BLOGMAS Day #2 // Hallmark Holiday

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Christmas, once a sacred holy day, and arguably an ancient pagan tradition, may now seem like nothing more than a Hallmark Holiday. This is nothing short of the hard truth.

Hallmark holiday” is a term used predominantly in the United States to describe a holiday that is perceived to exist primarily for commercial purposes, rather than to commemorate a traditionally or historically significant event. (wikipedia.org)

However, even the commercialized, capitalistic, consumerist nature of my FAVORITE holiday is STILL founded on what I would consider good moral values. Heck, I’ll say it – I’m not even religious!

Trying to steer clear of *controversial topics here* *obviously that ship sailed 3 paragraphs ago* 

Despite this fact, I have humanist values that go hand-in-hand with the meaning of Christmas; which is altruism, humanitarianism, and social consciousness. Yes, we *do* throw mountains of money at big corporations during this time of year, but we often do it for others in the form of gift-giving. Although my goals are minimalist-focused, I recognize that a lot of the money spent by others during the holidays is meant well and often unselfish.

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I’m keeping today’s Blogmas post short and sweet (because I clearly over-wrote yesterday. LOL.) This is more of a conversation opener – an invitation for discussion. I’m genuinely curious about what you folks think! What are your thoughts on the consumerist nature of Christmas and how does that effect (or not even a little bit) how you spend the holidays?

Wanna read another Blogmas post? You can find them all here.

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BLOGMAS DAY #1 // Holiday Bucket List

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I was following the pack
All swaddled in their coats
With scarves of red tied ’round their throats
To keep their little heads
From fallin’ in the snow
And I turned ’round and there you go
And, Michael, you would fall
And turn the white snow red as strawberries
In the summertime
— White Winter Hymnal, Fleet Foxes

OK, so, it’s pretty damn obvious I am OBSESSED with Christmas. I don’t know when or why or how or what the heck happened (obviously my Mother sprinkled Christmas fairy dust in my crib when no one was looking…) but I’m GOSH DARN JOLLY at this time of year.

The fact that I am now living in NYC makes it so much more exciting because there really is no place better to spend the holidays than in NYC. The city of lights turns into the city of Christmas lights and asdfghjkl, it’s magical. There is so much about Christmas that I love, but I won’t write 17 million paragraphs about it right now or I won’t have any content left for the rest of Blogmas…so let’s just start with Day #1, shall we?

For today’s post, I will be writing down my holiday bucket list for 2016. There really is so much I want to do this year – I’d like to do some things I’ve put off year after year, while I’d also like to revisit some traditions. Of course, I went on PINTEREST (Jesus Christ, why?) and basically further elongated my list. However, I want this bucket list to be more like a list of goals – attainable and practical goals.

// Bucket List //

1. COMPLETE BLOGMAS
Ugh, I’m so bad with monthly challenges. I’m usually fine for the first week (I’m lying, I don’t get past day #4), then like the pleb I am, I completely fall off the bandwagon. Routine isn’t my friend. Legit, I WILL set an alarm if I need to. We’re getting these posts done! To make it easier for everyone to follow my Blogmas posts, I will add a link at the end of each post.

And, seriously, to the ones who already completed Blogmas in November, or August because you’re nuts (because you’re responsible)…HOW ARE YOU LIKE THIS?

2. ATTEND A HOLIDAY MARKET
So far, I have 3 pop-up markets in mind: Jingle @ Chelsea Market, Union Square Holiday Market, and Bryant Park’s Winter Village. I have never been to any of these events, but have been wanting to go to them for quite some time. From what I know, the Chelsea Market pop-up includes live music, Union Square’s Holiday Market offers tons of homemade gifts, and the Bryant Park market showcases new decor each year, as well as FREE ice skating and a tree-lighting event! All of these markets are very easy to travel to via public transportation which is a big plus.

3. SEND A WRITTEN LETTER TO LOVED ONES + HOLIDAY TEA BAG
Because I am so far away from family and friends, I don’t usually purchase and wrap gifts. In the occasion that I do buy gifts, I will order something online and ship it directly (because I’m lazy). This year, however, I want to take the time to actually write a letter to loved ones (my best friend, parents, and grandparents) and include these holiday tea bag(s) with my letters – a tradition I’d like to adopt from my Grandparents.

4. DIY CHRISTMAS CARDS, TREES, AND SNOWFLAKES
In addition to writing letters, I’d also like to dabble in DIY printables, including Christmas cards (for the letters), trees, and snowflakes to tape on the walls around the apartment because it’s cheaper and frankly, a lot cuter than buying any kind of decor!

