My Side Hustle

I work full time as a Prison Counselor/Case manager and I make decent money doing so. But do you know what is awesome? Having a side gig to get you an extra boost in income! Guess what is even more awesome? It’s a super easy side hustle that ANYONE can do and that requires very little effort! I don’t get any thing for plugging this, by the way. I whole-heartedly think it is an amazing way to make some extra money and figured I would spread the love by sharing my experiences!

I came across Poshmark randomly one day when I was looking for a way to sell some of my clothes that I never wear anymore. I didn’t have much luck with Facebook marketplace listings or yard sales. I did donate quite a few items but had a few things that were in new condition that I couldn’t just part with for free. Plus, I wanted to find a way to save some extra money so that I can make this dream trip to Iceland happen as soon as restrictions get lifted! I didn’t really have any knowledge on how Poshmark worked but figured I would list a few things and see what happened. Within 2 weeks, I had made quite a few sales and decided to dive headfirst into the world of reselling.

I really did have quite a bit of stuff out of my own closet that I needed to get rid of. I also had some kids clothing from my boyfriend’s daughter and some men’s clothing from my boyfriend. I listed as much stuff as I could. From January 26th to April 23rd, I had made $436 from selling random stuff that wasn’t even being used anymore! This further inspired me to start thrifting for some items to flip and resell. I started going to thrift stores and yard sales to source some items for my Poshmark closet. Eventually, I grew my closet large enough to have almost 80,000 followers, over 300 sales, and a total earned that is nearing $2,000! And you can easily do this, too!

What is Poshmark?

Poshmark is a social commerce marketplace where people can buy and sell new or used clothing, shoes, accessories, and many other items. It’s a fun and simply way to buy and sell fashion! Here is a link to some of the deets on Poshmark.

Sourcing

Obviously, you can source from your very own closet! This is how I started. I had a bunch of things that I have kept for so many years but have never really worn but after I started making some money selling stuff, it made it a lot easier for me to part with those items. Ask others in your household to go through their things, as well. You could also ask friends and family members to donate any unwanted items to you  before dropping them off at the local Goodwill.

You want to keep your cost of goods as low as possible so you can turn a good profit on each item. Typical thrift store costs around where I am from usually don’t exceed $5 per item but can occasionally reach around the $10 price point. Depending on the items condition and brand, $10 can still be very worth it. If you can grab a coat for $10 but sell it for $40 or $50, you just made $30-$40 just by shopping and taking some pictures! I mainly use Goodwill and Salvation Army because they are the two major thrift stores in my area and typically have lower prices than other privately owned thrift shops.

Make sure to research which brands are reselling well before going. And don’t get discouraged! Some items may sell very easily for one person but may be harder to sell for another. For example, I ALWAYS see people buying Torrid brand items for higher prices, usually no matter what condition, but I have had a few excellent condition Torrid items for a while now that just haven’t moved for some reason. If you can get your hands on some luxury items for cheap, DO IT! I have yet to have any luxury items, but I have definitely been keeping my eye out for some. These items seem to sell pretty quickly on Poshmark and even have their own Posh Parties dedicated to focusing the spotlight on these high-end items.

Wholesale bundles are another way to go when sourcing for your closet. Poshmark even has its own wholesale section built right into the site/app! You can also find liquidation sales and wholesale boxes if you search online. I have ordered one box of items wholesale, which was a bulk lot of novelty t-shirts, and have done pretty well with it! Some people are able to get their hands on some really popular items at wholesale prices (e.g. LuLuLemon, Adidas, Free People, Lucky Brand, etc) and can make a killing reselling them! I keep my eyes open for these opportunities but unfortunately, I personally haven’t stumbled upon any yet.

My all-time favorite way to source is by going to yard sales/garage sales/rummage sales! Typically, the cost of goods at these sales are SUPER low. I have gotten quite a few items for 25 cents and have been able to turn a profit of $10 or more for each item. I think one of my best flips from a yard sale was paying $5 for some cowboy boots and making over $40 on them! Make sure to really check out the condition of the items when sourcing from a yard sale. I found that these types of sales are a good place to find a lot of items that are new with tags, because most people don’t want to just donate brand spanking new items. They would rather try to get a few bucks back.

Building Traffic

In order to sell more items, you need more people seeing your items. Poshmark works on a sharing and following system. You follow other closets, they follow you back. You help them by sharing their items, and they return the favor. Anyone that is following their closet will see the items that they list as well as the items that they share. The more followers you have, the more likely you are to get sales, because more eyes are viewing your closet. The easiest way to get followers fast, despite it being a bit boring and tedious, is to go into someone’s closet and click on their followers. From there, you can scroll down the list and follow people. You will see that when you start following people, they typically follow you back, and this is the goal! I typically spend around 15 minutes a day (at least) just going through lists of closets and clicking the follow button. That’s how I was able to gain 80,000 followers within 6 months of selling on Poshmark.

Share, share, share! You HAVE to share your own items as much as you can. Some people that do REALLY well on the platform will share their entire closets 5 or 6 times a day. I don’t quite have the time to do that (it’s especially hard when you have a large number of items in closet, because you have to share each item individually) but try to share all of my items at least 2 or 3 times a day. Sharing items from other sellers on your feed can help, too. When you share another seller’s item, they typically repay the favor by sharing some of your items. That is giving your item exposure to everyone that is following that other seller!

This is a screenshot from my closet.

I know a lot of successful sellers have Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and twitter accounts linked to their Poshmark account. They use social media to promote items in their closet and it does tend to help! I have only very recently started trying my hand in posting on Pinterest and Instagram and have honestly seen an influx of followers since doing so.

Other Random Information

Listing seriously takes less than a minute to do. You snap some pictures and fill out a few fields and your item is live before you know it! The more detailed your listings are, the better, but there is a comment section available for people to ask questions if needed. Make sure to use good lighting and note any flaws. People will still buy things with some flaws, but make sure you disclose them! Initially, list your items higher than what you intend to actually get for them. This leaves room for offers and price drops!

Poshmark does charge a listing fee after an item sells. For anything under $15, Poshmark takes a flat commission of $2.95. If it sells for more that $15, you keep 80% and Poshmark’s commission is 20%. The sale has to be delivered and accepted by the buyer before the funds are available to you. You can then withdraw your money as a check or direct deposit or use your earnings to purchase items from other sellers within the app.

Poshmark provides a flat rate of $7.11 for expedited shipping on all orders. The buyer typically pays this shipping fee. All orders are shipped through USPS 1-3 day priority mail. If someone purchases more than one item within a closet (e.g. you come to my closet and want 3 items), it is considered a bundle and the buyer will only pay the shipping fee once. As a seller, you also have the option to offer discounted or free shipping (which comes out of your earnings if you do this) to the buyer.

This screenshot is an example of some of the many things you can list on Poshmark!

Poshmark is NOT just for clothing! Many people sell their own homemade items. I have seen paintings, ceramics, earrings and other jewelry, home décor, and more! You can list makeup, books, signs, beauty supplies, stationary, pens, blankets, pillows…. The list goes on and on!

Overall, my experience with Poshmark has been excellent! I mean, I guess that’s why I am recommending it here on my blog. Haha! If you are looking for a way to make some extra cash, this is definitely something you should consider. In fact, if you are reading this, I challenge you to create an account and find a few items to list. I guarantee you will be making money in no time! Feel free to ask me any questions that you may have and check out my closet here!

When You Lose a Parent…

I have spent a lot of time preparing myself for a post like this one. I have known that I have wanted to write about the grief of losing a parent since I have started this blog. I struggled with when would be the best timing. Should I just make a post randomly? Would Mother’s Day be a good time? I settled on the anniversary of my Mom’s death.

June 8th. It is a day that will forever be etched into my memories. It has been 8 years and I still think about her every single day. I feel her in the breeze. I recognize certain occurrences as signs from her. I see her when I look in the mirror. It never stops hurting but it does get easier to cope with. Unfortunately, there is no universal manual to help you deal with the loss of a parent. I was not entirely sure how I even wanted to do this post, but it seems to have gone in the direction of detailing what I experienced and how I worked through those emotions.

