My Fall Bucket List

I’m making a list and checking it twice.  Not for Christmas, but for Fall.  I’m making a to-do list of things to enjoy and do this upcoming season.

Over the years I’ve grown to love Fall.  I love the color and richness of the Season.  The earth tone colors tend to warm my heart and it makes me feel all cozy inside.

I also love Fall because it’s one of those Season where you get a break from the blazing Summer while it gives you chance to prepare and brace for the cold and hectic Winter.  It’s not too hot and not too cold. Continue reading

Itoja’s Top Blogs + My Number 1 Blogging Tip!

If you’ve been following me for some time now, then you are aware that I’ve written about everything under the sun.  If you can name it, I’ve probably written about it or given my two cents about it in some form or another.  This is one reason why I like to call myself your virtual best friend—because I’m here to give you the 411—and one of the reasons why you’ll never catch me conforming to a niche.

With that being said, I wanted to highlight a few of my top blogs thus far.  Perhaps there is one on the list that you didn’t get a chance to read or maybe you’re just interested in seeing the blogs that has gotten the most love over time. Whatever the case may be, I have them here for your review.  Believe me, they range from Love and Romance to smoking weed.  It’s a wide spectrum.  It truly makes me laugh out loud!  But, I now know what you guys are into! HAHA.  Listen, this is a no judgement zone so no worries here! Continue reading

Have The Whole Damn Cake!

Has anyone ever told you that you deserve the absolute best?

Has anyone ever told you that you are worth [it]?

If you answered NO to any of those two questions, I’m here to let you know that you are worthy of everything and you deserve the best and should always want the best for you.

I’m here to let you know that the world is yours for the taking!  Whatever you want you can achieve it AND you are worthy of it!

If you’ve ever felt this way about anything, trust me, I get it and I understand.  A lot of times we don’t feel as if we are worthy of very much.  We have a lot of self-shame and we tend to settle for the bare minimum. Continue reading

How To Write The Perfect Wedding Toast

Believe it or not, fall is one the busiest seasons to get married.  You may ask how do I know this. Well, you could Google it, and of course Google will tell you the same thing, but remember I work at a Bridal Store, so I know firsthand that this is true.  Many engagements happen during the Holiday season (Nov-Jan). For those couples who plan to get married rather quick, a late summer or early fall wedding is ideal.  This gives them roughly 8-10 months to plan a wedding and that’s doable.  Then you have a lot of couples who want to get married in cooler temperatures (not too hot and not too cold) especially if their nuptials will take place outside.  Plus, there is something about fall colors that everyone just loves.  This takes me back to my original point that fall is one of the busiest season to get married!

Now, for the rest of us, those who are in a wedding this fall or perhaps even attending a wedding in the upcoming seasons, and you’re contemplating on the speech you’re going to give, you’ve come to the right place. Continue reading

Honoring The Elderly

I’ve always been grandma’s girl.  I’m not the only one, but as the first grandchild, I can say that.  But even taking it a step further–beyond my grandmother and including all elders–they are like treasures; full of wisdom and knowledge.

You see, at 81 years of age, grandma is tender yet strong.  She’s had some health issues and she spends a lot of time at the doctor and sometimes she’s a little fussy, but it’s ok.  As grandma she has that right.

These days she’s trying her best to hold on to some of her independence.  She still wants to cook here and there and she’s determine to get up each day, putting one foot in front of the other.  It’s not easy handing the torch over, however, she understands where she is now in life and has humbly obliged. Continue reading

Love is a Journey—First Year of Marriage Recap

The top three questions that were asked of me this year were, “How is married life? How has your first year of marriage been? Does it feel different to be married?”

In the beginning, my first response was “it’s the same”–because indeed it felt the same.  Our relationship was already planted on a solid foundation, really the only thing left to do was to get married.

But the more I was asked the more I started asking myself if there were things that were supposed to change because we had said, “I Do?” Continue reading

Rumor Has It Destiny’s Child Is Planning A 20th Anniversary Reunion Tour, And We Are Saying Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes — MadameNoire

Help me as I try to control my excitement!

Did you know that I’m a total Beyoncé fan?  I’ve been to three concerts, indoors and outdoors. I’ve traveled for miles, took days off from work, and stood in pouring rain in stadiums just to see Beyoncé perform live. I’ve brought every CD, downloaded and streamed every song. I’ve purchased her Merch and watched everything that she’s ever been in from TV to movies to YouTube videos of her when she was little. I love Beyoncé and I’ve vowed to myself to attend every tour she does from here on out.  That’s just that!

In my mind, Beyoncé and I are friends.  She’s down to Earth, she’s dedicated to her fans and her purpose in life.  She always give more than 100% at everything she does.  She’s pro-black, pro-woman, and she puts on one heck of a show! The girl can truly sing and that’s no lie.

So, as a faithful member of the BeeHive and a long time fan of Destiny’s Child…I’m just sitting here waiting patiently for – if and when – these tour dates drop.  And let’s be fair, I’ve seen Kelly Rowland in concert as well. But only once. So the joy of seeing the trio group come together for a reunion tour has me so excited for 2020. Therefore, I’m saving my coins so that I’ll be ready to purchase tickets WHENEVER that time comes.

If the tour happens, I imagine that each of the ladies would perform a number of their solo songs along with their Destiny’s Child songs. Taking us from church music, to soul music, to club and pop music and me singing to the top of my lungs to number one hits since the 90’s.

This tour would be so lit! 🔥

Check out the article below from MadameNoire for a deeper look inside the story.

Tell me you’re excited as I am!!!

 

Are all of our 90s/early 2000s dreams about to come true? Is there a Destiny’s Child reunion in the works? Sources told The Sun that Beyoncé is looking to bring the iconic girl band back together for a 20th anniversary reunion tour. 285 more words

via Rumor Has It Destiny’s Child Is Planning A 20th Anniversary Reunion Tour, And We Are Saying Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes — MadameNoire

Your 2019 Late Summer TV Binge List

I can’t believe that Summer has basically flown by; but while we still have a few weeks remaining, lets use some of this time to get caught up on our Summer Binging.  I’m just going to speak for myself and admit that I’m always asking someone what they’re watching on TV.  I love a good binge and I know that a lot of my followers do as well.

Continue reading

My Favorite Wine Accessory

The time is now, we’ve hit our Summer months, which mean hotter and longer days for sure.  With the abundance of sunshine most people opt to stay outdoors as long as possible.

Nothing says Summer to me, than sitting outside on the porch as the Sun goes down.  Or perhaps, a picnic in the park or a family reunion with family that you haven’t seen in years. Continue reading

Beach Living

Imagine yourself tucked away on what seems like an remote island.  Bumper to Bumper action as packed cars travel to their designations for the week.  Children are hanging out of the car windows anxiously waiting to ride bikes and stay up extra late.  It’s the middle of Summer and during the day the sun is blazing.  There’s no way to escape the humid temperatures and even after the sun has set along the coast of the beach the heat still remains.  The night stars that hang in the sky are magical and finally you can let your windows down to enjoy the fresh air as you cruise along the shore. This is a place you wish you could stay forever.

Continue reading

This is America

A while back I made a statement on one of my social media accounts stating to be aware of those people who are “Pro-Fetus but Anti-child.”

This particular quote comes from Bakari Sellers, an African-American attorney, political commentator, and politician.

First, let’s be really clear here. I’m neither pro-life or pro-choice. This is a hard fence to straddle because what it all boils down to is what a woman decides to do with her body and what’s inside of her. Women have abortions for many different reasons and quite frankly I don’t think that white males (or any male) should be telling women what they should or should not be doing with their bodies. But these particular people like to be in control so therefore they like to put laws into place that will somehow stroke their little egos. Continue reading

What you need to know about AirPods

Technology has begun to take over the world.  Before we can get use to one specific device another one is coming out doing something better and different than the last.

AirPods, are Apple’s first wireless Bluetooth earbuds and was released on December 13, 2016.  Upon it’s original release, I knew I wanted them but to be honest I was very skeptical.  So I put my want on the back burner and continued on with life.

Again, with every new invention, a better one will soon be released—at least this is the case with Apple.  So in March of 2019 the second iteration of the AirPods were released.  I thought it was finally time to give these AirPods a try, besides it was time to see what the hype was all about. Continue reading

The ABC Car Game

For most families, family vacation takes place during the Summer and it’s that time of the year again.

But before you pack up the car and load everyone in, and even before you stop to get gas and snacks, I want to you teach you all a fun game to play that will provide entertainment and fun while you’re going from one destination to another..

