Everyday Brings A New Season

The holiday season is just around the corner and shoppers are getting in the full swing of things. From Christmas gift shopping, to deciding upon what side dish to bring to Thanksgiving dinner; the holiday spirit is undoubtedly in the air. Jared and I have finally settled into his mother’s house where we will nestle ourselves for the winter while we save money for our first home. It’s so exciting I find myself becoming too eager and wanting it to happen now! I know these things take time, patience, and persistence and we are truly blessed that we have family in our lives that willingly open their doors to us and encourage our goals. But with these drastic changes to our lives, first with a passing of a loved one, then with unfortunate evens with our living situation, I was finding it hard to get excited about the holidays. In a way, I just wanted them to be over so I could move on with my life. Especially because the part I looked forward to the most was putting up a tree with my husband for our first ever Christmas as husband and wife is now severed. We are packed to the brim with all of our household items in boxes and furniture piled on top of more furniture. I was, for lack of a better word, in a funk. This morning while out with my mom shopping I expressed my sorrow on the subject about how all the ornaments and garland will never be hung this year, that’s when she stopped down the aisle in front a cute, tiny Christmas tree. One so small it could fit on a night side table. Next the to tree hung all the ornaments, toppers, and even adorable tree skirts to tie it all together. My mom said, “Tori, you can make the best of what you have. Just remember why you’re there and imagine what you’ll be doing this time next year. You’ll be decorating your very own house.” With all the business of the move and the holidays approaching faster each year with age, I lost myself and became bitter. Bitter that it wasn’t all working out according to my plan. But the truth is, no matter how many plans we make God truly knows the way for us. This season in my life is going to be one for the books where I looked back years from now and laugh about how silly I was acting. Jared and I are blessed each and everyday that we are alive and have supporting friends and family around us. That we have a job to attend to and make money. Food on the table and a little extra to spend. A roof over our heads to still gather and give thanks. And today I am extremely blessed to have a mother to remind me of the bigger picture and to be a better person. Just a little food for thought to remind all of us, including myself, that we are all going through different seasons of our lives. Some are longer and harder than others, but they are just seasons and they too shall pass. Like the summer and spring season bring sunshine and flowers, those seasons in your life you will blossom more than ever. And the winter and fall seasons of your life you will find cold and long days. So today this little tree with all its tiny decor will represent us proud and remind me every time I look at it that this season is for thanks and gratitude. 

Always,

learnandbewithme

FabFitFun Review

This past winter Jared surprised me with a subscription to FabFitFun for a Valentines/anniversary gift, and I couldn’t be more grateful about it. In February I received my first box, that was supposed to lead me into the season of spring, and after it arrived in the mail, it felt like Christmas or my birthday all over again! It was so exciting to discover what was inside and after opening my first box, I knew the summer edition had to be documented.

If you haven’t heard of FFF before, it is a subscription for a seasonal box filled with merchandise that fit your preference at a discounted price. Each box is $49.99, but the value of the items are way more than what you spend on the subscription. For example, the summer 2018 box was worth $367.99 with all the items I received. And each lotion, makeup, face cleanser, etc. is the full size sold in stores! They don’t send you the cheap travel size or the testers. They’re all the real deal. What more could you want?! The best part about what is inside, is that it’s all products that you wish you had, but couldn’t justify spending $50+ on. It’s treating yourself without emptying your whole wallet.

When you sign up for FFF, you answer questions about yourself so they are more aware of what you would want to receive in your box. They ask what kind of skin you have, that being sensitive, oily, combination, etc. They also ask you what your hobbies might be and if you enjoy things like makeup and exercising. They ask your size in clothing, and if you rather have lipstick or eyeliner. Literally anything you can think of, they ask. This is to ensure that what your receiving in your box isn’t unsatisfying to you and your wants. So far, with the last two boxes, I haven’t been disappointed in what I was given, and I get excited about every product presented to me. I love every time I get an email saying it has shipped, and I would highly recommend purchasing it for yourself, or sending it as a gift to a friend or family member! Who doesn’t love treating themselves?

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First off, how cute is the box itself? So colorful and fun, it can put anyone in the summer time spirit! Each box comes with a mini magazine explaining all of the products and the original price. It also has some great tips on how to use the items and beauty tips.

