Friday, February 26, 2021

Life: Friday Ramblings

We got hit with...
...the horrid snow storm shown above the day before we were supposed to leave for our trip upstate.  At first it was a pretty snow fall, but quickly turned into a beast of a snow storm.  At one point, it literally looked like snowballs falling from the sky.  It is absolutely amazing how we went from no snow last year which I'll never complain about again to mounds of it this year!

I'm absolutely sick about...
...this article from Elle magazine (link).  It's about a singer named FKA Twigs and the abuse she had to endure from Shia LeBeouf.  Normally I don't read or believe these things, but I grew up a big fan of LeBeouf.  I remember him as the silly little brother on Even Stevens, the hero of the movie Holes, and then my favorite part of Transformers.  After reading this article, it looks like he went down a deep, dark path over the past decade.  He's had several arrests, substance abuse issues, and multiple accusations of domestic abuse.  I'm glad this woman was able to escape.  I sincerely hope that LeBeouf gets the help that needs while learning accountability.

I'm pleasantly surprised that... son wrote his own name at only two and a half years old!  Say what you want about childcare at a young age, but they learn more at the right childcare facilities than most of us mothers would ever be able to teach.  Mommy's so proud of you, baby boy!

We booked the venue for... daughter's communion this year.  We'll be having a small gathering in a very large restaurant.  The large space will allow for social distancing and other precautions.  We had my son's baptism reception here and was very happy with the food and service.  

The owner of the establishment seemed...
... ecstatic to get a big booking in her calendar.  It seems that it's a miracle that her business survived.  She was near tears explaining that she's a 3rd generation owner and very emotionally invested in her business.  As the daughter of a small business owner, I completely empathized.  Hopefully things start getting better for small business owners very soon!

We had an absolute blast...
...snow tubing this past weekend!  The only downside to the trip was when my son fell onto the conveyor belt that carries you up the mountain.  In an effort to save him from immanent doom, I dove on top of him screaming for help before he could be carried away.  I hurt my knee which is still swollen and painful to touch and embarrassed myself when I saw the speed that the conveyor belt moved.  It was so slow that even after the dramatic show I put on, that we only moved about 2 feet.

What are your Friday Ramblings?
Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Book Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

My favorite book of all time was always Wuthering Heights. While I really enjoyed other books, there was none that replaced it as a new favorite up until almost three years ago.  The book that finally replaced Wuthering Heights as my all time favorite book is The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.  Since I'm in the middle of my least favorite book in the history of books a hard to read novel, I decided to reminisce on one of my most favorite reads to help me bare the pain.

The novel is titled The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.
The book is ready by Polly Stone.
The unabridged version is 17 hours and 19 minutes long.

the best historical fiction WWII novel the nightingale by kristin hannah

Disclosure: This site contains affiliate links to products.  We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Please note that I would only recommend products that I would use myself and all opinions are my own.

Book Review:  The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah starts off with a mysterious older woman cleaning out her attic.  This short, first chapter sets the scene for the entire book.  It leaves the reader wondering who is this woman and more importantly which character made it to the end of the book?  The author flips back to this modern day timeline a few times throughout the novel.  Each time she leaves a new clue as to who this woman is.  Despite investigating and re-investigating each clue thrown at the reader, I still could not accurately predict who the mystery woman was.  In addition to adding a fun element to the body of the story, it allowed the author to provide every piece of closure that the reader deserved.  And, trust me, the reader deserved full closure at the end of this book!

When not trying to figure out the identity of the mystery woman, the reader is entrenched in the main story that takes place in France during the heart of World War II.  The two main characters of the story are sisters named Vianne and Isabelle.  These two sisters are polar opposites in every way.  The only commonality shared between them is their brief childhood which was dramatically cut short by the untimely death of their mother.  Vianne was a married woman and the mother of a daughter that she considered a miracle child.  She could be described as nervous, reserved, unsure of herself, and purposefully ignorant.  Isabelle was a care free, ambitious, and rebellious teenager that was fueled by deep feelings of abandonment.  She was also so beautiful that she would take people by surprise.  She felt her beauty was a curse causing her further social isolation and a need to prove that she's more than a pretty face.  As different as both characters are, you'll find yourself rooting for both them equally.

