imperfect produce

6 New Things I Tried this Year that You Should Try Too (List-cember #4)

Alongside my list of goals this year, I really tried to let my curious eyes wander. Over the last few years there have been things that I thought, “I’ll try that one of these days” but never did, and so I decided this year was as good as any to finally change that.

They are mostly small things. I didn’t jump out of any planes or shave my head or anything. But I made small little discoveries that made my day to day a little brighter and I’m hoping they can do the same for you! 🙂

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1) E-Library Card

Are you one of those people who can drop money on books even though you’re pinching pennies to make rent and pay other bills? I know you can’t see it, but my hand is raised—HIGH. Thankfully, the library is here to help. I mean, it’s always been here, but I had no idea there was an online library that will lend you books straight to your Kindle.  It’s so easy! It’s so wonderful! It’s so free! I highly recommend looking into it.

If you’re in the LA area, you can get your own e-library card here!

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2) Audiobooks

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I never thought I’d be someone who could listen to a book rather than read it, but this year I decided to try them. Turns out, they’re the perfect driving companion, and getting ready in the morning companion, and during the slow hours of the work day companion. All I’m saying is, audiobooks are your friend and you should give them a shot. If you’re into classics, I recommend To Kill a Mockingbird read by Sissy Spacek, and if you’re into memoirs, I recommend Drew Barrymore’s Wildflower.

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3) Spiffing up my Inbox

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My email inbox goes through phases of being organized and a complete disaster, but this year I noticed how unexciting it was regardless. I was never excited to get any emails because they were always work related, bill related, or complete spam. SO, this year I decided to spiff it up a bit.

I subscribed to newsletters:

  • The Skimm: A daily newsletter that gives you the bullet points of important events happening around the world.
  • Goodnewsletter: A weekly newsletter full of only good news, and you know I’m all about good news!
  • The Rise Newsletter: Another weekly newsletter run by Rachel Hollis (author of Girl, Wash Your Face) that gives you little doses of inspiration to help you to take on the week!

And some weekly devotionals:

  •  The Monday Club: Probably my favorite find of this year. It arrives every Monday morning with some encouraging words to help start your week off right.
  • The Cathe Laurie Devotional: A weekly Bible study that gives you a specific goal to focus on for the week.

I would recommend any and all of these. They brightened up my inbox throughout the year with doses of inspiration and positivity.

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4) Birchbox

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I would definitely consider myself to be an amateur in the makeup department, but like any other department of my life, I’m curious and anxious to be better. So, I enlisted Birchbox to help me level up. I was probably subscribed for about six months, and while it was very exciting to get a package—that only cost me $10!—every month with new things to try, I just couldn’t keep up. I ended up having a big pile of samples sitting on my bathroom counter that made me anxious and sad and annoyed whenever I looked at it. I might pop back in once in a while to get a few more things to try—or just to get another one of their incredible boxes, which I plan on using to wrap gifts this holiday season—but for now I’m on pause.

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5) Imperfect Produce

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This is probably my favorite thing that I found this year. I’ll be honest, I was definitely a victim of consistent marketing on this one. THE FACEBOOK ADS GOT TO ME. But hey, it’s a super easy (and cheap) way to get fresh produce, and I’ve used each box I’ve gotten to inspire to look up new recipes with food I might not otherwise have tried. I highly recommend giving it a shot if they deliver in your area!

If you are interested in trying it, you can sign up here and get $10 of your first box—which is amazing because an average box for me costs about $12.

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6) Rev Captioning

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With student loan payments, bills, rent, and my failure to win the lottery this year, there were definitely times when I was sweating my finances. I thought about getting a second job, but was struggling with having to give up my free time. When I get home from my current job, I like to relax, but I also like to exercise, write and work on my goals for the year. So, I started looking around for options that could fit in to my schedule, which led me to Rev. It is a captioning service that pays you to either transcribe or caption videos. The application process is a little tough (I went through it twice before being hired) but once you’re in, you get to make your own schedule and work as much or as little as you like. You don’t necessarily rake in the money, but if you are consistent about it, you can give your bank account at least a little buffer.

Check it out here

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Overall, I’d definitely say that my curiosity paid off this year and I’m excited to see where it takes me next year! Do you have anything you tried this year that you loved?

 

Strain the Stir (Episode 4): I’ve Leveled Up!

Hello and welcome back to another episode of Strain Then Stir, a no-cameras, diary-esque cooking show blog where I attempt to transform myself from a two-meal Tina into a full course Frank…or at the very least, be capable of feeding myself more than cereal and pasta.

In the time since our last episode, and I don’t want to get cocky, but I think it’s safe to say I’ve leveled up.

