The 10 Things I Can’t Live Without: Trader Joe’s

Food

Trader Joe’s is the fucking BEST! Like, sorry all other grocery stores, you just aren’t as good. Yes, I still love Whole Foods and Sprouts, but how can you beat TJ’s prices and the unique items they carry that no one else does?

My love affair with Trader Joe’s dates back to 2014, when I first stepped foot in a store. So many bloggers I followed just raved about TJ’s but I never lived even remotely close to a store until the first one came to Colorado in early 2014, and even then, it was more than an hour’s drive away in Denver. This was shortly after I graduated college and was living at home while looking for my first post-grad job, and my mom and I decided to make the trek up there one day a few weeks before I moved to Tulsa. I remember a couple things I bought there: dried persimmon (so good) and some amazing tofu veggie burgers (that they no longer sell). The store and parking lot were a madhouse but I felt something special that day.

It would be nearly 2 years before I went to Trader Joe’s again, because Tulsa didn’t get a store until shortly after I moved to Tucson, where I was delighted to discover not one, not two, not three, but FOUR TJ’s in the city! But my mom supplied my addiction in the meantime by sending me TJ’s products every few months, like their kale chips and sweet & spicy pecans.

When I moved to Phoenix last year, I was disappointed that the closest TJ’s was about 25 minutes away in Mesa, whereas in Tucson, I was within 10-15 minutes of 3 stores. But this longer drive didn’t stop me from going there nearly every weekend for groceries. Thankfully, a new TJ’s just opened about 10 minutes away from me, so the love is still going strong.

I gotta say, TJ’s has really stepped up their game when it comes to offering vegan products. They’re always coming up with new things and many of them are plant-based. I’ve found so many things there that I’m obsessed with, but here are the 10 things I can’t live without, in no particular order.

1) Everything But the Bagel Seasoning

This is the HG of seasonings. Whoever came up with this is a genius, because it’s so simple but so good. It really elevates everything you put it on. I use it in cooking, on raw veggies, and even on plain popcorn. If they ever stop making this IDK what I’ll do.

2) Frozen Cauliflower Rice

Cauli Rice Bowl

The cauli rice makes the best base for all kinds of bowls. 

Honestly, I’ve loved every cauli-based product I’ve tried from TJ’s, but the frozen cauliflower rice is a game-changer because of how easy it is to cook up into something delicious. It keeps forever, so you can stash a bunch in the freezer for stir-frys, burrito bowls and more.

3) Medjool Dates

I don’t know what it is, but the dates at TJ’s are softer than any other I’ve bought. Plus they’re cheaper ($4.99 I think for a good-sized container) than at Sprouts or Whole Foods. I recently started storing them in the fridge (per the instructions on the package) and it makes them even gooier.

I go through a package weekly to make my protein balls (recipe coming soon) and just to dip in nut butter.

4) Creamy Cashew Butter

Cashew Butter

This cashew butter is the move.

Does it make me a bad vegan if I say I don’t like almond butter? I mean, it’s okay but it’s never gonna be my nut butter of choice, which is probably fine because a jar usually costs upwards of $10! Give me some peanut butter (as long as the only ingredients are peanuts and salt) and I’m a happy girl. But give me some cashew butter and I’m in heaven.

TJ’s cashew butter reminds me of cookies, but not in an overpowering way. It has a subtle sweetness that’s complemented by the slight salty flavor. While I usually prefer crunchy PB, I really love the smooth texture of this CB.

5) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Trader Joe’s makes the damn. best. chocolate. chips. Not even kidding. It can be hard to find chocolate chips that are A) vegan and B) affordable but TJ’s slays the game. The ingredients are simple (cane sugar, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla extract), they aren’t too sweet or too bitter, they are just the perfect size and a 12 ounce bag costs $1.99. Honestly, I eat a handful of them straight up almost every day #noshame.

6) Roasted & Salted Peanuts and Dry Roasted & Salted Macadamia Nuts

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A cart full of my TJs staples, including peanuts and mac nuts.

TJ’s also excels at offering quality nuts at a bargain price. They aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here, but I just love their nuts and trail mixes. My go-tos are the roasted & salted peanuts (not too salty) and the dry roasted & salted macadamia nuts. No weird ingredients here and the prices are right. I mean yeah, the macadamia nuts are like $9.99 for a 10 ounce bag, but have you seen how much they cost at any other store? Yikes!

7) Just Mango Slices Unsweetened & Unsulfured

Dried fruit game on point! TJ’s has the best selection of dried fruits, including many you don’t see too often (like the aforementioned persimmons). I’m partial to the unsweetened mango slices. Dried fruit definitely does NOT need any added sugar, this stuff is already nature’s candy! These mango slices are always so soft, so fresh and so flavorful.

8) Gochujang Chop Salad Kit

Salad Kit

It’s easy eating green when you have this salad kit.

Some people complain about TJ’s produce but I honestly don’t think it’s that bad. I’m a fan of their cruciferous crunch greens blend, which I cook a lot with, but lately I’ve been feeling the raw veggies more. This is a fairly new addition to Trader Joe’s and I hope it sticks around for awhile.

This is one of their few salad kits that’s vegan but mostly it’s just delicious. If you love Asian salads, you’ll love this. The crunch from the lettuce, the tangy dressing and the added seeds and rice crisps for texture make this salad a winner. I always like to add in some peanuts and sliced jalapenos for extra flavor.

9) Velamints White Gum

This technically isn’t Trader Joe’s brand but I’ve never seen it at any other store so it counts.

I chew at least one piece of gum a day to keep my mouth busy but I don’t got time for gum that lasts for like 5 minutes tops. I need my gum to last 45 minutes to an hour. This gum delivers. It packs a powerful minty punch because it’s actually gum sandwiched between mints, which is the coolest thing ever (literally). Plus it doesn’t have any weird ingredients like most gum does.

10) Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Beverage

The name is hella long, but it’s worth it for an almond milk that’s this good and cheap. Plant milks can be kind of expensive, and I usually prefer to go for the shelf-stable containers because they are smaller (I don’t go through a whole gallon or whatever of almond milk in a week) and I can stash some in the pantry for months.

I always always always opt for unsweetened almond milks and I love when brands offer an unsweetened vanilla option because it adds just a hint of sweetness. TJ’s makes a good, creamy almond milk that’s definitely on par with the pricier brands.

What’s your favorite thing to buy at Trader Joe’s? 

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(Un)popular Opinions: Episode 3

Life

Guess who’s back, back again…I’m back with another fresh batch of unpopular opinions. Let’s get to it!

1) The junk food vegan vs. health food vegan war has to stop.

Recently, I came across this quote on someone’s Instagram story basically saying “Trust the junk food vegans, they’re the ones in it for the animals” and TBH it made me a little mad. I would classify myself more as a health food vegan though I’m always ready to get down on some West Coast fries from Green here in Phoenix. I eat mostly whole foods and the packaged food I eat is minimally processed and made from ingredients I can pronounce. I am not by any means one of those holier-than-thou vegans who thinks everyone has to subsist on spinach and bananas. I’m totally cool if people want to eat vegan junk food, though I wish they would eat nutritious options too just for the sake of their health.

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Plants are so good, how can you not love em? (source)

Let me clarify that I originally went vegan for health reasons. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care about animals or the environment. Over the years, I’ve come to understand those aspects of veganism more and now I believe they’re all important. I just think it’s silly for people to insinuate that the only “true” vegans are those who eat a bunch of processed crap. As if those of us who also care about our health are selfish. News flash: you can’t do much for the cause if you’re suffering from health problems caused by your vegan junk food diet. Plus, it just pits vegans against each other and that certainly doesn’t help the cause.

