Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Summer Road Trip Tips

Guys! It's that time of year again. Summer is just around the corner. This means I can finally enjoy long days on the beach, afternoons in the pool, BBQs, and my favorite activity of all, road trips.  I love planning them. I don't care if it will be a day trip kind or an overnight activity, I love doing the research and preparation that comes into road trips and discovering new places.

Last Summer, when I traveled for my Master's graduation in Florida, I planned a family road trip along the East Coast of the United States. We managed to go to 9 states and 2 countries, which was a lot more than we thought we would be able to do! Planning this lengthy over two-week road trip really taught me a few tricks and tips that I like to share with anyone that may be planning a road trip, or I apply them to whenever I plan a road trip myself. Now I want to share it with all of you!

Here are my 15 Road Trip Tips!

Check your car
It's important to know that your tire pressure is accurate, oil is in check, and that you have done everything and anything you can to prevent any breakdown during the long drives. So make sure you make a checklist of all the things you need to check in your car. 

Clean your car
You're going to be spending long hours in it, most likely with other people, so you want it to be clean and organized. So give your car a wash, a vacuum, and buy one of those scented pines so your car is feeling fresh and ready! 

Make a plan 
But make sure it is a flexible plan. You can't plan an hour by hour thing because you might become stressed if something unexpected comes up. Do your research and know what places you would like to see or stop at, but allow yourself the chance to be surprised. Let things flow! This way it will feel like an amazing adventure.

Study the area
Make sure you've written down some reference directions and you've studied how close places are to your hotel, parking, public transport, etc. You don't want to be 100% clueless when you arrive at a new city. You want to have some backup research done.

Pack drinks and snacks!
This has got to be my favorite part about planning road trips. I find it so convenient to bring a cooler with ice so you can keep water, soda, and juices nice and cool. Also, I like to bring fruits and sandwiches so we can snack in the car. The possibilities are endless with this one. Bring whatever is finger food and a family or personal favorite. This will reduce the number of food stops that will be made and also save you money. 

Ask a local where to eat
I always like to find new places to eat with. If we are spending the night at a hotel, I always ask the employees what places they recommend to visit and where to eat. If I have friends in the area, I turn to them for recommendations. You can even find great suggestions online! The point is to visit the places locals would visit. It is part of the adventure.

Pack Light
Only bring the necessary. You don't need big bags with clothes and toiletries. Especially if you are staying a place where you can do laundry. Keep things to a minimum and to what is necessary. You will have more space for souvenirs this way!

Be prepared
I know I said keep it light, but be prepared. Have a first aid kit and a few extra pieces of clothing. Carry things like wipes and cash with you. Anything that may come in handy if you are in a pinch.

Know where the gas stations are
When you are on the road keep the eye out for gas stations. And keep an eye on how much gas you have before, during and after your drive. This is very important since you do not want to be stranded on the side of the road because you ran out of gas.

Make the perfect Road Trip Playlist
Music is a must for any car ride I am in. So I love to make sure I find awesome radio stations, bring great CDs, or make an amazing Playlist on my phone! This will always set the mood for your drives.

Carry some cash
I said this before. It is important to also carry cash with you, not just plastic. Not every place takes credit cards, and sometimes even these can fail us. Carry some emergency cash for moments like this.

Take pictures
And not just the Instagram kind, but the ones you can put in scrapbooks or simply used to remember the moment. You'll regret all the ones you didn't take then, but also don't take too many that you aren't enjoying the moment.

Embrace spontaneity
Let things flow and let things happen. If you see a sign for the world's largest something, take the detour. Saw some awesome farmers market on the side of the road, stop. These are the things that make road trips special. These are the moments we can't plan even if we tried.

Know where you will spend the night beforehand
Plan certain stops ahead of time and reserve a hotel/motel or talk to a friend. You will need rest, especially during long road trips. So make sure you have these planned moments in between all the fun.

Don't have high expectations and live in the moment
My last piece of advice is to let yourself be surprised. I've said it a few times within this post. Don't create this perfect trip minute by minute and allow yourself to live in the moment and flow. This is hard for some people, but trust me there is no better feeling. This is what makes a road trip the most exciting adventure of your Summer.

What are your favorite road trip memories? Make sure to let me know in the comments or on Instagram. I'll write to all of you soon.

