Your Health in Action: 5 Clean Cooking Tips for Newbies

For those of you who follow my social media or have been reading the blog for a while, you’ve probably definitely seen me post about my experiences with Whole30 and paleo living. If you’re not familiar with Whole30, it is a nutritional program that lasts for 30 days and is designed to help people discover food sensitivities and kick their junk food addictions. When I first started dabbling in this way of eating in 2014, I quickly realized that I needed to do a lot of my own cooking — something that I’d had virtually no experience with before that time.

For a lot of people, including myself, transitioning to a cleaner way of eating can be intimidating because of the level of cooking and meal preparation that is often involved. Even now, after several rounds of Whole30, I still do not claim to be a particularly talented chef. However, over the years, I’ve significantly improved my culinary skills and picked up a lot of tricks for simplifying the clean cooking experience.

If you’re looking to make a few lifestyle changes and don’t know where to start, check out my tips below!

5 Clean Cooking Tips for Newbies

  1. Prep your meals ahead of time.
    I’ll let you in on a well-known secret: I’m a big fan of #MealPrepSundays. I love to set aside a few hours before the week begins to chop up some veggies, whip up a few dinners for class nights (usually this simple veggie curry), and prep seasonings for other recipes I’ll try throughout the week. I don’t pre-cook all of my meals, but by getting some of the prep work done on Sunday, I can save some time in the kitchen after work. Meal prep will make the cooking process a lot less overwhelming, because a lot of the work will have already been done! I use this weekly organizer to plan my meals.
  2. Sometimes it’s just easier to buy your produce pre-chopped…
    … and that’s totally ok! If it saves time and doesn’t seriously compromise the health benefits of the food you’re eating, why not simplify? I chop most of my veggies on the weekend, but I buy my cauliflower and broccoli already chopped into florets, and often buy my carrots pre-chopped as well. If it makes your life easier and you don’t mind the added cost, go for it!
  3. The Internet is your best friend.
    When following a more complicated recipe or trying out a new cooking technique, look no further than YouTube and Google. Thanks to the Internet, I now know how to poach chicken — and thankfully, it does not mean that I have to hunt my own poultry!
  4. Find your easy go-to’s.
    When you’re in a pinch, having a few simple items in the house that are ready-made can make dinnertime that much easier. For example, I eat a lot of cauliflower rice, so I end up buying it frozen through Bird’s Eye and Trader Joe’s. Find those shortcuts that work best for you, and stock up!
  5. Learn the easy swaps.
    Making a stir fry? Skip the soy sauce and add coconut aminos. Not sure if you have a dairy intolerance? Try cooking with ghee or coconut oil instead of butter. Skipping gluten? Use almond flour or shredded coconut instead of breadcrumbs to coat your chicken. These are just a few examples of some of the ingredient swaps you can make. For more ideas, check out my list of paleo kitchen essentials here!

Hope these tips help you along your own health and cooking journeys! Have any tips to share? Sound off in the comments below!

One Year at a Time: Why Everyone Should Create a Mini Bucket List

If you’ve been reading my blog over the last two years, you’ve probably seen a lot of posts about my birthday bucket lists. For those who haven’t, a little background: in my first few years out of college, I worked hard but put very little time into my own interests and self-care. I never took a single vacation in that time (except to visit family in my hometown), rarely saw my friends, and was constantly telling myself “I wish I did more of [xyz]” without actually doing anything about it. I consider myself to be an unapologetically enthusiastic person by nature, and so I wanted to bring that excitement back into my life again. Thus began my bucket list adventures, starting with my 25 at 25.

One Year at a Time: Why It's Important to Create Mini-Bucket Lists

Creating that first bucket list for my 25th birthday was one of the best things I could have done for myself. My list was simple – just 25 things I hoped to do by the time I hit my 26th birthday – and it encompassed many of the things in my own backyard that I’d always wanted to do. It “forced” me to book a trip to the mountains, treat myself to a spa day, and visit local museums and performing arts shows. I also became a lot more social again, as friends began to join me on these adventures and suggested their own.

Since then, I create a new bucket list each year leading up to my birthday. I can get a little too focused on “serious” goals throughout the year, so I try to steer my list away from things like “clean out my closet” (which is on a completely different list!) or “write the next Great American Novel.” Some of my bucket list items may focus on personal development (i.e. pursuing public speaking opportunities, getting my writing published in a new place, etc.), but the majority of these relate to places I want to visit or activities I want to try.