 

So if you wanna still eat your Oreos and Carl’s Jr. Beyond Burger, that’s fine, but make sure to throw in some kale and beans in there too. And don’t act like you’re better than the vegans who care about their health.

2) I don’t understand the obsession with collagen.

If you follow nearly any healthy living blogger/Instagram influencer (at least the non-vegans), you may have noticed their love of collagen. They’re putting it in everything from their morning coffee to baked goods and even soup (?). They sing the praises of a certain brand known for its collagen products and swoon when they come out with a new item (the latest obsession: collagen water).

I mean, I understand that collagen has health benefits but it’s not as if these influencers are lacking in it. If they eat animal products (which they do, if they also eat collagen) they’re getting enough of it from their regular diet. Vegans and vegetarians can be lacking in collagen, but fortunately there are plant-based alternatives. Plus, our bodies naturally produce collagen, so most of us are probably good to go.

I think the obsession with collagen stems from our society’s addiction to protein. We’re constantly told to eat more protein, when most people probably eat too much. When was the last time you heard of someone being protein deficient? Uh, most likely never. Even those of us who eat a plant-based diet usually get plenty of protein from fruits, veggies, nuts and legumes (yep, it’s not just meat/dairy that has protein). So do people need to be throwing collagen into everything they eat? Probably not.

TBH tho, I really want to try the new vegan collagen building peptides from Sunwarrior. (source)

Not to mention, the idea of collagen just icks me out. It’s made of the skin, bones and connective tissue of animals, which is just ewww. Most people wouldn’t be comfortable eating these in their whole form, so why is it okay to eat it as a powder that sometimes comes in fun flavors like mixed berry and vanilla?

I mean, you do you but you probably don’t need to be eating collagen brownies.

3) Iced coffee > hot coffee, always. 

Let me just say upfront that I am not someone who relies on caffeine to get me through the day. The only reason I drink coffee is for the taste, because it does absolutely nothing for my energy levels. Like, I have had coffee before after 7 pm and I was still able to fall asleep easily. So I don’t drink coffee on a regular basis, usually only on the weekends and not even every week. I’ve actually gone about a month since I had my last coffee because I keep forgetting to buy it at the store, that’s how chill my relationship with it is.

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Literally me. (source)

But if you try to tell me hot coffee is better than iced coffee, I will fight you. I cannot drink hot coffee EVER, even if it is below freezing outside. I’ve tried, trust me, but it always makes me feel overheated and gives me a headache, whereas iced coffee doesn’t. Plus I feel like you can taste the roastiness of the coffee better when it’s cold. Cold brew is even better, but gimme any iced coffee and keep the hot stuff for yourself.

4) Running onesies are my new favorite thing to wear.

Remember the days when people threw on an old t-shirt and pair of shorts and went out for a run? Yeah, me neither because for the past 5+ years, it’s been alllll about the stylish athleisure. Which I am all about, don’t get me wrong. What I am not about is paying almost $100 for a pair of leggings just because everyone swears by them (*cough cough Lululemon* — which I also refuse to support because their CEO is a misogynistic dick, but that’s another story). Even the leggings at stores I love like Free People and Spiritual Gangster are pricey, so what’s a girl to do?

Well, for starters I pretty much only buy leggings when they’re on sale, and most of my pairs are from Victoria’s Secret because they’re not quite as expensive. But also, forget leggings because the running onesie (or runsie) is my new favorite thing to wear while working out or for just running errands.

If you already like and wear rompers, a runsie is just like that, only for exercising in. What’s not to love about an all-in-one piece? It makes it easier to get dressed and it’s cheaper because you don’t have to buy a separate top and bottom.

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This #bathroomselfie doesn’t capture how cute this runsie really is. 

I bought my first runsie from Free People (on sale!) and I freaking love it so much. Mine is super sporty but cool — it has a hood, a zipper in the front, cinch waist and built-in shorts with a pocket! As someone who likes to run hands-free and is currently not using her Camelbak, having a pocket for my phone is essential AND hard to find with most leggings and shorts, even those expensive ones.

As a bonus, it looks cute enough to wear out and about. I’m typically not someone who wears leggings and a tank top to go to the grocery store or Target, but I totally would wear this in public proudly.

5) I actually like the self-tanner smell. 

So I’ve been on the self-tanner train lately, and before I decided to buy the one I’m using currently, I was toying with my options because I’ve tried several brands/types in the past. I considered ease of application, how natural the color looks, lack of streakiness…but the one thing I didn’t consider? The smell.

Everyone seems to complain about the self-tanner smell, which I guess is an actual thing for some people — others don’t experience the odor. And I feel like I must be part of the latter group, because I’ve never used a self-tanner that smells bad. TBH, it smells a bit like sunscreen to me, which is a scent I actually enjoy. Some formulas also have added scents to cover up the smell (the Tarte one smells like legit cinnamon rolls) but I have yet to come across one I don’t like based on the smell.

 

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Who else thinks of this Friends episode when they think of self-tanner? (source)

I gotta say though, if you can’t stand that smell, go for the new St. Tropez watermelon infusion lotion (the one I’m using now). It’s got a light fruity scent that won’t bother your nose.

Do you prefer hot coffee or iced coffee? What’s your take on collagen?

Favorite Finds of the Month: March

Beauty, Food

This is the second in a series of posts highlighting my favorite product finds each month. 

Back again with another round-up of my favorite product discoveries of the month! I don’t know about you, but I am not one of those people who can eat/use the same products all the time and be content. Sure, I have my all-time favorites I come back to over and over but I always love to try new things and mix up my routine when it comes to food and beauty. I hope these posts inspire you to try something new!

1) Memebox I Dew Care Cake My Day Hydrating Sprinkle Wash-Off Mask

This has probably the longest name of any beauty product ever but it definitely lives up to the name. First, what got me to buy this was the fact that it’s cake-scented. Y’all already know my obsession with cake-flavored/cake-scented anything. So it was basically required for me to get this. But I also love how hydrating it is without being too heavy on my face. Plus the actual sprinkles in it are fun.

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The packaging is too precious. 

Let’s talk price, because I typically buy face masks in the $40-$60 range. This is $25. $25. Seriously, for a 3.52 ounce container. What a steal! And before you think it must be poor quality, this mask is cruelty-free, and formulated without parabens, sulfates, phthalates and silicones so it is good for your face AND your wallet.

I got this at Ulta but they also sell it on the Memebox website for the same price.

2) Kaleidoscope Juice

Sorry to any non-Arizona locals who can’t give this adorable juice bar a try, but I had to give it a shoutout because I recently fell in love with it and their products.

There are sooooooo many juice bars out there now. While I generally buy my juices from Whole Foods or Sprouts or Target to save money (and I’m partial to Suja Juice, as you may know), it’s fun to swing by a juice bar to try out their offerings every now and then. It’s even better when you can support a local business. Like I really do love Nekter Juice Bar for their vegan Skoop ice cream, especially now that there’s a location less than 10 minutes from home, but I’d been hearing good things about Kaleidoscope Juice and wanted to check them out.

Me_N_Juice

I love supporting local businesses, especially if they have yummy products!

They have 4 locations in the Valley, all in Scottsdale and Phoenix, which is not convenient for me but the downtown Scottsdale location is about 10 minutes from my office so I stopped by after work one day to see what the hype was about. First of all, it’s a really cute storefront. It seems like the perfect place to hang out with health-minded friends on a sunny afternoon. The baristas are really friendly and offered to help me pick out a juice.

