5 Cheap Ways To Brighten Up Your Apartment For Spring

I know we’ve all heard of the term spring cleaning before but what about spring redecorating. After the dreary winter, I always feel like every aspect of my life needs a little sprucing up, my makeup routine, wardrobe and even my apartment. I don’t know about you but my budget right now doesn’t allow for large furniture purchases or a complete makeover of my apartment. So these are my five quick and cheap tips to add some life back into your apartment for spring.

#1 – Easy to take care of plants

As much as I’d love to have a large colorful garden, my living space would not allow it. I don’t have a balcony or backyard but I do have lots of natural light. I picked up these glass vases, soil, rocks and plants from home depot and decided to make my own terrariums. They turned out just as good as the premade ones in my opinion! These were so much cheaper than some I’ve seen already put together to purchase and were fun to put together. Small cactuses and succulents are beyond easy to take care of and bring that spring look to your apartment. I love the small cactus because it does have that pink flower on it but doesn’t require the amount of upkeep.

#2 – Bright kitchen accessories

Besides my bedroom, my kitchen is probably my most used room so I thought it was important to brighten it up this spring. I picked up these cute Cooking Utensils off Amazon and love how they look. These were pretty cheap but are such great quality. Another great idea to add a pick me up in your kitchen is new floral kitchen dish towels. I love these ones also from Amazon.

#3 – Spring candles

Another easy way to freshen up your apartment is to switch out your candles with bright floral scents. I don’t think you can beat Bath & Body Works candles but of course, there are cheaper alternatives out there. I’m a sucker for a good floral scent and right now this Lilac Blossom candle is one of my favorites. I also have Fresh Cut Lilacs in my living room (yes I know they sell other scents). I think this is a great way to brighten up your apartment – scent wise. Candles always make me feel warmer and at home, finding scents you love is really the key.

#4 – Fresh picture frames

What’s an apartment without the personalized touch of adding pictures you love? I’m a sucker for a good photo and annoy everyone by wanting to take pictures everywhere. Cute, cheap picture frames are definitely the way to go. I bought these at Ikea and plan to paint the bottom portion of them a bright blue or green for spring. The hardest part for me is selecting which photos I want to put in them!

#5 – Girls night out spring paintings

Where I live those ‘paint and sip’ nights are all over the places and I’m always finding Groupons for them. It’s where you go with a group of friends, your boyfriend or by yourself (hey! I love doing activities solo and then no one’s there to make fun of your lack of artistic abilities) and attempt to copy a painting with the help of an instructor. There’s usually wine served as well which could either work for or against you. Right now most places are offering a variety of spring paintings like these cherry blossoms (this could also be because I live so close to DC). You feel great at the end because you painted something all on your own and get to choose where to hang it in your apartment.

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What’s Inside My Bag? Dagne Dover Edition

I was on the hunt for the perfect ‘work bag’ to carry around my planner, laptop, coffee mug/water bottle or anything else I needed for the day. I thought I had some high expectations for a bag but somehow found a bag that met all of them and more when I stumbled across Dagne Dover. Since purchasing my bag back in January they have largely expanded their collections. I chose to go with the 13-inch classic tote from their signature collection. They have this same bag in a 15-inch size, 11-inch and even an 8-inch size making it easy to select which is best for your lifestyle.

One of the biggest reasons I selected this tote bag was because of how organized the inside was. As a messier person, my bags tend to begin to clutter up easily. This bag has so many sections and pockets that are specifically designed for certain items. There’s a laptop sleeve, a phone sleeve and even a section for a water bottle or travel coffee mug. Their website makes it easy to see how big these sections are in each of the tote’s offered so you’ll be sure your laptop or tablet will fit. They show how the bags can be organized and used for your everyday life.

This is canvas bag making it easy to clean if anything gets on it. The straps also feel super secure so I’m not scared of overloading this bag and having them start tearing. The zipper also feels super high quality and the bag include a couple key clips which are great for your keys or cute keychains to personalize the bag.

When signing up to purchase this bag, they offer a $25 off code to share with friends.

What’s Inside My Bag?

