A note to my husband on our SEcond anniversary
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You are the greenest pasture that I pull up to after my hardest and longest journeys. You are so open and make me feel so free and yet I feel my least exposed..my most secure..when I am with you. You know how to simultaneously keep my soul wild and my heart safe. You make me giggle right when I start to forget the sound. 

Thank you for being my solace...my greenest pasture. For supporting me just as thoroughly when I am skipping across the grass in the sunshine as when I am laying on the ground in the rain feeling like I can’t get up. For loving me wholey when I feel anything but. For being you, my husband. And for being hot as hell, of course.  Happy 2nd wedding anniversary, Jay!

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Let's Talk About Sex & Coconu Lube

Let’s talk about sex, baby. Well, everyone else besides my grandma, Jay’s grandma, our aunts, and any other family members that follow along here…let’s talk! I figure I’m already vulnerable as he** in this space so why not add this topic into the ring. I genuinely wish and hope for every consenting/wanting adult in the world to have a healthy and satisfying sex life so I hope that today’s post will be helpful! Gotta spread the love/info for making the love! Ugh, I’m so cheesy.

I think that the first thing that needs to be addressed is the stigma around lube. Truthfully, I don’t get why there is a stigma at all. I’ve heard people make references to the fact that they don’t need it like there is some sort of shame attached to using it. First of all, I think that there a billion reasons why it may be functionally helpful and zero of them should have shame attached to them. Hormonal changes, medical conditions, medication side effects, age…to name a few. Secondly, I want to debunk the stigma that you would only use lube out of need and not out of want. Simply said, it makes sex, and everything that comes before actual intercourse, better. Not using lube during sex is like eating tortilla chips without guacamole. The chips will be great regardless…I mean, they’re chips! But guacamole will elevate the chips every single time!

All that being said, I used to find a lot of deterrents for using lubricant. As you likely know by this point, I love being and feeling CLEAN. Well traditionally, lube can lead you to feeling something besides that. You may also know that I try to be conscientious about what products I use and the ingredients in them. I try to both use and consume relatively ‘clean’ products..from the face products that I use, to the food that I consume, to the cleaning products in my cabinet and everything in between. I am far from perfect at it and am always working on progress in this realm of my life (while simultaneously cutting myself slack for not giving up my favorite mascara, eating ice cream, etc). Well, when I really began the swap over process in my house and life to ‘safer’ and ‘cleaner’ products about 5 years ago, Jay and I started researching ‘safe’ lubes. Truthfully, we didn’t get very far because the options were just more limited then and we ended up ordering a product that was marketed as ‘organic lube’ on Amazon and really I don’t think that there was evidence that it was indeed organic or if it was it was not mad with all natural products. Second off, I try not to order personal care items on Amazon because the shelf life, temperatures of the warehouses, etc aren’t always regulated (depending on the supplier). As the options kept expanding, I would restock my nightstand drawer with a new product to test out. I am picky though and don’t like when things are too watery or sticky so I wasn’t very successful.

Then, I found Coconu and became obsessed! So much so that even though I just purchased it regularly on my own online, I ended up reaching out to them and asked if they could give me a discount code to share with you guys because I feel like everyone needs it in their life! I am so passionate about it that I am speaking publicly about lube usage haha! It feels like not only is not bad for you, it seems to actually be good for you because it is moisturizing in a non-intense way! It’s a coconut based lube and actually certified organic, made with all natural products, GMO free and is not tested on animals. Check, check, check! It’s completely free of parabens, silicone, glycerin and harsh chemicals so it won’t mess with your PH levels and is gentle on your skin. It’s also 3oz so you can travel with it because isn’t vacation sex you’re favorite sex?! Spoken from the #CozyTraveler so I may be biased but I do my best work on vacation ;)

Coconu makes a water based lube and an oil based lube. I personally like the oil based product more because its a little thicker and therefore less messy. It is also longer lasting and for me, just feels better. The water based product is more slick so I think that it comes down to personal preference. Coconu is a Certified B Corporation and gives 10% of its proceeds to Ovarian Cancer research, which I really respect.

Use code COZY for 15% off your order

This post is sponsored. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

4th Of July Outfits
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Top, Shoes, Bag, Jeans, Choker, Long Necklace

I love getting festive for any holiday, I’m sure you know that about me by now ;) My favorite wardrobe is a summer wardrobe so obviously the 4th of July and the other summer holidays are my favorites to dress for. I love all of these piece for 4th of July weekend but also for all summer long. They are perfect for BBQs, summer nights at the beach, pool days, and just all of the goodness that the sunshine brings with it. I will be in Iowa for the 4th of July visiting Jay’s grandma with his extended family. It’s typically filled with small midwest farm town traditions where the family is all together. It’s really casual in Reinbeck Iowa haha so I will be wearing some of these laid back looks. However, I am ordering some of these pieces to have in my summer wardrobe because I love them!

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Coconut Ice Pops
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Everyone needs a refreshing treat once in a while. By once in a while I mean once a day haha. I am all about splurging on sugar and "bad for you things" on the weekends but during the week I try to keep it in check as much as possible. That means that I've been eating a lot of frozen grapes, watermelon, and healthy popsicles. When you make something, you know what goes into it and can control the amount of "fake" things in it. I try to stay away from dairy as much as possible during the week so coconut milk is the perfect popsicle addition. Try these out with the recipe below.