Creating your own annual bucket list, rather than an exhaustive list of everything you’d like to do in your lifetime, makes everything that much more immediate. Breaking down your list one year at a time is a powerful thing, because it allows you to prioritize your happiness while thinking about what you can do now to attain it. It is my dream to go to the opera at the Palais Garnier in Paris someday, but based on current obligations, that isn’t feasible right now. I can, however, fit in a weekend trip to Savannah or a few hours at the nearby wildlife refuge.

If you’re like I was, and constantly putting off the things you want to do, I highly recommend creating a list that matches your own interests. Do you ever find yourself saying “I’ve always wanted to go there” or “I wonder what that’s all about”? Start with those items, and go on from there. Your list can be as wild, silly, serious, academic, wellness-driven, or creative as you want it to be — after all, it’s your life!

Stay tuned for my own bucket list for 27 in the coming weeks, as well as a recap of 26 as the year wraps up! In the meantime, share your own potential bucket list items in the comments section below!

When “No” is a Complete Sentence

Around my 25th birthday, I embarked on my year of yes. Inspired by Shonda Rhimes (and probably Jim Carrey in Yes Man), I took on new adventures, made travel a priority, and stopped waiting to do the things I always hoped to do someday. For the first time in years, I was finally creating the life I wanted.

If I’ve gained nothing else from the past two years, I do know this: I believe in the power of yes.

However, as I approach my 27th birthday, I’m also becoming a firm believer in the power of no.

The Power of Saying No

A chronic people pleaser, I’ve always hated the idea of saying no. Most of the time, I genuinely want to get involved in new things and spend time with others, but I also have the tendency to overcommit. I’ve said yes to social plans I’m not keen on. I’ve continued relationships past their expiration date simply because of my fear of hurting others. I’ve allowed people to talk down to me and treat me in ways I didn’t deserve in order to avoid confrontation and not upset anyone.

Ultimately, I’ve put myself last.

A lot of people fall into the same camp, hoping to make others happy and disappoint as few people as possible. But by saying yes to activities we honestly don’t enjoy or to negative behaviors from others, we are diminishing the value of our own time and self-worth. By putting energy toward the things that don’t nourish your soul, you are taking energy away from other areas of your life, and are less able to put forth the best version of yourself. It isn’t healthy for the relationships you do value or for your overall wellness.

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Saying “no” can come in many forms, from a simple “I can’t go tonight,” to telling someone that you’re uncomfortable being spoken to in a certain way. It’s okay to take a night to yourself (fellow introverts, I’m looking at you!). It’s okay to block dramatic people from your newsfeed, ignore passive-aggressive comments from frenemies, and unmatch with rude people on dating apps. The world is yours to enjoy just as much as anyone else, and saying no doesn’t make you any less of a kind person.

In recent months, I’ve gotten a lot better at saying no, walking away from negative situations, and not backtracking to explain every last decision I make. I’m not sure where this newfound ability came from, but a psychic I visited in Cassadaga a few months back did tell me that I would find my voice around my birthday. Whether or not my new knack for “no” came from the psychic’s predictions, it has helped me lead a happier and even more fulfilling life, allowing me to become a better friend who has committed to her own self-care.

In short, let go of the optional things in life that make you unhappy. Be open to new people and experiences, but don’t be afraid to say no when you need to. Life is short — shouldn’t we get to choose how we spend it? 🙂

Central Florida on a Dime: 5 Adventures Under $20

Happy Sunday, readers! One big piece of news since Wednesday’s post: Wellness & Wanderlust officially has a domain name! You can now access all of my content at WellnessAndWanderlust.net. I am so excited for the changes to come!

As I mentioned last week, juggling grad school with a full-time job means that vacation days are often limited. Because of that, I love to take advantage of my weekends by playing tourist in my own backyard! Central Florida is well-known for its tourist activities — and I’m definitely a fan of the theme parks! — but there are so many other awesome ways to explore the area without standing in long lines or breaking the bank.

This weekend, I’m sharing five of my favorite (non Disney-themed) activities in Orlando and some of the surrounding cities, all of which you can enjoy for under $20. Check them out and share your own favorites in the comments!

