A Deep Dive Into Ethical Coffee

This article is written for Engl 540.01 Course: Creating Digital Content at Marywood University.

On a snowy March day, I drove through the winding roads of northeastern Pennsylvania to get to the Moka Origins Factory. We went for the coffee but left with such a passion for single-origin, ethically made chocolate. After my trips to Guatemala in 2014 and 2015, my passion for coffee has grown into something wonderful. I adore spending my time trying new local/micro-roasted coffees and learning about the coffee industry. Moka Origins was like taking a trip to coffee heaven!

Moka Origins currently has a factory store and cafe in Honesdale, PA. You can visit for a tour of the facilities where they make the chocolate and roast the coffee. You can grab bags of coffee and chocolate there, and you can even order a coffee or chocolate beverage at the cafe! If you are near Honesdale and want to stop by the factory, check out this blog post on what I recommend getting while you are there.

Moka didnt begin as a factory store, though. It began in 2014 in Cameroon as a farming venture.

“Our mission in Cameroon is creating food security, market linkage, and employment opportunities by partnering farmers as well as directly cultivating local food crops and cash crops (such as cacao), and starting a Farmers Field School.”


Driven by their mission, Jeff Abella and Ishan Tigunait, the husband and wife duo that created Moka Origins, grew it into the amazing company that it is today. Today not only have they created amazing programs in Cameroon for the farmers and their communities, but they also have their factory store and sell their chocolate in 40 retail locations across 9 states.

Why talk about Ethical Coffee?

When discussing coffee production and economics, is important to realize that so many coffee farmers and workers are not properly compensated for their work or coffee products. Large coffee companies undervalue the coffee and underpay those involved in the growing and processing process. Talking about the coffee industry and all the steps in coffee economics and production can empower people to make wiser coffee consumption decisions.

Understanding the economics of coffee is the first step in understanding the importance of the work a company like Moka is doing.

The graphic to the left does a great job breaking down all the parts of the coffee industry. You can learn more about this graphic here: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/the-economics-of-coffee-in-one-chart/

What this graphic doesn’t show is how many hands it takes to produce one simple cup of coffee.
Here is a simple break down of that process.

Coffee is planted by coffee farmers, taken care of by farmers, then harvested by those farmers.

Then the coffee needs to be processed. This means transforming it from cherry to bean that is ready to be roasted.

For many large coffee companies, the coffee is brought to them to be sold or to brew, or maybe even both.

Then the beans are roasted and packaged. You can see part of this process under stage 3 in the graphic as it relates to the economic process of coffee.

Then someone needs to grind the coffee. That might be to bag the coffee to sell it or the baristas who are brewing the coffee for a customer.

Lastly is the cup of coffee you experience at home or in a coffee shop.

There have been efforts to minimize the number of hands and the number of economic stages coffee passes through. This is the concept of third-wave coffee. Third-wave coffee is the wave of the coffee industry we are in currently. It began in the 2000s with a focus on coffee consumers caring about where their coffee comes from and how it is produced. You can learn more about third wave coffee here: https://essense.coffee/en/waves-of-coffee-explained/

The efforts to decrease the number of people and production through the coffee process is where the idea of direct trade coffee came from. Fair Trade and Director Trade coffee are a part of the third-wave coffee movement. They both call for a more ethical way to produce and consume coffee. If you would like to learn more about Fair Trade and Direct Trade coffee, check out my article here.

Coffee drinkers around the globe desire ethical and high-quality coffee. direct trade coffee has made its way into its own segment of the industry, giving companies an edge in the third-wave coffee industry.

So how does this relate to Moka Origins?

Moka is one of these companies that has chosen to not only produce high-quality coffee and chocolate but they are also producing ethical coffee and chocolate.

“165 million people depend on cacao or coffee for their livelihood. Many aren’t paid a living wage and are stuck in poverty. We’re out to change that.”


Moka Origin’s mission is so much more than fairly compensating people for their work or product. They are working to build strong communities and show people their worth. This is crucial since the coffee industry has devalued coffee products and production for such a long time. Since third-wave coffee is super popular, there is definitely a customer base who really cares about this and wants to buy products that are ethical.

Moka Origins has been a shining example of what direct trade should be. They are connected to a whole community in Cameroon, making sure its people are taken care of in all aspects.

Where can I learn more?

On Moka Origins’ website, there is a tab just for their social impact. Check in out here: https://mokaorigins.com/pages/social-impact

Their whole website is a wealth of information; however, the social impact section provides a map to understanding how Moka Origins is truly helping people with their coffee and chocolate. They give hard-hitting yet digestible facts to begin understanding the complex issues people in other parts of the world face in the coffee and chocolate industries. There are graphics that break down important information for consumers to easily understand. The website provides photos of the people who have been positively impacted by the work Moka Origins has done. The varying modalities they use to convey their story on their website paint a detailed picture of who they are as a company. I highly encourage you to check out their website to learn more.


Direct Trade vs Fair Trade Coffee

When discussing ethical coffee, it is crucial to talk about where coffee comes from and how it gets from the coffee tree to a brewed cup of coffee. Many people and hands are involved in the coffee growing, producing, and selling process. Two important concepts to understand in this process are Fair Trade Coffee and Direct Trade Coffee.

Fair Trade Coffee

Fair Trade is a third-party certification that organizations can get to ensure that coffee producers are paid fair wages for their coffee products. A few organizations can certify coffee, like Fairtrade America, Fairtrade International, and Fair Trade Certified. On the package of coffee that is Fair Trade, there will be a logo certifying that it is, in fact, Fair Trade.
You can learn more about Fair Trade coffee here: https://www.drinktrade.com/learn/fair-trade-coffee.

Direct Trade Coffee

Direct Trade coffee is when a coffee roaster works directly with the coffee producer to buy coffee. This is done to have the roasters build strong relationships with the coffee producers and provide fair wages. Direct Trade coffee can also be preferred since the coffee goes through fewer hands before getting to the final cup, which some believe equals a better final cup of coffee.
You can learn more about Direct Trade coffee here: https://www.ethicalcoffee.net/direct.html.

Which Do I Choose?

There are pros and cons to both Fair Trade and Direct Trade coffee. One argument against Direct Trade coffee is that there is no regulatory system or guidelines, so the caliber of the coffee and roaster/ producer relationship could change. However, the impact roasters could make on coffee producers and their communities through Direct Trade can outway the lack of a regulatory system.
Fair Trade provides a regulatory system; however, coffee producers need to jump through more hoops to get the certification. This might be difficult for coffee producers and might not be entirely equitable to great, small coffee producers.

Overall, I feel striving to do better when choosing coffee products matters. Whether it is Direct Trade of Fair Trade, just picking one makes a difference.


Mocha at Moka

There is just something about a great cup of coffee that gives you a feeling like nothing else in this world. When I experience a cup of coffee like that, I spend months, even years, eager to return to the coffee shop that produced such an unforgettable cup of coffee.

There is just something about a great cup of coffee that gives you a feeling like nothing else in this world. When I experience a cup of coffee like that, I spend months, even years, eager to return to the coffee shop that produced such an unforgettable cup of coffee.

In the winter of 2022, I visited Moka Origins for the first time and was fascinated by the fact that they produce single-origin coffee AND single-origin chocolate. The expertise of this pairing made my decision on what to order very easy, an iced mocha latte. 

The mocha latte I had that day was unlike any other mocha latte I have experienced. The chocolate was rich, creamy, and flavorful, but it wasn’t too sweet. It paired well with their espresso and some oat milk. It was hands down the best mocha latte of my life.

Even though Moka Origins is only about a 45-minute car ride from me, I hadn’t found the time to go back until last weekend. I was so excited to get a mocha latte again!! I was so moved by the iced mocha latte; I did not vary from my original order.

When I got my drink, just like earlier this year, I was stunned by the excellent coffee and chocolate pairing. It really confined that this was the best mocha latte I have ever had.

If you are around the Honesdale area, I HIGHLY recommend stopping by Moka Origins and ordering a mocha latte. Grab some coffee and chocolate while you are there too! I know I won’t wait months before returning for the best mocha latte again.


How to get your Christmas shopping done by December 1st

I love spending December decorating, wrapping gifts, making ornaments, and enjoying the Christmas spirit around me. When most of my shopping is done before December 1st, I feel like I can fully embrace the holiday spirit throughout the month of December. I want to give you some tips and tricks for getting most of your shopping done in November, which will allow you to really enjoy December!

Happy October! With November coming up, I wanted to share some ideas on getting ready for the Christmas season! November 1st means the Christmas season has officially begun! November, for me, is a hybrid between Christmas and Thanksgiving. I don’t like to exclude Thanksgiving, but my Christmas decorations begin to go up, and my Christmas spirit is in full force. I like to start my Christmas shopping early every year and hate to shop the last weeks before Christmas. Not only do I find myself spending less money when I begin early, but I also find gifts that are truly tailored to the people I am buying for. Even though I start Christmas shopping months and months before Christmas, I do the bulk of my shopping between November 1st and December 1st. I love spending December decorating, wrapping gifts, making ornaments, and enjoying the Christmas spirit around me. When most of my shopping is done before December 1st, I feel like I can fully embrace the holiday spirit throughout the month of December. I want to give you some tips and tricks for getting most of your shopping done in November, which will allow you to really enjoy December!

1. Create a list and budget for each person you will be buying for.
Getting organized is key to the success of getting shopping done early. Many times, gift-giving is not about the amount of money you spend but the intention behind the gift. You can make any budget work for you in a very intentional way. I once had someone give me a customized insulated mug that was not expensive, but it meant the world to me. This is why a budget and a list are key. Once you have decided on a dollar amount you really can afford for each person you are buying for, create a list of each person’s favorite things or things you think would mean a lot to them to receive as a gift. This will help to guide you when you are shopping while hopefully decreasing your stress on getting the perfect gift. A little time and effort in planning can help you save money and give more intentionally.

