5 Ways to Keep Busy While in Quarantine

If there’s anything I’ve learned from my days of being a broke college student, it would have to be finding ways to entertain myself on a budget. There are not a lot of differences from that mindset and the practice of social distancing. While I cannot browse stores for fun at the moment, I have found plenty of ways to stay busy while staying safe at home.

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Read a Good Book

I have acquired plenty of books over the years that look really nice on my bookshelves, but I have failed to take the time to read most of them. If you are like me, this is a perfect time to finally pick up that book you have been waiting to read. From nonfiction to fantasy, there are plenty of genres out there for all types of readers. Need a book recommendation? Check out Goodreads to find the perfect book for you.

Take a Walk Outside

This time inside the house shows that I have truly taken for granted the joys of nature. Although we have battled rain over the past two weeks, I have made an effort to take a brisk walk around my neighborhood when possible. A breath of fresh air and a hint of sun really helps to lift my spirits when I have been cooped up in the house for hours on end. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to get your steps in!

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Listen to a Podcast

Podcasts have definitely increased in popularity over the last couple years. Nowadays, there is a ton of content to consume wherever you find your podcasts. Comedy, Entertainment, and even True Crime; I guarantee there is a podcast out there that will strike your fancy. Generally, I rotate between several podcasts all in different genres. Podcasts provide a great opportunity to catch up with your favorite influencers or learn something new. My favorite podcasts include: Crime Junkie, Stuff You Should Know, and Business Wars.

Do a Home Workout

Like many others, this whole social distancing/quarantine period has gotten in the way of my normal exercise routine. All gyms that I frequent have been closed because they are non-essential and a health concern. Rather than lose the progress I was making before this pandemic, I have found resources to help me workout from the comfort of my home. From YouTube videos to virtual classes on the ClassPass app, I am now finding ways to work up a sweat while staying safe inside. You can find all kinds of workouts for free online to help you work up a sweat while the gyms are closed.

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Learn a New Recipe

It’s been quite the balancing act of keeping my distance from people, but also figuring out what I am going to eat. In normal circumstances, I frequent grocery stores several times a week simply because I don’t plan my meals accordingly. Now, I have limited my grocery store runs and am trying to utilize food I have in my pantry. Use this time to get creative with the food you have or learn to cook something new. Once I finally took inventory of my pantry, I realized so many combinations I could create with items I already own.

5 Heart-Shaped Foods to Give Your Valentine

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner which means it’s time to find the perfect gift for that special someone. If food is the way to their heart, check out these five heart-shaped foods to give your valentine:

Papa John’s Pizza

According to Delish, Papa John’s will be selling heart-shaped pizza for a limited time. From February 10 to February 16 you can order a one topping, heart-shaped pizza for any loved one. Use code VALENTINE and score this pizza for only $11.

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Costco Heart-Shaped Ravioli

If you want to make a romantic meal for your valentine, Costco has got you covered. Every year around Valentine’s Day Costco sells these cute, heart-shaped ravioli perfect for a cozy date night at home. As the package states these ravioli feature a blend of ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, and asiago cheeses. Pair the ravioli and a good bottle of wine for a perfect Valentine’s Day dinner.

Einstein’s Heart-Shaped Bagels

Einstein’s is spreading the love with heart-shaped bagels for Valentine’s Day. From February 10 through February 14 you can pick up a baker’s dozen of heart bagels in three flavors: Chocolate, Cinnamon Raisin, and Plain. These fresh-baked bagels paired with Einstein’s famous shmear will make the perfect breakfast to share with that special someone.

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See’s Candies Peanut Butter Hearts

It wouldn’t be a proper Valentine’s Day without chocolate; that’s where See’s Candies comes in. I personally love the Butter Chews and Scotchmallows, but those don’t come in heart form. This Valentine’s season, See’s introduced the new Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Hearts. For a limited time you can pick up these heart-shaped chocolates and plenty of other sweet treats at See’s.

