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    What I Read in Spring 2021

    Welcome back to another book review with what I read during spring of 2021!

    April was a slow reading month for me because I felt a little burnt out from so much reading in March.

    Then in May I ramped it up again and finished 6 books!

    I am currently at 17/30 on my Goodreads challenge and have no doubts I will exceed my reading goal for this year.

    Keep reading to find out what I have been reading lately!

    If you want to check out other monthly what I read posts click here!

    March

    Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

    Rating: 5 out of 5.

    I saw the 1997 film version of Little Women at a sleepover when I was a girl and it has been my favorite movie ever since.

    I even visited the Louisa May Alcott home in Concord, MA but I never read the book until this year!

    I am glad I did because it was amazing! It was so charming and had tons of good vibes. Highly recommend this one!

    Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

    Rating: 5 out of 5.

    LOVE THIS!

    I picked this book because I wanted to read something that talked about nature for spring and it did not disappoint.

    Like Little Women, it had plenty of feel good vibes.

    This is also a perfect choice if you want to read a cottagecore aesthetic book.

    The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory

    Rating: 3 out of 5.

    This is the last book I needed to read in the Philippa Gregory Tudor and Plantagenet series.

    I was already aware of the storyline of this book since I watched the ShowTime series the White Queen a handful of times and that show followed a bit of Anne Nevilles story.

    I really enjoyed the entire series and although this one wasn’t my least favorite, it wasn’t one of the best either.

    The Neanderthals Rediscovered by Dimitra Papagianni

    Rating: 3 out of 5.

    I wanted to learn more about the Neanderthals after reading Sapiens by Yuval Harari.

    This book was short but I found it a bit hard to follow along.

    Additionally, early modern humans and other homo species were discussed fairly often.

    If you want a brief history on our ancient ancestors this would be a good book to start with.

    The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

    Rating: 3 out of 5.

    This is a wildly popular book that I have seen all over Goodreads but I was disappointed by all the hype.

    The story was interesting enough but the moral undertone wasn’t my cup of tea and nothing I haven’t heard before.

    April

    Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen by Alison Weir

    Rating: 4 out of 5.

    This is the first book in Alison Weir’s historical fiction series covering the lives of Henry VIII’s six wives. 

    I previously read the novels about Anne Boylen and Jane Seymour and really enjoyed them. 

    This one was not as good as those two, but still a good novel. 

    The story line is very similar to Phillipa Gregory’s The Constant Princess novel so I was already very familiar with Katherines story. 

    Change Your Schedule, Change Your life by Suhas Kshirsagar

    Rating: 5 out of 5.

    I really enjoyed this book and took pages of notes! 

    This book focuses on the ancient Indian health and wellness system of Ayrevada. The author explains how to use Ayrevada wellness to change your schedule and optimize your health.

    This book was straight to the point and gave very specific routines for your Ayrevada type.

    May

    The Burning Land: Book 4 of The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell

    Rating: 5 out of 5.

    Another fantastic historical fiction novel from Cornwell!

    The Last Kingdom series has not disappointed at all as I have loved all 4 books so far.

    I enjoy the Netflix series based on the books, but the books are so much better and I highly recommend them if you are a fan of the show.

    The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller

    Rating: 5 out of 5.

    I heard about this book through a Gilmore Girls reading challenge on YouTube and was pleasantly surprised.

    Normally romance books aren’t my cup of tea but this book has so much small town charm with a hint of rebellion that I didn’t once feel like gagging!

    In fact, I loved this book and plan on buying this one to read again!

    It definitely had the Gilmore Girls vibe as well.

    Royal Witches: Witchcraft and the Nobility in the Fifteenth Century by Gemma Hollman

    Rating: 3 out of 5.

    I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. I thought maybe it will discuss the possibility of these infamous women actually being witches with evidence supporting the claims.

    It turns out that this book covers how these women were accused as witches for political reasons with a heavy focus on their biographies.

    I found the book interesting but I was already aware of the biographies of Jacquetta of Luxemburg and Elizabeth Woodville.

    It is worth a read if you enjoy English history and the roles women played in historical times.

    The Little Book of Hygge: the Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking

    Rating: 3 out of 5.

    I read this book to find out what all the hype is around hygge.

    I found the Danish culture and tradition of hygge interesting but after reading I don’t feel like you can really experience hygge unless you actually are a Dane or live amongst them for a longer period of time.

    Many of the traditions are similar to the American versions of I guess what we would call cozy; candles (lots and lots of candles), dim lights, sweets and pastries, fuzzy blankets, etc.

    I listened to an audio version of this book but I think it would be a good reread in the fall or winter to give me some inspiration on brining warmth into my home during the cooler months.

    Hadrian’s Wall by Adrian Goldsworthy

    Rating: 3 out of 5.

    A brief and thorough history of Hadrians Wall.

    The author gives background to the wall as far as where, why and how it was built. The book goes over how the wall was used during the Roman occupation.

    The book was full of information but I found it a bit dry and not engaging. I did listen to this as an audiobook so maybe I would feel more engaged if I read it.

    My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

    Rating: 5 out of 5.

    This has been one of my favorite books since I was a child! This is probably the fourth time I have read it and I love it everytime.

    Although the story focuses on a boy who runs away from home to live in the woods, as a 30 year old woman, I still want to run away to the woods and live off the land.

    This is a great book if you like foraging, the forest and nature.

    There is also two more books in the series but they are not as good as the first one in my opinion.