The Nightingale offers a unique perspective to WW2.  It's told from France's side of the story.  You'll get insight to the state of Paris, the countryside, and the free zone of France throughout the war.  You'll also gain the unique perspective of dealing with German soldiers being billeted to live in the homes of the French citizens while their men are off to war.  One can only imagine the hell that these women and children were forced to endure.  The reader will get to see the unique perspective of the French resistance and the contributions that they made to war.  Finally, the reader will get to see that despite the deep damage that everyone suffered, all parties would be able to mold into their new state of normalcy to finally heal.

My favorite part of this book is that it's not a love story.  It's also not a story focused on the Holocaust.  It's a story of war, but the war fought back home by unofficial soldiers that never received a title or were given a weapon.  

I would highly recommend The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.

Ladies and gentleman, I can't say this enough.  This book is a must read!  Once you're done reading, read it again or listen to the audio book.  Then try real hard to patiently wait for the film adaptation to be released!

What is your all time favorite book?
Monday, February 22, 2021

List: Top ten best vanilla scented products.

As you all know, I have awful allergies.  I'm allergic to pollen, cats, fancy soaps, bunnies, fragrances, cosmetics, adhesive, and pantyhose.  Yes, seriously..  One of my allergies that's selective is my allergy to fragrances.  Some scents kill me and others don't bother me at all.  The ones that don't trigger an allergic reaction are typically warmer type scents like coconut, wood, or vanilla.

vanilla fragrance for people with allergies

Since I'm so limited to which scents I can use, I tend to become a self proclaimed guru of my favorite scents.  This list is going to be dedicated to the top ten best vanilla scented products according to me.  This list is being created for all my fellow allergy sufferers especially for those sensitive to scents!

vanilla fragrance for people with allergies

Disclosure: This site contains affiliate links to products.  We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Please note that I would only recommend products that I would use myself and all opinions are my own.

Top ten best vanilla scented products.

Dove is one of the few brands of skincare products that don't leave me with harsh reactions and a prescription for a steroid.  Due to this, I use this foaming body wash as a shaving cream and a scrub.  It leaves my skin moist, nourished, and smelling absolutely fabulous!
Can be found here.

Essential oils are way more than a pleasant aroma for your home.  They're kind of medicinal when used properly.  This particular essential oil is used for relaxation and stress relief.  I'll reach for it on the days that I'm working from home and unable to focus due to a stressful workload.
Can be found here.

Fun Fact:  I won't use the same shampoo and conditioner two washes in a row.  I like to switch it up so that the previous shampoo is washed off of my head with the new brand.  Am I crazy?  Probably..  This is one of my favorite hair care items to add to my rotation during the Winter months.  Not only does it make my hair smell AMAZING, but it keeps my hair shiny, healthy, and alive!
Can be found here.

I switched to this deodorant about a year ago because my doctor recommended natural deodorant.  It smells amazing without being overbearing and the deodorant actually works!  To read my full review of this product just click this link right here.
Can be found here.

5.  Princess Eau De Toilette | Vera Wang
Because of my allergies, I rarely ever put on perfume.  When I do, it's always Euphoria by Calvin Klein.  Well, recently my world was turned upside down when I received this perfume as gift!  It has a pleasant vanilla fragrance to it with a hint of florals.  While it's still second to Euphoria, I'll spritz a little onto my clothes before an event.
Can be found here.

6.  French Vanilla Large Jar Candle | Yankee Candle
This candle will last you forever and have your home smelling fabulous with it's warm, subtle scent.
Can be found here.