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One of the coolest parts about this box is that it came with a cardboard straw that says “this straw saves marine life.” Inside the magazine is a note from the Wildlife Conservation Society on the harmful use of plastic straws. Giving up straws has been one of the hardest adjustments in my day to day life, but I try my best to help limit the waste of plastic for our environment. I even have a few metal straws to supplement when I can!

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This seasonal box was full of lotions! My box came with a brightening exfoliator, a papaya enzyme mask, organic sunscreen, and a muscle gel.

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I haven’t gotten around to trying this product yet, but I am always excited to try a new exfoliator! The original price of this Vasant brighten up enzymatic face rejuvenator is $45. That right there in itself was almost as much as the whole box all together!

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I tried this peel last night for the first time after my shower. It was interesting to me because it felt more like a gel than a mask like I am used to. You apply it to dry skin for ten minutes and then rinse with warm water. It went on clear, and smelt wonderful. It definitely left my skin feeling refreshed and smooth.

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Okay, this was by far the coolest thing I got from this box. It is a Foreo Luna fofo face cleanser that has the ability to detect your skin type, how to improve your skin, and what age you are, all by using it when you wash your face. There is a free downloadable app that goes with it when using the product. I haven’t had the chance to use it yet because my face wash is grainy, and it suggest not using it if that is the case to avoid damaging it, but I am so excited to give it a try. It uses Bluetooth technology to know when you have successfully cleaned your skin and helps you through the app the whole way. The original price of the fofo is $89!

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I’ve heard of this product before and was always curious to whether it was worth the money or not. I used it before working out in the yard this afternoon, and so far no sunburn! It’s not thick like a lot of other sunscreens which means its quick to apply and doesn’t leave your skin feeling oily. The price of Coola sunscreen is $32.

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How cute is this ring holder from Pier 1? No one could ever have enough ring holders throughout the house. I like to keep them in my bathroom and bedroom for when I need to shower or take my jewelry off for the night. This ring holder goes for $14.99 in stores.

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Tarte is a product that is all the rage right now. A lot of the Instagramer’s and YouTuber’s that I follow can’t stop talking about how much they love their Tarte markup. I even had bought my own Tarte highlighter to test out. And I can’t forget to mention how amazing it smells! Every product so far smells like sweet coco. This Tarteist Pro glow highlighter and contouring palette is the perfect accessory to anyone’s makeup bag. The price for this palette is originally $45.

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This aromatherapy lotion is meant for de-stressing over-worked muscles and joints. It’s made from essential oils that are known to help calm and warm your body. It has ingredients such as rosemary, black pepper, lavender, and ginger. You simply apply the cream to your overworked muscles and massage it into the skin. It will do the rest for you! A bottle this size goes for $39.

Again, I am amazed with these boxes and the products that come inside. The fact that the box is only $49.99 a season, with full priced products, is worth it for sure. I will continue to subscribe to FabFitFun and I’m so excited to see what is in store for the future shipments!

Always,

learnandbewithme

What Four Years of College Has Taught Me

I’m in complete awe at the fact that I am sitting here, as a college graduate, writing about what the last four years has thought me, even though it was nearly impossible to see the end. Last Saturday I had the privilege to walk across the stage (that was technically just the front of a church) to receive my diploma of completion in school and it essentially started the beginning of my forever. W H A T   T H E   H E L L! I remember plain as day being an eighteen year old walking onto the campus of a community college and registering for classes, having no idea what to expect. It was only one year later that I worked up the courage to stop settling and apply to a four year college attending Virginia Commonwealth University. I originally attended community college to save money and figure out what I wanted to do with myself, but I also knew that I needed to push myself out of my comfort zone in order to succeed. One month later I found myself turning in VCU’s application and I received my acceptance letter in the mail of April 2015. VCU is where I made my home for the next four years and where my heart will forever live even long after I am gone.

My constant remark made about college is, “I’ve learned more in college than I have the entirety of my life” but when that question is followed by “well, what did you learn?” my immediate response is, “I have no idea.” This sums up my college experience to a T.  Within this post I will try my hardest to express what four years of studying, writing papers, reading hundreds of books, late night group projects, and crying over literally everything has taught me and made me the woman I am today.