    Currently Reading

    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling 

    Getting Things Done: the Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen 

    The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir

    Home Sweet Maison: The French Art of Making a Home by Danielle Postel-Viney

    The Bookshop of the Corner by Jenny Colgan

    Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Style Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott

    Until Next Time,

    Rachel

    16 Things I Learned in my 20’s

    The most valuable life lessons I learned before turning 30

    In October of 2020 I turned 30. 

    When I was younger I always imagined a glamorous party to celebrate being what I thought was old. 

    I swore I would cry the day I turned 30…but I didn’t. 

    Instead, the day passed just like any other day, but inside I was glad to no longer be part of the 20 something crowd. 

    Strangely, I felt like I was finally a real adult, and perhaps now I will be taken seriously by the rest of the adult population. I somehow doubt that though.

    While my twenties were full of fun and carelessness, I learned many hard lessons. Lessons that I still think back to on a regular basis and try not to cringe.

    I firmly believe in the “learn from your mistakes” mantra and am grateful I have these valuable life lessons. 

    These lessons are so important to me that I want to share them with you all. 

    Without further ado, here are 16 Things I learned in my 20s.

    16 Things I Learned in my 20's

    Things I Learned in my 20’s

    Friends come and go and there is nothing wrong with that

    When I was younger I thought that my circle of friends would stay together well after college. The reality is that as I got older, I naturally grew apart from almost all my friends. 

    This seems to be a common trend within the small amount of people I socialize with now. 

    People change, move away, have different schedules, get married, have kids, etc making friendships forged in high school and college difficult to maintain. I have come to accept that some people aren’t meant to be in your life forever. 

    Do not invest all your time into a romantic relationship

    This is a hard lesson to learn and something I struggled with for a long time from one relationship to the next. 

    Ultimately, I learned that it’s not worth giving up my health, jobs, vacations, nights out with friends and opportunities because of your partner. 

    It wasn’t worth my time sitting around waiting for them.

    Focusing on myself, doing things on my own and making my own decisions has given me far more happiness.

    Personal finance is way more important than you think

    Personal finance should be a required course in high school (it might be in some, but wasn’t in my school). I wish I would have discovered Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and other finance books out there before I got myself in $40k worth of debt. 

    To be honest, most of the financial advice you hear from people (including your parents) is bullshit and horrible advice. 

    I wish I would have known this in my 20s so I could have started my 30s debt free with more money in savings and investments.

    black envelope with cash dollars on marble table
    Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

    People will always tell you to get married, have kids, and buy a house — don’t listen to them!

    Unless that is what you truly want. 

    No seriously…not what your partner wants or your parents want or what society wants but what YOU want.

    Marriage, kids and housing require a lot of time, money and energy. This trilogy should not be taken lightly. 

    Personally, I’ve known since I was in high school that I didn’t want to get married or have kids and my whole life I have been told I’ll change my mind. 

    Guess what?! I haven’t. 

    And as far as home owning goes…I cannot imagine adding more debt to my students loans plus the purchasing and upkeep costs. No thanks.

    Nothing good comes from social media and you are better without it

    In the past, I had an array of social media accounts. Now I don’t have a single social account (I don’t consider Pinterest social media by the way).

    Social media has taken over our whole lives and I don’t think that is a good thing.

    Now there are influencers, Tik Tok, and more and more studies making correlations between social media use and mental health issues.

    Since deleting all of my accounts, I don’t miss social media and have noticed I am more productive and happier without it.

    Being alone with yourself is extremely important to your growth

    After college, I lived with my friend who worked an opposite schedule from me and my ex-boyfriend was hardly ever around. This resulted in a lot of free time which I never really had before.

    This was probably one of the most creative periods of my life. I got back into art and became more knowledgeable in cooking and baking. I also can credit this time for discovering my love for history from binge-watching The Tudors.

    Eventually, I moved into my current apartment and lived totally alone for a while, and was able to make all the decorating and home decisions.

    I am so grateful I had that time alone to figure out my hobbies.

    creative female artisan drawing in workshop
    Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

    Be yourself

    I spent so much time in college trying to dress trendy or dress how other girls at my school were dressing. 

    Or I would wear makeup because that is what everyone else does even though I hated the way it felt on my skin. 

    Now I don’t even own makeup and wear whatever makes me feel comfortable. 

    Being myself goes a lot further than just appearances.

    I realised I can’t live for other people’s expectations.

    I have accepted that I like what I like, I hate what I hate, and I am who I am without shame or guilt.

    Learn to say no

    This is such a vital lesson. 

    I believe that as humans we try to please everyone and we agree to all sorts of things we don’t want to do or have time to do. 

    Saying no is so powerful and freeing. 

    Learning to say no has led me to focusing on what really matters and what is going to make me happy.

    Don’t be on time…be early and definitely don’t be late

    In my early 20s I was never on time to anything. Looking back I shake my head at the flaky and unreliable person I was.

    I found it’s better to be early to appointments, meetings and the like because it shows that you have got it together. 

    Plus, you never know what unforeseen circumstances may arise to make you unintentionally late. 

    Let go!

    Letting go of anger, jealousy, guilt, the past and so many other things has led me to so much happiness. 

    I remember being young and so angry at the world for reasons that I don’t even know. 

    I’ve realized that arguing with people on the internet or in person is never going to solve anything or do anything for the greater good.

    Get rid of toxic relationships

    Dr Lillian Glass defines toxic relationships in her book Toxic People as “any relationship [between people who] don’t support each other, where there’s conflict and one seeks to undermine the other, where there’s competition, where there’s disrespect and a lack of cohesiveness.”

