Sunday, January 29, 2017

How I Got a 4.0 my First Semester

I have officially completed my first semester of college.  After a lot of studying and hard work, I’m glad to say that I’ve achieved my goal of a 4.0 this semester.  Here are nine tips for how you can, too.
Of course, GPA isn't something you should get over-stressed about.  Although, for those of you planning on going to a graduate school, having a high GPA is very important.  You can use these nine tips to try to get a 4.0 or to give your GPA a boost.

1. Always take advantage of extra credit
Even if you already have an A in the class, do it anyways. It’ll give you some piece of mind that your grade is secure and it helps to stress a little less when exams come around.

2.  Don’t procrastinate
It’s easy to do and I definitely do sometimes, but try not to procrastinate.  Studying for a test last minute or writing a paper the day before it’s due is never going to be your best work.  It’s much less stressful if you start early and work on an assignment at a good pace.

3. Go to classes
This may seem very obvious, but seriously, don’t skip class unless you absolutely have to.  

4. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite
When I’m studying for a test, I like to write out anything that I’m having trouble remembering two or three times.

4.  Work hard
It may go without saying, but getting good grades takes a ton of hard work.  You have to put school first and genuinely do your best.  Always put getting your homework and studying done before hanging out with friends or going to events.

5. Take a Break
When you’re working hard, you need mental breaks to avoid burn out.  Find things to do everyday that break up your study time but won't waste half the day.  For me, that might be going to club meeting or a quick campus event, eating lunch with friends, or going for a walk.

6. Work ahead when you can
Notice I said when you can.  Staying ahead all the time is unrealistic because life happens.  However, if you can get a bit ahead on reading and assignments before the semester starts or over break, it’ll make things much less stressful.  For example, a few times last semester, I got a week ahead in my English reading when I knew I would have an insanely busy week coming up.  Just that little bit of time saved, made the week go smoother and gave me a little more time to study for tests.

7. Time management and routine
Use your planner and manage your time well.  Even though college is mostly about learning, there are always a lot of things coming up.
Between working, clubs, and other commitments, it can be hard to squeeze everything into 24 hours.  Try to get into a good routine and stick with it.  Find where and what times you get your best work done and make sure those times are blocked out for studying and homework.  For example, I get my best work done in the morning and in the library.

8. Take care of yourself
Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, and eating (at least somewhat) healthy.  You may not think that taking care of yourself can help with your grades, but getting a good night sleep can do wonders when you’re studying.  Coffee is unavoidable in college and has been a lifesaver for me on many occasions, but just make sure that you’re drinking enough water to stay hydrated. Lastly, try to get some fresh air everyday and stay active.

9. Plan Everything
As I mentioned above, always use a planner. Find what works best for you. I like using google calendar and a paper planner.  I put everything into both including classes, homework, club meetings, work, meeting up with friends, studying, etc. This keeps you from forgetting assignments until the last minute or other commitments, which is easy to do with a busy schedule. I also like to make an assignment list like the one on Dani Dearest.

I hope these tips help you to boost your grades!  Let me know works best for you. Follow me on Bloglovin, Pinterest, & Etsy. You can sign up for my monthly newsletter here.

- Serena

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Welcome to Working for a Dream (formerly Sparkle, Style, & DIY)! You might be wondering, why the name change? On this blog it'll be all things college, lifestyle, and a little beauty which really didn't fit the old name.  So I decided a change was in order. This blog is about working towards your dreams and how to get there. I moved most of my old blog posts over, so you can still find those here.

You can expect to see:
  • Two posts per month
  • College, lifestyle, and a little beauty
  • Lots of tips to help you succeed in college and reach your goals

If you're a reader from Sparkle, Style, & DIY (hey, I'm glad you're here!) you don't have to follow again on Bloglovin, Pinterest, or Etsy. Just on Google+ because I set up a new account.
Follow me on Bloglovin, Pinterest, Google+, & Etsy. You can sign up for my monthly newsletter to be the first to know and get freebies here.
- Serena

Go Green: Save the Planet & Money

Hey everyone! In honor of Earth Day today, I put together 5 easy things you can do to save the planet and save some money at the same time.

Use Reusable Bags
Paper or plastic? How about neither. Not only do reusable bags come in super cute designs, but they also save tons of waste. A lot of Target stores even give 5 cents off your order for every bag you bring.

Bring Your Own Cup
When you go for your morning coffee run, grab your travel cup. Starbucks gives 10 cents off when you bring your own. According to, "If you buy just one cup of coffee or tea in a disposable cup every day, you'll end up creating about 23lbs. of waste in one year". Imagine if we all took our own cups for even half of our trips in a week. 

Stop by the Library 
Buying a book you probably won't read again? Get it from your library instead. Not only is it saving you money, but it saves trees.