2. Plan to buy local/ from small businesses.
With the supply chains the way they are right now, it is even more crucial to shop small. I have a handful of small businesses I follow online and love to support. I look at their websites to see if they have anything that could fit in the budget and interests of the people I am buying gifts for. I also have a bunch of local businesses I love supporting so I plan to check them out online or in-person during the month of November to see if they have anything that fits within the budget and interests of the people I am buying for. Hopefully, planning to buy things online in November will allow for delayed shipping and supply chain issues to not greatly influence the gifts you are buying.

3. Look for gifts in unconventional places.
You do not need to buy gifts at traditional stores physically or online. I have found Christmas gifts at the grocery store plenty of times! Placed like Wegmans, ShopRite, Whole Foods, etc have plants and other items that could be given as gifts. If you have a car lover in your life, get them a gift card to a local auto shop. If you have a friend who is a coffee lover, grab them a mug from their favorite local coffee shop instead of at a chain shopping store.

4. Create a Black Friday plan.
I love shopping on Black Friday but only online. The idea of being in a crowded store has never interested me but the deals some stores have for black Friday definitely grab my attention. I use Krazy Coupon Lady (insert link) to plan my black Friday shopping. Many bigger stores like Target or Amazon start their deals way before black Friday. It’s important to plan early to make sure you are buying gifts at the peak of their deal times. I use places like Target and Amazon for black Friday shopping online to get items like electronics, grab bag gifts, blankets, mugs, etc. Anything that I cannot find at a local store, I look for deals and buy them when they go on sale. I have gotten some heavily discounted Ipads over the years this way.

5. Look into local holiday markets/ craft shows.
This is something I look into in November and plan to do in December. I use local holiday markets and craft shows as my last items shopping time. These markets and craft shows are great ways to support your local community while getting unique, international items for people. Since many happen at the beginning of December, this is a nice way to get out and do something Christmasy!

6. Grab some $5 – 10 items throughout the month.
While I am in Target, grocery stores, and other local stores, I buy $5 items like the $5 Christmas mugs at target. I also find Black Friday deals for $5 – $10 blankets, fuzzy socks, etc. I collect a handful of these items to use as extra gifts, grab bags, holiday party gifts, etc. I also keep whatever is left over for the next year. $5 Christmas mugs don’t go out of style and can be used any year for any event, like the work grab bag that you forgot about!

Some additional tips for next year….

Plan your budget early and set up automatic savings.
I have a neat high-yield saving account with Ally that allows you to set up automatic savings and create buckets for savings goals. I have a Christmas bucket that twice a month I have some money go into. I planned my budget early in the year and allowed the bucket to accumulate. Now, I have a nice chunk of my Christmas budget already set aside, so the financial burden of Christmas doesn’t hit all at once. These automatic savings could be $5-10 a month if need be! I recommend taking your budget amount and dividing it by the number of months you have until November 1st. If you buy gifts throughout the year, take the money out of this bucket and use it to pay your credit card or add it back to your checking account! Having money set aside helps to decrease the financial stress people often feel around the holidays.

Slowly buy gifts throughout the year and have a place in your house to store the presents.
This would be my biggest piece of advice! When you see something you know a person in your life would love but the next closest holiday is Christmas, just grab it for them then and there! You won’t forget about the idea, and you won’t be dropping tons of money at one time. I have an area in my house where I store all the Christmas presents I collect throughout the year, so I don’t forget where I put them. It feels so good in early November when you do an inventory of the presents you have collected, and you don’t have to begin your Christmas shopping from page one.

Happy Holidays and Enjoy Your Christmas Shopping!


Southwest Florida Getaway

The group flew into Fort Meyers airport and rented a car to explore the area for a week. We were able to find an Airbnb in Cape Coral last minute with a screened-in pool and hot tub, a dock, a full kitchen, and plenty of sleeping and hang-out space.

My heart has always been drawn to the west coast of Florida. Since my first visit when I was 10, I knew there was something special about the west coast. When our plans fell through to travel to Aruba in January, I knew exactly where we needed to go! We were able to plan a stellar vacation to Southwest Florida in about 5 days!

The group flew into Fort Meyers airport and rented a car to explore the area for a week. We were able to find an Airbnb in Cape Coral last minute with a screened-in pool and hot tub, a dock, a full kitchen, and plenty of sleeping and hang-out space. Cape Coral ended up being an unexpectedly delightful location to spend the week. It was full of conveniences like grocery stores, local coffee places (my fav haha), and restaurants. What is neat about Cape Coral is all the canals! Many houses are located on the canals, so we had a stunning view from the screened-in patio/pool/ hot tub area.

The only downfall to the location was the distance from the beach. We were about a 40 – 60 minute drive to the beach due to traffic. Since the drive was not too bad to the beaches, we spent 4 days relaxing on beaches. We went to the Sanibel Lighthouse Beach, Bowman’s beach on Sanibel, and Fort Myers beach.

The Sanibel Lighthouse beach had convenient and clean bathrooms, was not too crowded, and the water was excellent for swimming. There was a fee to park, but you could pay with a credit card. This is a place where many people park their boats on the shoreline and spend time on the beach; it’s really cool to see!

Bowman’s Beach is further down on Sanibel, and it felt very uninhibited. The more rural vibe to this beach quickly made it one of my favorites. The walk to the beach is a little further than other beaches, but it is a stunning walk. You walk through nature and pass nice bathrooms and changing facilities. There was a fee to park, but you could pay with a credit card. We went to Southwest Florida in the high season, so there were a good amount of people on the beach, but it was not terribly crowded. The water was wonderful for swimming, and the beach had beautiful seashells!

Fort Myers Beach and the surrounding area felt more like a beach town. There was a good amount of traffic coming into Fort Myers, the parking was harder to find, and many places were cash only. The sand on the beach felt like powdered sugar, and the seashells were terrific! Some in our group were able to parasail right from the beach! This beach was pretty crowded; however, the two days we went, we could still find a place to set up our chairs!

We had two other days that we decided not to go to the beach!
One of the days, some of us in the group got pedicures in the morning, and then we went to Naples for the evening! We choose to go to Ocean Prime for their Early Bird dinner special. It was an incredible restaurant with incredible food! They even had excellent gluten-free food options and gluten-free bread!! We spent the evening walking around Naples and popping in and out of the cute local shops.

The other day we chose not to spend at the beach, we decided to go on a wild adventure! There is a ferry that goes from Fort Meyers to Key West, so we decided to plan a day trip down to Key West! The boat ride took about 4 hours one way, and we had about 4-5 hours in Key West to explore. The boat was nice and not too rocky. They had decent bathrooms, food, and even played a movie. We rented bikes to explore Duvall Street and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. There are even golf carts you could rent for a few hours too. If you want to see a lot in a short period of time, I highly recommend renting a bike or golf cart! We had lunch at the famous Sloppy Joe’s, saw the Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, and got Key Lime Pie at The Original Key Lime Pie Bakery. The time in Key West was short but sweet. I think taking the boat was a great idea but in the future, I would love to stay for a night or two to make the long boat ride more worth it!

Overall, our trip was a relaxing yet adventurous getaway! I loved escaping the cooler weather in the Northeast for a week! If you’re looking for a beach getaway, especially in the cooler months in the north, check out Southwest Florida!


Coffee in Southwest Florida

I kicked off my 2022 by spending a week in Cape Coral, Florida, and adventuring around Southwest Florida! I had some delicious coffee while I was there and wanted to share some of my favorites!

Penny’s Coffee Bar in Cape Coral

Penny’s ended up being a new favorite coffee spot! I wish it weren’t so far away from home. Not only did they have a wide variety of coffee options, but they also had neat tea and tea refresher options! I got their cold brew twice, and woah was I impressed. It quickly became one of my favorite cold brews of all time. They had baked goods there, too, and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies! I highly recommend Penny’s if you’re looking for a cold brew, a refresher, an iced latte, and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies!

Urban Buzz Coffee Company in Cape Coral

Urban Buzz was funky in the best way possible! The coffee shop was a walk-up window/drive-through. They had lots of coffee options and tea refresher options! I tried something brand new there, white coffee. I had never even heard of white coffee, but it’s coffee roasted at a lower temperature, and the beans turn white. The drink I got with the white coffee was soo delicious. Even if it did blow my mind that it was all white, haha!

Funky Rooster Coffee House & Wine Bar in Key West

This coffee shop had such a neat Kerry West vibe! The coffee was great, and they had delicious pastries! It looked like they also sold wine, so if you’re looking for a place to hang out I. In the evening this cafe could be an excellent choice! I wish I had more time to hang out in this coffee shop; the vibes were so cool!

The French Press in Cape Coral

This coffee shop also has gelato, and that’s what sold me! I got gelato twice at The French Press, and it was amazing! Each day they had different flavors! I tried key lime the one day, and it was stellar!! Their coffee was good, and they had a variety of pastry and food options there too. If you’re looking for coffee and gelato, this is the place to go!

I hope this helps on your next trip to southwest Florida! Let me know if you’ve been to southwest Florida and some of your favorite coffee shops there!


I’m Feeling ’22.

Happy New Year!

The past few days, I have been relaxing and reflecting on the past year. I reviewed my new year’s blog posts for 2020 and 2021. I was eager and driven, running into 2020 and then cautious moving into 2021. I am excited yet grounded, stepping into this new year. 2020 and 2021 were full of lessons and learning more about myself than I intended. I hope that 2022 provides peace, calm, and happiness. I am very excited for ’22. It is the year that I will be getting married, finally traveling more, and hopefully creating some strong healthly habits in my daily life.

I was reluctant to create goals for ’22. I think back to my eager, innocent self moving into 2020 with a long list of goals and a fire in my heart. Only to be vastly disappointed at the end of 2020 by a long list of goals that were never completed. In 2021, I focused more on a vision board, knowing that even if something didnt happen, it would be something I hope for one day. Even though I was reluctant, I ended up creating a list of 22 things I wanted to do for ’22. This idea is based on 22 for ’22 that the podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin talks about in episode 357. For my 22 for ’22, I wanted to create small yet effective goals. I chose goals that I knew I could realistically accomplish no matter what was happening in life/ the world.