Central Florida on a Dime | 5 Adventures Under $201. Take a marshmallow-making workshop at Wondermade.
Yes, you read that correctly! Wondermade is a locally-owned café that sells handcrafted marshmallows in a variety of flavors, along with hot chocolate, coffee, ice cream, and more. Any time I bring a friend to Downtown Sanford for the first time, we always have to stop at Wondermade. Throughout the year, they host Friday night workshops, where attendees can enjoy hot drinks and treats, learn about the marshmallow-making process, and make their own. The workshops are just $15 per person and perfect for a date night or a night out with friends.

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2. Gaze at the stars at Buehler Planetarium.
Also in the “Orlando North” region, Buehler Planetarium is located on the Sanford/Lake Mary Campus of Seminole State College, and hosts shows every weekend. I first visited the planetarium in December 2015 for the Star of Bethlehem show, and had such a great time that I returned for the Winter Sky Festival a few weeks later! The planetarium hosts interactive shows and presentations relating the night sky to mythology, upcoming holidays, scientific phenomena, and more. Admission is $6 for adults (only $4 for poor grad students like me!). You can access their calendar of events here.

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Central Florida On A Dime: 5 Adventures Under $203. Stroll through Leu Gardens.
Not far from Downtown Orlando, Leu Gardens is home to about 50 acres of beautiful plant life. Entry is only $10 (unless you visit on a free “First Monday”), but once you see the rose garden, you’ll probably want to get married there (which will cost a little lot more). Leu Gardens also hosts classes and community events throughout the year.

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4. Visit the Morse Museum.
One of my favorite museums in Central Florida is the Morse Museum, which is home to the world’s largest collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s works. I’ve always been a fan of Tiffany glass, so my favorite area of the museum is the Chapel, which was constructed for the 1893 World’s Fair. Located on Park Avenue in Winter Park, the Morse Museum is ideally located for a day of good food and shopping, but is also a perfect destination on its own. Admission ranges from $1 to $6, but is occasionally free.

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Central Florida on a Dime | 5 Adventures Under $205. Pick berries at a U-Pick farm.
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love visiting local farms and picking my own fruit! This activity is entirely dependent on the time of year, but it’s fun to come home with your own hand-selected produce. My favorite farm in the area is Tom West Blueberry Farm in Ocoee (check out last year’s recap here!). Admission is free — all you pay for are the berries you pick! During blueberry season, they have other free activities taking place on the farm as well. I’ve gone out to Tom West for the past two seasons and will be returning next year for some delicious Emeralds! A few other local U-Pick farms to consider include Pappy’s Patch in Oviedo and Sledd’s in Mims for strawberries.

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What are your favorite inexpensive activities in Central Florida? Share your suggestions in the comments section below!

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Introducing: Wellness & Wanderlust

Introducing: Wellness & WanderlustHey there, friends!

Now that my summer semester has come to a close, I’m excited to announce some changes here on the blog. As of today, So It Must Be True has officially taken on a new identity. Meet Wellness & Wanderlust, your one-stop shop for all things health and travel! 🙂

Why the change? Over time, I noticed that my blog had taken a natural shift away from college advice and pop culture pieces, and had begun to focus more on my health journey and travels. I had always loved to travel and create itineraries, but in my first few years out of college, I never once left the state of Florida. After walking away from an all-consuming relationship, I began to reevaluate my priorities and started to do more of what makes me happy. I made time for at least one out-of-state trip per year, and discovered hidden gems in my own city.

Introducing: Wellness & WanderlustI know what it means to be busy, for lack of a better word. I’m in my second year of my MBA program, which I juggle with a full-time job and a social life. Because of this, I know about the struggles of limited vacation time and “not enough hours in the day.” It’s hard to live that perfectly balanced life — you know, the one where you somehow cram meditation, exercise, a gratitude journal, homework, and an acai bowl into your morning before 7 a.m., and visit a new exotic location every month (all while running your own business).  With limited time, I’ve learned to make the most of every weekend that I can to explore a new corner of my world. On my health and wellness journey, I’ve also learned a lot of timesaving shortcuts, and I’m so excited to share all of that and more with you!