Since I do carry around a smaller bag that includes my wallet and things I’d want for a quick trip to the mall or going out with friends, this bag is more of my work bag. I use it for carrying things back and forth from my job, my apartment, my boyfriend’s house and anywhere I decided to do my blogging, like a local coffee shop. What I carry inside:

  1. My keys – obviously an essential. These usually transfer back and forth between my bags. On my keys I have, what I think is one of my coolest purchases, a tassel key chain that actually has a USB cord hidden to charge on iPhone with. I found a similar one from Express but I’ve also seen some of these DIY’d.
  2. Next, I carry around some felt tip markers for writing in my planner. I like these colored ones to help organize and personalize things in my planner.
  3. This is my planner I purchased from Me and My Big Ideas. I’m obsessed with this planner and how easy it is to personalize, which is the main things I was looking for in a planner. They have other sizes, this is the larger version.
  4. And then, of course, my laptop and charger. Like I mentioned earlier, on their website they clearly state which sized MacBooks and iPads fit into which one of their bags. I purposely selected this bag as it fit my MacBook in it perfectly. It has a separate sleeve for a laptop or tablet which is actually padded, making me feel confident it won’t be damaged when my bag accidentally bangs into things.
  5. I like to carry around a water bottle so that I remember to drink water throughout the day. This is a smaller one from Athleta.
  6. In the circular sleeve, I usually carry around a travel coffee mug. This has to be one of my favorite mugs from HiLine Coffee. They have great coffee and also offer it in K-Cups for Keurig’s which is what I purchase for mine. Occasionally they have promos where if your order their coffee you also get a free travel mug which is when I received mine!
  7. And lastly, another one of my prized possession (in my opinion) is this portable charger by Thinium. I love this because it’s so compact and fits right into the phone sleeve, along with my iPhone. It’s charged by plugging it directly into a wall outlet making it super easy to recharge on the go.

Makeup:

There’s a perfect pocket in this bag that I keep some makeup in for touch ups throughout the day:

  1. I like to carry around nude lipsticks in my bags as they can easily be put on with any eye and face look. One of my all time favorites is the Urban Decay Vice lipstick in Safe Word. It’s their comfort matte formula and that’s the best way I can think to describe it. This is a cool toned nude lipstick which I love and don’t feel like you see much. I also have L’Oreals Infallible Lip Paint in Spicy Blush. This is the perfect pinky nude for any look and I love the formula when my lips are feelings drier.
  2. My favorite powder to carry around for quick touch ups during the day is another L’Oreal product, their True Match powder.
  3. I hate the sponge applicator that comes in powder products, so I carry around this brush as well. It’s a great all over powder brush that I purchased for I think around $3 at Target. Unfortunately, there isn’t a name or brand on this brush so I have no idea who makes it!
  4. For mascara, I usually throw in a sample mascara I’ve received from Sephora or Ulta. To be honest I think I like sample sized mascaras better than regular sized. They don’t dry out as quickly and are great to carry around. Right now I’ve been using Tarte’s Tarteist mascara.
  5. Next, I have one of my go-to lip products, the First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Lip Therapy. This is the best lip balm product I have ever used and constantly have to steal it back from my boyfriend.
  6. Lastly, a setting/refreshing mist is a must for me! Right now I’m loving the rose scented Fix+ by Mac. This is from their newer Work It Out collection. They have three travel sized scented Fix+ sprays and since I love the original so much I actually purchased all three.

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HUM Nutrition: Is it worth it?

After seeing these vitamins everywhere, in magazines, Instagram, through my favorite vloggers, and even inside Sephora, I was instantly intrigued. Was it the bright packaging, the cute hummingbird logo, or the variety these vitamins come in? Probably a combination of all the above. I can’t necessarily pin point why these grabbed my attention instead of some other vitamins that are constantly pushed on us through social media (I’m looking at you, bright blue gummy bears). After over a month of using these and purchasing a refill of each product, I think I can fully put in my two sense.

Getting Started:

The website itself is super easy to navigate and offers many tools for those new to taking vitamins or skeptical of HUM. They recommend that you first start out by taking their “3 minute quiz” which definitely was much quicker. Through out this quiz you’re asked questions about your lifestyle and what problems you face day-to-day – fatigue, acne, carrying an extra few pounds. You’re then handed personalized recommendations for a combination of their products and a $10 off coupon. You have the option to check out with the products they selected or browse through everything and make your own decisions.

The amount of products they offered and learning what supplements were meant for what was a little overwhelming for me at first. I decided to check out with what was offered for my lifestyle through the quiz. The supplements I purchased:

  • Daily Cleanse – This is the first bottle from this brand that I began seeing everywhere that really sparked my interest. With green algae as the leading ingredient this promises to clear your body and skin from toxins.
  • Uber Energy – Probably the one I was most excited to try out, I’ve self diagnosed myself as having chronic fatigue due to the multiple coffee cups I down a day. This supplement promises to support consistent energy and resist fatigue and tension.
  • Runway Ready – This packet of vitamins combines their Red Carpet and Killer Nails supplements. It’s advertised for ‘glowing skin, glamorous hair and perfect nails’.