Guilt

I beat myself up for so long after my Mom passed away. I know I was occasionally mean to her when I was younger and did things that she was not always happy about. I talked back to her, did not listen, or refused to help with chores. Parents of teenage girls – I am sure you know what I am getting at. The attitude is strong! After my Mom passed, I wanted desperately to be able to go back in time and react differently when she asked me to do something or tried to talk to me. I feared that maybe she did not realize how much I truly loved her and appreciated her. It forced me to see that a lot of people (myself included) really do tend to take the things they have for granted and do not even realize it until that thing is taken away from them. When I see children acting horribly to their parents, I get very upset. I know even the best kids still behave badly or talk back every once in a while, but that guilt that I feel over how I treated my Mom back then really makes me wish that I could show these kids how lucky they are that their parents are still here.

Guilt and regret can be normal responses to the death of a parent or loved one, but that does not mean that it is productive or healthy (in fact it can be quite the opposite). Sometimes it can be one of the hardest parts of the grieving process. We obsess over things that we did or did not do, the times we lashed out in anger or impatience, and the missed opportunities for expressing our love. Fortunately, there are many tried and true ways to cope with the guilt you may experience. Here is a link to some great ways to practice mindfulness and give yourself mercy when you feel you are to blame.

Anger

After the shock of it happening passes, anger is another common emotion that is felt. Apparently, it is very common that people feel that being angry is more acceptable than being sad. My Mother was greater than amazing. She would help people in any way she could. She was selfless. She loved God. And yet, for some reason, her time on Earth was cut to a short 51 years. Cancer was the culprit, so she DID suffer for her last bit here. I was glad she no longer had to suffer, but eventually that gave way to anger. Why was she taken so young? There are countless humans that are horrible people, yet they live on. Why do the good die young? And if she had to be taken so soon, why did she have to suffer the way that she did in the end? Anger is an emotion that I will admit I still need to work on. I work in a prison and am face to face with people everyday that have done some very horrible things. It is very hard to not have the thought “why her and not them?” cross your mind. I don’t want to be like this because I know it’s not good to feel this way. And it definitely will not bring her back.

We all know anger is not great for your health. When you are angry, there is a constant flood of stress chemicals and associated metabolic changes which can eventually cause harm to different systems in your body. Anger ups your stroke risk and weakens your immune system. It also makes your anxiety or depression worse. It is very important to recognize your anger and try to find a more suitable outlet for it than by just having hostile outbursts. Here is some information on how anger is something that would allow you to be better off if you just let it go.

Appreciation

I went through a ton of changes after my Mom passed. I went through depression, anxiety, and alcoholism. I finally feel like I am in a pretty good spot. I have learned a lot from her passing, even if some of it has taken me 8 years. And I am appreciative of every last bit of it.

I have learned to be unapologetically me. My Mom was funny, quirky, and very outspoken. She did not seem to care what others thought of her. Her spirit taught me that I should not dim my light just to appease others. I am quite goofy but used to worry how others viewed me. Not anymore. I am here to live my life. I am here to be me. Like it? Great! Don’t? Well, it was good knowing ya!

I have learned to express love every chance I get. My Mom was constantly leaving me notes and little cards to tell me how much she loved me. She told me every day that she loved me and that she was proud of me. She also expressed love to others as often as possible. She gave away love so freely and I wish to be more like her. Also, losing her much earlier in life than normal caused me to realize that life is short, whether you live to be 51 or 101. You truly never know when someone you love will be taken away from you. And you never know when you will be taken away from them. So, make sure to show the people that you love exactly how much you love them and why you appreciate them! I have learned to not take people or things for granted. I have learned to really appreciate EVERYTHING in my life. I am grateful for the blessings that I do have, not bitter about what I do not have. I am extremely grateful for my Dad and the rest of my family and all that they do for me. I am abundantly thankful for the strong support system and friend group that I have. The job I have, the vehicle, the roof over my head, the food I eat – I appreciate it all. I have even tried to catch myself when I start to complain about something and spin it into a more positive view of the situation. Except for mosquitoes. I will probably never be grateful for them and will continue to complain. Those things can get the heck out of here! Here is a link to some ways to train yourself to have more gratitude.

If you have lost a parent, know that you are not alone. Whether it happens at a young age or old, it still leaves a hole in our hearts. Know that the pain never truly goes away, you just learn to cope with it more effectively. I know you are angry. I know you feel guilty. I know you are sad. But is it healthy to feel this way? Would your loved one want you to beat yourself up like this? Reach out to others if you need to. Take the steps that you can and need in order to become more aware of your emotions. Learn to be more mindful and more grateful. Love with all your heart. Be YOU. And keep on keeping on.

6 Months: Life is Beautiful

I hit 6 months alcohol-free on April 27th. If you would have told me 7 months ago that this would be my life now, I would have told you to F-off. There was NO WAY I was going to give up beer. Sometimes life has a funny way of slapping you in the face and telling you to wake up, though.

These 6 months have been tough at times. It’s never easy to just give up something that you have become so dependent upon. Mostly, though, this period has been rather wonderful. I have gotten back in touch with that happy-go-lucky person that I was before. I have looked my demons in the eyes and have dismissed them. I have realized what is truly important to me, in my life. I have forgiven myself for the mistakes that I have made, but I won’t forget them. I have grown to be a genuinely better person. I do regret becoming so indulgent upon alcohol and for acting the way I did, but I wouldn’t change my past. I don’t think I would be who I am or where I am today if it weren’t for the lessons I have learned along the journey.

I wanted to come up with some information regarding how I feel and what has been going on with my mind and my body since I have quit. I have noticed quite a few things that have happened, and I look forward to welcoming even more changes going forward. Read on to catch a glimpse at what one can expect when abstaining from alcohol!

Peer pressure is real. All the people that I regularly hang out with drink. When I made the decision to stop drinking, peer pressure was one thing that I was worried about. I have made half-assed attempts at quitting before and usually all it took to break my “commitment” was one comment directed my way indicating that “one won’t hurt!” Lucky for me, I have a great group of friends and a wonderful support system, so I realized quickly that I wouldn’t have to worry about the peer pressure aspect of not drinking. 

Generally, I think when someone tosses ideas around about quitting, social situations are what give them anxiety the most. The good thing is, once you have made the decision to stop (and by that, I mean whole-heartedly deciding to, not one of those half-hearted attempts), that obstacle is about as hard as it gets. As humans, we are hardwired to want to follow the crowd and when most of the crowd drinks, it’s scary to be the only one not consuming alcohol. But trust me, after the first time or two, people really don’t care if you’re drinking or not. And if someone does give you a hard time after a while, typically by that point, your brain has already adjusted itself into not caring what other people think. For me, it was quite liberating going from using alcohol to cover up shyness to being someone confident enough in myself to not need it.

I will be the first to admit that I have not made the best decisions while drinking. It’s one of the driving factors for why I decided to quit. If I am that embarrassed by decisions that I can remember, I don’t even want to know what I have done that I do not remember. I have participated in many unsafe situations while being black-out drunk and I finally realized that continuing that behavior would only result in bad outcomes. It’s nearly impossible to “control” the way alcohol affects your brain. It slows down our brain function and releases multiple chemicals that affect our ability to coherently make decisions. For some scientific information on why alcohol does this, check out this post on alcohol.org!

Since I have stopped drinking, I have been way better at making decisions. I mean, some of them come with the territory, though, I guess. Like, I haven’t been behind the wheel while drunk. Well yeah, but I haven’t been drinking, so that wouldn’t be possible. I’ve made decisions to start a side hustle in order to make extra cash. I’ve made decisions to NOT drink, even when I am in a situation where everyone else is. I’ve made decisions to save some money so that I can afford to travel once this quarantine is over. Some of these might not seem like a huge deal, but to me they are. They, along with many other things, never would have happened for me if I had continued my downward spiral with alcohol.

