5 Favorite Gifts That Bring Joy

The joy of gift-giving has endless possibilities. If I am being totally honest here, I recycle gifts all the time! No, it doesn’t mean I take unwanted gifts or used gifts and “gift” them to some unsuspecting friend or family member. It means, I have realized that I have My 5 Favorite Gifts that I always seem to buy for multiple people throughout the year! No matter the age, budget or occasion, these gifts always seem to be hit for those on the receiving end. The brand or choice of item might change slightly depending on whom it is for, but for the most part the concept of my 5 favorite gifts remain the same.

My 5 Favorite Gifts That Bring Joy To All
Books/journals
Tea/Coffee with a cute mug
Beauty & wellness products
Slippers or cozy socks
Food gift sets

Using these 5 gift ideas as a base for my holiday shopping, I found some wicked cute items and great products. Not only did I buy them for myself, but I can not wait to gift them to those I love. No matter the age or budget, you can find these items for just about anyone on your list! I love to shop for my family. However, when I am happy with the product personally I am even more excited to buy it for someone else! Spread the love, right? Below are the products I am gifting this year!

Forks, Knives and Spoons By Leah DeCesare
This book is insanely funny and I was so lucky to receive a copy from the author herself and fellow Rhody Blogger. First, where was this book when I was in college? It could have saved me from myself and from many player forks. If I am being honest, it is almost 400 pages, about 200 pages longer than most books I like to read, but it was such a good one that I really didn’t mind the extra pages. It is light, yet emotional. Funny, yet serious. And the analogy of branding utensils to certain types of men is really ingenious that I often say, why didn’t I think of that? This book is on my list for all my college graduates and those friends who are just starting out in the dating world or newly married! If you want to check out this book or more from Leah DeCesare you can do so on her Amazon author page and follow her on Facebook.Pukka Tea & Yoga Expression Mugs
I am no stranger to tea and cute mugs. I have way too many of both, but they always seem to get into my cart even when I am not in the market for either of them. I recently was introduced to Pukka tea at The Well Summit that I attended last month. I instantly fell in love with their mission and their quality of ingredients. Organic, fair trade and ethically harvested herbs are just some of the reasons this brand is my new favorite! Their blends of teas are unique and taste even better, this I promise. I am pairing two fun mugs that I recently scored at Home Goods with a box of Pukka Love Tea for a great hostess gift for an upcoming party!Calm-A-Mama Flower Remedies
Wellness is so important to me. Caring for my body in the most natural way possible is always something that I hold in high regard. With so many products on the market, I was so grateful to discover Calm-A-Mama about 18 months ago. The power of the flower is as natural as you can get. These drops are a blend of flower essences and an herbal water extract, or hydrosol. The herbs work on your physical body, while the flower essences support you emotionally. They use all USDA organic, non-GMO and pesticide-free herbs and all their blends are alcohol free! The sleep & immune drops are my favorite and I can not wait to gift this to all my friends! If you want to learn more about these drops and other blends, you can visit the website here.
Trader Joes Rainbow of Honey
I love to give food sets to foodies, especially out of the box items like the Rainbow of Honey from Trader Joes. Sure, you see spices and sauces and even baked goods in a jar, but nothing is sweeter (IMO) than a literal pot of gold in a rainbow of colors! The flavors vary based on where they come from and I’ve tasted all of them and each one stands out for different reasons. Some are sweet, some are floral and some a bit more nutty. Regardless, you can use these jars of honey for so many reasons! My favorite way to indulge is some mimosa honey over brie with a side of grapes! Have a Trader Joes near you, get there and snag one of these sets for you and a friend!Victoria’s Secret Pom Pom Slippers 
Chances are if you are like me, the idea of spending my own money on socks & slippers doesn’t make me thrilled. I mean, the stuff goes on your feet and no-one sees it anyway? However, when I get my feet all cozy into some fluffy socks or slippers I instantly feel better. There is nothing better than relaxing on the couch on a cold winter day with a pair of cute slippers, a good book, some tea and a yummy snack. See what I did there? These pom pom slippers from Victoria’s Secret are so cute and trendy that anyone would love to open a pair of these this holiday. I might have grabbed a few extra pairs for myself as well!As you can see, I can take My 5 Favorite Gifts and can spin them in many ways that bring joy to all the people in my life! Do you find yourself recycling some of the same things to other people because you love them so? When you find something good, why not stick with it and spread the joy to others in the process.