Don't give me that look, this totally counts!  Once I started throwing away diapers, I decided to invest in scented garbage bags.  This one is always my go to because it keeps the funk away without an overpowering smell.  One time we tried the Gain scented Glad bags and it had me running for my Claritan D!
Can be found here.

I've confessed my love for EOS lip balm before, but here it goes again!  I always make sure that I have (2) tubes of it.  One tube of Vanilla Bean to keep in my pocket book and another tube of mint scented lip balm in the bathroom to help me wake up in the morning.
Can be found here.

9.  Vanilla Bean Noel Hand Soap | Bath & Body Works
I can't go a Winter season with a stock up on my Vanilla Bean Noel foaming hand wash!  It smells fabulous and encourages my babies to wash their hands so they can take a big sniff after rinsing.
Can be found here.

Typically I opt for a 3 wick candle so you get the most bang for your buck, but once in a while I need an emergency candle.  This is my go to item when my stock of candles being empty comes as a surprise.  The scent is soft and the price is right at typically <$4 a candle.
Can be found here.

What's your favorite scent?
Friday, February 19, 2021

Life: Friday Ramblings

Disclosure: This site contains affiliate links to products.  We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Please note that I would only recommend products that I would use myself and all opinions are my own.

I'm completely and totally FREAKING OUT that... of my favorite living authors, Martha Hall Kelly, found my book review of her novel Lost Roses (link) on R&W.  She not only acknowledged the review, but followed me on Pinterest too!!  I'm officially one of the 235 accounts that she follows, right behind DAVID'S freaking BRIDAL!  It made my week and legit had me hardcore fan girling for hours.  Little did she know that I enjoy her novels so much, that I already reserved my copy of her new book, Sunflower Sisters,  that's scheduled to be released at the end of March.  Did I mention this whole thing made me really happy?!

We had a great day on...
...Valentine's Day!  My husband surprised me with reservations to our traditional Valentine's Day spot.  I didn't think we'd go because of obvious reasons, but he did some research and was comfortable with the precautions they put in place.  Our kids were visited overnight by Cupid so they woke up to some goodies.  This helped my daughter be less disappointed with the cancellation of her Sweetheart dance.

My son is clearly an...
...artist!  I asked him to draw me a lion and my little van Gogh made me the above picture.  It may have taken him 30 minutes and it may not be very lifelike, but for a 2 year old, I think it was good enough to be posted on the internet!

Mushy Face is ecstatic that...
...we found the matching dresser to her bed on Facebook.  My aunt gave us the bed when her daughter outgrew it a few months back.  Since the set is over a decade old, I never thought we'd find the exact matching dresser.  A woman was selling the dresser for $100.  It was in pretty good condition with the exception of a few markings on the top.  The dresser is valued at around $800 so baby girl wasn't the only one happy with the find.  We got rid of her nursery room dresser and replaced it with her big girl one.  She's so happy with it, that she has even been putting her clothes away without being told!

My husband went to the dark side when...
...he ordered the above suet feeder (link) with zero influence from me.  He overheard my dad and I talking about the woodpeckers that he sees on his property upstate.  I told him that the woodpecker he's seeing is called a pileated woodpecker.  They're very large and kind of ugly looking woodpeckers.  Well, contrary to my beliefs, my husband was listening to the conversation.  He went on Amazon, researched a feeder large enough for a pileated woodpecker to use comfortably, and then bought it.  The picture doesn't do it justice, but he was full of pride at his contribution to the bird sanctuary!

As a reminder...
...we are going away this weekend.  We left bright and early this morning and won't be back until late Sunday.  If I'm MIA this weekend, you know why.  We're in the mountains snowtubing.

What are your Friday Ramblings?
Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Life: Fancy Lee in Babylon, NY

 My husband started asking what I wanted to do for Valentine's Day in early January.  I mentioned that we could look into reserving one of those outdoor igloos to dine in.  They're trendy and popping up everywhere thanks to the "new normal".  What I didn't know, is that the restaurants were charging a $200 reservation fee that included nothing but (1) round of drinks.  My husband's rant on this find is enough to fill a whole post in itself, so let's just say that he very dramatically said no.

