Trader Joe's Fall Favorites

I've been a huge Trader Joe's fan for years! They have some of the most unique and fast prep foods out there. A couple years ago I had a couple posts (linked below) reviewing fall items at Trader Joe's so I thought I would bring that feature back by reviewing some new items.  I want to share some of my favorite fall items with you!

3 Energy Boosting Drinks that Aren't Coffee

I'm not a coffee drinker and when I wake up in the morning I'm fine to start my day, but find that I have an energy slump around 3-4pm.  Typically it's the bitter black teas that have caffeine while I prefer the fruity herbal teas.  So I had a hard time finding caffeinated teas that I like. Then I tried these green fuels and found they they did the trick to wake me up!

Books by Black Authors

I am trying to actively read more books by Black authors as I think I learn much from hearing from different voices. I recommend buying books directly from Black bookstores, and not amazon which only gives the author a small fraction of the sale price. The first three books are Reese Witherspoon 2020 bookclub selections. I tend to read just about anything she picks as I find that even though the jacket of the book may not appeal to me, after I've read the book I see why it's such a great pick and am glad she broadened my horizon. 

Daily Harvest Review

Daily Harvest delivers frozen smoothies and plant based foods like pizza, harvest bowls,  breakfast bowls, soups, and energy bites. Everything arrives in the mail frozen and you keep it in the freezer until you're ready to use. I've known about this company for many years but never signed up because I thought I can make my own smoothies and that's more cost effective. I always saw Daily Harvest as a luxury item I wouldn't partake in. But as you know I also signed up for meal kit delivery, so I thought I would finally try this too. Mail order meal kits allow me to get healthy food while avoiding going to the grocery store and just stay home and feel safe. While I'm super lucky to be able to work from home, I don't know some days I don't have the energy to cook so I love just being able to grab an easy breakfast or lunch from my freezer.

Kitchen Organization Hacks

I've been working on reorganizing my kitchen over the quarantine. I bought new dishes as I felt I didn't have the right sizes. With more new stuff coming in, I had to start purging other stuff and figure out better ways of organizing my small kitchen. For instance, I'm always buying Starbucks mugs when I travel but don't have space for all of them in my cabinets. I donated a bunch of dishware to Goodwill and then got down to business of reorganizing everything else. 

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale Picks

One of the biggest sales of the year, the N-SALE was pushed back a month this year due to the pandemic but the sale is for fall clothes. That's right, the sale is for brand new pieces for fall. I know this year the sale hits different since so many people are out of work or not shopping to save money. I'm lucky enough to still have a job that I can work from home with no pay cut.  I also understand those that see no point in buying clothes when they have nowhere to go. 

While I do love this sale, my shopping will be limited. The items on my list are closet staples that I wanted before I saw the sale because I consider myself a closet curator with a wish list of gaps I need to fill. Buy what you really need and truly love and only what you can afford.

The sale is opened in tiers for credit card holders who spend the most money at Nordstrom. So I get to access the sale at the very end on August 19.  They have a preview up of what is available during the sale and I combed through all the pages to add the items to my wishlist. Even though some things are already sold out, during the sale they come back in stock quickly. Nordstrom always has free shipping and free returns.

Sports Injury Rehabilitation

I've been a member of  Orangetheory for three years now and always stretch after class. On my off days I lift weights, stationary bike, zumba, yoga  and walking. Somehow I managed to get injured last October, don't know how exactly.  I got high hamstring tendonitis which is a dull aching pain high up on my hamstring, so literally a pain in the butt. So I stopped running and yoga and thought it would go away on its own but it didn't. So I went to physical therapy but wasn't consistent with doing the exercises at home so it didn't go away. My pain was manageable, on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the worst it was only a 2, but it was always there. 

My Best Quarantine Purchases

Here are some recent purchases of mine that turned out to be products that works out really well that I wanted to share with you.

The only thing I like about winter is that I can wear gloves to open doors, but I don't want to wear latex gloves now. While the CDC says coronavirus doesn't easily spread via contaminated surfaces but it's still not completely impossible if you touch your face afterwards. So I bought this germ key to push elevator buttons, open some doors (depending on the width of the door handle), and push buttons on cash registers. I love, love this!

Dry June: Alcohol-Free for 30 Days

For about the past five years I have been doing a Dry January, which is a month without alcohol. Dry January is super popular in Great Britain as is Sober October and Dry July is a thing in Australia. This year I didn't do it in January because I went to Mexico so I did it in June instead. It was fairly easy,  I like to do this once a year as it gives me that "oil change" I need to reboot. Now I'm back to only drinking on the weekends. The reason I did it was to reboot my health goals on June 1 to help jump start my weight loss. I've been exercising consistently throughout quarantine, but have been eating a lot too. And when I drink, I get hungrier. 