Love, Nashi

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Time Management Tips

So I haven't blogged in a few days and that has completely been my fault. With mother's day weekend and so much freelance writing work I just didn't have the mental energy to write and edit awesome content for all of you. When I am extremely busy, even when I have topics and pictures all planned out, I have a hard time with time managing. I think we all are, especially when we are new at something and we still haven't found our working rhythm. It is easy to forget how much there is to do or get sidetracked. Worst of all? When you're so busy it is so easy to get overwhelmed or even anxious about all the things you need to do throughout your day.

When I was a student as an undergrad and in my graduate program, I often had times where I shut down due to anxiety or even because I was so overwhelmed I just didn't know where to start. When this is starting to happen, the most important thing is not to let the stress and looming deadlines overtake your mental state and mind.

At the end of the day, the best way to avoid this stressful burnout where nothing gets down is by managing your life and time. We need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and organize things in a way that will help us not only get through our day. Also, it is important to document our progress towards our goals as a way to motivate ourselves.

The first step to time management and a very important tip is to use a calendar to keep track of the things you need to do. Yet, you shouldn't just use any calendar. Make or purchase one that will divide things yearly, monthly, and weekly. This way you will not only keep track of your day to day and upcoming weeks but also the long-term deadlines and goals you may have.

To-do lists are also one of my favorite ways to manage my time, and they actually help with not stressing me out. It is a brilliant way to focus only on the things on the list one by one. I find that often I will look at a calendar and be overwhelmed by all of the deadlines. To-do lists are an easy way for me to focus and get through my days and tasks. It is also great when you need to prioritize.

Schedule time for certain things as if they were meetings. This is what I like to do with blogging or at least the rhythm I want to fall into. First thing after breakfast and checking my emails, I set up an hour to work on my future blog posts. During this time I brainstorm ideas, I schedule posts, write them, edit them, take pictures, etc. Once I finish working on the blog, I move on to other projects and tasks that need to be done. I do the same with my writing in general.

Don't stress out about interruptions or changes in your schedule. In fact, you should welcome them. Don't fill up your day 100%, allow yourself a 50% to get distracted or interrupted. If everything is just work, you will burn yourself out and kill your creativity and efficiency. This is why if a friends texts me about a lunch date or my mom wants to go to the sunflower farm, I will not say no. I take that time to step back and relax. I gurantee that you will come back to your work more refreshed than before!

The same goes when unexpected tasks come up. This is only natural. Just take a moment to reorganize your prioties and carry on with your day. There is no use in stressing out over them.

If you use these simple tips, you will be able to do everything you want to and more. It's all about finding your rhythm and being disciplined with these tips. You and I will both get there. Just you wait and see!

I'll write to you all soon.

Love, Nashi

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Pumpkin Bread Recipe


My grandmother often asks me to make her some pumpkin bread since it is one of her favorites. Even more often, she buys me all the ingredients so I can make it for her! What makes my pumpkin bread special? I use fresh pumpkin to make homemade pumpkin puree. This gives it a fresh twist to a classic recipe, especially when the pumpkins come from your own crops! You can check out the recipe I loosely followed here.

Note: The recipe makes 2 loaves of Pumpkin Bread or 24 muffins. 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of pumpkin puree 
  • 3 cups of All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Baking Powder
  • 1 and 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 4 eggs 
  • 2/3 cups of butter
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons of Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of pumpkin spice

    Instructions

    For Homemade Pumpkin Pure:
    I like to make my own puree instead of using the canned stuff, especially when my grandfather grows pumpkins and is always giving me a big piece of this versatile ingredient. To make this puree all you need to do is:
    1. Remove the skin from your pumpkin and cut it into big chunks.
    2. Fill a pot with water, pumpkin chunks, and the whole cloves
    3. Boil the pumpkin until tender.
    4. Remove from heat and drain. 
    5. Make sure to remove all of the whole cloves once the pumpkin is cool enough to handle. 
    6. Mash up your pumpkin using a fork or even your electric hand mixer. 
    For the Pumpkin Bread:

    1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and grease your loaf pans or muffin pans if you desire with some non-stick cooking spray.  
    2. Whisk together your flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix your butter, sugar, vanilla, and eggs. 
    3. Into your pumpkin puree add your cinnamon, pumpkin spice, and chopped walnuts. 
    4. Add the wet ingredients to your dry and mix until they are well combined. 
    5. Separate your mixture into two loaf pans. If you rather do pumpkin bread muffins, spoon the batter evenly into your muffin pan, fill them up half way. For me, it was approximately 2 tablespoons per cup. I used a measuring spoon because it made it easier to transfer the batter into each cup. 
    6. Bake them for 60 minutes or until toothpic comes out clean. The muffins cook for 20-30 minutes. Make sure to keep an eye on them.  
    7. Cool them completely before serving or slicing the loaves. 