I choose goals like getting married (already planned), walking 20 minutes a day, painting/ deep cleaning my house, and traveling to some places (which are already planned). These are all things I know will happen, things I already planned on doing. I hope filling a list of realistic goals and checking them off will give me a ton of motivation and excitement for this year ahead. I turned many of my goals into a vision board. Putting pictures to written plans is a neat way to visualize what you want to accomplish. It helps me to see what I want and go after it!

Also, based on the podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin, I chose a word of the year for the year ahead. Last year, I chose the word balance. Choosing this word was a “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it” situation. I intended to find a calming balance between priorities in my life. 2021, my year of balance, gave me eye-opening challenges in finding balance. I was the busiest I have been in my entire life this fall. I learned to balance spending time with my fiance, spending time with my family, my new home, traveling for work, taking 2 Ph.D. classes, and a social life. It was not easy or perfect. It was challenging but taught me the balance I was seeking.

This year, I was a ton more intentional with my word. Knowing that if you focus on one thing, you will see the good, the bad, and the ugly of that thing. I wanted to focus on HOME this year. Since buying our house in May, I haven’t been able to put the TLC into our home that I would have liked. We have dreams of painting our home with more historical colors on the inside to align with its history and origins. We want to make our house cozy and feel like a home. It is incredibly exciting to think of all our projects for our neat early 1900s home!

With my word of the year, I created a goal for each month of 2022. I want to focus on a different area of our home. I want to paint, deep clean, organize each area of our home by December, so by Christmas next year, we are in a home that is fully painted like we want it, deep cleaned, decorated, and all small projects are completed!

I plan on making intentional moves in 2022. All the goals I accomplish, every project in our home, I want to be done with gratitude and thought. I have a good feeling about 2022. I am excited to get married, travel more, and accomplish some goals we have for our home! I hope that the hardships we have all faced the past 2 years will lessen and everyone can focus on happiness this year.

Cheers to a new year!


Going Gluten Free

Here are 5 tips on how to make your transition to a gluten-free diet easier!

I spent most of 2019 and all of 2020 fighting the fact that I needed to eat gluten-free. Even though I do not have celiac disease, I am very gluten sensitive. When I eat gluten, I get incredibly bloated, my stomach does not work right for days, and I have slight chest pains for days after.

My diet is 98% gluten-free right now, and both my parents eat gluten-free. This means I know a lot of the best gluten-free food in grocery stores, restaurants, and even some yummy recipes. I want to share some tips and tricks of going gluten-free because it honestly isn’t that bad. There are so many products and foods nowadays that make it pretty easy to follow a gluten-free diet.

I want to offer community and guidance about beginning your process of starting your gluten-free journey. It can be an overwhelming and daunting process. Even though it has become easier to be gluten-free in recent years, it can feel kind of isolating and time-consuming. Here are 5 tips on how to make your transition to a gluten-free diet easier!

  1. Understand different terminology used for gluten. An example, gluten is different from yeast, but many products that contain yeast also have gluten. Learning to read labels is crucial for your success. There are resources that can help you begin to understand how to find gluten in any product. Check this website out to begin to understand reading labels: https://www.verywellhealth.com/how-to-identify-gluten-on-food-labels-562666
  2. Think about and write down the food you regularly eat and identify where gluten could be present. Write down all your favorite foods and figure out which foods are not gluten-free. This will help you search for gluten-free alternatives for them! For example, if you love Italian food, you can search online “gluten-free Italian food near me.” This works for just about anything you can think of! There are always gluten-free alternatives, whether you have to make something yourself or find a restaurant that makes good gluten-free food.
  3. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 flour is the best! Don’t understate the power of good gluten-free flour. With 1 to 1 flour, you can make just about anything, and the food feels the most like regular gluten food. You can use this flour in baked goods, breakfast foods, use it as a thickener, or even coat something to bake or fry.
  4. Find a grocery store that carries gluten-free foods. Hopefully, you’ll have one near where you live, but if you don’t, many online grocery options carry gluten-free options like thrive market. Identifying a grocery store that carries many options allows you the opportunity to not worry about those times where you don’t want to think too much about being able to buy something without thinking about too much.
  5. Give yourself grace and time. It can be very emotional cutting out some of your favorite foods. You might not find an excellent alternative right away, and that can be very sad. Just know, you will work through this, and with time, the gluten-free diet gets easier.

I wish you the best of luck in your gluten-free journey! I hope to write more about good gluten-free foods, restaurants, recipes, etc., so keep an eye out if you like this article!


House Hunting in 2021

* this is a sponsored post *

Buying a house is no small feat, but in 2021, it’s nearly impossible to navigate with the housing market being so hot. I want to share my experience, tips in the buying process, and one of my deal breakers for a home. 

My significant other and I planned on starting our search slightly before the spring market. We thought that February 2021 would be an excellent time to begin our process. Funny enough, this coincided with the market becoming hot in our area. 

First, we found a realtor to help us on our journey. We are lucky enough to know a realtor in our region who recommended a fantastic realtor in the specific area we are looking for houses. Our realtor was able to walk us through what the market looks like, what to expect, and the next steps for getting pre-approved for a mortgage. Finding a knowledgeable realtor is an essential step in beginning your house buying journey. They will be able to help you navigate the market, understand potential issues with homes you are seeing, and making your offer on the house very attractive. 

Because of covid, getting pre-approved for a mortgage is encouraged and, in some cases, required before going to look at houses. Many sellers need to see pre-approvals before allowing people into their homes. We got pre-approved through a mortgage company that our realtor suggested. In the long run, this helps the process run smoother, and we luckily got a great rate from them. I have heard lots of advice about shopping around for mortgage rates at different banks, credit unions, and other mortgage lenders. We choose to stay with the lender our realtor suggested because we got a great rate, and the process of closing on a house we choose to get will run smoother since our realtor has worked with our lender many times, and they are super reliable. 

Once we were approved, we searched for houses for our realtor to show us! We were originally using realtor.com and Zillow to search for homes. We use realtor.com because we have heard they have very accurate listings. I like Zillow because you can see house cost history, and for duplexes, you can see what rent could be for a unit. 

Unfortunately, the market has been hot, and we have put in offers on houses that weren’t accepted. When it’s time to put an offer in, I recommend thoroughly looking over the disclosure agreement. The disclosure agreement is something that the seller fills out about the house. Your realtor should provide you with the disclosure agreement. Anything that has happened to the house, like a water leak or electrical issues, would be noted on this disclosure agreement. This will help you navigate potential costs you may face in the near or far future. For example, if the roof is 20 years old and isn’t a long-lasting type of roof like a metal roof, you might need to factor in replacing a roof in the first 5-10 years of owning the home. Factoring these costs in when making an offer is essential, and you will need to make sure you can handle these additional costs down the road. 

With a good realtor, putting in an offer should be relatively easy. They will talk you through the process and prep the paperwork for you to sign. My biggest advice is knowing your budget, not getting into a bidding war you can’t afford, and not paying for a house that costs anywhere outside of your means. Don’t let anyone talk you into bidding more money than you have or an amount that’s out of your means. I know it can be tempting, and you will want the house so bad but, if you don’t get the house, it’s not meant to be. You will get a home when it is meant to be, and it fits into your budget. 

When looking for houses and figuring out what you like and don’t like, it’s important to know or learn your deal breakers. What are the things you cannot live with or without? 

For me, a healthy home that is free of water leaks and mold is crucial. I am incredibly sensitive to mold and do not want to buy a house that could already have a water leak and mold issues. We have seen some beautiful homes that we know we cannot buy once we get to the basement. Basements can hold moisture and water, which could lead to mold. I am a stickler for checking for how well the basement is cared for in a home. Once we find a house we love, I will be a stickler for getting the house tested for mold and then potentially treated for mold. 

Companies like Nash Everett are experts when it comes to identifying and removing mold in your home. What I like about Nash Everett is that their approach to eliminating molds. They have a remediation approach and clarify that not all mold remediation/ removal are created equal. They go the extra mile and take removing mold very seriously. They also note that any company you use for mold remediation should have certifications, licensing, and insurance. It’s crucial to find a company and a contractor that you trust! It has to do with the health of your home, after all! Not only does Nash Everett has services in New Jersey, but they also have mold removal in Durham PA

Buying a home can be a daunting task, and it will be the biggest purchase of your life! Don’t rush it! Take your time to plan your budget, put in the work to get pre-approved, find a good realtor you trust, and make that list of deal-breakers. 

Happy House Hunting! 


3 Ceramists You Need To Know About

One of my absolute favorite things on this planet are hand made pottery mugs. I have been collecting pottery mugs since 2019 and would love to have an extensive collection on the day. It is easy to grab a $10 mug at Target or Home Goods, and I have plenty of regular mugs, but there is just something extraordinary about a handmade pottery mug. Ceramic mugs cost a reasonable amount more than a mug you can pick up in a chain store, but I like to think of them as little pieces of art. People spend hours and their talents pouring themselves into these small mugs for people to enjoy. I find them worth every single penny and do not question the price set by the ceramist.

I am not recommending going out and exclusively buying expensive pottery mugs but adding one here and there to your mug collection not only brightens your mug collection but it also helps real people pursue their passion and talents. I find that my handmade ceramic mugs feel different in my hands when drinking my coffee. They give me lots of joy each time I use them. They are unique and one of a kind.

I want to share some of my favorite ceramists out there. I have followed these ceramists for years and have mugs from 2 of them. The last one I will share is on my list of ceramists I dream about purchasing one day.