As mentioned in my latest favorites post, I recently signed up for Imperfect Produce, which is a company that sells you fruits and vegetable which, while perfectly edible and delicious, are not quite “pretty” enough to be sold in stores. I signed up for the small box that comes every two weeks, and each Thursday before I get a new box, I get an email giving me the option to customize it.

Now, in an effort to improve my cooking ~skills~ I’ve tried not to make too many adjustments to each prepared box. Often when I log in to make my customizations, I just remove the foods I don’t like (such as lettuce or cilantro) and then leave the rest the same. That way, when I receive my box, I’m forced to look up recipes that incorporate both the ingredients I’ve been given and those I have in my kitchen, and I do my best to make something delicious!

Here are some of my favorite creations so far:

Steak & Nectarine Salad

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In one of my first boxes I received two nectarines. And since I’d never even tried a nectarine, I was not only worried whether I would like them, but I also had no idea how I could use them in a recipe. When I found this one however, I was sold. I even made a separate trip to the grocery store to pick up a cheap cut of steak. It was worth it. (Note: For anyone out there who is a fellow lettuce hater, I forwent it in this recipe and it was still absolutely delicious!) (Find the recipe here)

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Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Red Onions & Feta

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I am no stranger to the magic that is sweet potatoes, so when I got one in my box, I had a number of ideas pop into my head. This one however, helped me figure out a good way to combine a few things that I already had, as well as use one of the red onions I got in my box as well. (Find the recipe here)

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Spaghetti Squash

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Being an avid watcher of Food Network and skimmer of cooking blogs, I’ve heard my fair share about spaghetti squash. But after receiving one in my box, I still had to Google what it actually was. I had no idea how to cut it or what you do with it afterwards, and I wondered if my carb worshipping ways would hinder my ability to give it a fair chance. Thankfully, it took all of one bite to fall head over heels in love. Now, I’m not saying I’m breaking up with pasta or anything, but you can put it on the record that I’m having a full blown affair. (Find the recipe here)

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Apricot Smoothie

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Apricots were another fruit that I’d seen around but had never really made up my mind whether I liked them or not. On an average shopping trip, I never would have picked some up, but when I had four arrive in one of my boxes, I had to expand my horizons a little. I’ll admit however, I did do a good amount of procrastinating on these. Every day I’d vow to either bring one with me to work as a snack or bake a few into some kind of dessert, but then every day I’d forget or get lazy or just plain not want to. Sooner or later however, the apricots (with an assist by the hot summer weather) took matters into their own hands. They started to fade fast, threatening to be completely wasted, and so I finally took the time to find them a home. The end result was delicious and jump started me on a smoothie kick, so I guess thanks is in order, apricots! (Note: I used almond milk instead of yogurt, and vanilla extract instead of almond extract because that’s all that I had. It still tasted good though, and gave my morning a good fresh start!) (Find recipe here)

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Bonus Recipes:

In the spirit of my growing cooking confidence, for my family’s Fourth of July barbecue I decided to branch out and make two special dishes. These weren’t based on anything that came in my Imperfect Produce boxes, but rather foods I thought my family would enjoy. Thankfully, they were both a hit!

Jalapeno and Goat Cheese Grilled Stuffed Mini Peppers

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My sister is lactose intolerant, so oftentimes holidays like the Fourth of July will offer a bunch of delicious foods that she can’t have. In order to try and combat that on one of her favorite holidays, I made these which feature two of her favorite things: goat cheese and spice. It was a super quick and easy to follow recipe and both she and my dad loved them! Also, if you don’t like/can’t handle spicy food (a.k.a me), I made a few with just goat cheese and they were delicious as well! (Find the recipe here)

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Banana Cream Pie Muddy Buddies

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These were for my mom. Growing up, she often made Muddy Buddies for a wide variety of get togethers, so when I found these, I naturally thought of her, both for that reason, and because she instantly loves anything banana flavored. One tip I have for this recipe a la my mom: pour your Chex mixture into freezer sized Ziploc bags when you are ready to mix in the powdered sugar. That way, rather than trying to keep it all contained in a bowl, simply pour the sugar into the bag, zip it up and shake. (Find the recipe here)

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Here’s to another few months of trying my best, which, as it turns out, is getting better day by day! Who would’ve thought there was this great big world outside of pasta and cereal. (No offense pasta and cereal, I still love you.)


Read the previous episode of Strain then Stir here.

May/June 2018 Favorites

Hello and welcome to another favorites post, where I hand out real life “like” buttons to things I’ve fallen in love with over the last couple months.

Let’s jump right in.

