The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas - REVIEW

Whenever I write a book review for a book that I enjoyed reading, I often say that it's a book I feel others need to read. Whether if it's because they might learn something, or because the story is told so well - I find I'm often writing something urging others to read a particular book. It might seem redundant, but I assure you, it's always genuine. I love reading, and the books I review on here, are often the ones that I feel a stronger need to share with others. It's harder to write a review for a book I maybe didn't like as much. I don't want to offend! So while I might come off as a broken record, I assure you - it's authentic.

With that being said, everyone needs to stop what they're doing, and order this book. Better yet, go to your closest book store (I hope that there is one), and buy it. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is astounding. I knew early on that it was going to be the kind of book I would want to review - and shout about from the rooftops.

The Hate U Give shares the story of a girl named Starr who grows up in a black urban neighborhood rife with poverty and violence. She attends a fancy private school in another area of town, which contrasts with her life in Garden Heights sharply, leaving her feeling strained by the mores of these different worlds. When she is the witness of her friend being murdered in Garden Heights, all things change. The story chronicles what comes after this both for Starr, as well as for her family, friends and neighbors.

Angie Thomas wrote a novel that needs to be read. It offers up diverse characters, which are so sorely needed in YA novels - and in general. It discusses issues of racism and prejudice and the police brutality and criminal justice issues that are inherently intertwined with these issues. Thomas tackles these current events in a way that made it nearly impossible for me to put down. While the book is fiction, it reads like it isn't. Perhaps that is because the story it presents could easily have happened yesterday - or it could happen tomorrow. It addresses subjects that are relevant because they are current conflicts within our society, and it presents this topic to a younger audience - giving them a story that goes beyond adolescent romance and cohort drama (not that there isn't a place for this either sometimes).

It doesn't matter your age - The Hate U Give is one of those books that everyone really should read. It gives the reader a lot to think about and does so in a way that draws you in - to the setting and the characters. I found that it moves quickly as you read and despite being quite lengthy, it doesn't take long to finish.

No matter your preferred genres, this is certainly a book I encourage you to read. I found myself reading slower in the beginning of the book, but I often do that as I get used to the characters and the story being presented. It was well worth the lag time though. I gave The Hate U Give a full five stars on Goodreads - where you can follow along with all my reading as I don't always write full reviews here.

I'm also always looking for more diverse books to read, so if you have any suggestions, send them my way!


Six Eco-Friendly Things To Do In Your Garden This Year + GIVEAWAY

Living in Upstate New York, summertime is something to be savored. It doesn't last quite as long as I always want it to, and as someone who loves being outside relaxing or gardening, I don't know if I'd want it to end. Honestly, if I could have a really long summer and fall, and a shorter spring and winter,  I'd be totally down for that!

Our gardens, both veggie and flower are ever-evolving. Every year I make changes, adding plants and (sadly) sometimes eliminating them. Decor comes and goes, and I *try* to learn from my mistakes from previous seasons. Through it all, there are certain rules I go by: with my veggie garden I go for non-GMO always, and organic whenever possible and I don't use pesticides or any sort of weed killers in any of my gardens (veggie or flower). We try to conserve water, and plant things that make different animals happy so the gardens aren't solely for our own benefit.

Personally, I find gardening to be not only a rewarding experience, but also a therapeutic one. I feel like I have an overactive brain sometimes and when I'm working outside it seems to quiet the noise inside my head - at least somewhat. It's also a good form of exercise (trust me - lugging soil and mulch wears on you!) - and it gets you out into the fresh air!!  It's also nice to just sit and enjoy your work from time to time. :)

While the act of gardening might seem like an Eco-friendly activity on its face, there are ways in which our actions can actually be more detrimental - like using harmful pesticides and chemicals to rid our yards of weeds and bugs, or watering your grass (seriously - grass is overrated - plant a garden!). The list below is meant to help you find ways to make your yard work for both you and mother nature!

  • Plant herbs for warding off mosquitoes - mosquitoes are annoying - and scary to be honest. You can try to deter them naturally by planting herbs like lavender, rosemary, and peppermint. All of these are perennial too so you can enjoy them year after year! You can also plant citronella to ward of mosquitoes! 
  • Set up a rain barrel - allowing rain water to collect in a rain barrel is a great way of conserving your water usage. You can easily make one yourself, or buy one. Check your local municipalities - they might even sell them. If you live in Erie County, NY - there is currently a sale on for rain barrels and compost bins - hurry though, orders need to be placed by May 31st!
  • Watch what you plant! I love checking out different nurseries throughout the season, and I can easily buy plants anywhere, but you really need to watch where you're buying them from. This past weekend I went to Lowes and had amassed a cart full of plants I wanted to add to my garden. But then, when I was looking at a shrub, I saw an odd disclaimer that stated that the plant may, or may not have been treated with pesticides that might be harmful to the bee population. Say what??? I knew that Lowes and Home Depot had both come under fire for their use of pesticides that were found to be killing bees, but last I had heard, they had decided to stop using them. However, what I didn't know, was that while they do plan to stop using these harmful products, they are phasing them out over a period of years. Needless to say, I left my cart full of plants and went elsewhere. We need bees. Our plants - need bees. Why would I want to plant flowers that could possibly kill the partner-in-crime that they need??!?!
  • Compost - if you have the space to start a compost pile or bin, do it! If you live in an area where you can contribute to a town/city wide compost - do it! There are plenty of ways to compost, and doing so is a great way of reducing waste and also making your own soil amendment. 
  • Plant milkweed! The Monarch butterflies and milkweed are best friends. The Monarch butterflies are endangered so planting milkweed gives them one more chance to thrive. It's a perennial plant so it should come back for years to come! 
  • Perennial food - This one depends on what zone you live in, but if you live in an area with four seasons, you might think that there aren't many foods that you can grow which come back year after year. Not true!! There are plenty! Many herbs - like parsley, oregano, chives, mints, thyme, and rosemary are perennial. Fruits like blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and grapes can be planted one year and enjoyed for many years after. If you've got the space for trees, you can grow apples, peaches, and pears. Asparagus is a perennial food as well! Planting perennial foods one year can give you a harvest for many seasons after! 
I'm definitely no expert when it comes to gardening - I love to experiment and learn from experience. I don't always follow all the ~gardening rules~ and I enjoy seeing what I can do differently. I do try to make sure that what I'm doing outside isn't having any sort of detrimental impact on environment though so I hope that this list helps or inspires you. If you have any other recommendations, please share them in the comments! Happy gardening!