How To Fit These Into Your Daily Routine:

This was something I struggled with at first because I’m not used to taking a vitamin daily, let alone multiple at different times. The Daily Cleanse supplement is meant to be taken without food while Uber Energy and Runway Ready are meant to be taken with food. After many days of failing, I finally got into the habit of taking Daily Cleanse right as I woke up. This meant leaving the bottle on my bedside table or in my medicine cabinet so I saw it as I completed my morning grooming. Then I would take Uber Energy and Runway Ready after eating breakfast or lunch. Each of the bottles recommend you take two pills daily while the packets have three pills inside.

This habit was very hard to form considering I don’t have a normal Mon-Fri 9-5 work schedule and I’m in a long-term relationship where we split sleeping at each others apartments. The biggest investment I made that helped me stick to taking these every day, and at the correct time regarding when I’ve ate, was a compact, travel-friendly pill case. I can’t find the exact one I purchase below, but did find these cute Macaron Cases.

Benefits – Outcomes:

Each of the supplements I picked up had different promises and were loaded with a variety of ingredients. All of them though are GMO-Free, Gluten Free, have no animal products (diary, fish, eggs, gelatin), no artificial colors, preservatives, flavors and are free of sugar, salt, yeast, and nuts.

Daily Cleanse contains 15 detoxing herbs (taken from HUM’s website):

  1. Green Algae (Organic Chlorella)
  2. Beetroot (Nutrient Rich Detox)
  3. Red Clover (Skin Cleansing Extract)
  4. Dandelion Root (Powerful Detoxifying Extract)
  5. Oregon Grape Root (Nourishing Root Extract)
  6. Milk Thistle (Restorative Herb Extract)
  7. Alpha Lipoic Acid
  8. Zinc (Metal Detox)
  9. Selenium (Metal Detox)
  10. Copper (Mineral Skin Support)
  11. Manganese (Skin Cleansing Mineral)
  12. Spirulina (Nourishing Green Algae)
  13. Matcha Green Tea (Rich in Antioxidants)

This is the one I was most torn on repurchasing, because it’s the only one I purchased that primarily affects the inside of your body. Making it hard to decide if it was really doing anything. Between finishing my first bottle of this I had about a weeks time before receiving my second bottle. During this time I could really see the difference in my body from not taking the supplements. I felt more bloated and didn’t have that feel-good healthy feeling that’s impossible to describe.

I read online that this caused some people to have digestive problems, which I did notice at first but after getting used to taking this daily that feeling disappears. This supplement really makes your skin and body feel truly cleansed. This acne prone girl had less breakouts and more controllable skin.

Uber Energy contains 12 effective ingredients (taken from HUM’s website):

  1. L-Tyrosine (De-Stressing Amino Acid)
  2. Rhodiola Rosea (Calming Root Extract)
  3. Eleuthero (Rejuvenating Root Extract)
  4. Ashwagandha (Relaxing Root Extract)
  5. Ginger (Energizing Root Extract)
  6. Licorice Root (Adrenal Assisting Extract)
  7. Astragalus Root (Fatigue-Fighting Extract)
  8. Vitamin B6 (Metabolic Wake Up)
  9. Gotu Kola (The “Fountain of Life” Leaf)
  10. Schizandra Berry (Adrenal Adaptogen)
  11. Vitamin C (Energy Flight)
  12. Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

This has hands down been my favorite supplement out of the three of them. I still drink my morning cup of coffee, because that truly motivates me to get my day started. But I’ve completely cut out the second and third cups through out my day. I’m the biggest culprit of brewing another pot of coffee when I catch myself yawn, especially since it’s readily available at my job, and then getting that obnoxious jittery feeling you get when you know you’ve drank one too many glasses.

This helped me have enough energy for my entire day and stops that mid afternoon yawn fest. After work I generally take a nap before dinner and I’ve also completely cut that habit out. I have nothing but good things to say about this supplement. If you’re also a self-diagnosed coffee addict and fatigue is your middle name, I highly highly suggest giving this a try.

