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January Amazon Favorites

Happy January everyone! I’ve been refraining from purchasing items from Amazon lately to try to save up more money, but I have picked up a few items lately. Many of these are kitchen supplies, but that’s okay.

Needless to say, here are my Amazon favorites this month:

Phone Stand: I use this every day and I absolutely love it. I’ve used this as a tripod to take selfies with my boyfriend, a stand on my desk for my phone, and to hold my iPad while I am following along to a workout video. This holds both my iPhone 11 Pro and my iPad 6, and I highly recommend it for anyone who is looking for a phone stand for work, home, etc.

Mini Steamer: This was hands down the best $5 I’ve ever spent, because it has made steaming vegetables so much easier. It is easy to heat up in the microwave, and you don’t burn your hands on your containers. Definitely a win.

Fruit Basket: Yes, I am talking about a fruit basket. But, I really like this basket because it gives me a chance to keep my fruit that is not refrigerated in a place that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

JBL Speaker: I mentioned this last month, but I am still loving this and have been using this almost everyday. This has become my everyday shower speaker and I listen to podcasts while I shower, and I absolutely love it. For the small size, it packs a big punch, and I am sure that I will be taking this with me to the beach in the summer as well as with me when I travel.

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What I Love Wednesday: January 13, 2020

Happy Wednesday everyone! We are halfway through the week, and I couldn’t be more excited. This upcoming weekend is a three day weekend for me, and I am excited to get some r and r and complete a home project that has been on my mind for a while. More updates to come on that.

That said, here are my favorites for this week:

Gentler Podcast: I discovered this podcast while I was listening to I Love You So Much by Kenzie Elizabeth, and I really have been enjoying it. The podcast talks about a gentler approach to life and self care, and I’ve been enjoying it. I have only listened to a few episodes, but it has provided me so much insight about life. Her podcast is perfect for anyone who wants a gentler approach to finances, which I really love because sometimes Dave Ramsey can be a little too intense for me. I highly recommend this podcast, because it serves as a reminder to just be gentler on yourself.

Grown by Tiffany Jackson: I have heard amazing things about this book, so I decided to pick up this book this weekend. Once I started it, I could not put the book down. The story is about Enchanted, who has a dream of becoming a famous singer. Enchanted meets Korey Fields, who is a famous singer who is almost ten years older than her. The two begin a relationship, which takes a twisted turn. Then, Korey Fields is found dead, and Enchanted wakes up with blood on her hands. The book is amazing, but don’t be fooled. This definitely has topics such as rape, grooming, and abuse. But, this book definitely opens your eyes to those topics, which I really liked about it.

The Graham Stephan Show: Okay, so I found a new obsession on YouTube that I have been binging. That is the Graham Stephan Show, which basically is Graham reacting to Yotubers talking about spending. It definitely helps you begin to think about the money that you have coming in, and how you spend your money.

Lita Crossbody Purse: I love this purse. It looks like the Prada Reissue, but at a much lower price. I currently have two and I’m obsessed. I got the khaki online when they were on sale over the holiday season, and I loved it. When I went to return a shirt that didn’t fit, I found the black one and picked that up too. And I am so glad that I did. The purse is small, so you can only fit your on the go essentials. What is also cool about this purse is that you can wear it as a crossbody, or you can wear it as a shoulder bag. That versatility is what sells me.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab: It seems like every book tuber and bookstagrammer has been talking about this book. This was my Book of the Month pick for the month of October, and I am so happy that I choose this one. It is living up the hype. It is about Addie LaRue, who makes a deal with the devil to live forever with a catch of not being able to make her mark on the world. This means that she can’t write anything down without it disappearing, and if someone sees her, they are quick to forget her. I am only 20 percent in this book, but so far, I am enjoying this. (Also if you want to test out Book of the Month, click this referral link so we both can score free books — it’s $14.99 a month and allows you to get a brand new release (in hardcover), which is such a deal).

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Women Who Work: Food Blogger Natalie

For many, the New Year brings the resolution of healthier eating habits. Of course, this can be challenging, especially if you choose to opt to be gluten free.

However, blogger Natalie of GF Macros with Nat has got you covered. Her blog, which originally started as an Instagram account of the same name, has many different healthy recipes for those choosing to eat healthier in 2021. Natalie’s blog has so many different choices that even have me drooling — even though I am not gluten free.

Be sure to keep reading and check out my interview with her, and then check out her blog!

Photo Credit: Natalie Asarisi

How did you get started eating gluten free?