Help the Monarch Butterflies!! WIN SOME SEEDS! I'm giving away one pack of milkweed seeds so you can plant your own Monarch butterfly haven! Want to win them? All you have to do is leave a comment on this post and you will be entered to win. A winner will be randomly selected - must be in the United States to win. Contest ends May 31st, 2017 - so you'll have plenty of time to start your milkweed plants no matter what zone you live in! Good luck!


Elizabeth Warren: This Fight Is Our Fight (REVIEW)


When I heard Elizabeth Warren had a new book coming out, I pre-ordered it right away. When it arrived, I rushed through the book I had been reading so I could get to it quicker and it definitely did not disappoint. I've been a fan of Senator Warren for many years now. I think she is genuine, wildly intelligent, compassionate, and without waver in her dedication to fighting for those who's voice is rarely, if ever, heard. I find her intensity and passion to be refreshing in the world of politics as a whole. I think there are many politicians out there who have grown cozy in their bubbles and who do not truly care for their constituents back home or the average American *cough cough* I'm looking at you, Chris Collins! *cough cough* This Fight is Our Fight blends together Warren's scholarly style with her humanistic compassion and understanding of what it looks like to be an average American in our society. The book provides statistical insight, with the real-life challenges of many Americans through anecdotal evidence.

This Fight is Our Fight takes the reader on a journey - chronicling much of our history since the Great Depression, and what it took to help build a strong middle class. It also explores the ways in which that strong middle class has been challenged, and effectively destroyed. Warren looks at how we built up our middle class and the efforts we made to ensure that all citizens had a fighting chance at the American Dream, some stability, and opportunity. She also details the many ways in which these supports have been weakened, or in some cases, eradicated entirely, in order to serve the richest Americans, large corporations and industry. Warren argues that these actions - primarily at the hands of republicans, have allowed for our middle class to weaken, and that now with trump as president, our middle class is threatened with extinction.

I think that Warren does an excellent job of highlighting the many ways in which corporations, the mega-rich, and industries as a whole have manipulated the government over the years in order to make it work for them, and not the average American. While much of the book was not surprising, and I was aware of bits already, it was still enraging. Her breakdown of how big business has been screwing workers over the years drives me mad. It certainly makes me rethink the types of business which I will patronize... which I think is exactly the type of reaction that readers should have. This book should make you think twice...even thrice.

In This Fight is Our Fight, Elizabeth Warren not only looks at the past, but also at the future. The book is a rally call - it is meant to energize and wake up those who care about the future of this country. It is required reading for anyone who wants to see America thrive. The book is truly an excellent read which balances facts with slices of humor, and glimpses into real American life. The only thing that I would have done differently, is that I would have included more anecdotes. I think that in order to truly understand the plight of the average citizen, we need to hear their stories. Warren does this, just not to the level that I would have really appreciated. It doesn't make the book any less important though!

Honestly, if you care about the future of this country, you need to read this book!


Chris Hayes: A Colony in a Nation {REVIEW}


I've been following Chis Hayes for many years now. I think the first place I saw him was as a guest on Rachel Maddow, and I liked him pretty much right away. I was a bit slow at picking up his first book, Twilight of the Elites, only reading it last year, but I'm glad that I did. It was an impressive book - with no shortage of factoids and little tidbits to make me nod, or shake my head in frustration and/or disbelief. His newest book, A Colony in a Nation continues to highlight Hayes as a highly intelligent writer with a knack for examining some aspect of our society with refreshing perspective and honesty.

In A Colony in a Nation, Hayes examines our nation's criminal justice system, with a specific look at how race comes into play within this system, and our society as a whole. He suggests that race and our criminal justice system divides our society into two parts: the nation, which is comprised of white citizens, and the colony - comprised of black citizens. Through statistical analysis, exploring the works of others and his own vast knowledge, he gives a brief history of how our criminal justice system has worked both for, and against our citizens. Hayes addresses the significant inequalities and conflict that have arisen within our society - stemming from the relationship between race and our criminal justice system, highlighting recent events which have brought this conflict to the forefront of many conversations, such as Ferguson and the 2014 death of Michael Brown.

