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.

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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

My mission for 2019

The year of 2018 was very busy for me.  I planned a wedding for most of the year while work had me consumed more than I would like to admit.  If I’m totally honest with you, the hectic year took me away from taking care of myself the way that I should.  I should have been losing weight for a wedding and I was instead gaining.  Let’s not talk about all the coins I spent throughout the year as well.

The year of 2018 left my wallet empty and it also left me carrying around more weight around my midsection and face than I really want to confess to.

Almost 9 years ago, I made a conscious decision to lose weight and slowly the weight melted off of me.  I looked like a completely different person the following year and I swore I would never gain weight again.  Well now, most of that weight has found its way back to me after years of not being as mindful of things I consumed and lack of exercise.  So, guess what time it is?  It’s time to start this journey all over again.

So, I’m doing this with no regrets.  I’m leaving all the stress of 2018 in 2018 and I am putting ME and my wallet first!  I am devoting 2019 to losing weight and to building all my accounts back up!  Yes, all of them!  I also realize that my life is totally different from what it was 9 years ago so it may not be as easy and I may not even get to the size I once wore, but I’m willing to put in all of the work, plus more!

How will I put myself first?

I will make time for my workouts.  I realize that exercise is very important when it comes to losing weight as well as maintaining your weight.  That means I may have to cut hours at my part-time job because it is just that important.  Or, perhaps I would depend on the hubby or teenage kids to plan a simple meal while momma gets her exercise on.

I must also cut back on sugars and carbs and maximize my fiber and vegetable intake.  I’ve done it before, I can do it again.  All it takes is willpower and the art of consistency.  Basically, I need for my waist to get smaller and my wallet to get fatter and not the reverse.

I can also make easy and smart decision by grabbing a protein shake as a meal replacement or even taking an extra walk in the evenings.

But please, feel free to check-up on ya girl from time to time to see how I’m doing because the carbs be calling my name like I’m a soldier at war.

Anyone else need to rededicate themselves to putting yourself (or your wallet) first?  Let’s do it!  Take a moment to process your 2018 and make small changes here and there in efforts to continue cultivating yourself into the best YOU there is!

We can do it!



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!



Why Home Chef* wasn’t for me?

*ADDENDUM: Earlier today I posted this blog with incorrect information. The company I used was Home Chef and NOT HelloFresh. So, as you read any references towards HelloFresh should be redirected to Home Chef* -Toya


Around this time last year, I had been bombarded with the idea that meal kit services could make my life easier.  Whether it was from online ads, TV commercials, or just friends falling in love with these types of services, the idea was constantly being thrown my way.

To be able to go online, pick out the food that I wanted for the week, and wait several days for it all to be delivered to my front door almost felt too good to be true.

Of course, I eventually had to give it a try.  Besides, I hate wondering “What’s for Dinner?”  However, by this time, there were so many meal kit services out on the market that advertised on being healthy and quick, I really didn’t know which way to turn.  Eventually, I chose to go with Home Chef.  One, because I was given a referral code from a friend and two, because I was given a referral code from a friend!img_1337

I waited anxiously for about a week until my box arrived promptly at my front door.  I loved that part of the service.  Inside the box were two meals that I had previously handpicked via the website with everything that I needed.  So far, so good!


I loved the recipe sheets.  Home Chef even included a binder to keep all of your recipes together.  I thought that was a great idea and I was really excited about that.

Everything was packaged nicely and kept cool with the provided ice packs in the box.  Next it was time to prepare the meals.

Here is where the tables began to turn:

  1. The number one marketing tactic around all of the meal kit services available today is about saving time.  So when I saw that I literally had to hand chop all of the vegetables, immediately, I knew no time was going to be saved on this particular day.  One of the meals I had selected consisted of pico de gallo…I had to literally chop the onion, tomato, the lime, the peppers and mix it all together.  Sweetheart, I can buy this already made and chopped for me over in the produce section at my nearest Kroger.  That saves me time.
  2. The other reason why Home Chef wasn’t for me is because it wasn’t enough food for my family.  Thankfully, I was just feeding two of us that night.  My fiancé and myself.  But on a regular night, kids are in the mix.  So if, this meal that should have served at least 3 was barely enough for two, I couldn’t see how this would be beneficial for my family.
  3. With these meal kit services, it’s one of those deals where you’ll automatically be charged weekly for however many meals you’ve signed up for.  You can go in each week to either cancel your meals with no additional charge or to swap the default meals of the week for a different choice.  I wasn’t oppose to any of this but I also wasn’t fond of it.  It’s just another thing I have to remember to do that’s already attached to my debit or credit card.