Runway Ready contains 3 powerful ingredients (taken from HUM’s website):

  1. Black Currant Seed Oil (Perfect Source of ALA & GLA)
  2. Sunflower Seed Oil (Great Source of Vitamin E)
  3. Vegan Biotin (Strengthening Formula)

I know there are cheaper alternatives for adding Biotin into your diet so I was super skeptical about this at first. I can 100% say though this has had a great effect on my hair and nails. My hair is very prone to breakage and it got to a point where I felt as if it wasn’t growing at all. Since taking this I have noticed a significant amount of growth the past month and far far less hair falling out in the shower. My nails have also seen a vase improvement. I tend to keep my nails short for my job, and also secretly because they would break the second they grew a little long. I have to trim my nails much more often now and have also noticed how much stronger they feel. Since beginning to take these, I haven’t had a single nail break.

These do come in a convenient travel pack which is nice, but also not very convenient when you’re taking multiple vitamins. I find the package just seems to be a waste. It would be more helpful if their was a way to get all the vitamins you’re purchasing packaged together in the same way.

Where Can You Find These? And For How Much?

I ordered mine off of www.humnutrition.com but these are also available at Sephora! I’ve seen these available also online at a variety of retailers such as Anthropologie and Lord & Taylor.

As for pricing for these supplements:

The regular bottle, see Daily Cleanse and Uber energy, they run for $25 and contain 60 pills (2 per day)

The box of daily packages, see Runway Ready, are $35 and include 30 packs with 3 pills in each

Coupons and Discounts (HUM Nutrition website only):

  • Free Shipping on orders over $50
  • $10 coupon code for first order when you sign up and take the quiz or with my referral code: 116530
  • 25% off when you purchase 3 products

On their website they do set up an automatic order/delivery. This is great if you love the vitamins and don’t want to have to worry about remembering to purchase them every month when you run out. Right before 30 days after your first order was delivered, you receive an email stating the same products you previously purchased are being shipped out on XX/XX date. You can easily click to their website through the email and change the date to be delivered at a later time, this could even be months later or just cancel the order. You can also easily change the supplements to switch things up or add ons to your order.

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Battle of the Meal Boxes: Home Chef

I was really excited when I stumbled across this subscription meal box. Originally, I was going to go straight for Hello Fresh for my second installment of Battle of the Meal Boxes since it’s the one I’ve heard most about next to Blue Apron. When first I came across Home Chef I immediately knew it blew Blue Apron out of the water. From its wider variety of meals to it’s easier customization Home Chef has been a great experience when it comes to subscription meal boxes.

Home Chef

I came across Home Chef fairly easily during my research into subscription meal boxes. Upon looking at the website and going over what the service offers, I very quickly signed up for my first box. Like many other subscription meal boxes this one offers $30 off your first box.

Getting Started:

The website itself is fairly easy to navigate. Upon entering your email and your zip code the site takes you to select your dietary preferences. What I like about Home Chef, compared to the other meal boxes I’ve tried, is you can enter all of your dietary needs instead of just being offered three vegetarian options a week. You also have the option to choose 8 meals a week for up to 8 servings so any type of household can be accommodated. 

Each week you’re offered 10 dinner options to choose from, a breakfast option and additional add ons which include smoothie ingredients or a seasonal fruit basket. You can filter through this options by having only low-carb, low-calorie, gluten-free, etc. options show if you didn’t originally select those dietary preferences. Before selecting the meal you have the option of exploring the recipe and seeing the nutrition facts, the amount of time the meal takes and the spice level.

Each week you have the option to add the smoothie or fruit basket for $4.95 and occasionally there are higher end meals you can add-on for a small additional cost. What’s great about Home Chef is that all the meals are always available so that it doesn’t matter if you pick a certain meal all the other meals are still available and can be added to your box. You also always have the option to skip multiple weeks. 

The Cost:

Like other boxes there are several different meal plans you can select from. For this series I have decided to stick with 3 meals a week for two people. Without any of the add-ons this comes out to $59.70 per week with free shipping. This comes out to $9.95 per meal which seems about standard for subscription meal boxes. Home Chef offers free shipping for all order over $45.00 so if you’d like to do only 2 meals a week you’d have to factor in the $10 shipping as well. A referral program is also offered through Home Chef. You can give a friend $30 off a meal and receive a $30 credit for your next box.

My referral code to receive $30 off: Home Chef 

Inside the Box:

In your first box you receive an empty binder as your ‘cookbook’. I think this is such a small but cute and thoughtful touch. Each recipe is hole punched so you can easily add it to the binder. Inside the binder a couple of pages were already included that described some cooking techniques, information on where the ingredients are from, and how to recycle everything included inside the box. All the ingredients for each recipe are wrapped together and then the meat is included under ice packs in the box. The box was very well packaged and easily recycled.