  1. Sugar House Ceramic Co.
    By far, this couple producing gorgeous mugs at Sugar House are my favorite ceramists out there. Their work is stunning, and their mugs are unlike any I have seen to date. Their mugs are incredibly cozy, and I think their prices are fantastic since some ceramic mugs can be upward of $100 easily. I have 3 of their mugs and 2 of their Christmas ornaments, so that in itself is proof of how much I believe in their ceramics and the quality of their ceramic. You can check out their website here: https://sugarhouseceramicco.com/

2. Lily Calabrese Pottery
I found Lily while on vacation in Vermont in the summer of 2019. She was set up at a little outdoor market, and I instantly fell in love with her work. She had a gorgeous and unique cactus mug that I bought instantly. She is known for her Late Bloomer mugs, which I find to be one of a kind and show incredible talent. Her ceramics are always evolving, and I purchase a need outer space themed plate for my sister that went over exceptionally well. I am very thankful I stumbled upon this ceramist and hope to buy from her again in the future! You can check out her work here: https://www.lilycalabrese.com/

3. LaLePottery
This ceramist’s work is on my dream to own list. I found her on Instagram and cannot wait to own a mug of hers one day. Her mugs feel eclectic and showcase her immense talent as an artist. I love the gold accents she adds to her mugs. I feel like her mugs would bring a little whimsy into anyone’s life. I especially love her mugs with bees on them! They make me swoon, haha. You can check her out here: https://www.instagram.com/lalepottery/

I hope you love these ceramists as much as I do! If you can’t purchase a mug, show these ceramists some love on social media. It is crucial to support small businesses in these times. Cheers to small ceramist businesses!


My Whipped Coffee Recipe

Whipped or Dalgona coffee hit the internet by storm in 2020. I quickly fell in love with this drink’s light and fluffy nature. I have made this coffee drink so many times now and have honed my favorite way to make it. Luckily, my recipe is not only delicious, but it is also dairy and vegan!

I think the kind of ingredients you use in this drink influences the quality of the drink as much as the process of actually making the drink itself. I have used various kinds of milk to see which was best and was deliberate when choosing what instant coffee I use for my recipe.

This ingredients…

For instant coffee, I use Mount Hagen Organic Fairtrade Coffee (instant and freeze-dried). This instant coffee is more on the expensive side for instant coffee, but it is well worth it. It is super high quality and lasts a while.

For the milk, I use oat milk. I have tried various kinds of milk and landed on this as my favorite of the upper coffee. I tend to prefer oat milk with sweet, robust flavor drinks like chai lattes and whipped coffee. Specifically, I use the Oatly brand, Full-Fat milk. I like its thick, sweet flavor and think it pairs well with the pungent whipped coffee. I also like the full-fat version because it is packed with vitamins And DHA omega 3!

I usually use just regular white sugar and the well water from my sink. If you want to level up this drink, even more, you could get high-quality sugar and use high-quality water.

For the process….

I begin with a shallow metal mixing bowl. I have deeper mixing bowls that I use for baking, but I have a mixing bowl that is shallow with a wide top. This shallow bowl allows for more air to get into the bowl while mixing, helping the mixture to get nice and fluffy!

I googled some photos for reference so you can see a shallow bowl versus a deeper bowl.

The rule of thumb for any whipped coffee recipe is 1:1:1 ratios for the instant coffee, sugar, and water. For about 1.5-2 drinks, I use about 1.5 – 2 tbsp of each ingredient. I also judge it by the number of people I am making it for. I typically use 1 tbsp for each person who will be having it!

So when I make it for myself, since I enjoy a second half a cup, I typically use 1.5 tbsp is each. So 1.5 tbsp of instant coffee, sugar, and warm water.

I add the instant coffee and the sugar and then add the warm water. I give the mixture a little stir to make sure the instant coffee and sugar have dissolved a bit. They do not need to be dissolved entirely, though.

Then I use a hand mixer to mix the instant coffee, sugar, and water mixture. I have used a hand frothed and have whipped it by hand, and a hand mixer is the best and quickest way to make whipped coffee.

I begin by starting on the lowest setting just to start mixing the mixture. At this point, the mixture will be dark in color. As I start to see the mixture frothing, which only takes a few seconds, I turn up the mixing speed. I go slow, adding each speed, one at time, each setting used for a few seconds to make sure the mixture is mixing well. By the time you get to the highest mixing setting, the mixture will look a bit lighter.

I leave the mixer on the highest setting while making sure to hit each inch of the mixture. As you mix, the mixture will get lighter in color. You can tell the mixture is ready when it is light brown, and you see soft ripples when you move the mixture through an area of the mixture. Once the whole mixture looks like this, you are done.

Next, I stick the whipped coffee mixture in the fridge for a few minutes while cleaning the mixer and getting my milk ready. This allows the mixture to settle, cool, and firm up.

I love using clear glass to see how much milk there is, how much of the whipped coffee I put in, and its aesthetics. I pour my oat milk about 2/3 of the glass and then add the whipped coffee to fill the other 1/3 of the glass. I then use a spoon to swirl the milk and whipped coffee together a bit. I like layered coffee drinks, and I don’t mix mine too much because I like the distinct flavors coming together.

I usually have a little whipped coffee mixture left and stick that back in the fridge and add a little more milk and whipped coffee when I’m running low to give myself seconds!

Enjoy! ✨


The Best Planner

It made be cliché to chat about planners in January, but I have found my planner incredibly useful during these unprecedented times. I didn’t throw this planner away in 2020, and it actually helped me stay organized in 2020.

I use to spend hours each December looking for the perfect planner. I remember December 2019 spending way too long in the planner aisle in Target. I finally picked the Create & Cultivate planner. This planner felt like it was built for me. I like to think it incorporates what every 20 something-year-old is looking for in a planner. It helps you be organized without being too much.

The planner’s beginning pages have a money goal section, important events for the upcoming year, and life and work goal section. There also is a place for a vision board. I have used this to set up goal lists and an actual photo vision board.

The rest of the planner is broken up by tabs of each month. There is a monthly calendar at the beginning of each month section. Then the planner is broken into weeks within the month. Each week has a section for mantras, primary goals, secondary goals, self-care, inspo, and more. It also has a section for each day of the week with the freedom to design each day the way you’d like. I typically write down events of the day, if I am working in the office, and some goals I want to focus on. You could add trackers, checklists, etc. At the end of each month section, there is a monthly reflection area. You can take notes a reflect on your goals, activities, events, money, your wins, side hustle planning, and follow-ups for the next month. This section really grounds me each month and makes sure I am intentional with my goals, times, and money. Additionally, it encourages you to recognize your wins, even if you feel like you might not have any.

Being intentional with your days is crucial in times like these. When most things in the world may feel out of control, a planner can help you feel more in control. This planner helps to ground me and set intentional and realistic goals.

If you are looking for a planner and jive with the Create & Cultivate one I am talking about, you can find it at Target!

Happy Planning!


Maria Does Coffee: Why is Grind Size So Important?

So does the infamous question “does size really matter” apply to coffee grounds? Oh yeah, it does!

Brewing next level coffee at home requires patience and dedication. But many don’t have the time nor the patience for coffee brewing. One way to help increase the taste and flavor of coffee without adding too much extra work is considering your grind size.

Each coffee brewing method requires a specific grind size for optimal flavor. This allows the coffee and water and brewing method to work in unison to create the best cup of coffee possible.

Luckily, most ground coffee you get in the store is more likely to be a medium ground, which is perfect for your automatic coffee maker at home! If you’re looking to up your automatic brewing game, try grinding your coffee at home!

If you are interested in brewing with other brewing methods, grinding your coffee is easier than locating specific grind sizes of coffee beans to brew with. Like I stated before, most bag coffee in grocery stores is a medium grind, which isn’t optimal for other brewing methods. This makes finding the specific grind size you need harder. If you were to buy whole beans and grind the coffee yourself, you could use your favorite beans in any brewing method you choose!

Here are the steps you need to take to level up your coffee brewing by choosing the right grind size.

Step One: choose your coffee brewing method. Grab yourself a $10 French press or dust off the percolator your grandmother passed down to you!

Step Two: research what grind size is needed for optimal brewing. For cold brew and French press, you’ll need a coarser grind size. For espresso and aero press, you’ll need a finer grind size.

Step Three: look into buying a coffee grinder. You don’t need an expensive grinder to get started. I began brewing coffee with a $15 coffee/spice grinder. Even though I recommend grinding your coffee, if your grind size is supposed to be a medium grind, you’re in luck that you can grab some grounds from the grocery store no problem!

Step Four: choose your favorite coffee beans – make sure to grab them whole if you’re grinding them yourself.

Step Five: figure out the grind setting on your grinder and grind that coffee! I always recommend grinding it right before you brew it to have the freshest coffee, but you definitely can grind ahead of time if you need to!

Step Six: brew your coffee with your newly ground coffee and enjoy!

& it’s that easy to have a better cup of coffee! Brewing extra delicious coffee doesn’t need to happen overnight, nor does it require fancy equipment. Do what you can, where you can, however you can. Small steps collected over time lead to stellar coffee!

If you have any questions about grind size, drop them in the comments! & if you like this guide, keep an eye out for more in the future!

Happy Brewing!


Virtually Traveling

Anyone else craving adventure and ready to travel?

I have been stuck within my state borders because of the pandemic, so naturally, I am itching to travel.

There has been one thing keeping my wanderlust at bay, virtual traveling! I know it doesn’t sound as exciting as packing a bag and getting out there, but I have been loving seeing new places worldwide. I have found places I never knew I wanted to travel to!

Here are my favorite ways to travel virtually right now!

Ariel America

It began with my dad turning this on during slow Sunday mornings and has turned into me finding episodes on YouTube with states I am eager to learn about. Ariel America is the perfect blend of telling their audience about the state’s nature, history, culture, landmarks, etc.! If you are interested in learning about the United States of America, check out Ariel America!

Rick StevesEurope

Rick Steves’ Europe shows are fantastic! He is just a regular guy touring beautiful places all over Europe. He takes you along on realistic trips all over Europe. Some of my favorites have been the Greek Isles, Palermo, Sicily, and Southeast England. I find his show on YouTube! If you’re craving some European adventure, check out Rick Steves!

Down to Earth with Zac Efron

This show was unexpectedly great. It was incredibly informative and showed places I have had my eye on traveling to for awhile. I found it neat that the show focuses on finding healthy and more sustainable ways of living. If you’re looking for a unique way to virtually travel, check out Down to Earth!