Ingredients: 

1/4 cup strawberries

1/4 cup blueberries

1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

14 oz. coconut water (I use Harmless Coconut)

14 oz. can of organic coconut milk

Juice of 2 limes

Directions:

Place the coconut water, coconut milk, lime juice, and shredded coconut into a blender. Blend on medium speed for 2 minutes. 

Pour the contents of the blender into ice pop molds. 

Slice the strawberries and put a couple in each ice pop mold. Drop a few blueberries into each mold as well.

Place sticks inside and freeze overnight. 

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Mac & Cheese
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A little while ago I went to Murray's Cheese Bar with some friends and had the best mac and cheese that I've had in a LONG LONG time. That maybe doesn't sound like a big deal but I LOVE mac and cheese and am kind of a mac and cheese connoisseur since I try it so many places haha. I've had it stuck in my head ever since so I decided to take a stab at recreating it. It was definitely really different but I was really happy with the result. My husband raved about it and said that it was even better than Murray's version. I thought that it was almost as good but not quite as good. However, sometimes I can be biased after making something because the labor and insider knowledge of what goes into it turns me off a little. Does anyone else think that things just taste better when you're served it at a restaurant?! Regardless of its exact status, this turned out amazing and I will definitely be adding it into a Sunday night rotation! 

Ingredients:

1 pound of pasta (we bought stupid 8 dollar fancy pasta because we wanted it to be incredible but you could use whichever type you love with mac and cheese)

1 quart of milk (I used fat free milk but it would obviously be even better with more fat)

8 T of unsalted butter

16 oz of Murray's Mac and Cheese shredded cheese blend that I bought at Murray's Cheese Shop. Its a blend of gruyere, butterkase, and raclette that I would sub for straight up gruyere or a mix of gruyere and gouda since they're easier to find.

14 oz of shredded colby jack cheese

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 t cayenne

1 cup breadcrumbs

2 T unsalted butter

1 t black pepper

2 cloves of garlic (minced)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Boil water in a saucepan.

Heat the milk in a saucepan over low heat. 

In another saucepan, melt the butter and then add in half a clove of chopped garlic. Add the flour 1/4 cup at a time, while continuously whisking. Continue to whisk for two minutes. Then, ladle in the warm milk, one ladle full at a time while whisking constantly. Continue whisking until it is smooth. Keep whisking over medium heat until you lift the whisk out of the mixture and the mixture sticks to the whisk. You want it to be thick enough before you add in the cheese. Take your time with it until its not super watery. 

Add the pasta to the boiling water in the other saucepan and cook according to package directions. 

Next, add in the cayenne pepper. Add 16 ounces of the gruyere mixture cheese, one cup at a time while whisking constantly. 

Strain the pasta and place it in a bowl with the remaining 14 ounces of colby jack cheese. Stir to combine so that the cheese gets melted. 

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and toss to combine. 
 

In a small saucepan, melt 2 T of unsalted butter. Then, add the breadcrumbs and toss to combine. 

Pour the pasta and cheese sauce mixture into a baking dish. Top with the breadcrumb mixture and bake for 20 minutes. Serve immediately. 

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LBI Guide
Photo by    Ellentuck Photography    (racheltuck@gmail.com)

Photo by Ellentuck Photography (racheltuck@gmail.com)

Long Beach Island (aka LBI) is such a special place to me. My mom fell in love with the island when she was a teenager and went there with her friend. During the summers when she was in college and grad school she would rent a ‘hut’ (as she calls it) and waitress down there. It was always her dream to have a house there one day. My dad would come down during those summers and crash with her and he fell it love with it too. When I was born they started renting a house for a week or 2 every summer!

Together, they made that dream of my mom’s come true! In 1999 began building our current beach house, which they lovingly named Tranquility. It was completed just in time for us to ring in Y2K. Our time in LBI growing up is what childhood dreams are truly made of. They were the most purely happy and simple moments of my life so doing things like eating an elephant ear literally tastes like my childhood and makes me feel so happy. We went from rolling in the dunes as babies to hosting lemonade stands in the driveways as kids to trolling Bay Village looking to flirt with boys as preteens and then working at Farias as teenagers. I cringe just thinking about my times at the teen club at the Ketch! During my teenage years, my parents continued to be so generous and let me have tons of girls & guys down to stay at our house (in hindsight this sounds miserable for them and they were just so endlessly generous).

When Jay and I started dating, we went down there alone in the winter because I was itching to show him this special place (and let’s be real, play house alone). My parents hosted his family that summer, when they met for the first time (and began a yearly tradition). Jay fell totally in love with LBI. Just like with my parents, it started as my happy place and quickly became our place. I am so grateful that he gets the magic of it…the simple way of living and family friendly feel. We even got married there, which was a life long dream of mine and eventually Jay’s as well.

Photo by    Ellentuck Photography    (racheltuck@gmail.com)

Photo by Ellentuck Photography (racheltuck@gmail.com)

It is truly our family’s home and not a ‘vacation house’ as people might assume. It is where I go to do my recoveries after surgery while my mom nurses me back to health. This Fall, my dad died at the house, which has obviously rooted up a lot of complex emotions. I am ultimately grateful that if he had to die a premature death, that it was in his favorite place…his and our beloved Tranquility.

If you are lucky enough to get to go to this wonderful island, I hope that this guide will serve you well! Our house is in Brant Beach so that impacts where we frequent more to a degree. It’s a long because its super comprehensive so I hope it’s helpful!

Stay

Long Beach Island is just a little island, with local hotels and lots of house rentals. If you'd like help finding the best accommodations for you, I may be able to help so shoot me an email carly.robinson@smartflyer.com or fill out this contact form.