Look out in the next few weeks for more changes to the blog. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. I look forward to sharing more soon! 🙂

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The Gateway to the West: Adventures in Omaha

Adventures in Omaha: YOUR Travel Guide

When I told friends I’d be traveling to Omaha for spring break, they had to laugh. After all, we live in Florida, home of some of the top spring break destinations in the country, and my friend and I were flying to a state that still had snow on the ground just a few weeks prior to our visit. However, I was excited to see one of our best friends in his new home city, and couldn’t wait to begin exploring.

So what exactly can you do in Omaha, the Gateway to the West? Much to my disappointment, it turns out that you can’t go pick corn* at a U-Pick farm in the middle of March. Luckily, there were a lot of cool spots for tourists and non-tourists alike, and we had a great time discovering a city I might not have otherwise thought to visit.

For those making the trip, check out my suggested itinerary items below! 🙂

Adventures in Omaha | YOUR Travel Guide

Places We Visited

  • Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
    Known by TripAdvisor as the “world’s best zoo,” Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium is a must-visit for all animal lovers. I was especially excited to visit the pygmy goat enclosure (they even let us pet and brush them!), but there were other highlights throughout the zoo — penguins and sea creatures, an indoor desert, an indoor rainforest, the largest cat complex in North America, and so much more. Plan to spend an entire day at this zoo. There is a lot to see, and so many of these exhibits are among the largest in the world.
  • Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
    Aside from a run-in with a very scary man by the river, we enjoyed our trip to see “Bob the Bridge.” This bridge crosses the Missouri River from Omaha, Nebraska, to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Not only were we able to be in two places at once, but we were able to check two states off our list!
  • Joslyn Castle
    “A castle?” you ask. “In Nebraska?” Yes and yes! Joslyn Castle was built in the early 1900s by a wealthy family who owned the Western Newspaper Union. The castle (really more of a mansion) is open for tours on the first and third Sunday of the month, when we happened to be in town, so it was kismet! I highly recommend a visit to this lesser-known landmark, especially if you’re a fan of gothic-inspired architecture.
  • Old Market Business District
    Take a stroll along the cobblestone streets of Nebraska’s Old Market.  The area is filled with eclectic shops and restaurants, but if nothing else, you can enjoy the various street performers and take in the historic buildings.
  • Spielbound Board Game Café
    On our first night, we stopped at Spielbound for some fun. The place is filled with — you guessed it — board games! We played games like Nuns On The Run and (my new favorite) Dixit over hot tea and coffee, and I would 100% return on a future visit.

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What We Ate

  • Flavors Indian Cuisine
    My first meal in Omaha was aloo gobi at an Indian restaurant called Flavors, which was true to its name and did not disappoint! They offer an awesome variety on their menu, as well as a lunch buffet for those looking to mix it up.
  • Fudge and Hot Chocolate in the Old Market
    During our visit to the Old Market, we stopped at the Old Market Candy Shop for fudge! The shop does serve small samples, but of course I ended up coming home with squares of dark chocolate and mint chocolate chip. Afterward, we popped over to Dolci next door for hot chocolate — the perfect way to warm up from the cooler temperatures! Dolci also serves ice cream and other desserts, depending on what your sweet tooth is looking for.
  • Stokes Grill & Bar
    For lunch in the Old Market, we visited the southwestern style Stokes Grill & Bar, where I enjoyed a delicious wood grilled chicken. Visit during brunch hours for an even greater variety.
  • Stella’s Bar & Grill
    This burger joint in Bellevue is known for its world famous burgers and was well worth the wait. They happen to sell T-shirts as well, so of course I left with a purple Stella’s shirt. Now that I’m back in Florida, I wear it all the time.
  • Lucky Bucket Lager
    I’m not much of a beer drinker, but a classmate from Nebraska requested a six-pack of Lucky Bucket since it isn’t shipped to Florida. I caved at the airport bar and tried a sip, and it was actually pretty good! Beer enthusiasts, stop at any Omaha bar or grocery store and you’ll be sure to find it.
  • Omaha Steaks
    I had an Omaha Steak hamburger at the zoo. The verdict? I like McDonald’s a lot better!

Any Omaha natives or recent visitors who would like to share their own local favorites? Sound off in the comments section below!

* I did not eat any corn throughout my entire trip to Nebraska. Just thought you all should know.