5. BUY A SMALL HOLIDAY POTTED PLANT
When I lived at home, one of my favorite parts of Christmas was picking up a tree from Lowes with my parents and decorating it. Unfortunately, now I like in a 750 square box in Manhattan! We just don’t have space for a tree. *sobs* Not to mention, I have a cat who is absolutely fascinated with Christmas trees and would probably knock it over hundreds of times! I noticed the flower shop down the street just brought out these tiny potted ferns that are just too cute to pass up!! Not to mention, the money we’ll save! A little plant I can take care of that costs $5 beats a gigantic tree that costs $60 (don’t forget the tree skirt, ornaments and cat repellent!) Fact of the matter is, a Christmas tree is an expensive investment.

6. HOST A CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY
This is something I knew I wanted to do since Halloween. It’s just a matter of figuring out what I’m going to send! I want to include an extra-special written letter, and “stocking stuffer” type goodies – candies, holiday stickers, and maybe a few holiday-inspired beauty, body or home products! I have tons of ideas including mittens, fuzzy Christmas socks, lipstick, nail polish, candles, and candy canes. I’m not going to pretend this isn’t self-advertisement and exposure for my blog, because YES MARY, is it.

7. BUY A PLANNER AND JOURNAL FOR 2017
If I’m going to take 2017 by storm, I’m going to need to be prepared. If there is one thing I’ve learned about myself over recent years it’s that I am most productive when I write things down…and by things, I mean EVERYTHING! When it comes to daily writing, tackling goals, making appointments, or lists – I’m telling you, planners and journals are a must-have. If you did not utilize a planner or journal this year, I highly recommend checking it out for next year.

8. MAKE A DONATION TO TOYS FOR TOTS, NEW YORK CARES COAT DRIVE, TEACHERS WITHOUT BORDERS, AND DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS
Like I mentioned above, I will probably not do any in-store shopping this year, but I am considering making product donation purchases online (toys and a coat – if I can budget it in), if not, I will make a $1-5 donation to all of the above organizations. I’m unsure if I’ve mentioned this on my blog yet, but I’m actually a member of Teachers Without Borders! If you’re an educator, consider joining! It’s free!

9. PURGE CLOSET AND MAKE A BIG SALVATION ARMY DONATION
Gosh, there is always more purging to do! Because I live in a tiny apartment with virtually no closet or storage space at all, my stuff is basically all out in the open and visible. It’s easy to feel cluttered, and I want to declutter as much as possible. I think this is a great way to kick off the New Year – with less crap. At the very VERY least, I’ll need a dedicated junk drawer…

10. PICK UP A NEW HOLIDAY MUG + MAKE ABUELITA Chocolate W/ MARSHMELLOW AND CANDYCANES
One of my fondest memories as a newly New Yorker was going on 3am trips to Rite Aid with my husband on a Friday or Saturday night. It usually started with, “I’m hungry, is there any take-out spots still open? Nope? Wanna go to Rite Aid?” And, there you have it – a tradition was born. Frozen pizza and hot pockets galore. During the holidays, we’d often be the first to check out new merchandise. So, we’d always get dibs on brand-new gift sets, including the hot chocolate with mugs set, which you guessed it, we bought, every year. Lol. Each time we moved, there’s always been a Rite Aid nearby (which isn’t really that much of a coincidence when there are more Rite Aids than Starbucks OR McDonalds. Yeah, that many! Last year, I discovered the phenomenon that is ABUELITA Chocolate. This year? The candy canes melted in. Every year before that and every day of my life? Marshmallows.

Wanna read another Blogmas post? You can find them all here.

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There was no cake.

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I just turned 25. Growing older is rough – I’d like to think it is for everybody. As morbid pathetic dramatic as it sounds, that’s just another year closer to death. That’s my life slipping through my fingers. That’s time running out.

I’m not bitter. I’m not resentful. I’m just a little bit sad.

Sure, I should be focusing on the growing of wisdom and self, but that’s not where I am right now. If or when I do get there, it’ll be a miracle.

But, never mind that for now. Let me tell you what happened on my 25th birthday.

It started with french toast.

I woke up to the smell of cinnamon. Sticky fingers — maple syrup all over my keyboard — this was the ideal way to start the day. I brushed my teeth, slipped on a skater dress, popped over a cardigan and headed out to Time Square. We were 2 and a half hours early before the first showing of Ant-Man. I’m always early to everything.

There was food. As it should be.

We walked into B.B. Kings. There wasn’t a single soul in this dim lit bar scene. I ordered crawfish. We sat there for an hour oohing and aahing over the food. Thomas proceeded to teach me how to eat pasta properly. “From the edge inwards,” he said. I just sort of stabbed my fork into the bowl and twisted. The food was amazing.