Image taken at our    Rehearsal Dinner    at The Gables

Image taken at our Rehearsal Dinner at The Gables

Eat

Breakfast: 

  • Uncle Wills Pancake House: A classic, no frills establishment with great breakfast. It really is the perfect, traditional pancake house. Expect a line if you don't call ahead and put your name down on the list. Kids can request to sit with Uncle Will aka the pig statue.

  • Ferraras bakery: The BEST doughnuts ever! The buttercream filled doughnuts are one of my favorite things in the whole world and the jelly doughnuts are incredible.

  • Bagel Shack: Great spot to pick up some bagels but expect a line. The cinnamon sugar butter is that obvious/not-so-obvious type of genius.

  • Bagels & Beyond: Our go-to bagel shop. The jalapeño asiago cheese bagel is amazing and so is their crumb cake.

  • Frutta Bowl and Playa Bowl: Both spots are great healthy options for acai bowls, smoothies and oat bowls. Whichever is more convenient for your location will be perfect! You can place your order online in advance and Frutta bowls even delivers.

  • Living on The Veg: A healthy, vegan cafe with fresh green juices, tofu scrambles, etc.

Lunch:

  • The Local: This gourmet market was a welcome addition a few years back. They have grab and go options as well as a counter where you can order food to sit down and eat. They also have good baked goods and gourmet grocery items that you can buy to take home. Its on your way on/off the island.

  • Livin on The Veg: This is my go-to spot. It’s a little vegan cafe that’s in a casual hut. I usually get take out from here and I am so grateful to have a place with healthy options that are delicious. I love their wraps and salads but everything is great. My husband used to be so skeptical and refuse to get it and now that he actually tried it he is a big fan! Make sure to check their opening hours that day/call.

  • Pearl Street Market: We tend to go to The Local and our friends in Holgate tend to go to Pearl Street based on where we live. This is a great grab and go spot and a perfect place to get food for a group bbq.

  • Country Kettle Chowda: A hut in Bay Village to pick up your chowder to go (or eat in Bay Village). We couldn’t go to the area without picking up some for my dad.

  • Subs and Such: We honestly make sandwiches at the house a lot and there are so many good sub places on the island but this one was my dad’s favorite (he got them more than I did).

Image taken at our    Rehearsal Dinner    at The Gables

Image taken at our Rehearsal Dinner at The Gables

Dinner (sit down restaurants):

  • The Gables: This is in my top couple of restaurants on Earth. We had our rehearsal dinner there and I just love it so much. It is an experience being there because the setting just feels like you are in a magical garden. It is on par with NYC restaurants for pricing so it is a spot that is best for a nice date night. The food is great so in combination with the ambiance it’s a slam dunk. You just feel the magic when you are there. I love sitting out back in the garden and on the front patio with all of the flowers and can never decide which I like more. I like to go a couple of times each summer to experience both! Our rehearsal dinner was in the back garden so I think I am not favoring that! You can see pictures from it here. During the colder months, it has a cozy, antique vibe indoors as well. The accept reservations on Open Table. You can bring your own wine or beer here or order off the wine menu.

  • Parker's Garage: This is my go-to spot to bring a group of friends/family when they come down to stay with us. It’s a place where you can bring kids no problem but doesn’t feel targeted towards families…its for everyone! It’s located on the water and has a great view for the sunset! It has open air instead of windows so you feel partially like you are outdoors. We like to order the food tapas style and get a bunch of things for everyone to try! They accept reservations (with limitations) on Resy. They are BYOB.

  • Daddy O: Our other go-to spot for a nice dinner out. This restaurant feels a little more upscale/trendy than some others on the island. It’s a good date night spot but we tend to go here as a family or with friends. They have a lively bar and usually have live music playing. They also have a great rooftop bar, which is fun to visit for a pre-dinner drink. We have also gone there a few times for drinks and a casual dinner off the bar menu but finding seating can be tricky at times. They serve sushi here and a lot of fish dishes. They accept reservations on Open Table.

  • Blue Water Cafe: This is a family friendly restaurant with outdoor seating. It’s got that perfect ‘beach town restaurant’ feel. They have outdoor seating (with an awning above you), which doesn’t have a good view but is nice and in tone with the restaurant. They have great salads, fish, sandwiches, and so on. They don’t accept reservations and there’s usually a wait but they have an area where you can hang and drink (if you BYO) until your table is ready.

  • Yellow Fin: This is LBI’s fine dining experience. It’s a really small restaurant with a small menu. They aren’t super vegetarian friendly so its not my favorite but my family loves it so much. It’s hard to get a reservation so definitely schedule it in advance.

  • Black Whale: This place also doesn’t have a lot of vegetarian options but our friends love it. It’s great for seafood and seafood buckets.

Dinner (casual):

  • The Chicken or The Egg (aka the CHEG): We love this place so much. Jay went into our wedding planning saying that his one request was that we got the CHEG for our After Party. He ended up having a few more requests but getting wings from there remained very important to him! They have the best buffalo wings (and even veggie wings for vegetarians). We also love getting their buffalo fries, which are just fries with buffalo sauce on them…so good! We typically get this for take out and eat it at home because the wait is usually crazy long. It’s like a beach town diner with an edge so there are a lot of families and teenagers hanging out. I want to go during the week because the wait will likely be better. Pro tip when getting the fries to go: ask for the sauce on the side and then mix it in at home.

