May 25, 2017

Three on Thursday

At this point I'm beginning to think Thursdays trump Fridays. 

Deva Curl
I did an entire post about how I care for my curls but I really feel I need to spotlight this stuff. Zulily recently had a deal and I stocked up since it was cheaper than buying from Ulta or the salon. I've been using Deva products consistently for about 6 months now and I absolutely notice a difference in both the health and ease of doing my hair. Deva is made for curls so it gives all the hydration and curl care you could possibly need. I mean, I guess you could use it on straight hair too, but don't you guys have enough products as it is?!

Even though I love my Longchamp bags they were giving me shoulder pain. I switched to a cross-body but the issue was the same on the opposite side. I finally acknowledged that I needed something that would evenly distribute the weight of my stuff {side note: any time I think about "my stuff" I immediately think about George Carlin's skit about stuff} so I ordered this backpack from Amazon last week. It's roomier than I expected and I've already got compliments on it. Plus, no more shoulder pain. 

The Keepers
A Netflix original documentary series, I started watching this yesterday and I'm hooked. The series follows two former students of a Baltimore nun who was slain in 1969 and the mystery and secrets surrounding her death. I will say I'm immediately hooked to anything true crime. I will also warn you that some of the episodes are rough to watch yet well worth it.

Are you guys ready for the long weekend?  I know I am! 

May 22, 2017

Why I'm Switching to a {Modified} Paleo Lifestyle

Back in April the scale, and my clothes, finally told me something I could no longer ignore. I was weighing in higher than was acceptable and I decided to do something about it. I did a 21 day low/no carb challenge. 

It was a true challenge but it was also educational. I needed to keep myself fueled and full but stick within my parameters while keeping portions in check. As I started my third week, one very clear thought came to me: I don't need carbs {or added sugar}.

Sure they're delicious and all my favorite foods are carb based, but I can do without them. I didn't want to abandon all the progress I'd made so I revisited a paleo link a friend had sent me in my first week. It was pretty similar to what I had been doing for the past 3 weeks.

In case you're really confused about what I mean when I say "modified paleo", it looks like this:

Andouille sausage egg scramble with grape tomatoes and avocado; baked zucchini stuffed with mushrooms and pepper with goat cheese; and riced cauliflower and a grilled chicken sandwich

Quinoa "oatmeal" with scrambled eggs; roasted salmon and spinach and feta stuffed flounder with veggies; quinoa bowl; and tacos

It's a lot of veggies and meat. And because I refuse to give up cheese and beans, that too.

For me, eating this way allowed me to lose weight but not feel as though I was depriving myself. I love to get creative in the kitchen and knowing that bread, pasta, and rice were off the table forced me to get even more creative with my dishes.

It's all about balance. I now have pizza and pasta dishes as an indulgence instead of them being the regular choice. Does this or will this work for everyone, no. But it does for me and that's what matters.

Do you have any grain free or low-carb recipes/ideas you've tried and loved?

May 18, 2017

Three on Thursday

Another week has passed and here we are a little more than halfway through May. How is this happening?! I'm all for summer getting here as quickly as possible but it just feels like the months are speeding by. In any event, here are three things I'm sharing this week.

1. Random Facts
I'm a HUGE fan of random facts and other useless trivia. You never know when it's going to come in handy. The other day I was hopping around on You Tube and this video caught my eye.

I tried this maybe a month ago when I redeemed some points at Sephora. I didn't expect to like it. I figured it would just be some random product that I'd use and never think about again. I sought it out this weekend to find out how much a full size was. At $36 it's a little steep IMO but I really do like the product. It does what it claims and it doesn't leave my face feeling dry or tight as if I were wearing a mask. I left it this time, but I will be buying it in the future.  

My concealer stick finally bit the dust a few days ago and when I went to buy it again found that it had been discontinued {typical}. Fortunately, NYX is a brand I'm pretty comfortable with so I knew I'd be able to find a replacement for cheap. I picked this up and love how easily it applies. I just scribble over what I'm looking to cover and then go about my usual routine {moisturizer + foundation} and it all blends perfectly. I also like that it's good for quick cover-ups and will blend in nicely if used alone. 

That's it for this week! 

May 17, 2017

Vacation Vibes

I'm freshly back from vacation and not entirely thrilled about it. The way I've decided to look at it, I'm only working to fund my next vacation. Which is taking place in about... 4-5 months. 