Cooking the Meals:

I thought the recipe cards were so much easier to read and follow compared to the other meal boxes I’ve tried. On the front you can easily see how much time the recipe takes, the ‘spicy level’ and the difficulty level. It also includes how long you have before you should cook the meal so you can plan which meals you should cook first. On the side of the recipe they also include interesting facts about the meal, ingredients and cooking tips. They also clearly state when an ingredient is used twice so you know ahead of time.

 

 

All of the recipes were very easy to follow and fun to cook. There was no confusion with the instructions which made all the recipes, even the more difficult ones, pretty easy. I really enjoyed all the recipes as they were definitely not things I thought a novice in the kitchen could complete. These were recipes I wouldn’t pick out to cook for myself which made cooking them even more enjoyable.

 

 

Overview:

Throughout this whole process – the website, picking out the meals, receiving the box and cooking the meals, I was overly impressed. This is definitely the meal box to beat as of now. Just like the other ones I think these are a great idea for those who have a busy lifestyle and aren’t the best with planning out meals or grocery shopping. As somebody who thought they were terrible at cooking, which in return caused me to hate it, I look forward to cooking these meals. Its such a fun thing to do with a partner or even by yourself. I liked this box a lot as well because you can easily select a quick meal when your hungry and don’t have much time. Saving the more difficult meal for later on in the week when you’re feeling adventurous.

Home Chef was great because of all the options it offered. I loved how it included a breakfast meal you could pick but you aren’t forced to include this every week. I also love the add on smoothie and seasonal fruit options. This is such a great idea as you can easily add this on one week and not the next. The meal varieties are what really sold me. There’s so many different meals to choose from that there’s bond to be something for everyone.

Again the price point does set me off. $60 does seem to be about average for these meal boxes (for 3 two serving sized meals a week) which is a little pricy for something to commit to week after week. With the coupon code and other added perks from this service I do highly recommend checking it out.

My referral code to receive $30 off: Home Chef 

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DIY Spa Kit: Lavender Infused Cocoa Butter Bath Melts

I’m a huge fan of good bath and shower products but they can cost a ridiculous amounts for ingredients you might already own. I chose this DIY as my first in a spa kit series because of how incredibly simple it was. All of these ingredients were easy to find and are great for the skin.

Cocoa Butter Benefits

Cocoa butter is a natural moisturizer that is high in fatty acids. This helps penetrate the skin deeper than a normal moisturizer would. These fatty acids are areoleic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid which also provide anti-aging benefits. Since this a natural ingredient it’s great for people with sensitive or irritable skin. The scent of chocolate and vanilla has also been proven to have aromatherapy benefits.

Lavender Essential Oil Benefits

Essential oils each have their own benefits when it comes to aromatherapy. Lavender has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety. It is a popular oil for baths due to its calming properties. Lavender has also been proven to alleviate headaches and improve sleep.

 

What You’ll Need:

1/4 cup of Cocoa Butter

2 tablespoons of Coconut Oil

20 drops of Lavender Essential Oil

Silicone Baking Molds

~the links above are Amazon affiliate links but are all products I used and stand by~

The Process:

  1. Using either the stove top or a microwave, melt the cocoa butter and coconut oil and mix together. Both of these products are solid at room temperature but melt just above it so they don’t need to be heated up too much or they will over heat.
  2. After mixing these two together and they’ve cooled slightly add the essential oil. You don’t want to add this until your mixture has cooled slightly so that the oils don’t evaporate.
  3. Carefully pour the mixture into the silicone molds.
  4. Let these cool in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  5. And that’s it! Super simple! It’s important though to store these in a cool dry place. Any warmth or moisture will cause these to melt prematurely. I recommend keeping them stored in the fridge to be safe.

 

Now pop 2-3 of these into your next bath and relax!

 

 

 

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Personalized Valentine’s Gift Ideas for the Special Someone in your Life

Valentine’s day is always a weird holiday for me, where you’re split on whether you should get your significant other a gift or not. My conclusion has always been that this a more personal romantic holiday so I like to skip the big budget busting presents and pick the smaller personalized or even homemade ones.