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Krispy Kreme Conversation Heart Doughnuts

If all else fails, you can always count on Krispy Kreme for a festive dozen of doughnuts. Now until February 14, pick up a dozen of these Conversation Heart Doughnuts to show your love. With up to 24 different phrases, this delicious play on conversation heart candies will make a great gift for your foodie.

A Roundup of My 2020 Birthday Freebies

I recently celebrated my birthday (Shoutout to all the Aquarius people out there) and while it wasn’t necessarily a large milestone, I wanted to make the most of it. In addition to the multiple plans I made throughout the day, I decided this would be the year I would hunt down all the birthday freebies I could find. Check out all the items I received for free on my birthday:

Starbucks

I am not ashamed to say I have been a member of the Starbucks Rewards program since around 2013. Now that’s a commitment! In addition to all the rewards I receive throughout the year, I thoroughly enjoy my annual birthday reward. This year I decided to treat myself with a Venti Iced Caramel Macchiato with an extra shot of espresso to start my day off right. Pro Tip: Maximize your free drink rewards by ordering a larger size. Regardless of size and customization, the drink is always free!

Retail Value: $6.35


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Einstein’s

After getting my free coffee from Starbucks, I was really craving a good breakfast and Einstein’s came in clutch. Prior to my actual birthday an email came to my inbox from the Einstein’s Bros Bakery Smear Society which included a coupon for a free, one egg breakfast sandwich. Einstein’s puts together delicious breakfast sandwiches so I jumped at the opportunity for a free bagel sandwich. I ordered the Bacon, Avocado, & Tomato Egg White Sandwich on an Everything Bagel and went on my merry way.

Retail Value: $4.89


Redbox

This was my first experience with the Redbox Rewards program. I have used Redbox in the past but I generally try to stay away because I am notoriously bad at returning the movies. However, Redbox gifted me with a free DVD rental so I decided to take advantage of the offer. My boyfriend and I rented Joker and enjoyed a cozy movie night at home.

Retail Value: $1.75


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Nothing Bundt Cakes

Before moving to Texas I had no idea about Nothing Bundt Cakes. Trust me on this; there’s nothing better than a red velvet bundlet with cream cheese frosting. I received a coupon for a free bundlet through the Nothing Bundt Cakes reward program so of course I had to pay them a visit. No surprise here the cake was as delicious as ever. The creamy frosting compliments every bite of red velvet, and there are chocolate chips hidden in the cake that add extra bits of flavor.

Retail Value: $4.00


Sprinkles

Ah, Sprinkles. Who can resist? Join the Sprinkles Perks program and you can get a free cupcake on your birthday too! Sprinkles offers plenty of options to choose from including a selection of featured flavors each month. However, I went with the classic Red Velvet so I could compare with my bundtlet. Both are great in their own regard, but I think Nothing Bundt Cakes wins with their cream cheese frosting.

Retail Value: $3.99


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Ulta

Every year during my birthday month, I always head to Ulta for a freebie and other great deals. Through the Ultamate Rewards program, members receive double the points on purchases throughout their entire birthday month. Along with a $10 coupon I received the Tarte Maneater mascara during my birthday month. The real gamechanger for me was receiving an offer for five times the points on any salon, skin or brow service during the week of my birthday. I decided to get my hair done and now have $50 worth of points that I can redeem at any time.

Retail Value: $23.00


The entire retail value of the my birthday freebies totaled $43.98! These are just a few of the many rewards available on your birthday. In fact, The Penny Hoarder put together an extensive list of almost 80 birthday freebies to enjoy. I will say that redeeming six of these birthday freebies was challenging enough, but it is possible to go the entire day without spending one cent. Take the challenge for yourself and see how many free items you can redeem on your birthday!

Need a White Elephant Gift? Here Are 5 Affordable Options

Does anyone else feel like Christmas just comes sooner and sooner every year? The past two years, my friend group has participated in a white elephant gift exchange and it can be quite challenging to find a gift that everyone will be happy with under a $25 budget constraint. However, after some research I found some pretty good options for white elephant gifts that I wanted to share.