I assumed we would have an at home date night and never mentioned it again.  What I didn't know, is that he was doing research to see how safe it would be to eat at our traditional Valentine's Day spot.  Once convinced the precautions were good enough, he got a sitter and made a reservation.

This Valentine's Day and every other date night we went to Fancy Lee (link) restaurant in Babylon Village.

top sushi restaurants on long island

Fancy Lee | Babylon Village | NY

I remember the first time that I pulled up to this restaurant to meet up with my dad.  It looked like an old diner from the outside.  All I could think was "He wants me to get sushi from there?!".  Total snob, I know.  But sushi places need to be extra..  Then I walked through the doors.  The inside of this retro looking building, is a modern, chic, and really clean restaurant.  Talk about judging a book by it's cover.

Fancy Lee is an Asian fusion and sushi restaurant.  They have everything from traditional Chinese food dishes to unique and delicious fusion choices to the absolute best sushi.  This is another reason it's one of my favorite spots.  If someone in your party doesn't like sushi, they will find something on the menu that they do like.  I've even taken my daughter here before starting from the age of 2.  She isn't allowed to eat sushi yet, so she gets a chicken dish and is very happy.

top sushi restaurants long island

For our dinner dates like this past Valentine's Day, we do a full on sushi meal.  We will start with a bottle of cold, sweet saki for me and a Japanese beer called Sapporo for my husband.  Fancy Lee provides a complimentary appetizer which is pictured above next to the menus.  It's a fried sushi roll with a sweet sauce on top.  We then place an order of edamames to pick on while enjoying our drinks.  An edamame is a steamed soy bean pod covered in coarse salt.  You then suck off the salt while biting out the bean.  Our main meal consists of several of our favorite sushi rolls to be split between both of us.  My husband's favorite is the Volcano roll which is deep fried and spicy.  I don't eat it because I don't do spicy.  My favorite is the Spring Breeze roll which is tuna and pineapple avocado with a house special sauce on top.  It's the polar opposite of my husband's favorite because it's very sweet.  If we make it through all of that, we'll end the night by splitting our favorite dessert there, fried ice cream.  Still laughing at my husband eating the stick pictured above and me in complete disgust thinking he ate wood!

best sushi on long island

The staff is super attentive and very accommodating.  They go above and beyond to make sure that you're happy with your meal.  They check on you several times to make sure that you're content.  Sometimes the owner himself will pay your table a visit.  Our waitress on Valentine's Day even asked us which rolls were our favorite which was a total pleasant surprise.

The restaurant itself is immaculate.  I have high standards when it comes to eating out and even higher standards when it comes to sushi.  Fancy Lee exceeds those standards.  To make it even better, you can see the sushi chefs making your meal.  The wait staff almost always takes the time to point out which dish is yours so that you can follow it from start to finish.  

Additionally, the precautions they took for the pandemic was top notch.  Legally they're allowed 50% capacity, but didn't book reservations anywhere near that.  All staff was masked and some even wore double masks.  They kept each party significantly distanced with at least two tables apart from one another.  The sushi bar had plastic barriers between each chair, but remained empty for the two hours that we were there.  They used disposable napkins that were surprisingly sturdy and disposable menus.  The attention they paid to disinfecting a table after use far surpassed anything that I've seen yet.  To be clear, this diagnosed hypochondriac was comfortable.

I would highly recommend Fancy Lee for food, service, and environment.

Do you have a favorite restaurant?

Monday, February 15, 2021

List: Top ten best phone apps to download.