Happy Traveling!


Stepping Into 2021

I think I am among the majority who think it’s not a good idea to create resolutions or extensive goals for 2021.
2020 has been very difficult in many ways. I have accomplished almost none of my goals I planned this time last year. In 2020 I focused on surviving and taking care of myself. And that is enough.
I am a planner, though, and see the mark of a new year as an opportunity to evaluate where I am in life and where I would like to be in the future.

I am proud that I survived in 2020 and that I have the chance to create a better 2021. 2020 put much into perspective for me and made me question everything. My new perspective gave me a new way of approaching setting goals for 2021 and the future. It’s hard for anyone to set goals and reach them in uncertain times.
One of my favorite podcasts, “Happier,” talks about their lists of goals “20 for 20” and “21 for 21”. They also always talk about a word of the year. The podcast has inspired my goals in the past and has inspired me this year as well.

I decided to choose a word for 2021. This word is something I will use as an intention. Something that will help me through whatever 2021 brings. It will help guide my actions, goals, and the way I carry myself. I found picking a word to focus on gives me a sense of being intentional with my actions without setting structured goals.
The word I chose for myself is Balance. I wish to create balance in my life during 2021. I want to apply my word to my personal life, work-life, health, etc. I want to find balance in every corner of my life, whatever that means. I want to make decisions each day that create balance. 2020 provides a lot of imbalance, and choosing this word makes me feel like I will actively choose balance in each step I take in 2021.

I have chosen to create a few things to help inspire my desire for balance and help me use my word daily. I have created a vision board to help inspire me daily to strive for balance in my life. I also got myself a Lokai bracelet in the Pantone colors of the year. Lokai bracelets have water from Mt Everest, the highest point on earth, and mud from the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. They are created to help one find the balance of highs and lows in life. Pantone’s colors this year are PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray + PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating. These colors, yellow and gray, are to show how elements come together to support each other. These colors represent warmth, optimism, strength, and positivity.
I hope that wearing the Lokai bracelet and seeing my vision board daily inspire me to create balance in my life.

I am striving to be optimistic about 2021 while still understanding that there are hardships ahead of us. I am eager to use my word to create more happiness and wholeness in my life during these strange times. I hope this encourages you to use something, whether it’s a word or a song or a book, to guide you through this upcoming year. We should be intentional with our actions and strive to be kind and caring towards others in the new year.

Cheers to a new year!


2020 Christmas Gift Guide

Christmas is easily my favorite holiday. Every year, I spend hours and hours researching the perfect gifts for each person in my life. This year, I wanted to share some of my favorite ideas from years past and news ideas! These ideas for those in your life you may be struggling to find the perfect gift for.

* I do include links to products; some are affiliated with my account with the company because they are products I genuinely love. They are not sponsored links. *

For the Work Secret Santa

Since WFH is the primary way people are working right now, you may not be doing a regular work Secret Santa. My office is doing a socially distant zoom Secret Santa this year. We are dropping our gifts in the office the week before and having a date to pick them up by. Then, we have a zoom meeting scheduled where we will all open our presents.
Even in these WFH times, I would recommend a fun desk calendar! You can put them anywhere, your desk at work, desk at home, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, etc.!
They have some neat desk calendars with fun facts or quotes. You can find just about any theme of calendar for anyone’s interests. I found these cool The Office and Friend themed ones on amazon!



For the Family Grab Bag Gift
Looking for something inexpensive yet useful for the family grab bag? Check out this Wallet Ninja. It is a credit-card size multitool that can be stored in your wallet or car for any tool emergencies!

For the Dog in Your Life
If you have a pet in your life, most likely you have heard of chewy! They have great deals going on for the holidays and carry my favorite brand of dog toys. Our dog tends to chew toys up and beat them up, so we always get him more durable toys. I love the brand CHUCKIT! and their flying squirrel is one of his favorite toys ever! He hasn’t destroyed it, and it has stood the test of time!

For the Coffee Lover
As a coffee lover myself, I always love getting a new brewing method for the holidays! Having a way to brew great coffee at home is such a delightful gift.
French Presses are an easy and quick way to brew coffee at home. I love the brand Bodum, but you can get a French Press at Target, Home Goods, etc.
Here is a link to a cool Bodum French Press: https://www.bodum.com/us/en/coffee/coffee-makers?___store=us_en&price=9-27

Since Cold Brew is becoming more popular, I highly recommend this Cold Brew brewer. I have one, and I love it. It’s durable, easy to clean, and makes a few cups! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0776ZSV8P?ref=ppx_pop_mob_ap_share

A great addition to a brewing method would be delicious beans! I love grabbing some local beans, or you could add a coffee subscription from Atlas Coffee Club. I love this subscription and highly recommend it! If you are getting ground beans, make sure to get them coarse for the French Press and Cold Brew!
Here is a link to Atlas Coffee Club: https://atlas.coffee/SHARE-HT8B9

For the Sustainable Friend
Grove collaborative is a cool website with tons of items for those in your life who are focused on using sustainable products.
I would recommend a tool or item that isn’t a cleaner or other product with a scent. Wool Dryer Balls, Soap Dispenser and Brush, or even a nice Glass Bottle. Here are some links to items I like on the Grove Collaborative website.




For the Social Justice Friend
Have that friend or family member who is passionate about socially just products?
Ten Thousand Villages is a great place to pick up some fair trade gifts at a reasonable price. They have a little bit of everything from jewelry to baskets to kitchen items. Check them out here: https://www.tenthousandvillages.com/

If you have someone in your life that is passionate about social justice issues, there are a few books that could be informational yet appreciated! I recommend finding a book that applies to their profession or personal life!

Check Out:

How To Be An Anti-Racist: https://www.amazon.com/How-Be-Antiracist-Ibram-Kendi/dp/0525509283/ref=sr_1_3?crid=210L2EU5DGOYL&dchild=1&keywords=how+to+be+an+antiracist&qid=1605482468&sprefix=how+to+be+a%2Caps%2C170&sr=8-3

Color of Law: https://www.amazon.com/Color-Law-Forgotten-Government-Segregated/dp/1631494538/ref=sr_1_1?crid=LP0P90G7WC3Q&dchild=1&keywords=the+color+of+law&qid=1605482504&sprefix=the+color+of+law%2Caps%2C215&sr=8-1

Superior: The Return of Race Science: https://www.amazon.com/Superior-Return-Science-Angela-Saini/dp/0807028428/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=superior&qid=1605482522&sr=8-1

For the Family Member Who Loves To Cook
I absolutely love Pampered Chef products! They have some inexpensive yet unique kitchen products to level up anyone’s kitchen.
I personally recommend these flexible cutting mats, this coated utility knife, and this excellent brownie pan.




For the Friend Who is into Essential Oils and Crystals
Any of your friends interested in essential oils would definitely love a new oil for Christmas! I highly recommend figuring out their favorite brand and grabbing them an oil from their brand. If you don’t know their favorite brand, I recommend buying an essential oil from Young Living or DoTerra since they are known for having excellent quality oils.
Many times, companies have fun blends like Christmas Spirit that would make a great gift.
Check out Young Living Here: https://yl.pe/mariatemples

Any friends who love crystals and gemstones will most likely care about where their crystals are coming from. There are plenty of places to get crystals and gemstones, but they aren’t always ethically sourced. I have heard fantastic things about https://mymetaphysicalmaven.com/ and how their items are ethically sourced. Wearable crystals and gemstones are a good idea instead of giving just a rock!

For the Book Worm
There is a graphics novel series that just about any book worm would fancy, even if they are not generally into graphics novels. The series is called papers girls. The graphics are stunning, and the story is exhilarating. There are 6 books in the series, and they are quick reads.
Here is a link to the first book in the series: https://www.amazon.com/Paper-Girls-1-Brian-Vaughan/dp/1632156741

For the Minimalist
Don’t we all have someone in our lives who just doesn’t want stuff? I have found experiences are the best gift option for people who don’t want actual things. https://www.groupon.com/ is a great place to find inexpensive, local experiences. I have found neat wine tastings, cider tastings, and even museum experiences on Groupon.

For the Lover of Cozy Things
WEIGHTED BLANKET! Everyone raves about weighted blankets and all of their benefits. If you have someone who loves cozy things, get them a weighted blanket this year!
If they already have a weighted blanket, grab them an Icelandic wool blanket. Iceland is known for its cozy and warm wool blankets! You can find some good Icelandic wool blankets Here: https://www.icewear.is/us/wool-blankets?gclid=CjwKCAiAnvj9BRA4EiwAuUMDf-T3onWrh_9t2YsaSMQEfXTTFaLSNOOeISAITb06D4dvR5K4mppkzBoCrTkQAvD_BwE

For the Traveler
The traveler in your life will be looking for help financially with traveling or adventure gear.
If you aren’t able to grab them a travel-themed gift card, I recommend adding to their adventure gear collection.
Passport covers, adventure clothing, and other fun travel accessories would be good gift options.
I highly recommend checking out the company Serengetee. They have really great clothing for traveling, and they have cool adventure accessories. I really love this passport cover they have!

For the Family Member Who Loves Christmas
Since I am that family member, I can definitely give some good advice on this gift! Christmas lovers appreciate a special version of their favorite Christmas item. My favorite is collecting unique and meaningful ornaments. I know people who love nutcrackers, snowmen, and more! Find what Christmas item they love and get them a meaningful version of it!

Happy Shopping!