    I have experienced a couple of these relationships in my 20’s and I walked away. Some people were always against me, always negative, and made me feel like shit even though we were supposedly good friends. 

    You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone

    I don’t have to explain who I am, why I do the things I do, think the way I think or live the way I live. 

    In the past, I felt like any sort of critique or inquiry into what or why I was doing something in my life needed an explanation. Now I realize I certainly don’t need to explain myself or give any justification. 

    16 Things I Learned in my 20's
    Photo by Ekrulila on Pexels.com

    Having a career isn’t everything

    Throughout college I thought success was having a fancy job title, climbing the corporate ladder and making lots of money and working. 

    I couldn’t have been further from the truth!

    I have come to realize that a career is the least important thing in my life.

    My friends, family, health and happiness are worth more than any career can ever give me. 

    You don’t need a college degree to be successful

    For some reason, I thought having a college degree as part of the key to a successful career and future. Maybe that is because that is what we are told by our teachers, parents, and community leaders during our childhoods.

    From the previous lesson, you can see that I realized a career isn’t everything and neither is a degree.

    Truth be told, if I could start over again I don’t know if I would go to college and get a degree because I am not sure if it is worth it.

    Your health should be your #1 priority

    In my 20’s I felt invincible. 

    Death, disease or the consequences of all the junk food never crossed my mind. 

    How was I to know that smoking could possibly give me wrinkles by the time I turned 30. 

    Of course I knew all of this stuff wasn’t good for me but it wasn’t affecting me then.

    Now I wish I had never smoked and ate whole, healthy foods my entire life.

    On top of that, my mental health was so poor in my youth.

    I never practiced self-care or paid attention to my body. I was unhappy and angry all the time.

    I am so glad I took myself seriously and started a healthy lifestyle and mindset journey that has been life-changing!

    PS. IF YOU WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SELF-CARE CHECK OUT MY POST HERE!

    Don’t take too much on at once

    So many times I have made this mistake. 

    I had tons of goals and things I want to accomplish. I would get excited about them and load all of them onto my plate at once. Then I became burnt out, overwhelmed, and guess what? I didn’t complete my goals. 

    Through trial and error, I have learned that taking one step at a time and breaking down goals into mini-goals is the best way to achieve success without overwhelming myself.

    16 Things I learned in my 20’s #1 Takeaway

    Now that you know the 16 things I learned in my 20’s I wanted to share what my #1 takeaway is from all these lessons.

    Out of all these important life lessons the most important thing is making my health my #1 priority.

    I can’t help but wondering if I had taken care of my body and mind earlier instead of abusing it if I would feel better and look better now.

    Of course we can’t change our past so I am doing the best I can now to make up for it.

    What lesson resounded with you the most? What lessons did you learn in your 20’s?

    Thanks for reading!

    -Rachel

    Books I Read in February 2021

    A mini-review of all the books I read in February 2021

    Greetings! It has been awhile since I have wrote about what I have been reading so I thought I would share the books I read in February 2021.

    For my 2021 Goodreads challenge I set a goal of reading 30 books this year which is lower then the 44 books I read in 2020. I wanted to read a bit less this year because I am planning on reading some longer books.

    As of today, March 15, I am ahead of schedule and have read 8 books so far!

    I will likely finish another two this month from my currently reading list below.

    Here is what I read in February….

    Click here for my previous books I read.

    dried plants in opened book on cozy bed
    Photo by Ena Marinkovic on Pexels.com

    Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

    Rating: 5 out of 5.

    This was such a good read!
    I’ve seen this book floating around the internet for a few years now as it has been on multiple bestseller lists.
    This book covers the history of humans from the origin until the present day.
    The thing I liked the most about this book was that the author made you question everything we assume about life and the works we live in.
    If you like history and books that make you think deeply I highly recommend this one.

    Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia Puigcerver

    Rating: 4 out of 5.

    A very interesting book that I plan on reading again. This book uncovers the secrets behind Japanese longevity and happiness.
    I am hoping to incorporate some of these ideas into my life and see how it turns out.

    Sword Song by Bernard Cornwall

    Rating: 5 out of 5.

    Sword Song is the 4th book in the Saxon Stories series that the hit Netflix show, The Last Kingdom, is based on.
    I absolutely love this series! I find the books to be far better than the Netflix show.
    It is so well written that I can’t put the books down once I start them.

    Currently Reading…

    Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
    Stardust by Neil Gaiman
    Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity by David Allen

    Until Next Time

    Have you read any good books lately? Let me know in the comments below!

    Farewell until then,

    Rachel

    10 Delightful Ways to Celebrate the Return of Spring

    10 Delightful Ways to Celebrate the Return of Spring

    The cold, dark days of winter are behind us. Here are 10 ways to celebrate the return of spring.

    10 Delightful Ways to Celebrate the Return of Spring

    Hello and welcome! Today I wanted to share with you some of my favorite ways to celebrate spring!

    Spring is my second favorite season of the year (Autumn is #1).

    I find it so magical to watch the nature be reborn. It is so exciting to go outside and see the animals and plants come out to welcome the return of the sun.

    Take a Spring Hike or Walk

    Head out to your local forest or park to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.

    While you are out don’t forget to look for signs of spring:

    • Birds are chirping and flying around.
    • Robins are a sure sign spring is upon us.
    • Woodpeckers will be drumming away.
    • Migratory birds, like ducks and geese, are beginning to return.
    • Early spring flowers include crocuses, daffodils, snowdrops, and bluebells are blooming.
    • Trees and bushes will start to grow buds.
    • The smell of spring. Early spring smells of wet, musty earth; decaying leaves, and the muddy top layer of soil that has start thawing.

