Let’s talk about some books

March 30
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So as most of my readers know, I am a librarian by day and as comes with the territory, I enjoy reading. So I figured today would be a good time to share a few recent favorites. My tastes range from popular fiction, to light sci-fi, to historical non-ficion, to literary fiction. Due to my profession I try to read new titles to keep up to date on

An Oprah’s book club pick, An American Marriage is a forceful look at a relationship that deal with many of the trials and tribulations that so many of us deal with. The book also deals with the specific issues such as the prison system, inequality, and the justice system which unfairly punish blacks. This is a raw, emotional tale that is definitely worth the read.

On a lighter note, Carnegie’s Maid is an interesting historical fiction look into the life of The Lady’s Maid to the mother of Andrew Carnegie. An Irish Immigrant,  Clara Kelley falls into the job after a misunderstanding at the dock. The book follows her life, relationships, and rise from poverty. Great for both the historical aspects as well as the upstairs/downstairs life.

Ever since she read Better Than Before I have been a big Gretchen Rubin fan. Her newest book, The Four Tendencies builds on the tendencies she explained in her first book and are designed to help readers learn how to best use their tendency to the best of their ability. A must read for productivity gurus and those wanting to better understand themselves.

Although I don’t read his horror titles, I am actually a big fan of Stephen King’s newer works. His newest book, written in conjunction with his son, is one of these books. Sleeping Beauties is just the amount of Sci-Fi I like in my books. It is a bit lengthy though, so give yourself plenty of time.

So if you’re in the market for a new read check one of these out. Looking for something else? Feel free to DM me on Instagram or comment here for recommendations!

Carnegie’s Maid

Travel Tuesday: Orlando things to do

March 27
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So I figured that for Travel Tuesday this week I would switch gears and talk about something a little closer to home.  I have lived in Central Florida basically all my life, and a total of ten years in Orlando. Because of this I feel like I have a decent grasp on the area and have lots of suggestions as to off the beaten path and budget friendly options. Here are a few of my favorites things to do in and around town. Check back next week for my favorite restaurants and bars.

cdsak

I may be a little biased, but SAK Comedy Lab is a great place to see some local improv. With shows five nights a week there is always something going on. SAK is located in downtown Orlando so it is a great place to have dinner, see a show, and have a drink. Most shows are family friendly so feel free to bring everyone. Tip: Check Groupon for specials.

ksc-visitor-complex

Growing up in Brevard County, Kennedy Space Center has always been a favorite. At half the cost of Disney it is a great deal and a relaxing way to spend the day. Although I would not call the center a theme park, there are attractions and one ride-like simulator. Ticket price includes a bus ride to the Saturn VI Center where you see a Saturn VI rocket like the one that went to the moon. One of the newer exhibits is the retired Shuttle Atlantis. This in itself is worth the trip and is an awe-inspiring experience like no other for both NASA fans and casual observers. A few years ago I had the honor of chaperoning a overnight trip to KSC where I was able to sleep UNDER the shuttle. The whole thing was an amazing experience. BONUS: the drive in is a great place to see alligators in the wild.

One of my biggest tips for visitors wanting a taste of Disney is to visit Disney Springs. If you are traveling on a budget and can’t spend much time at Disney, (and I don’t blame you) Spend a day at Disney Springs. Parking is easy and free and there is free entertainment throughout the park. We settle in at Dockside Margaritas for a frozen Orange Grove Rum Runner and enjoy the live music. We also enjoy the music at Raglan Road for an Irish flare. Live entertainment is also found by the food trucks and the stage. Looking for the entertainment schedule? Find it here. Another option at the Springs is the new Star Wars VR experience. Charlie did it and enjoyed it, but it is on the pricy side.   Although the food and drinks are at Disney prices you can plan ahead by viewing menus and prices here. We love Blaze Pizza for a cheap meal. Feel free to stroll around the springs and check out the shops. I love window shopping and Uniqlo is a great place to pick up reasonably priced clothing and disney themed apparel.  Lastly, there is a bowling alley and a movie theater available as well.  Like I said, you can spend the day here and enjoy it as much as a day at disney at a fraction of the cost. This post is also reminding me I should go back…

Florida has tons of cool attractions but some of my favorite things to do are away from town. We love to canoe and kayak down at Wekiva springs to get away from it all. This is a great, budget friendly trip and is great for all ages. We love to pack a lunch and make a day of it. There is also swimming, hiking, and wildlife viewing available in the park free of charge. If you are looking for a way to spend a day away from the crowds the springs is the place to go. Aim for a weekday as the park can get busy on weekends during summer.