I started eating gluten free when I got diagnosed with a gluten intolerance about 5 years ago. 

What was the hardest thing about beginning your journey about eating gluten free?

The hardest thing was adjusting to not being able to eat “normal” anymore, I had to figure out my new normal and that took some time to get used too. Eating new foods, finding gluten free substitutes and realizing they don’t taste the same at all.

Photo Credit: Natalie Asarisi


What inspired you to start your blog?

I decided to start my blog, since I had many people reach out to me from my Instagram Page and Facebook Page saying how if they go away with social media they would still like to read and see my posts so I thought it was finally time to give the people what they were asking for, a way to access my information without social media.  Tell me more about your blog.

How many times a week do you plan to post? Will you be growing to different meals, like dessert or breakfast, or stick to dinners and snacks?

I plan to post every time I make something new. Lately I have been doing dinner, breakfast and snack. I hope to include dessert sometimes soon.

How do you come up with new recipes?

I get a lot of my inspiration for my recipes through Pinterest, of course I have to modify to fit my Gluten Allergy. 

You have an Instagram account as well with so much delicious content. Will some of the recipes you share there make on the blog as well?

Yes, I have a few on my blog now. 

Photo Credit: Natalie Asarisi

What is your favorite gluten-free meal?

I would have to say, four cheese Alfredo with gluten free penne pasta with shrimp and gluten free garlic bread! 

Do you have any tips for someone who is beginning a gluten-free journey, whether it may be for health reasons like yourself, or just trying to lose weight?

I would say do a lot of research before just jumping into gluten free. I did a lot of research read a lot of articles looked at different recipes and use Pinterest that is your best friend. 

Do you have any tips for anyone who is starting a food blog in the new year?

I would say if you always wanted to do it and still never did it, nows your time to shine! Go and make that blog!

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2021 Mashed Potato Book TBR

Last year, I created a TBR that consisted of my “mashed potato” books. The definition of a mashed potato book is a book that has been sitting on your shelf for at least six months that you haven’t read yet. Many of these books have been sitting on my shelf for at least one year, if not more than that. Yeah, I really need to work on trying to get to these.

That said, I really want to try to read at least two of these a month for the year. If I don’t, I won’t penalize myself for it, but I want to really try to reduce the number of unread books that I own.

So, without further adue, here are the Mashed Potato Books that I hope to get to this year:

  1. All The Light We Can Not See by Anthony Doerr
  2. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
  3. A Court of Thorns and Roses (and hopefully the series) by Sarah J. Maas
  4. The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
  5. Tempting Fate by Jane Green
  6. The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz
  7. Lady Midnight (and hopefully the series) by Cassandra Clare
  8. Followers by Megan Angelo
  9. The Lies We Told by Camilla Way
  10. Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict
  11. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
  12. How to Hack a Heartbreak by Kristin Rockaway
  13. November 9 by Colleen Hoover
  14. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
  15. Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan
  16. With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevado
  17. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
  18. Still Me by JoJo Moyes
  19. The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes
  20. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  21. The 7 1/2 Lives of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
  22. Me by Elton John
  23. Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell
  24. Dirty Book Club by Lisi Harrison
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What I Love Wednesday: January 6, 2021

Happy Wednesday everyone! This is the first What I Love Wednesday of the year, and I am really excited to share my new favorites with you! Many of these are TV shows, since I’ve been doing a lot of binging, but that’s fine. That said, here are this week’s favorites:

90 Fiance: I started getting hooked on this show on a complete and total whim. I love watching reality tv, and I love that it just is simple and entertaining. If you don’t know what 90 Day Fiance, it basically documents the day to day lives of couples who have someone who is coming to the U.S. on a K-1 Visa, which basically means that they have 90 days to get married. It’s interesting to see the dynamics of the couples, and yes, I do love the drama.

Chrissy Teigen’s Cookbooks: I found the best deal on these cookbooks on Poshmark– two for $20. Normally, these are $30 a piece, so I thought that these were a steal. I got them on Monday, and have enjoyed flipping through them. So far, I’ve tried the Caeser salad, but I can’t wait to try more recipes this year, and to get more into cooking.

What’s Happening with Snooki and Joey: I am a huge fan of Jersey Shore, and I recently discovered this podcast so I had to listen. It’s really entertaining, and discusses lifestyle and celebrity gossip. It’s something that I’ve enjoyed listening to in the morning, because it’s something that always makes me laugh.