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So if you are in need of a white elephant gift, I got you covered. Here are five white elephant gifts under $25:

1. Tortilla Throw Blanket ($24.29)

I understand this looks a little weird; however, I bought one of these for a white elephant at work and it was the first item to go. With this tortilla blanket you can get cozy and look like a burrito at the same time. All white elephant parties are different, but if you know that your friends and family appreciate a good gag gift, the tortilla blanket is a solid choice.

2. Trunk of Drunk – 8 Greatest Drinking Games ($19.99)

Trunk of Drunk combines eight popular drinking games in one box including: King’s Cup, Never Have I Ever, Ring of Fire, and more. The box contains all the supplies you need, minus the booze, to have a fun night with your best friends. The board game enthusiasts in your group will definitely enjoy this gift.

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3. Essential Oil Diffuser ($16.99)

Not all white elephant gifts are created equal and sometimes I would rather buy a gift my friends will actually use rather than buying a gag gift to get a quick laugh. I actually have a diffuser and love it because you can customize the essential oils and use it for some mood lighting. Find some essential oils to pair with this diffuser and call it a day.

4. Cinema Light Box with Letters ($24.99)

Every basic girl may have one of these already, but if not a light box could be a good option for white elephant. I like this one in particular because it includes letters, symbols, and even emojis to make fun messages. A light box is extremely customizable and anyone can use it. You can even leave a fun message for your friend who ends up with the gift.

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5. Tasty Ultimate Cookbook ($16.23)

I may be the only one that loves a good cookbook, but Tasty has some really awesome recipes. My friend group gets together once a week if we have the time which means we are always cooking food for a crowd. Whether you are cooking for yourself or a crowd, a cookbook provides a lot of opportunities to try new dishes. The Tasty Ultimate cookbook along with some utensils will be the perfect gift for the cook in your group.

Do you have any other ideas for white elephant gifts that turned out to be real crowd pleasers? Share your gift ideas in the comments section!

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My Experience with the iPhone 11 Pro

In the last two years I graduated from college, launched my career, and began a new life completely on my own. I think any budding adult can relate to the fact that moving out and severing ties with your parents bills can be a huge feat. Last weekend, I finally made the switch to my own phone plan, which means I am now totally self-sufficient.

Months after its release, I finally upgraded to the iPhone 11 Pro. I am generally not one to freak out over the new iPhone or wait hours in line for a product that I can get a few weeks after release. The same applies to the iPhone 11 Pro. Previously, I had an iPhone X which I upgraded to in early 2018. My phone still worked properly and I did not have any other issues; however, the new phone plan meant a new phone.

I made the switch from Galaxy to iPhone over 6 years ago now simply because it was more universal and my family used a lot of Apple products at the time. My first introduction to iPhone was with the iPhone 6 and I have stuck with iPhone ever since. From the iPhone 6 I transitioned to the iPhone X which was a HUGE difference; most notable difference being the lack of a home button. Nevertheless, I had to make many adjustments when I switched from the iPhone 6 to the iPhone X.

Changing from the iPhone X to the iPhone 11 Pro provided a much different experience. Gone are the days where your service provider would hook up your old and new phones to a machine and transfer all your data. With Apple’s iCloud, all of your contacts, settings, and apps are backed up meaning you simply have to log in to the new device and transfer data through the cloud. In my previous experiences with new iPhones, I always had to re-download apps and sign back in to everything, but this time my user interface looked exactly the same as my iPhone X.

The biggest difference between the iPhone X and the iPhone 11 Pro is the camera. Apple focused heavily on the enhanced camera features in all of the advertisements. The iPhone 11 Pro features a triple-lens camera setup which offers a better zoom, ultra-wide angles, and increased quality. I have taken a few pictures so far with the new camera and I am excited to try out all of the new features.