Because it was my first time, I wanted to try a few things so I could really get a feel for their offerings. I got the Pink Illuminating Water, Charcoal Electro-light and because I couldn’t resist, a container of vegan/gluten free peanut butter patty style cookies. I will say that their products aren’t cheap. I got all of these things for about $32, including tip. Not terrible, but definitely not a habit I can keep up all the time. It is definitely worth the splurge every once in awhile though! The two juices I bought were very tasty and refreshing, and I could tell they were made with only high-quality ingredients. And the cookies…damn, those were amazing! I wish there were more than four in a container because I had to spread them out over four days to enjoy them longer.

Cookies

Girl Scouts peanut butter patties who?

If you live in the Valley — go check out Kaleidoscope!

3) St. Tropez Gradual Tan Watermelon Infusion Lotion

Living in Phoenix, you’d think I’d be tan year round. Welp, that is definitely not the case. It takes about a week of laying in the sun for half an hour each day to start to build up any color, and I usually don’t get the chance to do this except on weekends during pool season when nothing else is going on. So most of the year, I’m fairly pale. Which is okay in the winter when I’m wearing layers but once March rolls around, I’m wearing alllll the dresses and skirts…and shorts and tank tops while running and I feel like a freaking ghost. Self-tanner to the rescue!

Now I’ve tried a lot of different self-tanning brands: Jergen’s Natural Glow, L’Oreal, even Tarte makes some solid self-tanners. But the HG (holy grail) has to be St. Tropez. I’ve used several of their formulations, and they all add a nice color without being streaky. So when they introduced a new product to the lineup, I knew I had to get my hands on it, especially because it’s watermelon-scented (I also love anything watermelon).

Self_Tanner

Even the bottle is beautiful. 

If you’re turned off from self-tanners because of the smell, this one smells just like a lotion you’d get from Bath & Body Works. The scent is light and fruity and not at all like the typical self-tanner. It goes on white and absorbs almost instantly, so you don’t have to wait around for it to dry before getting dressed. It builds color gradually, but you’ll definitely notice a difference in a couple of days, and it moisturizes your skin so you won’t look all scaly.

I always apply it after a shower just like I would a regular lotion, and use it daily. The color doesn’t turn out super dark, so it’s best for those with lighter skin looking for a natural glow (St. Tropez has other formulations that are much darker). And for a high quality, vegan tanning product, it’s actually very reasonably priced at $25 for a 6.7 oz bottle.

4) Quinn Snacks Chocolate Peanut Butter Filled Pretzel Nuggets

Peanut butter and pretzels are a match made in snack heaven. Throw chocolate in the mix and you’ve got the whole package: sweet, salty, nutty, creamy. Make the pretzels gluten free and you’ve got a crave-worthy but still healthy-ish treat.

I try to eat gluten free most of the time because I feel better eating this way, so when I saw that Quinn made a gluten free AND vegan AND chocolate version of this yummy snack, I knew I had to buy it. And these little nuggets don’t disappoint. They’re like a more grown-up version of the pretzel nuggets you remember growing up — not too salty or sweet.

Pretzels

I am obsessed with salty+sweet combos.

I like that the ingredients list is fairly short and easy to read, and sugar is the seventh ingredient (1 serving has just 3 grams) so it’s definitely not overly sugary. It makes a good dessert option if you’re craving something crunchy.

The pretzel nuggets are sold at Whole Foods for $4.99 a bag.

5) Hard Frescos Brewing Co. Alcoholic Aguas Frescas

Wanna know a secret about me? I hate beer. Okay, maybe that’s not a secret but whenever I would go out for drinks with people from work, most of them would get a beer. I know it’s common for men to drink beer, but even women opted for beer rather than wine or a cocktail in many cases, making me feel like the odd one out. I’m just not a fan of the flavor of beer or how filling it is. Gimme a lighter drink with complex flavors and I’m all in!

I’ve tried hard seltzer before because I love La Croix and Spindrift sparkling waters, but most hard seltzers don’t come in flavors beyond citrus and maybe berry. Enter: Hard Frescos Brewing Co. and their hard aguas frescas.

I first discovered them at the Downtown Mesa Brew Fest in early March. True to the festival’s name, it was mostly beer tents but there were a few offering other adult beverage options, including the aguas frescas. And when I saw it came in flavors like tamarind and cucumber lime, I knew I had to try it.

Agua_Fresca

Alcohol that’s refreshing? Yes please.

I had the hibiscus flavor, and it was so refreshing. I can see enjoying this drink poolside this summer. And I love that their ingredients are so simple (plus the aguas frescas are gluten free and low carb).

If you have a Total Wine near you, you may be able to find this there. When I used their store locator online, it said the closest store to me was in Vegas, but then I found it at the Total Wine in Tucson when I visited for spring break.

 

 

What fun products did you discover in March? 

 

A Day in the Life of Ashley

Life

Hi friends! Today I’m going to be a lil self-centered and share with you a day in the life of Ashley — me! TBH I have always loved reading these types of posts from bloggers because I am kinda nosy and like seeing what other people do in their day-to-day lives.

Most of my weekdays are fairly similar, while my weekends can be totally different depending on the season and even just week to week so I’m going to dive into a weekday so you can see what I’m up to on the daily if you’re interested. I might not live the most exciting life but it’s fun to me to see how my day to day life has changed in just the past few years. I might even do a post comparing them in the future but for now, let’s take a peek at a typical day in my life, aka what I actually did on Wednesday, March 20, along with some Instagram story captures to illustrate.

7:40 am: Wake up. Yes, this is a very specific time but I’ve found that setting my alarm for 7:40 instead of 7:45 gives me so much more time to ease into my day. I actually have two alarms set before this one, but honestly I usually snooze them. The first thing I do is read my devotional. I have a Bible app on my tablet that makes it really convenient and it has a lot of different devotional plans which I appreciate. Afterwards, I hop right out of bed to start my day.

8:00 am: After going to the bathroom and brushing my teeth, I come back upstairs in my room to get ready. Mainly, this consists of working out for about half an hour. I find that moving my body first thing in the AM really sets the tone for my day and keeps me from feeling tired. This is also when I read my emails and check and update social media.

 

 

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8:30 am: I don’t really get sweaty from my morning workouts because they’re low impact so I get dressed and head back downstairs to do my hair and makeup. I’ve got my routine down so it only takes about 15 minutes. This is mostly my makeup, because honestly I usually just leave my hair as it is, which is wavy. Today, I spent a few minutes pulling my hair into a half bun because it is looking super dry, which means it’s time to wash tonight!

 

8:55 am: I fill up my water bottle, say goodbye to my mom and my dog and hit the road. I always set up Pandora for music (I listened to the New Alternative station today) and Waze for traffic before I leave.

9:45 am: I usually get to work about a quarter til 10, so about a 50 minute commute each way. I take the side streets in the morning because I’m wary of lingering freeway traffic after the morning rush. I sit in my car for about 10 minutes checking social media/emails, taking car selfies, etc.

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Can’t go wrong with a classic car selfie (feat. my crazy hair).

10 am: I clock in for work a couple minutes before 10 (yes, I have to use a literal time clock to keep track of my hours) and head to my desk. I work in the communications department as the social media specialist for a school district and we have our own office area in the district headquarters which is nice. I mostly only interact with the 5 other people in my department, and they all work full-time hours, so I don’t always see them throughout the day. Today, for example, my boss is out of the office as is one of my other co-workers, so it’s more of a quiet day.