(Which reminds me, I still need to yelp them.)

I just wanted to have fun, you know? Forget for a moment that time was running out. Why the hell am I so dramatic? 

We went to Walgreens and bought 4 king size snickers, a mini-can of pringles, and a turkey sandwich. Of course, I’m always prepared to sneak food into the theater.

Still, we had 45 minutes to kill. We rode escalators. I beat Thomas at a game of Pacman.

We saw the Ant-Man in 3D.

The day ended with an open seat on the train and no incredibly annoying leg-spreader sitting next to me.

So what if there was no cake? It’s not like I ever wait until someone’s birthday to eat cake anyway.

I wrote this on my 25th birthday last year, on a crowded train coming home from Time Square, with Thomas hovering above me holding on to the railing, as he always does. Ironically enough, today is his 29th birthday. I was searching through #tags, looking for anything I wrote that included the word”birthday”, which is a kind of ritual for me – something I do each year. 

Birthdays are hard for both of us. It leaves us with a heavy heart. It makes us cranky. As I wrote above, growing older is rough. It’s like that one Adele song, “We were sad of getting old, it made us restless.” 

Thomas and I have known each other for nearly half of our lives. We’ve seen each other struggle and flourish. Much of which was thanks to each other. At times it was very hard. From all directions, we faced a lot of resistance since the early part of our relationship – when we were literally just kids. For over a decade, we have been a solace to each other. My husband is a sanctuary. I often think if our bond was not as strong as it is today, the last few years would have been very taxing on our relationship because it was very taxing on our individual selves. Life was (is) hard. No one wants a life of struggle where the finish line only gets repeatedly pushed back, until, well, it’s your time to go.

Beyond under-employment and financial struggles, I had experienced a late-term miscarriage followed by many fertility and reproductive health concerns that were not only wearing on my physical health but also my emotional and mental health. It was not an easy recovery, and an on-going one it still is.

The thing is, there won’t always be cake. But life isn’t necessarily about the cake, or the reward, or the finish line. It’s often about the journey. When you reflect back, it may make you a little bit sad, like it does for me. You can feel that. When the memory tugs at your heart, feel it, validate it, embrace it. 

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The Terrifying Process of Turning Dreams into Goals

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// Be goal-oriented. //

Personal development is very important to me – I am a seeker of knowledge, peace, and growth. Therefore, you can imagine, I am a very goal oriented. I think the process of completing a goal not only gives us a sense of accomplishment, but it’s also a way for us to stay motivated and driven in our day-to-day lives. Remember, the act of setting and completing goals it is very good for your personal wellness and self-esteem. For many years, I have built a habit of setting daily, short term, and long term goals. (For example, today, my goal was simply to make time to write this blog post!)

I also reflect, update, and adjust goals accordingly. I highly recommend we all do this! Also, it’s important to understand that the purpose of setting a goal isn’t simply…to complete a goal… but to work towards and achieve personal happiness. You are doing this for you, so if this is no longer something you desire, you are NOT obligated to follow through. However, giving up when things get hard is not an option.

// Take calculated risks. //

Imagine I’m that highly irresponsible voice in your head, “Do it, you coward!” Are you trembling in fear yet? *shudder* That voice right there is literally me, talking to myself – probably getting my ass in trouble. Having an excessively driven personality can be both a blessing and a curse! For some, and I’m sure for many of you, taking risks is downright terrifying. But, taking risks is necessary for getting you from where you are right now to where you want to be. It’s essential for obtaining the quality of life you seek. For growth – in order for you to make any progress in your life, you must take risks.

But to do so without sufficient preparation? You’re only asking for trouble! In truth, there is no guideline or blueprint on how to correctly prepare yourself for what’s ahead, simply because we cannot predict every detail of what’s to come. However, we can actively put in the time and effort in learning all there is to learn about the decision we’re about to make. We can seek advice from experts and have discussions with those who have experience in what we seek. We can prepare ourselves for the many problems that may arise, and we can establish a plan B and safety set. In short? Think long and hard (critically) before you act!

// Pride often stunts your success. //

Both my husband and I are ridiculously prideful. I can’t speak for him, but it’s literally in my bloodstream. I don’t know what it is, but people just love to struggle – they’re in love with it – and it’s very common for others to even romanticize the act of it. Don’t get me wrong, celebrate what you have overcome – we do. My husband and I have seen and faced a variety of adversity to homelessness to mental illness, but to purposely wage war? Don’t do that to yourself.

