Tips, Tricks and Randoms

Good morning! I hope your week has been a pleasant one, thus far. This week has been a long one, but as we approach the weekend, I thought what better than to share with you some of the interesting reads and product finds I’ve stumbled across throughout the week. Perhaps you’ll find them just as intriguing as I have:

Tips/Knowledge:

  • Rejuvenate Cereal: If you’re similar to me, than at any given time, you might have an abundant number of boxed cereals lining your cabinet shelves. To me, having a vast sampling of cereals to circulate between each morning makes each bowl of cereal a unique experience and one I ultimately look forward to. However, at times, one can pay a price for opening too many cereal boxes at one time and not consuming them within a relatively short time frame. As a result, the cereal we all know and love can gradually become dull, hard and all but inedible. Though, thanks to the friendly and knowledgeable team at All You Magazine, this no longer has to be the case! According to this article (http://dailysavings.allyou.com/2015/05/07/fix-stale-cereal/) to reconstitute cereal that has lost it’s luster,
    “Just preheat your oven to 375 degrees, then spread your cereal out flat on a cookie sheet. Bake your cereal for 5-10 minutes, and then remove from oven and let cool.” Wow, I had no idea I could do this, but it without question solves that nagging, frustrating problem I so often have encountered!

    bowl of cereal

  • How to Know if You’re Making the Right Decision: If you haven’t already noticed, I tend to follow a significant number of magazines and news publications on social media, so it’s no surprise numerous articles often catch my eye. One in particular, posted by another favorite magazine of mine – Marie Claire, tugged at my heartstrings and my mind, so I thought it might be beneficial to share it. This article, (http://www.marieclaire.com/career-advice/news/a14364/ways-to-help-decision-making-choices/?src=spr_TWITTER&spr_id=1449_178248262) details 5 unique and out-of-the-box methods to determine which decision is best. In a nutshell, the article states:

1. Play the Paper Game (i.e. List each possible choice you could make and the potential outcome of that choice on a separate piece of paper, then

  • Moving from left to right, stand in front of the first choice and pause. Look at the choice and then step on top of the paper (symbolically you are stepping INTO that choice). Close your eyes and allow yourself to fully take on that choice. For a moment, commit fully to that option. See yourself making that choice and in the outcome of that choice. How does it feel? What is happening in your body? Where do your thoughts go? What pictures do you see?
  • Repeat the process for the remaining pieces of paper (AKA the other choices)—whichever ultimately felt best is the one you should do.

2. Have Someone Tell You the Choice – Then Note What Your Body Does (i.e. Apparently, if a friend tells you what they think the best decision is, take note of the way they lean when saying it – if they lean in, it is a good choice, versus if they lean back, then their intuition is against the choice)

3. Dim the Lights (i.e. Studies have shown people apparently feel more emotions in bright light!)

4. Make Your Decision Early in The Day (i.e. Apparently, mental fatigue is a true thing, so it is often observed to be better to make decisions early on, before we are influenced by all we have encountered throughout the day, which may persuade or influence our decisions.)

5. Listen to Faster Music (i.e. Apparently a study conducted back in 2009, found that people make better and more accurate decisions when listening to faster music… so turn up that music and get moving!)

Decision Quote

  • Yankee Candle – Homefront Girl Line: If you’re a big fan of candles as I am, then Yankee Candle might be one your favorite candle companies. Earlier this month, Yankee Candle captured my heart and emotions even further with the introduction of their new line of candles affectionately named, “Homefront Girl.” More information can be found on their website: (http://www.yankeecandle.com/browse/new-arrivals/candles/homefront-girl/_/N-8yh) To sum up their initiative, this new line of candles is formed in partnership with Homes For Our Troops (www.hfotusa.org), where Yankee Candle will donate $1.00 per candle sold from the Homefront Girl line, up to $75,000 or until April 30, 2016, whichever comes first! In my opinion, this is an excellent initiative and an even greater incentive to purchase candles. Now, you can purchase candles, experience great scents and contribute to a beneficial cause, all the while, in one transaction!