3 Fun Facts About Iceland

The Book Flood
I learned about this tradition one year when I was researching Icelandic Christmas traditions. Books and reading are a large part of the Icelandic culture. Leading up to Christmas many books are published and books sales increase drastically. Every Christmas Eve, Icelanders must receive a new books and chocolates to take to bed with them. After, it is common for Icelanders to discuss and critique the books they read over the holidays.
Check out this comprehensive article to learn more about this tradition: https://www.npr.org/2012/12/25/167537939/literary-iceland-revels-in-its-annual-christmas-book-flood#:~:text=But%20in%20Iceland%2C%20the%20best,published%20for%20every%201%2C000%20Icelanders.&text=It’s%20a%20national%20tradition%2C%20and,the%20%22Christmas%20Book%20Flood.%22

Icelandic Horses
Icelandic Horses are like no other horse on the planet. They have luscious manes and are quite majestic. Before 1000 AD, Iceland put into law that no other horses can be brought to Iceland and once a horse leaves, it cannot return to Iceland. Because of that, they are one of the purest horse breeds in the world. These horses are coveted and well taken care of. Their average life span is 40 years. They are truly stunning to see in person and the photos you see do not do them justices.
You can take a look at some I saw when I was in Iceland here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CDaD-G_n_Kn/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Icelandic Hot Dogs
Believe it or not, Icelanders love hot dogs. Hot dogs are wildly popular and a must have when you visit. They are made a bit different than American hot dogs. Lamb, pork, and beef are used to make Icelandic hot dogs instead of the pork and beef we are used to. In Iceland, it is common to add lots of toppings! When I was in Iceland I ordered one with everything on it and it was delicious!
If you want to learn more about Iceland hots dogs check out this article: https://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2014-08-21/the-one-dish-to-eat-in-iceland


I fell in love with a coffee shop in Selfoss, Iceland.

In the South of Iceland, on route 1, is a little town called Selfoss. We stayed at an Airbnb a few miles from Selfoss. Selfoss quickly grasped my heart. This town had everything we could have asked for; grocery stores, nature, gas stations, shops, and a coffee shop.

Bokakaffid is a book store and coffee shop rolled into one. There are little tables tucked in every corner of this quaint book store. They shelves are lined with Icelandic and English books of all sorts.

It was a dream sitting in this coffee shop/ book store relaxing on the days we weren’t driving all over. I ordered my favorite espresso drink, a cappuccino, and paroozed the bookshelves. I also was able to grab Kleinur, which is an Icelandic donut. I quickly fell in love with this coffee shop.

There were many coffee shops in Iceland that had great coffee and that I enjoyed their atmosphere, but Bokakaffid really topped them all.

I cannot wait to return to Selfoss one day and spend an afternoon drinking coffee and relaxing there.

You can learn more about Selfoss here: https://www.south.is/en/inspiration/towns/selfoss

You can learn more about Bokakaffid here: https://bokakaffid.business.site/

You can learn more about Kleinur here: https://www.biteoficeland.com/kleinur-icelandic-doughnuts/


5 Places You Should Visit In Iceland

Since it is the anniversary of my trip to Iceland, I felt inspired to highlight some of my favorite places I visited on my trip. I would highly recommend all of these places if you plan a trip to Iceland. I fell in love with each of these places for different reasons. Here are the 5 places you should add to your itinerary.

Diamond Beach and Glacier Lagoon It was a dream of mine to see icebergs in real life. Not only did this experience meet my expectations, but it also exceeded them. We did the boat tour in glacier lagoon, and it was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. Seeing the icebergs up close and learning about them was a surreal experience. The tour guide had a huge chunk of an iceberg on the boat and gave pieces to all of us to see how clear the ice is. You could even lick it to taste some of the freshest water on the planet.
Right next to the lagoon is diamond beach. Small ice chunks float and rest on the beach there. You can walk along the soft black sand beach and see the ice sparkling like diamonds on the shore. I highly recommend adding this to your itinerary. Make sure you give yourself enough time for the tour and walking on the beach. You will not regret it.

Blue Lagoon
I know many would deem this location as too touristy, but I would beg to differ. The Blue Lagoon is a stunning example of Iceland’s geothermal power. Additionally, the healing benefits of its water are incredibly unique. See more about that here: https://www.bluelagoon.com/about/water.

I went in the later evening during the summer, so the sun was still shining the entire time. It also was not crowded. I loved face mask options and swim-up drink bar. The few hours we were there were rejuvenating. Our trip was jam-packed, and this gave us some much-needed relaxation time. Overall, I definitely recommend the blue lagoon. If you are worried about crowds, go during a time of day that isn’t as popular as in the later evening like I did.

Reykjavík The capital city of Iceland was one of my favorite places to explore. The city is smaller and walk-able. We spent a day walking around and was able to see all the main tourist sites while visiting little shops, and eating is cute restaurants. I really recommend spending a day here without an itinerary. It was a blessing being able to just go where the wind took me. If you do want to plan some activities, they have some local walking tours available that might be an excellent way to see the city!

Snæfellsnes Peninsula
This area of Iceland is out of this world. This peninsula is where I saw a seal in its natural habitat, rock arches created by the sea, and a stunning pointy mountain called Kirkjufell. Exploring this area of Iceland is definitely a must if you have time. Arnarstapi, the little village where the rock arches were, captured my heart. It has a quiet beauty unparalleled to many places on earth. This peninsula really feels untouched and raw. Really, the best way to explain this area of Iceland is out of this world.

Westman Islands
Last but certainly not least the Westman Islands. Also known as Heimaey, the Westman Islands are definitely a hidden gem of Iceland. We traveled to the main island called Heimaey by ferry from the mainland of Iceland. We spent the day exploring this little island. We grabbed breakfast and coffee at a cute little cafe, hiked an extinct volcano, walked around the small town, and visited little shops. This quaint town is influenced by the history of the Eldfell volcano eruption in the 1970s. It erupted for months. The hardened lava from the eruption created a barrier on the one side of town. On this island, you can see puffins and explore stunning nature. My day here was one of my most relaxing and coveted days of the trip.



Maybe it’s the fact that this week marks 3 years since my trip to Iceland. Maybe Taylor Swift’s new Folklore album has me in my feels. This week I have felt Hiraeth intensely.

I have always felt a longing to travel. A longing to go to certain places. A longing to return to a place after a vacation to somewhere I can’t seem to get out of my head.

I felt this longing before I even traveled to Iceland. I felt connected to a county I had never been to. I have felt it every day since—a longing to return to a place that feels out of this world to my heart and soul.
I tried to put this feeling into words many times and could never say it just right.

I came across the word Hiraeth, and it seems to fit this feeling pretty well. I connected with this section of the definition “It’s an unattainable longing for a place, a person, a figure, even a national history that may never have actually existed. To feel hiraeth is to feel a deep incompleteness and recognize it as familiar.”
I found this definition on this website that describes the word in-depth: https://peterwarski.com/longing-for-a-home-ive-never-been-to-9ce208aa384c
Also, the way you pronounce it is “here-eyeth”.

Hiraeth more accurately describes what many call post-vacation blues for me. Many times it isn’t just sadness of leaving a beautiful place. I connect to certain places and yearn to return and experience them again.

Traveling is stunning, exciting, and fun, but not many people talk about how you feel after you return from a trip. The longing to return to the place that captured your heart. In this time of not traveling as much as you typically would, please take care of yourself if you are experiencing hiraeth. You will travel soon again and see all of the places you long for.


Sweet and Savory Apple Nachos

I love apples! They are definitely one of my go-to snacks.

I have found a sweet yet savory way to spice apples up and make them a snack that makes me full and satisfied.

I take 1 or 2 apples depending on how hungry I am and slice them. I cut them into large slices, but you can cut smaller slices if you choose. Just make sure they are big enough to comfortably pick up with your hands (like a nacho chip). I lay the apples all over a plate as you would with chips if you were making nachos.

I then use unsweetened sunflower butter and drizzle it all over the apples on the plate. I try to drizzle the sunflower butter evenly over the apple slices too!

Lastly, I take cacao nibs and sprinkle them all over the apples and sunflower butter. Cacao nibs make the snack crunchy, and they are a superfood!

Now enjoy your apple nachos!


My Favorite Iced Starbucks Drinks

Iced Starbucks Blonde Cocoa Cloud Macchiato 

This drink has quickly become my absolute favorite at Starbucks. This is my Treat Yo Self drink. I get it as big as I can and savor every last drop. The title may be intimidating, so I will break this drink down for you. 

Macchiato: This drink is espresso shots with flavoring and foam. That’s it! 

Blonde: This is the Blonde espresso shots at Starbucks. Whenever I get an espresso drink at Starbucks, I always get the Blonde shots. I like lighter roasted coffee and prefer the Blonde shots over the regular espresso shots. 

Cloud: This is a type of cold foam that Starbucks has for its Macchiatos, and I am obsessed with it. They use egg white powder when they make the cold foam, so it gives the foam a meringue texture. I love meringue, which means I am obsessed with this cloud foam. 

Cocoa: The Cocoa part of this Macchiato drink is a drizzle of caramel sauce and a drizzle of mocha sauce. Additionally, there are 2 pumps of toffee nut syrup. I actually trade that out for only 1 pump of vanilla syrup.

This drink tastes like heaven to me! The flavors of mocha, caramel, and vanilla definitely bring this drink to another level. 

If this drink sounds yummy to you, I would highly recommend trying this ASAP!!!! 

Iced Matcha Green Tea Latte 

I LOVE matcha. If you don’t know what matcha is, it is ground up green tea leaves and is full of antioxidants. It’s good to know that Starbucks used matcha that is sweetened with sugar. Other places that serve matcha may not add sugar to their matcha powder. 

I love the flavor of green tea! I find that this drink is very refreshing, and it has less caffeine then a coffee-based drink you would get (it still has a decent amount of caffeine though). 

For me, this drink is sweet enough, and I typically get it unsweetened. I do love vanilla flavoring with matcha. If you are looking to sweeten this drink, definitely add vanilla flavor pumps. 

Cold Brew with Cold Foam 

I love Cold Brew coffee. I also love cold foam. So any Cold Brew coffees with cold foam are right up my alley.

I tried the Irish Cream Cold Brew in December when it was out, and Woah! was it good. I love the smooth cold brew coffee mixed with the creamy flavor of the cold foam.

I am eager to try to their Cold Brew with Salted Honey Cold Foam!!

Iced Green Tea 

This has been a go-to Starbucks staple for me. I get this completely unsweetened. If you are looking for something refreshing and don’t want something sweet or super caffeinated, definitely try this! 

