Empire State of Mind: Adventures in New York

Things to Do in New York City

After spending most of my life in a state where the leaves never change colors, I decided to take an October trip to New York to experience autumn. It was my first time visiting New York as an adult — I’d gone once with my family when I was 11, and once in high school for a journalism conference. This time, I’d have full control of my itinerary and truly have the chance to explore.

Although the trip was unseasonably warm, it was a much-needed escape from my real life, and a great way to spend time with old friends and family. I was only there for a few days, and there are a lot of landmarks and museums I wish I’d had time to see on this visit, but I was able to cover a lot of ground that weekend and had a great time finding my way around the city that never sleeps. I stayed with one of my best friends in Hamilton Heights, and loved getting to know the neighborhood.

For those planning a visit to New York City, check out my suggested itinerary items below!

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Places We Visited: The Highlights

  • Bryant Park
    I started my first day at Bryant Park, a beautiful park in Midtown not far from the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building. Between the pop-up shops and the life-sized statue of Gertrude Stein, this little park offers beautiful views and plenty of people-watching. Bryant Park also has its own café and food kiosks, and hosts events and ice skating at different points in the year.
  • Federal Hall
    Located on Wall Street, Federal Hall is known as the birthplace of American government, as the site of George Washington’s inauguration and the home of our first Congress and Supreme Court. Federal Hall is free to visit and a must-see for anyone interested in the early history of the United States.
  • 9/11 Memorial
    I paid my respects at the 9/11 Memorial on my first day in New York. Visiting the twin memorial pools and seeing the names of those who died was a sobering experience, but also a powerful one. I plan to spend a day at the museum the next time I visit.
  • Storm King Art Center
    For my second day in town, we decided to spend the morning and afternoon upstate. Storm King Art Center had been a bucket list item for me for a while, and our visit did not disappoint. Being surrounded by abstract sculptures in the rolling hills was the perfect way to spend a fall day! For those visiting for the first time, I highly suggest taking a tram ride around the entire sculpture park so that you can choose which sculptures you’d like to return to.
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art
    This was my first time at The Met, but it quickly became one of my favorite museums I’ve ever visited. From George Washington’s Crossing of the Delaware to the Egyptian collections, there was so much to see that we spent an entire Sunday wandering around the museum and still weren’t able to do it all. It is definitely worth future visits!
  • The Little Red Lighthouse
    As one of the few surviving lighthouses in New York City, The Little Red Lighthouse was worth the dangerous trek off the beaten paths we took to get there! 🙂 The lighthouse is located under the George Washington Bridge and has become the inspiration for a sweet little story called The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge.

Things To Do in NYC: Storm King

 

What We Ate

  • Il Cortile Ristorante
    For my first night in New York City, my college roommates and I reunited in Little Italy to catch up over wine (!) and delicious Italian food. Il Cortile featured live music and served an amazing pumpkin gnocchi to match the season. If you’re looking for a good Italian restaurant, Il Cortile is one to try!
  • Barney Greengrass
    I couldn’t visit New York and not have a bagel at some point. Barney Greengrass is known for their bagels (and their cinnamon raisin was fantastic!), but also offers sandwiches, smoked fish platters, and so much more.
  • Hamilton’s Bakery
    We enjoyed a delicious (and Instagram-worthy) Sunday brunch at Hamilton’s Bakery. Located in Hamilton Heights near my friend’s apartment, Hamilton’s Bakery serves breakfast bowls (I enjoyed the Angelica bowl!), along with sandwiches, avocado toasts, bakery items, and much more. They also offer bottomless mimosas and sangria, if you’re looking to indulge!
  • The Chipped Cup
    This little café in Hamilton Heights quickly became my favorite coffee shop in New York. With uplifting notes on the chalkboard outside, The Chipped Cup is a cozy, relaxing place to stop before a busy day of travel. My pick? The iced blueberry tea. Check them out!

What are your favorite stops in New York? Share in the comments section below!

Things I’m Loving Lately: Your 2017 Holiday Gift Guide

Can you believe Thanksgiving is this week? The holidays are creeping up on us, and between classes and work projects, I’ve barely made a dent in my gift shopping list.