No One Knows What the Heck They Are Doing

Or I should say, I don’t know what the heck I am doing, and that’s okay! My senior year of high school the question of what I wanted to go to school for was very prominent in my life and became a very scary topic to talk about. When I spoke of being a journalist for National Geographic or moving to California to start my own fashion magazine, my dreams were shot down so quick I couldn’t even finish the sentence. I look back at that now and I think, yeah I was shooting a little too high, but damn, If I had the encouragement I could have been there by now. In all seriousness though, I pursued the path of becoming a high school English teacher from the beginning of my college journey. I was always told I would be a good teacher and people always said they could see me conducting a classroom, although I was not too fond of the thought that I would be in a school my whole life, I was sure the more I worked towards it the more I would be excited about it.

I continued on with the English and writing path and found myself to be very good at what I was doing. I struggled in so many classes due to lack of interest, but my English classes never failed to amaze me. I was receiving mostly A’s in all of my major courses and knew I was exactly where I needed to be. When it came to my education classes, I couldn’t really say the same. Fast forward to my first semester of my senior year, and I was completely done with the thought of teaching high school students or being anywhere near a school for that matter. I starting hating my education class and dreaded filling out the graduate school application. I was terrified I was letting myself and my family down. My fiance had always been so proud of me for knowing exactly what I wanted to do and sticking to it. Especially with how common it is for undergraduates to change their major every five months. But with much thought and a lot of tears, I had decided against grad school and will pursue the path of an English major, and I’ve never been so happy about it. I finally feel free to express my true passion of reading and writing without the assumption that you have to be a teacher to do it. So, the first lesson, and it is one that came much later in school, is that it is completely, 100% okay if you have no idea what you are going to do with the degree you have. You should just be proud of yourself for completing the degree in one piece.

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Just a couple of English majors reading in a pumpkin patch

You Can Be Drunk and Still Get an A

You can’t be considered an alcoholic if you’re still in college! 

College is a stressful time in someone’s life, especially if you’re juggling relationships, jobs, and a social life all at the same time. School is more expensive and a lot harder than when our parents were in school, so remember that when they say you’re just complaining and they went to school uphill, both ways, with no shoes on. But something that I have learned with this stress is that it is okay to let lose every now and then and have a couple of drinks. There have been many times that I take a break from studying to enjoy a margarita with my friends, or finished my homework just in time for wine Wednesday’s and thirsty Thursday’s. And we can’t forget those nights you’ve had one too many Miller Lights and you remember that assignment is due at midnight. You just simply places yourself in a quite corner and knock that assignment out like a boss. When you get the assignment back with a fat ‘A’ stamped on the front with a note from your professor saying, “I love the creativity!” you know you’ve made it. College has truly thought me the juggling act of partying and getting work done efficiently, and not being judged for drinking a little too much; because remember, college is the only time in your life where it is acceptable to be hungover the next day in class.

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Champagne to celebrate my graduation

You’re No Better Than Anyone Else

Once you move on to the continuation of your education, you start to notice those who didn’t make that same decision as you. You’ll notice the same students you went to high school with are working a full time job without taking classes on the side, some got married and started their families, and some are chilling at their parent’s house trying to decide what their next move is. Being at a university can create condescending personalities, and I’ve found myself  being guilty of this negative trait a time or two. It’s hard not to when everyone around you is judging those who aren’t going to college to better themselves. They say that they’ll never get a real job without a degree and they messed up not going to school. But I am here to tell you that just because you attend a four year college does not make you better than anyone else.

College cost money; money that most students aren’t even paying themselves without the help of loans or their parent’s savings accounts. Not everyone has the privilege to attend a college and not everyone is inspired enough to go. I am the first child out of four kids to graduate with a degree, and the first one in my family entirely. My parents are the two wisest people I know, and they didn’t need college to achieve that. Even with my degree I will always look for their guidance and knowledge in life to help me succeed and to be a better person. You might be working hard in a classroom everyday to create better opportunities for yourself, but someone is doing the same out in the workforce getting a completely different experience and knowledge than yourself. Working hard is important and don’t sell yourself short of an opportunity, but open your eyes to learning from others no matter where they come from, their background, or what degrees they hold. I will never encourage someone to skip out of going to college, because the knowledge I have gained in those classrooms has been life changing, and I believe everyone has the ability to succeed in school. But that doesn’t mean that I would ever judge someone for not going to a university because my degree will never make me superior to anyone else. It simply just makes me different than others. I appreciate the diversity in my family and in my peers and I take time to learn as much from them as I can. I can only hope that others would take time to learn from me.