This trip to Jamaica trumps the others {as if there are so many. I've only been twice.} in experiences had. If I had never done it, I made a point to do it. Simply for the thrill of saying 'yup... I've done that' Honestly, that's kind of how I live my life in general. I'll do things just for the sake of doing them {remember, I'm the girl who purposely got stung by a jellyfish} because in my opinion, it's all about the experience. 

Anyway, this trip was full of experiences.

It started with me wanting to go diving one morning. It turns out the "certification" I got in Cancun was only enough to say I was a wannabe diver. I ponied up the money and got my certification to be a certified diver. It was super easy and my instructor was awesome. It required a pool session, 3 chapters of reading {only I would give myself homework on vacation}, and 2 open water dives coupled with a few skills exercises. I'm happy to say I passed and then went diving every day after that.

{Mom, if you're reading it's the second picture after this paragraph... start scrolling.}
I also successfully gave my mom a heart attack when she accidentally saw me holding a Jamaican Boa. I've wanted to hold a snake for quite some time and I finally got my chance when we visited Jamaica Swamp Safari Village. I also made a point to hold a 2-year old crocodile. I was a little disappointed he didn't start to coil around my arm since I wanted to know what that felt like, but there will be others.

The crocs you see in the last pic were waiting for dinner. And I'm not being punny. The guide made the dinner whistle to draw them out so we could see them. Watching them waddle about was amusing but what made me love them even more? When they decided they had walked far enough they just melted to the ground.

I'm not sure I've ever mentioned this but I can't eat with chopsticks. That changed this week. On Wednesday I tried and resigned myself to being an "American". I tried again with Thai on Sunday night and was able to manage - with my left hand no less {I'm right handed}.

And then of course there's the pretty landscapes...

This was taken at Glistening Waters. We went for the evening swimming excursion. You can't tell from this picture but at night, when the water is disturbed, it glows. The entire bay in this area is bio-luminescent, which was really cool to see in person. I didn't get in but I did splash around. It was too dark to get any quality shots but this is from when we were heading back to shore. 

I have 3 shots of this sunset. Fortunately one has no people in it and it's my favorite. It even replaced the Cancun sunrise on my phone.

If you ask me, this vacation was highly productive and educational, and I had a great time. Now... on to the next one!

May 15, 2017

Journey into the Traveler's Notebook

For the longest time I avoided dabbling in the realm of the Traveler's Notebook. For one, it didn't look fun, and second, what the hell do I do with it?! After months of ignoring and refusing to even acknowledge the TN, it finally started to gain my attention. While flipping through a friend's TN I started to notice the ways in which it could be used and saw how I might actually be able to make it work for me. A few weeks ago I took the plunge. 

I refuse to pay full price for any planner so I hit up the marketplace groups on Facebook to see if anything caught my purse strings. TN sizes are different than other planners and come in a range of sizes which vary based on the manufacturer. I opted for a A6 Chic Sparrow Deluxe Crème Brûlée

It's practically brand new. It's smooth, smells wonderfully leathery, and I love the color and stitching. It comes with 4 elastic bands, two small and one large pocket in the front, and a slash pocket in the back, a pen loop, and a center spine closure.

I ordered my inserts from The 1407 Planners. I opted for the vertical WO2P and the WO1P horizontal {I bought these before I realized I didn't like it}. 

Personally, I'm not a big fan of keeping things in the pockets but I do like to have repeat stickers on hand so I put those in the front. I also added the girl bookmark {from JRD} because she's adorable. 

The Marauder's Map divider I bought from Plan the Day. The best thing about ring or elastic bound planners is you can change things as often as you want. The dividers are sort of like folders so they wrap around the inserts and other things and you essentially get two-for-one with them. After the first page of the divider is the monthly insert. I opted for the monthly with a flap so that I had a space to jot down monthly goals, upcoming plans, or just things I didn't want to forget.

On the next band I added my JRD divider, which wraps around my weekly notebook. 

After fighting it for almost two years I find that I actually like the vertical WO2P layout, especially in this size. I'm not sure I'm ready to leave the horizontal format, which I use in my Kikki K, just yet, but it's growing on me.