However, those who know me best know that I love buying gifts! Gift-giving is one of my favorite aspects of the holiday season, and I love sharing my favorite products and gift finds with friends and readers. For those who still have some shopping to do, check out my latest holiday gift guide for fun ideas (or pop over to my 2015 post for some oldies but goodies). Happy shopping! 🙂

  • IMG_1259.jpgFor your spirit junkie friend:  The Universe Has Your Back 52-card deck!
    I loved Gabby Bernstein’s book The Universe Has Your Back, so when she released this deck of 52 inspirational affirmations, I knew I’d have to order one for myself. These cards are beautifully illustrated and provide positive spiritual mantras that anyone can benefit from. My favorite card reads Joy is the ultimate creator, but you can choose from so many other uplifting messages to help guide your day.
  • For your favorite feminist: This GRL PWR coffee mug.
    Effie’s Paper sells some of the cutest stationery “and whatnot,” but I keep coming back to to this mug. Order yours — or check out their other gift items under $25. (Is anyone else obsessed with the marble Post-It notes, or is it just me?)
  • For the monogram enthusiast: This floral monogrammed wine set from ChicMonogram.
    I’ve written about ChicMonogram before and I will always come back to them! Their store features more than 1,000 customizable gift items, from business card cases to kitchen supplies and much more! Some designs even feature Lilly Pulitzer prints. Check out the entire store here!
  • For the friend who loves Cards Against Humanity: Joking Hazard.
    This game is perfect for your friend who has an inappropriate sense of humor (read: me), especially if that friend hosts a lot of parties. This game is like the comic version of Cards Against Humanity, featuring artwork from Cyanide and Happiness.
  • For the natural beauty: Primally Pure beauty products.
    Primally Pure carries skincare and other beauty products with all natural ingredients that you can actually pronounce. As someone with incredibly sensitive skin, I’m obsessed with their lavender dry shampoo for dark locks and pretty much all of their lip balms, but the beauty brand also carries cleansing oils, spa kits, and more.
  • For the crystal lover: This rose quartz heart necklace from Sinus Finnicus.
    Rose quartz is my favorite crystal, meant to attract unconditional love. The store offers a variety of beautiful crystal pendants with other metaphysical properties as well! These pendants are shipped from Finland, so order early.
  • For the tea enthusiasts: This amazing watermelon oolong from AntiquiTEAs.
    I hosted a tea party at AntiquiTEAs in Winter Garden for my birthday earlier this year, and absolutely loved their watermelon oolong! They sell a variety of delicious loose teas online and in their store at the Plant Street Market. Check out the various flavors on their website — I promise your friends will love you for it!

What are you buying this holiday season? Share your favorite finds in the comments section below!

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27 at 27 Bucket List: Let the Adventures Begin!

Hey readers! For those who read last night’s post, you know that my 26 at 26 adventures have officially come to a close. 26 was an amazing year of self-discovery, travel, creativity, and the strengthening of old and new friendships. I have high expectations for age 27, beginning with my 27 at 27 bucket list. These experiences bring me so much joy, and I can’t wait to share my latest with you in the year ahead.

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Feel free to follow along here (under the 27 at 27 tab on my main menu), as I cross off each item and provide links to blog posts throughout the year. 🙂

Happy reading!

27 Things I’d Like to Do While I’m 27

  1. Travel to New Orleans for our annual mother-daughter trip.
  2. Visit the Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge in Lake Nona.
  3. Take a class at Total Wine.
  4. Travel to St. Petersburg to visit the Salvador Dalí Museum.
  5. Visit a salt room to try halotherapy.
  6. Spend the day in Miami.
  7. Take a boat tour of Winter Park.
  8. Hang out with the flamingos at Flamingo Gardens.
  9. Graduate from my MBA program.
  10. Take a bioluminescence tour.
  11. Complete another round of Whole30.
  12. Go on a ghost tour through Downtown Sanford.
  13. Visit New York City.
  14. Host a tea party.
  15. Go kayaking in Wekiwa.
  16. Visit the Maitland Art Center.
  17. Take a post-graduation vacation.
  18. Attend a performing arts show.
  19. Visit the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey.
  20. Pursue public speaking opportunities.
  21. Take a limo cycle tour.
  22. Finish an old writing project.
  23. Get my writing published somewhere new.
  24. Take a DIY class.
  25. Stroll through the Albin Polasek Sculpture Gardens.
  26. Tour the Stetson Mansion in Deland.
  27. Visit the Orlando Eye.