Yankee Candle Homefront Girl

  • PAPPLE Pears (via Melissa’s Produce -http://www.melissas.com/Papple-Pears-p/1470.htm): As a big fan of fresh produce, I follow one company, Melissa’s Produce, in particular on social media. They often feature new and innovative hybrids and cross-breeds of the fruits we know and love. Just yesterday, I noticed a variety I’d never heard of, but was vastly intriguing to me – Papple Pears! At first glance, they truly do resemble apples, Gala, in particular, but according to the Melissa’s Produce website, they are actually PEARS! It is a hybrid cross between two Chinese and Japanese Asian pears and both has the taste and texture of a pear, while resembling an apple. It is described as semi-crisp, with a high-sugar content. Sounds pretty tasty to me and a variety I’d love to sample!

Papple Pears

  • Ed Sheeran (his newest single – “Photograph“): For a number of years now, I have been a dedicated fan and follower of Ed Sheeran, the soulful musician who is well-known for his lyrics, smooth voice and guitar playing skills. Hailing from the U.K. he has crossed into popular music and receives frequent airplay on the radio. A little over a week ago, I was driving when I heard his newest single – “Photograph.” Since that first time, I’ve heard it many times, watched the music video on Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSDgHBxUbVQ) more times than I’d like to admit and heard him perform it live on “The Voice,” finale Tuesday night. The song in itself is a beautiful one with the lyrics even more so. In fact, I truly believe it could be a wedding song, given the lyrics and overall sound. Definitely take a listen if you haven’t already, I don’t think you’ll regret it!

Ed Sheeran

Motivation for Monday

Good morning and welcome to a new week. I hope your Monday is off to a pleasant start, thus far. This past weekend was a challenging one, personally, so I thought I would share some of the inspirational quotes and mantras currently providing me with some motivation and guidance this week. Perhaps you’ll find them as helpful and encouraging as I do:

  • “If you only have two dollars, spend one on bread and one on a daisy. Your spirit needs to be fed just as much as your body.”
  • “If you can’t change your circumstances, change your attitude.”
  • “Someone you haven’t even met yet is wondering what it would be like to know someone like you.”
  • Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
  • “Your greatest test is when you are able to bless someone else while you are going through your own storm.”
  • “Always help someone, you may be the only one who does.”
  • When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down “happy.” They told me I didn’t understand the assignment. I told them they didn’t understand life.”
  • “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
  • Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.”
  • “It doesn’t matter if the glass is half-empty, or half-full. Be thankful that you have a glass and grateful that there is something in it.”

If you’re a big fan of quotes, inspirational ones and encouraging ones at that, be sure to check out TODAY Show co-host Hoda Kotb‘s Twitter; she posts inspirational quotes each morning and many of the aforementioned ones I’ve posted are from her Twitter, as well as the company, Honest Tea‘s Twitter. Both Hoda’s and Honest Tea’s Twitter pages often provide me with perspective and knowledge, reassuring me when days can get difficult. I hope some of these words might help you, today, as well.

Have a good Monday, friends.

Sunshine

Coffee… “Community” style!

Good Morning, to you and Happy Weekend! I hope the rest of your week was a pleasant one and that your weekend will be a fun, relaxing and enjoyable one! If you’re a big coffee-drinker like me, or even a tea drinker, then I have just the right find to share with you today! Perhaps you may have heard of them and are already a big fan like me, or maybe you’ve heard of them, but aren’t familiar with their products, OR, you may not have heard of them at all, but in any case, the company Community Coffee is one that I am proud to share with you today and hope you’ll consider them the next time you’re in the market for a soothing cup of java!

Coffee Cup

Anyone who knows me knows that one of my favorite beverages and conversational topics is coffee! I’ve tried dozens and dozens of varieties, everything from nationally-known brands, to lesser known brands and even store brands, in many flavors, both ground and whole bean, and k-cups, as well. Though, in recent months, I learned of a brand that unbeknownst to me at the time has been around for years and is not only brewing/harvesting incredibly tasteful and exquisite coffee, but also supporting the local and national communities, including our military.

The company I am referring to is Community Coffee, truly living up to their name and serving as the epitome of what it means to be community-oriented.