Because of these three reasons, I decided not to order again from Home Chef, or from any other meal kit service company.  Sure, I could have increased my servings per meal but I didn’t think it was worth it.  It saddens me that I wasn’t in loved with it because I truly loved the idea of being able to plan my meals out a head of time AND home deliveries to my front door would have been the icing on the cake.  But, my high expectations were not met.  I cancelled or suspended my services all together.  I didn’t have time to be going in each week to cancel my order, besides I knew I would never order again. So back to the everyday question of, “What’s for dinner?” Ugh!!!!

Perhaps you have a different perspective than I do?  If you’ve ever ordered from a meal service company before, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

**I’m dedicated to giving you my truth, the real truth at all times. Thanks for joining in. Love what you’re reading? Subscribe and follow me so that you never miss a beat!


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

The Moth: The Traveling Sandwiches

A few years ago, I was introduced to a non-fiction book called, The Moth. You can find it HERE. The Moth was a book of short stories that were told in their truest form around the world by individuals in a live group setting.  It was called The Moth because every time they would get together to tell their stories of what happened to them moths would fly in through a hole in the screen and gather all around.  Live Moth events, referred to now as “Moth StorySLAMS” would take place; I picture the setting like going to a comedy club.  But in this case, these weren’t jokes, although some were funny.  They were real life events. Continue reading

Dos and Don’ts (March Edition)

Well, well, well!

Your favorite blogger is back with your favorite segment of IToja which is the monthly edition of Dos and Don’ts!!! If you need to catch up the previous issues, please catch the 411 HERE for January and HERE for February!

All aboard? Lets go!

Shana:  Don’t pay full price for anything.  There are coupons for everything.  Let Google be your friend. If for whatever reason, the item you want is no longer available then you didn’t need it anyway.  Toya has some pretty good discounts at places she can hook you up with.

Toya:  My motto is, “Ball on a budget” I rarely pay full price for anything.  And if I do, then it’s something that is a must and there is no other way to get it.  I do believe in splurging every now and then but not all the time.  I love shopping online too, and usually you can find some good deals online.  I do a lot of shopping through Ebates, they literally pay you to shop.  You can click HERE to get started.

Also, RetailMeNot is a great app to use if you’re out and about and looking for last minute coupons.

S:  We all get mad, some easier than others, but count to 10 or whatever it is that you do to calm down, before you say something you may later regret.  I have zero filter sometimes so this helps me A LOT!! I seriously live by this, “every action does not deserve a reaction.”

T:  Don’t be tap dancing on my nerves! — I would say, check your delivery.  Because my reaction may be necessary but the delivery of my reaction may not be necessary.  My goal this year is to check my delivery.

S:  I think a really good investment besides a home and a car, is bedding!  You need to sleep to be able to function.  So good bedding is a must!  Sheets, blankets, definitely pillows and mattresses.

T:  Yaaaassss.  I’m trying to hold out until Spring to redo my room, my bedding, and to get new pillows but it’s taking so long to get here!  I just wish King size sheets and pillows weren’t so expensive.  Geez.

S:  This a hard one, but you really should have some sort of savings even if you’re only putting $5 a week in there.  You never know what’s going to happen.  You may need new tires, a furnace, or what if you lose your job?  A little cushion could come in handy.

T:  This is great advice.  Really great if you can get into the habit of saving at an early age.  I would also suggest that you have some type of savings deposited into a separate account before you even get your check.  It makes it easier.  It’s already taken care of and you will not have to make extra trips to the bank or end up spending it.