What is on your list this year? Share in the comments below!

26 at 26 Bucket List: The Year in Review

Good evening, friends! 🙂 For those of you who live in Florida, I hope you fared well through Hurricane Irma and didn’t experience too much damage. Here in Sanford, I was awake for the worst of the storm, but fortunate to have my apartment and car fully intact in the morning. I am grateful that my friends and family made it safely through the storm, and will be sure to post links to any recovery efforts on the blog once I know more.

26 at 26 Bucket List Recap

It’s hard to believe that another year has gone by so quickly, and yet my birthday is already almost here. Recently, I wrote about the importance of creating mini-bucket lists and the joy that my lists have brought me over the past two years. At 25, I embarked on my first year of yes, and 26 has been equally fulfilling (if not more so). Although I didn’t check quite as many items off my list, I discovered many other adventures that I never could have imagined. I practiced yoga with baby goats on an urban farm. I witnessed the Running of the Chihuahuas. I howled with the wolves. The list goes on, and I’m so thankful I was able to see and do so much at age 26.

26 at 26 Bucket List Recap

In the coming days, I’ll post my 27 at 27 bucket list, but for now, check out the recap of my 26 at 26. I am looking forward to the year ahead!

26 at 26 Bucket List Recap

  1. Take a stroll through the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens in MiamiVisited Vizcaya with my family on 11/23/16. 
  2. Visit a fortune teller/psychic. Visited a psychic in Cassadaga and had my tarot cards read on 3/26/17. Months later, I can honestly say that there was a lot of truth in my reading — some good, and some bad. I will definitely pursue another reading this year!
  3. Take a marshmallow-making class at Wondermade. Took a class at Wondermade on 2/3/17 – so much fun! Wondermade has since expanded, and I can’t wait to attend more events at the enhanced location. Learn more about my experience here.
  4. Attend a tea party or visit a tea roomVisited Gryphon Tea Room in Savannah on 1/14/17. Visited Windsor Rose Tea Room in Mount Dora on 1/16/17. As an added bonus, my friend’s bridal shower happened to take place at Infusion Tea later this year!
  5. Take a behind-the-scenes Disney tourThis was something my family hoped to do together, but we were never all able to be in Orlando at the same time. Instead, my dad, sister and I visited the Seacrest Wolf Preserve, which was a completely life-changing experience.
  6. Get my writing published somewhere newWrote my first article for STRIVE Magazine‘s spring issue, published in April 2017. I wrote a second article for this publication, which will come out around October.
  7. Watch a Bollywood filmWatched Tanu Weds Manu on 8/17/17.
  8. Play a game of Dungeons & DragonsPlayed for the first time on 3/17/17. My character, a druidic wood elf, participated in a bizarre St. Patrick’s Day themed one-shot with a twist ending.
  9. Visit the Plant Street Market in Winter GardenVisited for the first time on 4/29/17. I tried raspberry mint tea from AntiquiTEAs and made my own mac & cheese at MAC’d Out — delicious! I will be returning to host my birthday lunch at AntiquiTEAs.
  10. Pursue new public speaking opportunitiesSpoke on an alumni career panel at UCF on 10/31/16. Taught “Saving For College” workshop for Junior Achievement on 11/9/16. Spoke on an internship panel at Valencia College on 4/13/17.
  11. Take a mother-daughter tripTraveled to Savannah, Georgia, from 1/13 to 1/15/17. Check out my recap and travel tips here!
  12. Visit the Orlando Museum of Art. Visited on 8/26/17 – pictures of a few of my favorites here! I absolutely loved this museum and will be back soon.
  13. Finish an old writing project. This was much easier said than done during my busiest year so far in grad school. Stay tuned for 2017-2018! 
  14. Go to a performing arts show. Attended ‘Seminar’ at Theatre UCF on 7/9/17.
  15. Complete another round of Whole30. Completed January 2017.
  16. Take a day trip to Bok Tower GardensVisited Bok Tower Gardens and the Pinewood Estate on 8/13/17. Check out my recap! I will be returning for the Christmas decorations.
  17. Visit my best friend in Omaha, NebraskaTraveled to Omaha from 3/16 to 3/19/17. Recap and guide to Omaha can be found here.
  18. Practice meditation every day for a monthAdded meditation to my daily routine on 8/7/17. I will be writing more about my practice in October – stay tuned!
  19. Read Gone With The WindI haven’t finished it yet, but I’m about 100 pages in.
  20. Take a candy-making classThis was another thing I had planned to do with my family, but the timing was never great.
  21. Go to a pumpkin patchVisited Santa’s Christmas Tree Forest on 10/16/16 and not only picked out a cute little pumpkin, but also cuddled with some very sweet baby goats. Check out the recap here!
  22. Visit the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey. I never made it over there, but it’s on my list for 27 at 27!
  23. Take an Art Deco Walking Tour in MiamiI didn’t get down to South Florida this year as often as I would have liked, so trips to Miami were difficult to schedule. Hopefully at 27!
  24. Visit the CARE Foundation animal sanctuaryVisited the CARE Foundation Open House event on 11/20/16.
  25. Tour the Flagler House in West Palm BeachSee #23 and replace “Miami” with “West Palm.”
  26. Visit the Wynwood Art District in MiamiSee #23.

