Tips for Packing a Healthy Lunch

As I was typing up my first post in a while, I was thinking about what kind of things I wanted to share on here. I started keeping a note in my phone with possible topics. Because while I love reading “day in the life”-type posts on blogs, they get kind of repetitive. Even more so when you’re a creature of habit, like me. Posting the same breakfast, lunch and snacks plus work synopsis would wear pretty thin pretty quickly.

One of the first ideas that popped in my head was tips on packing your lunch, because that is something I kind of have on lockdown. Packing a lunch bag for work (or school or whatever your current life situation is) is one of the most effective things you can do to make healthier choices throughout the day AND save some money. So here we go!

Tip 1: Get Your Shit Together the Night Before

Pardon my French, but this is THE most important thing when getting my lunch (and life, for what it matters) together. I am not a morning person (which if you know me at all, you know that about me), and I can think of the instances when I’ve actually packed a good breakfast + lunch + snacks the morning before work on like, one hand. So now I make it a point to put everything together the night before—and honestly, it usually takes no longer than 5 minutes. Then I can snooze in the morning and not worry about having nothing to get me through the day at work.

Tip 2: Get a Really Nice Lunch Bag

I got mine at TJ Maxx for less than $20, but you can find it on Amazon here. I love it because it’s big enough that I can get A LOT of stuff in there, but small enough that it can still fit in the fridge at work without taking up an obscene amount of space. It also has some nice outer pockets where I keep utensils, stuff that doesn’t need to be refrigerated, etc.

Tip 3: Invest in a Few Reusable Containers

(I didn’t have any clean containers, so I used the ones with my lunch in it for tomorrow. Cooper was pretty interested haha.)

For years I used Gladware or other plastic containers, but I recently got a set of 4 Pyrex containers so I don’t have to worry about anything leaching into my food, especially if I put it in the microwave. I can’t find the exact set I got online, but here’s a similar one: mine has a 4-cup bowl, a 2-cup bowl, and two 1-cup bowls. I got them at Target for less than $20 (and they seriously go on sale all the time). I also got a set of these 4 ounce Ball jars, which are perfect for dressings or dips.

Lunch is usually a salad that I put in the largest bowl, and then I bring berries or some other fruit in one of the smaller bowls. The 4 bowls in this set plus the 4 ounce jars are basically all that I need. And, pro tip: If you are able, wash your containers at work, so you’ll have them clean when you get home—just throw everything together for tomorrow and you’re done!

The other thing I’ve started using recently that I really like are these reusable zip bags (like Ziploc, but you can reuse them). I used to use a TON of Ziploc baggies, and I started getting really convicted about how wasteful that was. I found this set of 5 online (3 sandwich size, 2 snack size) and am in love with them. They are BPA-free, freezer-safe, and I just wipe them out with some soapy water and a paper towel, then air-dry them overnight.

Tip 4: Overpack Rather Than Underpack

So ideally, pack the right amount of food, but I would much rather bring too much and then bring it home with me or leave it at work for the next day than not bring enough and be hangry all day or looking for change to use at the vending machine.

Most days, I bring my breakfast, lunch, and then a snack for midmorning (which I sometimes skip) and a snack for midafternoon. Breakfast is usually turkey sausage with a banana and almond butter (which I buy in pre-portioned packets, so I don’t go overboard with the AB), and lunch is either leftovers or a salad. I try to bring snacks that are healthy, filling, and portable. Most days I bring 2 cuties, a sandwich bag of baby carrots or some other fresh vegetable, and a Larabar. If I know I won’t be heading home right after work, I might have some grapes or jerky to hold me over till dinner.

This is based on years of research, fyi. Figuring out how much food to bring, plus what kind of food is filling without making you feel miserable, is a lot of trial and error.

Tip 5: Extras and Nice-to-Haves

OK, now we’ve basically covered what I consider are the essentials of a good packed lunch. Now we arrive at the things that are nice to have, but really up to you. A couple things I really love:

  • A good water bottle. I actually bring 2 big water bottles to work every day (each 32 fl oz) to cut down on buying bottled water from our vending machine (I’m really into recycling right now, guys). I still usually have to buy maybe 1 or 2 bottled waters each day, but it’s much better than before.
  • Reusable utensils. I came across these bamboo utensils while I was poking around online and they look pretty neat. The ones I keep in my bag are just plastic, maybe Tupperware. Honestly, I mostly use them when other utensils are not available—I should stop doing that.
  • Coffee tumbler that keeps drinks hot or cold. I am obsessed with this Healthy Human tumbler I got. It for real keeps drinks cold for 24 hours (or after an entire day in 90 degree heat, in the sun, in a car with black interior). Plus it’s so pretty.