Eat Less Meat
Meat is expensive, harmful to the animals, and unhealthy for the environment. mentions, "Producing just one hamburger uses enough fossil fuel to drive a small car 20 miles." If you're not ready to go vegetarian, try meatless Monday. There are so many delicious vegetarian and vegan recipes online now, so it's easy to make the switch.

Spring Cleaning
When you're spring cleaning this year, don't throw away your old clothes, jewelry, d├ęcor, or books.  You can take them to your local consignment shop, donate them, have a yard sale, or sell them online. You can even take your old clothes to H&M to be recycled and receive a store coupon.

We often forget about conserving and recycling but saving the earth should be a big priority. Are you ready to make a commitment to save the planet? Comment below on ways you can go green!
Follow me on Bloglovin, Pinterest, Google+, & Etsy. You can sign up for my monthly newsletter to be the first to know and get freebies here.
- Serena

Dairy Free Churro Recipe

Happy Cinco De Mayo! While I am not Mexican, I love to celebrate different holidays and learn about different cultures. Plus, who doesn't love churros?? I found out a few months ago that I'm allergic to dairy, which has made eating deserts hard, because most deserts have butter or milk in them. In this recipe you can use your favorite milk alternative or regular milk instead, the measurements are the same. The recipe I adapted is from Food Network, so if you want to see the original recipe click here.

What you'll need for the churros:
1 cup of Water 
1/2 cup of Vegan Butter 
1/4tsp. of Salt
1 cup All Purpose Flour
3 Eggs beaten
Canola Oil (for frying)
1/4 cup Sugar (I used raw sugar)
1/4tsp Cinnamon or to taste
 Kitchen Thermometer
Wooden Spatula
Deep pot or pan with high sides for frying in

What you'll need for the chocolate sauce: 
4 oz of Bakers Semi Sweet Chocolate (this chocolate is dairy free, but does contain soy)
1tbs Corn Starch
1/4 cup of Sugar
2 cups of milk alternative (I used So Delicious coconut milk, because I like that it has a very neutral flavor)
First we have to make the dough, so grab a saucepan and combine 1 cup of water with 1/2 cup of butter and 1/4tsp of salt, then bring it to a boil over high heat. Stir in the cup of flour with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to low and stir quickly until a ball is formed, then take the pan off the heat. Gradually beat the eggs into the dough while stirring constantly. Leave this off to the side while you make the chocolate sauce. 

In a small bowl, dissolve 1tbs of cornstarch in one cup of milk alternative and put it aside. Grab another saucepan and put one cup of milk alternative and the chocolate in it. Stirring constantly, melt the chocolate on medium-low heat and whisk in 1/4 cup of sugar and the dissolved corn starch mixture. Reduce the heat to low and cook for five minutes, whisking constantly. Now the recipe says if it doesn't thicken after five minutes to add more cornstarch, but when using a dairy alternative it doesn't thicken the way regular milk would—you don't need to worry about this step. Put a lid on it and set it aside. Now we're ready to start frying the churros. 

In a heavy, high-sided pot heat up about 2 inches of oil to around 360 degrees. 
Mix the cinnamon and sugar together on a plate and put it aside for later, then grab a plate and put a few paper towels on top to put your churros on after you're done frying them. Spoon the dough into a bag and cut the tip (you can use a piping tip to get that nice star shape). Squeeze three or four strips of dough into the oil that are about four inches long. Fry the churros for about two minutes or until they are golden brown, then flip to the other side using tongs and repeat.

Once they're done, use your tongs to take them out of the oil and put them on the paper towels to drain off the excess oil. Put the next batch into the oil and while those are cooking when the first one are cool enough to handle, roll them in the cinnamon-sugar mix. Repeat until you're out of dough and enjoy! I think they were delicious. I say were because as I'm writing this I finished the last one. 

3 Facts about Cinco De Mayo:
1) Cinco De Mayo means 5th of May in Spanish 
2) The holiday actually celebrates the Mexican armys' victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, not their Independence day. 
3) Cinco De Mayo is celebrated with parades, dancing, festivals, and food

I hope that you try out the churros! I plan to do a post like this for most holidays. So if you have any requests for holidays or dishes please let me know. Also, comment what you think of the recipe. 
Follow me on Bloglovin, Pinterest, Google+, & Etsy. You can sign up for my monthly newsletter to be the first to know and get freebies here.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Exfoliating 101

Whether you're new the world of beauty or just looking for some tips, this is a great place to start. We've all heard that exfoliating is good for our skin, but what does it really do?

The benefits:
• Gets rid of dead skin cells 
• Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles 
• Helps to prevent blackheads by cleaning out your pores
• Helps your self tanners go on more smoothly 

How much is too much? 
You don't need to exfoliate on a daily basis. For gentle exfoliating, once a week is generally good. If you're using an intense exfoliator, once or twice a month is all you need. For dry skin, you might want to go a little longer between exfoliating to keep your skin from becoming too dry. Always moisturizer afterwards just as you would when you wash your face.  I like to use Jason Brightening Apricot Scrub from iHerb.