It has been a great year! What are some of your favorite adventures from the last year?

Things I’m Loving Lately: Hummustir

Hey there, readers! For all of my fellow Floridians, I hope you are getting yourselves prepared for Hurricane Irma over the next few days. It is certainly a scary time to live in the Sunshine State, and I can honestly say that I’m so ready for hurricane season to be over.

In honor of my blog’s relaunch as Wellness & Wanderlust, I’m excited to announce my newest feature: Things I’m Loving Lately. I may not be as influential as Oprah and her “favorite things,” but I can’t wait to share some of my own favorite things with all of you. I’m constantly trying out new products in the wellness sphere, so when I come across something great, I’ll be sure to share it with you right here. 🙂

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We’re kicking things off with something incredibly tasty and timely. Meet Hummustir, a new hummus brand with a truly fresh taste and all natural ingredients. An amateur party-planner and lover of Mediterranean food, I firmly believe that no appetizer spread is complete without a good hummus. What sets Hummustir apart — and makes it a must-have for your hurricane supply shopping list — is that it remains shelf-safe in your pantry for up to a year without refrigeration. It’s also completely preservative-free (really!).

How it works: Hummustir is split into three packages, all in one tub, which include pureed chickpeas, tahini, and spices. Empty the contents of each package into the tub and stir them up with the spoon provided (hence the name Hummustir!) for some straight up deliciousness.

Things I'm Loving Lately: HummustirI’ve tried the Mediterranean Style and Village Style flavors, which I absolutely loved. We served Hummustir at a family gathering, and I’ve brought a few containers to class. It was a hit among family members and grad students alike!

Hummustir is available in your local Walmart and select retailers (find your closest store here), but you can also order online through Amazon and choose from a variety of flavors. Each flavor is vegan, preservative-free, and non-GMO.

I constantly struggle to find healthy food that I can serve when I entertain, but Hummustir does not disappoint. It is the perfect addition to any party or get-together! Give it a try and check out some of their recipes online for inspiration in the kitchen. Can’t wait to hear about what you end up making!

Have you tried Hummustir? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Adventures in Florida: Bok Tower Gardens

“Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it.” – The grandmother of Edward W. Bok

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A few weeks ago, I took a long-awaited mini road trip to Lake Wales. A little more than an hour from Orlando, Lake Wales is home to Bok Tower Gardens, a national historic landmark and one of my 26 at 26 bucket list items.