Pandora Elevated Heart Ring: My boyfriend gave me not one, but two promise rings. I have been wearing both equally. This ring is super special to me because every time I look down at it while I am working, I think of him. Cheesy, yes. But, it makes me really happy and I’ve been wearing this one a lot.

Bridgerton: Everyone and their mother is talking about this show, and I just started this show once I finished the third season of 90 Day Fiance. So far, I can see why everyone is obsessed with it. The best way to describe it as a 1800s London version of Gossip Girl. It is dramatic and addicting, and I am here for it. It is based on a book series, so I am sure that I will be reading that soon as well.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett: I was listening to the I Love You So Much with Kenzie Elizabeth podcast episode where she was discussing this book. This is already on my TBR, and I wanted to read it. I’m only a few pages in, but it’s about two twin sisters who escape a small Southern town in the 1950’s, and one of them returns many years later. There are a lot of jumps for this book, but so far, I am loving this book and understand the hype.

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2021 Intentions

We can all agree that 2020 was a year, and 2021 was welcomed with open arms. However, there is something about the new year mindset — it is the time that many of us set goals and some of us stick to those said goals.

That said, I wanted to take a moment and share my goals for 2021. Yes, they are late and probably should have been posted about a week ago, but I wanted to still share them anyways. After all, better late than never, right? So, here are my 2021 intentions. Notice that I didn’t say resolutions?

Read 75 Books: We all know that I constantly go over my Goodreads goal every single year, but I want to make sure that I read at least 75 books this year. I do want to slow down a little bit in my reading by reading more quality books over quantity, which is why the goal is to read the 75.

Focus on my Health: I think that I am one of the many people that have gained weight in 2020. I gained about 20 pounds since the pandemic started. While I know that I’ve gained muscle and it’s not about being skinny, it’s also been about being healthy for me since my mom was overweight and had high blood pressure. So, I want to make 2021 the year I just focus on being healthy and growing my fitness abilities. For instance, I want to try to take four Jazzercise classes a week for the month of January, and work out everyday to some degree. My plan is to set a goal for the month and grow on that versus doing the same thing everyday because I tend to get bored of doing the same workout quickly. I also want to try to eat more vegetables, reach 10,000 steps a day, and drink more water.

Invest and Prioritize In Myself: I heard about this recently, and I want to make 2021 the year I put me first. I have a habit of feeling guilty about doing things that are right for me. This could mean a number of things. For instance, I have an Audible subscription. It’s $14.95 a month, but I learn a lot when I use my subscription, since I listen to a lot of self-help and nonfiction books that have been lingering on my TBR. Another thing I want to do is to prioritize what is best for me at all times, such as not going out whenever I need to take some time for myself and not apologizing for it. I also want to make more time for things that bring me joy, whether they are crocheting, playing Animal Crossing or reading a book. These things bring me joy and often help me to relax. There are so many other instances, but this year, I want to make sure that this is the year of doing what’s best for Natalie and for Natalie to grow.

Allow myself grace: I am one of those people who doesn’t allow themselves grace whenever they make mistakes or aren’t productive all of the time. This is the year where I am going to stop that, when I stop feeling guilty whenever I sleep in, and listen to my body whenever I am tired. For the record, I am talking about the responsibilities that I have outside of work. I am no longer going to be beating myself up for not doing the most, making mistakes, and always achieving. I am allowing myself to feel things, like exhaustion when I get out of bed to work out, and saying that I’m sore whenever I work out a lot. It is okay to allow myself to feel, and allow myself to not be perfect — and be okay with it.

Shop More Intentionally and Up My Savings: I have been working on this for the last month, but my goal this year is to shop with more intention and purpose. This means making sure that everything that I buy will fit a certain area of my life. For instance, I needed a new sports bra after throwing away three of them in one go, so I allowed myself to buy more of them. Furthermore, I also want this year to be the year I add more to my savings account, and just save more money for a rainy day and to have for bigger purchases in my later 20s.

Change Who I Follow Online: I firmly believe that you are who you surround yourself with, and you are what you’re following online as well. Last year, I watched a lot of haul videos, which in my mind, made it more okay for me to shop more and buy things that were more expensive that I needed. As the year drew closer to an end, I began watching more and more savings and minimalistic videos, which I believe that inspires me to save and finally get organized. I also want to follow more people who change my mental health for the better and are positive to watch versus negative.

So, those are my 2021 intentions. Did you set any this year? Let me know in the comments below.