Healthy Snack Bars

I wanted to share some of my favorite, clean, snack bars. I don't eat bars everyday, but it's nice to keep them around in case I need a quick snack and they're great for traveling with. All are available at Whole Foods or you can order directly from their website. 

Meal Kits Delivered

When the quarantine started I decided to sign up for two mail order meal kits. My grocery store was often empty of produce and had security problems due to people wearing masks.  I thought it would be safer for me to avoid other people at the grocery store by having my groceries delivered. I signed up for Purple Carrot which is a vegan meal kit and Marley Spoon which is Martha Stewart's brand. I used Purple Carrot five years ago and wrote a review here. While I enjoyed it I didn't stick with it because I found it expensive verses buying the same ingredients from the grocery store. But during quarantine, I found the boxes a huge help. I had so much food I couldn't order take out. I also highly recommend them if you're in a rut for what to cook. I swear some of the recipes are things I would never have done on my own but were very innovative and tasty. Getting two boxes a week, delivered on different days,  is enough food for the whole week. My credit card categories these boxes as groceries so I got 3x points on these purchases. 

Black Lives Matter

art by Daria Rosen

My head space is very emotional being in the epicenter in Washington, DC and witnessing everything. Black people deserve love and respect. The protests aren't new, it's just that everything has been recorded on iphones in the last 5 years so now everyone is forced to see what Black people have always known has been happening. Racial violence is not political, it's a public health problem. The system has always been broken with little to no change. How many marches have their been since MLK's March on Washington? I've spent the last two weeks sad and heartbroken over race relations in our country. This blog has always had posts on finding a deeper meaning in life so I wanted to share some resources about this human issue and how you can be an ally and advocate to the Black community. 

Top 12 Binge Worthy Shows to Watch

I don't tend to watch a lot of TV, other than a standing appointment with Dateline every weekend. With all the extra time at home, I've been watching a little more TV. I switched from netflix DVDs to the streaming so I could watch Tiger King with everyone else. lol I do miss the DVDs because it gets recent movies very quickly and I see that the streaming is missing a lot of movie titles. Also Sex and the City is only available on the DVDs, otherwise you have to get HBO to stream. Here's a list of 12 shows I liked this year, and also a listing of comedy specials you should check out.

The Best Low Calorie Ice Cream

I have a huge sweet tooth so I'm always trying to find healthier versions of desserts. The reason I always eat low cal ice cream is partly for the calories, but also I'm trying to reduce my refined sugar intake. I read this fabulous book last year Cancer-Free with Food that repeats what I've read in many other places, that sugar causes cancer to grow and spread more quickly. And weight gain  to your waistline can lead to cancer.

Cucumber Martini

I love the fresh flavor of cucumber water that you get in hotel lobbies.  When I heard that restaurants are now allowed to deliver alcoholic cocktails I thought what would love to drink? The cucumber cosmo at Fig and Olive but the restaurant is closed right now.  I absolutely love cucumber cocktails and I figured this is something I could make myself. At the bar this cocktail would be $16 plus tip. I spent $70 on the two full size bottles of St. Germain and Effen Vodka. If you do the math, 4 cocktails would equal $70 at the bar. I made 3 drinks and used less than a fourth of the bottles.

Is Your Skincare Routine Spring Ready?

I think we've all seen that meme that says "I now have time for that 24 step skin care routine". lol  Your skincare routine should be amazing right now! You should come out this with incredible skin and experience an intense glow up! Now is also a great time to switch to natural deodorant  so you can go through the detox period at home.

Spring is a time to swap out your heavy winter moisturizers for lighter formulas, step up your SPF game and exfoliate dull skin. While you're home you have time go through your product stash and throw out old products. Sephora is having their spring sale where the whole store will be 15% for VIB members on April 21-29. Sephora just released their summer kits: Summer Sun on the FlyPower of the Petal, Hair Minis, and Travel Minis. These kits are a great way to sample Sephora's most popular and newest products.

I know that skincare is very personal so what works for me may not work for you. My skin type is normal, I drink a ton of water  and don't wear foundation, powder, or bb/cc creams so my freckles show. I like to every so often do updates on my current skincare routine on my blog.  In doing so I didn't realize I had so many Murad products  as I bought them all at separate times. I always do a lot of research on a product to read reviews before buying them. Because a product can claim anything, but not really deliver or have a good formula. Good skin means you don't need as much makeup for your daily life. I've grouped the products by purpose, not order of steps. The idea is you should have one product from each section. 