My family calls this game, The ABC Game.  My dad taught this to my sister and I when we were little girls and we’ve been playing it ever since.  I’m not even sure if it’s a real game or not.  I just know it’s something that was always fun for us and we’ve since taught it to our children. Continue reading

How to get a free U.S. Passport!

It’s the beginning of July and I’ve been officially married for 10 months!  Marriage itself has been a blast and I’ll be sharing more about our first year of marriage as we get closer to our anniversary date; but one of my main struggles thus far has been getting my name changed!!!

Ugh! It not only takes forever, but each place or account have different requirements when it comes to changing a name.  Unless you have to get your name changed, you fail to realize how many businesses you are affiliated with.

Most couples plan an extravagant honeymoon traveling to a tropical island or a country outside of the United States that requires a U.S. passport.  For us, we did a Carnival Cruise to Cuba (click HERE for that blog) that required passports.

I had a previous passport prior to traveling to Cuba but it had expired and I had no choice but to get a new one.  I took care of all of that around the middle of June last year.

After marriage I had copies of our marriage certificate made.  I finally got my license renewed and my name changed, however, I was curious to know if I could use my new license and my old passport together.  After Googling I found out that the name on your license had to match the name on your passport – SHUCKS.

I knew I definitely wanted a new U.S. passport; they last 10 years and it makes traveling so much easier.  But I didn’t want to spend 120 more dollars getting my name changed again after only having it for less than a year.

[Puts on thinking cap]

After doing a little investigation on the passport site, I found out that if your name has changed less than one year after U.S. passport was issued AND your U.S. passport is less than one year old you can have your name changed on your passport for FREE!!!!!

So this is for all of the newly married ladies out there.  Take advantage of this NOW!

I almost missed my deadline because my U.S. passport was issued on 6/30/18.  By the time I figured this out it was already the beginning of June 2019.  I had to move really fast.

Let me just tell you that if I had missed this deadline I would have been HOT.  Like on fire HOT.  Oh man, I would have been so pissed.

But thankfully I got everything (name change application, most recent U.S. Passport, a color photo, and marriage license) sent to them on time.

ps: Whenever you’re mailing off U.S. Passport documentations be sure to send it off via Certified Mail. Sending your items off via Certified Mail allows your package to be tracked and it’s also insured.

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The Ten Commandments of The Black Church

Growing up in a black church, lets just say it was an experience!  Therefore, I’ve created the Ten Commandments of the Black Church.  These will help you if you’re ever visiting a black church and believe me, they will apply to you at some point in the service…….(study to show thyself approved).

1. Thou shall put up one finger and tiptoe out of service if you’re leaving early.

2. Thou shall bring a snack. Continue reading

5 Tips for Raising Teenagers

Where do I start?  Raising a teenager in this day and time is not easy whatsoever.  In fact, raising a teenager, period, is not easy, but especially now, it’s so much harder.  The same can be said for being a teenager—it is hard for them as well.  They are in that awkward period of their lives where they’re technically still a child but now older with more responsibilities and slightly a little more freedom.  They’re at a crossroads between doing what they know is right and wanting to fit in with “cool” kids.  They’re trying to figure out who they are but at the same time they are “know it alls” and refuse to listen to anyone over the age of 25.

I believe the hardest years for parents and child are the teenage years.  It’s one of those iron sharpens iron situations.  It’s a constant battle that both parent and child have to work on.

I remember growing up and the pressure from social media or reality TV was not present.  Back in those days, you worried about your parents letting your friend stay over, trying to record songs from the radio onto your cassette tape, and what was going on at school.  These days, kids are worried about the latest technology, the G-Wagon they saw a celebrity’s child driving on their Instagram feed, and so much more. Continue reading

Are you willing to get uncomfortable?

Late last year at my full time job, I was asked if I wanted to train a class of 7 people for about a week.  I would only be training them on a few of the forms we processed, these forms being some of the easier forms, therefore it would be a very easy class to train.

I was asked to train because the actual trainer was out sick and they needed someone to get the job done fast.  Everyone pointed to me.  I stood there in shock like a deer in headlights because I had never trained a class before.  I’m also one of the employees who has been there a shorter amount of time than the others.  I wondered why they would choose me out of everyone else that worked in the department.  The more I sat there and questioned my ability to train an actual class the more everyone kept saying I would be the perfect fit.

I finally agreed to take on the huge task but I was really nervous.  In case you didn’t know, I’ve always been more of a behind the scene person.  Getting in front of a class teaching them was totally out of my comfort zone.  To be honest, I was uncomfortable!  My voice was shaky.  I had so many “what-ifs.”  But I wanted to take on the challenge because I saw this as possibly being a great opportunity.

By the end of the week, I was starting to get into my groove and getting up in front of the class to teach was becoming easier and easier.  All I had to do was to begin to have confidence within myself.  img_7632So, when I was asked again to train 5 additional people this past May for an entire month on everything that we do and not just a few of the items we processed, this time I was very confident and was able to say yes, immediately.

See, there wasn’t a question of if I knew the material.  I was sure of that.  But for many years I was allowing my nerves to outshine my abilities.  I wasn’t willing to get uncomfortable BUT I have learn that growth only happens when we are uncomfortable and when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

I no longer ask “why me” but now I say, “why not me.”  At this point in my life I am willing to grow however necessary.  If it means I have to get uncomfortable then I’m willing to do just that especially if it will benefit me in the end.

Remember, if you’re willing to get uncomfortable, then you’re willing to grow.

If you’re recently had a growing moment, please share in the comments!

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The Melting Pot

Back in April, my family did a quick girls trip to Philadelphia aka The City of Brotherly Love! Our three day weekend consisted of site seeing, shopping, bonding, and of course some good eating.

We chose The Melting Pot because no one had ever been and we are not fortunate enough to have one in our neck of the woods.  The younger ladies (14 and 19 years old) were not feeling it at all.  While it was out of the norm for them, they really didn’t know what to expect.  We did our best convincing them that life is about the experience and really they had no choice but to oblige. Continue reading

Drop it like it’s HOT

Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve tried just about every type of workout class one can think of, including pole dancing!!  Now, before you begin to judge, don’t knock it before you try it.

I know most people associate pole dancing with erotica and yes, I can certainly understand why.  But, there are studios that offer pole dancing workouts that are intended to be a part of your everyday fitness routine.

Continue reading

My Blessing

I could probably guess that many do not know the story of me becoming a mother.  I was a junior in college, away from home, trying to earn my degree, and living a fun careless life.

I was a virgin until I was 19 years old.  Even after I lost my virginity, I wasn’t just running around with every Tom, Dick, or Harry.  I’ve always been a very cautious person so who I gave my body too was always important to me. Continue reading

15 Travel Tips For 2019

It’s 2019 and it’s time to start planning our vacations for the year.  I am a big advocate for vacations or small weekend trips.  I believe it’s necessary to step away from your every day life a few times a year to explore, relax, and to enjoy life.  I often hear about people not having time for vacation or not having enough money for a trip and it saddens me.  It only means that they did not properly plan and in my book, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!  Quite frankly, I can’t imagine life with out a trip. Continue reading

Self Maintenance

I get it, no one likes going to the doctor.  It’s frustrating to have a 1pm appointment that turns into an all day affair.  Going to the doctor sucks but it’s necessary!

With the New Year moving right along I want to personally remind each of you to remember to get your doctor visits in.  It’s all about that Self Maintenance that we all agreed to do on January 1st (read about my personal mission HERE).  Going to the Doctor goes hand and Continue reading

Smoking on Hay

Twenty three years ago, the year was 1996 and I remember clear as day riding around my small town with my best friend, of now 28 years, singing to Crucial Conflict’s hottest song at the time, “Hay.”

We didn’t just listen to the song, but we jammed to the song.  We would sing the song to the top of our lungs.  We mimicked the group as we tried to quote the rappers especially on their fast parts.  Thinking about that now makes me want to laugh at the top of my lungs.

To take it a step further my best friend had a small, red Mazda MX3, and she had the nerve to have a sound system in the trunk of the car (Remember it was the 90s). So when we rode around listening to our favorite songs such as Hay, the song had all the base and treble anyone could ask for.  I mean it thumped!

But we loved the song Hay and honestly, I didn’t even know everything they were talking about at the time.  Mostly I knew it was about smoking weed and I had never smoked weed before but it was something about the beat and the rapping that made me love the song anyway.

To my knowledge weed was just weed back then. But over the years the industry –yea it’s an industry now–has grown tremendously.  They’re whipping up this weed like it’s the latest cake at a birthday party.  Like what flavor would you like; and do you want that in plant form, edible, or oils?  It’s that serious.