 

Obviously these aren’t the only lessons I have learned after spending thousands of dollars in school, but I like the think they are the most important ones. Yes, even the lesson on being drunk and getting an ‘A’. The fact of the matter is, I have learned so much at my time at VCU that it would be impossible to list them all. I have experienced paying bills, how to work through issues, and built relationships and let go of old ones. All in all I have become the woman I want to be; educated, understanding, and loving. Also, I never, NEVER would have made it this far without my family’s encouragement. So don’t forget to thank whoever has pushed you to be your greatest self; they deserve it as much as you do.

Always,

learnandbewithme

My Fitness Journey

Fitness journeys are all the rage in social media right now with people telling their stories of how they lost 60 pounds, found themselves through yoga, or how this new fad diet changed their life. I definitely fit into this category of life changing discovery through fitness, but in a much different way than a lot of my peers at the time.

Starting from the beginning, I cheered for the four years while attending high school and that was my source of activity that kept me in shape. I was a late bloomer when it came to puberty (I didn’t hit puberty until the middle of my freshman year!) so I came into high school relatively slim and a lack of a woman’s figure. Once I started my senior year I found that I was putting on weight much faster than I could keep up with maintaining. Once cheerleading season was over, it left me with almost no physical activity at all. By the end of my high school career, I was close to 150 pounds and didn’t really feel confident in my own body.

(Left: my freshman year of high school , right: beginning of freshman year of college)

I would never consider myself ‘fat’ or ‘ugly’ by any means. I was just simply not satisfied with my health or my physical ability. I never had a gym membership or the knowledge to know what I had to do to reach the goal I wanted to achieve. The summer before my first year of college I can remember getting out my journal and writing down how I was uncomfortable with how I let myself go. I wasn’t eating healthy options, I wasn’t exercising enough, and I had put on a lot of weight in the span of three years. I wanted a change. So I wrote in my journal that I was going to become the ‘best me’. I started jogging around my neighborhood for about thirty minutes a day and then practicing ab routines for a cool down. I found my brother’s old dumbbell weights in the attic and would do bicep curls and squats. This is all I knew how to do and I resulted to Pinterest ‘at home routines’ and thought that was enough. I changed my diet to eating ‘healthier,’ but I didn’t understand what portion control was.

About a month into freshman year, I met Jared. We exchanged numbers and during the ‘getting to know you’ phase, I sent a text saying, “brb, gotta go workout.” He was very intrigued because he was attracted to athletic girls who took care of themselves and wanted to know more about my normal workout routine. I explained what I did, and after that he probably concluded that I had no idea what I was talking about. This is when he mentioned lifting weights and how I should think about getting into it. My first initial thought was, “no way! I’m not going to become manly just for some guy to like me!” But I told him I’d give it some research. He suggested some YouTube videos of lifters who he would occasionally watch and I gave them a shot. Flash forward to a few weeks and my best friend and I started planning days to go to the gym together to test the waters. I even found myself doing research for class projects on why lifting weights as women is so important! I became addicted. Jared and I started lifting and going to the gym together and it eventually became one of our favorite things to do as a couple. I always thought that women who lifted weights ended up with manlier figures. This was very naive of me and with some research and understanding, I came to the realization that muscle mass means strong, not bulky. A little definition never hurt anyone’s self esteem! If anything, seeing more muscle definition has increased my self esteem over the years tremendously.

At this point I then understood what it meant between sets and reps, separate days for each muscle group, how to work each muscle differently, and how often I needed to train to make a difference. After lifting for a year, I went on my very first cut. Jared helped me through it all and encouraged me to keep going when I felt like giving up. He truly helped make a difference in my life. I started my first cut (weight loss) in January of 2016 alongside Jared. I lost a total of 24 pounds through the span of about a year and I never felt better about myself. I became stronger, more confident, and aware of the decisions I was making. I found that I was no longer craving fast food or junk food such as chips or high calorie drinks. I was choosing to go to the gym than to sit on the couch and watch TV all day. I even feel that lifting changed my outlook on education and doing well in school than the usual thoughts I had about just getting by. It taught me hard work pays off, and if I wanted to get to the gym and lift, I knew I had to get my homework and studying completed before doing so.