      This recipe is absolutely delicious! Once you get the basics down, you can play around with the ingredients and even substitute some of the sugar with honey or add some raisins. You can be as creative as you'd like to be, but trust me using homemade puree makes all the difference! Share with me your recipe creations on Instagram by using the hashtag #LoveNashiBakes and tagging me @love_nashi. I would love to see how yours turns out. I'll write to you all soon. 

      Love, Nashi 

      Monday, May 8, 2017

      Thank You, Mom

      A woman is much stronger than what we can see at first glance. This is especially true when it comes to mothers.

      As all of us in the Western Hemisphere may know, this week we celebrate Mother's Day and I've got to say that I am very thankful to God that he gifted me with such an amazing and strong woman in my life. I know at times I tend to take all she's done for me and my siblings for granted, but deep down I hope she knows how lucky and thankful I am for her. Mom, I wouldn't be the woman I am today if it wasn't for you.


      My mom has lived a life with many ups and downs, and like most human beings she has had to suffer through adversities and difficult times. These life experiences have turned her into the rock within our family. As I was growing up, I watch her be a person who persevered, worked hard, and fought every single day not only for herself and her family but for all those who needed it.

      My mom is filled with stories and memories that she loves to tell. But most of all, she is such an inspiration and full of faith. I definitely get my positive attitude because of her. She's taught me to hold my head high, to always smile, and to be kind to others.


      If I closed my eyes right now, I can clearly picture my mother laughing or smiling. She is such a happy person even when life isn't being so kind. Even when my dad was overseas due to his military work and she had to become a father and a mother to us. She would tell you that everything happens when he isn't around. And it sure felt like it! She handled everything like a pro and nowadays I owe everything I owe to them, but especially her.

      My mom appreciates every single day of her life and she takes her time to stop and appreciate the little things. She loves sunsets and walks on the beach. She has an amazing green thumb for flowers which I wish I had gotten because I seriously kill every single plant I own!


      My mom is also my biggest cheerleader. Every single day of my life I can count on her to cheer me on and support me in whatever it is I am doing. I think she even believes in my dreams much more than I do. She is tough too. She pushes me to do better every single day because she knows I can do it.

      For this and so much more, I want to say thank you, mom. Thank you for always being true to yourself and teaching me how important that is. I love you to the moon and back and forever and forever.

      And to all the other mom's and woman in my life out there, I want to thank you also and wish you a very happy mother's day this upcoming Sunday.

      I'll write to you all soon.

      Love, Nashi

      Sunday, May 7, 2017

      The Truth About Forever Book Review

      Macy's summer stretches before her, carefully planned and outlined. She will spend her days sitting at the library information desk. She will spend her evenings studying for the SATs. Spare time will be used to help her obsessive mother prepare for the big opening of the townhouse section of her luxury development.
      But Macy's plans don't anticipate a surprising and chaotic job with Wish Catering, a motley crew of new friends, or . . . Wes. Tattooed, artistic, anything-but-expected Wes. He doesn't fit Macy's life at all so why does she feel so comfortable with him? So . . . happy? What is it about him that makes her let down her guard and finally talk about how much she misses her father, who died before her eyes the year before?

      So this post was supposed to go up the day of my birthday, but time just got the best of me and I never got around to uploading it! Anyways, the reason I chose to review this the day of my birthday because it is a book I hold dear to my heart and it is written by my favorite author. 

      This book is so much more than just the story, much more than finding love in the oddest of places. This book, as the synopsis describes, is a roller coaster for both the readers and the characters. The only way I can describe it is with the stages of grief because it feels as though right alongside Macy we experience that grief she still has. That grief she only managed to bury under so many other things.