When I get to my desk, I log on to my computer, open up email and the social media scheduling tools I use daily and then map out my day with good old fashioned pen and paper. I find that writing out my tasks for the day keeps me on track, especially since some days there are a lot of post requests coming in. I also use my planner to plan out the week ahead and my non-working hours.

10 am – 2 pm: Work. Honestly, this can change somewhat depending on the day, but mostly it involves a lot of drafting social media posts, finding photos to go with them, scheduling them and getting my boss’ approval to post them. Sometimes, I have a lot of stuff that needs to be posted same day but other times, it’s a bit slower and I have time to catch up and schedule out posts ahead of time.

I got up around noon to refill my water bottle, and I also popped in a piece of gum. For some reason, I’ve gotten into the habit of chewing gum around the same time every work day, which helps kind of break up the day (lol).

2 – 3 pm: After clocking out, I briefly check my personal emails/social media in the car before driving home. I usually take a combination of side streets and the freeway because the side streets can get backed up in the afternoon so it still takes me about 45-50 minutes to get home. I used to take one freeway (the 101, for Phoenix locals) that got me home in about 35 minutes but drivers are THE worst there (plus it was where I was in an accident last summer), so I stopped and now I take the 202 which takes longer but is less stressful.

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My car was so warm when I got in it after work 🙂

3 – 4:30 pm: After getting home and saying hi to my mom and dog, I head up to my room and change into workout clothes. I like to fit in more exercise here as a warm-up for my runs and it helps me stretch my legs after my commute. I also started writing this blog post during that time. My dog Honey comes up to my room to chill, but instead of napping, she ends up staring out the window and barking at people across the street. Typical.

4:30 – 5 pm: I stretch and head downstairs to get ready for my run. I am usually lazy and don’t wash off my makeup before running, but when it gets into the triple digits, I will definitely have to do that again so my face doesn’t melt. My hair’s already up so I leave it as is, sip some water, grab my headphones, lace up my shoes and then head out.

5 – 6ish pm: Run! Lately my runs have been anywhere from 4 to 6 miles, depending on how I feel. Today, I ran 6 miles and felt pretty good. I notice that I tend to struggle mentally at the beginning of runs. It helps to tell myself I only have to run 3 or 4 miles and stop if I’m not feeling it, but by the time I reach 4 miles, I usually want to keep going.

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Solid run, more messy hair.

I always walk about a quarter of a mile before my run to warm up, then walk another half mile or so as a cool down.

6:30 pm: After feeding my dog her dinner (boy, does she bark for it!), I go upstairs to stretch my legs. I’ve been putting my legs up a wall for about 5 minutes after every run, which really helps them feel fresh for my next run. This is also when I take my vitamins (Natural Calm magnesium gummies, HUM Nutrition hair and skin gummies) but I recently bought a tiny bottle of Sugarbearhair vitamins to try and I’m obsessed.

6:45 pm: Shower time! Today is a shampoo day. I only wash my hair 1-2x/week, which has been so good for my hair, but my locks are in desperate need of a wash today. On my non-shampoo days, I mostly just rinse off from the run and shave.

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Whyyyyy must these be so expensive?

7 pm: I start thinking about dinner, and finally eat for the first time all day! I honestly don’t get hungry most days until the late afternoon, and since that’s when I’m running, I hold off on eating until after my run. While I think about what to make for dinner, I usually snack on something small. Tonight, it’s a handful of peanuts and chocolate chips, plus a couple of homemade protein bites. I also pour some Amazing Grass greens powder (the holiday cookie flavor, which is incredible) into a water bottle to get some extra veggies in.

7:30 pm: I like to keep my dinners simple and quick, so usually they’re something like a stirfry with tofu, cauliflower rice and a bunch of veggies. Lately, I’ve been loving the gochujang chopped salad kit from Trader Joe’s, which is vegan! I spice it up by adding peanuts (obsessed), cilantro and chopped jalapenos. Tonight, I saute some cilantro pesto tofu from Whole Foods and add it to the salad, along with some fresh mango slices.

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So simple but so freaking good!

8 pm: Finally time to relax. After washing my face and putting on a face mask (tonight’s choice: Herbivore Blue Tansy AHA + BHA Resurfacing Clarity mask), I put my legs up on the couch and scroll through social media and catch up on the blogs I follow. Sometimes, I also do some online window/actual shopping from my phone (oops). The TV is on in the background (tuned to Property Brothers on HGTV) but I don’t usually pay attention to what’s on. Except my parents and I got really into The Masked Singer when it was on and watched every week. That show needs to come back!

9:15 pm: Snack time! I always like to have at least a little something before bed, especially since I know I won’t be eating again for another 20 or so hours. I try to have a mix of savory and sweet to keep my tastebuds interested. Tonight, I enjoy a handful of Lesser Evil “no cheese cheesiness” paleo puffs (like Cheetos but healthy and way tastier) dipped in Miyoko’s double cream chive vegan cheese wheel (the best cheese, vegan or non-vegan!) with some roasted seaweed snacks, blackberries and a small handful of macadamia nuts and chocolate chips on the side. I love random snackplates like this!

10 pm: After brushing my teeth, it’s time to go to bed. My parents always tuck my dog into my bed, which is really sweet. Before I turn the lights out, I do another devotional, this time with some brief journaling, and then I do a meditation session on the Headspace app. I didn’t want to spend the $50+ it cost to buy the full version, so I’m really limited on the sessions I can do, but even just a minute or two of meditating helps me get ready to sleep.

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The best sleeping buddy. 

10:30 pm: Asleep by 10:30!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share with me one (or more!) things you do every day! Do you like day in the life posts? 

 

It’s the Little Things

Life

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” (John Wooden)

Happy weekend, friends! Just popping in with a quick post today talking about the little things in life that really can be more meaningful than we think.

Since I’ve made an effort to be more positive this year, I’ve been better at finding the little moments in each day that are enjoyable. At the end of the day, before I fall asleep, I take some time to think back over my day and recount those moments and it really helps put me in a better state of mind.

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I also enjoy the shameless car selfie (taken while parked cuz safety first).

For example, I struggle with anxiety about traffic. My commute is about 50 minutes each way, so that’s plenty of time to be nervous about the things that could go wrong (plus Phoenix drivers are notoriously terrible, but I digress). Instead of thinking about that, I put on a Pandora playlist that really pumps me up (my favs at the moment are Queens of the Stone Age radio and New Alternative radio) and I don’t worry about the traffic so much (obviously I’m still an attentive driver).

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I’ve missed you, Tucson!

 

I also like to think about things I’m looking forward to, no matter how small. This can help me get through the week if things are feeling slow and remind me that more exciting things are on the horizon. Right now, that’s being on spring break from work this coming week (I work in education, not as a teacher, so we get a paid week off in March which is awesome and a perk I haven’t gotten with any previous job). I’m taking a mini trip down to Tucson at the beginning of the week which should be fun. I haven’t been back to Tucson since I moved to Phoenix more than a year ago and I’m excited to explore some of my favorite places. And my sister is coming to visit at the end of the week, which will also be great!

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Ready for some quality sister time!

 

Another thing that makes me happy is thinking about what I accomplished during the week. And not necessarily work-related things either. For instance, this week I’ve run five days in a row (as of when I’m writing this Friday night) which has been pretty typical for me the last few months, but on four of those five days, I ran six miles (the other day I ran five) which is pretty freaking amazing for me at least. Yeah I’m definitely no marathon runner (yet) but I still feel pretty damn accomplished. Especially considering I wasn’t always looking forward to my runs (mostly cuz I have a legit fear of tripping, which has happened to me way too many times) but once I got out on the trail I felt unstoppable and my usual four or five miles easily turned into six.

