Month: January 2016

Nibbling on Nuts (and Other Healthy Snacks)

Healthy Snacks

In the past, I’ve posted a lot about my love of all things sweet. To keep with this year’s goal of focusing more on my health, I realized that I needed to make significant changes in my diet.

I have given up those decadent White Chocolate Mochas from Starbucks (it’s been 23 days since my last sip. But who’s counting?!), swore off those sugary Reese’s (for now), and imposed a moratorium on baking.

But what’s a girl to do when she needs something sweet? When Nuts.com asked me about healthy snacks, I knew this would be the perfect project to keep me working towards my goal and to let all of you in on satisfying treats that won’t leave you guilt-ridden after you eat them.

Nuts.com is a family-owned business that brings nuts, dried fruits, and healthy snacks right to your door. You can’t ask for anything better when you are trying to be health-conscious and pressed for time. One quick look at their website will leave your mouth watering — from chocolate-covered pretzels and custom trail mixes to Goji berries and mulberries. Nuts.com won’t make you nuts when it comes to snacking. Check out their healthy snacks page for more of their offerings.

When I’m in need of a snack, here’s what I reach for:

Trader Joe’s Rolled Oats and Peanut Butter Fiberful Granola Bar: When I crave a candy bar, but know I shouldn’t, I eat one (or two) of these instead. I swear, these bars taste way more sinful than they are. Rich and chewy, they contain 9 grams of fiber and only 6 grams of sugar, so go ahead and indulge your sweet tooth.

High Valley Orchard Spiced Pumpkin Brittle: Pumpkin season may be over, but that won’t stop me from snacking on my favorite flavor — in January. Thankfully, High Valley Orchard had me in mind with this spiced pumpkin brittle. These sweet and crunchy pieces are the perfect pick-me-up when I need an afternoon sugar rush.

Power Crunch Protein Energy Bar: At first bite, you may think this is a Kit Kat bar. These French vanilla wafers have 14 grams of protein and 5 grams of sugar — but you would never know that based on its taste. These bars come in multiple flavors, including chocolate and peanut butter, and each one tastes better than the last.

KIND Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan Bar: With 7 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein, these crunchy bars provide just the right amount of sweetness. They contain 5 grams of sugar and are all natural and non GMO, gluten free, and have no trans fats. KIND bars come in plenty of flavors and are great to keep in your desk at work, car, and in all of your bags.

Zing Nutrition Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar: If you like more traditional nutrition bars, then this one is for you. It contains 13 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, plus it’s gluten free. Just half of this bar will keep you full all day!

Walnuts: Don’t forget about those nuts! I love to throw walnuts in my oatmeal for breakfast or bring them along with me to snack on throughout the day.

Still need more healthy snack ideas? Nuts.com created a handy chart to reference the next time you’re facing a snacking dilemma. And don’t forget to check out some of the healthy snacks at Nuts.com.

Healthy Snack Hacks - Nuts.com

What are some of your favorite healthy snacks?

How to Make Your Instagram Images Stand Out

Landscape Photography

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that I love photography — especially landscape photography. I took photography classes in high school (fun side note, my teacher’s sister-in-law was actually a famous photographer!), where I learned the basics of photography, such as how to do the following: make contact sheets, dodge and burn for contrast, and develop my own film and photos. Of course, this was all in the days before the iPhone (and selfies!). So it’s no surprise that Instagram has become my favorite social media platform. As much as I like to snap and post photos, I also enjoy following professional photographers, including a few with National Geographic and plenty of food and commercial photographers. I intend to create a separate post soon with some of my favorite Instagram accounts to follow.

But the more familiar I’ve gotten with Instagram, the more I have learned about what makes a good Instagram photo — and my photos themselves have improved. When I first created an account, I wasn’t even using hashtags (#gasp). I remember asking my former college roommate how you come up with good hashtags — and feeling confused and overwhelmed each time I posted.

More than a year later, I’m still learning about the platform as I go along, but here are some tips:

Use filters: When I first joined Instagram, I was completely against the use of filters. I still have a love-hate relationship with them, but I can appreciate their value with certain images.

Change up your filters: I’ve heard people say that you should be consistent with your filter use. I’m not one of them. While I understand it’s a good way to make your Instagram account seem cohesive, I tend to alternate my filters depending on what I’m trying to highlight in the image. Some of my favorite filters are Ludwig, Amaro, X-Pro II, and Lo-Fi.

Instagram Tips - Manual Settings

{Manual Mode: Before and After}

Play with manual settings: Don’t see a filter that works for you? Try adjusting the contrast, brightness, saturation, warmth, and highlights manually. This is a great option if you want to have more control over the appearance of the final image. I’ve been adjusting these settings lately, and while it may take more time before you can hit post, the finished product will be well worth it!

