of games that came from it. Us PlayStation owners had Crash. Sure, there was other awesome games for the PS1 such as Spyro, but Crash was a world on it’s own. If you grew up with a PS1, you grew up with Crash. No one forgets their childhood bestfriends. Unless your childhood best friend stabbed you in the back by deciding to never make a new game again. That doesn’t mean you can’t miss them, right?
  1. Aku Aku
An ancient spirit of a witch doctor protected us. “OODIBIGAH” was the best ‘word’ we could hear while playing this game. I never quite understood why a dead witch doctor cared so much about a jean wearing bandicoot. However, Aku Aku was our best friend and anytime he gave us a power boost, we knew we we’re gonna get through the level. Unless we touched a seal...
  1. Dr. Neo Cortex
Our enemy was an evil scientist with a huge forehead. Keep in mind, we were playing as a muscular bandicoot that liked to wear super tight cut off jeans. Who came up with this stuff? Nobody cared, we just wanted more of it. Many of our enemies in video games growing up were more of an inconvenience instead of an arch nemesis. Dr. Cortex was evil and made us all want to destroy him. He was just straight up rude and had no reason to be bothering us bandicoots. Psh.
  1. Being Terrified by Red and Green Crates
The most terrifying thing in all of the games was red TNT crates and green nitro crates. The thought that you could lose a life simply because you made one wrong move was horrifying. I don’t know about you, but when there was a crate in between two red TNT crate, I rarely took the chance. Whatever you do, run.
  1. Boulder Dash
Forget zombie and shooting games, being chased by a huge boulder made us all scream in fear. I remember screaming and jumping up and down in my seat knowing there was a 90% chance I was about to be crushed by a rock. And the music that went along with it? Naughty Dog must’ve been trying to torture us. Now that was the true meaning of horror that no other game can replicate.
  1. It Was a Franchise
Crash Bandicoot wasn’t just a game, it was a franchise. With well known characters, and several games. How did a franchise fall apart so fast? All I know is Crash had so much potential to expand into more games, t-shirts, and lunchboxes. Well, at least they tried?
  1. Crash Team Racing
Listen. Ima let you finish, but Crash Team Racing is one of the best racing games of all time. Try to deny it, but it was addictive and cannot even be compared to Mario Kart. The characters you were racing against were always so interactive, and playing against friends would take hours. “My turn!”
  1. The Scenery and the Graphics
The scenery and the graphics were immaculate. Whether it be Crash Bandicoot or Crash Team Racing, Naughty Dog gave us amazing graphics for the era the games were coming out. From palm trees and beaches to ice and snow - I remember being blown away. They even had a level where you ride a tiger and run through the Great Wall of China. The sunsets are beautiful and characters react to their surroundings. It felt so real. Maybe that’s why I would stay up til 2 AM playing Crash.

  1. Getting All of the Crates
Getting all of the crates in each and every level was a struggle, but it made us pay attention to our surroundings instead of just rushing through things. And lets not forget the anger at the end of each level when it said we were missing one crate. WHAT? I didn’t see any other crates? Ugh. One more time.
  1. The Journey
Each and every level was a journey and had meaning to it. With twists and turns, we weren’t just playing a bunch of mini games. We were fighting against the great forces of evil as a badass bandicoot. What more could we ask for? There was a bunch of drama regarding Naughty Dog and Activision, and Crash eventually lost popularity as the world of video games kept expanding. However, there are still thousands of Crash fans out there and Naughty Dog has talked about creating a new game. In the meantime, we can always play our old Crash games.

6 Summer Conventions For Those Who Didn't Get SDCC Passes

While most people were using their saturday to sleep in, us Comic Con fans got up extra early to sit in a virtual waiting room. Yes, today was the day when we could buy San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) passes. Of course, you needed an approved member ID a week in advance and you needed to access the waiting room before 9:00 AM PST. Then, you needed to keep refreshing, and waiting...and waiting...

If you were lucky, you got a 3 or 4 day pass. If you were kind of lucky, you got a preview night pass. However, like usual, most of us were left with nothing. But hey! Don't fret. You have every right to be disappointed  There's no convention quite like SDCC, but if you're a true nerd, you'll love any convention. I will admit, we all prefer different cons, regardless - it's always a fun experience. There's still time to plan our summer, and we have to get AT LEAST one con in. Here are some conventions you can go to this summer if you didn't get SDCC passes, and hey, even if you did - here are some more awesome conventions to go to!