We live in a world now where everyone and everything is constantly on their phones.  I mostly disagree with this.  While it's convenient and cost effective, it's not very healthy.  People are becoming less social and engaged in life because they dive into a virtual world instead.  We limit screen time in our home, and that mostly goes for us adults because the kids don't have screens.  Despite the house rules, there are a few applications that I can't don't want to live without.  They help keep me organized, entertained, connected with my people, or informed.  In other words, they are really, really, REALLY important.

ten applications for an organized smart phone

Disclosure: This site contains affiliate links to products.  We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Please note that I would only recommend products that I would use myself and all opinions are my own.

Top ten best phone apps to download.

1.  Google Maps
I'm the type of person that can get lost on a one floor office building.  Yes, I'm totally serious..  This app gets me to where I need to go with minimal stress and on time.  My favorite feature is the redirection to avoid the unnecessary & obnoxious NY traffic.  Another great feature is that the app will mute your music or audio book when giving vocal directions.

2.  Mobile Banking
The mobile banking apps are probably the single most useful apps you can have.  Assuming that your phone and data connection are always secure.  If not, don't connect!  Checking balances, account transfers, and automatic alerts are just some of the app's top highlights.

3.  Instagram
I'm constantly on Instagram because it's a great place to connect with friends in faraway places.  Unlike other sites, you get to see pictures without unnecessary rants before them.  Instagram seems to be less censored and less controversial than other social media sites today.

As I shared here, I take lots of pictures throughout the year in preparation for my annual book.  The quality of pictures are sacrificed when they aren't downloaded directly from the phone to Snapfish.  This app allows me to download the photographs direct to the site quickly and easily.

5.  Credit Karma
This app is one of the best things I've downloaded because it forces me to regularly monitor my credit.  I know when my score goes up or down, how it trends, and mostly importantly, why there was a change.  This app does a great job of alerting you of possible identity fraud or bad claims submitted by creditors.  My favorite part of the app is monitoring my debt and watching it go, hopefully, down!

6.  Pinterest
This is a new found love for me and let's just say that I am  o b s e s s e d in every sense of the word.  It's my new go to search engine, marketing tool, and way of remaining organized on R&W.  If an app could be a soulmate, let's just say, this would be mine.  <3

7.  Credit Card Apps
Similar to mobile banking, these are useful apps for the same reasons with additional perks.  You can freeze your account, monitor charges, and activate point promotions with just a click!

8.  Toon Blast
I'm not big for interactive phone games, but give me a puzzle to solve and I'm all in!  This is the only "game" app on my phone to date and I'm very happy about that, thank you very much!

Between Long Island traffic and traveling far for work, Audibles has basically become life.  This app lets me listen to my favorite novels while keeping me focused on the road.

10.  Google Photos
With phones constantly dying, erasing, or whatever, it's important to back everything up.  Google Photos does a fabulous job of backing up and storing all my pictures and videos for free.  The storage is unlimited and the process is effortless thanks to an automatic syncing feature.  I love!

What are your favorite phone apps?
Friday, February 12, 2021

Life: Friday Ramblings

My kiddies had an absolute blast...
...playing in the snow!  My husband blew up my daughter's snow tube, put the kids in it, and was pulling them up and down the road.  You could hear their screams and laughs from all the way down the block.  My son, who is way too much like his mommy, came in after a very short time and was complaining about the cold.  With the tot out of the way, Mushy Face and daddy made the crazy snowman pictured above.  She had way too much fun doing a photo shoot with her new friend!

Three cheers for my hubby because...
...he finally finished the little staircase leading to our office.  Remember this post from November 2019?  We left it in an undone state for over a year in the hopes that our contractor would return to finish the job.  Well, he never came back and our flooring was since discontinued.  My husband did his best to do the job himself.  I have to say, it looks pretty darn good!

My doctor wants to try an...
...experimental treatment to finally get rid of that swishing sound in my ear!  He said that he's had success with injecting Botox into the TMJ joint in your jaw.  The Botox will then weaken the muscle and eliminate any grinding that I may be doing in my sleep.  Once the grinding stops, he thinks the swishing sound will also stop.  I'm hesitant to inject chemicals into my body, especially since this seems to be a treatment with no end.