After the WO2P insert I added my rain boots divider from Elefont Designs. On the front I put my pre-plan stickies. I use these little flags to keep track of things I know are coming up but I'm not ready to fully plan that specific week/month. Inside this divider I added a blank lined notebook that I found at Hobby Lobby. I'm using it for notes and to keep short gratitude lists. Although I have a gratitude journal I wanted to have something in here so that I could jot things down as soon as they came to me.

  On the last band I have a clear zipper pouch to hold clips and sticker kits.

How pretty are these?! I don't even want to use them!

Lastly, I felt I needed a little bling on the outside so I picked up a 4-pack of mini charms at Hobby Lobby. These ones spoke to me the most because of the Tree of Life and the leaf. The tassel keeps it fun.

I fought having a TN for months but now that I've been using it I'm starting to prefer it. It doesn't weight as much as my Kikki K and I like that I can swap out dividers and entire notebooks if I want. I'm starting to think the functionality of a TN is better, but like any great planning system, it needs to be customized. So far, it's working.

Do you have a Traveler's Notebook, or have you ever used one?

May 11, 2017

Three on Thursday: FWP Rants

Like every other red-blooded American there are some things that just grind my gears. Mainly, when things don't go my way. Don't get me wrong. I'm not a selfish, silver spoon in my mouth brat, but when things don't go as I want or expect them to, well, I can become a little testy. Here are three events that happened recently that royally pissed me off. 

1| Aldo
Let me just start this by saying I used to like them. They have since lost a customer. I ordered a pair of sandals online to be picked up in store. All is well. I pick up shoes, bring them home, and decide I actually don't like them. I bring them back to store on my way into work to return. The door is locked yet it is after the time when they should be open. The employee is standing behind the counter dabbing. I wish I were kidding. He sees me and then goes in the back. I wait semi patiently. 15 minutes go by and they're still not open. Naturally, I complained via Twitter. This past weekend I go to a different location to return. She tells me I can only exchange because I have no receipt {which they did not give or email me}. I call customer service where I'm told they will email it to me within 24-48 hours. Commence the losing of shit. 

2| Dr.'s office
According the to ACA at least one brand of generic birth control needs to be covered 100%. Since December 2016, I for whatever reason have been paying $10 to fill my prescription every month. I finally called my insurance company and asked which brand they covered 100% for the law. They send me a list. I call my Dr's office and tell them I want X brand because it is covered 100%. She tells me they'll call it in. I go to pick up the new Rx... it costs $10. I confer with the pharmacist and it's the same exact Rx as before. Initiate rage. 

3| Target and Best Buy
I had some time to kill before a wax appointment so naturally, I went to Target. I walked in intending to look at headphones since I've lost mine. Instead, I walked out with a pair of black sandals {much needed} and 3 pairs of flip flops since women's shoes were BOGO 50%. Of course as I was ringing myself out the shoes didn't reflect the sale so I had to have them price adjusted. Then, I went to Best Buy because I obviously didn't get headphones.... So I'm there and then I start looking at the $4.99 movies. I grabbed a Looney Tunes collection because I am a 32 year old child and because it was priced at $4.99. At checkout it came up as $9.99 and I didn't think anything of it because I just wanted to go home. Of course once I'm home and looking at it, sure enough the sticker says $4.99. So I call them to verify that they'll still price adjust it even if I've opened it and the guy tells me they don't do price matches after you've left the store. O_o  Good. Because that's not what I asked for.

*Bonus rants*

4| US Bank
On Monday I got a text message saying that a "card not present" charge was made on my card. Seeing as how this card has been sitting in my home wallet since March I know I wasn't the one who used it. A short time later I got an email telling me the transaction was declined. Either way, I wanted a new card. I call US Bank and they're acting like it's some strange request that I'm asking for a new card following fraudulent activity. And the best part: the charge was only declined because the wrong expiration year was used.

5| FedEx
Last Friday I scheduled a Fed Ex shipment and pickup for one of the attorneys I work with. Monday morning he wanted to know what time they were coming to get it. So I call FedEx and the person keeps asking me for a pickup confirmation number. I tell her I don't have one. She then tells me that if I don't have a confirmation number the package was probably never scheduled for pickup, even though I requested one. #rage

I can't with society/customer service these days.... 

May 09, 2017

The One Where I Actually Read Books

Can you believe it? I'm posting about books. I'm dipping my toes back into the reading game now that summer is here. 

Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale

This book definitely lagged in parts, especially the beginning, which I almost found to be boring. Rather than marrying her fiancee on their wedding day, Aimee is burying him. 6 months later she still can't help but feel as though James is still out there. And the psychic whispering in her ear only adds to her growing suspicions.

Eventually Aimee follows her gut across the world to find out if James is truly gone, or if everything she's known for the past year has been a lie.

Wicked Days by Lily Harper Hart

It was free so I downloaded it and started reading. As it's a mystery/suspense book it kept my interested. Of course we all know the truth. It's a love story wrapped in a mystery. Still, it held my attention enough to keep reading, though the story itself was transparent. 

All the Lies We Tell by Megan Hart

This was my selection from April's Kindle First options. I felt that parts of the book moved a little slow. The story was mostly predictable, although enjoyable. I only gave it three stars for this reason. 

Shut Up and Cook! by Erica Reid (courtesy of NetGalley)

Recently I committed myself to a 21-day low-carb challenge. Following the challenge I not only had lost 11 pounds but felt great. I decided to continue eating this way. The thing about eating low-carb is that it requires you to get creative in the kitchen. As someone who enjoys cooking, although not difficult, it can sometimes feel daunting to find/try new things.

Reid's book provided a new spin (to me) on some of my kitchen staples. From the Load 'em Up Vegetable Stir-Fry to the Fry-Free Veggie Spring Rolls I was able to stick to my low-carb choices (or easily modify) and try something new. My favorite was that there were also a few snack recipes. As a big fan of parsnips I was very excited to see and try the parsnip fries!

This is a great book if you're looking to teach an old dog, or cook, some new tricks.

Hi Gorgeous! by Candis Cayne (courtesy ofNetGalley)

Although I completely understand the purpose of this book, I admittedly skimmed it. The entire book is about staying true to yourself and not letting anyone dull your sparkle. And although I agree with those points, this book fell flat for me.

Currently Reading: North Haven by Sarah Moriarty AND I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan

See you next month {hopefully!}

May 08, 2017

April Happenings

I'm still a little surprised we're already a week into May... and that I'm hopping on a plane tomorrow morning for vacation! But before all that happens, let's talk about April....

April ended up being a slow but busy month. 

On the first I went winery hopping. The new rule is that we need to visit at least one brewery amidst the wineries. So far, so good. Lucky Hare, the brewery we stopped at, has a resident tiger cat named Daryl. He's the sweetest thing and just hops from lap to lap accepting cuddles. Their beer was pretty tasty too. I bought a 22oz. to bring home... and a sweatshirt. 

The very next day we did the Color Run for the second year. Little Miss and I ran the majority of it. I was impressed with myself because a) not a runner, and b) kept pace and didn't end up with shin splints. Major wins.

While everyone else is Team Spring, I am not. For me, spring means rain. And although that does mean summer is coming, commuting in the rain is an absolute nightmare. It's windy even when there's no wind, and no matter what you do, you end up soaked because an umbrella will always fail you. In an attempt to make MY life easier I took a trip to the Woodbury outlets and bought myself a rain coat. Now that I have one it probably won't rain for the rest of the season, however, I'm now prepared and no longer need to worry about an umbrella. 

Little Miss turned 5 this month and I'm still not sure where time has gone. She's still this brand new, eyes closed, bundle to me. Yet at the same time she is my favorite person to talk to. She's so smart and funny and incredibly articulate for a 5-year old. And she already has road rage. BFFs for life. 

Also, can we talk about how freaking cool this kid is?! She's patched in to an MC. Before my Dad died he was a Prospect in the Punishers MC. After he passed he was fully patched in and become a member of #31, which is for fallen members. The Punishers are an amazing second family and for her birthday, Little Miss got a vest. All the feels.

I bought a treadmill to keep workin' on my fitness. Going to the gym as often as I should be doesn't fit comfortably into my schedule anymore. I'll go on the weekends, but at least with a treadmill I can get my cardio in at any time and won't feel guilty about wanting to watch TV.

Earlier in the year my cousin introduced me to Explosions in the Sky. When I finally sat down and gave them a real listen I was in love. They're perfect to put on and melt into whatever it is you're doing. It's instrumental so it's excellent cooking, yoga, meditation, or cleaning music. Alyssa and I went to see them since they were in the area. It was pretty magical. 