1. Geekycon (July 30 - August 2nd, 2015) - Formerly known as Leakycon, Geekycon started off as a Harry Potter convention. I went in 2011 & 2012 - and have to say this: I'M IN LOVE WITH GEEKYCON. Thousands of people attend every year, however, it's not insanely crowded. The people are always friendly, the special guests are always walking around, and there's always something to do. Late night concerts, artist alley, fun panels, an entire day dedicated to literature, and unique special guests. Not to mention, the location changes yearly. This year, it's held in Orlando, Florida at the Orange County Convention center. I highly recommend Geekycon. They usually have an event at Universal called 'Open at the Close.' When the park closes, it opens for us.

2. Special Edition: NYC (June 6 & 7 2015) - A lot of people love Comic Con solely for the comics. Yet over the years, it became about video games, pop culture, film, cosplay, etc. It became star studded and everyone wanted to go. Well, that's not the case anymore! A lot of us con-goers live on the East coast, so this is perfect for my New Yorkers! Celebrate your love for art, comic books, and illustration here - and you won't have to worry about any posers. I promise, guys.

3. Wizard World Comic Con (All Year Long) - Yes. You heard me. All year long. If you click the link, you will see that there will be conventions in basically every city. There's bound to be one near you. Nashville, Chicago, Las Vegas, Sacramento - the list goes on and on. Wizard World has been known to not always have the most interesting guests and panels, but it's getting bigger and better every year. It makes it easy and affordable for people all over the US to get the chance to go to conventions.

4. OMGcon (June 12 - 14, 2015) - Held in Owensboro, Kentucky, OMGcon is for those who don't want to go too far East, West, North or South. Full of video game tournaments and cosplay contests, it's worth the $50 dollars for AN ENTIRE WEEKEND. Yes, it's an intimate setting. But if you're in the area, why not? The thought of a video game tournament on it's own excites me, and considering it's OMGcon's 10th anniversary, I have a feeling some exciting things are to come!

5. Dragon Con (September 4 - 7, 2015) - Dragon Con takes place in Atlanta, Georgia. Live in the south? You're in luck. Dragon Con is the perfect way to end to your summer. It brings together old and new forms of geekery and has always had something unique about it. It doesn't exclude any fandoms, it's open to change without disregarding past generations. I've had friends that have gone in the past and they say it's a real con experience. People come from all over the world to geek out.

6. Nerd HQ (July 24 - 27, 2015) - Nerd HQ has amazing panels and special guests, yet at the same time, you feel like your just hanging out with your friends. Nothing about it is stressful. Going to California and feeling left out because you didn't get SDCC passes? Well, Nerd HQ is held in San Diego, so it's perfect for us loners. They have a gaming area, a dance party, awesome vendors, and exclusive screenings. It's a real convention experience that is worth the trip.

Why I Respect James and Lily's Relationship (10 Years Later)

Severus much I can say about this man. Like Harry said, he is the bravest man we ever knew. Other than that, he is my all time favorite fictional character. Snape embodies bravery, strength and courage. He embodies true sacrifice.

But James Potter? Every time a new Harry Potter book or film was released, I began to hate James more. He was a weak jerk. I didn't appreciate the way he would treat Snape or Lily while they were growing up. I thought he was conceited and just plain rude. Many people agreed with my statements. Yet did we truly get to know James? We saw flashes of old memories of him as a child. We heard about what Sirius and the rest of the order had to say about him. But we never got to see James live.

A few days ago, I realized that for over a decade of my Harry Potter obsession...I kept thinking about James and Snape, but not LILY. Lily, one of the smartest and sweetest witches of her time. Why wasn't I thinking about how she felt? Why was I judging her relationship with James based on how much Snape loved her? I've always loved Lily and it was wrong of me to disregard her feelings and her independence so quickly. 

Now don't you think for a minute that I think Snape is obsessive or in the wrong here. Without him, Harry would be dead by Sorcerers Stone. Snape didn't have much to live for in his life. His parents didn't care for him, he didn't have any friends, and he was bullied throughout his childhood and adulthood. Lily was all the hope and love in his life and he latched onto that. Is this wrong? No, I do not believe it was wrong. He sacrificed everything in his life for the son of a woman he loved. 

Snape lived in the past. He wasn't possessive over Lily. He wasn't disrespectful. He made mistakes here and there but I don't think it was Snape who did anything wrong. Some people are just not meant to be. That doesn't mean you don't love somebody, it just means you're not meant to be in their life forever.