  • Pinky’s: We frequently get take out from here and do a ‘seafood feast’ at home. It’s super fresh seafood and you can order things family style to accommodate a group if you’d like!

  • Holiday Snack Bar: You feel like you traveled back in time to an old school diner when you go here. They keep it super simple with burgers, fries, pie, and things like that. It’s like an authentic Johnny Rockets.

  • Surf Taco: A casual taco shop where we tend to get Mexican food (I get the Mexican salad) to go from.

Sweet Treats:

  • Skipper Dipper Ice Cream Hands down the best ice cream on the island! You can find me frequenting Skipper Dipper without shame. They have really fresh ice cream, homemade waffle cones, awesome ice cream cakes, and just everything you could want. Another great ice cream place in downtown Beach Haven is Barry’s Do Me A Flavor. They also serve casual food there so there are always families getting a bite to eat and then ice cream there. There is pretty much always a long line at both. If I happen to be in Bay Village at night (which used to happen and doesn’t anymore really), then I love getting a waffles and ice cream from Windmill.

  • Ferraras Bakery Doughnuts: I would eat the white cream filled doughnuts any time of the day! They have other great baked goods as well.

  • Crust & Crumb Elephant Ears: A staple on the island. This literally tastes like my childhood in the best way.

  • Country Kettle Fudge: Another LBI staple.

Bars:

  • The Shell: This is an outdoor bar at the beach motel, The Shell. The bar is out by the pool and gets pretty rowdy with people of all ages. I like that it’s outdoors. It’s somewhere where you could see a wedding and a fist fight all within a couple hours of each other.

  • The Marlin: This is where a lot of younger people go but really people of all ages. They have live music a lot of nights. I rarely go here because I don’t go out to bars much with my injuries and if I do I want to be outdoors.

  • Nardis: This bar has a pink bus that stops throughout the island along the Boulevard (just call in advance) to pick you up and bring you home. I always loved this place because of that (especially in the pre-Uber era). It brings out an interesting crowd of people, which also makes it fun/funny. This bar is also indoors.

  • Daddy O Rooftop: The tamest of all of the bars on this list and also the one I frequent the most (although let’s be real, still not a ton haha). It’s where you would go to grab a drink or 2 before dinner if you wanted to be outdoors on a rooftop. It’s pricier than the others as well.

Photo by    Ellentuck Photography    (racheltuck@gmail.com)

Photo by Ellentuck Photography (racheltuck@gmail.com)

Exercise

When I am in LBI I attend fitness classes at Black Sheep Studios. They have a great variety of classes and the instructors have an upbeat energy. They even offer classes on the beach sometimes, like Beach Boot Camp. It’s a studio that is very inclusive of women and men.  

Riding bikes is another great ‘low key’ way to get some activity in on your rest days. Since there are so many people out and about on the island, you can’t really ride fast enough for it to be an intense workout but it’s an enjoyable activity to get moving! I would suggest Farias Surf and Sport for bike rentals.

I wish that I was a surfer! I tried for a little while as a teenager (and even bought a board because I worked at Farias and thought I was cool..ugh) but I just am not good at it. If you are looking to rent a surf board and get out on the water though, you can do so at Farias Surf and Sport.

Photo by    Ellentuck Photography    (racheltuck@gmail.com)

Photo by Ellentuck Photography (racheltuck@gmail.com)

Shop

  • Island Gypsy: My favorite clothing store on LBI (and one of my favorites in general). They have a ton of cute things at a great price point. It gets busy, especially during the weekends (and during bad weather) so there is often a long line for the dressing room and it can get a little chaotic in there with overpacked racks and such. They have great summer dresses/sets and loungewear that I love. At the end of the season they get great clothes for the Fall too. It definitely is aimed at a young demographic but there are plenty of items that are good for all ages too and my mom shops there with me!

  • How To Live: My favorite store to wander through. It makes you happy just being in there! They used to sell only home decor but they expanded a couple of years ago to sell women’s clothing and baby clothes. It’s a great spot to get cute gifts, particularly for anyone with a beach house. I love all of the signs and finding reading them to be inspiring. They have 2 locations but I mainly go to the Beach Haven location because its bigger (and right next to Uncle Wills).

  • Farias: This surf shop sells clothes and shoes for people of all ages. It is also where you can get a lot of rentals and beach equipment. This is one of my husband’s favorite stores of all time because he loves surf company clothing. The women’s department is upstairs and has cute things from companies like Billabong and such. I worked here for a bunch of years :) They have a few locations but the Beach Haven location is my favorite. The Ship Bottom location also has a lot of inventory.

  • Sur La Plage: They sell slightly more high end women’s clothing and accessories. I’d say that this is the relaxed/low key boutique version of Bloomingdale’s if it was on an island and sold beach clothing.

Photo by    Ellentuck Photography    (racheltuck@gmail.com)

Photo by Ellentuck Photography (racheltuck@gmail.com)

Family Friendly Activities

  • Fantasy Island: Good luck bringing your kids to LBI without visiting Fantasy Island! It’s LBI’s boutique amusement park that has hardly changed at all since I was a kid (which I love). They have rides and carnival style games outdoors and an arcade indoors. If you buy tokens before the season starts then you can get them discounted.

  • Mini Golf: There is TONS of mini golf on LBI. Day Romano has talked about his yearly vacations in LBI in interviews a few times and always jokes about how there’s a mini golf course on every corner. The coolest course is next to fantasy island and is called Settler’s Mill Adventure Golf.