For the New Beau:

If you haven’t been dating this special someone for all that long I think anything edible is a great way to go. Of course chocolate strawberries is a go-to, the ones pictured above are from Shari’s Berries. Last year I made my boyfriend homemade ones and he loved them! I picked up long stem strawberries from the grocery store which can be much larger and look much better than regular strawberries. I melted down dark chocolate and white chocolate chips. If you wanted to you could even add red food coloring to half of the white chocolate to create a pink color. I then dipped half of them in each type of chocolate and used the other type of chocolate to decorate them. I did this by dipping a knife in the chocolate and using that to drizzle the chocolate over the covered strawberries. For some of them I also dipped them in coconut or crushed nuts. This created such a great variety of strawberries and they truly looked just as good as the ones in the stores.

For the Long Term or the Long Distance Relationship:

This is something I recently found and am actually giving to my boyfriend this year. The company is called Love Book and they create customized books that you can give to your significant other. You create a cute stick figure that looks like yourself and your boyfriend and they give you full customization over the pages. You can either pick between having a paperback of hardcover book with about a $10 difference. At first I was scared that I wouldn’t know what to add-on the pages but they give you tons of great ideas that you can pick and easily customize to your own relationship. There’s a set price for each the paperback and the hardback and then you can add as many pages as you would like.

For the Jet-Setters:

If you and your significant other travel often why not pick something that will suite your life style. You can find personalized passport covers and suitcase tags just about everywhere, the ones above are from Amazon. What’s even better is you can find matching ones so that you’re covered as well. These can have both of your names or initials on them. They could even be personalized with your favorite quote or a song that means a lot in your relationship.

For the Budget Friendly:

If this is just one of those years where buying a valentines present is out of the question there’s a tonnn of super cute personalized cards out there. I love looking on Etsy for them and always have the hardest time deciding.  You can find quirky NSFW cards or even have them personalized with your SO’s name. The one above is from the Etsy seller SiouxAlice. If you’re really ambitious why not even make a handmade card and include a picture of you guys. There’s nothing I appreciate more than receiving a handwritten card.

 

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Battle of the Meal Boxes: Blue Apron

So a little back story before I get into the review:

My boyfriend and I have a ton of family and friends that use meal delivery subscription services. We were torn for a while on whether these boxes were worth the price tag. Since a lot of the boxes offer some kind of discount for the first one, we decided that it couldn’t do any harm to test out a few to see how we like it. These subscription services make it fairly easy to skip multiple weeks and there’s usually no cancellation fee. A lot of them also offer an option to give free meals to new members which is what we did with some of our family/friends who have been long time users.

Blue Apron

For the first box we tested out we decided with Blue Apron because this seemed to be the most popular choice along with Hello Fresh. We easily found coupon codes for the first box and have seen/heard various radio and TV commercials promoting the brand.

Getting Started:

Registration was fairly easy, you just enter in all necessary shipping and billing information. After getting through Blue Apron will automatically select three meals for you:

 

 

These can easily be changed to any of the six meals offered for a particular week. There’s always three vegetarian options offered as well. If none of the meals appeal to you it’s super easy just to skip a particular week. The biggest downside about the meal selection is sometimes certain meals can’t be paired together. For instance in the meals offered below if you selected the Mushroom and Cabbage Dumplings you would not be able to also select the Cumin Crusted Pork.

The Cost:

Blue Apron offers several different plans including a family plan and the one we selected which is three meals a week that each serve two people. This plans comes out to $59.94 which includes shipping costs as well. So each meal would come out to $9.99 which isn’t really that bad when you break it down.

When creating your account we received a coupon code which made our first box $15 which is definitely a steal.

Inside the Box:

 

Each box is set to be delivered on Monday before 9 PM but we received ours before 6 PM. The food comes in a pretty in a large box with the Blue Apron logo on the outside. Inside you’ll find three recipe cards and all the ingredients you need for each dish.

Each recipe also includes a smaller brown bag with ‘Knick Knacks’ inside including smaller recipe items like red pepper flakes or a cube of garlic butter.

The only real negative about how the box is delivered is the items aren’t separated by what meal they belong to in any way, excluding the Knick Knack bags. It wasn’t too hard though to figure out what belonged with what.

They also included large ice packs which were placed over top the meat items. Everything was very securely inside the box and nothing was damaged or bruised when opened.

Cooking the Meals:

Alright just a warning, neither myself or my boyfriend are great cooks by any means so feel blessed you’re getting a peak into the kitchen with us in the pictures below.

 

 

The recipe card above shows how easy it is to prepare each meal. I highly recommend reading the directions all the way through because there were times where we didn’t think to preset the oven or start bowling water at the beginning of the recipe. Or if cooking with two people there are steps that can be combined and cooked at the same time to cute down on cooking time.