You may want to do everything yourself, you may hate asking others for help, but let me tell you, knowing how to ask for help is a sign of strength. Additionally, a smart man (or woman) asks for help. There is nothing to be ashamed of. When someone offers you praise, always respond with, “I had help.” In truth, and I’ve said this time and time again – all we have is each other. We’re here, on earth, to live, to love, and to lessen the suffering of others. That’s it. So, let others lessen your suffering.

// 99% of the time, things don’t turn out how you imagined it would. //

I like to say that my life is always eventful. I take the good with the bad every day. Sometimes the train you’re on gets thrown off track and you end up going where you didn’t intend to go. And, that’s OK. We can make a decision at that point to get off and turn around, or stay on.

// Know how to be proactive AND reactive. //

When it comes to goals… (and I guess life in general), it really is all about learning how to be proactive when appropriate and reactive when appropriate. Before you make a big decision or investment, regardless if it’s time or money or both, you’ll want to be proactive by identifying potential problems and taking the necessary steps to avoid them. At the same time, we know that, well, shit happens! And, that’s when being reactive becomes just as important.

How will you adjust your sails?

Will you get off the train, in a place you’ve never been? I would.

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Why are so many Millennials choosing Minimalism?

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“Millennials” has become quite a buzzword over recent years. I’m sure you’ve heard the term thrown around often – accompanied with several misjudgments including, (but surely not limited to) entitlement, self-absorption, and laziness. As a millennial (also known as Generation Y), I find this generalization absolutely disheartening. Some of the best people in my life are millennials. They’re beautifully selfless, giving, and hard-working individuals. These are the same people working long hours for low wages – who work 2-3 jobs just to feed themselves. Some cannot even afford a roof. Consider the fact that I have more friends who have been homeless than have not. Most of my peers have been or are undereducated, underemployed, or living below the poverty line. Most of which is simply a direct consequence of the Great Recession of 2008 – which is, in fact, the year I, and my graduating class, turned 18 and became adults.

Luckily for me, I was able to get a quality education from a top-rated university in New York City. It opened doors for me that eventually lead to me publishing my first novel, along with many new and exciting experiences that followed. However, even with receiving college funding from loved ones, as well as through government financial assistance, I found myself in debt, underemployed, and living far under the poverty line shortly after graduation. The job market seems to become more and more rigorous each day as the cost of living continued to skyrocket. I found myself clipping coupons and washing clothes in the tub (because going to a laundromat was just too far out of our budget).

I remember being in college and not being able to afford textbooks. Today, I can gladly say that I know how to order international edition textbooks for a 1/10 of the price (now legal in the U.S.) – that’s after digging for a PDF copy online.

Perhaps it started earlier than that – when I accompanied my Grandpa – we sorted through public trash cans, picking up recyclables to trade in for cash. Because that’s $10.

In truth, it was my economic reality that truly drove me towards a minimalist lifestyle. And, sure, you could say it was not a choice. In fact, last time I checked, you needed money to participate in materialism and that we did not have.

Does the principle of minimalism bring me joy? Very much so. Not contributing thoughtlessly towards capitalism does bring me joy. Giving, borrowing, and sharing with peers gives me joy. Supporting ethical and sustainable businesses give me joy. Investing in experiences give me joy. And, I think this is also what gives many other Millenials joy.

The worst recession since the Great Depression

Well, we all know the economy is shit. I know. You know. Your Mom knows. How many times have I had a friend reach out to me, discouraged over the job market, at their wit’s end, and I, without a doubt, respond with, “I know it sucks – the economy is shit.” Well, it is. We don’t make enough to live – no one does. My best friend, a single Mom living alone with her daughter, lives in one of the most “affordable” states in the U.S. (Alabama) and she barely makes enough to survive. She is probably experiencing the best case scenario, and even the best case is kind of terrible. Why is that? Well, that’s because we’re still recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression. 

Mental Illness

Mental illness is incredibly common among Millenials with nearly 20% of them living with clinical depression and 12% with anxiety disorder. The cause? Stress. More specifically, financial stress and economic instability. After experiencing a late-term miscarriage in 2013, I found myself struggling with depression for several years. Thankfully, I was able to obtain the resources and healthcare I needed to take care of myself. Unfortunately, many millennials find themselves working for employers that do not provide healthcare and often end up going uninsured.

Capitalist Opposition

Many millennials feel strongly against corporate businesses and their capitalistic nature. They spend a lot less buying cheap and poorly made products from big box companies, and instead, opt in for local businesses. This leaves many retail businesses in worry as more and more millennials are not invested and severely uninterested in the experience of shopping.