It’s a given that having a clear head is going to allow you to make better decisions. When you start to abstain from alcohol, you start feeling the fog lift. It’s hard to explain this fog to someone that hasn’t experienced it (because maybe you are super in control of your drinking habits – I’m envious, by the way – or maybe you do drink regularly enough but don’t see the fog because you are so used to it that you simply think that you’re supposed to feel that way). It’s as though the fog is holding you hostage. That fog was clouding my judgement. It’s amazing how different I started to feel and how I started regaining focus of previous goals that I may have lost sight of. But sorry, babe, I still won’t decide where to eat. That one is on you.

Alcohol has a huge impact on overall health and well-being. Generally, when people quit drinking as much, they lose weight because they aren’t consuming as many empty calories as they were when drinking each day (unfortunately this one really hasn’t happened for me yet because after I quit, I got a crazy sweet tooth). Usually, you’ll even start to look better when removing alcohol because your skin will be more hydrated. I mean, JLO doesn’t drink and looks half of her damn age! It’s been proven that moods and energy levels can be elevated when quitting alcohol. One thing I for sure noticed was that I was sleeping so much better! Alcohol usually disrupts the two most important parts of our sleep (NREM and REM sleep). And remember the fog I mentioned? Yeah, alcohol can affect our cognitive functions for up to three days. So, when you quit, that fog lifts, and you are actually more intelligent! Alcohol also raises blood pressure both temporarily and permanently, so prolonged and excessive use can cause a multitude of heart issues. Even your immune system will thank you if you quit drinking!

My memory is so much better. And that goes deeper than having no recollection of what happened the night before. Alcohol affects the functioning of the hippocampus, which is responsible for creating and saving memories. So even if you aren’t directly under the influence of alcohol at the moment, those drinks you had the day before are still inhibiting your ability to remember things. This is funny, but I honestly thought I had gotten dumb, because I was really smart throughout school. I started drinking at 21 and not long after that it seemed like I couldn’t recall things as quickly as I once was able to. I had never put it together that alcohol was what was affecting me negatively when it comes to my memory and intelligence. After a few months of being sober, it finally hit me!

My mood is much more consistent. And generally better. Alcohol may temporarily put you in a good mood, but it is in fact a depressant. Ever feel depressed the day after an alcohol binge? I did all the time! I never thought it was the after affects of the alcohol… until I stopped drinking. It’s amazing how much better you can feel when your brain and body start to heal!

Productivity. Holy cow, I am so much more productive than I was before. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still like to be lazy occasionally (who doesn’t), but I get way more done on a daily basis now. I complete things at work in a timely manner, rather than procrastinating everything. I do household chores more often than I used to, as well. Our kitchen is almost always spotless, now. And I am always caught up on laundry. I’ve been writing more. I even submitted a poem of mine into a contest! I have been reading more. I’ve even been more productive when it comes to fun things, like painting, photography, and riding my bike. These are things I used to say I loved doing, but never had the “time.” Well, really, I was just so hungover and down in the dumps all the time I just didn’t feel like doing anything.

I want to say that I am NOT trying to be preachy and push my newfound views of not drinking onto people. I have zero issues with people consuming alcohol. Like I stated earlier in this post, almost all of my friends drink. I envy the fact that they know their limits and are able to control themselves. If I were that strong, I wouldn’t have to be abstaining and I wouldn’t be writing this. What is not okay is when someone loses that control. I know it’s a scary thing to acknowledge that you may not be in control, but that is what must happen before any changes will be made. If someone doesn’t want to change, they won’t. There must be some initial ambivalence there that causes the thoughts of possibly making a change. What I hope to get out of writing about my experiences is that if ANYONE relates to the lifestyle that I was living, they open up to the idea that maybe taking a break from alcohol isn’t such a bad thing.

If any of this relates to you and you want to talk to someone free of judgement, please reach out to me. It sucks going through things alone. But you don’t have to. Thanks for reading! And I will not drink with you today.

My Top 10 Favorite Netflix Movies Streaming Right Now!

I’m back! It’s been a while since I have made a post and I feel pretty upset with myself about it. I have been struggling with some things lately and haven’t made it a priority to write. There’s quite a bit of crazy stuff going on right now and I really don’t want to turn this into any kind of depressing political post, so I decided to write about some of my favorite movies that are streaming on Netflix right now! We are all basically locked in our houses for the most part anyway, right? Now is the perfect time to not feel guilty about just hanging out on the couch, vegging out, and watching some films.

I should preface this by stating that I am mostly into psychological horror/thriller types of movies. I also love comedies. Occasionally, I will watch a Rom-Com (they are like my guilty pleasure). Most of the movies on this list fall into the horror, thriller, or drama category on some level, but I will also list my two favorite romantic comedies that are streaming as a bonus! These will be in no particular order, as I am horrible at choosing my absolute favorite. If you check out this list and decide to watch any of these movies, please comment and let me know what you think of them!