And that’s all I got! Let me know if you guys have questions or would like to see more of these types of posts. Oh, and have a happy and fun long weekend! ❤

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WIAW: Photos of Meals Eaten at My Desk

Hello and how are you!? I mentioned this in my last post, but the last few weeks have been…weird. We have just been out of routine around here, so that’s kind of thrown off my blogging and hobby motivation.

I’m typing this up as I’m watching pre-third presidential debate coverage (ugh) and before I finish up some work things. Since it’s Wednesday and I actually remembered to take photos of (most of) my meals yesterday, I thought I’d link up for another fun edition of WIAW.

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OK, so I’ve been reading Cassy Joy Garcia’s book Fed & Fit lately, and it is so good. I just love her energy and perspective on health and nutrition—she’s so positive! On Monday, I cooked up a batch of her plantain protein pancakes to freeze and take for breakfasts, and I’m in love. I had 2 pancakes, some of these turkey sausages (also so good), and a side of raspberries. Plus the usual iced coffee with almond milk.

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Lunch was premade at home on Sunday: one chicken sausage fried in coconut oil along with one golden delicious apple, half a sweet potato, cubed and roasted, and a cup of Brussels sprouts sautéed in coconut oil. I got the idea from this recipe I found on Pinterest. I made 2 servings on Sunday and stuck them in the fridge for a quick grab-and-go lunch.

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This was my first afternoon snack of the day. I found them in the gluten-free aisle at the grocery store this weekend and decided to pick up a few. I’m glad I did! They reminded me of a fruit roll-up or fruit leather, so BOLO if that’s your thing.

(Note: Since I worked through lunch yesterday and ate almost all my meals at work, I tried to take photos in different spots around my cube. Just trying to keep it interesting for you.)

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Second afternoon snack of the day: Red delicious apple + Justin’s classic AB. Because it’s fall.

I also had an unpictured snack of baby carrots—this is the part where I started forgetting about taking photos. 🙂

I had a chiropractor appointment after work and then plans with friends yesterday evening, so I went home in between super quickly to take care of the dogs. My “dinner” was an Udi’s gluten-free chocolate muffin and a handful of tortilla chips.

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So filling (not) and delicious (yes). A few of my girlfriends and I ended up going out for drinks last night, and when I got home I snacked on a strawberry popsicle as “dinner, part 2.”

And that was it for the day! I hope you all are having a wonderful week (we’re halfway through!). If you’d like to check out other WIAW posts, you can visit here. And make sure to check out the OG WIAW, Peas and Crayons.

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And if you’re watching the debate tonight, take a few deep breaths and have a glass of wine maybe. ❤

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Thursday Things + Food Journaling 101

Hello there! And happy October / Fall Festival week for those of you in southern Indiana! I have not actually made it down to the festival yet, but there ARE still 2 days left—who knows what could happen? The world is my oyster!

The last few weeks have been jam-packed with a ton of stuff, and on top of that I have been feeling run down.

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First and foremost, the boyfriend and I went to Notre Dame 2 weeks ago for their game against Duke. Sadly, the game was kind of a bummer, but we still had an amazing time. The campus is incredible and it was so fun to be part of a football weekend.

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The weather was absolutely perfect and we had a really great time hanging out with our friends and spending time on campus.

In addition to our trip, life has just been keeping me busy. I was trying to think of specific reasons why I’ve felt so blah, but there’s not one thing in particular. There are just some seasons of life that are like that—between work and friends and relationships and running errands, it just goes by super quickly.

Health-wise, I’ve been feeling a little off for the past few weeks. I have issues with my neck and shoulders, so a family weekend at Holiday World (riding the Scrambler in particular) left me in a lot of pain. Which turned into a migraine after an appointment at the chiropractor. I’ve also been experimenting a little with my diet, which leads me into what I want to write about today: food journaling, or why I think we should all be doing it.

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I have been a user of MyFitnessPal for years. I actually did a project involving it for one of my classes in school.

MyFitnessPal is both a website and an app you can download to track your food and beverage intake, physical activity, and progress toward goals. It can also sync with other apps you may be using, like Fitbit or MapMyRun.

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You can also connect with other users for accountability or motivation (don’t worry—you can choose what information is viewable to others, like weight, food diary, etc.).

So MyFitnessPal is one of the most popular food diary apps because it’s really user-friendly and has a really really large database of food and drink. Seriously, I can find almost anything I’ve eaten, including particular brands and specific entrees at restaurants. It also saves recent entries and recipes, so it’s very easy to track your food if you, like me, tend to eat a lot of the same things.