  • Water Park: The waterpark is another kid favorite because they have big water slides for the older kids, a lazy river and a little kid section. I haven’t gone back as an adult and am okay with holding off on this one until I bring my kids haha.

  • Just Bead It: The perfect rainy day activity. We used to love making jewelry here but I definitely remember it being a more rare occurrence because its pricey. I also got a couple of hair wraps here #classic.

  • Rent a Boat or Jet Ski: There are marinas all throughout the island that you can rent boats and jet skis to ride on the bay.  

  • Family Photo Shoot: My mom is a photographer and does family portraits on the beach in LBI! Her business is Ellentuck Photography and you can find her website here. Her Instagram handle is @Rachelellentuck_photography and her email address is racheltuck@gmail.com.

Photo by    Ellentuck Photography    (racheltuck@gmail.com)

Photo by Ellentuck Photography (racheltuck@gmail.com)

Free Activities for Everyone

  • Visit the light house (may be small entrance fee or donation if you climb it) and/or go for a walk by it.

  • Walk to the end of Holgate if you’re up for the hugely big trek. If not, still go check out the end of the island where you can drive. 

  • Enjoy a sunset on the bay. 

  • Go for a bike ride on Ocean Boulevard.  

  • Take a drive to see the mansions in Love Ladies. 

  • And obviously go to the beach!  

Photo by    Ellentuck Photography    (racheltuck@gmail.com)

Photo by Ellentuck Photography (racheltuck@gmail.com)

Photographer

If you are looking to hire a photographer for a family, couple, pet + owner, surfing, etc session, my mom is a mega talented photographer in LBI and knows all of the best places! Her name is Rachel Ellentuck and her company is Ellentuck Photography. You can find her website here. Her Instagram handle is @Rachelellentuck_photography and her email address is racheltuck@gmail.com. She also has a ton of incredible photos of different spots on LBI that she sells to people as prints for their homes!

My Take on Banana Pudding
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I am always looking for food that is great to make ahead of time because I am always rationing how much physical activity I can do in a day with my back and slotting my schedule accordingly. Cooking/baking requires standing in the kitchen so if I can make something ahead of time for a weekend when I want to allot my physical energy towards doing things that are more fun. This is also applicable to physically fit/normal people who want to prepare food in advance for entertaining. I feel like the more that you can cook in advance when you are entertaining, the better. However, I really value freshness in my food so it’s hard for me. There are a few things that are actually better when you prepare them in advance and this is definitely one of them! I was craving banana pudding one day and tried making my own version of it with some items that I had and ended up loving the way it turned out so much that I keep making it!

Needless to say, this has become my go-to dessert for the Spring and Summer. If I’ve hosted you recently then you’ve had this and if we have plans together coming up, just get ready haha. It’s SO easy, light, and delicious. Its the perfect thing to bring to a BBQ this summer because you can just throw a lid on it (my pyrex dishes have lids that come with them so I just make it in that). I like serve it in these cute little plastic bowls for each person. EASY PEASY! Here is the recipe below…

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Ingredients: (Makes 3 servings)

  • 1 box of vanilla pudding mix (I use 365 brand from Whole Foods but any will work)

  • 2 cups non-fat milk

  • 3 ripe bananas

  • 1 t cinnamon

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream

  • 4 T sugar

  • 1 pack honey graham crackers (I use 365 brand from Whole Foods but any will work)

  • 3 t maple syrup

Directions:

  1. Prepare the pudding according to the directions (with the milk) and place in the fridge for 2-3 hours.

  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the heavy whipping cream on medium/high speed and gradually add in the sugar. Beat until peaks start to form (about 1-2 minutes). Set aside.

  3. Slide your bananas into circles, around 1/2” thick.

  4. Line the bottom of your rectangular pyrex with a layer of graham crackers.

  5. Layer banana slices on top of the graham crackers.

  6. Sprinkle with 1 t cinnamon.

  7. Add 1/3 of the pudding followed by 1/3 of the whipped cream.

  8. Repeat all of these layers 2 more times. Once you have done the last layer of whipped cream, add banana slices to the top and sprinkle them with cinnamon. Then, drizzle the maple syrup on top of it.

  9. Cover and place in the fridge overnight and then serve cold. I have kept mine in the fridge for up to 3 days and its still been great on the 3rd day!

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Black Bean Brownies
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I’ve been trying to diet (lame) because I have gained weight and gotten ‘soft’ since my surgery in January. I mean, I’ve been laying flat on my a** for the majority of the time so no duh. I really miss working out and while I hope that I am on the brink of being able to slowly add in (very modified) exercise, I am also just trying to really track and count what I eat. I started tracking everything in the Weight Watchers app a couple of weeks ago to try and hold specific decisions accountable. I eat really healthy during the week but I definitely like to partake in some splurges over the weekend. I still want to eat things that make me happy but I am looking to modify how much and what they are. I’m not doing anything crazy or being strict but I’m hoping to make abs in the kitchen since i can’t make them in the gym right now. We’ll see how it goes.

Needless to say, I was looking for a ‘healthy’ dessert to enjoy over the weekend (I basically need a dessert for Sunday night GOT viewing) and I created this Black Bean Brownie recipe. Jay was SO skeptical before trying them and then so into them! I think that they are best with frozen yogurt (or ice cream). I used Stonyfield Vanilla Fudge Swirl Frozen yogurt (bought from Whole Foods via Prime Now, my latest and greatest obsession). I LOVE a hot-cold combo dessert so this just really does it for me. I also think that the brownies are a tad dry (compared to regular brownies) so the frozen yogurt helps.