    Do Some Spring Cleaning

    Cleaning is not fun to everyone and it can become quite a chore. However, once it finally starts to get warm it can be good to get all of the winter grime cleaned up.

    Some spring cleaning ideas:

    • Wash your car to get road dirt and rock salt off
    • Wash your house windows
    • Take rugs and doormats outside and beat them to get the dirt off
    • Do a thorough mopping to clean up any leftover rock salt off your floors
    • Dust furniture

    Plan this Years Gardening

    Once March rolls around I start researching and planning any flowers or crops I am going to plant for the upcoming year.

    Since I live in a suburban apartment, my planting options are limited to container gardening so I typically grow tomatoes and peppers.

    Additonally, I like to do some container flower arrangements for the front porch.

    I great resource to learn more about planting seasonally is the farmers’ almanac. The farmers’ almanac has many guides on what you should be doing each week.

    Cook with Seasonal Foods

    One of my favorite parts about the return of spring is that farmers markets will be opening soon!

    For anyone else who lives in Pennsylvania, early spring means nettles, mint, morels and other mushrooms are coming in season.

    I try to buy local, in season foods because they taste so much better then anything you can get in a grocery store.

    You can also forage foods, but more on that later.

    If you don’t know what foods are season in your area and you live in the USA you can go to this website, select your state, month and it will give you a list of items in season.

    Bake a Seasonal Treat

    Food is a common way humans have celebrated the changing of seasons for thousands of years.

    This year I hope to bake hot cross buns as it has been on my spring bucket list for two years now!

    Some other spring treats you can bake:

    • Lemon Pound Cake or Quick Bread
    • Carrot Cake
    • Berry Scones
    • Custard Pie
    10 Delightful Ways to Celebrate the Return of Spring

    Go Foraging

    During your spring forest walk you can also forage for wild plants.

    Edible and medicinal plants vary by region, but in Pennsylvania spring plants for foraging can include:

    • Dandelions. Yes, that is right! The common weed is edible!
    • Fiddlehead ferns
    • Nettles (Dead/Purple Nettle and Stinging Nettle)
    • Wild garlic
    • Chickweed
    • Wild Violets
    • Garlic Mustard
    • Plantain
    • Red Clover

    I do want to err on the side of caution when it comes to foraging. It is extremely important that you correctly identify plants, ethically collect plants, collect plants in an area without pollution, and collect in an area that you have permission to collect in. I HIGHLY recommend that you do research on foraging before going out to pick plants. There are many resources online.

    Enjoy the warmth of the sun

    If there is one only thing you do to celebrate the return of spring, this is it!

    Get out there and feel the warmth of the sun on your bare skin, listen to the birds’ chirp and smell the season!

    Even just taking 5 minutes of your day to step outside and take a moment to recognize the change in the earth is a magical way to celebrate the return of spring.

    Read a Spring Themed Book or Poetry

    This spring, I decided to start reading the Anne of Green Gables series.

    This classic novel is whimsical, dreamy, and felt like a perfect spring read!

    The story is set on a farm on Prince Edward Island, Canada, and the author perfectly captures the seasons within the personality of Anne.

    Two other books that I considered and may still read this spring are The Botanists Daughter by Kayte Nunn and The Language of Spring: Poems for the Season of Renewal.

    “Everything is made new in the spring. Springs themselves are always so new, too. No spring is ever just like any other spring. It always has something of its own to be its peculiar sweetness.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island

    Create a Spring Capsule Wardrobe

    Don’t get me wrong, I love sweaters but once the spring comes around I am ready to trade in sweaters and coats for skirts and dresses.

    I go over my wardrobe seasonally to make any changes or updates.

    This year the number 1 item I want to thrift is a denim/chambray button-down flowy skirt.

    I am leaning toward vintage, cottagecore vibes lately and I think this one item can make tons of different outfits.

    Bring Fresh Flowers Into Your Home

    As soon as tulips and daffodils are available at my local grocery store or florist I make sure to get some!

    The best thing about daffodils and tulips is that after they bloom in the pots you store the bulbs over the summer and replant the bulbs outside. With the right care, they will return year after year!

    Final Thoughts on Ways to Celebrate Spring

    Thank you for reading the 10 ways to celebrate the return of spring!

    I hope you are able to take advantage of this wondrous time of the year and live in the season and the moment.

    Let me know in the comments below how you celebrate.

    Until next time,

    Rachel

    PS. IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST CLICK HERE TO READ MY OTHER SEASONAL LIVING POSTS.

    27 Things I Stopped Buying as a Minimalist

    These were the first things I stopped buying as a beginner minimalist and low waster!

    In today’s post, I wanted to share with you the first things I stopped buying after taking a step towards minimalism and low waste.

    You are probably familiar with minimalism and zero-waste lifestyle trends that are all over social media and the web. 

    These terms probably give you images of a year’s worth of trash in a mason jar, people selling all of their belongings, and living in an empty apartment.

    That’s what I thought too.

    I assumed these lifestyle choices were a ridiculous, trendy, attention-seeking scam on Instagram and YouTube. However, I was still curious about all the hype and decided to research further.

    Although I did find people who I believe are touting these terms for internet fame, I did find a couple of YouTubers who were sincere about their lifestyle. These true minimalists helped to open my eyes to what these lifestyle choices really mean. 