Here are just a few names that you may or may not be familiar with:

  • Purple Haze
  • Jack Herer
  • Gonja
  • Kush
  • Skywalker OG
  • Blackcherry Kush
  • Banana OG
  • Purp
  • Loud
  • Superman
  • Blue cheese

Any of these names ring a bell?

If not, they are all familiar names or strands of weed that has become the norm over the years.  Believe it or not, there are hundreds of different types or strands of weed these days.

Many people consider themselves to be functional smokers.  I have even heard of jobs no longer testing for drug usage due to the higher number of people consuming marijuana these days; especially on the West Coast.

In today’s society, more and more people are smoking weed.  Legalization of marijuana is steadily increasing for recreational and medical usage, but there are still many regulations and federal laws surrounding the popular drug to date.  Many fail to realize that these federal laws cause for marijuana to still be illegal in many places whereas in 1996 it was illegal all around the board.

Celebs have begun creating their own strands of weed and basically monopolizing off the whole brand.  Nowadays you can buy stock in Cannabis.  There are weed dispensaries or stores in specific cities around the world.  The industry has really grown if that’s what you’re into.  For me, it’s not my thing.  I would much rather get into the wine business.  Or have my own line of wines (if anyone can help me with that please contact me).  But that’s another story.  Let’s stick to the topic at hand.  This weed.

Here’s what I really want people to know……

Many people fail to realize that they aren’t smoking weed in its purest form anymore. What they are smoking is hybrid weed or a certain strand of weed which transforms the weed into a compilation of many things in one.  Just look at some those names I listed above.

Then what about the THC.  THC is an abbreviation for this really long word (tetrahydracannabinol) which is the intoxicating chemical that is found in the cannabis plant.

The trick is that more and more THC is being added to weed these days because that is the chemical that actually makes you high.  Not that real “organic” weed will not make you high but the added THC will make you feel higher.  Natural weed was originally used to make you calm and had more of a healing effect.  Let’s face it, no one is smoking that type of weed anymore.  People are smoking weed to get higher, higher, and higher.

With that said, did you know that THC has a very high dosage of estrogen?  Estrogen is the hormone that helps develop female characteristics within a woman’s body.  So the more THC you add to weed the more estrogen you’ll find!  And then guess what?  The more it goes into your body.  At this point you’re getting less and less of the calming effects that weed or marijuana once had on a person and more of the estrogen or THC components.

Are you still following me?

So fellas, do you ever wonder why sometimes you start acting like a “Mitch!”  Or ever wonder why you’re getting man boobs?  Well, you’re tuning yourself into a little woman with all that estrogen you’re inhaling! Hahahahahaha but seriously.  It’s true.  To take it a step further you may even experience erectile dysfunction, loss of hair, or other side effects.

Ladies, perhaps you’re experiencing irregular monthly cycles, or anxiety, or fertility issues.  These can all come from the over consumption of marijuana.

Of course, all side effects do not occur in every person but certainly I hope this gives all of you smokers something to think about.  Besides, what’s worse than smoking a blunt after someone else has licked all around it and then participating in that puff, puff, pass situation.  My OCD can’t tolerate any parts of that.

Listen, don’t you all come for me at once.  I know I’m trotting around a very sensitive area here.  I’m just the messenger and I refuse to pass judgement on anyone.  So keep living your best life but just remember what “itoja!”

ps: Here’s the YouTube video of Hay by Crucial Conflict from 1996.

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Itoja turns 1

“Be willing to take a chance

because you never know how perfect

something could turn out”

A year in review:

I must say, this has been an amazing year and the term, “time flies when you’re having fun” is certainly true.  While it has been fun, it has not all been easy! I truly didn’t know how people would react to this blog when I first started.  To be upfront and personal as well as relatable all at the same time isn’t always as easy as it look.  However, it has definitely been worthwhile!

Throughout the year I have received feedback of how much THIS blog has inspired others, how it has motivated some, and how the blog has been a delight to read week by week.  I’ve written over 120 blogs this year; we’ve had a Dos and Don’t monthly segment that was a big hit; we’ve talked about relationships, travels, and so much more.

The focus of this blog has always been to showcase everyday life in a way to inspire and connect with other people.  Basically like an online support group in a more fun and updated way.  In today’s world, people are always out and about and on their phones–you can pull Itoja up on your phone in the back seat of a Uber or on a train or while you’re waiting on your food before dinner.  Where you go–I go!

Here is what I know!  I know that life isn’t always peaches and cream.  I know that life is so much easier when you have someone to talk to or when there is a central place where you can come to read and connect with others who may be going through the same thing as you; good or bad.

I also know that sometimes you just want to know about the latest wine that I’m drinking or what I’m listening to this week or perhaps the latest place I’ve traveled to.  Whatever it is that you need Itoja is your virtual best friend (thanks cuz)!  So as we evolve and grow the mission essentially will still be the same.

Party Festivities:

So on this first birthday of Itoja, I’m going to have a little cake and a little dessert wine–my two favorite things.  This particular wine is called Ruby from AmRheine’s Winery in Bent Mountain, Virginia.  It’s a sweet red wine with a hints of chocolate and raspberry and it’s pairs perfectly with desserts or by itself!

I know you all want to send gifts, lol, but please don’t stress yourself.  Instead, like this post, comment, share, and subscribe to this blog.  If you love what you’re reading and if you need a good girlfriend–Itoja is the place to be!

What’s next?:

Be sure to invite your family and friends to join this big circle of friendship.  I promise to keep the content original, to keep it fun, to keep it inspiring and to be a voice for everyone.  Each of you play a very important role in this blog and each week I love dropping into your inbox or on your social media feed to let you know, I have arrived and I’m ready to connect and catch up, as friends usually do.

There is a high that follows any post that I put out when I receive likes or comments–so please keep them coming, especially if you love what you’re reading!

Be sure to follow the blog on Facebook HERE.  As well as Instagram HERE.

And because you matter so much to me, I want to hear what you have to say about this blog, Itoja and how I can make your visit here even more worthwhile.  Your feedback is appreciated!   SUBMIT FEEDBACK!

XOXO,

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Should you Clicklist or should you not?

Ordering groceries online is the new thing.  Just about every store these days has a newly renovated pickup area outside where you can just pull up, call into the store, and someone bring your groceries directly to you after you’ve already submitted your online order.  For the store I frequent often, they refer to this as “Clicklist.”

I will say, that is very convenient.  I’ve done it twice.  But it is not my favorite thing to do.  I just think to myself, how much lazier could one be?  I’m paying a few extra dollars for someone else to walk around the store and pick out my groceries.

I felt obligated to tip the workers the first time I tried the service but they quickly told me they weren’t allowed to take tips.  Huh?  For some reason that really shocked and bothered me.  Besides that, whenever I think about doing the “Clicklist” option I’m always out of the timing brackets for the day.  For a service such as this, I need it either really early in the morning or really late at night.

Perhaps, its a great option to have if you have several little kids at home and a working husband and going to the grocery store is a hassle for you.  But for me I’d rather be able to pick out my own items while browsing the isles.  I want my tomatoes a certain way, I want my bananas green, I don’t want my canned items to be bent, and I could go on and on.  I’m just a picky person.

So I don’t want to tell you that you should or should not “Clicklist.” I think it’s a personal preference for sure.  With the busy Holiday season approaching I would imagine that going the “Clicklist” route could very well come in handy.  Although it’s not my number one way to shop for groceries don’t look at me differently if you see me pull up to the pickup section.

Have any of you tried the “Clicklist” option at stores?  I know Kroger’s offers this service if you have one in your area.  Walmart also has this option and a handful of other stores.  Let me know your thoughts.

This post may contain affiliated links but all opinions are of my own!

XOXO,

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Get paid to shop online!!

Where are my online shoppers?  I love shopping online, waiting for my package to arrive, and being excited to finally hold it in my hands.  I do a lot of online shopping but even more during the Holiday season. If you’re anything like me, and as busy as I am, then lets get ready to rumble as we approach our favorite time of the year and tons of boxes at our doors. Continue reading

The Perfect Wine Cocktail

Today is your lucky day because I’m giving away one of my top secret drinks that I’ve stumbled upon.

I wish I could take the full credit for coming up with this sweet bubbly sensation that takes place during every sip of this cocktail; but I can’t.

I first became aware of such thing by listening to Reid This Reid That podcast hosted by Jacque Reid and Joy Ann Reid.  If you’re familiar with either of these ladies you know off top that they are leaders and journalist at the top of their game and are all about black girl magic.  Their podcast is fun and informative, covering topics from A-Z; whether it’s a recap on your latest TV show or politics–they have you covered.