Exfoliating isn't just for your face. 
You can exfoliate all over for the same benefits you would see on your face. A pumice stone is great to use on your feet.  On the rest of your body, try a loofah with an exfoliating cleanser.  Apply your cleanser with a loofah in circular motions. The warm water in the shower will open up your pores so the product works better. Make sure you moisturizer afterwards. 
On your lips, scrubbing gently with a baby toothbrush is a good way to exfoliate dry, peeling skin.

Other tips: 
• Your skin should be clean, so remove makeup first. 
• With any type of exfoliating,  remember to be scrub gently.
• You only need to scrub for about thirty seconds, then rinse. After you wash it off, you can splash with cool water to close your pores. 

If you want to see more beauty 101 posts, let me know. Stay updated and follow me on Bloglovin, Pinterest, Google+, and Etsy. Don't forget to sign up for my monthly newsletter here.
- Serena 

*This post contains affiliate links. If you shop through my iHerb link, you get $5 off your first order and I get credit towards my next order. Thank you for supporting my blog! :)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Raspberry White Chocolate Mocha Recipe

Recently, I tried a mocha at Starbucks and I loved it! So I wanted to make it at home and ended up liking my homemade recipe even more.  Since I don't like the bitter taste of coffee, I like a drink that has a slight coffee flavor. I'm obsessed with this recipe so I had to share it with you.

1 shot of espresso (if you like a stronger coffee flavor, you can use 2 shots)
1 pump Starbucks Raspberry Syrup
15-20 white chocolate chips
milk or creamer to taste (I use So Delicious French Vanilla Coconut Creamer) 

Start with tossing some white chocolate chips in the bottom of your cup (the hot espresso will melt them). I'm using a Cosi Nespresso espresso pod, which has a light lemony flavor. Any espresso will do just fine.
Next, add the raspberry syrup and stir well to blend in the chocolate. If the chocolate isn't stirring in easily just heat it in the microwave for 10 seconds, then stir again.
Now add your creamer or milk and enjoy!

I've also tried this with Starbucks Flan syrup and it was delicious! Another variation is to use semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of white chocolate. Do you get creative with your coffee?
Stay up to date and follow me on Bloglovin, Pinterest, Etsy, & Google+. You can sign up for my monthly newsletter here.
- Serena 

How to Set Goals You Can Achieve

Hi everyone! I hope you had a great holiday. Can you believe that it's already 2016?! 2015 just flew by. In honor of New Year's resolutions, I decided to write a post on how to set goals and ways to help you achieve them. We all set goals in the beginning of the year and usually start out strong, but sometime during the year, they fall by the wayside. Setting your goals right and staying on track can help you achieve them.

Step 1: Have a Goal in Mind
Maybe your goal is to get in shape, start a business, get better grades, eat healthy, travel, etc. Once you have your goal in mind, don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it. If it's something that you really want and are willing to work hard for, it's achievable. Don't get discouraged if things get tough, don't work out right away or you don't have much support. Just keep at it! You can do anything that you put your mind to as long as you're willing to work for it.

Step 2: Make it a S.M.A.R.T Goal
What's a S.M.A.R.T. goal? It's a specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and trackable goal.  Here's a little more detail.

Specific - Make your goal specific. For example, instead of saying—I want to eat healthier this year, try I want to eat a salad for lunch  five days a week.
Measurable -Track your progress as you work towards your goal. Set bench marks and reward yourself when you meet them. You could even reward yourself when you reach half-way.
Achievable - Evaluate your goal. Is it realistic? Is it something you can achieve or something that your willing to work hard enough to achieve? If it's a long term goal, break it down into short-term goals or stepping stones that will make achieving your goal less over-whelming.
Relevant - What does this goal mean to you? You're more likely to achieve it if you feel strongly about it.
Time Bound - Give yourself a deadline that you want to achieve your goal by and write it down.

Step Three: Plan of Action!
Write it down! Put your goal somewhere that you will see it everyday. Write it in color, put washi tape on it, add glitter, do whatever makes you like to look at your goal and motivates you. On another piece of paper, make a checklist of all the little steps or bench marks it'll take to reach your goal. Don't forget to reward yourself when you check them off. 

Step Four: Make it Official 
Tell someone about it.  Telling a few friends about your goal will make you feel more responsible to complete it. Even just saying it out loud makes it feel more official. In fact, comment below on your New Year's resolution!

Keep at it and don't give up. I hope you all have a great New Year! As always, follow me on Pinterest, Bloglovin, Google+, and Etsy. You can sign up for my monthly newsletter here.
- Serena