I really do believe Lily loved Snape. Whether that be platonic or romantic, I know she loved him. However, some loves aren't meant to last forever. Some loves aren't meant to equal marriage. Lily knew that, and while she cherished Snape, he wasn't right for her.

Rowling only showed us certain moments of the life of Snape, Lily and James. They each could have an entire series dedicated to them because they're all full of so much depth. As much as we'd like to form a solid opinion about them, it's not that easy. 

However, I began to respect Lily and James' relationship because I trust Lily. I trust her decision-making. Remember, Lily's love saved Harry. Lily loved James and James loved Lily. I can't argue love. I can't say someone else's relationship wasn't real. I can't do that. We can't do that. 

When I put myself into Lily's shoes, I realize I would hate it if everyone was telling me I should've chose Snape because he loved me. I would be like, "I mean, I do too, but I'm a married woman in love with a beautiful gifted son named Harry." I've always hated it when people judge my relationship because they aren't in it. I'm an independent woman, I know who I love and I know what I want. I know what's good for me and no one else does.

Lily is smart enough to make her own decisions.
James isn't defined by a few moments of him joking around in his childhood.
Snape isn't an obsessive, evil freak.

I respect Lily and James. I respect Snape. It's not a contest. It's not a competition. We needed all three of them for Harry to exist, so let's just thank them all for that.

Why I Don't Have My 'Title' On My Business Cards

A few weeks ago, I was contemplating getting business cards. What did I want them to look like? What  did I want them to say? What kind of overall vibe did I want them to give off?

I knew this: it needed to have my name and contact information, but everything else was optional.
After browsing designs, fonts, and deciding what to put on my business cards, this is how they ended up turning out:

I got them off of vistaprint, which is an amazing site not only for business cards but invitations and such. They're always having some sale on cards and you can get a fair amount (100) for a fair price. (ten dollars)

After thinking about what to put on my business cards, I decided not to put a title. If I put one thing, I would be limiting myself too much. I don't fit under one label professionally or socially. And If I put too many things, it would look like a mess. Therefore...I went title-less. 

When I showed my mom my business cards, she said to me, "Well, what are you trying to advertise?" That's the thing. I'm advertising myself. And myself isn't one thing. Most of the time, when you give someone your business card, you talked to them beforehand. So they have a general idea of what you're giving them the business card for and what they would want to use you for. I don't go handing out business cards for no reason.

Basically, I'm constantly networking. I always have my business cards on me and if someone wants someone to create a video for them? I can do that. Need someone for public relations? I got it. Want me to collaborate with your brand? Sure, I'd love to. Need someone to act in your film? I'm up for it. Out of town for the week and need someone to watch your super cute dog? Okay, I can definitely do that.

There are tons of things I'm passionate about and I would never want to miss out on an opportunity because the title on my business card was not related to what the employer was looking for. I am a young freelance artist that works in many fields and I want my business card to reflect that.

A Letter to My 25-Year-Old Self

I'm not 25 yet. That's six or seven years away, which is crazy to me. A lot can happen in that period of time and I'm thrilled to see where it takes me. I was featured in the "Letters to my 25-Year-Old Self" project. People of all ages participated which made it even more intriguing. I also love the illustration (pictured above) they created to go along with my piece. Swiss cheese sandwich, Harry Potter glasses, and my signature hair style? Yes please! Here is an excerpt of my piece. To read the full thing, click here.

Dear 25-year-old Maria,

I can see you clearly. You're still 5'4. (Well, actually, you're 5'3. You're just still lying about being 5'4.) You have golden brown hair, with undertones of red that only those close to you see. You still have your signature bangs that you cut sophomore year symbolizing your commitment to authenticity and truth. You still love eating swiss cheese and lettuce sandwiches and you still eat bags of hot cheetos, no matter how fattening they are. You still dream of going to DisneyWorld, and hey, maybe you got to finally go. (I hope you did.)

Artist Spotlight: Mili Chamberlain

Andrew and I as ACNL mayors.

You all probably know by now how much I love Animal Crossing. Well thanks to Animal Crossing and instagram, I discovered an unbelievably talented artist named Mili Chamberlain. I asked her to draw Andrew and I's Animal Crossing mayors together and she totally exceeded my expectations. The photo is actually framed now because we love it that much!