Throughout the book Hayes ties the present to the past rather well and I can certainly say that I learned a lot about our past as a country that I'm sort of ashamed to admit I did not know (I will confess: I don't have as great a knowledge of history as I would like). As someone who majored in Sociology, I really enjoyed this book and the way it examined our criminal justice system, racism, and overall conflict within our society, but I think that this is a book anyone could enjoy - and which, everyone should read. I wouldn't describe it as a book which forces you to think in any particular way, but which provides you with facts and background and forces you simply, to think. It forces its readers to consider their own privilege and circumstances, and the environment in which they reside. I appreciate that it is not a book that comes off as overly biased in any one direction, but rather is a book that challenges the reader without berating them or trying to force them into any particular line of thinking. It certainly made me angry. It made me feel wildly frustrated (a feeling that I'm all to familiar with, which I think is hardwired into my personality). It made me think about a lot of things.

The book highlights what I would consider to be significant flaws in our criminal justice system, and left me wondering how, if ever, we are going to fix such a one-sided operation? The issues that exist within this system directly and significantly, impact how society as a whole works. Unfortunately, I would say that I don't believe we are poised to reform any of these issues currently, but I hope that in the future, we can begin to change the mechanisms that allow for the colony, and the nation to exist in such vastly different worlds.

A Colony in a Nation is a book I would urge all to read. It's a quick read and it left me feeling energized to learn more. In all honesty, I enjoyed it even more than Hayes' first book and it makes me excited to see what he comes out with next (no pressure or anything! ^_^)!


TV Style: Daphne Moon (Frasier)

I'm a weird one. I can admit that. I don't always fall for the current fashion trends, and I find myself drawn to older styles far more often than newer ones. I prefer simple over any ridiculous haute couture any day (although I will say that if anyone can rock a really out there style, it's Carrie Bradshaw). If there's one show that really nails it in terms of fashion (women's fashion anyway), for me it's Frasier. There's something about Daphne and Roz's style that just get it for me! It's absolutely 90's/early 2000s style without question, and I'm okay with that. It gives off comfy vibes which I am all about.

Like any style, what goes around comes back around (name that song...), and I've been seeing a lot of pieces lately that really give off that Daphne vibe in particular.

Old Navy seems to be really jumping on the floral bandwagon because they're offering dresses rather similar to this for Spring 17.

This jersey swing dress definitely gives off the Daphne vibes to me, and even though I'm not really a dress person, I'm interested in this one. 

There's also a few episodes where Daphne wears a cami dress over a white tshirt which sounds ridiculous perhaps, but appeals to me for some reason and is definitely coming back. I scoured the internet but damn if I could actually find an image of her wearing said outfit. If you find one, please share it in the comments! It's driving me crazy!! 

This dress nearly nails it - just layer over a white tshirt, add some black tights or leggings and maybe even ..... a scrunchi and BOOM, you're Daphne Moon! 

Perhaps its simply the nostalgia that appeals to me. Maybe I find comfort in these styles reemerging because they bring me back. Whatever it is, I'm down for it and I love that you can replicate these styles on a budget too - thanks to Old Navy. 

No, this post is not sponsored by Old Navy, if anything, it's sponsored by procrastination. ;)


Superior Donuts: REVIEW

On Monday's I watch Scorpion and Two Broke Girls. I usually end up turning on the TV early though and watching the line-up from 8pm - on. I'm always up from checking out a new sitcom, as the genre generally is my favorite, but if I'm honest, when I heard about Superior Donuts, I really wasn't sure what to think. Fast foward to now: I can safely say that the show is indeed worth watching.

The show doesn't always make me bust a gut, and at some points, it gets painfully cheesy.

However, it does something surprisingly well that I just simply didn't expect: it handles important, topical, socially-relevant issues within our society. On the outside, it appears to be a simple situational comedy, but underneath: it's teaching lessons and grappling with difficult subjects like racism, hate-crimes, violence, and gentrification.

Sometimes I think that sitcoms are an even better avenue for teaching lessons and handling difficult subject materials than dramas are. Sitcoms allow the heavier subjects to be layered with comedy - cheesy or otherwise. It allows us to examine an issue within society in a way that takes it just a little less seriously and sometimes that can make all the difference.

So - I commend you Superior Donuts! If you keep airing episodes like you have been, I think the show deserves recognition and success!

Superior Donuts airs Mondays at 9/8 central on CBS


My Current Vitamin Routine

Okay, so I've been really meaning to write this post for awhile, but for some reason or another, I seem to keep putting it off. I put it on my to-do list for this week (again), so I'm finally going to sit down and get it done. Today I'm sharing with you my current vitamin routine!

A little background: I figure it might help to share with you a little background so you can understand why I take what I take. I've struggled with pretty much every type of headache you can imagine, plus migraines for years. As I've gotten older, they seem to have gotten worse. I also struggle with anxiety, joint pain, general fatigue, and a host of other issues (that's as far as I'm elaborating for today...I have some other post ideas on my never-ending to-do list that will explain even more). I've also struggled to find a doctor that will listen to me adequately, or treat the issues I struggle with. I have always preferred a more holistic approach anyways, but since doctors won't listen, I've done my best on my own (the perfect example being my headaches & migraines). Through some experimentation, I've come up with a vitamin/supplement routine that seems to work fairly well for me. I can definitely notice a difference when I take my vitamins consistently, versus when I don't!