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I’ve got that runner’s high…

Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by life’s obligations or maybe just uninspired, think about the little things in each day that you might take for granted. Once you add them up, you might just realize how #blessed you are!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s a little thing in your life that you’re grateful for right now?

Favorite Finds of the Month: February

Beauty, Food

What can I say — I’m a sucker for blog series. It makes it a lot easier to write a post when there’s a built-in theme, ya know? Plus it’s fun for me to look back and see what I was into during a specific time in my life.

In this series, I’m going to be sharing a few of my favorite product discoveries that I make each month. I love love LOVE trying new things, whether it’s vegan food or beauty products, and I want to share the love with y’all in case you’ve seen these things on Insta or in stores and wanted to try it, but weren’t sure if they’re worth the money. I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot more confident buying something if there are good reviews about it. So let’s get to it!

1) KeVita watermelon rose sparkling probiotic drink

I can’t remember when I first tried KeVita, but I do know it was my first foray into the wonderful world of cultured probiotic beverages. As a self-professed kombucha addict/expert, I’ve tried many booches and booch-like products over the years, and KeVita’s drinks rank high on my list of favorites. Whether it’s their Master Brew kombucha or their sparkling probiotic drinks, I haven’t had a bad experience with them.

The watermelon rose version is one of their newer flavors, and being that February is the month of love (I guess?) and roses are a symbol of love, I had to give this one a try this month. I picked my bottle up at Sprouts from the kombucha section for $3.29, which is fairly inexpensive for a probiotic-packed drink.

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I also love the gorgeous packaging. 

I tried it for the first time on Valentine’s Day (of course), pouring half the bottle into a wine glass and enjoying alongside some goodies from the Whole Foods salad bar for a nice single lady V-Day dinner. I was struck by how light and fruity it was — I’ve had floral-based kombuchas before that were definitely a lot more perfume-y and flowery than this, but it definitely had a nice flavor. Not surprisingly, the ingredients include rose water, rose hips powder and rose extract, which give it that floral but not too floral taste. I also detected the watermelon flavor, but it wasn’t over the top.

I really enjoyed just sipping on this, but I think it would make a nice base for a fancy cocktail.

2) Summer Fridays R + R Mask

Going along with the V-Day themed products is my next find. I first discovered the brand Summer Fridays in the fall when I saw them all over Insta and the Sephora app. At the time, they had just two products: the Jet Lag mask and the Overtime mask. I bought the Overtime mask based on reviews saying it smelled like pumpkin pie and it most definitely does. Plus it works its exfoliating magic to make my skin feel refreshed, so it’s definitely a solid addition to my skin care routine (still gotta try the Jet Lag mask).

But when I saw Summer Fridays was coming out with a new mask, I had to jump on it. I literally ordered it the first day it was available on the Sephora app. If it’s rose gold, smells like flowers and is a face mask, you know I can’t say no.

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Definitely worth the $50+ price tag. 

This is officially my favorite mask. It makes my skin so glowy and keeps it from getting dehydrated. Plus it literally smells like a bed of roses.

At $52 for a 2.25 oz tube, it ain’t cheap, but definitely more affordable than some face masks (looking at you, $80 Peter Thomas Roth 24K Gold Mask) and a little goes a long way. I use it once or twice a week when I want to #treatmyself.

3) Trader Joe’s Neapolitan Puffs Cereal

Oh Trader Joe’s, how I love that you’re always coming out with new products that I have to get my hands on. But I also dislike it because I end up spending more than I planned on…oh yeah, and because your products are so popular, they often go missing for weeks/months after they make their debut so I regret not stocking up.

I’m not sure if this will be one of those cult favorite TJ’s products, but I do know that it’s new (saw it and bought it for the first time the weekend before Valentine’s Day) and it may not be available for long because it seems kind of V-Day-ish. Kind of like how candy cane Joe Joe’s are only around for like the first week of December.

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New cereal plus some old favorites.

I’ve mostly been eating grain free granolas when I want a cereal fix, but this caught my eye because I love the combo of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. Maybe not in ice cream, since I tend to go for more unique flavors, but a good combination nonetheless. But I did like that this cereal was bean-based, with the first ingredient being garbanzo bean powder and some brown rice flour in there for the texture. I’ve had bean-based cereals before and liked them, so I figured this would be a winner. And it is. It’s nice that the ingredients list is fairly short and has normal ingredients in it, plus it’s gluten free and higher in protein (6 grams) compared to most cereals. But it also tastes good too — not overly healthy like you might expect from a cereal with these ingredients but also not too sweet.

Each box is $3.99, which is a steal compared to the tiny bags of paleo granola I’ve been buying. Since I don’t eat breakfast, I’ve been enjoying this cereal as a nighttime snack mixed with vegan protein powder, almond milk and berries.

4) Urban Outfitters UO Nail Polish

I used to be a ride-or-die Julep junkie. Ever since my friend introduced me to the brand in 2014 and I signed up for my first subscription box, I stopped buying the cheap-o Sally Hansen nail polishes from Target and switched to Julep. I loved that they were vegan and free from weird chemicals like formaldehyde and toluene that are in drugstore polishes. Plus the subscription boxes were fun because I got to pick 3 colors per month (or beauty products, but I usually went for polishes) and it gave me points that I could use toward a free box a couple times per year. And the boxes were a good deal — $25 for 3 polishes, vs. $14 per polish on Julep’s website.

I actually just got notified recently that Julep has discontinued the subscription boxes, which is a little sad but not really ’cause I stopped subscribing a year ago when I was first unemployed. I had already stockpiled enough nail polishes to last me awhile and couldn’t spend the $25 a month so I said goodbye to my subscription.

Long story short, I no longer have an unlimited supply of nail polish and I sure as hell don’t wanna pay $14 for new Julep polishes so I started looking for cheaper options. I love Urban Outfitters for their clothes and other beauty products, so when I saw they had nail polish that was 3 for $10, I had to get some.

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Sadly this color is no longer available at UO but it should last me awhile.

I do like their selection of colors because I typically go for the brighter shades, but they also have some decent, non-boring neutral colors too. As for the quality, the nail polish does chip after a day or two but that happens to me no matter the price point of my polish, so I’m not mad about it. I should probably start using a topcoat if I want my polish to last. But it gives me a good excuse to change my color every few days. Also, for a cruelty-free nail polish, it’s pretty cheap!

5) NadaMoo! Marshmallow Stardust vegan ice cream

Usually when I see a new vegan product pop up in my Insta feed, I jot it down in my notes on my phone to remember later, because I know I probably won’t find it in stores for weeks or even months. Not so with this new NadaMoo! ice cream flavor. The very same week I saw it on IG, I found it at my local Sprouts grocery store. Side note: Sprouts has really upped their non-dairy ice cream game, and I. Am. Here. For. It.

When I saw it in the frozen case, I literally had a moment where I was like, “Is this real life?” Because I was totally not expecting to find this brand new product so soon. And mind you, I don’t live in some small town (Phoenix is the 5th largest city in the U.S., and the metro area is the 11th largest) but it seems like new product launches can take some time to get here, which is crazy. Anyways, of course I had to add it to the cart, but not before taking a picture of it in the aisle like a crazy person blogger.

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A+ on the cute packaging!