Aside from the enhanced camera features, I do not notice many differences from the iPhone X. It appears that innovation between the iPhone models has begun to slow. I think Apple made the huge adjustments in previous models and now we will start to see incremental changes between each iteration rather than rapid change. The iPhone 11 Pro definitely does not disappoint, but do not expect any major differences from the iPhone X when you go to upgrade.

Is Disney+ Really Worth Buying?

Buckle up Disney fans; Disney+ is finally here.

It’s been nearly one week since the new streaming platform launched and caused quite a stir. Although I originally said I would wait to try Disney+, I signed up the day it came out. Now I am nearing the end of the free trial period and am left to decide: Should I keep or cancel my Disney+ subscription?

Disney+ Home Screen

There are two ways to get Disney+:

  1. Subscribe to Disney+ for only $6.99 per month
  2. Get Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ for $12.99 per month

Since I already have a Hulu account through a separate offer, I simply subscribed to Disney+ alone. Disney+ has nearly every Disney movie and TV show that you can think of including all the classic films in the vault and a collection of Disney channel originals. Due to prior agreements, some providers including Netflix and HBO still have rights to Disney movies that are not currently available on Disney+.

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Many people have criticized Disney+ for issues with buffering and other interruptions. I also experienced some buffering and received error messages that stopped my movie altogether. While these interruptions were an inconvenience, it did not greatly affect my viewing experience. However, Disney will have to fix these bugs immediately and have released statements saying they are working to address these issues.

I will admit; I have been hooked on Disney+ for the past week. Despite the buffering issues, I continue to turn on Disney+ and search through the huge catalog of movies and TV shows available on the platform. You may think Disney+ is just for children, but I can assure you it is not. The platform hosts content from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic all in one place.

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As someone who has Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+; there are so many options to choose from. Disney+ stacks up well against the competition in my opinion, especially if you are a true Disney fan. It always annoyed me that Disney kept a whole host of movies locked away in the “vault” and pawned them off during special releases. With Disney+ I can access all the movies in the vault and so much more.

Will I continue my Disney+ subscription? Absolutely.

Disney+ offers so much content that it will take much more than a week for me to cull through. I have thoroughly enjoyed the nostalgia I experienced while watching all my favorite childhood movies. From Disney Channel originals to princess movies and more; Disney+ has reignited my love for Disney. Don’t just take my word for it, get a 7-day free trial here.

Are We Crazy for Confetti?

I think it’s time to talk about one thing that is running rampant in our grocery stores; confetti. Have you noticed the rise of confetti products everywhere? I swear it’s all cake, cookies, Pop-Tarts and more with nothing but sprinkles galore.

Look, I enjoy sprinkles just as much as the next gal. A spoonful on my ice cream, cupcakes, or donuts not only adds some extra sugar but also makes the dessert even more fun and appealing. However, this year I have seen an excess of “confetti” products hit the shelves. When did the “confetti” or “birthday cake” product category get so big?

Pillsbury has even broadened the range of confetti products by introducing Funfetti pancake mix. Now, the confetti cakes and cookies I can understand, but pancakes? Even though I don’t like to admit, pancakes are pretty much just a dessert in disguise. When you throw sprinkles into the mix, the breakfast facade is completely lifted.

I’m not completely against confetti, Funfetti, or whatever you want to call it but I have seen so many confetti products that it really makes me wonder if brands feel compelled to add these products to their portfolio. I tend to think of Pillsbury when it comes to confetti because they introduced Funfetti cake in 1989. Although Pillsbury has definitely expanded the Funfetti brand across other products, they are no longer the only player in this space. Recently, brands such as Pop-Tart, Hostess, Hungry Jack, and many more have joined in on the confetti craze.

On Ranker, Funfetti cake ranks 21 on a list of cakes based on deliciousness. Similarly, a survey conducted by 973 The Dawg found that Funfetti came in last on the list of most popular birthday cake flavors. It appears that confetti is not the first choice for many consumers, so how come we are seeing even more products coming out with the same theme?