No Filter

{#NoFilterNeeded}

#NoFilter, #NoProblem: You’re probably thinking “didn’t she just tell me to use filters?” You’re right. I did. But sometimes the natural beauty of an image can be overshadowed with filters and manipulation. And when that happens, I choose to tag my image #nofilter or #nofilterneeded to let the photo speak for itself. The shot above is one of my favorites. It was taken during a photo shoot on the beach last March (in 46-degree weather). I love how the colors all seem to blend together and resemble more of a painting than a photograph. When it came time to post it to Instagram, I couldn’t justify using a filter. So I didn’t.

What do you think makes a successful Insta-snap? I’d love to hear some of your Instagram tips!

Ear Candy

Ear Candy

If there is one trend I’ve been loving (and need to adopt ASAP), it’s the ear jacket. I’m partial to dainty studs, but a jacket or cuff can dress up any ear, and instantly creates an edgy vibe. I have yet to find an ear jacket from BaubleBar that I can resist (many options are sitting in my online shopping cart awaiting the final verdict). If bling is your thing, the Phoenix Wing Ear Cuff in gray is a glamorous option. But for those who are melting over marble, the Organic Fringe Ear Jacket and the Oz Ear Jacket may be just what you need. I’ve been swooning over the Ivy Ear Cuff Set and will have to hit purchase soon!

How do you feel about ear cuffs and jackets?

After the Storm

I promise. I will stop posting photos from our recent snowstorm — soon. In the meantime, please bear with me. Now that all of the hard work is done (aka digging out), the roads cleared, and I’ve escaped my house for a few hours, I thought it would be nice to admire the beauty of the great outdoors after the storm. With any luck, rising temperatures later in the week will melt much of the snow — and these photos will be a distant memory.

Winter Storm Jonas

{How a blogger survives a snowstorm}

Winter Storm Jonas

{Getting snowed in is better with Starbucks hot cocoa}

Winter Storm Jonas

{Snow Covered}

Winter Storm Jonas

{How much snow did we get?}

Winter Storm Jonas

{My first outing after the storm}

Winter Storm Jonas

Winter Storm Jonas

Whether you refer to the storm over the weekend as Storm Jonas, Blizzard Jonas, or if you thought everyone was talking about a Jonas brother for the last few days, it was a doozy. I was prepared for the estimated 4-8 inches Long Island was set to receive (or 6-12 inches, depending on the station you listen to). But not the 20-something we got in reality. I find staying in during a snowstorm similar to going for blood work — minus getting pricked with a needle. Did you ever notice how you are able to go hours without food, except when a doctor tells you to fast? Well, for me, that’s how I am in a snowstorm. I never mind staying in and relaxing for a day — except when it is imposed on me and I can’t get out of the house at all due to a foot of snow blocking my exit. Then cabin fever begins to set in after a few short hours.

My preparations began on Friday — a little later than I had planned. I went to Trader Joe’s around 11 am, expecting to find empty shelves. What I found instead was a civilized store — shoppers patiently waiting at the check-out lines and shelves that were fully stocked. Actually, the only thing they were out of was chocolate scones (#whyyyyyy). With a wagon full of goodies, I mean plenty of food to get me through the storm, I deemed this outing a success. The last stop was a fill-up at the gas station, and then I was ready to hunker down and wait for the snow.

As Friday evening approached, I felt like a little kid on Christmas Eve awaiting Santa. I paced by the windows hoping to see the first flake. By the time I went to bed there was still nothing.

Around 4 am on Saturday I was awoken by the relentless wind that sounded like a freight train hitting the house.

Winter Storm Jonas

The morning light was not quite out yet and the backyard had a coating of snow that I could barely make out in the darkness. I’m usually not awake this early in the morning, but it was enjoyable to watch as the snow got heavier with each passing moment. By 8 am the storm seemed to be in full force. It was steadier, and brought along blizzard-like conditions. I watched the landscape change dramatically in the four hours since I awoke. There was an eeriness to this storm, and it brought back memories of Hurricane Sandy with its ruthless winds.

The snow and wind continued all morning. I made a break for it around 2 pm, when my cabin fever started to kick in. I opened the side door and was forced to slither through a small opening thanks to the snow drift that was leaning against my exit. A brief survey of the yard resulted in finding myself in knee-deep snow. The cold and biting wind made staying out for more than a few minutes feel like torture. I quickly retreated into the house and back into my pajamas…where I would stay until the next day.

By 4 pm on Saturday I was praying to the Snow Gods to make it stop. I was over the storm and not even a Kardashian marathon on E! could make the conditions palatable. I watched as the snow fell through the evening and wondered if it would ever stop.

In the morning I was woken by a different sound than the day before — that of people and snowblowers. The sun greeted me as I was roused from bed. It was a welcome sight.