I've officially gone to the birds because...
...I spent my Sunday at a local park with my professional grade camera and binoculars trying to hunt down some different birds.  My daughter and I had lots of fun chasing down our feathered friends for the perfect shot.  We saw Golden-Crowned Kinglets, Robin Red Breasts, and Common Red Polls.  I've been documenting my birding adventures on this Instagram page (link).  If you like birds, you should check it out!  If you don't like birds, don't judge me.

We had a super rare siting of...
...a pine warbler!  The day of the snow storm, this little yellow ball of poof came out to play and eat from our suet feeder.  This bird is so rare for my location during this time of year, that I was able to make my first ever bird alert!  Once again, don't judge me.  He visited over and over again for the next few days.  I honestly think it was the heated bird bath that he was after.  It was so cold outside that there was probably a very limited water source for the little guy.  Either way, I hope he enjoyed his stay and decides to come back again!

I'm wishing you all a very...
...Happy Valentine's day!  I hope that your day is filled with lots and lots of  l o v e.

What are your Friday Ramblings?

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

DIY: Five simple steps to make the ultimate gallery wall.

 I recently pinned an older post to my Pinterest account which prompted one of my followers to ask me a question.  They asked "How do you make a gallery wall?".  While I thought my original post was clear, I got REALLY excited to get a note from a reader!  It made me realize two things.  One, my original post didn't really say how to make a gallery wall.  Instead, it was a detailed account of how we created our own gallery wall.  Going forward, I'll do a better job of generalizing my posts.  The second thing I realized is that while my Pinterest views continue to plummet wahhh, certain pins still continue to get high amounts of interaction.  The gallery wall pin is one of them.  That leads me to assume that home decorating or, specifically, gallery walls are trendy topics!  Since we're trying hard to be trendy at R&W, here are the five simple steps to create the ultimate gallery wall.

how to make a gallery wall photo collage

Disclosure: This site contains affiliate links to products.  We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Please note that I would only recommend products that I would use myself and all opinions are my own.

Five simple steps to make a gallery wall.

What is a gallery wall?

A gallery wall is a collection of pictures, photographs, and/or decor tastefully displayed on a wall of a home.

Now that we got the basics out of the way, let's begin the five very simple steps to making a gallery wall that everyone will want to copy!

Step one:  Pick a wall.

Yes, seriously.  You can't do much of anything until you know where you want your gallery wall to go.  The wall will determine the size, shape, colors, textures, and even theme of your future gallery wall.  When picking your space, try to envision a large display in that spot.  Then decide if the space needs some decorating or if there's too much going on there already.  If not, move on ahead to step #2.

Step two:  Design a rough draft.

Now that you know where your gallery wall is going, the next step is getting an idea of what you want.  Measure the space to determine a good range (max & min size) of how large your gallery wall should be.  Then loosely decide the shape for your gallery wall.  On a sheet of paper as in NOT on the wall, literally draw out a rough draft.  You'll get an idea of how many frames, shelves, artwork, etc. you'll need to make the desired shape.  This is the step where you'll want to determine your personal non-negotiable items.  As an example, here were my five non-negotiable items.

1.  I wanted a gallery wall with mismatched picture frames.
2.  I wanted a variety of sizes, shapes, and textures.
3.  I didn't want a photograph to be the focal point.
4.  I wanted it to match my decor.  That meant neutral colors with pops of teal and gold.
5.  It absolutely, 100% had to be symmetrical.

Listing non-negotiables on your rough draft is important because it will keep you focused when shopping and leave you with the perfect end result.  The rough draft is also a great time to list your wish list.  For example, did you want an all matching frame set with at least two 8x10s?  Or did you want mismatched frames with at least once piece of artwork and a mirror?  Once you're comfortable with your meticulous plan rough draft, you're clear to move on to step #3!