5 Tips For Planning Your Next Vacation

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

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If you can’t tell already from the bulk of my posts, I love to travel. I may not be able to do that much of it now that I’m in graduate school, but I try to prioritize even the shorter road trips so that I can experience something new. I truly enjoy visiting a place I’ve never been before, and immersing myself in the culture, food, and history. (Check out my travel guide on Savannah, Georgia, for my latest vacation recap!) However, no vacation is complete without the proper planning, and I’m nothing if not a planner. 🙂

With Memorial Day Weekend almost here and summertime just around the corner, it’s not too late to plan your next adventure. Below are my tips for making it a stress-free vacation, because you deserve it!

  • Call your credit card companies and financial institutions.
    As someone who works in the banking industry, I can attest to this! If you use your card in another state or country, your bank/credit union/credit card company may think that someone has stolen your card and is conducting fraudulent transactions. One of my credit cards was shut down before my trip overseas, simply because I purchased attraction tickets online. Let your financial institutions know where you will be and how long you will be there so that they don’t mistake your travel expenses for fraudulent activity.
  • Plan ahead with a unique itinerary.
    When it comes to vacations, I love this part of the planning process. Before we go on one of our mother-daughter trips, my mom always orders a AAA book to guide us on things to do and places to stay in a particular area. I love the U.S. News Travel site, but I also really enjoy searching for travel blog posts via Pinterest to find suggestions, including some off-the-beaten-path. Having even a rough itinerary will keep you organized throughout the trip and ensure that you have the chance to do the things you’re dying to do!
  • Look for a Hop-On, Hop-Off Tour.
    I am a huge fan of these tours because they allow you to see a lot of the major landmarks and learn the history behind them, while “hopping on” and “hopping off” at your leisure. It’s a great way to spend your first day in a new city! I first discovered these tours in London, but have done them both abroad and in the U.S. If you’re visiting one of the seven cities they serve, I highly recommend Old Town Trolley Tours.
  • Print extras of everything.
    Renting a car? Booking a tour? Designate a folder for all things trip-related, and keep copies of your reservations and tour confirmations with you in case you need to reference that information later on. You’ll thank me when the rental car company doesn’t properly compute your Costco membership discount, and accidentally upcharges you for your car! 🙂
  • Keep your home safe.
    Don’t forget about your house or apartment when you’re on vacation! It’s important to make sure you come back to your home just as you left it, from setting your alarms to cleaning out the fridge. For some more information, check out SimpliSafe’s Facebook page and infographic below about stress-free travel, as well as their tips for keeping your home safe when traveling overseas.. SimpliSafe offers wireless, customizable security systems that use modern technology to protect your home, whether you’re leaving the country or simply leaving for the grocery store. Visit their website here!

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Where are you traveling this summer? Sound off with your plans and other tips in the comments section!

Veggie Curry

Over the past few months, my Sundays have become synonymous with a few things: brunch with old friends, relaxation, and meal prep. Friends in the paleo world have always preached the importance of preparing meals ahead of time, but I didn’t realize how much time I would save throughout the week by chopping veggies, boiling eggs, and having full meals ready to pop in the microwave after work or before classes. Thank goodness I finally listened to them! 🙂

One of my staple meals is Veggie Curry. Most curry recipes I found online incorporated rice or quinoa and garbanzo beans, but I wanted something that would work for me if I was on Whole30 or simply avoiding grains and legumes.

Whole30 Veggie Curry Recipe | So It Must Be True

This recipe is incredibly nutrient dense and flavorful. It’s also easy to make! I prep this meal almost weekly and heat it up before class. This recipe makes about 3 meals.

Whole30 Veggie Curry Recipe | So It Must Be True

Ingredients:

  • 3 bell peppers, chopped (any color – I like to use red, yellow and green)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded or chopped
  • 4 cups cauliflower rice (I use frozen Birds Eye Steam Fresh or Green Giant, but you can also make your own by grinding cauliflower in your food processor)
  • 1 cup chicken broth (use vegetable broth to make the recipe vegetarian/vegan)
  • 3 tbsp petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • Optional: Salt and garlic to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil over low heat.
  2. Add in chopped peppers, carrots, and sweet potato, along with spices. Let cook on low heat for five minutes.
  3. Stir in cauliflower rice, tomatoes, and chicken broth.
  4. Cover and continue to cook on low for 15 minutes.
  5. Uncover, stir, and heat up to medium low. Cook for another 15-20 minutes or until the cauliflower rice has soaked up the rest of the broth.
  6. Serve or store in meal prep containers. Bon appetit!