Community Coffee Logo

Recently, they generously provided me with the unique opportunity to choose three varieties of coffee (either ground or k-cup versions) of my choice. After perusing through their website, I chose the three varieties that most stood out to me (ever being the fan of flavored coffees!) – Pecan Praline, Vanilla Creme Brulee, as well as Hazelnut. All three sounded incredible and as though they would provide me with much incentive to stumble out of bed each early morning in anticipation of their fresh, wholesome, full-bodied brews.

The Coffee Samplings:

Within several days, the coffees arrived at my doorstep, packaged neatly, awaiting my sampling. Here is a quick snapshot of the coffee packages:

Commuity Coffee

Having been particularly curious and intrigued about the Pecan Praline flavor, given it’s uniqueness, I opted to try it first, the very next morning! I awoke early that day, and quickly prepared my coffee-maker, patiently awaiting the completion of the brewing process. Within several minutes, a steaming mug of Pecan Praline coffee graced my hands and I was instantly greeted by the nutty, caramel-infused taste of coffee. It was both full-bodied and rich with a strong, pleasant flavor and aroma. The smell in itself was comforting to the point where I was almost convinced that glazed Pecan cinnamon buns were baking in my oven! Such incredible flavor and aroma, Pecan Praline coffee definitely did not disappoint! If you’re looking for a flavorful, yet still strong coffee flavor, this is definitely an excellent option to consider.

Community Coffee Pecan Praline

Next up on the coffee sampling agenda, was none other than Vanilla Creme Brulee! The next morning, I again woke early in anticipation of trying this second coffee flavor, intrigued and curious about it’s flavors. Much of the time, I am a fan of vanilla-flavored coffees, but in the past have had some not so pleasant experiences, so while I was eager to sample this flavor, at the same time, I was a bit apprehensive. After completing the brewing process, the fragrant aroma of subtle vanilla and caramel notes immediately filled the air. The aroma reminded me of a favorite, comforting bowl of oatmeal infused with vanilla and syrup. Immediately, I rushed to pour myself a mug of the brew, enveloped in its pleasant aroma. The first sip solidified my already blossoming love of Community Coffee, as a company. The taste of the Vanilla Creme Brulee coffee was reminiscent of drizzled syrup and sweet vanilla. Again, like Pecan Praline flavor, the coffee was rich and full-bodied, with impeccable coffee-flavor and delicate sweetness.

Community Coffee Vanilla Creme Brulee

As the next morning beckoned, I counted the minutes until it was time to prepare the last sample of Community Coffee, none other than Hazelnut! In selecting coffees to purchase, I most frequently gravitate towards Hazelnut, as the flavor is a nutty, caramel-like flavor, both of which I’ve taken a fondness to. It was easy to select this flavor when given the option, curious as to how Community Coffee’s version might compare to other Hazelnut coffees I’ve experienced in the past. As I did with the two other flavors, I quickly completed the necessary brewing steps and patiently awaited it’s completion. Within minutes, the familiar, nutty aroma of Hazelnut filled the air, blanketing me in comfort as I took a sip. The flavor seemed to shine through, complemented by the again, full-bodied coffee taste and texture. What I loved most about all the brews of Community Coffee is how truly potent the coffee is, never watery or faint, but always able to shine through, no matter the flavor. The Hazelnut version tasted like a combination of nuts, caramel and hints of chocolate and even cinnamon; all leaving me wanting more and eager to try the abundant other flavors offered by Community Coffee.

Community Coffee Hazelnut

Many, many thanks to the Devin and the wonderfully kind and generous team at Community Coffee, who graciously provided me with these coffee samples, affording me the opportunity to share my personal opinions and reviews with fellow Community Coffee fans or perhaps soon-to-be Community Coffee fans!

Community Coffee as a Company:

Backtracking a bit, I thought it was important to share that in light of May being Military Awareness month, it is important to note of Community Coffee’s Millitary Match Program (learn more specific information about it at their website – http://www.communitycoffee.com/militarymatch.) In a nutshell, Community Coffee Company supports U.S. military personnel by doubling orders to ensure servicemen and servicewomen get a cup of home. When you buy a Military Match set of four 12oz, 16oz, or Single Serve 18ct coffees, Community will match your order with an additional four, and send all eight items – plus a signature military mug – to the APO/FPO or military base address you provide.