Let me clear the air; I do not have a personal vendetta against confetti. In fact, I think the confetti and birthday cake products are pretty fun. I believe that confetti appeals more to children rather than adults, but there must be a growing market for these products if so many brands are releasing their own spin on it. I simply want to acknowledge that confetti is taking over right before our eyes.

How do you feel about the rise of confetti foods? Let me know in the comments below!

The Inside Scoop on Chips Ahoy’s Ice Cream Sandwich Maker

Everyone make way! Chips Ahoy is here to stir up some competition this holiday season with the new Chips Ahoy Ice Cream Sandwich Maker. Every year, it seems we are inundated with fun, new gift sets from brands like Oreo, Coca-Cola, and more. Last year’s hot item was the Oreo Ultimate Dunking Set, but this year I think Chips Ahoy is coming to steal the spotlight.

Now, I have read that this product will drop at Walmart on November 1, but there are Big Lots locations currently carrying it. For the reasonable price of $12 (at Big Lots) you will walk away with all of the tools you need, besides the ice cream, to create the perfect ice cream sandwich.

Inside this kit you will find:

  • 1 ice cream scoop
  • 1 sandwich mold
  • Chips Ahoy cookies
  • 1 sprinkle tray
  • a bag of sprinkles

I’m not sure if I was more excited about the ice cream sandwich maker itself or all of the possible flavor combinations I could create with it. Nevertheless, I picked up some ice cream, more sprinkles, and a pack of Chewy Chips Ahoy before heading home.

Between the various types of Chips Ahoy cookies and countless ice cream flavor options, the possibilities are endless. I prefer the Chewy Chips Ahoy cookies over the original, so of course I had to buy them. The hardest decision of this entire process is picking out the ice cream to put in the center. I decided to try out Mint Chocolate Chip and Cookies & Cream for this first attempt.

The ice cream sandwich making process is simple. As the box states, “Scoop, Layer, Press, Roll [and] Enjoy!” I do recommend waiting until the ice cream is completely frozen, because my ice cream had begun to thaw while making the sandwich, leading to some ice cream dripping on the counter and floors as I hustled to eat it. Otherwise, I love how easy it was to create a custom ice cream sandwich at home.

Overall, the Chips Ahoy Ice Cream Sandwich Maker will make for an entertaining gift this season. Whether by yourself, with friends or family, this provides a fun activity for all to participate. Make sure to stay on the lookout for the Chips Ahoy Ice Cream Sandwich Maker as it rolls out in stores on November 1.

The Starbucks Reserve Experience. Was It Worth It?

It’s overrated. You will pay $10 for a cup of coffee. The drinks are exactly the same as a regular Starbucks.

These are all comments I have heard about Starbucks Reserve, and ones that kept me from going for a long time; well until now. Of course, assumptions and negative comments affect what we consume, where we go, and how we live; but I decided to give Starbucks Reserve the benefit of the doubt.

As an avid coffee drinker, I do find myself looking for local coffee rather than visiting a Starbucks. Since they are on about every corner, I often pick up a cup of coffee from Starbucks out of convenience. I will say that every time I travel to Seattle, the place where the coffee giant originated, I always look to local coffee shops for a good latte.

While Starbucks does have some tasty drinks, I think the coffee can be hit or miss. Aside from human errors that affect the drinks, one of the most common critiques of Starbucks coffee is the bitter taste. It’s almost as if the beans are roasted a little too long. Regardless, I do drink Starbucks coffee fairly often and have found a few go-to drinks that I enjoy.

What’s The Deal with Starbucks Reserve?

In 2014, the very first Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room opened in Seattle. Since then, Starbucks has expanded these roasteries and bars across the world. Starbucks Reserve highlights the rarest, most unique coffee that Starbucks has to offer. Here customers can understand more about where the coffee is sourced and indulge in drinks that cannot be found in traditional Starbucks locations.

Starbucks Reserve is about more than simply coffee, it’s designed to be an experience. Roasting beans, brewing coffee, and carefully crafting signature beverages; Starbucks Reserve focuses on creating an atmosphere for those who want more than just the average coffee shop experience. Think about it like a winery, where you can see the source of the grapes and truly grasp the time and dedication it takes to produce a fabulous bottle of wine. At Starbucks Reserve, customers witness the transformation from coffee beans to a premium cup of coffee.