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and you should always refer to a medical professional for any advice and/or guidance. I'm just sharing with you what works for me. It might work for you....it might not.

Vitamin C - I've always been a big fan of vitamin C, and even when I didn't follow much of a vitamin routine, I always tried to take some vitamin C. I used to take a gummy version, but the ones I loved were reformulated and now they're coated in sugar and horrible. I don't know how anyone can stand those kinds?? Right now I'm taking a 500mg version from Target. Works for me!

Vitamin D3 - Vitamin D has so many benefits, I think you'd be hard-pressed to not find some way it could benefit you. It's good for your bones, your eyes, lowering blood pressure, etc. And if you live in a colder climate that sees the sun sparingly, it's definitely worth taking. I take 2000iu currently.

A multivitamin - I take a gummy multivitamin because I'm five. Well really, I take one because that's where my whole vitamin routine began and it's simply become a habit. It also contains a little of everything so I don't have to take a million separate pills. I currently take the Vitafusion ones and as long as they don't coat them in sugar, I will continue to do so!

B Complex - I also take a gummy B complex. B is supposed to help with your energy levels, so I continue to take it for that reason primarily. Being someone who is chronically exhausted, I can't say that I've seen much of an improvement, but it's become a habit so for now, I'll stick with it.

Fish Oil - I take a fish oil supplement mainly for the heart benefits. It's hard to find one that is decent, that doesn't cost $$$, and I recently switched from one that was pretty up there in price to the Target store brand version. I haven't been taking it long enough though to recommend it!

CoQ10 - I take CoQ10 to help with headaches and migraines. I can honestly say that since I've been taking this consistently, I have seen a significant reduction in the frequency of my migraines and other headaches (I pretty much get them all). They haven't gone away completely, but at one point I felt like my head hurt every single day in some way or another, and that is no longer the case. CoQ10 can get pretty pricey, but in my opinion, it's definitely worth taking. I've found a fairly affordable option on Amazon which is what I currently take and I really love it!

A probiotic - I struggle with a lot of digestive issues. Let's just leave it at that for now, shall we? I've been bouncing between different probiotics, trying to find the perfect one for me (that also doesn't cost a million dollars), and right now, I'm taking Digestive Advantage. I've tried a few different probiotics and I can definitely say that I notice a difference between when I do, and do not take one! PS - there is currently a clippable coupon on Amazon for the one linked above. It's way cheaper than in store (at least where I live)!!

Magnesium - this is another one that I take to help ward off headaches/migraines. I also take it for joint pain/health. I definitely think it's helpful! I've switched to a Target version of this as well. Since I have a red card (dangerous and lovely at the same time...), I can get free shipping on all my vitamins, so between Amazon and Target, I've got everything covered fairly easily!

Zyrtec - I struggle with allergies, so Zyrtec is a must for me. However, I stopped taking the name brand ages ago because you can get a years supply of the generic for LESS THAN $20 on Amazon. Amazing!!

Chamomile - this is a supplement that I take as needed. I take it for my anxiety, and occasionally for digestive issues. I think that on most days, it really helps. It's fairly affordable too, which is definitely a bonus. I generally start with one capsule as needed, but sometimes I take two. If I feel that two doesn't help, that's usually when I bring out the passion flower (see below).

Passion Flower - like I said above. This is another one that I take for anxiety. I don't take it every single day - only as needed, but I think that it really helps when I do need it. This one is a bit more pricey, but since I don't take it every day, it's not really that bad. I can honestly say that taking these two supplements has really helped me manage my anxiety, and I love that I'm able to do so more holistically.

Okay so that's my vitamin routine - exciting, no? I figured that it might be interesting to some of you out there. I know that I found a lot of guidance online when I was trying to get into a better routine. Like I said above, this is simply what works for me, and I'm by no means an expert! I am however, a huge advocate of more holistic pathways whenever possible, and I welcome constructive conversation in the comments!


Your Nails But Better: Sally Hansen's Color Therapy

The other day I went to the drug store because I was on the hunt for something from Wet & Wild. I didn't find it, but while browsing the new stuff, I came across the new Sally Hansen Color Therapy line. I was immediately drawn to this gorgeous blue/green duo-chrome style color, but I was in the mood for something a little more neutral. There was a whole line of lighter shades on the display and after some hemming and hawing, I opted for the color Rosy Quartz.

I'm telling you - this color is the perfect "your nails but better" kind of shade. I love it!! It gives my nails just a touch of pink, while still staying rather sheer. It compliments my skin tone (at least now in the winter months!), really well and just gives my nails a clean look that I'm really loving right now. I often find myself drawn to darker colors, but there's something about this shift to a neutral tone that I'm all for. I've tried to find this kind of shade for years now and the colors I've tried are always off in some way - too dark - too orange - too brown - etc. This one nails it for me. (See what I did there??)

The color is part of Sally Hansen's new range - Color Therapy. The range claims to last up to ten days without chipping, while also improving your nails in the process. It's infused with Argan oil and I personally found that the smell was a little less harsh than other nail products I've used in the past. The range is pretty big - with 38 colors and fairly affordable depending on where you pick them up! I got mine at Rite Aid and it was $8.99 a bottle!! When writing this post, I saw that Walmart, Target, and Ulta had them for less, so shop around!