Ingredients (Serves 8 generous pieces):

1 (14 oz) can of low sodium black beans (rinsed and drained)

2 large eggs

1/2 cup cocoa powder

3/4 cup stevia (or coconut sugar)

1 T coconut oil

1/2 t baking powder

1/4 t salt

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 package Lily’s chocolate baking chips

2 T fat free milk

*Optional: Frozen yogurt or ice cream on the side

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Blend all of the ingredients in a blender. Spread into a baking pyrex so that it is approximately 1 inch thick.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.

Sprinkle a little bit of sea salt on top again and then let it sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Sephora Sale: Spring 2019

The Sephora sale is one that I save up for and get so excited about. I keep a list in my phone of things that I want to try when I see so that I can buy them on sale. I also stock up on my repeat tried and true favorites (in multiples) so that I am stocked. I hate paying full price for things and since so many makeup and skincare products rarely go on sale, I use this time to stock up. It hurts my credit card bill at once but is worth it in the long run. You can read about my current skincare routine here.

The Sephora sale has different dates and discounts based on status for Sephora members. If you are not already signed up as a Beauty Insider, do so ASAP! You get rewards and it doesn’t cost anything. You can sign up here. Here are the dates & codes for the sale…

VIB Rouge

April 26-May 6

20% off with code HEYROUGE

VIB

May 2-May 6

15% off with code HEYVIB

Beauty Insider

May 2-May 6

10% off with code HEYINSIDER

Skincare

The one beauty arena that I am most interested in is definitely skincare. It’s probably because it goes along with feeling clean, which is my FAVORITE! If I had to chose between being made up with makeup or being fresh out of the shower and clean with all of my face products on, I’d choose that feeling of being fresh out of the shower. The other reason that I love skincare is because I think that the better you treat your skin, the less makeup you need. Plus, when you do wear makeup, it sits better on skin that is well taken care of. I want to take good care of my skin for the long haul so that it looks as good as possible as I age.

I’d love to go in and get a ton of facials and lasers and such but that is really expensive so I try to do as much at home as I can. I’ve learned that the expensive products last a really long time. I bought most of my go to’s last year during the sale and still am not done with the bottles. Most of the items (besides moisturizer, deodorant and sunscreen) last me a full year. Some face serums I need to replenish 2x/year. Since the products are highly concentrated, they do their job really well with a small amount. Therefore, when I switched to these products, the cost in what I am spending each year overall didn’t really go up (especially once I got on a schedule with the sale). However, the upfront cost isn’t fun.

I have tried my best in recent years to switch over to cleaner face products. Since our skin is our largest organ and chemicals can get through our pores, I’ve tried to be really conscious about what I put on my skin. I follow the 80/20 rule generally with what I eat being ‘clean’ versus not so I try to apply that same rule to my skincare, haircare, makeup, etc.

Like I mentioned, I’m really excited to try some new products that I’ve read a lot about (and will report back on). However, I am also ordering refills of my tried and trues like the toner which has changed my breakouts, my favorite night time face oil, and this epic sunscreen for your face (you won’t ever go back once you use it..it goes on clear). The steps that I use my skincare products in based on my current routine can be found in this blog post.

Makeup

I really kept my makeup selections to a minimum so these are just my musts. I have been using some of them for yearssss (pretty sure I’ve been using the orgasm color of this blush since college). I have tried so many times to replace the GOAT mascara with a ‘clean’ alternative and I just can’t kick it (and am okay with it). I love mine SO much and have been using it since high school. I don’t curl my eyelashes with an eyelash curler (too scared of it harming my lashes) and this is the only mascara that lifts and curves my lashes. It literally triples the length of my lashes! I just got this new eyebrow pencil recently and am loving it!

Mother’s Day Gift Guide 2019

Click on an image above to shop!  

There is no one who I can think of who deserves more spoiling than my mom so I am always eager to plan what gift I can give her. This Mother’s Day gift guide really covers all of the bases…a massager, cozy items, a beauty tool, and even cake! I’m borderline rolling my eyes at myself for including cake while simultaneously patting myself on the back for it. Let’s dive into the items to best spoil the mom(s) in your life!

PJs: The softest PJ set! I literally ‘save up’ my days (based on laundry schedule) that I get to wear these because they make me feel so comforted.

Glopro: This device is an awesome skincare tool! It’s an at home micro needling device that helps treat fine lines, wrinkles, help with a glowing complexion, and so much else. Women of all ages need this!

Massager: The greatest neck/back massager on the market! Trust me, I’ve tried all of them haha. It has such great pressure and is actually effective when you use it on yourself. You put your arms or hands through the loops and can guide it along your back/neck. Seriously, EVERYONE needs this in their life so it should just be on a ‘every human’ gift guide.

Necklace: This mama necklace speaks for itself. Its the cool/trendy mom necklace and the price is awesome.

Cake: This cake gets shipped to you and is SO good and impressive that who wouldn’t want to either ship it to their mom for mother’s day directly or bring it to their mother’s day gathering?! Isn’t it so pretty and impressive? Plus, it’s delicious (I’ve had it).

Robe: The coziest robe!!! It’s the ‘sister product’ to my FAVORITE blanket, which is also an amazing gift. I think this would also be a great gift for an expecting mom or mom with a newborn because I can see it coming in clutch for late night feedings and mornings after long nights.