Mili is only 15 years old and already has an excessive amount of art from paintings, sketches, portraits, to the lovely Animal Crossing illustrations. Everything on the right is her art, and the one in the center is actually a self-portrait. I was really impressed that she already has so much to show for herself artistically.

She really has a unique art style that can make people and places realistic with a twist. I love all of her illustrations and I'm eternally grateful I have a piece hanging up in my room now!

I really hope to see her working as a professional illustrator for Nintendo or something in the future. Or even an Etsy shop! This girl is going places, watch out everybody. Her instagram is @acnl.xoxo - check it out to see more of her art.

{Common Grounds Collective}

Hey everyone! Happy friday, and happy early Valentines day. Thanks to an awesome guy named Hunter Hebenstreit, I got to team up with some creative souls to create a coffee blog. We may all be different. I mean, we have photographers, writers, entrepreneurs  and so many more characters on the team. Yet one thing we all have in common? We all LOVE coffee.

The blog is called Common Grounds Collective. We will be interviewing baristas, farmers, and coffee lovers. We will be teaching you how to make latte art. You will know every coffee drink by name, and read lovely poetry by local artists. Not to mention, there is going to be so much original photography. You can even be featured if you submit something!

I really have faith in these people. I really can't wait to see this grow. Maybe one day it will turn into a magazine, or perhaps one day we will pitch in to make our own coffee chain.

Until can read the blog here and follow us on instagram at @commongroundscollective!

Why It's Okay to Not Follow Back

We've all been there. Whether it be on twitter, instagram, tumblr, or some other social happens daily. The U word: UNFOLLOW. Or, in some cases, you may have never been followed back at all. Crazy, right? We'll see.

Or maybe you're that terrible person (cue the trumpets) that doesn't follow everyone back. Maybe after a while, you unfollow certain people simply because you feel no need to have them on your feed anymore. How dare you, why would you ever do that?! Okay, let's keep talking.

Regardless, does it really matter? Is there anything wrong with unfollowing or not following back? Are there valid reasons to this? Let's discuss this more.

When somebody follows me and I don't follow back, that doesn't mean I don't like them or don't respect them. That doesn't mean I don't appreciate the follow. Usually, it just means I can only follow so many people.

Sometimes, people I kind of "know in real life" follow me on instagram. And I think, "Aw, how nice. Hope they're doing well." I really respect that they want to keep up with me, and if I want to keep up with them, or if I feel we might connect again in the future, I'll follow them. However, most of the time, I don't follow back, considering 95% of the people I've never really even talked to. Quite frankly, there's no reason for me to keep up with their life. It's no hard feelings, I just don't want to be following thousands of people because I once had a 2 minute conversation with them a few years back.

In middle school and high school we might've had the urge to follow everyone we go to school with, even if we've only seen them walking in the hallway. But the real world is not like that, and social media is starting to become not only apart of our identities, but our careers.

So, yes, in some cases, we won't get followed back. It can hurt not being followed back sometimes, but why follow someone in the first place if your only concern is to get a follow back? Follow people who you genuinely want to keep up with. Friends, family, celebrities, bloggers, artists, photographers, whatever. Don't worry about the follow back! Live your life. If it really bothers you, you can click the unfollow button in less than a second.

There are certain people I will never unfollow. My brother, my mom, my boyfriend, my childhood best friends. The list goes on. I don't care if they become unactive or they spam my feed. Those are people I need to follow. However, not everyone gets that "get out of jail free" pass. If there's no benefit to me following you, I may need to respectfully click the unfollow button. Know your power on social media and don't abuse it!

I've been the victim of not being followed back before too. Sometimes, it can be quite confusing. You think, "What? They're not following me back? After all we've been through? But, I have more followers! But, I thought they liked me! But, I post better things than them!" This is where our silly little egos get in the way. It doesn't really matter how many followers you have or how pretty your feed is, some people aren't interested in following you and that's 100% okay.

On the other hand, accounts with more followers will follow me and unfollow when I don't follow back. This is another case where the 'online ego' get's in the way. Honestly, I don't care how many followers you have - I just wanna see business, inspiration, and close friends and family on my feed. Sorry not sorry, I guess?

Taylor Swift and Beyonce have MILLIONS of followers on all of their social media. They love and appreciate all their fans but they don't have the time to follow us all back. I know none of us have millions of active followers, but, hey! We don't have the time to dedicate our whole lives to this. It's okay not to follow somebody back. It's okay to get unfollowed. Think of it with no hard feelings, and if there's a special case that does have hard feelings - talk to the person about it. Getting confronted about this stuff can be super awkward sometimes, but it's what we have to deal with.