Step three:  Go shopping.

Congratulations, you made it to the best step!  This where you get to go shopping.

If you opted for the easy route, you're probably shopping for a gallery wall frame set with all matching frames like this fabulous gold set.  If your opting for the route that's so easy it feels like cheating, you can hang a giant collage picture frame like this one.  If you opted for the more fun route according to me, you're probably looking for mismatched frames and other fabulous items to fill your gallery wall.  You could either shop for individual frames to get a nice mix of texture, shape, and color or you could shop for gallery wall sets with mismatched frames like this fun set.

Whatever steams your beans, remember your rough draft, non-negotiable items, and wish list.  Once you think you found the perfect pieces for your gallery wall then it's time to move on ahead to the next step!

Step four:  Hang it up.

Since I believe in being honest, I'm going to be blunt and say that this step really sucks.  It takes patience and a really good level.  Start by laying out your pieces in the desired design.  Then mark where each piece should go on the wall.  Use a ruler because the last thing you want in a gallery wall that's hung "by eye".  A gallery wall is something that has to be precise.  After you measure, level, and hang, you can graduate to the final step of the process!

Step five:  Add your photos.

The final step is to dig through your prints and pick your absolute favorite photographs.  Once you made your choices, add them to the frames and pat yourself on the back for a job well done!

The best part of a gallery wall, is that it can be a living space.  It can grow or evolve as you want it to.  For example, we made ours as a family of three.  It has since evolved to represent our family of four.  While I didn't grow the gallery wall in size or shape, I have swapped out pictures to include my extremely handsome and stylish baby boy!  When done right, this can become your favorite space in your home.

How do you display photos at home?
Monday, February 8, 2021

List: Top ten best food products by Trader Joe's

One of the unsung heroes of the grocery store world is the chain called Trader Joe's.  This store is stocked with fresh produce, natural products, and hard to find specialty items.  Trader Joe's boasts a wide array of products to accommodate different diets and dietary restrictions.  They sell healthier food options with an inexpensive price tag thanks to their private label.  Their flower section is the best I've seen in a grocery store with a larger variety and better quality.  They also employ some of the most helpful and genuinely nice people that exist on planet Earth.  Bottom line is, it's a fabulous, amazing place to shop.  You should go there.  Like, right now.

what to buy from trader joe's

The downside to Trader Joe's is that it's a smaller store with less stock and less meat variety.  Due to this & so I don't go bankrupt buying everything, I do limit purchases to just my favorite items.  They also sell items such as toiletries and necessities, but I limit these purchase as well.  The only non-food related items I get there regularly is the fruit and vegetable cleaners and sometimes their dish soap.

After years of exploring Trader Joe's, here are my top ten favorite products that they sell.  In my opinion, these products beat the similar items sold in larger grocery chains for quality and price.

Trader Joe's items that are better than other grocery stores

Disclosure: This site contains affiliate links to products.  We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Please note that I would only recommend products that I would use myself and all opinions are my own.

Top ten best Trader Joe's food items.

1.  Sublime Ice Cream Sandwiches
These are so delicious and amazing that I can't even describe it to you.  Let's just say this, I don't like chocolate chip cookies or vanilla ice cream, but I die for these!  Besides, my daughter would kick my butt if I didn't come home with these.

  This frozen rice substitute is inexpensive, yummy, healthy, and really easy to make.

Plantain chips are a common food item and really nothing spectacular.  Trader Joe's fixed that!  These chips are sweet, delicious, and a healthier snack option that I really look forward to.

Once you try these crackers you'll never want to eat another brand again.  They are crunchy, sweet, and a little chewy.  They also pair perfectly with most cheeses and cold meats.  Ever since I discovered these, I won't serve antipasto without these crisps.  So yummy!