Started by Henry Norman “Cap” Saurage back in 1919, according to the official Community Coffee website (www.communitycoffee.com) “The success of Community Coffee Company can be attributed to prioritizing the two things most important to Cap—making the highest-quality coffee and a strong sense of community. Cap called his coffee “Community” because of the overwhelming support he received from the community that he loved. Today, the company gives back through its Community Cash for Schools® program, which has helped schools earn funds for over 25 years, and its Military Match Program, which doubles orders of coffee shipped to troops in support of U.S. military service. “We are committed to meeting and exceeding expectations,” says fourth generation owner of Community Coffee Company Matt Saurage. “Everything we do has to be as good as our coffee.”

Community Coffee Military              Community Coffee Military 2

Product Lines:

As a diverse company, Community Coffee offers a vast array of products with new versions and varieties always emerging and includes, but not limited to:

  • Premium Ground Coffees (i.e. Vanilla Creme Brulee, Pecan Praline, etc)
  • Private Reserve Ground Coffees (i.e. Ground Louisiana Blend, Ground Evangeline Blend, etc)
  • Featured Coffee of the Month
  • Premium Whole Bean Coffees (i.e. Whole Bean French Roast, Dark Roast, etc)
  • Private Reserve Whole Bean Coffees (i.e. Whole Bean Brazil Santos Bourbon, etc)
  • Military Match Coffees (i.e. Cafe Special, Dark Roast, etc)
  • Pre-Measured 3oz Packs Coffees (i.e. French Vanilla, Hazelnut, etc)
  • Instant Coffees (i.e. Coffee and Chicory, Dark Roast, etc)
  • Single-Serve Versions (i.e. K-cup Pods, cups, Military Match varieties)
  • Tea (i.e. Leaf, Pod, Instant, Pre-Measured Packs)

Community Kcup

Connect with Community Coffee:

Since first discovering Community Coffee fairly recently, I’ve interacted with them on numerous occasions via social media (primarily through Twitter and Facebook). Much to my delight, they have always responded in a friendly, welcoming fashion, keeping in close contact with their fans and customers, quickly responding to the messages they receive. To me, this says something about a company and most importantly, is proof that Community Coffee is living up to its name, truly evoking a sense of community through building, fostering and maintaining relationships, working to provide customers with the highest quality products.

Keep in touch with Community Coffee through their various mediums:

In the words of Community Coffee (via communitycoffee.com), “The story of Community Coffee is a story of relationships; It’s the story of the relationships we have with each other, with our farmers, with our partners, with the local communities we serve, and most importantly, with you. Those relationships, built upon the values we’ve held dear for 95 years, are what connect us today.”

*Thanks again to the team at Community Coffee for providing me the opportunity to review and sample your great coffees, it was a pleasure and an incredible opportunity!

Changed in an Instant

Yesterday was a day as typical as any other day. At night, I met with a friend for a bit and then arrived home around the early 10pm hour. Throughout most days and evenings, I am typically checking social media quite voraciously, loving to read the latest news and be aware about what is actually transpiring. Last night, upon arriving home, I mindlessly clicked over to the Twitter app, curious to see if anything new and exciting was occurring. Though, what I came to see was new, but not in a positive sense.

Merely 15 miles from me, give or take, 8-10 train cars completely derailed off-track, trains that were innocently-enough traveling as they typically did from Washington D.C. to New York City. Instantly, from reading the massive number of tweets from local and national television anchors, in addition to numerous TV stations, I knew something was gravely wrong and that this was not a minor event, by any means. My heart began to race as I scanned through tweets and Facebook posts, seeing people being escorted in numerous amounts from the trains, covered in blood, many distraught and crying, some inconsolable. I was disturbed and unable to sleep the majority of the night, feeling almost guilty in a sense for laying there in bed, safe, while these other innocent individuals were faced with massive destruction and a life-threatening experience. At this point in time, 6 train passengers are confirmed dead, with a significant number of others in critical condition, or injured in some way. The entire night, I couldn’t stop thinking about the crash, the people on aboard, their loved ones, the people waiting for them at home. It could truly happen to anyone and I couldn’t help but place myself in the passengers’ shoes and in their loved ones shoes.