I finished the month visiting Williamsburg for the first time. I hit the Brooklyn Brewery and had a pretty wonderful day.


And that, my friends, was April. Now, bring on vacation!

May 05, 2017

Why I Am Refinancing My Student Loans from Sallie Mae

A few months ago, my student loan payments increased. Although I can fortunately afford to pay them, it's not a number I'm happy about. The idea of refinancing them has been on my mind lately. Today, James is going to share his thought about why he ultimately decided to refinance his loans! 

I have student loans. I hate having student loan debt. I wish my student loan debt was GONE. Now that you know a little bit about my feelings on student loans, I want you to know that I am here to talk to you about why I am thinking about refinancing my student loans from Sallie Mae. How did I get my student loans in the first place? I desperately wanted a degree and was broke. Anyways, I took out the max amount of federal and private loans that I was offered, which did pay for my college education, but left me in a world of financial debt.

I never knew much about student loans when I took them out and I surely did not know that refinancing was an option until a little bit ago. I looked into refinancing and I learned quite a bit. Below, I’ll expand on what I found out and what benefits it will offer me. Let’s take a look.

I’ll Save Money

I will save money. First and foremost, since most of my student loans are already through a private lender, I do not have the same set of federal student loan benefits that you may have. If you want to refinance your student loans, I suggest you sit and think about it for some time because you will lose those benefits.

Okay, back on topic. If I choose to refinance my student loans with a new private lender, I should save a lot of money. I will receive a better interest rate, which will in turn save me thousands over the course of the loan term. Let’s take a look at a breakdown of what I am looking at.

My current student loan amount is $65,000. Ouch! I know. I have an interest rate of 6.8 percent and a loan term of 10 years. This means that my monthly payment is $748 (my rent amount) and I will pay just over $24,700 in interest alone.

The refinanced loan I am looking at would be my student loan amount of $65,000, but at an interest rate of 3.5 percent and the same 10-year loan term. If I do accept the refinanced loan, my new monthly payment would be $643 ($105 cheaper per month) and I would only pay a little over $12,100 in interest over the course of the loan period.

As you can see, I will save not only on my monthly payment, but also on the amount of interest that I have to shell out over the course of the loan.

My Repayment Terms Are Flexible

Another reason why I may refinance my student loans is because I want the flexibility to change my repayment term. As you can see above, I will save $105 per month if I leave the term the same. I have played with the numbers and it would make financial sense for me to simply shorten the length of my loan and here is why.

First, I will be spending close to what I was originally paying for my monthly payment. In fact, it will only increase about $30 from what I was paying and I will be able to shorten the term by 2 years.

Secondly, shortening the terms will save me over $15,000 in interest payments. I used LendEDU to breakdown my student loan situation and options. Here is what I came up with.

Old Loan

The amount owed on the old loan was $65,000 at 10 years with a 6.8 percent interest rate. This was $748 per month and a total of $24,763 paid in interest.

New Loan

The amount owed on the new loan is $65,000 at 8 years with a 3.5 percent interest rate. This is a $777 monthly payment with a total interest paid amount of only $9,618.

Final Thoughts on Student Loan Refinancing

I want to refinance my Sallie Mae student loans through a private lender because it makes sense for me to. No matter which option I choose at this point, I will save a substantial amount of money over the course of the loan. I am thinking about the second option. Yes, it would require $30 more per month, but I have it to spare and I would be able to pay my loans down quicker and save over $15,000 in the process.

If you want to refinance your student loans, I suggest that you sit down and think about the option, consider your federal benefits, if any, and also think about what the right move for you would be. Play with the numbers and see what type of reduction they yield for you.

James Strab graduated is a recent graduate from Salisbury University. As he continues to transition into the “real world” he is looking to start a personal blog along with becoming a freelance writer to help pay down his student loan debt.  

May 03, 2017

Snapped Vol. 3

I'm back on my "cut back on social media" train but I still managed to play around with my second favorite app. Here's what I've been snapping lately. 

This one was sent to me by my friend. She's an X-Ray tech and she's always sending me awesome snaps of broken bones and skeletons. 

SC filter or real life? The world may never know. 

This picture sums up everything that is wronf with working in NYC. I deal with this about 3x a week. 

And Jesus said, give them coffee and all was right with the world. 

Though I will say this was probably the most ergonomically comfortable mouse I've ever used.