I would love to know your favorite iced Starbucks drinks! Let me know your favorite iced Starbucks drinks in the comments!


Working From Home

I feel incredibly blessed to be writing this right now. I am fortunate to be working my full-time hours from home right now. With working my full-time hours, it has been hard to keep up healthy habits and to form a routine with my new schedule.

These times are hard, and I highly suggest taking the time to relax and do what feels right, but I think some routine and structure can be good at a time like this.

I am challenging myself to incorporate a few things into I am challenging myself to incorporate a few things into each day to make them feel a bit more structure. I wanted to share what I am trying to do to hopefully help you spark some ideas if you are feeling like you need some structure.

Plan to take a walk or sit outside.

Walking almost every day has been a significant game-changer for me. I notice the days I do not get to walk, I feel much more blah. Getting outside and getting fresh air is very important since we are all stuck at home. If you can’t take a walk, go out on your porch or sit near an open window. I bet the fresh air every day will make you feel better.

Make sure to meal plan. 
Before I was at home all the time, I would plan meals only a few days out at most. I could go to the store whenever so I did not worry about planning a week’s worth of meals. I have found that planning my meals for an entire week has been super helpful. Since I grocery shop once a week and have all my meals picked out, I only have a small decision to make each day when dinner time comes around. The stress of buying and planning the meal is gone. This is super helpful on days where I am feeling off and do not want to do much after work. I can just choose an easy recipe from my shortlist, throw ingredients together from a save recipe, and cook! Meal planning ahead of time lets you incorporate fruits and veggies that will help to keep you healthy and boost your immune system. It also gives you something to look forward to all week!

Clean your work, living, and sleep spaces.
Clean spaces really change productivity and mood. A clean space can help clear your head and make work a little easier. I cleaned my room 2 weeks into being home full time, and it has made me so much happier. I have space in my brain to worry about other things. I also make sure to straighten up my workspace too. After a week of working in the same spot for hours and hours, your desk will be messy. Clean it up and start fresh Monday morning. Also, brighten your workspace in some way. I have a fun mouse pad and typically have a fun mug on my at-home desk at all times.

Limit your media consumption during the workday.
This one, I had to learn the hard way. The first 2 weeks I was home, I viewed every news alert and update that came to my phone about the pandemic. I would hear something that was starting, and that would throw me off my work game. I recommend waiting until after work to see what is up in the world. It is easier to digest when you aren’t worried about answering work emails and dealing with work things.

Don’t be afraid to change your workspace location.
Sometimes I feel a bit blah during my workday. When this happens, I decide to take my work to another location in the house. Sitting at my kitchen table instead of my desk makes me feel more at easy some mornings. Also, making calls from my bedroom is the best place since we have a few adults working from home at my house. Do not be stuck in one location, you can find spots that work for different tasks you need to accomplish.

Schedule lunch FaceTime sessions with friends.
Having a virtual lunch with friends has definitely been a saving grace for me. For an hour, I get to eat lunch and chat with a friend just like if we were to get lunch during a typical workday. It is a great way to vent and rejuvenate. I am an extrovert, so the communication from these FaceTime sessions makes me productive in the afternoon.

Plan a consistent weekly activity or two. 
I recommend this even when we are not stuck at home, but it has really helped with marking time during the week. Every week, we FaceTime family to watch Harry Potter. We started from the first movie and are working through the series. We also have a movie night every Friday with friends when life was normal, and we have moved that virtually. We spend a few hours every Friday chatting, catching up, and venting about our weeks. Also, our grocery day is Saturday. These weekly activities help me remember what day of the week it is. They give me checkpoints and things to look forward to. I challenge you to plan something you can look forward to every week.

Get “ready” for work every day. 
I do not mean actually doing the whole getting ready routine every. I try to change out of my pajamas, though. I make sure to put my Fitbit on and brush my hair and teeth first thing in the morning.

Find a hobby or two to focus your spare time.
You finally have some extra time to do some things you love! I have made sure to spend my time reading, blogging, making coffee, and being creative!

Go to bed at a reasonable hour.
You will thank yourself in the morning. 

Do not pressure yourself into accomplishing anything super productive while you are at home. This is time to take care of yourself, mentally and physically.

I read a quote a while back that said something along the line of We are not working from home. We are at home during a pandemic trying to work.

This quote really described what it is like to be working at home right now. It is A LOT, and that is okay. Take care of yourself and incorporate as little or as much structure as you need in your daily life.

Stay safe and healthy out there, everyone! ❤


April 2020 Book Recommendations

Anyone else looking for a good book while we are at home?
I have been spending my new free time reading some books! I have had some books on my to-read list for a long time, and I am excited to finally read them! I have read 2 books that have really stood out to me this month and needed to share. Here they are!

Girl Wash Your Face
This book by Rachel Hollis is incredibly inspiring. She made me feel not alone and motivated to set goals and accomplish them. Even though not every aspect of the book was directly relevant to this phase in my life, I found it comforting knowing that some else has been through things I have, am, and will go through.

Paper Girls (vol. 6)
I love love love these graphic novels. I have read 1-6 and highly recommend all of them. They have some vintage Stranger Things vibes mixed with Back to the Future vibes. It is definitely its own thing, though! The colors and art in these graphic novels are stunning. They have a captivating storyline with unique graphics that take these graphic novels to the next level.

What have you been reading? Drop your favorite books in the comments below!


Brewing Coffee At Home

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m obsessed with coffee big time.

Considering all of us are stuck at home for a while, I thought I would talk about some at-home brewing methods I am using daily and some fun ones to try! Here are my top 5 coffee brewing ideas to try at home:

  1. Cold Brew Coffee
    I love love love cold brew coffee; one of my favorite coffees to get at my local coffee shop is a black nitro cold brew. IT IS THE BOMB!
    I love how creamy, smooth, and not acidic cold brew coffees are and wanted to try to make it at home.
    So far, I have tried making cold brew in my large French press. I used a med/coarse ground coffee(I do 2 tbsp for every 6 oz of water) and added that to my French press. I added room temperature water and put the press/ lid on top but did not press it down. I put my French press in my refrigerator and let it sit overnight (approx. 15 hours). I took the French press out of the fridge and pressed my coffee. Then you are ready to pour and enjoy!
    I also decided to order a cold brew coffee maker to make my life easier because French presses become cumbersome to clean regularly. I ordered the Cold Brew Mason Jar Coffee Maker by Country Line Kitchen on Amazon. I am patiently waiting for its arrival. I choose this cold brew maker because while reading reviews for other cold brew makers, people said the glass breaks easily. The brewer I bought is already made with durability in mind because it is made from a mason jar. I ordered the 1-quart option because that is about 2-3 days worth of coffee for me. They also have a 2-quart option if you drink a lot of coffee, want to make coffee once a week, or have multiple people in your house drinking cold brew. I also really liked this cold brew maker because of the easy pour lid and removable stainless steel filter. Once I get the coffee maker, I will make sure to let you know if it’s as excellent as I expect it to be.
  2. French Press Coffee
    I have a 2 cup French Press, and that thing is my best friend. I drink my coffee black, and there is nothing like a delicious, dark, rich cup of coffee from a French press. If you have a French press, awesome! Get that thing out for some quick and delicious coffee. If not, I suggest you grab one because I am learning some cool new tricks with mine, and you’ll need one to try them!
    I use 2 tbsp of coarse grounds for every 6 oz of water for my French press. ( many people recommend weighing your coffee for a more precise ratio, but how many of you at home have kitchen scales? I want this to be easy for you!!) I add my grounds to the bottom of my French press and boil water in my electric kettle. I pour the boiling water over the grounds and make sure all grounds are saturated with water. Once your done pouring set a time for 4 minutes. ( I also sometimes add my lid but make sure it is not touching the grounds floating on top). After the 4 minutes, press and enjoy! It’s that easy.
    I recently learned another method of brewing in a French press from Electric City Roasting Co. They do live brewing tutorials on Instagram during the week, and I am obsessed with them. They went over this second method, and I have been using it ever since.
    I use the same ratio of 2 tbsp of grounds for every 6 oz of water. I use a more medium grind for this method instead of the more traditional coarse ground for a French press. I do the same thing for the French press except for the last steps. Once I pour my boiling water, I do not cover my coffee with the lid. I wait 4 minutes, and then I take a spoon and push the coffee gently down into the water a bit ( called folding). You will start to see grounds float to the bottom. I usually do this folding 2-3 times. Then you’ll see a small foamy, lighter colored top layer (called crème). Scoop that off and get rid of it. Once it’s gone, add your lid, but DO NOT press. The top helps with pouring the hot coffee. The grounds that floated to the bottom should stay there, so pour and enjoy!

    *Here is another trick for your French press. You can add milk to your French press and repeatedly plunge until you create foam. The foam stays colder and is perfect for adding to your cold brew coffee or even iced coffee!!*
  3. Regular Automatic Coffee Maker
    You are probably reading this thinking, Maria, this all sounds great, but I do not have a French press and cannot get once anytime soon. 


    I recommend grabbing a coffee from a local coffee shop/ micro-roaster to treat yourself while you’re at home. Stick with the 2 tbsp to 6 oz water ratio, and you’ll be enjoying your cup of joe in no time! 

    I may be a bit bias, but Electric City Roasting Co. has incredible coffee. You can order from them through this link: https://electriccityroasting.com/.