S:  Have relationships with people and not just your significant other.  I’m talking about your friends; take the time to get to know them.  The deep down them.  Their likes, dislikes, pet peeves, favorite color.  Make them feel appreciated.

T:  Friends are valuable.  It is important to be a great friend because one day you may need the favor returned.  I’m happy to say that I know just about everything about my closest friends.  Perhaps, too much!  Check out my post on friends HERE!

S:  This kind of goes along with the last one, but I recently had a friend lose their companion of many years.  Tomorrow is never promised so say, “I Love You” every chance you get and mean it.

T:  The older we get, the faster time goes, and the more deaths we come across.  From the very young to the very old.  At one point, all I was hearing was another person has died.  My family says “I Love You” all the time.  You just never know when the last time will be the last time.

S:  You know how when you were younger your parents would take food to a love ones house who had death in their family?  Well now that we are older we need to continue that “tradition” people really appreciate it probably much more than flowers.

T:  Definitely a “tradition” that is a must.  Letting a person know you’re thinking about them during a sad time is great.  Plus, no one wants to cook when going through the hardships of death.  People are steadily going in and out of there home to show their condolences.  Who wants to cook during this time?  Having that food already their and ready to eat is a blessing.

I would even like to challenge my readers to take this a step further.  To go back to being a good friend, when a friend is sick or just having a rough time stop by to visit them.  Take them a few snacks or some soup or their favorite things.  A little goes a long way.

S:  Everyone should have a hobby.  I use to think mine was shopping but as I’ve gotten older I think it is more decorating and crafts.  I also really enjoy blogging on IToja once a month, so I would consider writing and reading as another hobby.  Sometimes you just have to take a mental break and let your mind wander, with your hobby it’s easy to do that.

T:  Aww–so happy you’re enjoying our adventure together.

I think hobbies are great.  Overtime, my hobbies always seem to change but I think that has a lot to do with my personality.

S:  So, I recently went to a spa party and it was great!  I think you should pamper yourself even if it’s just buying a foot scrub, new lotion, or a face mask.  I try to do one of these at least once a week to help me unwind a little.

T:  I’m a total believer in taking care of yourself.  I love being pampered too.  So yes, everyone take time out to pamper yourself.  Put this on your to-do list, for sure!

S:  Everyone has an opinion, you know the saying.  So don’t get mad at someone just because theirs is different from yours.  Everyone is different.  It’s what makes the world go round.

T:  In today’s world its hard to let others have their own opinion but I think we need to always remember this.

S:  If you straighten your house a little everyday, say one room a day, then you won’t have to spend a whole day doing it all at one time.  This may just work for me though because I am so OCD.

T:  I wish I could do this everyday.  Now, I’ll just text my daughter and say, “Make sure you have your chores done.”  See–having a teenager isn’t all bad!

S:  Learn how to change a tire, this super important.  Your dad or man may not always be readily available to do this for you.

T:  Do you boo!  But, uh, I’m not changing a tire.  I do know how to check (not change) the oil though.  That has to count for something!

S:  I know cash is like a thing of the past, but it really is smart to keep a little bit with you at all times.  I usually try to keep $20 on me, you never know when you may need it.

T:  This sounds like my grandmother.  She say’s this all the time.  So yes, lets all try to keep a little cash on us–for the unexpected, right?

S:  Never expect too much from anyone. So that in the event that they do happen to let you down it doesn’t hurt as bad.  Because like I’ve said before not everyone has the same intentions as you.

T:  I’m stuck in between Do and Don’t on this one.  While I agree with the above statement I also feel like if I can’t depend on you, or expect for you to come through for me, then I don’t really need you.  I think it mostly depend on the person and the situation and the relationship that you have with someone.

S:  You should never have to prove a relationship or yourself to anyone.  If it’s real it’s real!

T:  Agreed.  Don’t worry about what others think.  Haters will always hate!!!!!! #IToja

As always, we would love to hear what you think.  Do you have a hobby? What about a spa ritual?  Have you implemented a savings plan?  We would love to hear your stories.

Leave your comments below and don’t forgot to hit the FOLLOW button so that you’re always up to speed on our Dos and Don’ts!!


Shana lives in VA with her husband and daughter.