Experience Investment

One of the core principles of minimalism is the investment in experiences instead of possessions. Millenials are also postponing marriage and growing their family in exchange for experiences with travel. They’re also uninterested in settling down (in one spot), which directly affects their interest in home ownership.

I sympathize strongly with my peers, and at the same time, I praise their positive, selfless and hard-working nature. They’re dangerously smart, incredibly clever, so very loving, and they are paving the way towards our future. They’re engaged in social and political affairs with the largest voter turnout in history. They’re some of my best friends, and I root for them each and every day.

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Morning Routines

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Good Morning Readers! 🙂

It is 7am in New York City, and I just finished eating a HUGE bowl of chicken pot pie soup (which is simply chicken pot pie without the pie). Now, I’m enjoying a cup of tea in my oversized camping mug. I’ve been up for an hour, and within that hour, I have filled out my planner for the day, cleared out my inbox, written this blog post, put hot water on, and prepared breakfast (and ate it!).

Over the last few years or so, I’ve been working a lot from home. I know that the statement”working from home” has a lot of negative connotations of scams and basically, it not being a “real” thing, and that in a way is true. Stay-at-home moms looking for ways to supplement their household income, can’t do that by…filling out of surveys or becoming a mystery shopper. However, it’s 2k16 guys. A lot of what can be done in an office, in front of a computer, could be done at home, in front of a computer. Not to mention, there is A LOT of money that can be made online. Problem is – doing any kind of work (or study) from home is incredibly hard without UNWAVERING/STRONG self-discipline!

Anywho, before I get off topic, as usual, let’s get back to the idea of morning routines. So, why do we need them? Well, let me just jump the gun already and say it simply makes you more successful. And, I believe that 100%. Self-discipline, as I mentioned above, is a big part of this. You need to self-motivate and make a conscious effort to reach for and receive the reality in which you seek. That may sound like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo but stay with me here. Put yourself in a position to succeed immediately when you wake up. Take control of your day before anything negative, like stress, can intervene.

So, with that being said, here are 5 things I think you should do within the first hour of waking up:

  1. Physical health // Move your body! This isn’t necessarily about burning calories, as much as it is about waking your body up – oiling those joints and loosening those muscles. This will actually motivate you to hit the gym later on as well.
  2. Mental health // Meditate, yoga, or write it out! As you may already know, mental illness can serve as a huge roadblock against common day-to-day activities. Firstly, if you or a friend is suffering from depression, suicidal thoughts, or any kind of life-threatening mental illness, please seek professional help. For many, journaling, as well as meditation and yoga, can really put your mind at ease and in a good place to take on the day. If your mind is already severely cluttered, or stressed at the beginning of the day, I highly recommend these suggestions.
  3. Personal Vision // Go after your dreams! If you don’t dedicate even 5 minutes towards your personal goals in the morning, you may as well forget about it. Heck, you may as well file it under “never ever EVERRR gonna get done”.  This is why I urge you to take even a few minutes to work on your personal goals first thing in the morning. You’re a lot more likely to dedicate some more time for it later in the day and actually make progress on it if it’s already on your mind.
  4. Productivity // Plan the day ahead! Bottom line, if it’s not in my planner, it’s not gonna happen. For me, if I don’t organize my thoughts, my tasks, and goals for the day, I’m either not going to get them done, or I’ll just be all over the place, disorganized, and probably wasting a sh*t ton of time. I might tackle the tasks, but it won’t be as efficiently as it could have been if I wrote it all down in my planner at the beginning of the day. Don’t make yourself try to remember what needs to be done. Don’t allow yourself to worry or wonder. In that time, you can easily become distracted, thrown off course, and that point, your day’s productivity has gone completely out the window.
  5. Self-care //  Take care of your needs! Last but not least. #5 is, in my opinion, the most important task of your morning routine. When we take care of ourselves first and foremost, are self-aware of our needs, and take full responsibility for them, we can ultimately do a much better job in other parts of our lives, and do much better at serving others along the way. What exactly *is* self-care? Well, it’s completely subjective. It depends on YOU and what your needs are; where you’re lacking. Self-care is not really about the task itself, as much as it is self-reflection, self-possession, and self-nourishment. So, take a moment, every morning, and ask yourself what your needs are. Then go take care of them.

Well, that’s it, guys! I hope you found this post helpful, inspiring, or insightful. What does your morning routine consist of? Do you not have one yet? If so, what do you hope to establish in one? Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from you in the comments! 