OK, this is probably starting to sound like this post was brought to you by MyFitnessPal, but it’s NOT. I just think it’s a really great app and a useful service. I personally use it to track my food and exercise, but I specifically love being able to see nutrient and macronutrient intake. If I’m feeling really hungry one day, I can look back and see I’ve eaten 70% carbs and very little protein—and this helps me know what changes I should be making in my diet in order to feel my best.

The other form of food journaling that I find useful is a good old fashioned notebook and pen.

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I started keeping a notebook and pen on my nightstand a few months ago, mainly to see if my diet affected anxiety and stress in my life. You can make this as detailed or as brief as you’d like, but generally I include:

  • What I had for each meal plus any snacks (again, this doesn’t have to be in-depth—simply writing oatmeal and coffee for breakfast will suffice)
  • How much water I drank that day
  • What my energy levels throughout the day were like
  • What kind of activity I did (how many steps I got, if I worked out, foam rolling, etc.)
  • What my moods were like
  • Any other major differences (was I exhausted all day, bloated, bad headache, etc.)

It can be tedious at first, but like most new habits, once it becomes part of your routine, it feels natural. And I can’t stress enough how helpful this has been. Like that really bad stomachache I had a few weeks ago? I can look through my notebook and find that I had a similar one 2 months ago, and both those days I had eaten X. Or if I’m feeling really good one day, I can see that I drank a ton of water and had 3 meals with a good amount of protein in them.

If you are trying to meet a weight-loss goal, have been having digestive issues, or just haven’t been feeling like yourself lately, I encourage you to give food journaling a shot. Even if you don’t include every single thing you ate every day (which I usually don’t), it is so helpful for both accountability and information. Knowledge is power, people! Especially in regards to your health.

I hope this post was helpful! If you have questions about food journaling or would like me to explain anything I forgot, please let me know. I hope you all have a wonderful week and a sweet weekend. 🙂

WIAW: Tuesdays That Feel Like Mondays

Hi! I hope you all had a lovely long weekend (if you were lucky enough to get a long weekend) and are feeling rested and ready to go! My poor friends and boyfriend hear this all the time, but I’ll say it here too: When you have a Monday off from work, the week feels longer. Fridays off, the week feels shorter. Don’t ask me why, but it’s true.

In true Tuesday/boosday fashion, my day started off with me sleeping through my alarm. I’m an avid user of The Rock Clock, but I think its service to me is over. This is the third time in the past week that the alarm has TURNED OFF because I didn’t turn it off first. Because I didn’t hear it! The Rock Clock, this is a failure. How can you call yourself an alarm if you turn off after X amount of minutes?

So the day started off on a bad foot.

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All of my bags. Minus my gym bag, because I foolishly thought I would work out at home after work. Ha! Didn’t happen.

Miraculously, I got to work relatively on time. But breakfast was a drive-thru classic: oatmeal and iced coffee.

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Eaten at my desk + half a pack of Justin’s almond butter to give the oatmeal a bit of staying power. FYI, my iced coffee order is just iced coffee with skim milk. Perfect.

I eat lunch every day around 11am. 1. Because I’m usually hungry at that time and don’t have a morning snack. And 2. Because I have been using my lunch breaks to go to the gym (minus today, when I went home and hung out with my dogs). I can’t work out on a full stomach—I feel like I want to hurl the whole time (TMI, sorry!).

Today I had my classic lazy-girl lunch: An Amy’s vegan, gluten-free burrito over some greens to give it some color, plus a big ol’ handful of red grapes because I can’t get enough of them lately. Pro tip: Buy a few lunches every week that will make it easy to throw in your lunch bag. I know there will be at least a couple days where I’m too lazy to meal prep or I’m out too late at night, and throwing one of these healthy-ish burritos in my bag makes life so much easier. No shame.

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My lunch held me over reasonably well, so I waited to have my afternoon snack until around 3pm.

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A peanut butter cookie Larabar with baby carrots and hummus. (I didn’t eat the plum because it was suspect. Sadly, I think plum season is over in southern Indiana.)

I work until 5, and when I got home I was pretty hungry. I was flying solo on Tuesday night, so I whipped up an old standby: scrambled eggs with pepper and hot sauce with an Ezekiel English muffin and cream cheese on the side.

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At home we eat mostly paleo-ish (I’ll talk about this in a future post), but I’ve been eating vegetarian for breakfast and lunch lately. My boyfriend is not a fan of breakfast for dinner (break my heart, why don’t you!), so I never get to have scrambled eggs in the PM. 😦

Dinner was quickly followed by a strawberry popsicle while watching The Mindy Project on HuluPlus.