    A minimalist lifestyle is about getting rid of all the stuff that clutters our life and as Marie Konda put it…doesn’t bring us joy.

    It’s about living a simpler and intentional life.

    Zero or low waste is about protecting the planet and making the world a healthier place for us now and for humans in the future. 

    Embracing Minimalism…

    Surprisingly, I really connected with the overall purpose and concept of minimalism.

    I started embracing the idea of owning less, decluttering my space, and my mind.

    Additionally, I realized that taking on some of the zero waste principles could significantly reduce my current spending and help towards achieving financial goals. 

    I am only a year into my journey, but I have gotten rid of so much stuff I have no use for, started making more conscious spending and purchasing habits, and overall feel much happier with my home environment and my life.

    In the next few paragraphs, I created a list of everything I have stopped buying and the items I still own, but would not buy again. 

    Some of these items are a bit of a no brainer, but I found keeping a list helps when you run out of one-time use items so you can find a long term alternative.

    Things I Stopped Buying:

    • Paper Products (plates, napkins, paper towels, dryer sheets & plastic utensils) 
    • Multiple and Excessive Amounts of Makeup, Beauty & Skincare Products
    • Subscription Boxes (Excluding the Misfit Market box)
    • Fast Fashion 
    • Processed Foods (Salad Dressing, Pasta Sauce, Pizza Sauce, etc.)
    • Plastic Razors
    • Jewelry 
    • Plastic Lint Rollers
    • Most One Use Items
    • Limiting Brand New Purchases and Shopping Second Hand First
    • Uncomfortable Shoes & Clothing
    • Special Occasion Clothing
    • Specialty Kitchen Gadgets (Toaster Oven, Air Fryer, Instant Pot, Keurig )
    • Plastic Water Bottles
    • Buying Things Because They are on Sale
    • Paid Apps
    • Fast Food
    • Most Items Made from Plastic
    • Multiples and Duplicates of the Same Things
    • Shaving Cream
    • Nail Polish
    • Face Wipes
    • Cooking Spray
    • Swiffer Dusters and Mops
    • Plastic Food Storage Containers
    • Holiday Decorations

    Things I Still Have, But Will Not Buy Again:

    • Candles
    • Nonstick Pans
    • Plastic Kitchen Items & Cookware
    • Most OTC Medicines
    • Perfume
    • Wrapping Paper/Gift Bags/Etc
    • Microwave
    • Coffee Maker

    So there you have it! All the things I stopped buying within my first year of transitioning to a minimalist and low waste lifestyle. 

    Is there anything that didn’t make the list that you don’t buy as a minimalist or zero waster? Let me know in the comments below.

    Until next time,

    Rachel

    Things I Stopped Buying
    Things I Stopped Buying

    The Books I Read in July 2020

    A mini-review of all the books I read in July 2020.

    The Books I Read in July 2020

    As I mentioned in the If We Were Having Coffee post, I am adding some new themes and interests on the blog. This includes the new monthly series What I Read This Month that I am debuting with this post!

    I know some other bloggers do this as well, and I thought this would be a great way to transition into writing more about books and entertainment on the blog. 

    What to Expect

    Each month I will be posting a mini-review of all the books I read from the month prior and give each book a rating. 

    I like to read different subjects, but I mainly stick to classics, personal development, history, and historical fiction books.

    If you read a book that fits my vibes and think I would like it, please feel free to let me know in the comments.

    Also, if you would like a full review of a book I read, let me know in the comment section as well!

    Lastly, like many book nerds, I am Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge. I decided to step up my game this year and read or audiobook a book a week, so 52 books in 2020. So far, I am at 19, so I am about 11 books behind, but I am confident I can get close to my goal by the end of the year.

    Without further ado, here are the books I read in July 2020!

    What I Read in July 2020

    Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

    Rating: 5/5

    Rich Dad Poor Dad was first published in 1997 and is still one of the most recommended personal finance books 13 years later. Rich Dad Poor Dad is the first personal finance book I ever read, and I am so glad I chose this one because it has given me a sense of direction in how to break away from being an employee by being financially literate.

    Read in July 2020

    The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey

    Rating: 4/5

    I read three finance books in July and this was my second read. The Total Money Makeover is another popular finance book that comes highly recommended by finance YouTubers and bloggers. Ramsey’s book was much more straightforward and less of a story than Rich Dad Poor Dad, but the book offers some great advice and some that I don’t exactly agree with. Regardless, I am currently following the second Total Money Makeover step and trying to pay my debts down using the snowball effect. 

    Read in July 2020

    The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason

    Rating: 3/5

    The third finance book I read in July. I had a hard time getting into this one and felt like I didn’t get to absorb the book and what the author was conveying. I did manage to take away the idea of paying myself first. I would like to give this book a second chance and reread it to see if I can follow along with the storyline more clearly.

    Read in July 2020

    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

    Rating: 4/5 

    I am embarrassed to say that at 29 years old, this is the first Jane Austen novel I have ever read. I recently had an interest in classic books and decided to start with Pride and Prejudice as it was a shorter novel to read. The novel was quaint and romantic. I plan on rereading it to enjoy getting into the internal thoughts of the characters. I also want to watch the on screens versions of the novel. 

    Read in July 2020

    The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

    Rating: 5/5 

    The Lady of the Rivers is the first book in the Plantagenet and Tudor novel series by Philippa Gregory. I had initially started the series by reading The Constant Princess, which focused on Katherine of Aragon and worked my way up from there. Now I am starting at the beginning and reading the first few novels in the series. I don’t love all of the books in the series, but this one is good and one of my favorites out of all 15 novels. 