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Chinatown, NYC // Manhattan Adventures // Mini Haul

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A lot of people don’t know how absolutely tiny Manhattan is. It is literally a teeny tiny little island. What you may understand as New York City – the neon lights and skyscrapers, is just a tiny fraction of the whole pie. In a span of just a few short blocks, you can walk out of the Financial District, into Chinatown, and out into Little Italy. So, in essence, you could pass by a courthouse, pick up a pork bun (which my husband is particularly obsessed with. LOL.), then swing by a pizza place on the way home. That isn’t entirely what I did on Friday, but it’s pretty darn close!

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It’s been a hot minute since we’ve had an adventure. The last time I spent an ample amount of time out in the city – just exploring – was when my parents came to visit from Hawaii. Not only that, but I’ve been starving for many homesick essentials, particularly Asian foods that I grew up with and enjoyed as a child. These *essentials*, which I guess aren’t *really* essentials, range from fish sauce, to shrimp crackers, to green tea with roasted brown rice!

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Every week, for the last month, we’ve found ourselves in Chinatown. Each time we discovered something new that we loved. One of my favorite places to visit (and try) is Asian bakeries – I absolutely adore Chinese and Taiwanese pastries. My mother enjoyed going to them often while I lived in Hawaii. Our favorite bakery was Saint-Germain, also known as Dee Lite Bakery in Ala Moana Shopping Center. It was always such a treat to get a hot dog bun. In NYC, we have a small Asian bakery chain called Fay Da that serve delicious low-cost pastries, bread, cakes, and cookies. My favorite item of theirs is the green pea & scallion twist. They also serve a variety of cakes including Taro and Mango topped with fresh fruit. Some stores serve mochi, custards, and a mix of all other types of yummy Asian goodies.

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Before heading out, I checked Yelp for the best Asain supermarket in Chinatown. We ended up at New Kam Man on Canal Street, and believe me, we didn’t regret it! I was able to snatch up all of my essentials for a fraction of what I usually pay for. In fact, nothing I bought was over $2! Can you believe that? The best bargain was definitely a 23 oz. bottle of Lucky Brand Fish Sauce for 1.95! At the grocery stores nearby, it would run me $6-7 dollars for a small little bottle! I also picked up 4 packs of Doll Instant Noodles in a variety of flavors, 2 bags of Nong Shim shrimp crackers, a small jar of Huy Fong chili garlic sauce, Yamamotoyama’s green tea with roasted brown rice, and Meiji’s chocolate Hello Panda! Most of these foods have sentimental value. Both the tea, as well as the shrimp crackers, were foods I enjoyed regularly in my childhood. I had tea in the morning with my grandma, and my grandpa used to buy these chips for me after school every day.

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It was definitely a nostalgic experience to eats these foods again after nearly 6 years of not having them.

What are your favorite Asian foods? Do you have a particular Asain comfort food that comes to mind? I’d love to hear from you!

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Hello October <3 // Fall 2016 Bucket List!

 

It feels like I blinked and the entire year dissolved. Like a cube of sugar met to a cup of tea, it was over. A friend and I were discussing how much seasonal changes can influence our moods – for me, I spend all year looking forward to October, November, and December. I love the holiday season and everything it stands for – giving and serving others, reflection and being thankful, and sharing love and light with those we care about. However, for her, it’s the complete opposite. The cold weather, darker skies, and quietness instead create a sort of sadness in her heart. If this is you, I hope you find solace in the kindness and softness of others.

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One of my favorite things about autumn is how abrupt the changes are. It gets chilly overnight and the physical world changes. We get thrown into it, usually unprepared, and have no choice but to adjust quickly. I think there really is no better time of year to let go of whatever may no longer serve you, and begin something new. Something new could be a lifestyle or career change, while for others, it may be something simple as picking up a new book, or starting a new craft. I also find this the perfect time to set new goals and make preparations for what’s ahead.

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With that being said, here is my TOP 10 must-do’s (BUCKET LIST) for Fall 2016:

1.) Make art!

The art you make is entirely up to you. Perhaps, take up a new craft or work on an on-going project you’ve been putting off for a while now. This is a fantastic time to try out some DIY projects! My “craft” is writing. November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I’d really like to dedicate at least an hour a day to writing in the month of October. This will hopefully prepare myself for writing an entire novel in November. I have yet to decide if I will start something new or continue something old.

2.) Document everything!

Take photos of everyone and everything. Journal EVERYTHING. Although I personally think it’s good idea to journal 365 days a year, most of us recognize it’s that the most important events happen during this time of year. Families often get together for the holidays, and you’ll want to photograph it all. In this day and age, journaling can take on many forms. For me, blogging and using social media apps such as Instagram can be a form of journaling as well.  I do, however, also journal privately on LiveJournal!