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For those unfamiliar with Bok Tower Gardens, they are named in honor of their founder, Edward W. Bok, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and the editor of Ladies Home Journal in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He commissioned a landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr., to design a “spot of beauty second to none in the country,” and the gardens were even visited by President Calvin Coolidge.

Bok Tower GardensOne of the coolest areas to visit at Bok Tower Gardens was the Singing Tower itself. The tower stands at more than 200 feet and houses carillon bells, which play concerts twice a day. During our visit, we sat in the garden and listened to the bells, all while admiring the intricate Gothic design and the nearby reflecting pool. (I also happened to make friends with many of the koi who were swimming around out there!)

Strolling through the gardens, even in the Florida heat, was a breathtaking experience. Spending the day among nature was tranquil and meditative, and the perfect way to separate oneself from the hustle-and-bustle craziness that we constantly face.

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We also visited the Pinewood Estate, a Mediterranean Revival mansion on the property once owned by the Vice President of Bethlehem Steel. As an architecture enthusiast, I loved touring through the home and learning about the estate’s unique fixtures and furnishings. No two doors in the mansion are exactly alike, and the tiles (while well-coordinated) differ by room. The docents were helpful and extremely knowledgeable about Pinewood, and they shared that the estate is at its very best when decorated for Christmas. I know I’ll be returning in December! 🙂

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I was so in awe of Bok Tower Gardens and all of its natural beauty, but I was also drawn to the gardens’ spirit of kindness and making the world a better place. Edward Bok put it best: “Give to the world the best you have and the best will come back to you.” It is a beautiful sentiment, one that will keep me coming back to the gardens in the years to come. 🙂

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Your Health in Action: 5 Podcasts to Make Your Life Happier and Healthier

Over the past few months, I’ve developed a brand new addiction to podcasts. As someone whose job requires her to spend a lot of time on the road, I hate thinking about how little I can accomplish while driving. (The most useful gift anyone could ever give me would be a personal driver!) As I’ve begun tuning in to health and wellness podcasts, my drive time has become more enjoyable, and ultimately, much more productive. These podcasts have also been great to listen to while getting ready in the morning before work, even if they do cut in to my reality TV catch-up time! 🙂

By listening to these podcasts, I’ve been introduced to a lot of new books, bloggers, and wellness practices. It’s so easy to subscribe through the Podcast app on your iPhone or through iTunes.  I’m so excited to share a few of my favorite shows with you!

5 Podcasts That Will Make Your Life Happier & Healthier

1. Almost 30
Hosted by Krista Williams and Lindsey Simcik, Almost 30 focuses on a variety of topics, from forgiving our 20s selves to taking care of our skin and practicing holistic nutrition. The hosts are funny, but their tips are practical, and I absolutely love the rapport they have with their guests and with each other.

A few favorite episodes: How Every Woman Can Rock Her Career and Be Fearless As She Evolves with Career Contessa; Feng Shui-ng Your Life for Good Vibes With Dana Claudat; and Curve Model + CEO of Model Meals Danika Brysha on Her Battle With Food, and How It Transformed Her Life

5 Podcasts That Will Make You Happier and Healthier

2. Feel Good Effect
This podcast, hosted by Robyn Conley Downs, is a relatively newer show based in Portland. Robyn makes health and wellness accessible for listeners through solo podcasts and interviews with various bloggers.

A few favorite episodes: How To Naturally Balance Your Hunger Hormones with Kelly LeVeque; How to Get Unstuck and Simplify with Ashley Gartland; and How to Create a Wellness Routine You Can Actually Stick To

5 Podcasts That Will Make You Happier and Healthier

3. The Balanced Blonde Podcast // Soul on Fire
I first heard Jordan Younger, the show’s host, on another podcast (listed later in this post!), and found her advice to be relatable and easy to follow. Jordan, a former vegan, has shifted her focus to a more balanced life in the wellness community. Her episodes integrate wellness hacks with spirituality, and I have truly enjoyed learning from the different guests who appear on the show.