    Currently Reading…

    The White Queen by Philippa Gregory 

    How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

    The Queen’s Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile by C. W. Gortner

    Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

    Until Next Time

    Have you read any of the books I mentioned? If so let me know what you thought of them in the comments below.

    Stay tuned for next month’s post to find out what I read in August!

    Rachel

    Book Review

    If We Were Having Coffee…August 2020

    If We Were Having Coffee...August 2020

    It’s been a while since my first if we were having coffee post. Plus I took a four-month hiatus from blogging, so it seems to be an excellent time to get caught up. 

    We are all aware of the significant changes that have happened across the globe since March, so I will not go into details with that, but I would like to announce some changes that have happened in my life that will affect the blog.

    So grab a cup of coffee or tea, find a relaxing spot, light a candle, and let’s chat!

    If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I now work from home permanently full time, and I love it!

    Like many others in the country, I started working from home in March. My company had advised it would be a temporary measure for a couple of months and then we could come back into the office. 

    I already had one work from home day a week and was longing to have more, but I thought working full-time from home was a dream.

    Luckily, after two months, the company found that having everyone at home was far more productive and much more beneficial and decided to make it permanent. 

    I wasn’t sure if I would like working at home permanently, but after a month or so of adjustment, I found I loved it! 

    So many wonderful things have happened from not commuting into the office:

    • I now have time to work out again. Instead of a 30 – 45-minute one-way commute, I work out right after work in my living room. 
    • I wear more comfortable clothes. Sports bras are an everyday occurrence. 
    • I am saving money from not commuting and not hitting up the Starbucks that was in my building.
    • I am eating healthier, and I started intermittent fasting. So far, I have lost 8 pounds!
    • I am more productive at my job and WAY less stressed. 

    There are many more pros to working at home for me, but these are just the big ones.

    The only con is that all the lovely clothes I purchased to wear to work are no longer worn. I am not ready to get rid of them just yet, but I am sizing down a bit in the meantime.  

    If we were having coffee, I would tell you that after our last chat about my interest in minimalism I decided to embrace it.

    During the last if we were having coffee post, I mentioned that I was researching minimalism, zero waste, and simple living. 

    Now I can say that I have embraced these ideas and started taking steps to minimize my life and live with purpose and intention. 

    I started by doing a whole house declutter. A lot of stuff went to Goodwill, others were thrown out and I have four bins of items to sell on Poshmark.

    Alas, my ultimate declutter is still not complete. Some things I felt an attachment to and wasn’t ready to toss just yet. I decided to keep going back room to room and get rid of more stuff each time.

    My mindset as a consumer is also changing. I put thought and questioning into an item before making a purchase. A lot of things I no longer purchase at all.

    I will talk more about the things I don’t buy as a beginner minimalist in an upcoming post.  

    Minimalism is such a huge mindset change, and I hope to do even more posts about my minimalist journey in the future. 

    If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I disconnected from social media, and I have zero regrets.

    Deleting social media is also part of my minimalist journey, but it’s been a huge life-changer for me, especially with what has happened in the world so far this year. 

    I had deleted Facebook about two and a half years ago and never regretted it. However, I kept my Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts open.

    I didn’t spend much time on social media before deleting it all. The last time I checked Instagram’s activity meter, I was averaging about 30 minutes a day. 

    Even with the small amount of social media time I had, I was just really tired of what I like to call “noise.” 

    Noise is just a bunch of gossip, trendy, political, fake, and pointless garbage that our society goes on and on about. 

    I felt like so many people on Instagram were fake, and it all seemed so forced. I don’t know if this makes sense, but it all seemed so negative no matter how positive I tried to look at it.

    Not to mention all the other facts and scientific data that backs why social media is horrible for you (possibly more on this in a blog post).

    I deleted LinkedIn, disabled my Instagram and Twitter account, and took the apps off my phone. 

    I haven’t been on since and honestly probably never will be again. 

    I don’t miss it because I am not missing anything. 

    There isn’t a single thing on social media that was adding value to my life. 

    Not even for the purpose of having a blog. 

    If you are thinking about deleting social media, I highly recommend you do. It will change your life for the better!

    If we were having coffee, I would tell you about some changes I am bringing to this blog. 

    Initially, when I began this blog I had planned to focus on travel and fashion with other posts varying between seasonal holidays, wellness, entertainment, and other lifestyle topics. 

    Now that I no longer go into the office for work or go out at all, I don’t see fashion posts being something I can sustain on the blog. 

    Instead, I have decided to focus on travel and entertainment. I plan to write posts on books, movies, and television shows. As well as continuing to write about travel, wellness, seasonal things, and other lifestyle topics.

    As for the book and entertainment posts, I am a huge history nerd, and most of the things I read and watch are documentaries and historical dramas. So my posts will focus on books and entertainment of that nature. 

    I may add a fashion or outfit post here and there, but not as heavily as before. 

    I am excited to write about entertainment and cant wait to share my thoughts with you!

    Till Next Time

    Thank you for sitting down and reading the August 2020 edition of if we were having coffee!

    Let me know in the comments your thoughts and what you would tell me if we were sitting down to a cup!

    Rachel

    If We Were Having Coffee...August 2020

    Cook Forest State Park

    A Camping Trip to Cook Forest

    Taking a camping trip to Cook Forest is a great way to enjoy nature and escape the hustle of day to day life.