3.) Enjoy hot cocoa, warm cider, and holiday inspired coffee drinks (pumpkin spice latte – DUH!)

My absolutely favorite hot cocoa is Nestle’s Abuelita Mexican Chocolate. This isn’t your average hot cocoa, ya’ll. Abulita hot cocoa requires you to melt down an actual brick of chocolate in a pot of whole milk – it takes time and patience, but it’s well worth it. This is the real deal – as close to homemade as it gets. A single purchase makes more than a gallons worth of hot cocoa, so it’s an incredible value when you compare it to single single packets. However, if you fancy the convenience packets, you can also buy Abuelita Instant Hot Chocolate! (Just add water.)

4.) Purge your closet!

Do you have winter attire (coats especially) that you haven’t worn in a few seasons? I urge you to donate it! Coats (and socks) are in high demand among low income families and homeless as the weather starts to become colder. Donate your cold weather clothing to your local coat drive. Check out One Warm Coat!

5.) Take a free (or low-cost) course. Join a writing, art, or craft workshop!

This is in addition to #1. Last night, in a frenzy, I found myself enrolling in not 1, but 3 courses at UC Berkley! 100% free, by the way! If you’re interested in writing courses, I welcome you all to join me in English Literature & Composition! Ed2Go is an awesome resource for adult learning, continuing education courses, and for those not necessarily interested in receiving college credit or obtaining a degree.

6.) Attend free local events in your area!

TimeOut is a very good resource for finding out what’s going on in your town! Check your local news as well. Any city ran events will surely be on the 6 o’clock news, or in your local newspaper.

7.) Dress up your home in seasonal appropriate decor!

This is a good time to check out DIY projects, as well! You don’t have to spend a lot, either. Go to your local dollar store, such as Dollar Tree or Family Dollar! (which, by the way, are sister companies so you’ll find more or less the same type of stuff at both stores!) While you’re there, look for Halloween costumes as well. Many child costumes run as low as $5.

8.) Bake pies!

For the amateur chef, like myself, a pie may seem like a huge and complicated task to take on, however, you’ll be surprised by how simple it actually is – especially if you opt in for a pre-made crust! Pie filling, those made of  fruit such as apple or peach are very simple to make and the quality of that pie really does come down to the quality of the fruit (ex. the apple variety, and/or, the ripeness of the peach), not so much your skill or talent in baking.

9.) Whip up some of your favorite soups and stews!

I wait all year to whip up a big pot of soup. Hot soup on a cold night is the ultimate comfort. Consider making large batches to freeze for later. This will save you both money and time. My all time favorite winter dishes are Beef Stew and my very own Cheesy Chicken Veggie Chowder! Both of these recipes are low cost – less than $1/serving!

10.) Watch horror films!

Believe it or not, I used to be a huge horror movie junkie. I loved the Saw series in high school, and have been a huge fan of A Nightmare on Elm Street, the classic Freddy Krueger slasher film, since I was a child. These days, the scariest thing I watch is American Horror Story on Netflix. LOL! If you’re like me, you probably don’t even bother with cable. <3 Oh Netflix, you’re all I need! <3

Truly, there isn’t anything you can access on the internet. There isn’t anything you can’t *cough* pirate *cough* off the internet. I mean WUT? Of course EYE don’t do that. 😉

Wanna kick it up a notch? Go to free or low-cost haunted houses in your town!

What do you folks have planned for October? What are you goals? Any special plans? I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

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Sept. 2016 Grocery Haul / $100/M Budget!

It’s definitely been a hot minute since I’ve shared any kind of haul on this blog! As I’ve mentioned in other recent posts, money has been tight on our end, so investing in hauls has overall been a challenge. This doesn’t change that I do believe that buying in bulk, cooking in bulk, is essentially the smartest, most time sensitive, and efficient way to save money.

As I’ve mentioned time and time again, this can be particularly challenging for city dwellers, who don’t have access to big box grocery stores, especially those who do not or can not drive, and are more or less limited to their surrounding 5-10 block radius. (*Like yours truly.) That in itself is one of my biggest challenges in saving money. I can’t hop in my car and go to a Walmart. I don’t have a license. I don’t have a car. Even if I had a car, I’d have nowhere to put my car.

Thankfully for us, convenience delivery services are popping up left and right for nearly every industry out there. From laundry, to grocery delivery, you can get that delivered to you, and in many cases, the time and money saved in doing so is extensive.