Unconventional & Last Minute Valentines Day Gifts

There really is no shortage of options when it comes to Valentine's day gifts. When I went grocery shopping over the weekend, it was like pink had exploded all over the store - there were chocolates and stuffed animals everywhere, balloons, roses, orchids...a chocolate covered strawberry bar....it was everywhere! Now, it's not that there's anything wrong with going the traditional route, but honestly, there's also nothing all that creative about it either. That got me thinking, and I decided to put together a list of easy, perhaps a bit unconventional and most importantly, last-minute friendly Valentine's day gifts.

A subscription to The New Yorker 


You can support print media and provide your loved one with a gift that informs and entertains, and will last the whole year! Their covers & comics alone are worth the subscription and the writing is always fantastic. Plus, with a gift like this you're also supporting some of the hard working journalists in this crazy political climate!

On a bit of a budget? You can get a six week subscription (The New Yorker is a weekly publication) for only $5!!

A gift card for an independent book store 

Have a reader to buy for? How about a gift card for an independent book store? It's always a great idea to try and support the smaller bookstores - especially in the age of Amazon (I have no hate for Amazon - trust me!). You can often find things you wouldn't elsewhere, and the staff at the smaller stores frequently curate lists that can help you find something you didn't even know you were looking for. If you've got a local small bookstore, then hit them up. Otherwise, I'm a big fan of Strand which is based in New York and ships worldwide. :) (PS - their gift section is pretty awesome!!)

A donation in their name 

Pick a cause that matters to your loved one and donate! It's not an expected gift, but it might surprise them in a good way! The ACLU is always a good choice!! 

Art for their walls

How about some printable art work from Etsy? Just purchase, print out and pop in a frame and boom! You've got an instant and unique gift! This one is a bit out there for most, but as a big nerd and an even bigger  Golden Girls fan, I love it!!

The flower alternative 


Flowers are an easy go-to gift, and I can't deny that they're often lovely. However, they just don't last forever. This gift though, will! It's a planter set of redwood trees that you can start indoors, and later transfer outside. The trees will last far longer than flowers and it's definitely a different gift than you might expect! Plus, it's great for the environment! If you hurry, you can get this shipped just in time for Valentine's day!

When it comes down to it, it's always the thought that counts, but these gifts are a little off the beaten path and sure to win you some points! :)


Double Pizza Bagels - RECIPE

I love pizza. It doesn't always love me, but there are some foods that are worth pushing the limits over IMO, and pizza is definitely one of them - at least for me. When I heard that Thomas' Bagels had come out with limited edition pizza bagels, I may or may not have gone to four different stores in search of them. Not only did I know that I needed to try them, but I knew I had to make pizza bagels, on pizza bagels. I don't think that needs too much explanation.

Obviously, you can make pizza bagels, on any kind of bagel that you please. Plain bagels certainly will suffice. But I felt I needed to take on this mission of redundancy and make pizza, pizza bagels.

These are the perfect weekday dinner. They don't take a lot of ingredients...or prep....or brain power. Whether you've been deep in grad school reading all day, working in the office for hours on end, or corralling your offspring, sometimes a mindless meal is much welcomed. Or maybe you did absolutely nothing - that's okay too. When isn't a good time for pizza?

Double Pizza Bagels 
makes six bagel pizzas. 

You will need: 

-Grated Mozzarella cheese (about 2 cups - depending on how cheesy you make them).
-Marinara (I used Francesco Rinaldi - I love this brand!!), about 1.5 cups
-Thomas' Pizza Bagels 

To make: 

-Preheat oven to 375°
-Place 3 bagels on a cookie sheet, open face
-Cover each bagel with sauce
-Layer cheese and then pepperonis on top of your bagels
-Bake for 25 minutes at 375° (give or take depending on preference/oven).

These are super easy to make - and super customizable. Don't eat meat? Go veg! I can't honestly remember the last time I had a pizza bagel, so it was definitely a throwback meal for me. As for the pizza bagels themselves, they're pretty damn good! Worth the hunt!

PS - The Thomas' Pizza bagels are limited edition, so get them while you can!!


Immune Boosting Superfruit Smoothie

I consider myself to be a foodie. By that I mean that I love food - I like cooking and baking. I enjoy trying new foods, and I'm not afraid to dig into a good junk food session. I'll try almost anything once! With that being said, I also try to balance that out with healthier options. I gave up pop years ago, and I'm a big fan of vitamins and supplements. I like to go the more holistic way whenever possible, and likely drive my family crazy with my natural suggestions. ;)

I've had my nutri-bullet for a couple of years now, and while I don't use it on a daily basis, I've been trying to whip up smoothies as lunch more often. The smoothie I'm sharing today was sort of a happy accident. It came from one of my "I wonder if..." moments and I'm so glad that I gave it a go! This smoothie packs a mega punch because not only is it full of fruit, but it's also got the added benefit of Emergen-C! It's full of antioxidants and plenty of vitamin C. Plus, since it's a smoothie rather than a juice - you get all the fiber from the fruit!

I use the Super Fruit Pomegranate flavor from Target, which has 1000mg of vitamin C, plus zinc, vitamin B and more! I love the flavor of this one and frequently have it on its own, but added to a smoothie it adds an extra zing that I really like!

 To make:

Start with fresh banana

Then add frozen mixed fruit (I use a mix that has mango, pineapple, strawberry and peaches).

Add frozen blueberries.

Add one packet Emergen-C Super Fruit Pomegranate.