      In my heart, this book has the true meaning of forever written all over it. Macy learned to take what life threw at her and make the best of it, and Wes taught her how to enjoy every single second of her life. This book teaches us to live for today because we truly don't know when it all will end. This is a lesson that time and time again I have had to remind myself, and a life philosophy I try to apply every single day of my life. 


      I must say, that the best part about this book has to be the question game Wes and Macy play all through the book. Two strangers got to know each other with questions, trusted each other so much that it is truly unbelievable. It seems like fun if it's with the right person. And this is the best way to get to know a person. Ask questions and don't be afraid of the answers. Also don't be afraid of getting asked questions and answering them as well. Now, whenever I meet a guy and I want to get to know him I play my own version of 'truth'. 

      The characters in this book are also so amazing! I always think Dessen's characters are great, but this book had one of my favorite Dessen boys. Wes Baker is just something else and you'll just have to read the book to find out what I mean. Also, I can relate to Macy in so many aspects of my life. I tend to hold myself back due to fear. And this book is a little reminder that great things can happen if you just push through and take a leap of faith. 


      This is also one of those few books you really don't want to end and you can ALWAYS find yourself going back to reading it. And lending it to your friends! This is truly a piece of art, a life lesson and an amazing read for all ages. This book fills you up with hope about a brighter tomorrow and how sometimes in life we can't be afraid... How we can't hold on to the past too tightly because it will only drag us and slow us down.

      I highly recommend it and I also tell you to not rush this book. Take your time. Take it all in. Trust me on this, you won't regret it. 

      Have you read The Truth About Forever? Let me know in the comments what your thoughts on the book are. I'll write to you all soon. 

      Love, Nashi

      Thursday, May 4, 2017

      Let's Talk Coffee (Part 2)

      Here we are again! Ever since my last post in the Let's Talk Coffee series, I have visited some more coffee shops around Puerto Rico (sorry those of you from other parts of the world!). This time I visited five new coffee places that I had never gone to before and tried the coffee people on social media seemed to be loving. So here is my review on some of my new favorite cups of coffee:

      Arrope, Rio Piedras, P.R. 

      I've lived near this coffee shop for nearly two years and hadn't gone yet to try it. Once I started the series and began to investigate possible coffee shops I could visit, this one definitely made the list. The place is small and a great spot for students since the university is in walking distance. I went on a Sunday for brunch and the place had a relaxed atmosphere, their waffles are great. They have traditional coffees like lattes, but they also serve some house specials. The coffee we asked for was more up a traditional route since we had a macchiato and a mocha. They were absolutely delicious. The coffee was strong and hot just like I like it. It's great to know that I have such a great coffee place just steps from my apartment. Definitely, recommend.

      Coffee Masters PR, Aguadilla, P.R. 


      I am willing to say that this is the best coffee in my home town. What attracted me to this cute place was the fact that this is a drive-through food truck. Yes! You read correctly. I am always saying that Puerto Rico needs better places where we can get coffee via drive-through. Coffee Masters is doing just that outside the Gate 5 entrance in Aguadilla. They have various coffee flavors and you can even make up your own or add extra shots of espresso. You name it and they will do it! They also sell cakes and iced teas for those of you who do not love coffee. My favorite is the Coco-Loco, which is a coffee beverage with coconut and chocolate, topped with some whipped cream. Absolutely delicious. They also have a rewards system. Buy ten coffees and the 11th one is free! Check them out and give them some deserving love. 

      Melvo's Café, Aguada, P.R. 




      Going into Melvo's facebook page is an absolute sin because you will see amazing pictures and insane coffee creations like this mocha! The coffee mug is rimmed with Nutella and walnuts (can have m&m's if you want), topped with some whipped cream and more walnuts. When I ordered this and it arrived at my table, I had no clue how to start drinking it. It is messy but worth every single sip and bite. This is the perfect recipe for a sugar rush. Their menu is also incredibly varied and delicious! You can order typical breakfasts like eggs and toast, sandwiches, burgers, waffles, pancakes, etc. And you can have it all however you want! In the coffee department, you can basically have your coffee however you like as well. The Nutella rimmed mocha can be asked for with dark chocolate or white chocolate. Also, it may come with or without sugar (whatever type of sugar you want too). If you crave options, Melvo's Café is the place for you! 




      the Bookmark San Patricio, Guaynabo, P.R. 