They are also very serious about their wine and every podcast there’s a “wine down” segment where they inform their listeners about the wine of the day and just break down what has been going on in their lives over the past week (you should tune in if you haven’t already).

So one day I’m listening to the fabulous podcast of Reid This Reid That where they mentioned their drink of the day was Prosecco mixed with a splash of St. Germain.  Now I was familiar with Prosecco, it’s an Italian white wine with a crisp refreshing taste that has become one of my absolute favorites.  I even served it at my wedding!  However, I was not familiar with the St. Germain.  After a little Googling I found out that St. Germain was made from Elderflowers and was a sweet liqueur.  img_6216

The next week I’m tuning in to the podcast, because I’m a regular listener, and again they mentioned they were having Prosecco and St. Germain!  So at this point I knew I had to get my hands on this liqueur.  As a wine lover I had to make sure their praise of this cocktail was legit.

I eventually made my way to the ABC store where I would purchase the St. Germain.  I browsed a few aisle like I knew what I was looking for.  But truth be told, I had no clue.  In an attempt to not waist much more of my time I decided to solicit help from an associate.

Soon after I would do my first trial run with mixing the two drinks together. Baaaaaaby (In my New Orleans voice)! This cocktail had me on the edge of my seat.  I couldn’t believe how great this drink was.  Immediately, I had my whole life together.  It’s light, it’s sweet, it’s crisp, and it’s GOOD.

It’s the perfect drink if you just need something after work to unwind.  It’s perfect if you’re having a brunch or hanging with your girlfriends.  For me, I love it when I just want some ME time.  On a Sunday afternoon, I’ll pull out my good champagne flutes (you know the real crystal ones), pour me a glass or two, and just take a break from everything in efforts to relax my mind.  It’s perfect!

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Ladies and Gents….this is a must have!  Please let me know if you give this wine duo a try.  I’m eager to know your thoughts and what your taste buds are thinking!

Thank you to the Reid ladies for such a delightful drink! Cheers 🥂

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This post has not been Sponsored and all opinions are of my own!

Dos and Dont’s (October Edition)

Hello Friends!

We are back again with our October rendition of “Dos and Don’ts.”  Remember in August, I mentioned that we would be skipping the month of September because it was a really busy month for me and I had to take a few weeks off to get married and vacation properly.  Well, time moves fast when you’re having fun and already we are in October. Continue reading

My Travels to Cuba

WHAT WAS REQUIRED OF US:

  1. Passport (Proof of citizenship)
  2. Visa (Permits entry in to a country) $75/person
  3. Travel Affidavit

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

I do want to emphasize that we traveled to Cuba via a cruise ship and once we arrived to the Port of Tampa we were given our Visa’s.  Completion of the Visa would be required prior to going through immigration in order to get into Cuba.  If you’re flying over I would imagine you would have to obtain your Visa before arriving or at the airport.  *Tip: Although it didn’t happen to us, it is important that you do not lose your Visa and that you fill it out correctly because if any of these two things happens you have to purchase the Visa’s over.* Continue reading

You’ve asked; I’ve answered! (Getting to know Toya)

In just a few months I’ll stumble across my one year anniversary of blogging and I believe there is no better time than now for you to get to know me a little better.  If you’ve been following along and enjoying this journey as much as I have then you may know a little about me,  but perhaps we could dig a little deeper.  So that’s what this blog is all about; getting to know me better!

To assist me in this project, I asked my readers some time ago to send me their burning questions, and like always, they came through.  Additional questions were added by me and then some were taken from The Fab Files.


Why do you blog?

In short, I love to write.  There is a ton of stuff going on in my head, often at the same time.  I realized that I needed a place to unpack my brain at any given moment of the day.  I want to somehow, someway, empower young girls and women across the world.  Perhaps, even men too.  I’m not opposed to that.  I wouldn’t say I’ve had a rough life, actually, I think it’s been pretty good for the most part.  But I have experiences a lot of things and I want to talk about it all.

What are your goals when it comes to blogging?

My goals are:

– To be a sounding board where we can all come together in one place.

 -To be as relatable as possible to my readers while also representing the black culture.

-To grow as a blogger and to network more.

-Ultimately, my goal is to be the Oprah Winfrey of Blogging! Plain and simple.

What are your nicknames? What do you prefer to be called?

I have a ton of nicknames; Toya, Toja, Toj, Loli, Hash Brown, Jamaican Toya (inside story).  I prefer to be called Toya or Toja.  But when I’m at work in a professional setting I prefer Latoya.

How do you come up with your blog ideas?

Inspiration mostly.  I also think about what do I want my readers to learn from me after reading my blog?  Which is why a lot of blogs are centered around my everyday life or experiences but hopefully written in a way to where the readers can learn from or at least start a conversation.  Sometimes I’m giving suggestions on blog post from readers.  I really love when my readers give me suggestions–this is what helps me grow.

What is your zodiac sign?

I’m a Taurus.  I’m a bull but I think for the most part a nice one.  I can be very stubborn and standoffish at times.  I’m not easily moved.  I don’t necessarily make friends easy.  I think the Taurus has a lot to do with that.

Who performs the most random acts of kindness out of everyone you know?

It would have to be a tie between my mother and grandmother.  They are huge givers and they inspire me to be like them, probably more than they know.

Favorite sound?

My favorite sound is silence.  I really don’t like a lot of noise.  There are moments when I will sit at home with no TV or anything on.  I love being in the quiet and stillness of my thoughts.  My phone is ALWAYS on silent.  Which is why I miss a lot of phone calls.  I don’t like to hear it ring constantly, I don’t like to hear text message chimes, or email chimes.  I’ll see it when I see it.

Favorite pastime thing to do?

I LOVE traveling.  If I could travel for a living that would be my job.  I enjoy going to new places and learning about their culture.  It’s exciting and fun.  I also enjoy going to wineries.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud to be a mom.  It is truly one of the greatest blessings and definitely a true way to learn how to love unconditionally.

Name a time when you were really afraid?

This may seem really funny,  but it when I was Jet Skiing in the Florida Keys.  It was the most scariest things I had every done.  I was terrified.  I was cussing and praying at the same time.  I was so afraid.  All I saw was water and I am not a swimmer.  I was on the back of my sister and she didn’t know what she was doing although she tried to act like she did.  I thought I would die.

Are you high maintenance? Explain.

I would say, perhaps, a little.  I enjoy really nice things but I do ball on a budget.

If you could restore one broken relationship, which would it be?

I don’t want to say that it’s broke, but I would make the relationships between my brothers and I a lot stronger and closer.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

I would have 3 homes.  One in Virginia, my home state.  One in Florida, because that’s where the hubby wants to live.  Then one in California.  I love vacationing in California, the weather is perfect and I love the atmosphere.  In my dream world we would rotate homes about every 4 months!

What is your go to TV show when nothing else is on?

My go-to TV show is most likely any 90’s sitcom from when I was growing up.  I can usually sit and watch those shows for hours.


Did I leave off anything that you really wanted to know?  Leave a comment and I’ll be sure to answer.

Oh, and I’d like to know a little about you too.  Tell me where you’re reading from?

 

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Ladies, Love Yourself

Loving ourselves is something that women, especially, often have a hard time doing.  Of course we all say that we love ourselves, but do our actions truly show that?

How many times have we put a man before our needs or before our children?  How many times have you allowed The D (and you know what I mean) to control you and your emotions?

Women already have to take on more responsibilities than men these days.  We literally carry the world on our shoulders.  It hurts my heart to see women settle for no good men.  When we truly love ourselves we are able to set standards and expectations.  We are able to be strong and independent with or without a man.

Yes, sex is great.  But if all you are getting from a relationship is sex then sis you are settling and I want you to desire more from that relationship.  Remember a man will only treat you the way you allow them to treat you.  A real man will make time for you.  A real man will be happy and willing to commit to you.  I’m not saying you have to get married next week but he shouldn’t be leading you on or making you feel like you’re in limbo.

You may ask, well who is this blog post for? It’s for any single (because once you’re married that’s a whole different story) teen or woman, old or young, who may need a reminder that self-love is the best love.  If you don’t love yourself completely then another person won’t be able to love YOU completely either.

I understand it’s not always as easy as it seems.  I get that.  I’ve trotted in these same shoes before.  But trust that there are people out here who are willing to stand by you through difficult times.  There are people who have been in your shoes and understand the emotional soul tie that may be pulling at your hem strings.  You don’t have to settle for half of the pie when you can have the whole cake.  There are good men out here.

You are the captain of your life and a man shouldn’t dictate your happiness.  You are loved and you deserve love!