When it comes down to it, it's okay to unfollow or not follow someone back. If we followed everyone back, our feeds would be clogged with posts and we would never really get to see the posts we really want to see.

Listen to this and listen closely. Don't get caught up in this stuff. If you don't wanna follow somebody, don't sweat it. Be confident in your decision, and remember...IT'S JUST SOCIAL NETWORKING!

Here are some quick tips to keep in mind. Whether you are the follower or the unfollower, read on!

1. Don't let your 'online ego' get in the way. It doesn't matter how many followers and likes you have. It doesn't matter how "quality" the content you post is. Don't follow somebody and automatically expect them to follow you back.

2. Realize it's just social networking. This is the most important tip I can give you. I would much rather go out to coffee and talk to someone then have them follow me on social networking. Although technology is growing, it doesn't define who we are and our feelings. Don't sweat it.

3. Maybe they didn't notice you followed them. This happens a lot, and it's okay. Don't whine about it, get over it. If it bothers you, let them know. Sometimes you see someone everyday and it can be weird if they're not following you. Regardless, don't let it own your thoughts!

4. Sometimes, we accidentally unfollow/follow. It happens. I've accidentally unfollowed somebody before and didn't follow them back because I thought it would be too awkward. And I know twitter is constantly updating their website so it's even easier to accidentally follow/unfollow, favorite, or retweet. Oops!

5. Sometimes, they don't know you. Yes, some accounts don't care about your online presence. They just wanna follow close friends and family. I'll be honest here, I've been followed by people who I know of in real life, but didn't follow them back because I've never really talked to them. No point in me following. That doesn't mean I don't like or respect them - I just don't need to see their family photos and pictures of their dinner. Moving on.

6. Talk to them. If you're really concerned about it, just let them know and they'll tell you! In a lot of cases, they will be cowardly and awkward about it - making things up because they know they did wrong. In some, they'll be straight up and tell you like it is. And a whole lot of the time, it's an accident. Regardless of the outcome, it's usually never that bad. Tell them.

Don't get caught up in this stuff. It's okay to not be followed back. It's okay to not follow back. Breathe in, breathe out.

Valentines Day Playlist ♡

If I were to make a playlist of all my favorite love songs, it would be a playlist with thousands of songs. So, yes, I missed a lot of songs with this playlist. I picked 60 optimistic love songs that many can relate to. Platonic love, self love, romantic love, eternal love, LOVE love. La la la love. From indie simple love songs, to 90's bops, to ballads full of depth, to jazzy romance, to teenage dreams. I hope my Valentine's playlist fills you with love.

You may be are single and proud. You may be single and hopeful.
Maybe you're talking to someone. You may want to be alone. Maybe you're so deeply in love that you're going to be with the same person forever. Maybe you have a little crush on someone. Maybe your relationship is falling apart. Maybe you're reflecting on a past love. Maybe you honestly don't care. What do I know about you? I just know you're worthy of love, and people love you. Trust yourself. Trust God. xo


CONSTELLATIONS - Ian Taylor & Maria Elena

I cowrote and did vocals on a song with the super talented Ian Taylor on his album Another Drunk Conquistador. It's called Constellations. I really like how it turned out and I'm eternally grateful I got the opportunity to work with him, he's such an old soul with a poetic aura about him. Listen to the track above, and his entire album here.

"She dreams in color, wears her freedom like handcuffs, too royal to notice me. So I keep for my visions of sepia-tone heavens and rotting gardens at my feet. She speaks with an accent, beautiful and crescent, like a foreign moonbeam." - Ian on Lady Opal

Our Temporary Creative Space ♡

I feel like I'm always searching for peace and quiet; for a place I can freely create. Normally, when I can't find a place, I just look to nature. Nature's always there for me. Yet lately, it's been cold. The sun has been in hiding, the grass is no where to be found. I can barely go outside without going completely numb. I love winter and all it's hidden charm, but my spiritual nature side kind of hates it.

No matter where I go, I feel like I can't escape people and their constant distracting nature. Your house or my house? Out to eat or eat in? Move here, move there? There's always going to be a distraction.

I've learned to accept that, however, Andrew created this awesome little temporary creative space for us when we are in need. He literally created it in 15 minutes with a bunch of random things lying around in his basement. He took his childlike fort-making skills and artistic ability to make this awesome place.