A few favorite episodes: Jeanette Ogden – Real Talk with Wellness Goddess and Instagram Sensation @ShutTheKaleUp; Gabby Bernstein – Becoming a Spirit Junkie, Trusting in the Universe, and Awakening Your Spirit; and Marissa Lace – Crystal Healing, Creating Your Own Life, and Loving Yourself First

5 Podcasts That Will Make Your Life Happier and Healthier

4. Happier with Gretchen Rubin
I read Gretchen’s book, The Happiness Project, earlier this year — and have been recommending it to everyone I know! Her advice on finding happiness is down-to-earth and easy to implement in our daily lives, so when I heard about her podcast, I knew I had to give it a listen. She hosts the show with her sister, Elizabeth Craft, and I absolutely love the organized format and listener feedback. She also records weekly one-minute “little” episodes, which are fun to listen to for an instant boost of happiness.

A few favorite episodes: Do You Struggle With Perfectionism?; Shield Yourself from Worry; and Tackle a Power Day

5 Podcasts to Make Your Life Happier & Healthier

5. Stronger
This podcast is hosted by Livestrong and is the very first podcast I ever listened to. Although there aren’t a ton of episodes out yet, the content has been eye-opening and incredibly practical.

A few favorite episodes: 4 Foods You Think are Healthy That May Not Be; 15 Ways to Never Deprive Yourself AND Eat Healthy; and The Best and Worst Things to Say to Someone Who’s Grieving

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Do you listen to any of these? Share your favorite wellness podcasts in the comments section below!

Your Health in Action: 5 Self-Care Practices for Introverts

Whenever I tell people that I’m an introvert, they are often a little taken aback. “But you aren’t awkward in social situations!” they protest. Others think that I’m calling myself an introvert in self-deprecation, and respond with a concerned “Awwww, I don’t think you’re an introvert at all,” as if trying to comfort me.

The thing is, I don’t consider introversion to be a flaw by any means, nor do I equate being an introvert with lacking communication or social skills. Being an introvert simply means that I draw my energy from within, rather than from other people, and that in order to recharge, I need time alone.

I work in business development, where my job is to cultivate relationships, spread brand awareness, and — on some days — talk to literally hundreds of people in the course of a few hours. I absolutely love what I do, and am so happy to have a job that introduces me to so many interesting people. But when the weekend rolls around, I can’t wait to take a little time to myself.

Your Health in Action: 5 Self-Care Practices for Introverts

For all of my fellow introverts living in an extroverted world, it’s important to take care of yourself and your overall health. This week, we’ll delve into five self-care practices that all introverts should implement into their lives!

  1. Prioritize time to yourself at home.
    This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you’re a chronic over-committer like me, it might be easier said than done. Remind yourself that it’s okay to say no sometimes and stay in! When you know you need the time to yourself, take it. Whether you use that time to curl up with a book, listen to your favorite podcast, or plunge into a mindless Netflix binge is completely up to you. If you get through the entire second season of Master of None in one weekend, I promise I won’t judge!
  2. Go out in public by yourself.
    Go for a walk. Visit an art museum. Go to the movies! It can feel socially unacceptable to do these things alone, but incredibly energizing once you finally do. Get used to doing some things by yourself. One of my favorite memories from last year was when I visited Leu Gardens, which I did on my own. I loved spending time among nature and taking in all of the beauty that the botanical gardens had to offer, and doing so by myself added an almost meditative element to the experience.
  3. Find your creative outlet.
    For me, that’s writing — and yes, I am the cliché girl in the coffee shop putting pen to paper. What can I say? It makes me happy! I also love coloring and attempting to play keyboard when I need to unwind.
  4. Turn off electronics.
    This is an area where I truly struggle, but it can make a world of difference. Thanks to smartphones and social media, we are constantly connected to something. I challenge you to disconnect. Switch your phone to do not disturb after a certain time at night, or better yet, turn off your devices and soak in the time to yourself.
  5. Listen to your body and give it what it needs.
    Make sure you are getting enough sleep, and eat the foods that truly nourish you. Maybe your body is craving physical activity to de-stress, or perhaps diffusing essential oils will do the trick. Make your health a priority — without that, how can you do all of the amazing things you do? 🙂

Any of my fellow introverts in the house? Share your favorite self-care practices in the comments section below!

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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!