Because the name isn’t super descriptive (but nice sounding nonetheless…and the packaging is adorable), I wasn’t sure what flavor to expect. I knew it would include marshmallows, which are hard to find in vegan form, let alone in vegan ice cream. Basically, the ice cream tastes a lot like Lucky Charms, or more specifically, the milk that’s leftover at the end when you’ve eaten all the cereal and just have the marshmallows dissolving. Growing up, I had Lucky Charms a handful of times because we were a healthy cereal eating family (think cereals like Basic 4, Cracklin Oat Bran, Great Grains, etc.) and my sister and I only got to indulge in kid cereals when we would go camping and my mom bought those tiny cereal boxes that came in a 6 pack. My sister and I would usually fight over who got the Lucky Charms and the Trix cereal and leave the boring Honey Smacks to our parents. But this totally reminds me of Lucky Charms in a very good way.

The lavender color of the ice cream is beautiful, and there are definitely enough marshmallows to satisfy my tastebuds. As for nutritional content, it’s honestly not that terrible. It’s higher in sugar than some of their other flavors but I like the NadaMoo! ice creams are lower in sugar than most other nondairy ice creams.

Sprouts (at least the ones near me) have many NadaMoo! flavors on sale right now for $4.99 so it’s a good time to try a pint if you’re curious.

What fun new products did you try in February?

A Letter to My Eating Disorder

Life

In honor of NEDA Week (National Eating Disorders Awareness), I’m opening up about my struggle with anorexia that began more than 10 years ago.

*Note: This post may be triggering to some people who have struggled with an eating disorder. I am not mentioning any specific numbers but just be aware if this is a sensitive subject for you to read with care (or skip the post). Thanks for understanding!*

Dear Eating Disorder,

It’s been more than a decade since you snuck into my life. You didn’t arrive with loud fanfare; rather, you silently infiltrated my thoughts over time until I was fully in your grasp. It started out innocently enough, with me wanting to eat healthier. Unlike many girls with eating disorders, my concern at first wasn’t with my weight. I was always petite growing up and didn’t really think twice about eating cereal or candy. No one ever insinuated I needed to lose weight, it was more the opposite. But a health class my freshman year of high school got me thinking about my eating habits (which certainly weren’t terrible — I never had a huge appetite and I mostly gravitated towards healthier things like fruit and whole grains).

Suddenly, I was seeking out low calorie options like Lean Cuisine frozen meals and sugar-free Jell-O pudding. Breakfast devolved into a slice of 45-calorie toast topped with maybe a teaspoon of almond butter if I was feeling generous and “hot chocolate” made with cocoa powder and a packet of Sweet-n-Low. Dinner was a often a measly portion of plain black beans and white rice. I grew up always having a snack before bed and that quickly disappeared.

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That’s me on the left in February 2009. Just a few weeks before my parents confronted me about my ED and I started recovery. I look like I was having fun but deep down I was struggling so much. I was 16 years old and about 25 pounds underweight.

Once my brain was sufficiently starved, then I started seeing myself as being “too fat” and asking for advice online on how to lose weight. Never mind I was already underweight to begin with. I became obsessive over my body image and never felt good enough. I had already drifted apart from most of my childhood friends early on in high school and by my junior year, I didn’t have many left, so I clung to you. I thought you would help me feel confident and less alone but little did I know, you did the exact opposite.

I wanted to die the day in March 2009 my parents confronted me about you. I cried so much and I was so scared about what they would think. You told me to deny everything, but by opening up, I felt a release. Months of hiding you were finally over, and I was finally free.

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Even just a few months into recovery, I was so much happier and healthier. Definitely still had a long ways to go.

Well, not really. The thing about eating disorders is they don’t suddenly disappear once you start recovery. Many people say they’ve been able to fully recover, but I’m not sure I’ll ever completely be rid of you. Ten years after starting the difficult journey of recovery, I still encounter you from time to time. Some days I can’t bear to look at myself in the mirror. Sometimes I flirt with letting you back into my life, and I start counting calories again, becoming obsessive over exercise, restricting foods from my diet under the guise that I can just do it until I reach my goal weight. But if I’m being honest with myself, there really is no one goal weight. If I reach it, I’ll immediately want to go even lower. You’ve left scars on my brain that may never fully heal, which is why I have to be very careful not to let you into my life even a little bit. If I give an inch, you’ll take a mile. I’ve had minor relapses I’ve been able to bounce back from, but it takes every ounce of energy I have not to give into you and take the easy way out.

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I don’t want to be scared to eat my favorite (vegan) foods again just because of calories.

 

But you know what? It’s worth it to me to keep fighting every day to keep you out of my life. Without you, I can actually have a life. I can go on vacation and feel confident in a swimsuit. I can go out to eat and not spend hours beforehand agonizing over the “safest” thing to order on the menu and instead order what I’m actually in the mood for, whether that’s a salad or loaded vegan fries. I can be present in conversations with friends and family instead of mentally adding up the calories of what I’ve eaten that day. I can go for a run or a hike because I enjoy doing those things, not to burn calories. I can dream of a future for myself where you’re not in the picture at all.

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Still not fully recovered but a hell of a lot happier/healthier in 2019 than 2009.

 

 

I may not be completely out of your grasp yet, but trust me — I will keep fighting and doing what it takes to not let you ruin my life again. I deserve to live a happy, full life and sadly, that doesn’t include you.

 

Sincerely,

Ashley

 

Redefining Success

Life

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement and success have no meaning.” (-Benjamin Franklin)

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When you hear the word “success,” do you imagine being wealthy, popular, having everything you’ve ever wanted and being the envy of those around you? Those are some of the ways our society defines success. And for awhile, it was how I saw success for myself.

I looked at my accomplishments as never measuring up, because I never felt like I had it all together, whereas it seemed like everyone around me did. Spoiler alert: we’re all just splashing around in the deep end of life trying to figure shit out.

If I had to define my most successful period based on the way the world sees success, I would say it was when I was living in Tucson. I had a steady job making the most money I ever had in my career (which wasn’t much, considering I was in TV news), a small group of close friends I made through my job that I enjoyed hanging out with on the clock and outside of work, an adorable dog (still have her!), my own apartment and car (with well over 100K miles on it, but still running well), stable enough financially that I could spend money on clothes and makeup and fancy vegan products from Whole Foods. To some people, maybe it looked like I had it all. But below the surface, there was a girl who constantly questioned herself. I performed well at my job, but most days I didn’t feel any passion for it and wondered if I would ever find a job I liked that didn’t leave me feeling frazzled and burnt out at the end of most days. I struggled with feeling like I wasn’t cool enough to hang out with certain people. I hated that I didn’t have enough time or money to take fun vacations like all the women I followed on Instagram. I wondered if I would ever be in a romantic relationship like pretty much everyone around me seemed to be in.

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Sometimes I miss living in Tucson and being so close to the desert but I don’t miss the insecure person I was there.

lot has changed in the year since I left my job in Tucson and moved to Phoenix. To most people, a lot of what has happened in my life since the beginning of 2018 might seem more like a failure than a success. I didn’t have another job lined up so I had to move in with my parents while I searched for a job. I was unemployed for almost 4 months before I finally landed a new position, which paid even less than my TV job and required me to drive 2-3 hours a day round trip. I was only able to travel a handful of times, and most of those vacations were to in-state destinations. I didn’t really make any friends at my new job because I was only there for 6 months before I was laid off, and I didn’t really maintain any of the friendships I made in Tucson. I struggled a lot with anxiety and depression during my two periods of unemployment. I found a new job fairly quickly after being laid off the second time, but it was only a part time position so I was officially making the least money I ever had since I started working in 2014.