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December/2020 Reading Wrap-up

2020 has been a year full of many things, but one thing that this year had brought me is a lot of reading time. This past year, I managed to read 114 books, thanks to the pandemic, my discovery of e-books and audiobooks, participating in readathons, and just making more time to read than ever before. I also managed to end this reading year on a high note. As of December 30, I have read 8 books during the month, and I don’t think that I will finish the two books that I am reading. Many of them were holiday reads.

So, let’s talk about what I read in December first. As mentioned before, I used December as a chance to indulge in all of the holiday reads. During the month I read:

  • Mind the Gap, Dash and Lilly by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn: This is the last book currently in the Dash and Lilly series and talks about how the main characters navigate being in a long distance relationship. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Comfort and Joy by Kristin Hannah: This Christmas, Joy is lacking joy. So, she takes a trip to a faraway town — only to get into a plane crash. She then encounters a young man and his son, whose relationship is in need of repair because of divorce and death. I gave this three out of five stars.
  • In A Holidaze by Christina Lauren: Mae has gone to the same holiday house every single Christmas. However, before boarding the plane to go home, she learns that it’s going to be her last. She gets into an accident, and then wakes up back on the plan — five days earlier. She then relives this experience over and over again — destined to try to save the place that is the background of her childhood memories. There is a romance, and all of this book was amazing. I gave it four out of five stars.
  • Recommended for You by Laura Silverman: Shoshanna Greenberg works at her local bookstore, and is working to save her car, Barbra Streisand. Her moms are broke. The bookstore then offers the employees a competition — whoever sells the books gets $250. Shoshanna thinks that the prize is hers — until new employee Jake becomes her biggest competition. What frustrates her? The fact that he is not a huge reader. This book was so cute, and was the perfect romantic comedy I needed to bring joy. I gave this book four out five stars.
  • The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand: Holly is a superficial and spoiled teenager whose only focuses are beauty and money. She encounters her Ghost of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future, in the effort to change her ways. She didn’t, so she became a ghost. Year after year, Holly is a part of Project Scrooge, where she is stuck in the role of the Ghost of Christmas Past. Miserable in her afterlife, Holly soon becomes obsessed with saving this year’s Project Scrooge to try to save him from the same fate. I gave this book four out of five stars.
  • A Princess For Christmas by Jenny Holiday: This book is basically a rated R Hallmark movie. Princess Marie of Endovia comes to New York, and encounters struggling cab driver, Leo Ricci when he’s driving his little sister Gabby home, who spots someone in a princess gown on the street. Impressed by him, Marie then asks Leo to be her cab driver for the rest of her time there for a huge sum of money — something that Leo could use. The two begin to fall for each other, and the rest is a wonderful fairytale. I gave this book four out of five stars.
  • The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss: Kate Turner is frustrated with her dating life and just wants a relationship to last. So, she signs up for the 12 dates of Christmas challenge, a series of dates with 12 different men. However, she always ends up in her best friend’s arms. This novel is entertaining and the situations that Kate got into made me laugh. I gave it four out of five stars.
  • Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory: Vivian Forest, single mother of Maddie Forest, has never done anything for herself. So, when Maddie is offered an opportunity to style the Royal Family, she brings her mother along too to celebrate Christmas. Never in Vivian’s wildest dreams, did she expect to meet and fall in love with the Queen’s Secretary, Malcom. This story was amazing, and enjoyable to read, as well as a book that I never could manage to put down. I gave it five out of five stars.

Now, let’s take a look at the books that I read in 2020. In 2020, I managed to read 114 books. I will not list all of them, but I do want to share my top reads of the year. Those were:

  • The After Series by Anna Todd
  • Again, But Better by Christine Riccio
  • In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
  • Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel
  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  • Falling by Jane Green
  • Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  • House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin Craig
  • Fixing Freddie by Paula Munier
  • The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn
  • Didn’t See That Coming by Rachel Hollis
  • Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory
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Lacking Holiday Spirit? These Holiday Light Displays Will Get You In the Christmas Spirit

Merry Christmas everyone! I know that the holiday season is a little different this year, but I hope that everyone reading this stays safe and healthy.

That said, one of the things that have remained the same is the holiday light displays throughout the state of Connecticut. While there is stormy weather predicted for today, all of these displays will be scheduled through January 2, 2020.

Furthermore, I would like to thank all of my friends and family who had submitted photos and videos for this post. It is very much appreciated!