XOXO,

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“The Read” – Wedding Edition

September 2, 2018 will forever be one of the best days of my life.  It is the day that I said “I do” to my very best friend.  

Now, that I have gotten that out-of-the-way I want to dedicate this blog to the just a few things that really annoyed me leading up to this special day and then afterwards.  Yup, I’m reading all of y’all–so if the shoe fit–then wear it!

  1. The lack of RSVPing

When will people begin to learn wedding etiquette is my ultimate question?  Quite frankly, we could possibly care less to who comes to the wedding (meaning how many ppl attending).  The point of the invitation is to get a heads up on how much food we will need to accommodate all of our guest.

It is the year of 2018 people.  Perhaps you’ve never planned a wedding or had a REAL wedding before but I know for sure you’ve probably been to a wedding.  Nothing about a wedding is cheap.  Caterers charge at least, $15 or $20 per person, depending on who the caterer is or what foods you may or may not be serving.  Everything down to the napkin you use to wipe your mouth cost money.  So the next time someone invites you to their wedding, the next time someone even thinks about adding you to their guest list, or the next time you’re invited to any event where you have to RSVP–please do so in LOVE!  Trust me when I tell you, if you can’t make it, the Bride or Groom or whomever is giving the event will not be offended as long as you RSVP.  The worst thing to do is to not RSVP and then show up as if you want a plate to indulge in!

When you fail to RSVP you’ve not only left me in limbo because I do not know what you plan to do but you’ve also wasted the stamp that I have provided on the RSVP portion of the invitation.  Literally, all you have to do is to check YES or NO and drop it in the mailbox!  Are we really that lazy?

2.  Failing to Read the entire invitation

To continue with the concept of it being 2018 and people are more computer savvy than years past, on my printed invitation was the basic information.  I chose to go with the three-fold invitation that had the perforated RSVP section to tear off and mail back (if you followed these simple directions, thank you).

Because I chose to go this route I provided a personal website on the invitation where you could visit at anytime to find out more information.  On this website you could find info about the venue, hotel accommodations, gift registries, and so much more.  The fact that people failed to even visit the website was very frustrating to me but yet you want to text me over and over with the same questions.

3.  Facebook doesn’t run me

When my husband and I decided to get marred 13 months ago; we purposely decided not to post it to Facebook.  It was one of those things that we wanted to be sacred to us.  Not saying that no-one should post their engagements on Facebook, it’s just we decided not to.  So after we were married and individuals started posting pictures onto Facebook, which we were completely okay with, people started asking if our marriage was planned or if it was a spur of the moment type deal.

THIS, had me pissed-off for several reasons.  One being, I don’t have to announce my every single solitary move on Facebook.  Facebook doesn’t run me…I run Facebook and everything that I post on there.  Just because something hasn’t been posted onto Facebook for your enjoyment doesn’t mean that it is not official.  Let me be extra clear with all of you, all of our close friends and family knew that we were getting married.  There were even some friends/family that didn’t know, just because we may not talk on an everyday basis, but were still invited to the wedding, and still came because they realized that Facebook is not a place you go to do fact checking!

Second, we wanted to use this engagement time to focus on planning our wedding instead of people being all in our business trying to give us their unwanted opinions.  I purposely chose not to have an engagement ring because I wanted to do things differently (for those saying, I never saw an engagement ring).  I had been engaged twice with rings both times to no avail.  I wanted to do it differently this time and guess what?  It worked.  So, no our wedding was not a spur of the moment type thing.  I’m not a spur of the moment type chic, just so you know!

Third, to trace us back to the beginning of this post, this wasn’t a Facebook RSVP type deal, it wasn’t a 3 year old birthday party–So I didn’t need to post anything onto Facebook.  Some of you may want to stop looking to Facebook for all of your current news.

For the record, we started planning 13 months prior as I’ve mentioned above.  Besides, when you have to rent venues, caterers, and spend $700 plus dollars on a wedding cake/dessert table…you don’t do that kind of stuff at the last-minute.

I just had to get those few things off my chest because I really don’t understand the nerve of some people!  Despite these three things my wedding day was a blast!  I’d love to hear some of the things that pissed you off when it came to your wedding.  Leave your comments below!

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Hello…..are you still there?

Testing, 1, 2, 3, 4…..(taps on mic)…….Mic Check 1!

Hey There!!!

I am super-duper excited to be back with all of you.  As you all are aware, my last post “At last….my love has come along” announced that I was getting married and therefore needed to take a small hiatus from blogging in order to focus on final details of the wedding.  The last minute stuff was the most overwhelming of the whole wedding planning process.  For me, I wanted to make sure everything was just right.  Then there were rehearsals, running a million and one errands, hair and make up and trying to pack for the honeymoon.  We decided to drive 12 hours from Virginia to Florida to then cruise to Cuba and Mexico for our honeymoon, and then had to drive back to Virginia…my life has been REALLY busy.  Oh, and lets not forget enjoying my new HUSBAND!!  Owwwww!!!

I really missed you guys though.  My stress level was constantly increasing and as much as I needed and wanted to blog I honestly didn’t have one minute to spare.  Between my emotions literally being on a roller coaster and just trying to check off all of my “to do” items on my list…..I really couldn’t wait for the day to be over.  We (myself, mother, sister, and aunt) pretty much planned and coordinated my wedding and when you begin to bump heads with your mother, who is one of your best friends and who literally will do anything for you…that’s when you know this has become a little too much and you ask yourself, how did we even get to this place from the beginning?

But, I am back now!  The wedding is over and no love was lost between me and any of my family members. LOL I will now have time to blog, time to relax, and ample opportunities to save money!!!!!!!!! I am also back from our wonderful honeymoon and I’ll give you all the deets a little later.

I’m eager to know what you all have been up to? I hope you all are still aboard this “Itoja” train as I’ve missed you all during this time away.  I also want to know if you have any questions about my wedding, etc?  I’m happy to answer so please ask away.  I’ll be posting blogs about my wedding and honeymoon here and there as well as pictures so stay tuned.

I pray that life has been great to all of my readers.

XOXO,

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At Last….My love has come along!

Hey loves!

Many of you may or may not know, that I am getting married ❤

The official wedding day is Sunday, September 2, 2018.  I’m excited and nervous for my contemporary, non-traditional, glammed wedding!!  I just hope everything goes smoothly lol.  After that we are heading to a tropical honeymoon in Cuba and Mexico!  We are actually cruising; again one of my favorite things to do.  Before we sail out, we will spend two nights in Tampa, Florida!  I cannot wait!

Because I’m going to be super busy these next few weeks until wedding day and enjoying my new husband thereafter, I’m taking a very small hiatus.

In the meantime, I have over 100 or so blogs out there to keep you all busy!  Please leave your comments because I’ll respond to each one of them once I return.  I’ll also be filling you in with a full blog of all the deets from my wedding and honeymoon.

Did I say I was getting nervous yet? LOL  It almost doesn’t seem real.

I just have one special request!  Please pray that it doesn’t rain!  We’re getting married downtown, on the rooftop (The featured image of this post is the actual location of my wedding), and while we could transition into the closed-in room the vision is for it to be outside!  Your love and thoughts are appreciated!

From Miss to Mrs! –Talk to you soon.

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I want to name my readers…But I need your help!

I want to be able to identify my readers by name.  But I’m having a hard time coming up with something.  I need something cute, and fun, but something that also can relate to both men and women.  You know how Beyoncé’s fans are called the Beehive’s, and Nicki Minaj fans are the Barbs?  Something like that.

Just in case you’ve forgotten, Itoja’s purpose is to be a sounding board for all people.  But especially for those who are in their late 30’s; a place just for us.  We’re in a strange place.  We have it together but then we don’t have it together like we want.  But we are getting there.  Itoja is also dedicated to learning and growing collectively and being the window for others who may not see life from a brown girls point of view.  And finally, Itoja is about having fun and living life to the fullest and taking all of you along with me!

Help me think of something creative and fun so that when I’m talking to my readers you’ll know just who you are!

Post your suggestions below and let’s have some to creative fun!

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Dos and Don’ts (July Edition)

I cannot believe it’s July!  Kids are in full summer mode and vacations are happening every week.  The days are longer and it’s hot.  Time flies when you’re having fun and with that being said, that brings us to our “Dos and Don’ts” for July.

Shana:  Give to give, not to receive… if you give a gift to someone give because you want to and not because you expect something in return.

Toya:  Giving is better than receiving!  When you bless others you will be blessed in return.

S:  If you do something for someone, don’t hold it over their head.

T:  There is nothing worse than someone bringing up something they’ve done for you especially during an altercation.  Not cool.