It excites me so much! I mean, look, it's so cute. For writing, making music, talking, planning, or just relaxing. This is our temporary creative space. It isn't forever, and it isn't a masterpiece - but it's beautiful and will do for now.

{Book to Screen} Paper Towns!

John Green: vlogbrother, nerdfighter, NYT best selling author, producer, reader, husband, father, all around lovable guy. When I discovered vlogbrothers on youtube several years back, I loved it. I loved what John and his brother Hank had to say about everything from giraffes, pizza, conspiracy theories, classic books, Harry Potter, and so much more. I couldn't get enough of it, and I loved the terms they created. I was a nerdfighter. I always thought 'DFTBA.'  And I was on a mission to decrease world suck. John and Hank really opened a whole other world for me. I started listening to Hanks music, reading John's books, and they referred me to so many other nerdfighters. I remember meeting them at Leakycon 2011 and being absolutely ecstatic and filled with euphoria! They are truly two really nice guys filled with so much intellect and creativity inside of them, and I'm glad to know them.

Now, here I am, supporting John and Hank with everything I do and still keeping up with them. Funny how that works, huh?

John has always been successful, but his success really blew up after The Fault in Our Stars. The novel instantly become a New York Times bestseller. In fact, I remember pre-ordering one of the first signed copies. Suddenly, just a few years later, The Fault in Our Stars became a box office hit starring Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley. It made us all laugh a little, cry a lot, and fangirl a bit too much. 

Now, Paper Towns is going to be a movie. I read it back in 2009, and loved it, however, now that it's becoming a movie...of course I have to reread it! Those are the simple rules of life! 

The IMDb description of Paper Towns is, "A young man and his four friends embark upon the road trip of their lives to find the missing girl next door." 

Short and sweet, but Paper Towns is about so much more than just that. It's symbolic, youthful, and full of hope. It's filled with those classic, noteworthy John Green quotes. My favorites?

1. “Did you know that for pretty much the entire history of the human species, the average life span was less than thirty years? You could count on ten years or so of real adulthood, right? There was no planning for retirement, There was no planning for a career. There was no planning. No time for planning. No time for a future. But then the life spans started getting longer, and people started having more and more future. And now life has become the future. Every moment of your life is lived for the future--you go to high school so you can go to college so you can get a good job so you can get a nice house so you can afford to send your kids to college so they can get a good job so they can get a nice house so they can afford to send their kids to college.” 

2. “Here's what's not beautiful about it: from here, you can't see the rust or the cracked paint or whatever, but you can tell what the place really is. You can see how fake it all is. It's not even hard enough to be made out of plastic. It's a paper town. I mean, look at it, Q: look at all those culs-de-sac, those streets that turn in on themselves, all the houses that were built to fall apart. All those paper people living in their paper houses, burning the future to stay warm. All the paper kids drinking beer some bum bought for them at the paper convenience store. Everyone demented with the mania of owning things. All the things paper-thin and paper-frail. And all the people, too. I've lived here for eighteen years and I have never once in my life come across anyone who cares about anything that matters.” 

Paper Towns is all about your place in life vs where you want to be in life. It's about spontaneous adventure and living life like it's a mystery. It's about falling in love even when you think you may have a chance. It's a story of youth, like Margo and Ben, who spend one night together that changes everything. 

The film, directed by Jake Schreier, is set to be released on June 5, 2015. A summer film, how more exciting can this get? It's starring Cara Delevingne, Nat Wolff, and Halston Sage. I'm really excited to see Cara as Margo, her fearless and independent character is perfect for the role. This is going to be one of those must-see summer films, mark my words!

5 Things We Want in the Next Animal Crossing Game

Nintendo has said they are currently in the process of creating a new Animal Crossing game. They've been discussing ideas, plans, and what console they're going to create it for!

I've loved playing ACNL on the 3DS and it's never really seemed to get old. However, there are certain things I would like Nintendo to improve or change. I interviewed some die hard Animal Crossing fans and this is what we want in the upcoming game. (Also, enjoy some screenshots of Andrew and I having ACNL adventures!)

1. More Customization. We all love being able to choose what we wear and what we look like. We love decorating our house and our town. It's one of the highlights of Animal Crossing, in my opinion. Yet we would love more of that! Making your own town map, more skin tones, an easier way to do your hair, etc. Also, can we pick where villagers plot their houses? This is one of the most aggravating things!