Holiday Light Fantasia, Hartford CT:

Located in Goodwin Park, this two mile display has over 1 million lights, according to its page on CTVisit. And, this display benefits a good cause — the Channel 3 Kids Camp. Admission is $15 per passenger car, and all details about this display can be viewed here.

Video Submitted by Paige Tillinghast

Magic of Lights, Wallingford:

The Oakdale Theater may have been quiet this year, but that then inspired the Magic of Lights. The event runs through January 13, 2021, and offers photos with Santa as well. Tickets are $30 per car for advanced purchase, and $40 at the door. For further details, check out their website.

Video Submitted by Leah Myers

Fantasy of Lights, New Haven CT:

This place has a special place in my heart because my parents used to work on this together back in 1994. Running through December 31, this display costs $10 per car and proceeds benefit the Goodwill of Southern New England. To view further details, click here.

Photo Submitted by Natalie Asarisi

Festival of Silver Lights, Hubbard Park, Meriden:

This free display has over 350,000 lights, according to CTVisit. Add in the beautiful lake, this display is gorgeous. For further information, be sure to check it out by going here.

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Milford Residents Show Christmas Cheer With #MilfordChallenge

Residents in Milford have taken on the challenge to end 2020 on a high note. All throughout the city from Devon to the downtown area to Woodmont, the street signs have been sporting holiday decorations for the last month.

It all began a single Facebook post from Milford resident Sharon Rutledge. Rutledge said she simply decorated her street sign as a way to spread some holiday cheer and then posted a picture of it to share on a Milford Community Facebook group called “You Know You Live In Milford, CT If. . .” The post, posted on November 28, 2020 by Rutledge, had a photo of Rutledge’s decorated street sign with the caption: “Milford challenge!! In an effort to bring more joy to out streets for the holiday season… let’s see how many street signs we can decorate!! Here’s mine! I’d love to see this catch on and you all post your pics!!!”

As of December 23, 2020, that post had over 400 reactions, and over 100 comments — many of the Milford residents who decided to take on the challenge for themselves. And, there are also hundreds of posts with the hashtag #milfordchallenge on Facebook as well.

Rutledge said that none of this was planned.

“I wish I could say that I planned this and had a goal in mind, but, I didn’t,” said Rutledge. “I simply wanted to decorate our street sign as a way to wish my neighbors happy holidays.  It has been such a sad and difficult year for so many, it was just my very little way of trying to bring some extra joy.”

While this is the first year of the Milford challenge, Rutledge said she was unsure that this would become an annual tradition.

“A lot depends on how proactive people are about removing the decorations in a timely manner,” said Rutledge. “I will publicize on the Facebook page about setting a goal of 1/6 for removal and I hope people cooperate.  The last thing I want is poles left decorated past the holiday season that would cause liter and make our city look less beautiful than it is.”

However, even though it is Christmas Eve, it is not too late to participate.

“It’s NEVER too late,” Rutledge said.

Check out some of the street signs decorated with for the #MilfordChallenge below:

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What I Love Wednesday: December 23, 2020

Happy Wednesday! There are only two days left before Christmas and I couldn’t be more excited. While this holiday looks different than in years past, I still am looking forward to spoiling Lucy with her gifts.

That said, I want to share my favorites for the week. Many of them are television shows since I’ve been binge watching a lot more as of late.

Bee Gees How Can You Mend a Broken Heart Documentary: I watched this last Friday night and I absolutely loved this movie. It tells the story of The Bee Gees from their formation to the disco days. In that documentary, you see a lot of footage of the band as they grow up and you learn a lot about the era of their music. It is definitely worth the watch. And I’m not going to lie, it made me interested in listening to them a lot. You can watch it on HBO Max.

After We Collided: I was obsessed with the After series for the first part of the year and I have been waiting for this movie to come out since last December. It continues the story of Tessa and Hardin and their crazy relationship. This movie is kinda trashy but kinda addicting — just like the books. I already can’t wait for the third one. You can watch both After movies on Netflix.

A VSCO photo from the summer. My username is nattbarletta.

VSCO: Lately, I’ve been really into using the app VSCO to edit my photos and just take more photography. I got one back in 2016 and rarely used it, but I have been loving taking simple snapshots of things in my life and turning them into beautiful photos. In the new year, I want to make more time for the things that I love, and photography is one of them.

Apple Watch Band: I mentioned this yesterday in my Amazon Haul, and I really love this band. I’ve been using it since I got it and I love it because it’s unique looking and comfortable to wear.

So, those are this week’s favorites. What are your favorites? Let me know in the comments below!