  • Snowpiercer (2013)Drama/Fantasy. 2h 6m. 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
    I decided to start out with this one to grab your attention. This movie is one of my favorite movies, not just on Netflix, but period. If you haven’t seen it, you are truly missing out! Chris Evans stars in this action-packed drama. After an attempt to stop global warming catastrophically backfires and creates a new ice age, the last survivors of humanity have been placed on a circumnavigational train called the Snowpiercer. The passengers on the train eventually become segregated by class, with the nicer cars towards the front and the poor being forced into the tail compartments by armed guards. I don’t want to go too much into what happens or leak any spoilers, but the general plot of the movie is that the poor passengers decide to attempt to revolt and then all hell breaks loose. I love recommending this movie to people because they ALWAYS come back saying how great it was!
  • Dallas Buyers Club (2013) History/Drama. 2h. 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
    This movie is rather well known to be a great watch. It was nominated for Best Picture in 2013 and both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto received the Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. The film tells the story of Rob Woodroof (this is based loosely on a true story), who is diagnosed with AIDS back when treatments were under-researched and the disease was highly stigmatized. Woodruff tries experimental AIDS treatments and smuggles the unapproved pharmaceutical drugs into Texas, both to treat himself and others who have contracted the disease. He faces heavy opposition from the FDA. The performances in this film are absolutely riveting!
  • Ex Machina (2014) Drama/Fantasy. 1h 50m. 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
    This movie is pretty crazy and creepy! It’s a story that follows a programmer who is invited by the CEO of the company he works for to administer the Turing Test to an intelligent humanoid robot. The goal is to judge whether or not he believes that Ava (the robot) is genuinely capable of thought and consciousness despite knowing that she is an AI. The fact that it has so much to do with Artificial Intelligence and technology makes the movie feel even more real because of our relationship with technology today. This is a movie where a bunch of super interesting things occur and by the end you’re going, “WHAT THE HECK JUST HAPPENED?!”
  • Hush (2016) Slasher/Thriller. 1h 27m. 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
    I LOVE horror movies, but not the typical slasher movies. I like a good, creepy, twisty plot. If you add some gore and scares, then it’s even better! Hush is listed as a slasher film, but I promise, it’s a good one! The movie is about a young deaf writer named Maddie who isolates herself in a cabin in the woods in order to focus more on her writing. A masked killer chases her neighbor to her house and stabs her to death, but Maddie is unable to hear anything happening. The killer decides that he is going to make her his next victim. The movie follows Maddie as she tries to escape the killer’s grasp. So yeah, maybe it’s pretty typical as far as the story-line goes for a slasher/thriller, but trust me… You definitely want to check this one out! It’s suspenseful and the main character being deaf adds an interesting twist.
  • I Am Mother (2019) Drama/Thriller. 1h 53m. 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
    I love plot twists and this movie is FILLED with them! After an extinction event, an automated bunker that is designed to repopulate humanity activates. There is a robot named Mother who is tasked with growing human embryos and then taking care of them in order to eventually repopulate Earth. The movie follows the journey of Mother and her human Daughter through some very tough and trying tribulations that come about. The entire time I thought I knew what was going to happen next and then a complete twist was thrown into the plot. This one is definitely worth checking out!
  • The Witch (2015)Supernatural Horror. 1h 33m. 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
    This is a fairly popular movie, so chances are pretty high that you may have already seen it. The movie is set in 1630s New England and follows a Puritan family who encounters forces of evil in the woods. It has been a while since I have last watched this movie, so I don’t remember every single thing that happens, but I do know that there is plenty of weird stuff going on throughout the film. I remember this movie leaving me with a strange sense of troublesome dread. If you like weird, well filmed horror movies, give this one a shot!
  • The Invitation (2015)Horror/Thriller. 1h 40m. 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
    The concept in this one is very interesting! It showcases some ideas about grief, depression, and how we cope with life-changing events nowadays. This movie could be categorized under the ‘dinner party from hell’ sub-genre. Will and his new girlfriend are invited to the home of his ex-wife Eden for a dinner party (which she is hosting with her new husband David). Will and Eden divorced while trying to cope with their young son’s accidental death. David and Eden tell their guests about a group they joined called “The Invitation” that works through grief using spiritual philosophy. They watch a video and then play a game and then things start getting real intense! It’s a pretty weird and interesting ride, but I loved the story-line in this one!
  • Calibre (2018) Thriller. 1h 41m. 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
    This movie had me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire thing! Based on the general description of the movie, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but the amazing ratings on RT pushed me to pull the trigger (lol). This movie is about Vaughn and Marcus, friends since childhood, and their trip to the remote countryside in Scotland for a hunting trip. Something extremely crazy and unexpected happens and they are forced to deal with it. I really don’t want to go anymore into a description for this because the less you know, the better it is. I rarely physically react to movies, but this one seriously had me gasping and WTFing quite a bit. I will say that I have recommended this movie to a few people and most have stated that they didn’t really see the point. BUT the 95% rating on RT seems to disagree and so do I!
  • The Endless (2017) Science Fiction Horror. 1h 56m. 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
    Okay, I randomly decided to watch this one night simply because it had good ratings and was listed as a horror film and I am SO glad that I did. The story in this is extra bizarre. The main characters are the directors of the movie – Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. They play brothers who visit an alleged cult that they formerly belonged to. Obviously, weird and spooky things start happening. One brother wants to leave and the other wants to stay. They go back and forth on what they are going to do, all while even MORE weird stuff starts happening. There were a few parts in the movie that blew my freaking mind! Seriously, so good. I watched the movie Resolution (2012), by the same directors, quite a while ago and loved it. I would recommend watching it first if you can find it somewhere, although it is not necessary. The Endless can be seen as a partial sequel to Resolution, as it appears to share the same universe and plot points. I went into The Endless not knowing this was even by the same people or anything and that totally made my experience of watching it even better.
  • Freaks (2018) Science Fiction Drama/Thriller. 1h 45m. 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
    This one has the worst rating on my list, but it is honestly probably one of my favorite movies EVER. It is the movie that I have watched most recently from this list. I randomly heard about it on Reddit the other day and went home that night to watch it and absolutely adored it. The acting is beyond superb and the plot is very intelligent! If you like science fiction things, then you will LOVE this. I am not even going to go super in depth with a description because this movie is better going into it not knowing much. Chloe is a 7 year old girl (Lexy Kolker – AMAZING performance) who leaves her home for the first time after being kept inside by her father for her entire life. Why was she being kept inside? Seriously, watch this movie and find out. I am not going to say anything else other than you will not regret it!

So that is my top 10 list. I know I said I wouldn’t put them in any particular order, but I would probably pick the last 3 that I named (Calibre, The Endless, and Freaks) as my tentative top 3. Please, if you check any of these out, let me know what you think of them!

Here is a list of honorable mentions. These are all really good movies, but didn’t quite make my personal top 10 list. Look them up for more information! They are all worth checking out, as well.

– Gerald’s Game (2017)
– Creep (2014)
– The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
– 1922 (2017)
– Under the Skin (2013)
– The One I Love (2014)
– Room (2015)
– Her (2013)

And last but not least, I wanted to make a list of movies that are on my radar to watch! If you have seen any of these, let me know what you thought! Should I definitely check them out? Maybe they weren’t worth it?

– The Interview (1998)
– Creep 2 (2017)
– Marriage Story (2019)
– Train to Busan (2016)
– Moonlight (2016)
– Super Dark Times (2017)
– Amanda Knox (2016)
– The Perfection (2018)
– All the Bright Places (2020)

Oh yeah! I said I would give y’all a bonus mention of my 2 favorite Rom-Coms that are on Netflix! Here they are!

1. Always Be My Maybe (2019)RomCom. 1h 42m. 89% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
What is there really to say about romantic comedies? They are either super cute or they are just not great. This one is super cute! The acting is adorable and so is the plot. I know, some of you are probably thinking that it’s just a typical rom-com, but seriously. This one is so cute! And hilarious! If you dig that cutesy stuff, check this one out!

2. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)Drama/Romantic Comedy. 1h 39m. 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking! I didn’t even plan on watching this movie, to be completely honest with you. I was doing some stuff in the living room and wanted some background noise and turned this on and ended up getting hooked! It’s a perfect feel good movie. Plus, any time you can stare at Noah Centineo (he plays Peter Kavinsky) for over an hour and a half, it’s a win. I love the quirkiness and awkwardness of this movie. It’s too charming for it’s own good. Check this one out if you love heartfelt comedies about love, self-confidence, and honesty!

Alright! I sure hope everyone is staying safe out there right now! Hopefully my lists can help you get through this tough time of recommended quarantine. Again, please let me know your thoughts on any of these movies! I love discussing theories on why something happened or didn’t happen. Or give me some suggestions on what I should watch next! If anyone wants to write a guest post regarding entertainment (music, movies, tv shows), make sure to hit me up!

The Goal Shebang

I have never really been one to set a New Year Resolution for myself. I mean, yeah, I typically will go with the generic “Oh, I am going to start working out and get really fit!” But then January turns in to February which turns in to March, then April, then May and guess what? I still haven’t done much, if anything, in the realm of eating healthier or exercising.  Despite my previous motivations (or lack thereof), I do intend to start working out and eating better this year. I just turned 30 and I became sober, so I feel like now is a great time to start working on being healthier. If I was able to give up alcohol, it should be easy to start hitting the gym a bit, right?

Aside from that, I do have other goals that I hope to accomplish in 2020. I am going to call them goals rather than resolutions because it seems like resolutions get dropped way faster. I think most of the time people (including myself) treat their resolutions like a sprint when it should be more like a marathon. We have that “I want it all and I want it NOW” mentality and that just tends to hurt us more than help us. We have all heard the saying “slow and steady wins the race.” This applies to most resolutions and goals, as well! Small changes are easier to accomplish because they aren’t as intimidating as remodeling your entire life overnight. I also believe that a big issue with resolutions is that we know what we want but not WHY we want it. You want to get fit, lose weight, be healthier, stop smoking, stop drinking… but WHY is that goal important to you? The more specific you can make your goal the better because it causes it to be more vivid in your mind. This then leads to you being more encouraged and more likely to succeed. Also, framing your goal more positively can help. For example: instead of saying “don’t eat junk food,” we should be wording this more positively, like “eat vegetables and fruit as a healthy snack.”

Other ways to be successful with resolutions/goal setting:

Set realistic goals for yourself; ones that CAN be accomplished. It is much better to succeed at a smaller, manageable resolution than to fail at a larger, unrealistic one.

Be honest with yourself; don’t waste time setting goals just because you think you should. If it isn’t something you sincerely want to achieve, forget about it. Otherwise, you are just setting yourself up for failure.