  4. Whipped Coffee / Dalgona Coffee Trend
    I was very eager to try this internet trend and tried it this weekend! I was shocked that I loved this drink so much. I used Mount Hagen Organic Fair Trade instant coffee. I made enough for me to have a large glass and a little extra for my dad to try. Everyone has been using a 1:1:1 ratio for the whipped coffee. I used 3 tbsp of instant coffee, 3 tbsp of sugar, and 3 tbsp of water. I manually whipped the coffee with a whisk, and it took me about 15 minutes to whisk by hand. I also let the whipped coffee chill in the refrigerator right after whipping for about 5ish minutes. This made it stiffer and lighter. When it came out of the fridge, it was the perfect stiff consistency. I used oat milk for my glass and cows milk for my dad’s. The whipped coffee seemed to begin to blend with the oat milk a little quicker than the cow’s milk. I also followed the suggestion of Electric City Roasting Co., and my dad and I mixed the whipped coffee with the milk. I tasted it beforehand, and it is very, very strong straight up. I was super happy with how it came out, and so was my dad. It stayed frothy throughout the time drinking it! It was way sweeter than I typically like, but delicious none the less. I highly recommend trying this when you have a little extra time to make coffee!
  5. Espresso Coffee
    So you may not have an espresso maker at home. If you are like me and do, this last section is for you! I rarely get to use my manual espresso maker because it takes time to do it right. I have a lot more time on my hands now, so I decided to pull it out and play! I used some fine grind, dark roasted coffee and got to work. I watched some YouTube videos about pulling my shots on my espresso maker and am trying to perfect my craft. I also played with my steamer and tried to learn how to produce the best milk with just the right amount of foam. I ended up making a latte with a dash of vanilla extract added! SO GOOD!
    I highly recommend taking the time out to use your espresso machine and make yourself some specialty drinks. I miss going to coffee shops so badly, so this makes me miss them a little less. Get your machine out and find some espresso drink recipes online and get to work!

Do you have any home brewing methods/ ideas that are delicious? Please share in the comments below!!


Maria Does Whole 30

Not to be dramatic, but Whole 30 has changed my life.

I am gearing up to do my 3rd round on April 13th with the Whole 30 community for Whole 30 at home.
It is wild the amount you learn about food and yourself during a Whole 30 journey.

You are probably wondering how has Whole 30 changed my life. I have spent my entire life with many food and environmental allergies and sensitivities. This has always made navigating life more difficult. I worry about the foods I eat when I cannot read the ingredients. I worry about air fresheners and perfumes while I am out and about because I know they can make me feel sick. The more I am exposed to things I am sensitive to, the less I can tolerate them. Many foods that you don’t eat during Whole 30 are actually foods I am allergic and sensitive to. This is one of the reasons it was a good fit for me.

Whole 30 is meant to be a food experiment. You don’t eat foods that could cause allergic reactions or cause an inflammatory response. After 30 days of eating real food, you reintroduce all the other foods you avoided for 30 days. This allows you to see how your body reacts to these foods.

During my reintroduction, I learned about my gluten intolerance, that sugar makes me feel gross and triggers migraines, and that my stomach does not like corn! I also found out that I can have dairy in small quantities without having a reaction. I for sure thought dairy would have been bad for me.

I have a degree in nutrition and love the fact I got to experiment with food and my body to see what it likes and dislikes. I also really enjoy cooking and trying new foods, so I made sure to do both of those to make the 30 days easier.

By far, my favorite thing about Whole 30 is that it is not meant to be just another weight loss diet. It’s actually against the Whole 30 rules to step on a scale and measure yourself during Whole 30.
I wanted to eat healthily and develop strong, healthy eating habits, and Whole 30 did that for me. Can you lose weight in the process? Yes. But is that why you should do it? No.

I want to be healthy. I want to walk farther, dance longer, perform better at work, and show up more present in my life. Whole 30 did all of this for me. It keeps my brain sharp and gives me the endurance to get through long days. It has taught me to not eat because I am bored or emotional. I use to do both A LOT!

Something else I love about Whole 30 is the founder, Melissa Urban. She is such a role model. She is raw, all the time. She is honest, all the time. She shows up, apologetically herself on social media, in her books, and really anywhere. I love being able to see a real person going through life, good and bad times. She is really inspiring. Through her books, emails, and social media pages, she is a great coach and is what you need to get through a Whole 30. After reading so much of her material, she feels like a friend that you can relate to and comfort you.

I found this especially true while reading her book Food Freedom Forever. Food Freedom is that place where you can say no to foods you don’t want to eat without guilt while eating foods you do want without quilty too. Food Freedom understanding what your body likes and dislikes and using that knowledge to make yourself feel good. It is the empowerment you have knowing you are eating food that makes you feel good, even if that means eating a piece of cake you super want! There is no such thing as a perfect Whole 30. Also, after working hard to to find your Food Freedom, you will move back to unhealthy routines. Heck, after my first Whole 30, after a few months, I went right back to my old habits to eating sooo many baked goods and drinking sooo many sugary Starbucks drinks. And as I said before, gluten and sugar are not my friends, so this was definitely bad for me.

I am currently working on my Food Freedom, and it’s hard. I have spent 3-4 days in a row eating sugary foods when I don’t even really want to eat because it is so easy to fall into my old habits. That’s kind of why I want to do another round. To reset and introduce some of the foods, I haven’t and remind myself how good I feel without sugar.

Whole 30 may not be the right fit for you, but if you’re looking to learn about food and your body, I would consider it. There are so many free resources and people who will help you through it.

If you are interested in learning more about Whole 30, please check out their website here: https://whole30.com/

If you have questions for me about my experience or any cool Whole 30 recipes, please feel free to reach out!


Coping during COVID

These are unprecedented times.

I love dystopian movies and books. It is my favorite genre, actually. I am always intrigued by what could happen to our world. One of my favorites is World War Z. The zombies in that movie are super quick, and I definitely would not want to be alive to experience those types of zombies.

Right now, I feel like I am living in one of the dystopian books I’ve read or movies I have watched. Honestly, it feels a lot different then I would have thought. I would have expected to be on the run, no running water, and feel unsafe even at my own home. I believe this pandemic has a quietness to it. It has a loneliness component that feels different then what I have read and watched. It’s bizarre to see how quiet and slow the world is right now.

As humans we are social creatures. We crave attention, love, and connection from others. I think that’s what makes staying at home and social distancing so hard.

Some days I struggle real hard. I am blessed to be working from home, but some days it’s just hard to get out of bed and so the same thing again. Its hard knowing I won’t be in my office for weeks, maybe months. Other days I try to take advantage of the gift of time. I take a long walk, read a book I have had on my shelf for forever, and spend time with the family I am at home with.

I put a lot of pressure on myself regularly, even before this pandemic, to do more, be more, accomplish more. I never feel like I have learned enough or do enough. Honestly, I still feel this way even though I have a lot more time. I am trying hard every day to stop this. I am doing enough. At this point, surviving this pandemic is ENOUGH. It’s okay to be sad, its okay to feel alone.

I am trying hard to reach out to friends and set up phone calls and video calls. I am using my time being at home as an excuse to binge my favorite tv shows, read books, clean my room, learn something new, and take walks every day. These are self-care to me, and I know if I didn’t pursue these activities, I would not be well mentally.

For those of you who read my thoughts on COVID-19, thank you. We are struggling out here and know I am here for you. Reach out to me if you need anything. I am challenging you to do something this weekend that will lift your spirits and is self-care for you. This is your remaindered that you are doing great, and this will all be over before we know it. Hang in there.


Top 3 Favorite Holiday Coffee Drinks

I have spent this holiday season trying new coffees! Here are my top 3 that I recommend trying before the holidays are over.

1. Irish Cream Cold Brew at Starbucks

The Irish Cream Cold Brew is a stunning take on a cold brew drink. It’s everything cozy about winter and the holidays in a cup of cold brew. I love the smoothness of cold brew so the creamy taste of the Irish Cream and the sweet cold foam really makes this drink stand out. If you’re looking for a cold holiday drink or just something not traditional, I really recommend this drink at Starbucks!

If you want to make this drink at home I found a good looking recipe here: https://bakedbree.com/copycat-irish-cream-cold-brew

2. Eggnog Latte at Frisky Goat Coffee House

This drink took me by surprise. I enjoy going to Starbucks now and then but didn’t realize they had this. I tried it at this cool local coffee shop called the Frisky Goat Coffee House in Milford, Pennsylvania. I have never loved eggnog but with the holidays underway and the new year coming up thought that it would be a neat thing to try. I was blown away by this drink! The eggnog flavor was subtle and paired very well with the espresso. I must also compliment the craftsmanship of the barista for this latte too. It was extremely well made with the perfect amount if foam for a latte.

If you are no where near the Frisky Goat Coffee House, Starbucks also has this drink. I have never tried the Starbucks version though. So until I do, it doesn’t have my stamp of approval.

If you want to make this at home, here is a recipe that looks yummy: https://www.asweetpeachef.com/eggnog-latte/

3. Peppermint Mocha Latte at Kay’s Daily Grind

The classic peppermint mocha. This is my go to holiday drink at Kay’s Daily Grind in Daleville, Pennsylvania and Starbucks. I love peppermint, chocolate, and coffee so this really is a solid go to for me. I think is captures fresh, warm, and cozy in a cup. I love the local coffee shop Kay’s Daily Grind and that is typically where I get this drink. My recommendation is to get it with have the flavoring and sweetener wherever you get it. I don’t love super sweet drinks and think it can be too powerful with full flavor. I think this drink when half sweetened is delicious yet subtle.

If you want to be cozy at home and enjoy this drink, here is a recipe: https://lifemadesweeter.com/peppermint-mocha-latte/

Even though these are my favorites this season, there a so many good coffee options out right now. I have yet to try something that tastes like gingerbread this season but I’m hoping I will soon!

Comment your favorite holiday coffee drink below! 🎄☕️

Ethical Consumerism Around the Holiday Season

This episode is all about ethical consumption during the holiday season! We dive into buying local/ small, fair trade, and sustainability. In this episode, @maria_doesthings chats with her mom and sister about ethical consumerism!

This episode is all about ethical consumption during the holiday season! We dive into buying local/ small, fair trade, and sustainability. In this episode, @maria_doesthings chats with her mom and sister about ethical consumerism!


Maria Does Things Podcast

I’ve started a podcast!

I have been interested in starting a podcast for a while and finally took the plunge and did the thing!

Every Tuesday, there will be a new episode diving into the things I’m doing that week and a deep dive into a travel or adventure-related topic!

You can listen on Spotify or by clicking the link below!