Have a favorite Orlando spot? Tell me on the comments ❤️

Weekday breakfasts that last

March 20
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I don’t know about you, but I am hungry in the morning. I feel like everyone is different, but for me, I need food in the morning. On the flip side, I hate taking time to cook or eat before work. Even though I know I want and need to eat, I often end up skipping it when I am in a rush. So lately I have been trying out new on the go breakfast ideas. Below are a few of my favorites.

 

First of all, I like to have  green smoothie every morning. I make these using the single serving cup option on my blender. (Find my basic smoothie recipe here.) I use frozen greens and fruits to make the prep process as easy as possible. I can make two smoothies in only a few minutes and they are one of the best parts of our days. I usually drink my smoothie while doing my makeup or on the way to work. Once in a while I drink it at work instead.

 

A few months ago I came across Hulk Muffins from Instant Loss.   These muffins are gluten-free, dairy-free, and a great high fiber way to start the day. The best part? I mix them in the blender! I double or triple the batch and then freeze them. In the morning I grab four and take them to work to eat around 10am as a snack. I like to add a few mini chocolate chips on top when I bake them for a little extra flavor.

 

When I am super hungry in the morning I go for eggs. They are kinda the perfect high-protein, keep you full food. Like the hulk muffins, I prepare these ahead of time and keep them in the freezer until I need them, then I toss them in the microwave to reheat. I follow along this recipe but end up using whatever mix-ins I have in the house. Peppers and turkey bacon are favorites but onion, spinach, sausage, and others are fine too. Sometimes I add some cheese for fun.

 

My last go to option is these pre-made freezer steel cut oat cups. I make the oatmeal regularly and then freeze it in muffin tins. I then take them out and store them in a baggie in the freezer so I can grab one or two, reheat, and eat as a quick breakfast.

 

As with much of my cooking, I like to prepare and store these over the weekend so that come Monday morning I have nothing to worry about. Having options in the freezer makes the morning go so much smoother. Do you prep any breakfast foods? Which ones, I want to know!

 

 

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AirBnB

March 13
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For today’s Travel Tuesday I am talking about using AirBnB instead of hotels. We started using AirBnB about four years ago for a trip to Chicago on a budget. In Chicago there are tons of amazing hotels in the Loop area, but they are pricey. Sadly, $200 a night just wasn’t in the budget for us. Also, although the loop is nice, we didn’t really want to stay there with all the hustle and bustle of the city.  The other hotel options I found that were in our price range were out by the airport which was too far away from the city for us. After looking around I remembered that a friend had used AirBnB and loved it. After doing some research about which neighborhoods were best for us I was able to find a nice room to rent in the Wicker Park area of Chicago.

Our Airbnb in Notting Hill

Now you will notice I said room. Yes, the first few times we used Airbnb we just rented a room with a private bath from our host. When searching with Airbnb you have the option of finding a shared space (couch), private room, or the entire home. This saved us around $30-$50 a night which at the time really helped out. When renting a room via Airbnb there are a few things to look out for.

Who else is in the home?

Some hosts will divide up and rent an entire home to travelers and will never be on site. Although this sounds okay in theory, I did not feel that this would be the safest bet for us. In my opinion the host/guest relationship is based on mutual trust and respect for each other’s space and things. When this relationship is just with another guest you lose that respect as the other guest is not responsible to you and vice versa. We only rented from hosts who also lived in the home, however for the three times we did this we barely saw the hosts at all. One was not there the entire time of our stay.

What is the bathroom situation?

Even if I am renting a room I still wanted my own bathroom. This was just so that I did not have to worry about being late for something because the host needed to take an hour shower or something of the like. It also made the idea of a shared space more comfortable for me.

What is included?