Happy Gifting & Happy Holidays~
Joy

LuLaRoe: A simply comfortable review *and giveaway

Do you have a LuLaRoe unicorn that you’ve been dying to get your hands on, only to have someone snag it first? Have you fallen in love with the Carly, Joy or Mimi yet? If you don’t know what I am talking about, then you must be living under a rock. Kidding, well not really! Maybe you don’t have a piece to call your own yet, but you NEED to get on that! I am here to give you an honest review!  I’m plus size and proud and these clothes make me feel GORGEOUS! And unique!  Good thing prints with LuLaRoe are as unique as they come and are only available in limited quantities!

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Tamara Glennon, an Independent Fashion Consultant for LuLaRoe and friend reached out to me to try two new pieces (new to me) from her collection. She provided me with the elusive ANA & the ever so popular Irma! I already had some pieces but was thrilled to add more to my closet! What started as an invite to a party on Facebook, ended with her becoming a consultant a few months later! She wanted something that would work for a mother’s schedule and the fit couldn’t be more perfect.  I asked her to answer some questions because I am fascinated by this company and the women (and men) who choose to be a part of it. Maybe it will help you understand that this company is more about selling clothes.

What is your favorite piece? That is tough because we all love the leggings. But I would have to say the Julia dress or the Amelia. Both dresses can be worn a multitude of ways, and when you put them on you instantly look put together with little to no effort.

What do you love most about the company or product? This is truly a company that loves their consultants. It is like a great big family. The owner is so humble and kind and you truly get the feeling that she has put 110% of herself into each and everyone of our successes.

What do you offer for your customers? I offer it all!  We can easily do in home parties (you bring all your friends and shop), online hostess parties, album sales, Facebook Live sales, periscope sales, vendor events and even fundraisers! Yes, LuLaRoe will match fundraiser amounts! Amazing!

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I’m a little bit feminine, a bit edgy but always stay true to my boho-chic vibe. My body type is what some would call strange. Tall, but large hips with a small waist with an even bigger bust. And my shoulders, let me just say BROAD CITY!  I am not symmetrical in anyway. The amazing thing with this company is, I can wear all their clothes, in ALL different sizes and yet they look like they were tailor made for ME! They really take fashion to a whole new level when it comes to comfort! Comfort is key for me when purchasing anything!

The sizes I am wearing are labeled in each photo! And my two other dresses (Amelia & Nicole/not shown) are are an XL.  Everything fits a bit differently and that is GOOD! It means you have more options and styles to choose from! I could fit into a size XL in the Ana. But, the 3XL fell differently on me. It flows better on me. But, when I want a more fitted style, I can search out patterns in the XL! See, the possibilities are endless! My one word of advice is, get to a party! Try on as many styles and sizes as you can! Even if you don’t like the prints. Knowing what fits and how it hugs you will help you in the long run! Plus, it will make shopping easier!

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I want you to feel as confident in yourself as you possibly can! These clothes bring so much happiness to my wardrobe and Tamara wants you to feel that way as well! That’s why she is offering a lucky winner a $60 Gift Certificate to shop with her! How amazing and generous is that? The gift certificate can be used on her Facebook albums, in-home sales or live sales!

Namaste~ Joy
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Pedal For A Purpose

Want to pedal for a purpose? Well, then join me at the 2nd annual Body Armour Spin-a-thon Fundraiser this Sunday October 30th! For those who might not know, my niece was tragically killed in as car accident as a passenger one night 5 years ago. It is something that we as a family will never forget. Each year, the Elanna Zuller Memorial Sports Fund hosts fundraisers and events to raise money for local kids, sports organizations, scholarships and more. Body Armour is graciously hosting their spin-a-thon again this year in honor of Elanna Zuller!

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There’s no better way to show you care than donating to a good cause and burning some calories while you’re at it!  A Spin-a-Thon is just like a walk-a-thon, except that participants cycle on stationary bikes rather than walking.  Cyclists gather and members trade off cycling time to raise money through sponsors and donations. One hour is all it takes to help make a significant positive impact in the life of a local family. Your participation in this event will help support those in need in our community; all proceeds raised will benefit the Elanna Zuller Memorial Sports Fund, and your $10 registration gets you a Tshirt and a bike.  Bikes are still available for timeslots! $10 holds you a bike and you raise whatever denomination you wish!