Too often, we, as people get into our cars, or other modes of transportation without thinking of much. Sometimes, when driving, we are caught in bumper to bumper traffic, or we leave the house later than we needed to and are rushing to get from one place to other. At these times, we can drive on autopilot, failing to consider the others around us who are also driving. Yes, we are driving cars, trucks, SUV’s, and the like, but there are people who are driving these modes of transportation. People, who are mothers, fathers, sister’s, brother’s, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, husbands, wives, and the list goes on. They are not simply an inanimate object operating a vehicle. I think sometimes, we, as people can forget this, as we become distracted and caught up in getting to where we need to, or we take out or anger and frustration on the roads.

In an instant, everything, and I mean, everything, can change. Sometimes they can truly change for the positive, but other times, the change can be grave and detrimental. In an instant, those we love can be taken from us. I think this truth is probably what I am struggling with most today. As I watched the trains overturned and the people screaming and running for their lives, or trapped within the trains, I couldn’t settle myself, as my mind continued churning and churning. They are innocent people, boarding a train for what should have been a relatively quick and routine trip, whose lives are now changed, no matter the severity of their physical injuries. Sometimes, I think the emotional injuries can be worse than those of a physical nature, because no band-aid can eradicate the emotional scars and wounds, except time and a new perspective. Whether they want it to or not, this train experience will change all of those involved, or even those who witnessed the third accounts of it, like myself.

I was wracked with such pain and empathy for all of those involved, wishing there was something I could do to somehow make it better. Though, I realize, the only thing I can do is love my family and friends and be as safe as I can be on the roads and realize that being late somewhere, or going a little slower on the roads isn’t going to make that much a difference. Every minute and second counts.

Today and for the days to come, I am keeping those involved in the trash crash in my surrounding city close and deep in my thoughts, praying for a fast recovery, both a physical and emotional one, hoping they know their strength and their ability for resilience. I’m also truly thankful and in awe of all the first responders and officials who quickly spun into action to help these people. They are truly heroes and I have the utmost respect for them and hope they know how much they are appreciated and celebrated, today and everyday.

Mothers, Memories and Me

Happy Mother’s Day! This holiday has become a day that means more to me than most holidays, birthdays or really any other kind of event or celebration. This year, however, means even more than in preceding years, because I not only celebrate my own mom, who I love so very deeply and unconditionally, but also, my sister and best friend, who celebrates her first Mother’s Day, today. It’s truly challenging for me to place into words the way I feel about both my mom and sister. They are my closest confidantes, the ones I can turn to without having to contemplate a single thought, because I can truly be who I am around them. Throughout my entire life, they have loved me unconditionally, seen my at my best and at my worst, but always treated me like me, and nothing less.

Both my mom and sister inspire me every day and show me what it means to love, what it means to be strong and resilient. They also have shown me how important it is to keep moving forward, no matter what obstacles life may throw at us. They approach each situation with grace and poise. They’ve held my hand and wiped my tears through many trying situations and events we’ve weathered through and believed and trusted in me even when I didn’t believe or trust myself.

Last August, my sister gave me the greatest gift of all – the title of an Aunt, to my niece, who I love with a deeper sentiment than I ever believed possible. When I hold my niece, I feel such joy and calm, knowing she is my sister’s daughter, I see such beauty, grace and intelligence. She is not only my niece, but my friend.

The other day, as I perused through Facebook, a piece of writing about mothers filled by newsfeed, posted by one of my favorite magazines, Redbook. I thought I would share it with whomever may be reading this today, believing that perhaps you might be as inspired by it as I was. Reading through most of it, it resonated with me, and I felt a deep sense of understanding and was taken by how very true it is.