Fill half-way with water, and then blend.

Using frozen fruit makes the smoothie nice and cold, without having to add ice! This smoothie is a great meal replacement - trust me - it will fill you up!!

If you're feeling under the weather, or just feel like you need a little wake up call to your immune system, then you should give this smoothie a go! I'd love to know if you try this one - especially if you make any variations!!


Real Talk Finances: January

If you read my new years goals post, you'll know that one of the things I want to work on, is my finances. While, I always get my bills paid on time, I have too many bills, thanks to having too many credit cards! This is something I've struggled with working on over the years, and I'm going to not only try to do better this year, but I'm going to try and hold myself accountable, by doing regular updates here on the blog. It's not something I really feel excited to share with the world, but it's the truth, and I figure that maybe it can help others who find themselves in similar situations. I'm not a financial expert (obviously), and I'm not following any of those fairly popular debt plans. I'm a real person, and I'm going at this in a real way - a way that works for me! You can expect monthly recaps on my progress, but I also plan to share tips and tricks that I find along the way. If there's something in particular you'd like me to talk about or explore, please let me know in the comments!

January progress: 

- I closed a credit card that I had paid off the month prior.
- Paid off a credit card this month, and plan to close next month (I want it to cycle so I know it's 100% zeroed out).
- Sold some more books on half.com - this is something I do regularly, but I added a few more books I no longer wanted.
- unsubscribed from some shopping emails. I get so many, and I'm trying to remove the temptation!
- set aside money for future anticipated expenses (vet annual visit, car registration, car inspection, etc.).
- did a bit of a clean out and posted some items to Ebay & Poshmark (which I'm trying for the first time!). 
- downloaded an app for tracking my purchases. I'm still testing it out, and if I like it, I'll share it in the future! 

It's been a fairly simple month as I start out on this goal. I'm happy with the fact that I've already paid off a credit card - I think that's a pretty great start. I've still got some items I want to post to Posh/Ebay, but I also started up Grad School again this month, so I'm trying to balance my time. I'd love to have a garage sale when we thaw out again, but we'll see if that can actually happen! Right now, I'm just trying to keep it simple: I'm monitoring my spending, I've got a rough game plan, and I'm working on making some extra money off the things I don't need/want anymore - which I see as a plus since I'm reducing clutter!!

Feel free to join in on this goal with me! Share your progress/accomplishments in the comments and we can make baby steps together!


January 2017 Favorites

Well, somehow, we made it through this month. I have to be honest: at times its been a difficult one. There are a lot of things to be angry about, worried over, exhausted by...etc. Honestly, I think we should all give ourselves a pat on the back.  

"One breath at a time is an acceptable plan, she tells herself." ~ Ani DiFranco 

...So lets not talk about that, and focus on some good - the things I've been loving this month!


Activism behind the screen: five ways to get involved.

There are a million causes to get involved with; causes to feel passionate about, and sometimes it can feel like you don't have the resources (energy, financial, time, etc.), to contribute in the way you want to, or feel like you should. Or maybe you live in a really red state, and it's hard to find any groups to get involved with. Perhaps, like me, your anxiety sometimes gets in the way. Whatever your reasons, it's all okay. There are plenty of ways to get involved, without even leaving your house. The power of social media, and the internet as a whole is inspiring, but sometimes undervalued. So I put together this quick list of five ways you can get involved online. While it might not feel like direct action, every little movement can create a crack, and together we can make a difference.

1. Follow inspiring people. This one might seem silly, but trust me it's not. Following people who are out on the front lines, can inspire and motivate. It keeps you engaged with what is happening and helps to get the word out. You might not always be able to go out and participate in a particular action or cause, but you can stay informed.

2. Participate in social media campaigns. They might seem useless, or like a bunch of noise, but they are important noise. They signal to others that they aren't alone in what they care about. They help to create momentum and shine a spotlight on a cause or issue. People notice when something is trending - it gives exposure. It helps to engage more people and to create a larger conversation. It can lead to greater organizing. Social media has proven to us time and time again, that it is a powerful tool. Look at the Project for Awesome that happens every year for example!

3. Be kind. Be compassionate. The internet is full of a lot of hate. Make it more welcoming. Pay someone a compliment. Add a kind word to an Instagram post or reply to a twitter feed. There is a lot to get passionate, or worried about in our current world, try and lighten the load by making online communities more inclusive and constructive!

4. Make calls. When representatives or activists call for making calls over a particular issue, make them. Flood those phone lines!!

5. Subscribe to good news media. Support journalism. It's no secret that we now live in a society in which journalism is under scrutiny. Support good journalism by subscribing to their publications and engaging with them on social media. We need these organizations to tell the honest stories! The New Yorker, The New York Times, and NPR are great places to start! If you've got others - please share them in the comments!!

I kept this list short and sweet on purpose. I wanted to make a list that felt manageable no matter your situation. Think of it as a starting point!


This is not America. #RESIST

I've been trying to have a normal Saturday. I did a little cleaning, tried to work on some school stuff, watched a little SVU... but I keep going back to social media and the news because I'm distracted. I'm distracted by the cowardice of donald trump and his vicious and hateful fascist actions. Sometimes we all need to step back or pause. I'm human. The news lately has been so depressing and I've been having a hard time being as productive as I would like to be. Sometimes, I genuinely want to get on a train and head downstate to join in protest. Today though, just feels like its too much. The Muslim ban is disgusting and heartbreaking. It is un-American. It is unconstitutional.

trump has set out to threaten all types of people from all walks of life. He cares about no one but himself and his businesses. He is fueled by greed and hate. He is deranged. He is not presidential. He should NEVER have even been inaugurated. He needs to be impeached.