Was It Worth It?

It was 100% worth the visit.

I’m not going to lie, you will pay a premium for a drink from Starbucks Reserve. A regular Caffe Latte at Starbucks will run you anywhere from $3 to $5 depending on the size. At Starbucks Reserve, a Caffe Latte ranges from $4 to $5.50, and that does not include any syrups or other add-ons. You will notice even higher prices on the drinks that you cannot find at a traditional location.

I went into the experience knowing that I had to try an Affogato. For those who do not know, an Affogato consists of one or two shots of espresso poured over a scoop of ice cream. In addition to the Affogato, Starbucks Reserve serves several other drinks including ice cream, coffee flights, and more.

Aside from this drink combining two of my favorite things, I was thoroughly impressed. The ice cream is not overly sweet but compliments the espresso very well. As the ice cream melts, this delightful mixture of coffee and cream starts to form in the bottom of the cup. In my opinion, the espresso was more smooth and less bitter than what I have gotten from a regular Starbucks location.

The atmosphere in the Starbucks Reserve Bar differs from that of a traditional location from the menu to the coffee and more. This establishment is geared more toward those with a true appreciation for a premium cup of coffee rather than the occasional drinker. To get the full experience, I recommend finding a comfortable place to enjoy your coffee and observe the care and attention the baristas put into each drink.

In addition to the great atmosphere, our barista was also incredibly knowledgeable and explained the true differences between the traditional locations and a Starbucks Reserve. Next time, I definitely plan on trying the “Siphon Experience” which uses a siphon brewer to showcase the changes throughout the brewing process. This experience completely changed my assumptions about Starbucks Reserve and I fully intend to visit again in the future.

5 Things You Need for a Spooktacular Night In

It’s that time of the year where the weather cools down, the blankets come out, and pumpkin spice takes over the world. To me, fall means enjoying a good night indoors with my family, friends, or significant other. Here are five things to help you spend a Halloween-inspired night in:

1. Gather Your Favorite Candies

Regardless of age, I think everyone enjoys Halloween for one reason; the candy! Nowadays, there are so many different candy brands that it can be difficult to choose just one. Pick up a few bags of your favorite candies to indulge in throughout the night or invite some friends and do a candy exchange.

2. Prepare a Scary Good Meal

Cool fall weather calls for a warm, homemade meal. While you may not have all day to cook a pot roast, there are a bunch of quick, delicious meals to make for the occasion. For instance, pick up a couple pizza crusts and toppings to make personal pizzas for everyone to enjoy. If pizza isn’t your thing, check out these other scary good recipes.

3. Watch Spooky Movies

Whether you enjoy horror, animation, or thrillers; there are plenty of movies to help you get in the Halloween spirit. Netflix offers a variety of movies to choose from. Indulge in a spooky Netflix Original like Bird Box or have a Scream marathon; the choice is yours. If you don’t have any streaming services, check out Freeform’s 31 Nights of Halloween schedule to find the featured movie of the night.

4. Make a Cup of Hot Chocolate

Throughout the fall and winter I drink an excess of coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. On a night in, I like to snuggle on the couch with a big mug of homemade hot cocoa and whipped cream. Want to know the best recipe for hot chocolate? You can find it on any can of Hershey’s Cocoa Powder. Give it a try and thank me later.

5. Decorate Pumpkins

Pumpkin decorating can be a fun activity for all ages. Grab some pumpkins, a carving set, and any other craft supplies to make the best jack-o-lantern on the block. Make it a group activity and challenge your friends to see who can carve the best pumpkin. Whichever way you slice it, pumpkin decorating is great way to get in the spooky spirit.

This list is not exhaustive and there are so many other fall-inspired activities to do throughout the season. Start fall off right by spending a fun night indoors making memories with the people you care about most.