S:  Try new things, they say taste buds change every 7 years and I think that could go for feelings and emotions also, something you may have hated years ago could become something you love now.

T:  I remember growing up I didn’t like grapefruit.  Now, I can eat it and find it very tasting.  So it’s true, taste buds do change.  Be brave and try something different or old in this case!

S:  Wash your towels in hot water, I promise it will make them feel brand new again!

T:  And throw like 4 washing pods in there!  That’s what I do.  HaHa.

S:  You remember that diary you kept as a kid, do it as an adult but call it a journal.  You don’t have to write every detail of your day, maybe just thoughts and ideas.

T:  Journaling is great especially for relieving stress.  I would even go a step further and say you don’t have to write in it every day.  But perhaps a few times a week when you need to debrief and get things off of your mind.

S:  I feel like no one really uses an actually camera anymore.  Everyone take pictures on their phone.  But you should still print pictures off and keep photo albums.  You need something to show your grandchildren one day; like your grandparents did you.

T:  I’ll let you in on a secret of mine.  I create photo albums from Shutterfly.com.  I’ve created vacation books filled with pictures from vacations.  I’ve also created random picture books.  My family created a memory book for my uncle who passed away.  There are truly a ton of options from baby books, wedding books, and many more.  Not only do they have a lot of options but the books are very easy to make.  It’s one of my favorite things!  Give it a try by clicking HERE to get a FREE 8×8 photo book!

S:  Check on your strong friend!!!!

T: Ditto!

S:  Not everything is about you and not everyone wants to constantly hear you talking about you.  Give others a chance to talk also.

T:  This is good advice.  Many people should take heed to this.

S:  I recently heard if you were over the age of thirty to not to wear eyeliner because it makes you look younger.  I’ve recently been doing this and really can’t see a difference. So wear what you want!

T:  Interesting.  Perhaps I’ll try one eye and see if I can tell a difference. LOL

S:  Build your friends up, don’t tear them down by always trying to “one up” them.  Friendship isn’t a competition.

T:  Friends shouldn’t be jealous of other friends.  If they are, they’re not a true friend.

S:  You can do anything you put your mind to!

T:  ABSOLUTELY!

S:  Don’t change for someone else, change for you.

T:  Shana is preaching this month!  Just imagine me clapping my hands right now saying, YAAAASSSSS!!!!!!

S:  Keep your pocketbook organized, you will feel better about your life.

T:  I heard once, that if your purse is junky that means you have a man and don’t have time to clean it out! Haha.  But in all seriousness, you’ll function better with an organized and clean pocketbook or purse but for me, it only stays like that for two days max.  So then it’ll be a mess for about a week or two until I get around to doing it again or until I switch my purse.

Thanks for reading our monthly Dos and Don’ts.  We really appreciate it.  Check out prior publications HERE!  Let us know what you think in the comments below.  Here are some fun questions for you.

Just out of curiosity:

Do you say pocketbook or purse?  

Do you sprinkle salt on your watermelon?                                                  

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Shana lives in VA with her husband and daughter.

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Did the “one” get away?

One of the vision’s I had for my blog when I first started was that it would be “Our” blog; I always suggest that my readers give me feedback on what they want to read.

With that being said, I received a suggestion to do a blog about that special someone who was once in your life that possibly has gotten away.  I felt it was only right to feature this blog during our Love and Relationship month because breaking up is all a part of relationships!  My reader informed me that on a particular Glee episode that they were watching, a couple had called it quits.  But overtime, they felt as if the “one” had slipped away.

It’s true, people change and people grow.  Do you think the “one” got away and now it’s just too late?  Or do you just miss the time the two of you shared together and perhaps the feelings you had with the person and not necessarily the relationship?  A lot of people sacrifice friendships when they enter a relationship and often lose a friend in the midst of it.

Tell me your thoughts and please take the anonymous poll below.

 

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I’m Wishing on a Dream…

In today’s post, I want you–yes you–to take a deep breath, close your eyes, and just day-dream for a minute or two.  Let your imagination take you on a journey that perhaps you haven’t traveled along in many years.

One thing I love about children, they never forfeit the opportunity to imagine or daydream.  They are okay with allowing their thoughts to lead them to a land of possibilities and “what-ifs.”

As adults, everyday life usually gets the best of us.  However, I believe if we take a few minutes to daydream and to explore our minds you just never know where it may lead us.  Besides, daydreaming can be a form of relieving stress when we channel our minds to other places.

Need ideas of what to daydream about? Here are a few:

If you won a billion dollars, what would you do with it?  How do you think your life would change?  What would be one of the first things you would buy?

Think about being on a beach under the shade and what type of book you would be reading?

Think about where you want to see yourself in five years?

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Think about a change you wish you could see in the world, and perhaps how you could make a difference?

What about your dream home, or a dream car?  What do those things look like to you?

Our dreams are only part of the vision.  Let your imagination be the starting  point to any achievement you wish to have.  After you dream it, write it down, and take the necessary steps to turn those dreams into reality!

Feel free to answer any of the suggested ideas listed above in the comments below.  Or, perhaps you want to add your own dreamy ideas to the comment section.  Either way……

……Dream on!!!!

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Dos and Don’ts (June Edition)

Hey guys!

For a second I thought we weren’t going to have the June edition of Dos and Don’t due to my partner, Shana (who collabs with me for this specific segment of Itoja) being busy and enjoying herself on vacation.

But like always she has come through and has yet to let us down.

She’s created this edition especially for the Summer; so take heed and enjoy!

Shana:  I can’t stress this enough- it is hot we all sweat and no one wants to smell your sweat! Take a bath; wear deodorant, lotion, and put on some perfume.  But definitely take a bath and wear deodorant!!!

Toya:  And if you choose not to keep up your personal hygiene please stay home!! Thank you kindly.

S:  If you are going to wear sandals take care of your feet!!  I am not saying that you have to pay money to get a pedicure because you can clip your nails and paint them at home.

T:  I’m going to let you in on a secret.  I like feet.  I think they are cute.  But you must keep them up!!

S:  If you have children, make sure they know water safety, how to swim, what to and not to do around water- this could save a life!  There are plenty of places that offer swim lessons.

T:  Parents…..make sure you’re watching your kids when you’re at the pool or around a big body of water.  Nothing scares me more than a child in water because you just never know what will happened if you blink or turn your head for just a second. (Just throwing my two-cents in there)

S: I know I said this last month but wear sunscreen Or be like Toya and only do 30 minutes in the sun, I always tell her she has the best skin I’m sure this is why!! Haha seriously though.. we all need sunscreen, Toya can get burnt in her 30 minutes also.

T: Yes, guys…you should all be like me!  But either way you should def wear sunscreen.

S:  I understand it is hot and clothes make you hotter, BUT this does not mean that you can show more skin of yours than any of us want to see!  Please be tactful in your attire.

T:  Please save your two-piece bikini looking outfits for the pool!  Be classy…not trashy! Haha

S:  If you have pets, don’t leave them outside all day in the blistering sun- if you have no choice make sure they have shade and plenty of water.

T:  I am not an animal person at all.  BUT, I believe that you should pay special attention to your pets whenever the weather is extreme.

S:  I’m all about planning and making bucket lists- so make a Summer one, things you can only do in the summer. Go putt putting, go to a vineyard, rent a boat at the lake, take a mini vacation or even a week if you can afford to the beach!

T:  (1) This is probably my favorite “DO” of the month!  I think I can check the Vineyard off because in May, we took a Sunday and drove to about 5 different vineyards/wineries.  Here’s a tip:  Download the Vino Wine, wine app to your phone.  It will show you the nearest wineries wherever you are.  There is never an excuse to not knowing where the closest vineyard is from you!  Make a day for some adult fun.  It’s easy, fun, and inexpensive.  (2) My vacation isn’t until the end of the Summer but renting a boat on a lake sounds like fun! Or hiking. Be active.

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S: Stay hydrated- Don’t over do it in this sun!

T:  Heat exhaustion is no joke.  Did you know that water is your best-friend?  I tend to eat ice a lot to cool me off although they say that isn’t good for you.  But I’ve fainted a few times and that is not a good feeling either so Ice it is.  So while I love Summer I also choose to stay cool and hydrated.

S: Socks and sandals DO NOT go together!!

T:  This is a major No-No!

S:  We should all make an appointment with the dermatologist just to have any moles or spots checked .. to be on the safe side.

T:  Great Idea!

S:  If you are going to wear a sunless tanner, make sure you take all the proper steps (like exfoliating) before applying; also wipe around the edges of your fingers and toes– baby wipes work great.  This will prevent you from having rust colored fingers.