His hate does not represent America. It does not represent what a MAJORITY of Americans want, or believe. We must continue to speak out against this kind of abuse of power. We must hold our elected officials accountable. 

If you can join a protest, do it.

Call your representatives.

Donate to the ACLU. 

Donate to CAIR. 

Join the conversation on social media. Speak out. Demand action.  



The Sims 4: Vampires REVIEW

I've mentioned it plenty of times here on the blog, but for those of you unaware, I am a huge fan of The Sims. I enjoy the open ended game play, and the escapism that it provides me from reality. Sometimes I enjoy making realistic fantasy lives, and sometimes I embrace the weird. I've been known to spend hours making a house, only to abandon the family within it in mere minutes. It largely depends on my mood, but regardless of what goes down when I play, I'm a loyal fan of the Sims franchise and have been for many years. They recently released a new game pack that takes things to a new level of fantasy: vampires.

While my playing of the game more often than not lives on the more realistic side, I was open to trying out a new fantasy world with vampires. I like that they went for the more traditional, slightly goth, old-style interpretation of vampires, rather than the glitzy (or should I say glittery), Twilight style representation (and I can diss Twilight as I have read each and every one of those books). When I watched the trailer for the game, it was the house features that really got me excited! Radiators!! Spiderwebs! Holes in the walls!! Candelabras! New beds and kitchen counters (two features of the game I have frequently found underwhelming in their styles)!! So whether I decided to really dive into the world of the undead or not, I knew there were decor features that were worth getting the game for.

The game pack comes with a new town: Forgotten Hollow, which is foggy and mysterious and absolutely stunning in my opinion. I haven't explored game play with vampires in other towns yet, because I honestly haven't felt the desire too. I've been satisfied simply exploring Forgotten Hollow!

The house I built from above. Look at that beautifully foggy town! 

The decor has certainly gone beyond my expectations as well. Although, I think it would have been cool if they had expanded on the whole herbology idea - maybe more plants, decor and interactions for the average witch or wizard? ;)

I think they did a great job with the whole vampire story line and its honestly hard for me to think of many ways in which I would tweak or change things. I like that the vampires have to learn about themselves and that they have plenty of different ways to satisfy their needs within creating an endless buffet on humans (although, I can say that I've been enjoying that feature just as much). When they drink plasma, it sort of looks like they're drinking a Capri Sun which is pretty amusing. Oh and I will say that the woohoo in a coffin interaction was a lot more hilarious and animated than I honestly would have expected! I've only been playing the game for about a day now, so there is still plenty left for me to explore, and I like that. I like that there are still unknowns - it adds to the mystery.

Honestly, if you enjoy The Sims at all, I highly encourage you to get this pack if you haven't yet. It's worth it for decor alone, but exploring the world of vampires has been a lot more satisfying that I had thought it would be. I've really been enjoying the escapism from reality! For you simmers, this *should* bring you to the house I build which I uploaded to the gallery. Is it just me or could they stand to make the gallery more user friendly??


Small Great Things - Jodi Picoult - REVIEW


I have never read a Jodi Picoult book before. It's not out of disinterest, but sometimes when an author gets a lot of hype, or is quite popular, I tend to avoid reading their books. I think part of it is that I'm afraid I won't enjoy their work as much as the hype suggests that I should. When something is talked up a lot and put on a pedestal, it gives it a lot to live up to. I guess I feel its easier to enjoy a book when there are no expectations. Regardless, over the years, I've had interest in a few Jodi Picoult books, but it wasn't until her recent work, Small Great Things was released, that I finally decided to give her a try. I will say that I'm glad that I did, and that she certainly has lived up to the hype.


Chicken Soup with Wild Rice {Recipe}

This time of year, the cold can feel like it gets into your bones. It's the time of year where time often feels like it goes by more slowly. There's something special about a comforting meal any time of year, but during this time of year, they can often feel a bit more important: almost like a requirement.

Soup is often the ultimate comfort meal. It's what we frequently turn to when we're not feeling well, or when we need something to warm us up. It's often an easy meal to put together, and over the years, I've developed some habits that make it even easier, as is evident in this chicken soup with wild rice.


At Home Tim Hortons Ice Capp Hack

I don't remember exactly when I had my first Ice Capp, but they always bring me back to summer trips to the beaches in Canada. I swear that the Ice Capps in Canada taste a million times better than the ones you can get stateside, and it's very likely to be true. Not that I have anything against the Ice Capps I can get locally, they're more often than not fine, but they just don't compare!

So I've done a bit of research over the past few months on how to try and replicate an Ice Capp at home. There were many misses, and many ingredients involved. Ice creams, espresso, regular coffee, chocolate syrup....but nothing seemed to really hit the mark. Then, I heard about an elusive product from Nescafe, called Ice Java. Of course, it was only available in Canada, so on my most recent trek over the border, we acquired a few bottles and I set at making an Ice Capp dupe yet again...