The Trader Joe's dried wild blueberries are the main reason why I venture there.  Once my stash gets low, that's my indication that it's time to take a trip to the grocery store.  They are really sweet with the most pleasant consistency that I ever experienced with a dried fruit.  They are also the only thing that actually gets me to eat my oat bran.  No blueberries, no oat bran!

6.  Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken
This chicken is seasoned perfectly.  It's also fully cooked so it's an easy meal prep.
When I have to work late, a fresh salad with sliced Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken is what's for dinner!

These are soft cookies that taste like absolute heaven.  I eat them for snack or paired with an espresso.

As a person that doesn't care for salsa & will always reach for the guac, I can eat this whole can myself.  Trader Joe's Pineapple Salsa is super sweet with a little tang.  Pair it with chips or bake it with some chicken.

Let me start by saying that I'm a self proclaimed pesto snob.  I know this and I accept it.  Growing up, my Sicilian immigrant grandfather would make homemade pesto that everyone fought for.  After all my years of life, this is the only pesto that even comes somewhat close to that.

10.  Sweet Italian Sausage & 4 Cheese Ravioli
When I first saw this for sale I laughed because I didn't think anyone would buy it.  Well, guess what?  My husband came home with it a week later and declared it his favorite ravioli.  Somehow, this unexpected recipe is perfect.  The sausage isn't overwhelming and the pasta isn't too thick.  ...and it tastes  d e l i c i o u s  paired with their Pesto Alla Genovese.  You're welcome!

Other items that we love but didn't make the list are the Trader Jose's beer, their wild blueberry pie, their 100% pure maple syrup, their corn muffin mix, and their mushroom & herb risotto.

If you're looking for delicious and unique recipes to try, you need the I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook!  Some of my family's favorite dinner recipes came from here.  & it makes a great gift, just ask my SIL..

What is your favorite grocery store?
Friday, February 5, 2021

Life: Friday Ramblings

I was a little disappointed that...
...the owl safari I mentioned a couple weeks back reached capacity and we weren't able to go.  Instead, the nature preserve signed us up for a Winter Wonderland walk which was an easy 3 mile hike.  Our guide stopped periodically throughout the hike to point out some cool facts about the wildlife that lived in the preserve.  It felt good to get out and move around but I was still obsessed with seeing an owl.

The guide surprised me with...
...a private visit with a rescued Eastern Screech Owl!  She heard me keep asking for owl nests to be pointed out so she knew I was dying to see one.  Plus, I'm sure my professional camera lens and binoculars sold me out...  The Eastern Screech Owl was asleep, but I was happy that I got to see one.

Then nature gave me the biggest surprise of all... having a bald eagle swoop down right over my head.  Well, I started SCREAMING!!  I threw everything on the ground, fumbled with my camera, and did my best to get a decent photo.  My husband threw our son off of his shoulders in fear that the bald eagle would want to eat our baby boy.  My daughter stood, staring, with her mouth wide open in awe.  While you can't really tell that the above picture is a bald eagle, I'm here to confirm that it is!  We were all in shock that there were bald eagles native to Long Island, but I'm so glad that we learned about it in that dramatic, exciting way.  It's something that my daughter will definitely remember!

I'm a little late, but...
...I finally downloaded some of the pictures from my dad's birthday.  I made homemade stuffed shells, homemade chicken parmesan, and for dessert we had a Carvel ice cream cake.  It was a small celebration, but he's happy to be alive and well at 58 years young!

I'm suffering from mixed feelings about...
...Walker!  I'm watching it because of Jared Padalecki, but I'm not too hyped about the show.  First off, they gave Walker a brother on the show when we all know Jensen Ackles is his true brother which I felt was unnecessary.  Secondly, his partner Texas Ranger is a relatively petite female trying way too hard to prove to the world that she's a bad ass.  Thirdly, the show as just meh, but with potential to get better as it goes.  We'll be crossing our fingers that it does because my Thursday nights haven't been empty in over 14 years!

What are your Friday Ramblings?