Believe in yourself! Congratulate yourself when you make progress. There is a grey area when it comes to tackling goals. Most people view everything in black and white; either you achieved your goal, or you have failed. If you have gotten half-way, then you have made progress and should feel good about that!

Kill yourself with kindness. We always support our friends by offering kindness, praise, and positivity, but we don’t tend to speak to ourselves that way. Commit to offering that same compassion to yourself!

 Recruit someone else to join you. If you tend to have better success when you have outside support, then have someone join you on your journey. This creates accountability and inspiration. Just make sure your buddy is a positive force in your life and not a negative one.

With all of that in mind, I plan on trying to better myself in a few ways this coming year. Below is my list of the goals I hope to accomplish in 2020.

My 2020 Goals:

Work out and eat better.
I already mentioned it, so I will just go ahead and start off with this one. To be more successful than in the past with this one, I plan to go slowly and realize that progress doesn’t happen overnight. It’s too hard for me to change all of my habits with the snap of a finger, so I plan on setting a small goal and then once I complete that, I will set another one, and then another, until I am where I want to be. Then my goal will be to maintain!

 Read more.
I have already started this one, but plan on continuing through 2020. I have recently been into psychological thriller/horror books and have read 3 over the past month and have started a 4th (House of Leaves by MZD, which is pretty crazy and once I am finished I will most likely write a review for it). I have been seeing posts on Reddit from others around the world who are setting goals to read a certain number of books in a year. Some people have been ambitious enough to state that they want to read 100 books in 2020! As cool as that would be, I know that isn’t a realistic goal for me. I will commit to reading AT LEAST 20 books in 2020. This will give me around 2 and a half weeks per book. Realistically, I should be able to complete more than 20 in a year, but by setting a smaller goal, I should be able to accomplish it. And reading 20 in a year is much more than I have read in that period of time since I was in middle school!

Be more grateful and practice mindfulness.
Some studies show that gratefulness can improve your happiness by 25%! It can also help improve your sleep, romantic relationships, and friendships. Here is a link to some gratitude exercises that I plan to try regularly.
 Mindfulness, according to dictionary.com, is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. It refers to a state that is achieved by focusing on one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations (used as a therapeutic technique). It has been proven that by practicing mindfulness, one can improve well-being, physical health, and mental health. Melissa Heisler states in an article on HuffPost “When we are not mindful, we speak without thinking. We allow our emotions to get out of control. We are worrying about the future or regretting the past. We feel the victim of circumstances, events, and others. Without mindfulness, we are a two-year-old child. We cry when our needs are not met. We don’t understand cause and effect. We expect others to take care of us. We can’t see past obstacles. We are powerless and overly emotional. When you are mindful each action, word, and thought are conscious. Being mindful means taking responsibility for what we are thinking, saying, and doing – and if it is not the experience we want, we change it.” Here are some mindfulness techniques that I am going to incorporate into my life.

Write and create more.
I started this blog because I have wanted to for such a long time. I finally did it and have committed myself to writing at least once or twice a month. I figured that I would probably start out slow but eventually, I want to post more regularly. I don’t want to set myself up for failure by pushing myself too hard, so I plan on leaving this goal slightly vague. I just plan to write MORE. Writing for me is very therapeutic. I love creative writing. Poetry, short stories, descriptive narratives, songs… I definitely plan on working on some more creative writing this year! I also love other forms of art, as well. I want to start making more crafts, painting, doing DIY projects, and hopefully even learn how to build things (with Chad’s help most likely). I also want to start using my video camera to take and create more videos!

This is actually a picture I created with spray paint!

Save more.
Yes, I am referring to money. This one is a tough one for me. I used to be a saver, back in the day. Not so much anymore. The thing is, I LOVE to travel. And the only way I can travel is if I have some money saved up. I haven’t quite worked out what kind of plan I want to use to tackle this goal, but I know that by not consuming alcohol, I should easily be able to save more money than I used to. So that’s a good start! I am still doing some research on good plans to save money because I want to set the goal of going to Iceland for 2021, so if you have any good ideas that have worked for you or someone you know, please let me know!

Continue to stay sober.
Our goals don’t have to be something completely new! Becoming sober has been a newer decision for me (two months down) but struggling with addiction is a lifelong hurdle to jump. I vow to stay clean for all of 2020. This is a realistic goal for me because I have already seen the positive effects that just two months of being sober has had on my mental health, productivity levels, and personal relationships. I didn’t even mention how awesome my internal organs are probably feeling! I have decided that I would rather go through life sober and knowing that I am an alcoholic than in a drunken stupor, denying that I have a problem. One day at a time.

 What kinds of resolutions or goals do you have for 2020? These can be goals that you plan to accomplish sometime during the year or by the end of the year, or they can be things you just plan on starting on in the upcoming year. Comment below and let me know what you plan on working on! Also, if you have a plan to accomplish these intentions, talk about that, too!

Oh Deer

It’s still dark. First light hasn’t kissed the face of the Earth where I am, yet. There is a light snow on the ground and it’s cold enough that I can hear the crunch of the frozen leaves beneath my feet. My eyes have adjusted to the darkness well enough that I can make my way along the worn-down path. A fresh footprint left in the snow where my boot just traveled gives the impression that I am the first to have walked through this area but a quick glance around proves otherwise. Random patterns of tracks grace the surface of the fluffy snow, most of which have been made by trotting deer and scavenging turkeys. I quietly make my way, ducking under branches and side-stepping bushes, to the place where I will sit for the next few hours, scanning for movement while soaking in the essence of nature surrounding me. I can see my breath, the wisps of condensation dancing with the faintly blowing wind. I reach the blind and settle in, silently hoping that today will be the day that a monster buck will grace me with its presence.

I started hunting when I was 12 years old. My dad took me to a hunter’s safety course so I could learn all the proper etiquette, gun safety, and techniques for hunting. I went out with my dad quite a few times over the years but had never really had a chance to harvest anything. Back then, I was a pretty impatient kid. Sitting around outside in the cold trying to be still and quiet was rather hard for me. Once I reached a certain age, I stopped going. I went off to college, so I was never around during hunting season anymore and I basically stopped really thinking about it. Not too long after I graduated from my University, I moved to Michigan from Pennsylvania and found myself in a town that was very hunter friendly. Seeing all the camouflage and orange clad hunters walking around made me miss going out with my dad. I longed to get back out in the woods, but I had never gone hunting alone before. I had no idea where to start and that basically deterred me from getting back into it at the time.

In October of 2016, just a month before hunting season started again, I started having feelings for someone (his name is Chad) and found out that he felt the same. We began our journey as a couple. Guess what? He hunts! I don’t remember if he asked me to sit with him or if I initiated it by asking him if I could go with him. Either way, I was super excited to be experiencing it again! I did not take a gun with me the first year and his daughter and I both sat in the blind with him. He got a buck on opening day. He introduced me to eating deer heart, which is amazing, by the way. The following year, I decided to get a license, as my dad had given me the gun that I had taken out when I would go hunting with him. One of my favorite stories to tell about this particular year is about me having my gun on a huge 9 pointer. Chad asked me if I was going to shoot and I responded that I was, but that I was waiting for it to step out from behind a tree. As the deer was taking that fateful step forward, I heard a loud shot ring out, though I hadn’t pulled the trigger. It was Chad. He took my shot. WHAT A TURD! I got over it, though, and ended up getting my first deer ever later in the season.

I can remember the way my heart was pounding as I steadied the cross-hairs on the optimal spot for a shot. I remember telling myself to take a deep breath and to pull the trigger slowly. I remember saying a little prayer in my head, thanking God for the food and thanking the deer for its sacrifice. I remember pulling the trigger and hearing the breath escape my lungs as I exhaled. We had to track the deer for a bit but found it rather quickly. I discovered that it was a spike. I could tell that it had horns while I was aiming at it, but I had thought that it had more than just spikes. Regardless, I was excited to have taken my first deer and thankful to have obtained some food for the freezer.