T:  As a black girl–I really have no clue as to what she’s talking about–But if you do, then take her advice.

This just may be my favorite edition yet.  I love Summer; besides it’s usually when I take my vacation.  I also love bringing these Do’s and Don’ts to you every month.  Where else can you be informed and entertained all in one place?  Click HERE for past editions.  Of course these are merely suggestions from two girls who are friends but who are also very different.

I want to challenge you all to embrace those who may be different from you.  Take the opportunity to pull something greater from them than just the areas where you may differ.  I’ve found that your differences are usually the beams that keep you stable and balanced.

Love what you’re reading?  Be sure to FOLLOW so that you never miss a moment of the shenanigans that goes on, on Itoja!

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Shana lives in VA with her husband and daughter.

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Try these 10 things on your next cruise!

By now, you all know that I love going on cruises.  If it’s a vacation I want to cruise.  I want to go somewhere where I literally have NOTHING to worry about.  I don’t mind going to a beach but having to get up and still cook in our vacation home doesn’t rank as high in my book.

Typically, my entire family goes on one big summer vacation each year.  We all love cruising but we’ve also done beach trips, vacationed in Florida a few times, flew to California (these pics are HERE), enjoyed a land vacation on the island of St. Martin, and so on and so forth.

This year they are headed to Bermuda via Royal Caribbean and I’m sitting this one out.  Not because I want to but because I have some other things planned later in the year (stay tune) and doing both would just be too much.

As they are finalizing everything, counting down to departure date and paying off balances, I’m waddling in my feelings because what’s life without a summer vacation?

I guess I’m about to find out.

If you’ve never cruised before, I talk about my love for cruising in a prior post I did.  You can find it HERE.  If you’re thinking about cruising and not sure if it’s worth the money or you’re afraid of running out of things to do, I encourage you to try some of my suggestions listed below.  When cruising, there is no reason why you should ever be bored or feel like you have nothing to do.  There is something literally going on every hour of the day/night on the ship and something for everyone.

As the warmer months slowly roll in and travels begin to pickup remember this list if you’re traveling anytime soon…………

  • Enjoy the formal dinners.  Lobster! Lobster! Lobster!!
  • Bar hop.
  • Order room service.
  • Embrace the photographers and all of the photo opportunities.  (Even if you don’t buy the pictures)
  • Have a pool day or two.
  • Go to the casino.  Splurge a little!
  • Enjoy the night breeze on the top deck or have a romantic walk at night around the outdoor track!
  • Enjoy the free entertainment.  Try a night concert, a comedy show, or the club.
  • When visiting the island, try a tour or excursion.
  • Get up early, watch the sunrise, and go to the gym or have a spa day! All great for days when you are at sea.

Of course there’s plenty more to do on the ship.  From the art gallery to the basketball courts; putt-putt, ice skating, and probably activities I have failed to discover.  But for me, just knowing that I’m on vacation, disconnected from the outside world, sailing across the ocean while laying back in a lounge chair, with a fruity cocktail, is peaceful and relaxing for me.  This is what I call a vacation!  View some of my favorite pictures from my last cruise in my 2017 Photos of the Year!  I think cruising has spoiled me.

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Bonus tips:

  • Utilize the daily itinerary printouts that are left in your room each night for the next day.  These are very helpful with additional information on the ports you will be visiting.
  • If you’re traveling with children, the children/teen clubs are essential!  A great way to get in your adult fun while the children are also having fun with their new friends they have just met!

Anyone else love cruising?  Do you have a favorite cruise line or perhaps a favorite island to visit?  What are your favorite things to do while sailing the great blue sea?

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This post is not sponsored by any cruise line and all opinions are of my own.  

College Survival Kit!

A few years ago, my god-daughter graduated from high school and headed off to college soon after.  For her graduation gift I gifted her this special curated survival kit in order to survive her first year in college.  Since then, this has been my go-to gift for graduates.  Of course, you can curate the kit to fit your specific grad.  For me, I wanted to create something based off of my own experiences from college.

I printed off the list and shopped for each of the items listed.  I placed all of the items inside a tote along with a copy of the list so that the grad could refer back to it when needed.  Going to college brings on so many different emotions for everyone involved, but especially for the graduate.  You find yourself in a foreign place where you’re expected to thrive and excel in all areas of life.  It can get tough.  Hopefully this kit lightens the load just a little.

Chewing Gum– Good for chewing while studying or just hanging out.

Make-up Bag– Good to throw in your gym bag when whenever you work out (you can find guys in the gym…IJS) or for quick weekend trips here and there.  When I couldn’t make it home…I often would go home with my friends or roommates.  You certainly learn a lot about yourself and other people.

Tide to go Stick– To get rid of those stains from all those parties you will attend 🙂

Notepad– For writing quick notes, grocery reminders (yes, you have to grocery shop now), studying, or jotting down campus numbers. Network! Network! Network!

Peppermint– Peppermint is known to the smooth the stomach.  There will be a lot of “college firsts” this year!  First time on campus as a freshman.  First time going to class. First time sleeping alone in a foreign place, etc.  These will be a “Life Saver” (I purchased Life Saver Peppermints).

Sleeping Mask– Let’s face it!  Having a roommate isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be. Some of us are lucky to get a perfect roommate and it usually takes a few years until you find the perfect one.  I have so many roommate stories.  One time, I came home late, my roommate had the light switched taped so I couldn’t turn on the light when I walked in. Long story short, I ended up moving out.  Another roommate didn’t like people sitting on her bed or doing anything in the room.  You will soon find out that you can’t live with everyone.  That is ok!

Duct tape– See above. You might need it. LOL

Popcorn– This is good for movie night, study night, game night, or a midday snack.

Oodles of Noodles– At some point, you’re not going to want any more cafeteria meals and you will not have any money to eat out.  Your parents will say…I’m not sending you anymore money! This is when these will be your best friend! Believe me when I tell you!

Wal-Mart Gift card– If you’re anything like I was when I was in college, Wal-Mart was our essential store.  For some reason, we always did our Wal-Mart runs at midnight too. Don’t ask me why.  I guess we thought we were grown and could do what we wanted. Haha.

Advil– Sometimes, college can be stressful, and headaches are known to occur.  Believe me, this will come in handy!

Tissues– Of course these are great for when you are sick. You’re in an unfamiliar place, so that may just happen. But, from my personal experience, these tissues were my best friend after I studied my tail off and still didn’t past the exam.  I called my mom crying on the phone.  I was devastated.  These tissues were also my best friend, after I got myself all involved with a young guy here and there and that didn’t work out either.  Just save them for a rainy day….if you know what I mean!

Quarters– You do want clean clothes, right!  Here’s a little change to help you at some point! HOWEVER, if you’re able to find you a friend in college who is local, I would suggest that you get in good with her. Maybe she’ll invite you to her parents’ house to wash clothes.  You’ll get free washing and probably a home cooked meal too!  Worked for me!

Kit Kat– This is to remind you that sometimes you just have to take a break.  There will be nights when you study all night.  There will be days when you feel like you have so much to do and not enough time to do it in; projects, twenty page papers.  It’s coming, but don’t fret.  Just learn when you need to take a break and everything will be fine.

Storage Tote– Dorms are small.  You will not have enough closet space or drawers.  The best way to deal with this is to start gravitating towards things that can be used for more than one purpose.  Hence, this tote!  Use this Tote for additional storing, fast trips to the grocery, beach day, as a cooler of sorts for those football games, small loads of laundry, cleaning supplies, toiletries, etc.  The number of things it can be used for are endless.

Security– There wasn’t a gift I could really give for security but I’d like to leave you with some advice.  While you are away, please be very safe.  Always walk with someone, especially at night.  You have to protect, YOU!  If you’re meeting a guy, take someone with you.  Again, especially at night!  Always, let someone know where you are.  Keep your doors locked.  Trust no one!  Make yourself aware of where the campus police are located for your sake as well as others.

Congratulations graduates and WELCOME to the BEST YEARS of your LIFE! From this day forward, remember that “Life is like a coin. You can spend it anyway you wish, but you can only spend it once!”

Please let me know how your kits turned out!

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Have you been to the underground?

Knowing your history is important.  Whether it’s your families medical history, your credit history, or the history of your ancestors–when you are in the “know” you’re allowing yourself the opportunity for growth.  In addition to growth, you’re preparing yourself for any obstacles that may come your way in advance.

This is why I’m not quite sure why it is being asked that the black culture should forget about slavery and forget about the many roadblocks that black people have had to endure over time.  I ranted about this a little on Facebook but figured this was the better platform to vocalize my opinion.