2. Unique characters. Let's be honest, we all love how many villagers there are and we're all eternally grateful for that. It just can be aggravating how the dialect of so many of the 'cute' or 'athletic' ones are the same. It makes it less interesting to talk to them, and quite frankly - makes us feel less connected to our fellow villagers. Make their dialect unique to only them. Make their dialect less repetitive. Every villager should be their own, unique, villager - not a carbon copy.

3. More interactive festivals. I saw this come up a lot in interviews, and I can see why. The festivals happen quite often, yet they can be boring at times. We get 20 seconds of Isabelle's short speech, the villagers clapping, and that's it.

4. Compatible for WiiU & 3DS. Animal Crossing is certainly best on the 3DS, because you can take it anywhere and it's hard to abandon your town. Yet a lot of us think a WiiU game would be super fun for those late gaming nights. My boyfriend Andrew and I would love to be able to play multiplayer on the WiiU. We would be obsessed! Creating a town together, solving problems, etc!

5. More traveling options. In ACNL for the 3DS, everybody loved going to the island. Catching rare fish & bugs & playing fun mini games! The boat ride over was always interesting and it was nice having a change of scenery. It would be cool if on the new Animal Crossing game, we could take trains, cars, planes, boats, or whatever else to go to different places with different activities, mini games, and rare fish and bugs. I can see it now. Deserts, beaches, forests, oh my.

A big thank you to everyone who participated in the interview! What do you want in the next Animal Crossing game?

Colossal Cupcakes

Some restaurants gain publicity simply by serving good food. On the other hand, some places just have unique concepts or a variety of options. Some places have a theme, some places are affordable, some places are in a good location.

Colossal is all of the above. The name itself is creative and sticks with you: Colossal Cupcakes. The moment you walk in, you are overwhelmed by pink, glitter, royalty, and victorian-esque furniture. The aroma of cake batter and frosting fills the air. Andrew and I got the salted caramel cupcake (pictured right), and it was delicious! It remains affordable, compared to other gourmet cupcake shops.

They serve over 30 flavors of cupcakes: including toasted coconut, chocolate covered strawberry, banana walnut, red velvet, snickerdoodle, and so much more! Often, they will make seasonal or themed cupcakes weekly. You can find a variety herbal teas, decadent milkshakes, and vintage soda here! Talk about colossal.

It's located on Euclid avenue, in the heart of Cleveland. If for some reason you find yourself in Cleveland, Ohio, (which is rare) then you don't have to worry about going out of your way for Colossal. It's close to all sport arenas, convention centers, casinos, hotels, businesses, etc! It's guaranteed to make your CLE experience a lot more worth it. You can check them out here and pick up a cupcake of your choice at 528 Euclid Avenue.

Ethereal Interviews: FEBRUARY 2015 x ARIONA BENINATO

As you all know, Ethereal Interviews is about interviewing inspiring and artistic individuals who are all beautifully unique. Ariona Beninato is exactly that. Her strength, spirituality and beauty is something we can all learn from. A woman who is a boss, yet a humble, down to earth person. A woman who is full of beauty and fierceness, yet remains to be easygoing. As she would say, "Don't get me wrong, your girl is fabulous, but definitely very chill." I really enjoyed interviewing Ariona - she really took the time to answer each and every question with 100% integrity. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I did.

1. Ariona, I love your work. You're really just at the beginning of your career. Yet in each and every photo I see such passion. It's not just about your beauty, it's about your soul. Your photos really make me feel something and I think that's truly amazing. When shooting, what's on your mind? 

Wow, thank you so much! Whenever I take photos, I honestly feel like I’m performing. I really just feel however my body takes me. I let my body do the moving and usually my mind is just blank. It’s more of a feeling inside of you. It’s a sense of empowerment being in front of the camera, being the muse to something. I think that’s why I love taking pictures. It’s a true form of self-expression and allows me to feel comfortable with my body. 

2. Now we all know the fashion industry is always going to have rejection. I can relate to you in that sense. The entertainment industry is always telling us no, and sometimes over trivial things. How do you deal with rejection? 
 I have learned to look at rejection just as declaration that something better is coming for you. No matter what it is, you have to trust God and let go of any feelings of being rejected. God will always have the bigger & better plan and you can’t be mad at that. Rejection will only bother you if you let it, and in this industry you don’t really have time to cry. You get up and go to the next casting.  