(Found via Redbook’s Facebook Page):

1. She knew and accepted you at every phase, even the awkward ones.
There aren’t many people there for us during both our temper tantrum years and the months we wore shiny silver braces.
2. Even when you didn’t want her there, she still stuck around.
Remember when you slammed the door in her face as an angst-ridden teen? She probably lingered on the other side for a bit.
3. And held your hand every step of the way, especially when you were lost.
Whether forcing you to go about your routine or sending you some inspiration through the phone or Internet, she continues to guide you.
4. She put your happiness above her own.
She helped you solve your problems, even when it meant missing her favorite television show or a night out with girlfriends.
5. She continued to support you even when many people left.
Friends come and go, but no situation can keep a mom from making her daughter’s life brighter.
6. She never failed to be honest.
She’d pick out the negative that many failed to acknowledge (that boyfriend really wasn’t worth your time) and most of the time, her perception ended up being scarily accurate.
7. And worry about your well-being when others steered you wrong.
The thing with a mom is she doesn’t care what’s popular or cool, but rather how best to protect you.
8. She isn’t likely to cancel on plans and leave you hanging.
Being with you is always going to be her first choice.
9. She’ll yell in your face before talking behind your back.
Her words may sound harsh, but at least she tells it like it is, unlike the many “friends” you’ve had who’ve told one of your secrets, spread a rumor or lied to you.
10. Your relationship goes beyond catty fights.
Since you’re at different places in your life, you’re not likely to be in competition for anything. And even the most intense fight could usually be worked out because, hey, it’s not like you can unfriend or divorce your mother.
11. She’ll hate the same people you hate.
We can’t deny that there have been moments when Mom acted like a vengeful teenager. It’s just that your mother isn’t only your cheerleader but also your bodyguard.
12. Because at the end of the day, blood is thicker than water.
Your first love may not be your soulmate after all. Your best friend forever may be your best friend until it’s less convenient. No matter how extreme your differences may be, family members seem to possess the gift of forgiveness. If you and your mom grow apart believe that you will eventually patch up whatever it is that soiled things. After all, she’s one of the only people who knows you better than yourself and has your best interest at heart 100% of the time.

Thank you to Redbook for providing me with a much-needed perspective and for allowing me to reflect on all the wonderful characteristics and comradeship my mom and I share. It is not only my mom who shares in these aforementioned truths, but also my sister. Together, they are the two best people within my life, who provide me with strength and inspiration, each and every day. I love them from the bottom of my heart and hope they have the most wonderful day today, filled with all the love and happiness life truly has to offer!

Mom quote           Mom quote 2        Sister quote

In with the New

Good Morning! As we approach the end of the week, I thought it was necessary for me to comment on some of the products/items I’m hoping to try this coming weekend! Lately, I’ve spotted several different unique products, everything from makeup, to yogurt, to vegetables, all of which caught my eye and left me curious and eager to try them out for myself. Since it looks vastly unique to me, I thought I’d share them, thinking that perhaps someone else might be as intrigued as I am. Without further adieu, here is the first product:

Smashbox Makeup (in particular, Photo Finish Blemish More than Primer Blemish Control):

Smashbox Makeup

Since graduating college just about five years ago, I’ve battled adult acne on and off. At first, I was embarrassed and ashamed to admit this, feeling self-conscious and insecure and as though I was the only one. Though, after doing a lot of reading and regularly seeing a dermatologist for years thereafter, I came to understand that there are in fact many adults of a similar age who battle similar acne woes and can share in my sentiments. That said, some weeks/days are better than others as far as my skin, but for days when I am plagued with bumps, redness and an uneven skin tone, I look for makeup that will not only conceal these blemishes and the inflammation, but also a product that will assist in the healing of these cumbersome spots. Therefore, the other day, I decided to perform a quick Google search to see what I could come up with and what I found was a newer product (or at least new to me, anyway) by Smashbox Cosmetics. I’ve never used any Smashbox Cosmetics before and have very sparingly used any cosmetic counter makeups. Unfortunately, I simply don’t have the funds to regularly purchase higher-end makeup and usually stick with Neutrogena Skin-Clearing foundation. However, upon arriving at the Smashbox website and in particular for the Blemish Control primer, I was intrigued and curious. From the description, it seems to provide both coverage and healing properties, which is what I look for in a face makeup. If any of you have used Smashbox Cosmetics or this particular product, what has been your experience with it and more importantly, would you recommend it?