Bag: Such a great ‘staple’ investment piece for any wardrobe. It truly goes with everything.

Air fryer: I love the idea of giving this as a gift along with a little ‘recipe’ book. I something similar for my mother in law one year and she loved it. I have a Pinterest board with some air fryer recipes that you can find here. You can print some and add them to this cute binder.

Sneakers: I love this for a mom with young kids who is running around after them but wants to look good while doing it. Here is a more budget friendly option as well.


Carly EllentuckComment
A Bit of What I've Learned in the Face of Loss 6 Months In
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It’s been a little over 6 months (which feels like 6 minutes) since I lost my dad. I’ve learned about the excruciating journey of loss & grieving thus far but I am also strikingly aware of the fact that I’ve taken only tiny baby steps into my new reality in the scheme of it all. I am just a 20-something girl who simultaneously knows nothing and far too much.

Entering the After of the ‘Before & After’ Life Event
I think that part of the reality of mourning is recognizing that life as you knew it is never coming back since losing someone who was so intricately tied to your everyday existence is life altering. (I originally typed ‘is’ instead of was and had to correct it to the past tense, which just ironically proves the point of my last sentence). There are few events in life that are truly and completely irrevocable...the kind that you cannot go back from, no.matter.what. Events that change who you are and your lens instantly and permanently. Those moments that mark your life as ‘before and after’. Some of them are happy, like becoming a parent. And some of them are sad, like losing a close family member. These ‘before and after’ events impact how you move through the world, for better and for worse. There is no going back.

My life is now marked by the eras of ‘while my dad was alive’ and ‘after losing my dad’. Because no happy news will be as happy without getting to share it with him. And sadness will only be deeper without having him in my corner. You can’t imagine how many times I’ve felt like “I can’t believe that my dad died, I need to tell dad” or “I just need to go hug dad and cry in his arms as he comforts me because MY DAD died.” I know that sounds crazy but he was my dad...my support system and cheerleader. So really it just feels natural to seek out his comfort on my worst days. There are just some things that warranted me reverting back to a little girl who seeked out the comfort that only my dad could give and this is the most warranted thing of all.

On the flip side, I know that on the days my heart will feel it’s fullest, I will still feel the deep hole that his death left in it. My dad will never meet my children. I will never get to show him the house that I settle down in. The list goes on and on and will be filled with so many big and small things. Like all good (not perfect) parents, he suffered when I suffered and he was happy when I was happy (and vis versa). Today I want to cry in his arms and I know that on other days I will long to share my happiness with him and will be robbed of a piece of it for eternity. 

Facing the Shock
It goes without saying that shock is such an enormous part of mourning. It’s like searching for evidence on whether or not your nightmare is real and asking someone to slap you to see if it’s something that you’ll wake up from. I think that this is especially the case with sudden deaths. My dad was a 55 year old who was quite literally here one moment, and then just gone the next. Poof. Like the worst magic trick of all time. For the record, I think that losing someone unexpectedly and losing someone who was sick are EQUALLY horrible in different ways and that the shock element is always there, no matter what. My point is just that, one day I’m talking to him about his plans to go to New Orleans and questions about my mortgage and a couple of days later I watched as they lowered his casket into the ground so it’s hard to connect the dots when there’s just a leap on the paper. There was no journey of preparedness and there’s no sense of relief because he wasn’t sick.  So for me, a high percentage of my mourning thus far has been spent working on accepting that it’s even happened and climbing out of the intense fog of utter shock. I’m not going to lie, the moments where it doesn’t feel real are more tolerable compared to the flood that rushes in like a monsoon when the ‘new reality’ sets in. I never forget that it’s happened but it’s sometimes harder to connect with/truly believe the implications of it. There’s definitely a big part of me that expects his name to pop up on my phone or for him to walk through the door saying ‘sup gang.’ I know that part of that is the natural shock of losing someone (especially prematurely), part of that is the shock of losing someone suddenly and never seeing them sick in a hospital bed with a doctor warning you it’s coming (once again, an equally horrific, but just different looking beast) and part of that is the just reality of losing someone that I think never, ever goes away.

I know that there will always be a part of me that expects him to just walk in the door. That I will always have that instinct to call him when I see something I want to tell him about. But I know that I eventually won’t physically grab the phone as frequently (which I truthfully don’t take comfort in).

Working Through the Trauma
The other thing that I’ve really focused my attention on working through during this initial phase is the trauma of the actual event. The gist of that night is that I was at my friends’ bachelorette party in NYC when I got a call from my sister that my mom found my dad unconscious in a chair and that the ambulance was on its way to their house. Needless to say, I left in the most fear induced panic while simultaneously trying not divulge too many details that could ruin my friend’s special night. I got in an Uber, where I then got a call from my mom that my dad died (the paramedics said it was a heart attack and he was gone before they even got there). That poor Uber driver deserved 10 stars for witnessing what she did. I met up with my sister and husband in Hoboken and we headed down to my parents’ house to be with my mom.

I would say that this traumatic event aspect of it all is the lowest on my totem pole of issues with the entire thing but I also recognize that the healthy thing is to not brush past it and to work through it. If given the chance, I would relive that night a million times over without batting an eye if it meant that I got to have my dad in the future (even without that knowledge at that time). I learned from my accident and pain that I’d rather undergo high level pain for a shorter period of time than chronic lower level pain any day. I would relive getting hit by a car every day for years if I got to live the rest of my life pain free (I obviously have gotten many surgeries with very painful recoveries with this same mentality and desperation). Point is, the trauma of the night of my dad’s death is the least painful of the list of painful elements in the scheme of it all but it was still horrific, of course.