Born a Crime - Trevor Noah {REVIEW}

Well, I'm one book down for my 2017 TBR & reading goals for the year. One down, 19 to go! I can't lie: I feel some pressure to try and get a good deal of reading done before the Spring semester starts and school reading takes precedence. I also feel like how I start the year, sets the tone for the rest and how much reading I'll get through. I love to read. I really do. I just don't know how to not be neurotic about the tasks I set out to accomplish. Whether they are hobbies I enjoy doing or otherwise. I suppose that's something to work on...

Anyways, so the first book of the year is read, and I ended up starting the year off with Trevor Noah's debut book and memoir, Born a Crime. I'm a fairly big fan of Trevor Noah. I was a huge fan of The Daily Show when it was hosted by John Stewart, and I think that Noah is a wonderful host as well. He is not John Stewart, just like Steven Colbert is not David Letterman, and no one, I mean no one, is Craig Ferguson (♥♥♥). That is neither complement or insult. It's merely fact. I think Trevor Noah does a great job hosting The Daily Show. I also have to admit that I could listen to him talk all day. That accent. <3

I only knew a little bit about Noah prior to reading his book, just the basics of his life growing up in South Africa, but I knew that I wanted to read his book as soon as I heard about it. I put it on my Christmas wish list and thankfully I was gifted the book.

The book tells the story of Noah's life growing up, but does not really dive into his rise to fame, or his life now. As he is only 32 years old, that's not really surprising. He's still young - and it leaves the door open for more writing if he so desired down the road. It could also be that he doesn't feel the need to talk about that part of his life - that really isn't the point of this book I suppose. I have a thing for memoirs and learning about people's lives though, so I guess I often find myself wanting more (you could probably write a book that documented mundane day-to-day tasks and there's a good chance I'd read it...and enjoy it). I think that by only focusing on certain chapters of his life though, he made the book stronger.

In reading Born a Crime, you not only learn about Noah's personal life, but also, the book exposes you to the climate of life in South Africa. The culture, racism, conflict... the book is incredibly dynamic and while it is through Noah's point of view that the reader is introduced to all of these themes, it feels straight-forward and not overly laced with bias. I think that Noah has a gift for writing - and writing in such a way that engages his reader, through clear language. It was difficult to put this book down - and it was all to easy to fly through the pages, perhaps even too quickly.

Noah fills the pages of his book with the same wit and sarcasm which has made him such a hit as a comedian, and as the host of The Daily Show, and which has made me such a fan. He has a talent at delivering truths while also layering in some humour. Maybe its just the art of highlighting what is ludicrous in reality. Whatever it is, he's got a knack.

In Born a Crime, his discussions of language as a tool of apartheid and of "racist code" is interesting and well done. In the United States, we often hear the argument that people should learn to speak English if they're going to be here. Language is often used in perpetuating societal conflict, and many racists feel that it justifies their fears and their assumptions of other classes, races, and ethnic groups. Someone speaking a different language is seen as untrustworthy. The woman speaking Spanish must be illegal, yes? The man speaking Arabic is dangerous, right? Language is a fuel to the fire these stereotypes create. Language can open doors or close them. Noah discusses the importance and benefit of knowing multiple languages, especially in a place like South Africa, where so many languages exists together. Language helps him to traverse the complicated mix of cultures and social constructs. Later in the book, he highlights just how language, or the lack of understanding a language,  can hold an individual back or pin the system against them. The importance of language is something I'm sure we all can understand and appreciate to a degree, but Noah highlights it's power on a whole new level.

I enjoyed the argument that he makes in Born a Crime, that the dreams we dream, are often limited by what we know. The world we live in, the environment we know and are exposed to, influences what we think of in terms of our hopes and aspirations. Our life chances dictate our dreams. He says,

"We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited."

I think that Noah provides a refreshing perspective when it comes to poverty, and the cycle of living in such an environment. In the book, he also discusses crime, the "hood", and life within it. Noah makes an interesting argument that crime does more to provide for those living in dire straights than the government frequently does. He notes how crime is viewed differently based on the culture and climate in which it is occurring, and how different people view crime differently. Violent crime is still violent crime, yes. However, Noah's life experiences brought him to view crime as a far more complicated subject than many might. Instead of viewing all crime as simply wrong - he accepts the fact that often, crime comes as necessity, and as a means of survival. Something frequently overlooked in the discussion of crime.

Reading Born a Crime, felt like I was reading a book made of many layers. There were personal stories, some lighthearted, others heartbreaking, and then lessons on culture and history. I can say that I feel I have learned a great deal about Noah as a person, but also about South Africa. I found the book to be a rather refreshing read, and it's one I would urge anyone to read. It was my first book of the year and I rated it five stars on Goodreads! I'm glad I started the year off with such a winner!


March - A trilogy - John Lewis {REVIEW}


I have been a fan of John Lewis for quite some time now. When I first heard that he had put together a comic book/graphic novel detailing the civil rights movement, I was fascinated. I needed to get my hands on these books!! I added them to my wish list, and thankfully, I received them as a gift for the holidays. I started reading the first book in the beginning of the month - it's the smaller of the three, but I was busy with other things so it took me a few days to get through it. Really though, if I'm honest, what really gave me momentum to read through the trilogy was the recent criticism Lewis has received for what I see as, his honesty. After spending some time on social media venting my feelings on the subject, I took to finishing book one. Then I read book two that same day... and started on book three... I finished book three today and I immediately sat down to share my thoughts on the triology.