Some Fundraiser Day Activities: 

8am Spin (instructor Rosemary)
8:15-8:45am The Art of Yoga with Joy (kids yoga and art project)
8:30 Pumpkin decorating goes all day long!
9 am Spin ( Instructors Amal & Jenna)
9:30-Noon Face Painting begins with Hazey Daze Creations 
10 am Spin (Instructors Jess & Tara)
10:30-11am The Art of Yoga with Joy (kids yoga and art project)
10:30-noon Complimentary lunch provided by Jersey Mikes
11 am Spin (Instructor Pete)

There will be snacks and drinks served all day. Raffles to win. Items to purchase. Boot camp demos. Fun to be had! The event itself is FREE. However, $10 registers you for a bike to take a spin class! Don’t want to spin? No worries. Come join in on the fun and support by trying to win some of the great raffles we had donated graciously by local companies and friends! Perhaps purchase some merchandise or just donate directly to the Elanna Zuller Memorial Fund.

I would love to have you pedal for a purpose with me!
Namaste~
Joy

 

Comfort Food Gone Clean: Chop Suey

Comfort food. I know there has to be more people out there like me that crave it after a bad day! Or how about just any day for that matter? Comfort food is, well comforting. It does something to our insides. That is GOOD & BAD. It tastes delicious and can actually make us feel better when we treat ourselves to our favorite food. However, chances are the food in question is full of fat, sodium and carbs and really has no nutritious value to it. Fear not, I am determined to makeover some of the most well-loved comfort food dishes out there! Comfort Food Gone Clean. I will turn them into delicious, lean & nutritionally valued meals for all to enjoy! First up- Joys Chop Suey.

Chop suey is usually filled with sodium and carbs, and really no amount of veggies that go into it matter much. Other than the protein of choice, chop suey is not something you want to consume on a weekly basis. I, however have come up with a dish that you can eat daily (if you wish) and is PACKED with nutrition. Not only is it delicious, it is so easy to make! I challenge you to try the recipe and let me know your thoughts! Remember, it will never taste “exactly the same” as traditional chop suey, but it comes pretty darn close and definitely will satisfy your craving!

Ingredients:
99% lean ground turkey (or chicken)
1 large organic yellow pepper
1  organic Vidalia onion
1 package of organic mushrooms
1 cup of Butternut squash noodles (I bought them already made at Whole Foods)
1 15oz can of San Marzano tomatoes
Spices to taste preference:
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp Himalayan sea salt
1/2 tbsp black pepper
4 long stems of basil (diced)

Recipe:
Dice up the pepper, onion, mushrooms and saute in oil of your choice. When that combination is almost done cooking, add the butternut squash noodles to the same skillet. Once the noodles have cooked (about 5-7 minutes), remove the veggies from the skillet. Add a small bit of oil back to the pan and place the ground turkey in. Top with all the seasonings (minus the basil) and cook until browned. Once the turkey is cooked, add the can of tomatoes and bring to a slight boil. Push the turkey mixture to the sides of the skillet, creating a empty circle in the middle of the pan. Add the veggies back to the skillet and reheat for a few minutes. Once you feel the veggies have reheated enough, mix all the ingredients together. Portion out 4 servings and top with fresh basil.

Comfort Food Gone Clean

Super easy, one pan and so good! I don’t know what else to say other than you have go to try this! Be creative with it. Add different chopped veggies, your favorite seasonings etc. Maybe try it with zucchini noodles as well? This was packed full of protein and fiber and ZERO carbs! It was so satisfying, it is on the menu weekly from now on. Try it and let me know what you think! For those friends who are following the 21 day fix meal plan, you’re in luck! It is 21 day fix approved! It’s time to make mealtime delicious & nutritious!

Namaste~
joy

 

New York Hall of Science- Family Fun is Awaiting

Family Fun is awaiting you.   New York Hall of Science offers a hands-on approach that explains science, technology, engineering and math programming to children of all ages. NYSCILogo150

Their permanent exhibit, Connected Worlds, is a fully immersive, digitally rendered, interactive display. Visitors explore the interdependence of six environments and interact with creatures, trees and plants within each atmosphere. Through gestures and movements, visitors learn the core principles of sustainability and see the impact of human decisions on the environment. Visit today for an immersive experience!

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My husband has been eagerly awaiting taking our son here. He is at the perfect age and just loves science! My husband grew up not far from here and spent many days with his own family (and school trips) here. I am excited to be able to watch him happily reminisce about how it was like when he was younger, while having a completely new experience with our son!