3. One thing I love about you is how you remain so grounded throughout all your success. I think many of us would love to know how you do it! As a woman that's always on the move, how do you stay spiritual? 
Being spiritual is a lifestyle and spiritual practices just come apart of your daily routine when you are. I try to make sure I pray and meditate every single day. It’s important to spend quiet time with yourself. Take a moment to really breathe. I’m always in my Notes app in my phone. I use down time through out the day to list out the things I’m grateful for at that very moment. Practicing gratitude allows room for bigger blessings and giving that love out to the world will only bring it right back to you. It’s really just about being a good person. I’m a very inner peace type of gal. I think with a very open mind and a bigger heart. It’s just the way I was raised. 

4. You grew up in Northeast Ohio. Now you're in New York. And will be all over the place. What does Cleveland personally mean to you? 
 Cleveland has a completely different feeling. When I come to Cleveland I always feel the love; in strangers, in nature, it’s really just an amazing experience being home. It’s a different type of love. There’s a whole different world outside of Cleveland, but you have to appreciate Cleveland for what it is. Cleveland raised meNew York pays me. There’s nothing in New York that can replace that feeling of waking up at home and being with my family. I really love to be home. There’s a new wave of talent that is going to put Cleveland on the map in fashion, music, education, sports, and the arts. It’s beautiful to see the growth of your city from every aspect.  The collective consciousness of Cleveland is rising and with that more positive things are coming out of Cleveland now more than ever before. At this moment, I’m very proud to be from Cleveland. 

5. Define the word "soul" in your own words. 
To me, soul is love. Our soul already knows who we are before birth yet we spend our entire lives figuring it out. That feeling of love you get when you do the things you love, being with the people you love, eating the food you love, dreaming of the life you love, all of that is your soul speaking to you. I just want to figure out my soul, so I continue to do all that I love. I live through love. I’m always following my heart and will forever listen to my intuition. As humans it’s our duty to fulfill our soul’s purpose and everyday I make that a priority by following where God’s light in my heart takes me. I’m still human, but I understand that there’s a bigger picture that matters a lot more than just this human experience. 

6. Who is your inspiration in life and why? 
The women of my family, especially my grandmother. She was born and raised in Japan. She had passed when I was younger, but I can feel her soul inside of mine and she keeps me driven and inspired to pursue what I love. My mother is also always my biggest inspiration. She’s my #1 supporter, my PR, my manager, my stylist, my strength, my lawyer, my personal shopper, the better version of me. Nobody in this world can inspire me to be as great as my mother does. She created me, she only sees me as the best, even further than I see myself. I didn’t understand that concept until recently. Your parents see you as great as God sees you, listen to them. She keeps me very grounded. There’s no celebrity or fashion icon that is going to believe in me the way my mother does or anyone that is going to love me just as much after all my mistakes. She forgives me and loves me just as much after literally any mistake I’ve ever made. A mother’s love is inspiring in itself. 

7. It seems you're constantly shooting, and now you write for Fearless Leon. Any other projects coming up soon that we should be excited about?  
I have my first national campaign that will be dropping this year. Also, by the time this interview is out hopefully my website will be live. I have a few secret projects in the works, but I can’t discuss any of the details yet. Just know that 2015 will be a huge year for my modeling career.  

8. I think an interesting concept is stereotypes and how people will assume things about you because of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, occupation, etc. What are some things people will assume about you due to false stereotypes?  
People always tell me “You’re cooler than I thought. You’re nicer than I thought you would be. You’re not as stuck up as I thought.” It’s a bummer that people will always have some sort of idea of who you are, then they actually meet you and get to know you and you prove them wrong. That’s always a nice feeling. I’m really a chill, laid back girl and most people see what I do and expect me to be some crazy self-absorbed diva and I’m not. Don’t get me wrong, ya girl is fabulous, but definitely very chill 
 9. Always an  extremely  complicated question, but if you could only have 5 things in your closet for the rest of forever, what would they be? 
A pair of black heels, a black maxi dress, black high waisted jeansa pair of Nikes, & gold midi rings. 

10. Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. What is a word of advice you would like to offer readers? 
You are the only one responsible for the reality you create. What you focus on, grows. Go after your dreams regardless of the circumstances and what any one else thinks. The visions you see are real, the love you feel is for your purpose.  Your belief in your dreams itself is the driving fuel for the Universe to make it happen.