Depending on the host, you may have full or limited access to the kitchen, washing machine, and other amenities the home has to offer. Some hosts even include breakfast supplies to help with your stay.

Once you have found answers to these questions you can see if a room is a good choice for you. When renting a room, or any Airbnb home, I always read TONS of reviews and always stay with a host with tons of experience and positive reviews.

For our trip to Europe we decided that we wanted to use Airbnb again and rent studios in the cities we were visiting.  Compared to US cities we felt there were many great affordable studio options in London, Brussels, and Paris. We were able to rent studios and apartments for around $100 USD in each city. In Brussels that $100 got us an entire one bedroom apartment.

Just as before we read reviews and did out research of the area before requesting to book. For safety reasons Airbnb does not tell you the address until you confirm the purchase but you do know the area. Generally the listing will give walking times to popular transit stops, stores, and restaurants which will help you understand the area. If you are still unsure I suggest going through a google street view of the area to get a better understanding of it and to ensure it feels safe.

One of the questions I often asked hosts before booking was the availability of a space to store luggage before check-in or after check-out. Many hosts are able to accommodate this request but I always ask first. Also check out the check-in and check-out times. They can vary greatly from host to host and many are flexible. Often hosts have a key box available so guests can check in at their leisure without having to meet in person.

Once we arrive in our room/home I always do a quick check of everything to ensure that everything that we need is available and that we feel safe in the space. When renting an entire home this includes checking out the kitchen and seeing if we have the supplies promised  such as pans and dishes.

One of the reasons we wanted entire homes while in Europe was so that we had a kitchen. This allowed us to cook one or two meals on our own which saved money and stay healthy. I will share more on that in a future post.

We have been very lucky and have never had problems with our rentals. If you find that you have a problem with your host or rental before, during, or after a stay please visit the Airbnb Trust Center. There you will find information as well as how to get more help. As with anything, if you for whatever reason do not feel safe feel free to leave. Also be aware of the emergency phone number regardless of if you are staying in an Airbnb or not.

As I’ve said, we have had amazing luck with Airbnb to the extent that they are were we start our lodging search. If you are interested in trying them out use this link for $40 in travel credits for new users. (Please note that I do receive a credit for every new users who completes travel via this link.)

If you’ve used Airbnb before let me know in the comments; I am super curious about the experiences of others.  Stay tuned, next Tuesday I’m going to be talking about our stay in London!

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My Five Favorite Hair Products

March 7
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I do not consider myself a hair expert at all, but I discovered some hair products that really work for me. I have slightly wavy that is thicker than you’d imagine. I wear my hair both straight and curly and use product and heat for both styles. I use a mixture of drugstore and department store products and of course love inexpensive options when available. These are the products that are my favorites.

My favorite hairspray is Kenra Volume Spray 25. This hairspray has a great hold for all styles and keeps my hair in place whenever needed. The bottle is a little pricey, but you don’t need to use a ton so it is worth it and lasts for some time.

Although I have a decent amount of hair I often find that I am lacking body at the root. I fix this I use Aquage Uplifting Foam before I blow dry to really pump my roots. I don’t blow dry every time I wash so I don’t used it all the time, but when I do it is worth it. This product was introduced to my by Kate at The Small Things Blog and is finally available at Ulta.

Over Black Friday weekend last year I tried two Not Your Mother’s products as they were on sale at Ulta. Not Your Mother’s Double Take Dry Finish Texture Spray is amazing. I love using texture spray on clean hair to give it a little extra hold. It also works as a light hairspray on days I touch up curls. It has become a total staple on my vanity and is great to help make styles last.

The other product Not Your Mother’s Dry Shampoo. I use this dry shampoo on day two and three hair to take away some of the oil from my roots. I have tried many dry shampoos and this one is my current favorite. It cannot be beat for the price and it goes on sale regularly.

I don’t always flat iron my hair, but when I do I use  L’oreal Sleek it Flat Iron Spray. This spray is applied to damp hair before drying and protects hair as well as makes it super sleek after it goes through the iron. I was without for a few weeks and my straight hair was just not the same. This is also a great item for the price .

These are my favorites, what are yours? I am always looking to try something new!

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