We are ready to learn and make memories at the New York Hall of Science!

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Love & Marriage

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Love & Marriage. It just hit me. On this day exactly one year ago, my husband and I celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary with a vow renewal. So, technically we just celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary, but who’s counting! We have been together for 15 years, since we were just babies at 18 years old. It was a magical day, one that I can’t wait to do again at our 20 year vow renewal!

Anyone who says that the longer you love that person the easier it gets, is just full of shit. Plain and simple. It’s just not true, and I will tell you why. Things happen in 10 years. Shit, that’s a decade. Trends can come & go all within a decade. You might be loving those crop top shirts at the beginning and as time moves on, baggy shirts are in. You’re screwed and now need a whole new wardrobe. Fuck. That’s hard-work and expensive. Just like being in a marriage takes hard-work (and can sometimes get quite expensive)…

Just as trends change, people do too. They grow up. Literally, they get taller. It’s just what happens with time. Time is the burden on marriages these days. New situations and new feelings only occur and arise because time passes. You are put into new scenarios and the world is changing around you. You are always racing against time. It’s life. Once you realize that time is of the essence and can recognize that you need to proactively work on your marriage, only then can you truly have a chance at being happy. I can say this without reservations because time has changed me. It has changed my husband.  What I wanted at 18, is not quite the same as what I want now. Same for my husband. We’ve learned to embrace the change that time has brought us.

Don’t be mad at someone for wanting something different than before. Embrace it. Challenge it. Allow it to become a new part of your lives. Understanding and being open to change is what will help you grow together, appreciate each other and will allow you to continuously fall in love with your significant other all over again.  I don’t know why this hit me like a ton of bricks tonight at 9pm on a not-so random Wednesday evening, but it did. Sure my soul and spirit might be the same, but I am not the same naive girl I was at 18. My husband knows this. He values the change we have done together. Value what you had, what you have and what you will become; together.

 

Namaste~

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Photography Credit: Midnight Shift Photography  I have talented friends!

PB & J Sandwiches Made NUT-FREE

A good old fashioned PB & J sandwich used to evoke many pleasant memories from my childhood. However, PB & anything now evokes a queasy feeling in stomach that only be described as fear and anxiety. This simple, yet tasty combo can send my boy into anaphylaxis shock. When more than half his lunchroom brings this sandwich to school, needless to say I worry. He has had a nut allergy since he was barely a year old. Not a day goes by without thinking about all the possible outcomes. It is just something we have gotten used to. I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, and I am thankful his reactions have been few and far between.

As his mom, and former lover of peanut butter it is now ridden from my diet. I do crave that PB & J sandwich on a hot summers day at the beach or late at night for quick snack! There are many products on the market nowadays. This is great for the food allergy community, but not all of them are quite good! Sorry, but it’s the truth! I was happy to find alternatives that actually tasted good! I have narrowed down my favorites for making a tasty, nut-free PB & J sandwich!

 

Lunchbox Ready: Just thaw & enjoy! Perfect for lunch, after school snack or trips. Really anytime is the right time to enjoy! 

Dr. Praegar’s Sunwiches: Sunflower seed butter with grape or strawberry jelly! Only 200 calories, 4grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein! These crustless wonders pack a nutritious bite, made with ingredients you can recognize! Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 3.14.39 PM

Annie’s Homegrown Pea B&J Pockets: Featuring 9g whole grains, these crustless sandwiches are layered with real strawberry fruit spread and golden pea butter made from a legume variety that’s cousin to the green peas you scooted off your plate as a kid.

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Make Your Own Sandwich: These nut free butters are the real deal. Pair it with your favorite bread and jelly or add some bananas and marshmallow fluff! Or just eat if right from a spoon! I won’t judge! 

Don’t Go Nuts Organic Chocolate soy butter: Their bestseller! Almost 2X more protein & fiber and 1/3 the sugar per serving as chocolate-flavored hazelnut spreads!  It features organic cocoa. Way better than Nutella!

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 WOWBUTTER Creamy Soynut butter: 1200mg OMEGA-3 essential oils for good health; peanut butter has 0mg! Best thing about this product is that it comes in CRUNCHY as well! It tastes like peanut butter- but better!

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Even if you don’t have an allergy, these are great to have in the house for your kids to bring to school or playdates. Allergy parents truly appreciate when other moms & dads go out of their way to make their kiddo feel safe around food!

Food should bring people together, not tear them apart!