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The left was from the start of my fitness journey, and the right was one year later

The cut took a lot of dedication and I found it to be very difficult a lot of the times. I had to plan my meals out daily instead of just reaching for the closes thing in the pantry. I would weigh out each food options to make sure I was eating the correct amount per serving and made it to the gym daily. My consistency is what got me to this point in my fitness journey that I am so incredibly grateful for and remain proud of myself everyday. This was results with little to no cardio included and it was only 20% going to the gym and 80% diet. It is so important to understand that it takes time and patience. Results don’t just happen over night. Once I changed my mindset to making it routine in order to feel good each day and forget about waiting on the results, the faster the process felt. One day I just woke up, looked in the mirror, and was amazed with what I saw. It also can’t only be about wanting to look good in a bikini in the summer; you have to want to make a change in your life for your physical and even your mental health. You’ll find that you have more energy, you sleep better, you feel stronger, and you’ll find that it’s easier to make better habits for yourself such as going to the gym consistently and choosing to eat foods that nurture your body. All of these things are what encourages me to keep pushing myself in and outside of the gym.

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Last summer at my lowest weight

Lifting weights is not for everyone, and I’m definitely not saying that’s the only way to reach your goal. It’s about choosing something you’re passionate about (it could be running, yoga, gymnastics, cross fit, literally anything you want) and dedicating time out of your day to practice that. And learning that food is to help your body, not to make you feel bad about yourself for eating. I continue daily to improve my fitness and health due to this realization I had a few years ago and I hope after reading this it will encourage you to start on your own path towards greatness. I’ve never felt more confident in myself like I have the past three years since lifting has come into my life. I look in the mirror and love the way my body looks. I continue to make goals for myself because I know I can reach them with some hard work, knowledge, and dedication.

This blog post was meant to share my fitness journey of where I started to where I am today. For those who may be interested, I will be sure to break down exactly how I reached my goals and tips on how to maintain your muscle and weight in a separate blog post.

Always,

learnandbewithme

Keeping Your Goals a Secret

There’s an important life lesson that I have slowly stumbled upon in my last few years of college, and that is if I want to succeed in something; something being a goal, a hobby, life changes etc., keeping them a secret is the key to accomplishing those goals with flying colors.

This has been a life experience for myself while in school because college is most certainly a time to discover yourself and understand your true interests. I’ve often changed my attitude about healthy life choices, discovered activities that I enjoy doing and want to continue doing, and the struggle with these life changes is that I always find myself giving up on the challenge, not devoting enough time, or feel discouraged from continuing. I’ve always heard that if you have a group of people behind you to encourage your new interests that you are more likely to succeed. I don’t entirely agree or disagree with this statement…

I have great friends in my life, and we share many of the same interests. Sadly, I find that sharing my hobbies or goals with my friends became an on going competition. So many of my peers want to be the best at everything, get into avocations that aren’t necessarily their style (everyone wants to be a part of the latest trends), and they want to be noticed as the person who is the most passionate for that specific thing. I get that. Especially because I have found myself doing the same on occasion. But the older I get, the more I realize that my passions and goals are for myself, not for everyone else. I am a firm believer in expressing yourself and showing the world of your true colors, but I just want to help my readers achieve that end goal of being a true “yoga guru,” “insta fit model,” or “foodie” without the competitions of your peers or the discouragement of those around you.

I first discovered this motto about three years ago with my fitness goals. One day I woke up and decided I was sick of how my body looked and I wanted to change that. I wanted to make healthier life choices and feel my strongest and best self. When I told my friends about my goals and aspirations, they couldn’t be more supportive. It wasn’t until I actually started losing weight and showing results that they became a little less ecstatic about my journey. They would make comments about how silly it was that I watched what I ate, and they definitely didn’t agree with how often I went to the gym. The way that I train isn’t for everyone, but I started to realize that my peers were just angry at themselves for not making those changes in their lives. I would sometimes get discouraged with the way they reacted over my results, but I soon learned to keep my mouth shut and to stop informing them on where I was at in my journey. Fast forward two years and I can’t even count on one hand of how many of my friends have requested my assistance in helping them change their fitness goals to succeed, so they look the way that I do. If I didn’t stop informing my friends of my goals, I would have probably given up on myself a long time ago. But I found that keeping it to myself and just letting my actions do the talking, that I have created my best self who is stronger than she has ever been and has the body she has always wanted.