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Ear Hustle & S-Town

After catching up with almost all the podcasts I listen to regularly, I did some research to find some new ones. Among the many articles I read, these two podcasts were constantly among the top recommended, and after listening to them, I can understand why!

Ear Hustle is all about San Quentin state prison. It goes through different stories and struggles associated with people inside. I was pretty much hooked from the first episode and binged the entire series until I was caught up.

S-Town is about a mysterious man named John B McLemore, who sends an email to a journalist at This American Life, the company responsible for the widely popular Serial podcast, requesting he look into a murder that was swept under the rug in his hometown in Alabama. This journalist is then immersed into the very strange and secretive life of John B McLemore, and ultimately discovers that no murder ever took place. My sister and I binged the entire podcast during our drive to and from the mountains over Memorial Day weekend, and were left completely baffled. (find Ear Hustle here, and S-Town here)

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Love

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I’ll admit, I’m not all that great at keeping up with/finishing must watch shows, both on TV and on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. As a result, I tend to try and watch them all at once, and then never finish any. However, there are some that particularly hook me, causing me to sit down and watch them in their entirety without cheating on them with another show. Love is one of those exceptions. It is such a funny, relatable, different show that I’ve been spending a lot of quality time with lately. And since it’s third (and final) season only just came out in March, I like to think I’m not too out of the loop on this one. (find it on Netflix)

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James Bay & Shawn Mendes

In the music department, I have these two gentlemen to recommend to you. They are both ridiculously talented, and recently released albums that I’ve been listening to on repeat. And since I can never quite do the description justice, here’s how iTunes describes them:

Shawn Mendes by Shawn Mendes: “an adventurous voyage of texture and tempo”

Electric Light by James Bay: “a questing set of songs that crosses into simmering funk pop, taut alt-pop, and folky electro R&B”

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I would not even be slightly exaggerating if I said that I told everybody I know about this book. Okay, well not everyone I know, but mostly certainly everyone I came into contact with while I was reading it. It just blew my mind! The story follows a woman who, after getting in a nasty car accident, wakes up to find that her brain has completely lost contact with the left side of her body. She can’t move her left arm or left leg, she can’t see anything to the left of her center line of vision. As far as her brain is concerned, left doesn’t exist. I mean, just try not to constantly talk about it. (find it here)

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Pores No More

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I am honestly shocked that in back to back favorites posts I have a beauty product to recommend to you, but here I am. I got this guy from Ulta a little while back, and as I do with almost every new makeup product I buy, I put in my bag and never used it because I was afraid my skin would rebel/catch on fire/etc. Luckily, when I finally worked up the courage to try this bad boy, I absolutely loved it! It didn’t irritate my skin, it helped with my oily complexion and it served as a great base for my makeup. Consider me a lifelong fan! (find it here)

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White Chocolate Dipped Animal Crackers

A few weeks back my family and I drove up to spend Memorial Day weekend in the mountains. While we were there, we stopped by Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. My mom and my sister were eyeing the candied apples, but not being a fan of them myself, I perused the outskirts of the store, trying to find something that suited my fancy. Enter these bad boys, stage right. They might be one of the greatest treats I have ever tried, one which I’ll never be able to deny should I find myself in the vicinity of a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. (Unfortunately they don’t list these on the website, so in order to find/try them, you’ll have to go into a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory store. BUMMER.)

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After seeing this constantly advertised across my social media platforms, I finally decided to look this company up and see what it’s all about. For those of you also wondering: much like the company name suggests, this company sends you produce that is imperfect, or in other words, isn’t pretty enough to be sold in stores. So, they sell it to you at a discounted rate. You have a few different options regarding both box size (I do the smallest box), and shipment frequency (I do every other week), and on the weekend before your box is delivered, you can log in and customize it, adding or removing fruits and veggies you want/don’t want in your box. For example, I usually leave my box the way they have it, only removing produce I know I don’t like/won’t use like lettuce or cilantro. (Note: if you want to try it, you can click here. Full disclosure: this is a referral link from my account, but if you sign up with it, we both get a credit of $10! It’s a win win!)

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The Skimm

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And finally, I bring you The Skimm. I’m not even sure where/how I found out about this, but I’m very glad I did! It’s a roundup of the day’s top news stories that gets sent to your email every weekday morning. After signing up at the beginning of May, it’s quickly become part of my morning routine. Once I get to work, I read through my email from The Skimm, clicking on any links that I want further information on, and then I officially start my day, feeling well informed on what’s happening in the world. (find it here)

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Have anything you’ve been loving over these last couple months? Let me know! My Amazon cart is always open…

See my previous favorites post here.