Each recipe specifies the preparation time and cooking time. All the meals we picked out did take longer than the time noted but that could also be because of our lack of kitchen skills.

 

It was definitely a lot of fun cooking these meals as they weren’t recipes we would normally cook. We also had the opportunity to cook with ingredients that I wouldn’t normally pick up such as fennel or tomatillos. The recipes were easy to follow and you could also go online to view more tips about certain cooking techniques.

Each meal also comes with all the nutritional value facts which is a nice touch.

Overview:

All together I think these boxes are a super clever idea. I think this is a great idea for people who think they don’t have much cooking talent (like us). These are meals we would have never normally picked out so it was really great experience. They also included some ingredients that we wouldn’t normally choose to cook such as fennel. The first box was 100% worth it just because of how cheap it was but then going up to around $60 a box is not something we could commit too.

I liked how they included the recipe card so we could easily go out, buy the groceries and recreate the recipes. This is also makes this box great because we both hate grocery shopping so having all the items you needed delivered to your door is beyond convenient.

All the meals included super fresh ingredients and you could even go online to look at where the ingredients were from. The only things we found that were not included in the box were items such a salt and pepper and olive oil.

At first we were scared the portions may be a little too small but they were perfect. Each meal said it had two servings but we found that we always had a little but of leftovers.

Another extra perk is that Blue Apron offers a win paring service that you can add. For extra money each week Blue Apron will add wine that pairs with the selected meal. This is something you can pick and choose if you want add each week which is a nice touch.

Since we are trying out some of the other meal boxes, we aren’t going to jump into repurchasing this one. At the moment we are just skipping weeks but I think we will reuse this service every once in awhile when the recipes seem like they are worth it.

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How to Prevent Burnout – From Any Career

What really inspired this post was talking to my boyfriend the other night because he was having a very stressful week at work. I majored in social work and we talked A LOT about self-care and how to prevent being burned out from our careers. I thought this only had to do with people who work in direct care and came across very emotionally draining situations. After talking to him and seeing how down he was I realized everything I learned really pertains to everyone in any career situation – including being in school.

It’s so easy to have work overcome our lives and to forget that there’s so much more to live for. Even if you work at home I believe it’s so important to leave work at home and separate it from your family/friend life.

Here’s some tips I’ve picked up along the way that I thought would be great to share:

  1. Leave work at work:

    This means turning off your laptop, not checking your work emails and ignoring phone calls that can wait until work hours. Set a time frame that you allow yourself to continue working. So let’s say you have a 9-5 job, pick an hour of two after work or before work that you continue to allow yourself to work. So if you get home at 5:30 allow yourself to still check emails until 6:30 and then turn everything off. Or if you’re more of a morning person and want to get a jumpstart, begin working an hour before you get to work. This allows yourself to stop thinking about work and unwind for the night. If you don’t set this boundary you could find yourself up at night thinking of things you need to complete the next day.

  2. Don’t discuss work outside of work hours:

    I think this is very important. Even if you’ve done tip 1, don’t continue to talk about your day to your significant others, friends or family. This can keep your mind thinking about work and not allow you to physically separate your home life. The same as above, give yourself an hour to rant about Susie slacking off or your boss piling on more work than you can handle and then shut it off. Talk about other things that you love and that will take your mind off of your stressful day.

  3. Find a hobby you love:

    Do you love to read, knit or maybe even for you its blogging. Find something that won’t stress you out and that you look forward to doing. Even if this is something you’re not going to do everyday it helps to have an activity you look forward to doing and that excites you. This again helps you take your mind off work and creates a separation between your work life and your home life.

  4. Have a personal space for your thoughts:

    This is something that comes in many different forms for different people. Some great examples I’ve heard is to keep a journal by your bed. Before sleeping write down everything that’s still on your mind or that you know you need to complete tomorrow. This helps you get those thoughts out of your brain so you aren’t up thinking about them. Another tip I’ve heard is to take a long route home. If you hate traffic avoid it. Play your favorite artist after work and just sing along or let your thoughts wander. Give yourself the time and space to be able to think about your day so when you get home you’ve gotten it all out. Obviously these two ideas won’t work for everyone so it’s important to find what works for your and have your own safe space for your thoughts.

