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.



Dos and Don’ts (August Edition)

I can’t believe it is August already.  I know I say this every month, but I really can’t believe it’s August.  The kids here in my area are getting ready to head back to school in less than two weeks!  Before you know it, the temperature will begin to drop and the chill will set in the air. Ugh.  I don’t mind fall but I hate Winter.  Winter always seem like it last forever!

Any who, here we are at our August Do’s and Don’ts for the month.  The Back to School Edition!  Let’s jump in!

Shana: Talk to your kids about bullying; it really starts at home!

Toya: Definitely!  Besides, the President is the biggest bully there is…lets all be better than him.  Yup–I said that!

S: If you drive through a school zone on the way to work or home, please watch out for our children!

T: Ugh, yes.  But please make it swift.  Adults are trying to get to work.  LOL

S: Your child should be able to talk to you comfortably without being scared you are going to get mad at them… about anything!

T: Love this.  So true.

S: Being a parent, I’ve learned that you should never push your kid too hard but you also shouldn’t let them give up easy either.

T: Be your child’s biggest supporter and critique.  Always, expect greater.  I push my child in school.  She’s literally afraid to come home with anything less than a A and now it’s just what she wants and expect of herself–I don’t even have to say much these days.  She was a straight A student all in Middle School…..now she’s headed to the 9th grade!

S: Don’t live vicariously through your children, it’s their life.  You already had your childhood let them have theirs.

T:  I believe this is true as well.

S: I saw the perfect meme the other day, it went something like this “Don’t send your kids to school in $100 shoes and no school supplies.” So true!

T:  Can I send them to school with both though?  I just brought my child a pair of Jordan’s that cost $140!  We have expensive taste! hahaha

S: If you have elementary age kids that have to have crayons for class, spend the couple of extra cents and get the Crayola brand, you know the Rose Art don’t color as well.

T: OMG!!!!  Not that Rose Art—those crayons are so soft.  The worst.  Too Funny!!  Don’t buy them for any school drives you may be participating in either. LOL

S: If you have Pandora – two good stations for road trips are Hip Hop BBQ and Hip Hop road trip, they have all the good 90s and early 2000s music.

T: I never use Pandora but I’ll have to remember these stations for when I’m traveling.

S: Another road trip tip, I’m not sure if this is just an iPhone app.  But if you don’t have “Waze” download it now!!  It’s a navigational app that not only gives you step by step voice directions like your typical GPS, but it also informs you of accidents that may be ahead of you, cars on the side of the road, cops, traffic, the speed limit and even directions that will get you around traffic.  It also gives directions to restaurants and shopping centers, it is not a lot that it does not do.  I use this every time I travel!

T:  Same here!  I love Waze.  We, too, use it all the time.  I even use it in town when I’m trying to get somewhere fast.  And no, it’s not just an iPhone app; I know people who has that awful Samsung phone with it as well. 🙂

S: Now is the perfect time to start your Christmas shopping, if you haven’t already.  You could buy a $25 gift card every pay-day or even put $25 back if you want to wait closer to shop.

T: What an amazing idea!  I’ve never thought of this.  I think I’m going to try it this year.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  Woot Woot!  And no, I haven’t stated Christmas shopping yet.  I haven’t even thought about it.

S: If you ever get a chance to go to any of the Disney parks, you have to go to Joffrey’s they have the best coffee and the “biggest” best donuts ever in life!!

T: I’ve been to Disney twice, and I’ve never heard of this park.  I tell ya, you can learn so much from other people!  I went to Disney once as a child and then again in 2012 when I took my own child.  Everyone should experience Disney at least once, I think.  But be prepared to stand in long lines, to spend all day at the parks, and to get rained on at least once while you’re there.  I really wish the major parks didn’t cost so much.

S: Summer is almost over, but you still have time to cross off a few of those bucket list items!

T: We are waiting on you! Try something new.  I went hiking this Summer.  It wasn’t on my initial list but I’m happy to have that checked off! Whew!  Read all about it HERE!

S: You also have 4 months to start those New Years resolutions, it’s never too late!

T: Wow.  Shana is really challenging us here.  I don’t recall making a New Years resolution…..let me go and double-check!  It’s been so long ago! LOL

Well, this concludes our list of August of Dos and Don’ts, I just love this edition of Itoja!  I hope you do as well.  Click Dos and Don’ts to catch up on previous months.  Next month may be a little late, but it’s for a good reason – stay tuned to find out why.

Don’t forget to subscribe to Itoja so that you never miss a beat.  Leave your comments below of your favorite Dos and Don’ts for the month or perhaps one that made you think twice!

Talk to you real soon!


Shana lives in VA with her husband and daughter.


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!


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?                                                  


Shana lives in VA with her husband and daughter.


The Darkest Side of the Spade — LaWanda’s Red Letter Version

Today, I am choosing to share a post from LaWanda’s Red Letter Version blog site.  There is a real message here that I believe we all need to hear.  Depression doesn’t discriminate and it doesn’t skip you based off of your financial or social value.  People are people and we all need to do better when it comes to being there for other people.

Please click the link below to read.

Lately, every time I hear about another suicide, I get very emotional because I’ve felt that kind of hopelessness. You see 14 months ago, I was an emotionless zombie in a purple sundress, walking barefoot down my street in the early morning hours shortly after my husband, who had completely broken my heart a few […]

via The Darkest Side of the Spade — LaWanda’s Red Letter Version

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.


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?


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

I’m Guilty……..and loving it.

As I carefully sip my Lime Spritzer……

I’m guilty of :

Eating in Bed.

Staying up too late and then oversleeping.

Missing a month of working out.

Having 30 bottles of wine (I’m working on my collection).

Browsing the internet at work.

Being too hard on myself at times.

Binge watching TV Shows.

Skipping meals.

Overloading my nephew with Tic Tac mints.

Ironically, not being too social with people outside of my circle.

Being a little boujee (this is the urban spelling) at times.


Having to have the last word.


Having a little undiagnosed OCD & ADHD.

And I’m sure there are a ton of other things that I may be guilty of.  But nevertheless, I recognize that I am human, mistakes will be made, but that doesn’t discredit the AMAZING PERSON I KNOW THAT I AM!  Today, and everyday, stand in your glory.  Allow room for mistakes as well as growth within your life.  There is nothing wrong with having a rest day, eating the dessert after the meal, or talking on the phone with your girlfriend for hours.

Who said we couldn’t turn our guilty charges into guilty pleasures?

This post was inspired by today’s Daily Prompt: Guilty


And the winner is……

Kayla Marie Blevins!!  Congratulations!!!! 

Please check your email for more information.

Thanks to all of you who participated.  I really appreciate the continuous love and support from each of you for Itoja.

The goal for Itoja is to always be the voice for the voiceless.  It is to also share experiences of life that others may be able to relate to on some level.  This is our life–we only get one so we’re making the best out of it and choosing to learn from it.  We also choose to enjoy laughter, love, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.  It is here where I hope that we all can grow together.

Sooooooooo, continue to follow along with me as we ride out the next 6 months.  Send me your suggestions, your questions, and any entrepreneurs that you would like to be featured on the blog!!