The Hostess City of the South: Adventures in Savannah

Savannah - 12While discussing upcoming travel plans, my friend Karina brought up an important point: if you didn’t blog about it, did it even happen? Back in January, my mom and I took our much anticipated annual mother-daughter trip to Savannah, Georgia, a city with culture as rich as its cuisine.

The Historic District of Savannah, where we spent the bulk of our vacation, includes 22 town squares as originally planned by James Oglethorpe in the 1700s. The squares are easy to navigate, and each one we visited had its share of landmarks, restaurants, and eclectic shops.

I’m excited to share the highlights of our trip on the blog, and provide a guide for those traveling to this city for the first (or fifth!) time. 🙂

Places We Visited

  • Wormsloe Plantation
    We began our visit at the Wormsloe Plantation outside of Savannah’s Historic District, first occupied by Noble Jones. We toured the museum and watched a short film about the city’s establishment, but the highlight of visiting these tabby ruins was our mile-long walk down the Spanish moss-lined avenue. What a gorgeous view and a perfect photo op!
  • Savannah - 195Owens-Thomas House
    My mom and I are both big fans of historic homes, so visiting this English Regency-style house was a must. The house served as a home for many over the years, including (temporarily) Marquis de Lafayette. We enjoyed learning the history of the home and its architecture. If you only have time to visit one historic home on your trip, this is the one!
  • Telfair Academy
    Telfair Academy is an art museum located in Telfair Square (near the Owens-Thomas House) and boasts a beautiful sculpture gallery. It also boasts its share of ghost stories. For those planning to visit Telfair Academy, your ticket will also grant you admission to the Owens-Thomas House, as well as the Jepson Center, a contemporary art museum.
  • Sorrel-Weed House
    The Sorrel-Weed House is located very close to our hotel, so we decided to pay the home a visit. The home is currently undergoing restoration efforts, but it was interesting to see how people lived in the 1800s when it was first built. It is also a site known for its ghost sightings, so be wary of any paranormal activity!
  • Savannah - 73Massie Heritage Center
    This former school house was converted to a museum after the school closed in the 1970s, and provides a great overview of Savannah and its history. From its interactive 3D map of the city with a laser show to the 1800s classroom replica, we had fun stepping back in time at Massie.

Tours We Took

  • Old Town Trolley Tours: Hop-On, Hop-Off
    Whenever visiting a new city, I always recommend taking a hop-on, hop-off tour if available. Not only do these tours allow you to learn a lot about the city you’re in, but they also happen to stop at all of the major attractions and can be a great guide for getting to know the area. We toured the city on an Old Town Trolley Tour, which transported us to the picturesque Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Congregation Mikve Israel (one of the oldest synagogues in the country and the only one designed with gothic architecture), Massie Heritage Center, River Street, and many more destinations.
  • Ghosts & Gravestones Tour
    You can’t visit a historic city known for its hauntings without taking a ghost tour! My mom and I did a Ghosts and Gravestones tour on our St. Augustine trip last year, so it was only fitting that we returned for our 2017 trip. The tour gave us some additional insight into Savannah’s history, but it also stopped at the Andrew Low House as well as a ship chandlery. Definitely spooky!

What We Ate

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My mom and I don’t consider ourself major foodies, but we did eat a few delicious meals and treats during our visit! Here are some of our favorites:

  • The Public Kitchen and Bar
    Our first dinner in Savannah was spent at The Public Kitchen and Bar, a farm-to-table restaurant located near our hotel. I tried a Thai Coconut Red Curry, while my mom ordered one of the grass-fed burgers the restaurant is known for.
  • River Street Sweets
    River Street, while iconic, was a little too crowded and touristy for our taste. However, we did make a special stop at River Street Sweets, where we sampled free pralines and purchased some candy to bring back to the hotel. The long lines were worth it!
  • Gryphon Tea Room
    Gryphon Tea Room was the perfect lunch spot for our second day in Savannah. The restaurant itself is a sight to behold, with beautifully carved bookshelves, stained glass, and ornate light fixtures.  While I enjoyed my chicken marsala, the highlight of our visit was definitely the pot of Atlanta Peach Tea that accompanied my meal. On my next visit to Savannah, I would love to return for high tea.
  • Chocolat by Adam Turoni
    How can you walk by a store called “Chocolat” and not go inside? Like Gryphon, Chocolat by Adam Turoni is filled with bookshelves and actually resembles a bookstore more than anything else. The store sells gift book boxes of chocolates, mint julep truffles, and a variety of other unique food products. I enjoyed a piece of the Savannah Honey Chocolate Bar and a Raspberry Chambord Truffle. Definitely worth the visit!

Savannah was only a four-hour drive and the perfect way to spend a long weekend for a mother-daughter trip! I can’t wait for my next visit to the Hostess City of the South, and look forward to getting to know this city even better.

Have you been to Savannah? What are some of the highlights from your trip? Share your suggestions or questions in the comments section below!

Adventures in Florida: New Smyrna Beach

New Smyrna BeachIn a few short days, I will be completely finished with my spring semester and one half of the way through graduate school! Time flies when you’re having fun (that, and when you’re up against a deadline on a paper!), but classes have proven especially challenging for me this semester, so I will be excited for a little break. :)

I plan to celebrate the upcoming summer season by crossing a few more items off my 26 at 26 bucket list, spending quality time with friends, and doing some much-needed organizational projects at home. Of course, no summer in Florida is complete without a beach trip, so I’m looking forward to taking a mini-road trip to New Smyrna Beach!

As some of you may know, I grew up a lot closer to the coast, so a trip to the beach was no big deal. However, living in Central Florida often means fewer beach trips, simply because of how much longer it takes to get there! For my 25 at 25 bucket list, I decided to visit a Central Florida beach that I had never visited before: New Smyrna Beach.

IMG_4926New Smyrna Beach is one of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever visited. Not only does it have that picture-perfect white sand,  but you can actually park right on the beach. The last time I went, I felt like I was on spring break! 🙂

If you’re getting in around lunchtime, the best place to stop is the iconic Breakers Ocean Front Restaurant, a beloved landmark in NSB. The seating throughout the restaurant overlooks the ocean (and makes for excellent people-watching), and the burgers are pretty good, too.

For those visiting from out of town, check out Tripping.com to book your vacation rental. From beach houses to luxury vacation homes, Tripping.com has a great selection of places to choose from in New Smyrna Beach and all over Florida, and will compare prices from all of the top sites.

Thinking of making the trip? Here are my top five must-haves for any beach vacation.

  • Proper Hydration
    In case you haven’t heard, Florida can get pretty hot in the summertime. While a cold beer may feel refreshing, it’s important to stock up on water as well in order to remain fully hydrated. Don’t forget your cooler! Bonus tip: A koozie will also help keep your drink cold. Check out ChicMonogram on Etsy for customized monogrammed koozies. Her turnaround time is awesome and her products never disappoint!
  • Cute Cover-Up
    A cute cover-up is essential for any beach trip. I’ve bought a lot of my favorites at Target, and am currently eyeing this adorable kaftan.
  • Sunscreen & Skin Care
    A little bit of sun goes a long way. Make sure to protect your skin from the UVA rays. I like to bring a hat as well to cover my face and (hopefully!) prevent added wrinkles. Don’t forget a lip balm with SPF too– your lips will thank you!
  • Ibuprofen
    As much as I love the great outdoors, I tend to get a pretty bad headache if I’m outside in the heat all day. That’s why I always make sure to pack some ibuprofen or aspirin– that way, I can enjoy the day for longer and still feel great.
  • A Great Beach Read
    For added relaxation, pack along that book you’ve been dying to read. Need some suggestions? For short stories with a splash of dark humor, check out B.J. Novak’s One More Thing, or Helen Ellis’s American Housewife. If you’re looking for sci-fi drama, And Again by Jessica Chiarella is a true page-turner. Or, if you want a memoir with a strong female lead, look no further than Mindy Kaling’s latest, Why Not Me? or Amy Schumer’s Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo.

What are your favorite beach essentials? Any tips for visiting New Smyrna? Share with us in the comments section below!