Vanilla/Chocolate Silk Cashew Milk:

Vanilla Cashew Milk       Chocolate Cashew Milk

Switching gears a bit, as a big fan of non-dairy milks, in recent months, I discovered Silk’s new line of Cashew Milk! Initially available only in unsweetened and plain varieties, my sister and I recently spotted the new flavors, vanilla and chocolate in the grocery store’s refrigerated case! For years, Silk has been my go-to non-dairy milk (everything from soy milk to almond milk, coconut milk on occasion, and now cashew milk!). The nutritional facts are impressive, as it is packed with protein, low-sugar, low-calories, low-carb and high in calcium! Plus, what I love even more about cashew milk is how thick and creamy it is, for a minimal number of calories. It adds a hint of flavor and personality to whatever it is mixed with (or if it is enjoyed on its own). Therefore, I’m eager to try these new flavors, believing they will taste incredible, as Silk as a brand rarely disappoints.

Pancakes and Maple Syrup Jelly Beans by Jelly Belly:

Pancakes and Maple Syrup Jelly Beans

As a lifelong fan of jelly beans (with my favorite flavor being Jelly Belly’s Buttered Popcorn!), I was immensely excited and overjoyed to learn of their newest flavor – Pancakes and Maple Syrup! Anyone who knows me well, knows that maple syrup is one of my all-time favorite condiments. The sweet maple flavor is comforting and truly complements anything and everything it is added to, so I can only imagine how incredible this flavor of jelly beans must be! I cannot wait to try them!

Spiral Slicer Spiralizer Complete Bundle – Vegetable Cutter – Zucchini Pasta Noodle Spaghetti Maker (via Amazon)

Spiralizer

Ahh, here it is! The kitchen tool I’ve been longing for all these months! Finally, yes, finally, it is mine! About two days ago, I decided to take the leap and purchase it from Amazon. In several days, it should be arriving and I am overly eager to test it out! As a huge fan of zucchini and really, all types of vegetables, I cannot wait to make my own “Zoodles” as I’ve recently seen them appearing everywhere on Pinterest, in magazines, other blogs, and simply everywhere! They look and sound incredible, plus the possibilities for flavoring them is truly endless. On Amazon, the price was right, too, at $15 and change, it comes as a complete bundle, with everything from the spiralizer tool itself, a vegetable peeler, recipe book, and even a bag for the tool itself, for easy carrying and traveling! Sounds great to me!

Da Vinci Sugar-Free Cookie Dough Syrup:

Da Vinci Cookie Dough

Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite way to enjoy coffee is with sugar-free flavored syrups! I’m always up for trying new flavors and combinations, always wanting my coffee experience to be a unique and tasty one. Therefore, I actively follow my two favorite flavored syrup companies on social media (i.e. Torani and Da Vinci). About a week or so ago, Da Vinci was hosting a contest on their Facebook and much to my content and surprise, I ended up winning! The price was the ability to select any flavor of syrup I wanted and so after quickly perusing the website, I chose the one that most stood out to me: Sugar-Free Cookie Dough syrup! How incredible does that sound? I’m eagerly and patiently awaiting its arrival and look forward to trying it in my morning coffee!

Bigelow Girl Scout Cookie Tea:

Bigelow Tea    Bigelow Tea 2

Again, as a follower of Bigelow Tea on their social media pages, they recently introduced a brand-new line of teas inspired by the beloved Girl Scout cookies! For years, girl scout cookie season was one of my favorite times of the year, as I fondly recall enjoying them on a consistent basis as a high school student, allowing myself to indulge in my favorite variety – caramel delites! Hearing about these flavors of teas brought back fond memories of the cookies, so I’m curious if they truly do taste like them.

Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter and Jelly Greek Yogurt:

Peanut Butter and Jelly Yogurt

Wow, as a Greek yogurt fan who enjoys it every day (particularly Dannon Light ‘n Fit Greek and Activia Light Greek Yogurt), I was excited and eager to learn of this new flavor. Unique and rare to hear about a peanut-butter flavored yogurt, I definitely added this yogurt to my “must-try” list. Though it is slightly more decadent than I typically purchase, I think it is worth a try!