2018 was a growing year for me. And sometimes, growing hurts. But I came out of that year so much stronger, and more confident. I’ve made it my mission to radiate positivity in 2019 as much as possible, and I’ve held to that as best I can. I absolutely love my new job, even though part time hours don’t pay the bills and I am nowhere close to being able to move out on my own again. I have more time now to dedicate to outside passions, especially running. I’m trying to appreciate the situation I’m in now, and grow where I’ve been planted. I know this won’t be where I am forever, but I want to be grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given. I love that I’ve been able to spend so much time with my parents and develop a relationship with them as an adult. I wasn’t able to do that as much during the years I lived hundreds of miles away from them. I appreciate having two extra pairs of hands to help me take care of Honey when I’m busy with work. I feel grateful that living at home has allowed me to save more of my money for the future. I’m blessed that my long commutes gave me a good reason to buy my first car and become more financially responsible. I have made so many strides in regards to my mental health. I’m trying my best to cultivate meaningful relationships with the people around me and the friends I do have that are far away, even if our friendship doesn’t always look the way it used to.

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I love that I have more time to devote to running now. 

I feel like I’m way more successful now than I was when I had a full-time job and making more money because I’ve redefined what success means to me. It’s not all about the $$$ and popularity and Insta likes. My struggles have made me a more confident person, which I call a success. I’ve learned that it’s okay to need help sometimes, which is a success. I’ve come to realize that I need to pursue a career that I’m passionate about, rather than just chasing paychecks and feeling unfulfilled. I know now that I don’t have my shit together and maybe I’ll never feel like a “real” adult but then again, who ever really does?

 

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Feeling happy and confident in 2019. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What does success mean to you?

(Un)popular Opinions: Episode 2

Life

I know, I know…back so soon with another (un)popular opinion post? While I have a whole bunch of posts saved to my drafts, I haven’t been feeling so inspired to finish them and this kind of post comes a lot more easily to me. So here we go!

1) Anything below 70 degrees (Fahrenheit) is too cold

Blame the Arizona native in me, or the fact that I’ve been living in Arizona for the past 3+ years (after moving away 24-ish years ago) and my blood has thinned out, but I just don’t do temps below 70 degrees. Like, I do, but I’m not happy about them. In Colorado where I grew up, people would full on be wearing shorts if it was 50 degrees (or even colder) in winter. If it gets below 60 here, everyone’s like nah we’re staying inside by the fire. Basically, as where most people think 70 degrees is warm, I think it’s barely warm enough.

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Missing dem warm HOT pool days.

Now let’s be clear: Arizona does get temps below 70 for about a month in the winter. We’re not like Florida which is warm all the time basically. The last week in December/first week in January this year was bitterly cold by AZ standards (think low 50s as a daytime high and mid to upper 30s at night) and I was not having it. Fortunately, we got through that and started having highs in the low 70s, which is much more tolerable. Until the cold came back with a vengeance this week. I’m so over winter!

2) I will NEVER watch The Bachelor or shows like it

Obviously, these shows must be popular because they keep coming back, season after season. I can’t help but side-eye people who watch these shows religiously because… c’mon. They’re packed with so much unnecessary drama and stupidity and attention whoring. Sorry, but how is that supposed to be a reality show? Most people don’t find their significant others on a ridiculous primetime TV show, and most people (I hope) don’t act like that IRL.

3) Grain free granola >>> regular granola

I am definitely NOT paleo, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s probably the healthiest of the lower carb diets because it actually encourages eating vegetables and (certain) fruits, unlike keto which is all about those animal fats, which I am so not about. But some aspects of paleo I can get behind, namely limiting grains. I honestly strive to be gluten free as much as possible because it helps my digestion and oftentimes, I’ll take this a step further and seek out grain free products just to try something different.

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Trust me when I say this granola is addicting. 

Some of my staple products are grain free, like Siete tortilla chips, LesserEvil paleo puffs (the “no cheese” cheesiness flavor tastes like Cheetos) and even granola. I’ve tried several brands that offer grainless granola, but my favs are Paleonola (the pina colada flavor is the best, but I can only find it online) and Wildway (I’m so pissed the Whole Foods near me stopped carrying this, but the vanilla espresso one is my jam).

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My fav way to eat my fav granola: mixed with Sunwarrior vegan protein powder, chocolate chips, blueberries and almond milk.

Maybe it’s just because I’m obsessed with nuts and trail mixes, but grain free granola is so much better than traditional granola made with oats. It’s just more satisfying because it’s got those healthy fats from the nuts, delicious dried fruit with no sugar added and the texture is on point. It is definitely more expensive than most regular granolas, so I plan on trying to make my own at home.

 

4) Driving on side streets is better than the freeway, even though it takes longer

Before I moved to Phoenix, I drove for maybe half an hour a day. My commute in Tucson was about 15 minutes each way; it was even shorter in Tulsa. On weekends, I would sometimes drive an hour while running errands, or when I would go up to Phoenix to spend the weekend, it would be a 2 hour trip each way. For the most part though, I didn’t do a ton of driving because everything I needed was fairly close.

My first job since moving here was in downtown Phoenix, which is about 35 miles one way from where I live. I did that commute 5 days a week (aside from work from home days) for 6 months and quickly realized that PHX traffic sucks. Like, not as bad as LA but the drivers here are terrible. Getting into an accident with my parents on the 101 last July got me to change my commute habits fast. I used to take the freeways to work to save time but it stressed me out so much with the way drivers behave here. So I started taking the side streets exclusively. While it added some time to my commute (the freeway could take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, side streets were an hour and ten minutes to an hour and a half), it saved me so much anxiety. I still dealt with terrible drivers and traffic, but at least we were only going 45 MPH instead of 70+.

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Driving a small hatchback (like Skye the Prius C) feels so much safer on side streets vs. the freeways.

When I started my current job back in December, I was excited because although the distance is roughly the same (about 28 miles each way), going to Scottsdale from where I live would take much less time on the side streets because there just isn’t as much traffic going the same way as me. It now takes me 50 minutes to get to work, pretty much everyday.

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Another perk of taking side streets: my gas mileage is so much better (cuz I drive a hybrid bitches!) I’ve gotten in the 70 MPG range before, but usually it’s closer to 60, which is still awesome.

While I take the side streets every morning, I usually do a combo of side streets and the freeway to get home because I’m leaving before rush hour (which basically goes from 3 to 7 pm, ugh) so I’m not as stressed. I do still try to avoid the 101 most days because drivers are the worst on that freeway for some reason. The 202 takes longer (about 45-50 minutes, vs. 35 on the 101) but it’s much less congested, very scenic and more calm.

 

5) I’m not sure I’m a fan of “natural deodorants”

If you know me, you know I’m into a lot of wellness trends. Some of it comes with the territory of being vegan. I’m always looking for new cruelty-free beauty and hygiene products. For years, I’ve used Dove spray deodorant because it works like a charm. But after hearing about how terrible for your body traditional deodorant is (because of the aluminum), I decided to switch to something more natural.

I’ve tried a handful of brands, including Schmidt’s and Yes To, and while they all smell amazing, they don’t work as well as my old standby. For one, they usually irritate my skin. Schmidt’s was probably the worst for this, as much as I wanted to love it. It left my armpits raw and red, it was terrible. Yes To is in my current rotation, and it’s less irritating but still doesn’t leave my skin as smooth as I’d like. The biggest problem with all of them is that they don’t get rid of the sweat or the smell (TMI). They honestly make my skin feel wetter than before I put it on, which makes me have to reapply, which worsens the irritation.

I really wish I could find a natural spray-on deodorant, because roll-on types have never worked as well for me, even traditional deos. Until then, I’ll just be sweating over here…

Have you tried natural deodorants? Do you prefer freeway or side street driving?