So, let’s see – yesterday, I found myself with a $50 food budget. Ideally, I’d like to stretch it over the course of 2 weeks. The only way I’ve ever really been able to do that is by taking advantage of “value packs” at Stop&Shop and digging through tiny Mom & Pop convenience stores in the neighborhood for marked down items (in short, crap shoved to the back of freezers and shelves – crap that nobody wants).

Frankly, the prices at my neighborhood Bravo and C-Town has been really bad for months. Meat and produce prices are to the roof, so Stop&Shop/Peapod seemed like the next best move. And, am I glad I did it! In short, I put over $75 worth of groceries in my cart and paid only $50 for all of it. I used a $25 off $75 coupon, as well as free delivery coupon! There is absolutely nothing complicated about it either. Simply use the “60daysfree” coupon code at check out and you’re good to go! Any order you make over the next 60 days will also have free shipping! Awesome right?

The best part is definitely the seasonal items – pumpkin spice EVERYTHING! I am so ready for Fall. I can’t even tell you how absolutely READY I am! The weather has been really nice too. Today’s high is 71, and the low is 50. Fantastic hot cocoa and a book weather.

Ok – let’s get right to the good stuff! My receipt! LOL.

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I’d also like to point out that Stop & Shop DOES often miss a few items in your order. For example, I did not get my Stop & Shop frozen vegetable mix (x2). It’s also important to note that – like in-store merchandise, things do sell out. It happens. So be ready for that possibility.

Now, I didn’t just throw anything on sale in my cart. In fact, I was meal planning as I go. Yes, I did end up spending probably 2 hours shopping online, but there really is a benefit in sitting down and planning out your meals and taking your time with this. It’s a time-consuming process – that’s definitely a part of it.

The way I shop for groceries is pretty simple. I focus on bulk meals. Large “dinners” that can be stretched over several days. Every meal will offer lots of leftovers. Go with soups, stews, and chili – whatever is easy to reheat – foods that “get better” the longer it simmers on the stove. My husband and I often eat very simple breakfasts and lunches – often a cup of tea, banana, egg-in-the-hole, and/or oatmeal. If we want something a little more hearty, we go with pancakes because they’re dirt cheap and a box of generic pancake mix can last forever!

 

Here is what we have planned for this grocery haul:

  1. Spaghetti + meat sauce
  2. Creamy mushroom chicken
  3. Chicken corn chowder
  4. Chicken tortilla soup
  5. Chili + rice
  6. Chili + corn bread
  7. Chili dogs
  8. Chili mac
  9. Hot dogs + baked beans
  10. Goulash
  11. Hamburger steak + gravy
  12. Loco Moco
  13. Cheese burgers
  14. Corn beef hash + eggs
  15. Fried bologna + eggs

The chicken dishes will use up about 10lbs of chicken, and ground beef recipes will use up about 6.5lbs. Give or take. Each dish will use about a lb of meat.

Alright guys, I’ll keep you posted on how the next few weeks plan out and let you know if we stick to our meal plan or not!

Hope you all enjoy your weekend!

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I’m a snacking enthusiast.

While we’re still on the subject of investing in frugality, I’d really like to take the time to reiterate what I said in my previous post. That message is quite simple: There are really no right or wrong ways to go about this. If you’re making progress, you’re making progress. To be honest with all of you, these last couple of months have been challenging – I’ve been occupied with some of life’s many obstacles, and this blog, as well as this lifestyle, has taken a backseat to overcoming them, as well as prioritized self-care.

During this time, I still needed to work with a very small budget, and I found myself snacking A LOT. I have a tendency to skip meals in order to save money (as well as under large amounts of stress), and though this is a hard thing to hear, it’s incredibly common. It is, however, very bad for you and your body! So, please, don’t skip meals! In my opinion, the best way to combat missed meals is to invest in affordable nutritious snacks. Keep easy access and easy to eat foods in your home – especially foods that do not need to be prepared or cooked (with the exception of oatmeal!) Some of my favorite snacks are fruits, vegetables, yogurt, oatmeal, popcorn, and biscuits or crackers.

When buying fruits as vegetables, I suggest to stick to carrots, apples, and bananas because they’re often cheapest year-round. Buy a generic box of plain saltines or biscuits. For yogurt, always go for the tub! Never buy those tiny cups. Sure, they’re convenient, but it’s insanely cheaper to buy the tub. Another great option is buying cheese by the block, and cutting them up into cubes. Hard boiled eggs can be cooked and stored for later. A friend of mine suggested any kind of sausage you can cook and store away for later is another great option. I’ve been told they’re very tasty eaten cold, wrapped in cabbage with a little mustard, however, I’ve never tried that myself!

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