Birds Eye Steamfresh Flavor Full Line (available in Buffalo Cauliflower, Barbecue Sweet Corn, Ranch Broccoli, Teriyaki Broccoli):

Steamfresh Cauliflower  Steamfresh Corn

Steamfresh Ranch Broccoli   Steamfresh Teriyaki Broccoli

As a huge vegetable fan and frequent purchaser of frozen vegetables, this new line of Birds Eye Steamfresh is right up my alley! The flavors sound unique and packed with flavor, just as the title states (Flavor FULL). Plus, it is simple to cook; simply pop the entire bag in the microwave for several moments and voila, a freshly-cooked, flavor-filled, unique side dish! It is packed with nutrients and flavor and adds something special to a meal, or is a great side item to enjoy on its own!

So there you have it! It truly does seem like new product season is in full swing!

 

Chains of Love

Good morning! I hope your first week of May has been off to a good start, thus far. The one aspect I’ve been thrilled about is the outside temperature. It is incredibly refreshing and invigorating to be able to walk outside again, sans a winter coat and gloves and be able to simply delight in the warm air and fresh breeze. In a way, as odd as it may sound, it makes me feel like there is a warm blanket, right out of the dryer wrapped around me!

Since it’s been on my mind, on my birthday evening, my mom and I went to my sister and brother in-law’s house for cake and gifts and for a chance for us all to be together. The gifts they gave me were not only beautiful, but incredibly thoughtful and filled with the most heart and care I’ve ever received. They were not only gifts that look nice, but serve a function and purpose. About two weeks ago, along with my 3.5 year old iPhone 4 becoming obsolete, that very day, the wallet I’ve been “borrowing,” from my sister for about 3.5 years as well, ended up becoming nearly unusable, after snaps somehow managed to break apart. Needless to say, I was upset and steps away from running to a store to purchase a new one out of fear my credit cards, driver’s license, etc, would fall out, as a result. My mom, however, advised me to “wait,” and so I did. What I was provided with on my birthday, was a beautiful black wallet, able to hold not only all of my cards, license, etc, but also my checkbook, which makes toting it around much easier. Along with the wallet was a beautiful handbag, also serving a purpose as my current one has not been holding up all that well due to significant use and general wear and tear. An array of shirts from Express also made its way into the gift bag, uniquely designed with bright and friendly colors; all of which I cannot wait to proudly wear!

My most favorite gift, however, by far is the gift given to me by my 8-month old niece. Yesterday, it officially arrived in the mail and today, as I look at it, I cannot help but smile and feel an outpouring of love and comfort. I took a photo of it, so I could publicly share it, because the quote on it and imprinting truly speaks for itself:

Keychain

If you look closely, you can see the quote, “Only an Aunt can give hugs like a Mother, keep secrets like a sister and share love like a Friend.” On the other portion of the keychain is my title: Aunt Melissa. There is another charm on the keychain that says Aunt and also some beads and pearls. When my sister placed it in my hand yesterday, I could instantly feel tears beginning to well up in my eyes and as she connected it to my keys, I felt such a sense of contentment. Though, it didn’t really fully hit me until I drove home later that afternoon. Living close to each other, the drive home is merely minutes, but when I pulled into the parking lot of my development and parked my car, I gathered up my keys and began to walk to the mailbox and as I looked down at the keychain in my hands, it was surreal to me. Reading the keychain again and seeing “Aunt Melissa,” emblazoned on there, was finally the “reminder” I was looking for. Merely hours before being gifted with the keychain, I had been discussing with my mom how I thought I should buy a piece of jewelry or something I could wear and see each day that would be an inspirational reminder to me of my significance or contribution to the world, or at least a reminder of some kind that encourages me when I feel down, self-conscious and unworthy. Little did I know, within hours, there would be a keychain serving as that constant reminder, now, each day. Looking at the quote and my title on the keychain is a sign to me of how I am something to someone. I am an Aunt, I am someone who can share in moments with my niece, with my family, with a friend, with a future significant other. No matter how down about myself I might feel at times, I can instantly look at the keychain and feel love and companionship. It is a tangible proof of my role, of how I always have a piece of my family beside me and a reminder of how I am loved.