The Most Important Thing I Know About Grieving
Hands down the most important thing that I know about grieving is that there’s no right way to do it. As far as I know, the only way to do it wrong is to NOT do it...to run from it, hide from it, throw a mask over its face or numb yourself in its wake. Like with all truly hard things in life, you just have to BE in it. Sometimes that means putting one foot in front of the other as you walk through heavy, sticky tar and sometimes that means collapsing on the ground and just sitting still in it (or on the floor of your shower, sobbing). 

The Other Most Important Thing I Know About Grieving
The other thing that I think you can ‘do right’ is lean into your family. I think that it would be easier to lean back and to retreat. To keep to myself. To not fully and wholly appreciate that everyone’s grief looks, feels and evolves differently. It would be easier to not pull from my depleted energy reserves to be ‘there for’ them as well. It would be easier to not explain to my husband again what sent me into tears in the blink of an eye. But structures aren’t supported by systems that were just built easily. If you lean two cards into one another, they support one another and have a shot at standing up. If they lean away from one another, there’s no hope. So lean in. Go into it with an open heart and open mind. Accept that all of you will have different good days and bad days (or more realistically bad days and worse days) and that sometimes yours won’t match up. Find your common ground and build a shelter from the storm there. Huddle up and rely on each other to keep warm because nothing externally will come close to providing warmth. I know that no shelter can truly combat the fact that grief is an extremely lonely place to reside. I also know that my family (especially my sister, as we stand in the most similar shoes) are the only ones who can come close to ‘getting it’ and that goes a long way in the loneliness department. We love and desperately miss the same person...he was ours and we are forever one another’s. Family is everything to me, even when a huge chunk of mine is missing. 

Experiencing Happiness Through The Pain
I haven’t struggled with guilt over feeling happy during the moments that I can (although I can see how people would). When I have had moments of true happiness since, it’s brought this sense of recognition that it feels foreign though. It will feel so good to feel happy but also so foreign that it then makes me sad that feeling happy is such an anomaly nowadays. It’s a rollercoaster. The sound of my laugh feels a little stranger (it’s always been strange haha) and having a sense of euphoria in my body feels both wonderful and foreign at the same time. Granted, I also had major surgery within this time frame and have had a lot of hard, hard cr** related to that and not a ton of fun moments since so I know that robs a lot of the joy (and sleep) from life as well. Laughter and happiness have not been in abundance recently but I haven’t stopped welcoming them. I search for them. I’m dedicated to finding them. I’m opening doors and creating opportunities for them to walk in. I’m clinging to them when I do. I’m verbalizing the feeling and taking a beat to appreciate it. I won’t ever feel guilty for any happiness I find, create, or enjoy because life is for the living and I hella know my dad would agree.

Where I’m at Now
At this point, the fog is starting to lift and I can remember where I put things and what task I was in the middle of doing more so than at first. I feel like I can formulate sentences whereas at first I was sometimes wondering if I’d remember my own name. It felt like a gray fog was spread over my world and it was hard to see what I was doing or remember where I was heading. The fog has begun to lift more and more and although the skies are not clear, I have a better sense of place and can see what is going on around me.

I don’t feel like as much of a fraud in the outside world. At first, I felt like I was walking around with this huge secret and while everyone else was just (seemingly) buying groceries, I was looking like I was buying groceries but really just trying not to start crying in the frozen aisle of the grocery store. And a lot of the time I was crying in that aisle. I frequently still find myself trying not to cry in that aisle (and a billion other places). Spoiler alert: sometimes my attempts fail.

The depression has now swept into the place where anxiety was initially residing (which turns out to be the worse of the 2 options for my waistband). Sleeping was impossible at first and now is qualified as ‘difficult’ (but my pain is majorly to blame as well). I know that I will feel like less blood is gushing out of an open wound in my chest as time continues to tick on. I also know that I won’t ever stop bleeding though. Blood shed for life (even at a slower rate) is just a reality that comes in the ‘after’ of this ‘before & after’ event. And so do tears. I know that one day I will have a whole day where I don’t cry but I haven’t seen one of those days yet.

And yet there is a big part of me that would take this ‘first steps of mourning’ pain any day because they are the days that are closer to when I last saw, talked to, and hugged my dad. They are the days when I can still vividly remember all of his hand gestures, facial expressions, and sayings to a t. Where the colors and clarity of the video reel in my head are in full resolution. But the reel keeps playing new slides and I will keep navigating my way through the fog with the blood on my shirt, the hole in my heart, the everlasting love for my dad, and the compassion for myself as I continue to navigate this path. 

If you are in a similar boat, regardless of how much time has passed, I hope that you grant yourself all of the compassion that you need and that you know I’m sending some your way as well.  XX, Carly #FromCarlysHeart

Spring Coats 2019
Coat    (runs true to size)

Coat (runs true to size)

Coat    (runs big, order 1 size down)

Coat (runs big, order 1 size down)

This past weekend I swapped out my closet for my spring/summer clothes (yes, I am a 29 year old child who still stores my off season clothes at my mom’s house because #apartmentliving). I kept 1 of my winter coats in order to not be totally irresponsible but I am so over it! I love swapping it for my Spring coats and adding a couple of new ones into the mix. Spring is a time when you NEED layers. These light Spring coats are perfect layering pieces! Here are my favorites, just click on a picture to shop.

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