What I've Been Reading Lately

I had a lot more time to read during the past month. I got a new sectional couch which became my comfy new reading space. If you ever said you didn't have time to read, well now you do! It's a great excuse to turn off the news and escape into a book.

I love sharing my love of books with you and I think these books will help you pass the time that you are stuck at home.  This list has a little bit of everything. Once I start a good book I really look forward to reading a chapter every day. I tend to read right before bedtime so my eyes are not looking at the blue light on my phone. I'm not a huge TV watcher, I mean I watch a few shows but I don't have cable. I only have netflix and hulu so that frees up my time. On planes and waiting in airports I always read, but don't find much time on vacation as my vacations are very active city exploring vacations.  I read my kindle in bed in the dark, but also love a good hardcover book as I can feel how much progress I'm making through the book. I prefer to bring a hardcover book on vacation.

My Favorite At Home Workouts

Now that gyms are closed, I've gotten back into working out at home.  Since I'm teleworking I have more time to workout. I find that working out puts me in a better mood as exercise helps to reduce stress and anxiety. Movement is key to keeping you energized. I've been planning my workouts for the week and writing them in my planner. My workout routine has been to get up early and get a strength training workout in before I start work. I find that working out in the morning is the best time to exercise. I have no distractions and just get it out of the way. Lack of time was why you didn't exercise right? Well now you're home. Then do a live streaming zumba workout at lunchtime. I'm not getting the number of steps in that I used to in a day so I think adding a fun dance workout helps with that. You have an incredible opportunity to better yourself because now you have the time. You can come out of this the best you've ever been! This is your time to start a routine of healthy habits.

A Travel Guide to Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaca is such a beautiful city with so much to offer.  If you’re looking for a non-beach vacation in a vibrant city full of  rainbow-colored colonial architecture, rich history, and craft markets then Oaxaca is your place. Pronounced "wa-ha-ka", it is the culinary and culture capital of Mexico  and most known for its Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration. One of the safest cities in Mexico, Oaxaca  has a friendly, small-town vibe with a population of just 260K. The city is very walkable and easy to explore on foot. Oaxaca ranks #5 on  Travel and Leisure magazine’s list of top cities of the world! #4 is Mexico City and #2 is San Miguel de Allende, so I definitely want to return to Mexico soon. While I saw lots of hotels, I didn’t pass many tourists on the streets. English isn’t widely spoken, even in restaurants so a little Spanish goes a long way. This makes Oaxaca a very authentic destination to visit.

7 Travel Resolutions for 2020

Every year I make the usual resolution about losing weight that never happens so instead this year  I made a fun list of travel goals that I have for myself. I feel that writing them down makes a big difference because it makes it more concrete and it's something I can look to hold myself accountable to make sure I achieve this list.  I want to consume less and instead focus on spending money on experiences and travel, not things/clothes. I’ve been fortunate to have traveled to some really amazing places already  (and never cared about a passport stamp or will add the number to my IG bio as some badge of honor) so my goal is to continue that journey of quality travel experiences.

Winter Reads

The Family Upstairs  by Lisa Jewell
The author is a British mystery/thriller writer. I loved her last book Then She Was Gone and read this book in just two days because I couldn’t put it down! The book is about Libby, who was adopted, discovers that she will inherit a mansion on her 25th birthday. Shocked and wanting  to know more about her birth parents, she travels to the abandoned house only to discover it was the scene of 3 murders, Libby was the only survivor. A few other people have travelled to this house at the same time knowing it’s Libby’s birthday to meet her. The book tells the story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.

Exploring Holland

I spent one week in the Netherlands driving around the country last August . The Netherlands is a small country, it’s half the size of the state of Virginia and 2x bigger than the state of New Jersey to give you a comparison. So travel distances around the country are short. Amsterdam, the capital, is the largest city but there’s so much more to see to get to know the character of the country. Since I have Dutch roots, I wanted to explore the countryside and small towns to experience traditional Dutch culture and see the windmills and other hidden gems.

Rotterdam is a one hour drive from Amsterdam or you could take the train. Rotterdam is the second largest city in the south. It’s also the largest cargo port in Europe so you see shipping docks and cranes along the river. The center of the city was completely bombed during World War II so all the buildings are relatively new and built with modern architecture.  My personal fave was the Cube Houses and the Market Hall. There’s also a lot of street murals that are worth seeing. I only spent eight hours there but made the most of it.