Winter Storm Jonas

Winter Storm Jonas

After breakfast I ventured outside. The side door was now in a frozen state, requiring force to pry open. The snow drifts were large, and it was difficult to see just how deep the snow was. I made it out and was immediately swallowed up by the soft powder. Waist-deep, I stood up and tried to make my way like a gazelle. The backyard was blanketed under thick snow. Not even the birds and squirrels were out.

Winter Storm Jonas

Despite having all of the creature comforts at home and a fully stocked kitchen — complete with Starbucks hot chocolate packets and treats from Dunkin Donuts, I have never been happier to have a plowed driveway and warmer temperatures on the horizon.

But enough about me, how did you fare in the storm? Any fun blizzard stories to share? I’d love to hear them!

The Allure of Larimar

Larimar Earrings

When I was first approached about a collaboration, I was intrigued by the Larimar meaning and the beauty of the stone. Larimar Jewelry uses a stone found in the waters of the Dominican Republic and is often referred to as the Atlantis Stone due to its distinctive blue coloring. Even better, the stone is thought to be a throat chakra — a healing crystal that can provide energy to parts of the body. I’ll take all of the healing powers I can get after thyroid cancer!

Larimar Earrings

Once I visited their website and saw the intricate jewelry that Larimar creates, which is all handmade by local craftsmen, I was impressed. Every piece is crafted with quality in mind. And the rich blue and green tones of the stone come through in each design.

A pair of earrings is de rigueur for me when I leave the house. The round cut Larimar earrings were the perfect option for both everyday wear and more formal occasions. I love how the blue stone stands out and comes alive when paired with other colors. Even if you normally resist wearing jewelry, Larimar will induce you to make exceptions. These are earrings you will want to wear.

Larimar Earrings

Larimar Earrings

I chose to pair the earrings with an emerald green dress, which complemented the stones nicely. Although it was 30 degrees out on the day these photos were taken, the alluring green and blue combination took me to the tropics.

Larimar Earrings

If you are looking for unique jewelry with a meaning behind it, then check out Larimar. You will find a wide range of pendants, necklaces, rings, and earrings and you can be sure that no two stones will be the same.

Check them out at http://www.larimar.com/

*Earrings courtesy of Larimar Jewelry

Stealing the Spotlight: Stila’s HUGE Extreme Lash Mascara

Stila's Huge Extreme Lash Mascara

I’m back with another installment of Stealing the Spotlight. And, of course, it’s a product from Stila. I swear, I do use other brands (but what can I say? Stila makes awesome stuff!).

I made a quick stop at Ulta last week to pick up my beloved smudge stick (yes, from Stila). While I was there, I realized that I was almost out of mascara and I grabbed the two-step Voluminous Superstar from L’Oreal’s line (it will be making its way to the blog soon). Coincidentally, as I was at the counter paying for my purchases, I was gifted a travel size of Stila’s HUGE Extreme Lash Mascara to try.

Normally, I avoid expensive mascara. I think the drugstore brands work quite well, often better than their more pricey companions. You may recall that I’ve posted before about L’Oreal’s mascara line and I have been quite impressed with its quality and price.

Stila's Huge Extreme Lash Mascara

{Before}

Stila's Huge Extreme Lash Mascara

{After}

Since I was gifted this little travel size mascara, I had to test it out. Upon first inspection, I thought the brush looked slightly thick and clumpy. But like all of Stila’s products, I (and my lashes) ended up loving it. I didn’t notice a huge improvement in the length of my lashes, but I saw a drastic difference in the volume. The thicker brush made my lashes appear fuller — and made for easy application of even the smallest little lash. One or two coats should do the trick, or else the mascara will make your lashes clumpy. In terms of all-day wear, don’t worry, this product will stay on for as long as you need with no flaking or fading.

The verdict? Would I buy a full-sized version of this mascara for $23? Probably.

Have you tried Stila’s HUGE Extreme Lash Mascara yet?

Snow, Storm, and Snaps

As we prepare to be walloped by a snowstorm on the East Coast at the end of the week (I’ve heard we could get up to 12 inches of snow. #sayitaintso), I figured I’d share a quick Instagram recap before all of my photos contain…well, snow. And I may be stocking up on one or more of the items below to keep me sane while snowed in!

Stash Tea

{White Chocolate Mocha and Red Velvet…tea}

Dunkin Donuts Croissant Donut

{Something sweet || My new favorite croissant donut from Dunkin’ Donuts}

California Dreamin

{California Dreamin’}

Shrimp and Pasta

{Something healthy || Shrimp and pasta for dinner}

Pink Fluffy Clouds

{Pink fluffy clouds and a beautiful sky}

First Flurries

First Flurries

It’s finally feeling — and looking — like winter in these parts. We got our first snow Sunday evening, and the countdown in my mind to my move to California has officially begun. Well, that’s a slight exaggeration (not the countdown part, but the actual move part). Fortunately, we were spared any major accumulation, but the inch I see on the ground is more than enough for me. There is another storm on the horizon, supposedly approaching this weekend, and depending on whose weather report you listen to, we could get anywhere from 5-8 inches.