Here you can see the 9 point that Chad stole from me.

The next year, I didn’t get anything. I wanted to wait for a monster buck but waited too long and then didn’t end up getting a buck or a doe. Chad tagged out that year with 2 and his daughter got her first deer! She shot it with my gun, and it was a spike, as well. Fun fact: all 3 of his kids shot a spike for their first deer (just like me)!

One shot, one kill!

Regular rifle season has just ended here for this year. I was able to get a rather large doe. Chad still has his combo tag, I still have one tag, and his daughter has one, too. In the county that we hunt in, we can use our rifles during muzzleloader season, which starts soon, and then we also have a late doe season after that. So, we still have some opportunities to secure some more meat!

I know a lot of people may not understand why people want to hunt. There are many benefits to it!

Conservation
If you hunt, you are directly responsible for helping to maintain a balanced wildlife population. The Nature Conservancy considers an overabundance of deer to be the greatest threat to the forests and farms. Deer are also a huge host for Lyme disease and help spread other diseases. Lastly, there were 1.9 million deer related vehicle claims in 2018. You are also acting as a funding source for state agencies that help to conserve habitats. Did you know that just over half (about 55%) of the Department of Fish and Wildlife is funded by hunting tags and taxes on sporting goods? They then spend that money to support hunting activities, research on wildlife, management programs, and buying lands for refuge systems.

Hormone-free, lean, healthy protein
Hunting is the ultimate organic food source. If you hunt, you know exactly where your meat comes from. Deer live completely wild and free lives, just the way nature intended. A deer also has a higher level of activity, as well as a natural diet which contributes to a lower level of fat content. According to the USDA, wild meats are higher in protein, iron and B vitamins than that of other red meat alternatives. It is also a great source of iron, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Quality time
I know the stigma is that men typically go out and hunt and leave the wives and girlfriends at home, but it seems that more and more women are starting to get interested in hunting. It could be the increase in changes amongst typical gender roles that are pushing women toward the sport. Or it could be that they want to help provide for their family. Further yet, I believe a huge part of it has to do with them wanting to spend more quality time with their partners and children. Just like I described above with my experiences in going out with my dad and Chad also taking his daughter, it provides a great means of bonding time between parents and children. Some people might have something like a deer camp where they can hang out and catch up with friends and other family members when they are not in the woods. I am lucky enough to have met Chad, whose dad owns quite a bit of private land. During the season, we go to his dad’s house and get to spend more time with him, his wife, and Chad’s brothers, usually chatting and eating good food. That’s always one of my favorite parts!

Health benefits
It may not seem super obvious to those that do not hunt, but hunting comes with many health benefits. It isn’t easy. You must trek through the woods and across fields, while carrying your gun or your bow. When you take a deer, you may have to drag it quite a way, too. Studies have shown that simply walking in nature can help reduce stress levels and lower blood pressure and anxiety. Imagine what spending all day in the woods could do for your mental well-being! Check out this awesome infographic for more information on how hunting and eating venison has many health benefits!

These are just a few of the many reasons why you should try hunting, especially if you have been thinking about it. If you have never gone before and have a family member or a friend that goes, ask them if you can tag along. I guarantee you that it will be an enjoyable experience!

Do you have any great hunting stories? Why do you hunt? Remember, I would love to have guest bloggers, as well. So, if hunting is something you are experienced at and passionate about, shoot me a message and let’s collaborate on a post!

My Top 5 Travel Bucket List

I have had serious wanderlust since I can remember. It has always been my dream to travel the world. Growing up, I was fascinated with far away places. Pictures from history books, descriptions from fiction books that I was reading, and posts online about these extraordinary places in this beautiful world had me longing to see it all in person.

I didn’t do much travelling while I was still in high school. I have family in Ohio, so most of our “vacations” were taken there. My family did go to Disney World once, but I was sick the entire time. I also used to go to Ocean City, MD with my boyfriend’s (at the time) family in the summers.

It wasn’t until college that I really got my first taste of travelling. I was lucky enough to be accepted into the honor’s program at my university. This group of students got the benefit of going on a trip each semester that was completely paid for! Our first trip was to New York City. It was a blast! We ate at some really amazing restaurants, stayed in a really nice hotel, and saw some of the main attractions while there. We stopped at the memorial for the twin towers. I have actually been there 2 more times since and it is still a very surreal experience. One of my favorite parts was the New York Public Library, where we got to see ORIGINAL works from Thackeray, Blake, Dickinson, and many more. We checked out the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the top of the Empire State building, and rode a ferry out to Ellis Island where we got some close up views of the Statue of Liberty. As I have said, I have been to NYC two additional times (once as a gift from an employer and once for my sister’s birthday) and have loved it every time!

Here you can see the view from the top of the Empire State building, the actual hand drawn illustration for Vanity Fair by Thackeray, the Statue of Liberty, and a random night shot of a street in NYC.

My second trip through the school’s honor program was to Chicago. I was especially excited about this because my dad was stationed at the Navy Pier there when he was in the Navy and I thought it would be super neat to see it. We also ate amazing food in Chicago. We checked out the Science Museum, a really fun play called “Superior Donuts,” the Frederick C. Robie house (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright), the Navy Pier, and the Bean! I have also been to Chicago one other time and saw most of the same sights but added the top of the John Hancock Center to my list. Oh, and I even got to see Rick Bayless at his restaurant the Frontera Grill!

Here you can see some shots of the Navy pier, the bean, and a random night shot of a bridge.

My most exciting trip while with the honor’s program in college actually wasn’t either of these. I had the opportunity to go to Italy and Greece for two weeks and have two-thirds of the cost paid for. When I say I worked my ass off the summer before in order to save money for this trip, I really mean it! I saved every dollar I could and eventually I was able to make my portion of the payment and secure my spot on this trip overseas. I had never flown on a plane before so my nerves were a little shot but I sucked it up and made the trek. We landed in Rome and explored for a bit. We saw the Pantheon, Campo de Fiori, and Piazza Navona (I was super excited to see the obelisk there because I was obsessed with the book Angels & Demons). I was so exhausted by the end of the day because of the time change that I passed right out. We spent two more days in Rome where we visited the Coliseum, the Roman Forum (where Julius Caesar was killed), Castel Sant’Angelo and the Tiber river, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museum (where I actually took pictures inside the Sistine Chapel even though we weren’t supposed to), and the Trevi fountain.

The Pantheon, the obelisk in Piazza Navona, The Coliseum, the Roman Forum, and part of the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel.

We also explored Pompeii and climbed to the top of Mt. Vesuvius – the volcano that erupted and wiped out the city below. We stayed in Sorrento, which was one of the most beautiful cliff side towns I had ever seen and then we took an overnight ferry to Greece!

Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius.

While in Greece, we climbed to the top of the Temple of Delphi, saw Olympic Stadium, and experienced Athens and the Parthenon. Before my trip, I was most excited for Italy, probably because it seems to be more talked about and popular than Greece. During and after my trip, though, I fell in LOVE with Greece. The gorgeous landscapes, lovely beaches, and extremely friendly people made it a very likable place.

Delphi, Olympic Stadium, the Parthenon in Athens, and our Honors Group!

After we were done in Greece, we took a 3 day cruise to a few different islands in the area. Stops included Mykonos, Kusadasi (which is actually in Turkey), Crete, Patmos, and Santorini. I rode a dag-gone donkey up the side of the mountain in Santorini! That was an experience that I am glad I lived through to tell! I was so scared (haha everyone on the trip made fun of me after but I swear my donkey tried to kill me)! This trip gave me a two week taste of just a small part of the world and that’s when the wanderlust bug REALLY decided to bite me.

Mykonos, Patmos, Kusadasi, Santorini and the possessed donkeys!