      This is one of my favorite bookstores and it wasn't until recently that I discovered that at the end there is a coffee place. That is where the delicious coffee smell always came from! What I loved the most about this coffee spot is that all of their specialty coffee is named after famous authors! Their tea beverages are named after authors too. So you come here and you can ask for a J.K. Rowling raspberry & lemon iced tea or you could as for an Oscar Wilde coffee (almond, hazelnut & cocoa). This is such a cute and innovative concept. I wanted to ask for all of them. Instead, and the most reasonable option, we decided to ask for a Julia de Burgos (Chocolate & coconut) and a René Marqués (Cinnamon & coconut). With these, you can have different pastries or cupcakes they sell. Best part? You can browse the book selections while you wait or before you leave! Make sure to check them out. They are located on the 3rd floor of San Patricio Mall, near the food court. 

      TBC Food & Drink, Aguadilla, P.R. 

      This became a favorite brunch and coffee spot of all time in an instant. This house turned restaurant is absolutely gorgeous. Not only does it have a homey feel but you can find adorable decor, a pond, gardens, outside or inside seating, a community library, and amazing hospitality. It is so hard to find a place with great atmosphere, cute aesthetic, amazing food, nice people, and delicious coffee served in a decent sized mug that is worthy of any Gilmore Girls fan (and even Lorelai Gilmore herself if you ask me!). You don't just go to TBC Food & Drink for the food and creative beverages (they even have rosemary lemonade!), you visit for the entire experience. I was in awe as I continued to discover more and more of the place. The owner was right there and served us. We even overheard them recommending other local places in the area to tourists. If you are ever in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico you NEED to visit. You won't regret it. My sister has already gone back and I've recommended it to a few people! This is really great and I love discovering new places that have such a good feel to them. All of their food is made with local and fresh ingredients. Their menu also changes constantly with different desserts and their weekly specials. So every visit will be unique.

      Have you discovered any new coffee places lately? Share them with me through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or the comments below! I would love to hear about what places you're all loving. I'll write to you all soon.

      Love, Nashi

      Wednesday, May 3, 2017

      Cornbread Muffin Recipe


      Sweet cornbread was my great grandfather's favorite food. I remember eating it a lot whenever we were visiting him. Ever since he passed away a few years ago, I find myself craving them quite often, especially due to all the feel good memories they bring. This sweet or savory cornbread muffin recipe is my idea of real comfort food. You can check out the recipe I loosely followed here. The recipe makes 12 muffins but you can always double the measurements if you want to make twice as much. 

      Ingredients

      • 3/4 cup of Cornmeal
      • 1 and 1/4 cup of All Purpose Flour
      • 1 tablespoon of Baking Powder
      • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
      • 1 teaspoon of salt
      • 2 large eggs 
      • 3 tablespoons of honey 
      • 3/4 cup of low-fat milk
      • 1/2 cup of butter (melted and cooled)

      Instructions

      1. Pre-heat your oven at 350 degrees and grease your muffin pan with some non-stick cooking spray. You can always line them with paper cups if you prefer, but I love the crispy edges and not using the paper cups ensures you get those crisp edges. 
      2. Using a whisk or a fork (not an electric mixer because you risk overmixing the batter),  whisk together the cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. 
      3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, honey, and then milk.  
      4. Add the milk mixture and melted butter to your dry ingredients. Stir until everything is well combined and you can't see any dry patches. Do not overmix! (The batter may appear lumpy and that is perfectly fine.)
      5. Spoon the batter evenly into your muffin pan, fill them up until they are almost full. For me, it was approximately 2 tablespoons per cup. I used a measuring spoon because it made it easier to transfer the batter into each cup. 
      6. Bake them for 20 minutes or until the tops have set and they are golden brown. 
      7. Cool the muffins a few minutes inside the pan before serving warm. 
      Note: These are just as good cold or heated up in the microwave or oven (do not overheat or they will get tough). So you can always make them ahead of time. 

      What is your favorite way to eat cornbread muffins? I like to eat mine warm. I simply cut them in half and spread some butter over each half. Absolutely delicious! Share with me your recipe creations on Instagram by using the hashtag #LoveNashiBakes and tagging me @love_nashi. I would love to see how yours turns out. I'll write to you all soon. 

      Love, Nashi