So in light of this news, I figured I’d share a few of my tried and true ways to keep busy during a snowstorm.

1. Have plenty of DVDs, books, and magazines on hand: If you’re anything like me, the thought of staying in your pajamas all day will cross your mind. Go for it! And why not get cozy with your favorite movie or book? I know I can always count on Bravo or E! to keep me entertained. Who said I’ve seen SATC (the movie) too many times?

2. Go for a hike: For the more adventurous folk, going for a hike after a snowstorm can be a lot of fun — and an added challenge in terms of a workout. I love seeing a fresh blanket of snow, and there is nothing more peaceful than spending time out in nature when everyone else is holed up at home. Just make sure you bring your phone along and have service (and also tell people where you’re going, if you plan to venture somewhere remote) in case of an emergency!

3. Bake your favorite treat: I always get into trouble during a snowstorm. Those darn Ghirardelli dark chocolate brownies start calling my name — and all bets are off after that. It’s completely my fault for keeping one (or two or three) boxes on hand, but I love how the house smells after baking brownies. And of course, you deserve a treat after shoveling!

4. Write or meditate: The snow brings a certain peacefulness. It slows the usually busy streets and it becomes a perfectly acceptable time to chill. What better way than to extend your mind and body the same courtesy?

5. Take inventory: When all else fails, and you’re tired of relaxing (has that ever happened to anyone before?), create or go through an existing to-do list. It will give you a sense of accomplishment during an otherwise mindless day, and may make you feel more organized and on top of your daily tasks going forward.

How do you relax or keep busy during a snowstorm?

Progress Report: 2016 Goals

Progress Report:  2016 Goals

We are just past the mid-point of the first month of the New Year, so it is a good time to assess the progress I’ve made with my goals so far. A great way to stick to resolutions, changes, or objectives in your life is take inventory from time-to-time.

Here’s my progress preport:

Find an endocrinologist and make my health a priority
Although my appointment with my new endocrinologist isn’t until March, I’ve been diligently composing questions I’d like to ask her, compiling medical records, which looks like War & Peace, and just taking note of how I feel each day — usually tired and lethargic. I’ve also been better about refilling my Synthroid prescription (i.e.: not waiting until I’m down to my last pill to call the pharmacy).

The most considerable change so far has been in the nutrition department. I have ditched my beloved White Chocolate Mocha in favor of something that contains less sugar (really, 59 grams of sugar for a morning coffee is a bit much — even for this sugar addict). Now my beverage of choice is either a Starbucks latte macchiato or a cup of Kicking Horse Coffee, which I brew at home.

Grade: B+/A-

Remove technology from the bedroom
This goal has turned out to be harder than I initially thought. I figured I could just remove my phone from the bedroom and I would be fine. But part of the goal was also to limit my technology usage in the evening. That hasn’t worked out too well since I do my best writing at night. I also have yet to buy an alarm clock. So as of January 18th, my iPhone still resides in the bedroom. I’ve made a little progress when is comes to not scrolling through Instagram right before bed or as soon as I wake up. And I also keep my phone on silent a lot more during the day than I used to so I can avoid getting distracted with emails and texts while I work.

Grade: D+

Become a Starbucks shareholder
With the stock market being down at the moment, I’ve been diligently watching Starbucks price per share. Although I haven’t become a shareholder yet, I’m doing my market research before taking the plunge.

Grade: C

Stick to a fitness regimen
Last Saturday was my first time back at kickboxing class in two months. I was nervous to return after such a long hiatus, fearing how out of shape I was. But once I hit the studio and saw some familiar faces, I was pumped for the class. Sure, I was sore for a few days afterwards, but it felt good to start an exercise routine again. I’ve also added Pure Barre classes to my fitness regimen, and I’d like to start doing yoga at home on days when I don’t have a class to attend.

Grade: B

Choose happiness
I have made a concerted effort to embrace happiness this year. Of course, that doesn’t mean that every day is sunshine and roses, but I do try to find something positive in each day to make me happy. Whether that’s trying Dunkin Donuts new croissant donut creation (seriously, so good!) or treating myself to some new sweaters, sometimes the little things in life are just what you need. I’ve been focusing more on the here and now rather than the what-if’s down the road. Allowing things to happen organically is a great way to rid yourself of stress and anxiety — and can lead you down the path of happiness.

Grade: A

How are you doing with your New Year’s goals?