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After dinner, I did some stuff around the house and then met up with a friend at my favorite local watering hole for a drink (or 2). Vodka sodas with lime FTW.

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I was out later than I planned, but we had a really good time catching up. As soon as I walked in the door, I had a handful (x2) of these amazing vegan chocolate chips.

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I then took care of the doggies and sat down to type up this post. And now I’m ready for bed! The glamorous life of a 30-something who works full-time, right?

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If WIAW (What I Ate Wednesday, for the uninitiated) is up your alley, as it is mine, you can check out the post link up here.

Have an amazing Wednesday, all! We’re halfway through this week already! ❤

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A Day in the Life: Back to School

Hi! I hope you are all getting ready to enjoy a nice long Labor Day weekend. I took a vacation day on Friday, and I’ll be busy doing a mix of projects, schoolwork, and having some R&R time.

I’ve been meaning to check in on here for the last few weeks, but, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, I started classes last week. That first week of getting into the groove can be killer—I always feel like I have to relearn how to balance work, school, fun, and my personal time. I’m pretty excited for this semester and the classes I’m taking. And best news—this is my last year! I actually filled out graduation paperwork this afternoon. 😀

One of my favorite blogs (and one of the first blogs I started following) is Carrots n Cake. She does this semi-weekly feature called A Day in the Life, and I thought it would be fun to try over here. I also originally intended this to be a WIAW (What I Ate Wednesday) post…but then I forgot to take a picture of dinner, and now it’s Thursday—so obvs not happening.

But first things first: I got a lot of my hair chopped off.

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That’s the before and after. OK, and now that I’m looking at it, it doesn’t look that drastic. But to me it was. And my hair feels so. much. healthier.

A Day in the Life: Tuesday, September 1

6:00am Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

6:18am Actually get up. Head to the kitchen to make breakfast.

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3 scrambled eggs cooked in coconut oil (topped with black pepper and hot sauce), a big ol’ peach, and water.

6:45am Get ready to face the day!

7:15am Head to class at 8am, but stop for iced coffee on the way. (Duh.)

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Iced coffee + skim milk.

8:00am Class (stimulating PowerPoint lectures included).

9:45am Head out for my first Couch to 5K run.

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I have not run in several months. Starting last fall, I kept getting injuries in my left leg when I was running, and even though I love running, I just stopped. But lately I’ve been really missing it (plus, fall is like the best running weather, ever), so I decided to eat my humble pie and start really reallllllly slowly. The first run is a 5-min warmup, 20 mins of alternating 1 min run/1.5 min walk, and 5-min cool down. It was really good, but I have the most killer blister on my left ankle (TMI?).

10:15am Clean up and make a smoothie for a snack.

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This was 1 cup of almond milk, ice, and a packet of Amazing Grass Green Superfood. I found out about Amazing Grass through my blog crush, and it’s really good. You can actually order a sampler pack of several of their supplement powders (plus that cute little bottle above) for like $10. Check it out!

10:30am Settle in for a couple hours of schoolwork.

12:30pm Lunch and chit-chat break, followed by more schoolwork.

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Today I had an Amy’s burrito (gluten-free and dairy-free) over some mixed greens, plus a sliced apple with almond butter and chocolate chips. Oh, and a McDonald’s Diet Coke (Transparency!).

3:00pm Back to class (this one included a PowerPoint, but was much more interesting).

4:45pm Home to grab essentials for dinner and let little Dora out.

5:30pm Arrive at boyfriend’s house, light the grill and throw fries in the toaster oven. This is where I failed to take any more pictures for the day, but we grilled these amazing chicken sausages and had sweet potato waffle fries on the side.

After dinner, we watched some TV and caught up on our days. #theperfectcouple

10:00pm Home for the night. Talk with the roommate for a bit and get ready for bed.

10:30pm Get in bed, read for a bit (this), and hit the lights.

So that’s a typical school day right now. I think I might try to do a work day or weekend episode of these too, if you’re interested. I am super nosy and love reading these things, plus it’s nice to get ideas for meals or snacks or what have you.

Anyway, thank you for indulging me in this. I hope you all have a safe and happy Labor Day, and hopefully I’ll check in again on here soon!

Weekending & the Importance of Self-Care

Hi! I’m currently enjoying a quiet Tuesday night after a busy weekend + Monday.

Someone special had a birthday on Thursday, so I took a vacation day Friday to hang out. We ran a bunch of errands (including Chipotle and Target, my 2 loves) and then set up a sweet new projector for watching movies outside—and football games this fall. 🙂

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The first thing we watched? Parks and Recreation. ❤

Saturday was the annual Bluegrass in the Park fest in Henderson, aka my Most Favorite Event of the Summer. Seriously, I can never turn down pulled pork barbecue and fries.