If You Run, You’re a Runner (My Running Journey)

Life

“Run wild / I’m on a mission and I won’t stop / No destination but it’s worth a shot / You gotta let me go / You gotta let me go / You gotta let me go” (Thutmose & NoMBe, “Run Wild”)

Running. It’s one of those things that seems to be so polarizing — people either love it or hate it. For years, I fell into the latter camp. Well, not really. I was more ambivalent about it. I grew up taking dance classes from the age of 3 or 4 up until high school, which helped me stay active but it was more for fun. I did love playing outside and going for bike rides but I was never one of those kids who played sports. Except for the two seasons I tried YMCA soccer and realized I have no coordination. And I also took up tennis in my teens, but again, more for fun (I never played for a school team).

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I definitely loved dancing because of the costumes! Throwing it back to ’99 and the era of bangs and pink sequins. 

It wasn’t really until I got to college that I viewed physical activity as something I “had” to do, instead of just to enjoy myself. Mostly this was tied to my eating disorder, so I felt compelled to exercise. Surprisingly, I never went to the gym during undergrad — I mostly did at-home workouts to quell that voice in my head (and would still play tennis for fun when I went home on weekends or breaks).

I started my first job a few months post-graduation, and moved away to Tulsa. This gave me access to a gym right in my apartment complex, and I was determined to use it. And I definitely did, but I happened to discover something I enjoyed even more — running.

During my college days, I followed a lot of healthy living bloggers, many of whom were runners. I always thought wistfully about running, but then told myself it wasn’t in the cards for me. The few times I attempted going for a run, I felt out of breath and slow. It made me really question my fitness level. So I put it on the back burner, until one beautiful spring day in May 2014.

There was a great paved trail just across the street from my apartment complex, that ran along the Arkansas River and next to Turkey Mountain. I had never lived so close to water before, so it was magical to me (even though the river was often fairly low, let’s be honest). When I moved to Tulsa, I alternated going to the gym with walking along this trail for a few miles. But one day, I got the urge to try running. And it was like a switch had flipped on in my brain, and suddenly, I was obsessed (in a good way). I still wasn’t in running shape obviously, but for the first time, I felt like it was something I could do.

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The face of a proud newbie runner. 

It started off slow, with walk-run intervals. I would run as far as I felt I could, walk for a ways and then start running again. A huge breakthrough came in early June, when I ran 5K (3.1 miles, for those not in the know) without stopping…in the rain. I was super proud of myself and motivated to keep going.

 

I invested in some better shoes (I first started running in Converse-style sneaks…bad idea) — buying my first pair of Nikes in November 2014 got me hooked on the brand and I haven’t run in anything else since. I bought some more workout gear, like cute sports bras and tank tops. I downloaded more music to my phone to help pump me up during runs.

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Only in Tulsa can you run by a river AND Christmas trees!

I ran in all kinds of weather — rain, hot/humid summer days, cold/cloudy winter days with snow flurries, when there were literally tornado watches nearby (probably not my smartest move). Because my work schedule was so whack (when I first started running, I was working evenings from 1:30 to 10:30 pm, then switched to early mornings from 4:30 am to 12:30 pm and eventually to overnights from 10 pm to 6 am), I ran at basically any time of the day I could fit it in. Sometimes, it was before work in the mid-morning, sometimes it was after work at 7 am or in the midday heat, sometimes it was in the late afternoon/early evening soon after waking up when I worked overnights. I covered every mile of the trail across from my apartment that spanned from just south of downtown all the way to the suburb of Jenks, and even tried a few other trails that connected to it.

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Running trails > running pavement. 

I even tried trail running at Turkey Mountain, and loved it. It was so cool to be so close to nature and enjoy it in a different way than if I were hiking.

When I moved to Tucson in January 2016, I was thrilled to discover that my new apartment was about a mile from another amazing trail that went along a river (technically the Rillito River is more of a wash and only ever had water in it after it rained). I ran there the first time just a few days after moving in and knew I had found my happy place. Unlike in Tulsa, I was never able to run on every segment of the trail because it was much longer, but it was even more beautiful and close to nature. I saw rattlesnakes and coyotes twice each, some javelinas once and so many lizards and roadrunners. This is where I truly discovered my love of the desert.

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I mean, how can you not love running with the view of saguaros & mountains?

Just like in Tulsa, I ran in all kinds of conditions — during cold winter rains, on days when it was 105 degrees (or hotter), after a monsoon storm, while the sun was setting (my favorite time to go). I also ran trails at Sabino Canyon a few times, which was an incredible experience, being surrounded by saguaros and mountains. It was in Tucson that I began regularly running more than 3 miles at a time. It was where I truly fell in love with running.

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I miss Tucson’s beautiful trails. 

I was definitely sad to leave Tucson behind in January 2018 because I wasn’t sure there were any running paths in the Phoenix area that could compare to those in the dirty T. And TBH, I haven’t found any that rival the Rillito River path. There are some trails that run along the canals here, but I haven’t run them because I don’t live close enough to them and there isn’t parking nearby. I ran once at Papago Park when my family went there to hike, which was amazing, but it’s too far away to be a regular running spot. I also ran once at the Riparian Preserve in Gilbert which is much closer and I would definitely like to go back, but it’s not the same as Tucson. I’ve mostly run neighborhood streets since I moved here, including a short trail that runs through my area, which is fine because before this, I had never run in residential areas. It’s definitely different and cool in its own way but I much prefer the trails I was used to in Tulsa and Tucson. I guess I got spoiled living so close to great running paths.

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Sunset runs have my heart. 

Despite this, in the past year I’ve run the most I’ve ever had. When I was unemployed I had so much free time that I could run most days of the week and even now, I run at least 4 to 5 days a week. The longest distance I’ve ever run is 7 miles, which I’ve now done a couple of times, along with some 6 milers and several 5 milers but my sweet spot is 4 miles. Running just comes so much easier to me these days, and I love it. That’s not to say that some days I’m not excited to lace up my shoes and hit the pavement. Once I’m out there though, my whole outlook changes and I can often convince myself to run further than I planned on. Having a killer playlist helps (I’m always buying songs on iTunes so I have new stuff to listen to), as do cute workout clothes and shoes.

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7 miles and proud of it!

I ran 110 miles in January, the first time ever running at least 100 miles in a month. I know some people can run 100 miles in one race, or even reach that mileage in a week or two so it doesn’t seem that impressive but for me, it is. It’s taken me nearly 5 years of running to reach this point, but I’m proud of myself for my dedication.

I know I’m nowhere near the fastest runner out there, and my usual weekly mileage is somewhere between 15 and 20 miles, but the fact that I run consistently makes me a runner. I’ve never run a race before (not even a 5K) and honestly don’t really have plans to because I run for myself, not to compete with anyone else. I know I could race just to compete with myself, but I know it would put me in a bad head space and I wouldn’t enjoy running anymore. I don’t need race results or other runners to motivate me (though I do start running faster when I encounter other runners out there, so thank you for that!), I can do it all by myself. I run to clear my head, to get closer to nature, to improve my self-esteem and mood, to feel alive. That to me is more important than any medal.

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I’m a serious runner, yo!

For anyone out there who’s just starting their running journey, and you feel slow, or coming back after an injury and feel weak, or maybe you’re like me and you’ve been running for awhile but you don’t run as fast or as far as the runners you see on Instagram — don’t doubt yourself. If you run, you’re a runner. Whether you can only run 5 miles or even 1 mile, you’re just as much of a runner as any marathoner. And you should be proud of that, because I know I am.

 

 

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Running makes everything better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a runner? If so, how did you get started in the sport?