    Camping Trip to Cook Forest

    Cook Forest is a two-hour drive from Pittsburgh so it’s no surprise that I go there almost every year to go camping.

    This year my boyfriend and I desperately wanted to get out of the house for a weekend after being stuck inside for quarantine.

    As soon as Pennsylvania allowed private campgrounds to open I booked our trip and left after work on Friday.

    It was so nice to escape everything that was going on with the world and connect with nature.

    It was also a bonus that there is no cell phone service anywhere in the park so we could be left alone and forget about modern life.

    If you have never been to Cook Forest State Park I highly recommend it as it has some of the most beautiful views I have seen in my adventures of visiting Pennsylvania state parks.

    Keep reading to get further details about Cook Forest to plan your own getaway!

    About Cook Forest

    Cook Forest is located in northwest Pennsylvania in Clarion, Jefferson and Forest counties. 

    The park consists of 8,500 acres and is known for its old-growth of white pine and hemlock.

    What to Do During A Camping Trip To Cook Forest

    River Floating, Canoeing, and Kayaking

    You can bring your own canoe, kayak or raft/tube.

    If you do have your own equipment the Pale Whale will ride you down to a river launch for a small fee.

    Otherwise, you have a long 4 to 10-mile walk downriver ahead of you.

    The first year I went to Cook Forest we brought a raft and walked down the river launch and it was awful and exhausting so I highly recommend driving or getting a ride.

    If you don’t have your own equipment you can rents kayaks, canoes, and tubes at the Pale Whale and/or Cook Forest Canoe Rental. 

    We have rented a canoe from the Pale Whale and had no issues using this company. We did wait in line for a long time but that is to be expected in the summer months.

    Camping Trip to Cook Forest State Park Pennsylvania
    On top of a hillside overlooking the Clarion River.

    Fishing

    The Clarion is perfect to catch trout and other warm-water game fish.

    I have caught a few small mouth bass and a couple blue gills from the Clarion but I am not the best fisher.

    There is also Toms Run, which is a 2.5-mile stream that runs into the Clarion. The little stream is stocked every year with trout. 

    Cook Forest Fire Tower

    Many park-goers head to the 87.5 feet tall fire tower to get a beautiful view of the valley below. 

    Hiking

    There are 47 miles of hiking within Cook Forest. Some of the most beautiful hiking is in the Forest Cathedral Natural Area. The Natural Area is home to hemlock and white pine trees that are over 300 years old.

    Tourist Attractions

    There are some other activities in Cook Forest for those who are less apt to nature.

    The Double Diamond Deer Park is where you can check out various whitetail and piebald deer. If you go to the park in the evening you can feed the adult deer starting at 6 PM.

    Other activities include nearby wineries, gift shops, and horseback riding, mini golf and go karts.

    Swimming

    There is not any swimming areas at Cook Forest, however, if you take a 20-minute drive to Clear Creek State Park they have a beach with a swimming area. 

    Where to Stay

    Cook Forest has plenty of different campgrounds and cabins to choose from. Some are close to the river and some are outside of the state park lands. 

    I have listed two examples below but, I suggest doing some Google research on what camp areas to stay at based on what activities you’ll be doing. 

    McBeth’s Cabins and Campground

    This is the only place I have stayed in Cook Forest for our camping trips.

    I reserve a tent site because it’s typically just my boyfriend and I, but if you have a group of people they have several cabin options to choose from. 

    I find this spot convenient because you’re right next to the Clarion River and McBeth’s has a gas station/convenience store. The gas station has a restaurant and ice cream!

    More importantly for us, McBeth’s allows alcohol as long as the beverages are not being displayed. We consider this a camping amenity since Pennsylvania state parks prohibit alcohol. 

    Cook Forest State Park Sites

    Like other state parks, there are tent, Cabin and RV sites within the state camping ground.

    Cook Forest State Park Pennsylvania
    We found a tree growing around an old motorcycle wheel.

    If you live near Pittsburgh or just enjoy visiting different parks in Pennsylvania make sure you put a camping trip to Cook Forest on your list!

    Camping Trip to Cook Forest

    Blog Update: Why I Haven’t Been Posting

    In light of the events that have been going on over the world within the last few months, I haven’t felt the motivation or energy to put into blogging. Not because my life is in a bad place. On the contrary, I am doing great! But I have felt like the world is so caught up in the other events that it seems pointless to blog as normal.

    I am also tired of constantly hearing about the events so I have avoided the internet as much as possible since this all started. I could go into more detail but for now, I won’t.

    I also have been very busy and adjusting to my new life. I now work from home full time permanently and so all of the systems and routines I had in place are still being adjusted.

    I also have changed since I started this blog and have a different perspective. I would like to bring these changes to my blog whenever I feel like its time to start blogging again.

    So for now, I have some ideas and some posts I would like to write but not ready to jump back in yet. Just be aware that at some point I will be back with fresh ideas.

    Thanks for reading,

    Rachel

    The Best of Salem: A Three Day Itinerary

    Explore the must-sees of Salem, MA with this three-day itinerary.

    Salem is a magical place. It has beautiful architecture and houses from the start of America all the way up to the present day. 

    No doubt Salem’s claim to fame is largely due to the historic witch trials, but the little town is so much more than that.

    Besides the rich history, Salem offers numerous restaurants, bars, and cafés. 

    If you enjoy the macabre or witchy things this is definitely the place for you. There are plenty of metaphysical shops, psychics, ghost tours and mediums for you to get your fix.

    If you are a fashion lover there are several boutiques with adorable and unique clothes.