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Saturday was miserably hot and humid, so we were all surprised with a-mazing weather Saturday night. Like this beautiful sunset.

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Plus a nice cool breeze and zero humidity. I was a happy girl. (Also there was an older gentleman with a fat chihuahua and 2 cockatiels present = best thing I’ve seen all summer.)

Sunday was church + hot yoga, followed by pizza with the roommates and a grocery run. And Monday ended up being a crazy day at work and a late night (like, not falling asleep till after midnight), so I was dragging all day.

So tonight after work I decided to take it easy. I cooked myself dinner,

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watched an episode of New Girl, and took Dora on a walk. And now I’m chilling out with the Balanced Bites podcast and probably some reading before hopefully heading to bed early.

One thing I’ve learned about myself over the past 2 years is how important having a night to myself is. I’m not really an introvert, so too much alone time and I tend to get weird. But just one night where I can do whatever I want—whether that’s being super productive and doing meal prep and exercising and whatever, or just laying on the couch with Netflix on in the background and catching up with my roommates—that’s my sweet spot.

I think my 20s have definitely been a lesson in self-care. When I was younger, I constantly wanted to be busy and fill all my time. Now, I still like being busy, but I can recognize how being busy all. the. time. is so unhealthy for me (cue stress/anxiety/depression perfect storm). It definitely takes time to figure out where you function best—maybe you need a solid 9 hours of sleep every night, and you have to work around that. Or maybe weekends are your time, and you like having your weekdays and nights full. There’s no wrong way to practice self-care. We’re all unique and awesome and again, just because something is good for someone else, doesn’t mean it will work for you.

And with that thought, I’m off to spend some time with this book. Have a great evening!

One Month of Summer

Hello and happy Monday to you!

So on Friday, I realized (with a slight sense of panic) that I had exactly one month until classes start again. What.

I realize that the first part of my summer was taken up with a summer session at school, so maybe that’s why it feels like it’s gone exceptionally fast? Who can tell. But I do know that, while I’ll be sad for summer to end, this is the start of my last year of school—PTL for that! It has gone by so quickly, and while I’ve loved my classes and am so glad I decided to take the plunge and go back to school, I will be so glad to just be a normal adult again. You know, just working for the weekends and all that (I kid).

OK, one month of summer left, and I want to enjoy it. I came across this post on Pinterest a few weeks ago, and I became sort of obsessed with it. I just really love the idea of developing habits that are focused on self-care. And you know I also love to-do lists. So kind of combining those two things, here’s what I want my last month of summer to look like.

1. Get up with my alarm.

If you ever think you are going to find a list of goals on this blog that doesn’t include becoming a morning person, you are a fool.

2. Commit to a regular yoga practice.

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Earlier this summer, my roommate and I joined a hot yoga studio for their promotional summer class rate—basically three months of unlimited yoga. Yes! Like with most things in life, I started out super strong, then fizzled for the last few weeks. I love yoga, and yeah, I really want a yoga body, but it is time-consuming. So I would like to commit to practicing in-studio three or four times a week for the next month—I think that will give me the benefits of practicing hot yoga, and also the benefits of having a life and seeing the people I love.

3. Take Dora for more walks.

While we’re talking about moving, little Dora has had little to no exercise this summer. OK first of all, it has been super hot and I am worried about her hydration (yes, that was an obnoxious dog mom thing to say). But I also just haven’t made the time for it, and I feel bad about that. So along with getting up when my alarm is going off, I’d like to take Dora at least for a short walk in the morning. It’s a lot cooler then (mostly) and the sun is up early these days, and I’m hopeful that getting up and moving for a bit will help me wake up and clear my head.

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4. Rekindle my love for podcasts.

I do this thing where I exclusively listen to playlists on my phone or CDs for a few weeks, exclusively listen to the Top 40 radio stations for a few weeks, and exclusively listen to NPR for a few weeks. Podcasts used to be in that mix, especially during the school year when I was practically living out of my car and driving out to campus all the time. I really haven’t listened to any lately—perhaps this entire year (the horror!). Over the weekend I downloaded a few different podcasts that I’d heard good things about, and I’m excited to get back into them.

5. Try some dessert recipes.

I came across this dairy-free ice cream the other day, and it looks amazing and refreshing.

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And also this fruit pizza. Fruit pizza! A dessert I love but somehow always forget about.

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There you have it folks: My summer to-do list. Let me know if I’ve missed anything, or what plans you have for the rest of your summer!