  5. Plan a weekend getaway:

    Go on vacation!! Have girls weekend, a romantic getaway with your significant other or even a solo adventure. Find something where you can just distress and relax all weekend. I love Groupon Getaways because you can find great one night or two night stays that aren’t too far away. Find a cute Bed & Breakfast within a short drive or a nice winery you’ve been dying to check out. The most important thing is don’t make the trip too stressful. Find something within your price range that will easily fit into your schedule.

  6. Start a planner:

    This is something I’m very new too. I bought a planner from Me & My Big Ideas and immediately fell in love. It’s able to be personalized to your needs and beyond cute. There’s so many way to design yours that I plan on doing a full post about this. It’s really helped me organize my ideas and feel set for the week ahead. If you already have a planner maybe set down and think of ways you can reorganize it to really meet your needs. I’ve seen people who have two planners one for work and one for home life. This can help you not stress about remembering certain dates and separate yourself from not having to think about your big meeting on Tuesday when you’re just trying to find out when your son’s basketball game is.

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7 Books to Read in 2017

I recently saw a blog post by someone who had read over 90 books in 2016 and calculated how many pages, words and how fast she read all these books. Now that’s a little (or a lot) too much for me but it did want me to bring my love for books onto my blog. I thought I’d start by recommending some great books I read in 2016 and then in a future post plan out what books I hope to read in 2017 and see if I can meet that goal by the end of the year.

  1. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is by far one of my favorite books now and the first book I recommend to anyone. It’s kind of mix between The Real Housewives and your favorite crime drama. Jane is a single mom new to a town with high-class soccer moms. As she tries to fit in with her new friends, secrets come out and the book ends with a draw dropping twist. Definite page turner. I love how she makes you laugh throughout this thrilling novel. This is also becoming a short HBO series in February which I can’t wait for!
  2. Obviously I’m a fan of a good mystery, Drop Dead Perfect by Rick Murcer is another book I could not put down. My boyfriend got me a Kindle for Christmas and this was the first book I read when I got it. I finished it right before New Years so I’m not lying when I said I read all these books in 2016! This one follows a Ellen who works in the forensic department for the Chicago police. Recently divorced and very volatile, Ellen finds herself in the middle of what appears to be the beginning of serial murders. Women are being kidnapped and found perfectly made up with a spin chilling note left from the killer.
  3. I tried not to include all the Liane Moriarty books I read last year but when I think back to my favorite books these all came to mind! She’s a great author who can really make you laugh but create a deep action packed thriller. The Husband’s Secret follows three different women as their lives unravel because of one secret. I like this book a lot because the big twist happens pretty early on but the rest of the book stays amazing. Fingers crossed this book becomes a movie as well!
  4. This one might seem a little weird but I was always so against Harry Potter (don’t ask me why) but my boyfriend finally convinced to watch all the movies with him. Afterwards I knew I had to read the books. I still haven’t finished the series but these books are really great even if you’ve already seen all the movies. I actually listened to first couple through Audible when I was at work which worked out great because they’re very easy to follow but still have a terrific story. If you’re looking for a series and haven’t read these yet a truly recommend them for all ages.
  5. Just going to continue on with mentioning the same authors, The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (which is actually a pseudonym for JK Rowling) is another great crime novel. This book follows a private investigator whose life is crumbling before him and his very new assistant Robin. They are hired by a superstar models brother to investigate her bizarre death. To be honest this book took me a very long time to finish but it was a great read. This is also the first book in a series of crime novels centered around the duo.
  6. And yes another Liane Moriarty book. What Alice Forgot is the first book by her that I originally heard about because I believe this one if becoming a movie. This book describes the life of Alice who wakes up after falling during a spinning class and forgets ten whole years of her life. She thinks she’s a newly wed with a child on the way, when in reality she’s in the middle of divorce with three children. She tries to convince her husband to forget the last ten years as well because she wants to put an end to the divorce but what happens when she eventually remembers everything that has happened.
  7. Lastly The Good Girl by Mary Kubica is an interesting one for me. I wasn’t going to mention it but after much thought I do really love this book. It’s kind of twist to the classic kidnapping crime story. The book itself tells the story from  a kidnapped girl, her mother trying to find her, the actual kidnapper and the detective on the case. It jumps back and forth from the present time and the past so you really get the full story. This is another great spin chilling mystery story.

After writing all these books out I realized I have a ‘type’. I knew I loved a good crime story but I didn’t realize how much! If you haven’t read any of Liane Moriarty’s books I highly recommend them (clearly)! I’m already reading another one of her books as my first book in 2017.

Have you read any of these books? Are there more you recommend for me to read?

-Erin

 

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