Let’s face it, we are ONLY 54 years out of segregation.  Meaning, my living parents and grandparents have all lived through a divided world and are all here to share their stories and experiences whenever they feel the need to.  The life of a black person isn’t a made up thriller story that people are fabricating just for the heck of it.  It’s easy for people to say that we (black people) should forget about “color” whenever black people decide to talk about slavery, the past, or racial issues but do you see white people forgetting “color” when blacks are harassed for being in a store for too long?  Or for being killed for having a toy gun?  This all boils down to fairness.  Equality.  Checks and balances.

Just because a person may not experience racism/oppression/bondage (or whatever it is that you have endured) doesn’t mean it is not true.  The fact that people are trying to say that slavery didn’t exist, that it was choice, and that we should forget about it, truly baffles me.

This brings me to the gist of this blog.  While hanging out in Northern Virginia for a quick weekend trip my family and I made our way to the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), located in Washington, DC on the National Mall.

img_3976I’ve been itching to make it to this museum since it opened in September of 2016.  I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve tried to get tickets online to no avail.  One year and 7 months later this museum is still one of the hardest museums to get into due to its popularity and the length of time attendees are spending inside.

Instead of attempting to get tickets online, we thought we would just try on a random Saturday since we were already in town.  We arrived at the museum midday with no tickets.  While the men searched for a place to park, the ladies approached the gentleman working and asked if there were any day passes left.  He gave us what he had, which were only three passes but we needed seven!  He advised us to try back in a few hours.  Taking his advice, we took the three tickets that were available and decided to venture around to other museums.  Before heading back to NMAAHC we enjoyed lunch at Ben’s Chili Bowl and enjoyed the beautiful Spring day in the States Capital.

Once we returned, they had exactly four passes available.  With those four passes plus the three we had from earlier, we were now ready to go inside!  We took a chance and luckily, it worked in our favor.

So here I was.

Ready and anxious to explore.  I had an idea of what to expect but at the same time I really wasn’t sure.  The museum was ten years in the making.  Not ten years to build but ten years to go from a thought, federal laws, funding, and to finally being able to build.  Another few years would pass as they began construction and collecting over 35,000 artifacts.

We were advised to start from the bottom floor and to work our way up to the higher levels.  I would also advise others to do the same if they are ever visiting the museum; I think that was a great idea looking back.  We all (my family plus other attendees) gathered on a huge elevator and traveled downed to the bottom floor, which is actually underground.  The elevator was glass with a black wall behind it.  As we traveled down to the underground floor we began seeing the years printed on the walls.  The years would scroll down in descending order as if we were going back into time. 1900s, 1800s, 1700s, 1600s, 1500s, 1400s!  Then the elevator stopped.

img_3950.jpgWe were dropped off in slavery.  It was dark and gloomy.  Dark in spirit and dark in light.  The area was tight, which I believe was done on purpose.  As you walked around you felt a sadness all around you.  So many words to read, so many things to see, with a double dose of heartache.  I’d stand there stunned trying to comprehend but really I couldn’t.  I could barely fathom the pain and to think that for hundreds of years MY ancestors had to live through this.

img_3949Slaves were traded for goods. They were beaten and abused and owned by slave masters.  Auctioned off like old cars.  Slaves were not given the privilege to learn how to read or write because slave masters were afraid the slaves would figure out how to escape.  Viewing the shackles and the mistreat that was bestowed upon our ancestors made me feel like I was living in that moment for just a second.  Everything felt ten times more real just by walking through exhibits in a museum.

img_3951Imagine actually living during those times.  Nothing about being a slave was a choice.  When they came over on ships, tied together and malnourished, many didn’t even make it over.  Some jumped off ships as dying was better than having to suffer.  They didn’t know the language and had nothing.  Slave masters left slaves in their wills as if they were pieces of property passed down through the family.

img_3956It was a lot to take in.  So much so, that we chose not see the entire slavery portion of the museum.  We wanted to have the chance to see the other floors within the museum and decided to move out of that era.  We also decided to skip the next floor which was the Jim Crow segregation floor and the Civil Rights era.

We headed our way up to the 70s and 80s.  The era of “I’m Black and I’m Proud.”   We strolled as we “ahhed” in amazement.  The progression that black people had made over the years was substantial.  For once, it felt good to see positive images of the black culture.

img_3970We kept moving up into the 90s and the 2000s steadily progressing but at times feeling like our black culture had become stagnant, again.

We strolled around the sports section…..

Film…..

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Music…..

and just black people at its greatness, in every genre and facet imaginable.

Indeed, the culture has come far.  The museum also highlights President Barack Obama, the first African American President of the United States.

img_3964There wasn’t enough time to really take in every aspect of the museum.  We needed more than the 2.5 hours we allotted ourselves.  I’ve read that many people have spent around 8 hours in the museum.  With its own Café, plus a theater, I can see how easily this could happen.

I would advise anyone to visit this museum.  I guarantee you will leave with a different perspective on things.  I remember seeing some white people browsing the museum as I was.  I thought to myself, “maybe they get it.” Maybe they understand the importance of knowing the real story.  No matter your color you should visit this museum and allow it to be educational for you.

img_3962As a proud black woman I realize how far we have come but at the same time I realize the additional steps we must take in order to continue to move forward.  The NMAAHC does a great job of chronologicalling the Aftrican American history.  It is up to all of us to continue to strive for complete freedom.

My heart has been heavy since our museum visit because I just don’t understand why or how individuals could be so ignorant of the black struggle.

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The term, “started from the bottom; now we’re here” fits the mold of most black people’s life as well as this museum.  Which is why starting from the bottom underground floor and working your way up is key.  And yes, there is a lot of pain associated with those dark days of slavery.  Century after century we’ve taken two steps forward and then are somehow knocked back one.  But one of the greatest assets of black people is that we never give up.  Even when we have to start from the bottom, we make a way out of no way and we rise up!!

 

 All opinions in this post are of my own!

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The Black community needs therapy too!

For centuries, it was unheard of, that black people would go to a therapy session.  Or to see a shrink as some would like to put it.  The black communities therapist was the prayer line or going to talk to your pastor about your problems; but what was so wrong about going to see a therapist?

I’m not sure what the problem was back then.  I believe for most people they figured if they didn’t dwell on the situation that their problems would just fade away like dust in the air.  I suspect that’s why they’re so many generational curses in the black community as well as hurt and unforgiveness that hang over many of our heads.  No one has taken the time to talk things out in order to gain a clearer understanding of what has transpired in their lives.  Past hurts, depressions, secrets, shames, and faults have all been swept under the rug.  I could also say that money has probably played some part in the fact that black people hasn’t always been willing to see a therapist.  Which is understandable.

Whether a person decides to visit a therapist or not, it is often great to have someone you can talk to without judgement.  Which is something you may encounter when trying to talk to a friend or family member about whatever it is that you may be going through.

I talked briefly about the time I decided to go visit a therapist after a terrible breakup in THIS post.  For me, I wanted an outsider to give me their unbiased opinion about my situation.  I wanted to figure out where things went wrong and where I went wrong.  I didn’t want to feel ashamed or bad for the way that I was feeling.  I also didn’t want the dreaded “I told you so” from my family or friends.  It just wasn’t the time for all of that.  So I went to a therapist without anyone knowing.  Within only a few sessions I was feeling better and more confident about myself and my situation.  I felt at peace and hopeful.

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Having someone to vent to is almost a necessity in today’s life.  Whether, it’s a family member, a friend, or a therapist.  Or someone you don’t really know but they are able to give you effective feedback and advice.  I remember as if it was yesterday, being at work and just sitting at my desk crying.  I suddenly heard a lady, that I did not know at the time, and who had no idea why I was so upset, speaking to me giving me the most sound advice.  From that day forward we’ve had a number of one-on-one sessions and I consider her to be a great friend.  I refer to her now as my Iyanla Vanzant.  She can give it to you straight with no chaser and can sense when something isn’t right with you.

It’s also important to know that when a person gives you effective feedback it is usually not what you want to hear.  That’s how you know it’s real.  It’s up to you at that point if you are willing to accept it.

At times, I think we all need tools for processing life as well as an outside perspective on very important and personal subject matters; which we can gain these tools from a therapist or from someone who has traveled in your same shoes.

If you find yourself unable to go to a therapist, you may know or be able to find someone who is willing to give you a listening ear or great feedback.  Today, you can even find a licensed therapist through apps and have chatting sessions.  It is important to not let situations escalate or build up especially if those situations can cause more damage down the line.  Life is too short.

My motto is to Live my life in Peace; and not Pieces!

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FYI