I have been to a few other places which I will detail in their own posts and will continue to write about any place that I do get the chance to visit. But right now, I want to talk about the top 5 places that I NEED to visit! Like, ASAP. Check out my list and then leave some comments for other suggestions or tell me about some of your favorite trips! By the way, when I finally decided to try to make this list I went into panic mode a bit. How can I pick only 5 destinations when I really want to see the entire world?

5. Macchu Picchu, Peru
I remember seeing some very stunning pictures of Macchu Picchu way back in the day and I have been rather fascinated with it ever since. If you would like some super detailed information from someone that has gone to Macchu Picchu, check out this blog. Macchu Picchu was designed and built by 15th century Inca rulers. It is surrounded by towering Andean peaks which I am sure will definitely cause me to have to catch my breath when I finally do lay my eyes upon the spectacle in person.

Just look how gorgeous! Macchu Picchu, Peru. Photo Credit – Trace Hudson

4. Seattle, Washington & Denver, Colorado
I chose both of these for number 4 because I really couldn’t choose which one I wanted to visit more. I have no clue why but I have always felt that I would absolutely love it in Seattle. I don’t mind the rain and the mood of the city just seems like it would be right up my alley. There are also plenty of hiking trails and mountains in the area, too. Same with Denver! My main reason for wanting to go to Denver is for the hiking, but I have seen so many breathtaking pictures and have heard so many amazing stories about the city that I really just want to explore ALL that it has to offer.

Seattle, Washington. Photo Credit – Chait Goli
Somewhere in Colorado. Amazing mountains and colors! Photo credit – Pixabay

3. Yosemite, California
I know, it seems kind of silly that I am picking quite a few places that are in my own country. But hey! I haven’t seen any of these locations and they are probably a more realistic destination for me as far as affordability goes. I have actually been to a very beautiful part of California (Monterey, which I will detail in another post eventually) and was rather upset with myself for not finding the time to be able to explore around the Yosemite area while I was out there. As you can tell by my previous destination picks, I love to hike. I love mountains and waters and the splendor of nature. Seeing pictures of Yosemite is awe-inspiring enough. I can’t imagine getting to experience it in person. Here is a good blog that gives great examples of plenty of things to check out while in the area.

I am terrified of heights but I would give anything to be able to be atop these rock formations. Photo Credit – Mohamed Almari

2. Norway
And basically anywhere in Norway. I couldn’t tell you how many pictures and videos I have seen of Norway that have made me really desire to go there. The gorgeous green hills, the cute little fishing towns by the sea, the amazing wilderness, and the chance to see the Northern Lights? Sign me up! Here is a great post that details 23 different itineraries to get you started if you want to sight see in Norway.

Adorable! Vagan, Norway. Photo Credit – Tobias Bjorkli

And drumroll please!


1. Iceland
Words cannot express how much I desire to travel to Iceland. I am so obsessed that I’ve joined groups on Facebook and Instagram that are made for people wanting more information on traveling specifically to Iceland. This country is my ultimate destination and I plan on going as soon as I can save up the money for it. Ideally, I would want to take a fairly long vacation so that I could see as many sights as I can that Iceland has to offer. It would be awesome to rent a camper van and just drive around Ring Road, making stops at all of the amazing spots along the way. Ring Road goes all the way around the country of Iceland, so one could start in Reykjavik (which is most likely where the plane would touch down) and go either East or West and see the entire splendor of Iceland, then eventually end up back in Reykjavik to board a plane and go home. Iceland is known for its gorgeous waterfalls, Northern Lights most of the year, colorful beaches, and hot springs. It is also known to be one of the safest countries in the entire world. I cannot wait to go here! And I promise to make a post after I finally do! Here is a list of some things that you do not want to miss if you get the chance to go to Iceland!

Northern Lights in Iceland. Photo Credit – Simon Migaj
Cute town in Iceland. Photo Credit – Mark Neal
Seljalandsfoss waterfall in Iceland. Photo Credit – Pixabay
Gorgeous greenery! Photo Credit – Rudolph Kirchner

It was extremely difficult for me to choose only 5 destinations, because I seriously am not joking when I say that I want to see the entire world! What’s your ultimate travel bucket list? Where do you REALLY long to go? Have you gone to any of the places that I have on my list? What are some tips and advice that you might have for someone travelling to these destinations? What has been your favorite trip that you have already taken? Thanks for reading and let’s chat in the comments below!

I will not drink with you today.

I decided today that I was going to write about something a little more on the messy side of life. If you have read my previous posts, you may have seen that I really enjoy alcohol. This past weekend, I decided that I enjoy alcohol a bit too much. Countless nights of making horrible decisions, driving drunk, completely blacking out and not remembering a thing, multiple relationships and reputations ruined – Enough is enough.

I didn’t really become overly dependent on alcohol until probably around the end of last year. I drank a good bit before that, and quite a bit in college, but I rarely blacked out. It was more of a social thing. Then, I started into a downward spiral. I drank every day. I blacked out most weekends and even some days through the week. When I did get the energy to go to work, I felt like absolute shit and would vow to not drink that night. Guess what? I still did. I would hide my beer cans so people wouldn’t think I had drank that night while I was alone and playing video games. I ruined so many relationships with people. I got severely depressed but kept drinking to try to mute those feelings. It was an endless cycle: drink, do stupid things that most of the time I didn’t even remember doing, wake up with a hangover and feel like pure crap and guilty as hell, then drink to forget about it all. I luckily haven’t gotten into any legal trouble from it but I am sure it was bound to happen at some point if I didn’t slow down.

I did try slowing down and limiting myself. It worked for the most part during the week, but when the weekends rolled around, I went all out again. This weekend was a real eye opener for me. I confided some things in someone that means the world to me and he hit me with some very tough love. He helped me realize that if I kept up my behavior, I was going to end up dead. I decided Sunday morning that I have had enough and I was going to quit for a long time, if not forever. I already feel so much better about myself every day. I know it has only been 5 days, but this time… I got this.

I have family members and friends that have struggled with addiction – from alcohol to hard drugs. I have had aunts and uncles die from liver and stomach cancer. I have seen people I have grown up with overdose on things that I could never imagine trying. I never thought I had a problem. I like to drink. It’s not like I do it ALL day, even if I do indulge just about every single day. But these people doing meth and heroin are throwing their lives away. I always viewed hard drugs as much, much worse than alcohol. Alcohol is legal when you are of age. It can’t be as bad as stuff that is illegal, can it? I was in denial. And I have come to learn that for some people (like me) alcohol can be every bit as dangerous as other drugs.

My own sister was fairly recently released from prison because she was a drug addict. She would make meth so that she could sell it to buy heroin, but I have also heard her say “If you put anything in front of me, I would do it. I wasn’t picky.” It was extremely hard seeing someone that you are so close with going through that. When all of the issues with her started, my drinking wasn’t a HUGE problem. Gradually, it got much worse. I was blacking out more often than not, even through the week. I was constantly in a state of haziness from the lingering effects of the alcohol. I didn’t want to go to work most of the time. I was consistently very emotional yet still seemed to just not give a shit about anything. I hurt many people (emotionally) because I would become totally unaware of what I was doing and wouldn’t even know about it until someone told me the next day. Meanwhile, my sister was on her road to recovery. When I would message her before, she would give short responses or act like an idiot by saying stuff that she knew I wouldn’t approve of, but now, she would respond with thoughtful and clear messages. I was extremely proud of her (and am even more proud of her every single day), but continued to tell her “If you go back to that shit, you know you will be on your own. We love you and we want the old you back…” How convenient that I was spiraling so far to the bottom that I was to come very close to ruining my own life. Who was I to give any advice or lectures at that time? Because alcohol isn’t as bad as controlled substances? I think I have finally come to the conclusion that I was delusional and what I was doing could have ended just as badly as what happened to my sister; possibly worse.

So here I am… joining her in this path to recovery. I don’t know where the future will take either of us, but I am willing to bet that these once life-controlling substances won’t be what is controlling our lives – We will. They say that at first it is hard, then it is different, and then it gets better. The first year is about physically healing. The second year is about emotional healing. The third is about spiritual healing. I say bring it all on!