I don’t want you (my readers) to think that I don’t believe in encouragement of others or think that support isn’t the way to go. A lot of the times it is the only way. If you have a goal to change in your life because of a serious health issue, than support groups and close friends and families are terrific ways to accomplish those goals. All I am saying is to make sure that your friends and family are truly supportive of what your are doing and want to see you succeed. My fiance Jared is that person for me. I would have never made it this far in any of my hobbies or goals if I didn’t have his support. In the end, your goals and hobbies are about making you happy and successful and at the end of the day, if you are truly passionate about something, people will take notice!

Always,

learnandbewithme

Blue Apron: Review

What a wonderful world to live in! One where our dinners can be dropped off right outside our doorsteps with perfect portion sizes and recipes to die for. I have embarked on this food journey recently and after preparing and enjoying the meals sent to me, I felt a review was in order!

My fiance, Jared, and I signed up for Blue Apron about two weeks ago, and to be completely honest, it’s because I despise grocery shopping. I know, everyone must think I’m crazy because if you love food as much as Jared and I do, then you’re excited about purchases all your favorite goodies. But for me, if I’m not going up and down every aisle picking out anything and everything I find exciting, then I’m not having it. That doesn’t really work out in our favor as adults with routines since that leaves us with no meal plans throughout the week. Which results in bad habits of eating and not receiving the right nutrients needed for a healthy life style. Also, Jared and I love cooking together! It really brings us closer and gives us our ‘together’ time that we very much enjoy. We have both always wanted to try those ‘at home’ meal delivery service so we did some research and Blue Apron was our number one choice!

We originally went with Blue Apron because of the option of only getting vegetarian meals. Although we are not avid vegetarians, we do like to cut back our meat intake when we can. And trust me, those vegetarian options are just as tasty as the next one (or so I like to think). In a family of two, you can get three meals delivered to your door once a week. They portion everything out perfectly so you don’t have to worry about waste or if you’re eating too much in one serving. Even each cream, seasoning, or veggie comes with exactly enough for you and your boyfriend, girlfriend, mom, dad, grandma, or whoever you decide to experience this with! Also, a plus of Blue Apron is that they take pride on all of their foods being fresh and organic! Woohoo, a win already! We chose the option for them to deliver every Sunday giving us a good start to the week ahead.

I love experiencing new things in life, and learning to enjoy cooking is one of them. Don’t get me wrong, I love trying new recipes, but I always saw cooking as tedious and I would always wait until I was starving to make it. Then I would find myself being more angry about my food not being ready. So for those of you who aren’t quite sure if they would like cooking, or are afraid they would be bad at it, Blue Apron would be perfect for you. They come with super easy instructions on how to do everything, pictures and measurements of all the ingredients you need in front of you, how long it takes to make, and they even have videos on their app on how to do something if you’re unsure! I find that very helpful seeing as I am definitely the kind of person who second guesses everything they do! And for the meals you really enjoy, you always have the recipe with the measurements of each item so you can make them again and again!

 

(The meal shown above is sweet potato quesadillas, yum!)

Everything that appears to be perfect, they too have their flaws; I have a couple of down sides to cooking the Blue Apron meals. Each Blue Apron comes with a time frame of how long each recipe takes to cook. Cooking really is a masterpiece and I know masterpieces take time, but when there’s a recipe that takes a whole hour to prepare and make, I sometimes get a little aggravated. Of course, this is by no means a reason not to try it out, but if you’re looking for a quick fix, these meals are not for you. They each take approximately 30 minutes to an hour to prepare and serve.

Blue Apron has made Jared and I’s evenings much smoother now that we know we have meals to choose from. We just simply pull out the recipes, decide on what to have based on our moods, and get to cooking! I have really had a pleasant experience with Blue Apron and we both agree this is a good use of our money. Especially now that were not wasting money on food we cant eat enough of before it goes bad (fresh produce of course), and spending loads of money going out to eat at restaurants (which we do very often). Out of the few weeks we have been receiving Blue Apron, we have yet to prepare a meal that we didn’t enjoy. Lastly, it keeps us in our own kitchen creating something we can be proud of! So get going on your research if this is something you would be interested in, and discover it for yourself!

Always,

learnandbewithme