    If you are an art lover, Salem is home to the very first art museum in the United States: the Peabody Essex Museum. 

    The quaint town has something for everyone.

    After visiting, my boyfriend and I absolutely fell in love with this spooky New England town. So much that I plan to make another visit to Salem at some point in my life.

    If you’re visiting Salem on as a first-timer or as a returning visitor I’ve compiled the perfect three-day itinerary for you to see and taste the best parts of Salem. 

    Day 1 

    Pioneer Village

    Head over to the Pioneer Village to get an idea of what life would have been like for the settlers of Salem. 

    BONUS: this is a film location for the famous movie Hocus Pocus and was the home of Zachary Binx before he was turned into a cat. 

    When we visited it was rainy and the place was quite run down. But our tour guide was awesome and funny so that made up for the dreary weather. 

    The Best of Salem: A Three Day Itinerary

    The Witch House

    This is the only standing structure in the present-day that had any ties with the Salem Witch Trials. The home was owned by Judge Jonathan Corwin who investigated the trials.

    The Best of Salem: A Three Day Itinerary

    Dinner at Boston Burger, Howling Wolf Taqueria or Red’s Sandwich Shop

    We mostly ate at our Airbnb to save money but there were places I wanted to try if we had more time. These include the Boston Burger Company, Red’s Sandwich Shop, and the Howling Wolf Taqueria.

    Evening Walking Tour

    The Best of Salem: A Three Day Itinerary

    Take a walking tour to get acquainted with Salem and an overview of its history. 

    I did not want to go on a ghost tour or anything super cheesy or touristy so I booked a tour with Hocus Pocus Walking Tours.

    I am so glad I did because our guide Susan and her husband were friendly and courteous. They also provided historic information and insight on more than just the witch trials and gave an overall history of the town. 

    Ice cream at Melt

    Seriously, the best ice cream ever and it’s homemade!

    Day 2

    Salem’s Maritime Historic Site

    This historic site along the harbor features 8 buildings associated with Salems Maritime history as well as the Friendship of Salem which is a replica tall ship.

    The Best of Salem: A Three Day Itinerary

    Jaho Coffee & Wine Bar

    This was recommended to us by our tour guide at Pioneer Village and he didn’t disappoint!

    This is also right next to the Salem Maritime site.

    The coffee was great and I picked up a pastry that was delicious! 

    BONUS: They have wine…need I say more.

    House of Seven Gables

    This 17th-century house was made famous from the National Hawthorne novel “The House of the Seven Gables (also conveniently located near the Salem Maritime Historic Site).

    The house was built in 1668 for Captain John Turner I, the head of one of the most successful maritime families in the New England colonies

    Also on the property are other homes that range from the 17th – 19th centuries. 

    Dinner at a Seafood Place

    When you are near the sea you have to eat seafood. We ate at Sea Level Oyster Bar and it was good. But we were told by our walking tour guides that Turners is the best seafood in Salem. Next time that is where we will be heading.

    Salem Willows Park & Arcade

    Head over to Salem’s front park and hit the arcade. This is a decent-sized arcade and the prices were fair. They also have pizza, popcorn and ice cream on-site. 

    You can also take a walk through the park and head out to the pier. 

    Day 3 

    Ugly Mug Diner

    This was the BEST BREAKFAST I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE!! Really, I mean it. It was packed so prepare to wait. Also, the coffee was so good I started ordering it and shipping it to my home in Pennsylvania. You can order it from Atomic Coffee here.

    Peabody Essex Museum

    I have to admit that I did not get a chance to go to the museum when I visited, but I really wanted to! I am an art nerd so this is right up my alley but alas I didn’t have time. 

    Walk the Salem Heritage Trail and Do Some Shopping

    I like walking and window shopping so between the consistent rain during our stay we did walk through the town a little bit. 

    I didn’t get to do as much shopping as I wanted to but I didn’t find a unique top at a boutique that I really like. 

    Other Things To Do…That I Didn’t Get Time For

    Of course, there are other things I didn’t get to do while I was in Salem besides more food and visiting the Peabody. Hopefully next time I can get to some of these but in the meantime, YOU can check them out on your trip!

    Schooner FAME Boat Ride

    Take a boat ride on an 1812 pirate schooner replica. Really bummed I missed this one too since I am such a history nerd. 

    Ropes Mansion Tour

    Another Hocus Pocus film location. This was Allison’s house in the movie. I didn’t make it to the mansion because they have limited tour schedules. 

    The Pickering House

    If you haven’t guessed by now I really love house tours so this is one I wouldn’t mind checking out.

    See a Psychic

    I am ashamed to say that while I was in the Witch City I didn’t see a single psychic or Tarot reader. This is one I regret and will not miss if I get another chance. 

    The Black Veil Studio of Tattoo & Art

    I found this shop on Instagram and was blown away by how talented these artists are! You do have to schedule in advance which is why I didn’t get a chance to get some ink done. 

    The Satanic Temple

    I know this isn’t for everyone, but if you have an open mind the Satanic Temple has an art gallery and a huge life-size statue of Baphomet that you can sit on for some wicked photo ops

    Tourist Trap and Spooky Tacky Attraction Warning

    Word to the wise…there were a lot of what I would say tourist traps and cheesy attractions/tours in Salem. In my opinion, there are more tacky tourist traps than legitimate attractions so just because of not wasting money or time on these. 

    Let me know what you think of these tops spots in Salem in the comments below.

    Till next time,

    Rachel 

    Visiting Salem, MA