Have you thought about quitting something that does more harm than good to your body and mind? Maybe you already have and would like to share your experiences. Let me know about it in the comments below!

Jalapeno Popper Chicken Chili

This past weekend, on October 26th, I decided to enter my first ever chili cook-off competition to benefit childcare in the county I live in. You can read more information on the Children’s Discovery Academy here. It was so much fun! There were 17 different chilies entered into the competition. Prizes were given for Best in Flavor, Most Unique, Kid’s Choice, and Spiciest. Although I did not receive top honors in any of the categories (I was up against actual restaurants), I did have many people tell me how good my chili was. This Jalapeno Popper Chicken Chili is pretty high up on my list of favorite recipes, especially when it’s cold out. Who doesn’t like curling up under a giant blanket with a big bowl of warm soup and the football game on the TV?

This chili is rather simple to make. Usually, if I want to make it quickly, I will just cook it on the stove in a giant pot. Since I was entering a competition this time, I wanted to slow cook it in the crockpot. I got a lot of the ingredients prepared the night before so that I could just wake up early and turn the crockpot on.

I started out by chopping up some green peppers, an onion, garlic, mushrooms, and some jalapenos. You can keep some of the jalapeno seeds if you would like to make the chili even spicier! I wore some gloves while chopping my jalapenos!

Next, I shredded the meat off of a rotisserie chicken and threw that into the crockpot, as well. I have made this chili with regular boneless, skinless chicken breast just cut into bite size pieces, but I really like the flavor of the rotisserie chicken and decided to give it a try this time! At this point, I placed the crockpot in the fridge to continue the next morning.


I got the crockpot plugged in and turned on high so that it could get warmed up. I added the chicken broth, rotel, and beans. You can pretty much use whichever beans you would like. In this instance, I chose 1 can of black beans and 1 can of kidney beans. Make sure to rinse them off before adding them into the pot. I had some errands to run, so I left it like that to cook a bit. When I returned, about 4 and a half hours later, I added the cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and cream cheese and let it cook for another 2 hours. If you read my first post, you know that I don’t really measure anything, Just throw some stuff in there and taste it! I like to put shredded cheddar cheese on top of my chili. With this recipe you can also use cooked diced bacon on top. I ended up not using the bacon this time, since I figured it would be hard to manage with the little space we were given at the competition. I have also made this with chopped avocado on top, too!

As you can see, pretty simple! The beauty of a crockpot is that you don’t really have to monitor it a ton. I was able to get it started and then go get other things done without having to worry about it or check on it. Try this recipe out and let me know what you think in the comments below!

I also wanted to include a video that I made of the chili cook-off event. It was a great time! I hope you enjoy!

Recipe: Italian Sausage Stuffed Peppers

I mentioned that this was one of the first recipes that I had tried out in my initial introduction post. I figured that I bragged them up enough that I should probably share them with you!

One thing that I should point out before I jump into step by step instructions is that I very rarely measure ingredients. I have also made these so many times that I don’t use a specific recipe. I tend to just wing it and throw together what I think tastes good. I will, however, try to give as much detail as possible in case you want try it out! Which, by the way, you definitely should! Anyone that has ever tried this dish has LOVED it.

When making this dish, I typically get six to eight peppers. You can do any color (I just used green this time) and can even use Poblano or Cubanelle if you want some to have slightly more spiciness. I used six green bell peppers and one Poblano and one Cubanelle. Chop off the tops and remove the insides! Save the tops for later. I then place these peppers into a huge pot of boiling water. This helps to soften them up a bit before stuffing them, which tastes better when eating! You don’t necessarily have to boil the peppers. You could stuff them raw, as I have tried before, but they will stay more solid/crunchy that way. It is really up to you on which you prefer, but I really like the softer ones.

Oh, and I almost always have a drink when cooking! I’m a big fan of beer. This one matches my peppers!

While the peppers are boiling, get your rice boiling, as well. Cook this however the instructions tell you to. You could use brown or white rice. I typically choose white rice and I just use the simple “boil-in-a-bag” variety. Usually 2 cups cooked does the trick but if you have really large peppers or make more than the 6-8, you might need to use more!

The peppers are starting to soften and the rice is boiling, so now you should focus on the rest of the stuffing. I love using SWEET Italian sausage for this recipe. Again, you could use mild or hot if you prefer. Something about the sweetness of the sweet sausage just blends really well with the other flavors , in my opinion. And everyone that has tried mine seems to agree! I usually start off by throwing the sausage into a large hot pan and then using a spatula to “chop” the sausage into smaller pieces. Remember those tops I had you save for later? Chop them up and put them in with the sausage! Next, do the same with a large onion. Any onion is fine. Whichever you prefer will work great, but I usually go with a red one. I am of the opinion that there is no such thing as too much garlic, so go ahead and chop up as many cloves as you’d like. Toss them in with the diced peppers, onions, and sausage. Let that cook a bit, until the peppers and onions are starting to get soft and the sausage is browned. I’d probably have the radio going so this is where you would probably find me singing and dancing around the kitchen.

I think I took this before I put the sausage in because I did things a little backwards this time. It still worked fine!

After the veggies and sausage are starting to cook down a bit, I like to add mushrooms. I am a mushroom freak. I add mushrooms to pretty much everything. This is optional. If you don’t like mushrooms (I will think you’re crazy) then leave ’em out! I try too dice mine into small pieces. I used Portobello here.

This is a similar picture to the previous one, but you can see the mushrooms that were added! Yum!

I totally forgot to mention something that I LOVE to do when I am using vegetables in my meals! You know the insides of the peppers that you took out? What about the skin and ends you cut off of the onion? Put all of the “waste” into a freezer bag. Even the skin from the garlic can go in! I do this with almost every veggie that I have to cut something off of – potatoes, asparagus, zucchini, squash, green beans, peppers, onions, etc. You put it all into a freezer bag and then, you guessed it – put it in the freezer! This is a great and inexpensive way to use your food waste to produce something else. You can dump all of the contents of the freezer bags into a pot full of water and boil them into a stock! You can find more details on doing something like this here.

One of my veggie scrap bags that will be used for stock another time!

Now you want to start putting in the spices! Like I said before, I don’t really ever measure my ingredients, especially spices. For this recipe, you want to add these directly into the pot with the veggies and sausage. I use chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning, and oregano. I think I even had some crushed rosemary (which I LOVE the flavor of) on hand so I added some of that in there, too. I then add some tomato sauce (usually 2 smaller cans or one larger can will work) and a can of Rotel diced tomatoes (or any generic version because that is honestly probably what I used). Sprinkle in some salt and pepper to taste. Stir all of that greatness up and then dump your rice right in with the saucy mixture.

Carefully take your softened peppers and place them in a baking dish, with the open side up. You then want to start spooning the saucy sausage, rice, and veggie mixture into the peppers. Make sure to fill them up nice and full! If you have left over filling, you can either freeze it for another time or do what I like to do – just add it all around the top and sides of the peppers! This basically makes it a stuffed pepper casserole, I guess. Still delicious.

I then like to cover the peppers in cheese! I usually use shredded sharp cheddar, but feel free to choose your favorite!
This is when you place the dish into the oven. I usually put it on 400 degrees until the cheese melts and then starts to crisp up a bit. Usually around 15 minutes. Once the cheese is nice and delicious looking, pull out the baking dish and drizzle a little bit of tomato sauce on top and then bake for another 5 minutes.

*Drools*

Let it cool a bit and then it’s time to dig in! These are very flavorful as is, but I know others have enjoyed adding sour cream on top. If you like spicy (which anyone that knows me knows i love spicy) you could add crushed red peppers or diced up jalapenos to the stuffing mixture. Feel free to tweak the recipe a bit; Lord knows I do all the time! Try it out and let me know what you think in the comments below!

ENJOY!

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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