Guide to Vietnamese Food on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

I can eat Vietnamese food every single day.  It is fragrant and delicious. Luckily for me, I can get it all over Biloxi and D’Iberville.  There are so many more options than just their famous soup Pho. (It is pronounced Phuh.) If you live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, or anywhere near a Vietnamese restaurant, and have not tried some you are missing out!  The Gulf Coast has always had a rich gastronomic history and it has only been made better by the arrival of Vietnamese immigrants in the 1970s.  

In honor of Lunar New Year this week, I would like to honor and recommend these wonderful foods and places to try.  

Guide to Mississippi Food on the Mississippi Gulf Coast
Vietnamese food is a feast for the eyes and mouth!

Vietnamese Along the Gulf Coast 

The country of Vietnam has a long coast and its own maritime history.  Immigrants found a home in the seafood centered Biloxi after the Fall of Saigon during the Vietnam War.  The displaced families came to live on Point Cadet like so many before. (My family included!) Soon, food and shops specializing in Vietnamese food began to crop up along the Gulf Coast.  Even after changing times and demographics Vietnamese is still the most common non-English language spoken in the entire state of Mississippi.  As of the Census in 2010, over 7,000 Vietnamese Americans live in Mississippi. 

Vietnamese Food Influences 

Southeast Asia has many factors influencing its food.  For years, Vietnam was under French control that influenced its cooking.  There is also Asian components like hot noodle soups and rice based dishes.  There are all forms of steam buns and dumplings. Vietnamese cooking can also take influence from curries and spices found in near by Thailand.  Even if you think that you do not like Vietnamese food, read on and see all the variety available to you!  

The Bahn Mi 

Where I live, we have a sandwich we all call a poboy.  It is often served with roast beef or seafood. However, there is another sandwich well loved as well.  Bahn mi in Vietnamese simply means ‘bread.’ It is a sandwich using traditional french bread. There is a range of variety found inside.  Most come with a homemade mayonnaise and or pate spread inside. They are topped with cilatro, jalepeno, and a type of carrot/daikon relish.  My favorite fillings are the sweet marinated pork or traditional Vietnamese cold cuts. There is also fillings like curried chicken, meatball (nothing like the Italian meatball), and so many other flavor combos.  

Where to get one…

Le Bakery 

280 Oak Street, Biloxi, MS 

Le Bakery has delicious breads and pastries.  They have been mentioned more than once for their King Cakes here.  However, they are one of the best spots to enjoy a bahn mi.  I love the lemongrass pork is a great place to start enjoying the delicious sandwich.  

Henry’s Cafe and Bakery 

10345 Automall Parkway, D’Iberville, MS

Henry’s is just over the bridge in D’Iberville.  They have a great list of sandwiches as well. My favorite is the meatball that is smashed into the bread. They also have a range of food including a full menu of pho, and other Vietnamese cuisine.  **NOTE: They only take cash so have some on hand for your visit.  

What the Pho?  

This is a fun play on the name used for one of the restaurants previously along the Gulf Coast.  Many people if they know one Vietnamese dish, know about Pho. It a hot noodle soup made in a broth that can take a good amount of time to make.  There are different varieties as well including pho ga (chicken), pho tai (rare beef), and others that include more unique add ins like tripe. I love pho and found in Ho Chi Minh City it was enjoyed at all hours of the day including breakfast.  The pho ga stand was so busy in the mornings that they had to hire a motorbike valet! It is a filling dish and I always recommend tasting the broth before adding any sriracha or hoisin sauce.  

A Guide to the Vietnamese Food on the Mississippi Gulf Coast
A delicious bowl of Pho Bo Vien!

Where to get some…

Kien Giang Restaurant 

10598 D’Iberville Boulevard, D’Iberville, MS 

This is my favorite Pho place around.  They have delicious soups and a good variety of other items like spring rolls.  

Vung Tau Restaurant 

156 Oak Street, Biloxi, MS

Named after a beach nearby to Ho Chi Minh City, this little spot has a big menu.  They have 10 varieties of Pho and also make bahn mi sandwiches as well.  

Hana Sushi and Pho

2667 Pass Road, Biloxi, MS 

You can enjoy a taste of Vietnam and Japan here!  They have a dual menu serving pho and sushi. The broth base is delicious and it is close to Edgewater Mall.  

Vermicelli Dishes 

Vermicelli is an extremely thin rice noodle that is a base for many different Vietnamese dishes.  It is often a filler in spring rolls. Vermicelli can also be paired with grilled pork or chicken with a piece of lettuce to create a refreshing wrap. My friend Abby in Vietnam introduced me to another vermicelli dish called bun cha.  It is a yummy concoction of with pork with a rich dipping sauce.  

Vermicelli can also be found in the noodle soup bun bo hue.  This is a dish I would call expert level. It has a variety of things including congealed blood.  I know it sounds gross, but it is delicious! You can get a great bowl at Henry’s Cafe mentioned above.  Actually, all three restaurants mentioned that serve pho also service different vermicelli creations.  

Guide to Vietnamese Food on the Mississippi Gulf Coast
Some delicious pork and noodles from Kien Giang

Bahn Bao and Other Buns 

Bahn bao is a little different than dumplings.  It has a soft and fluffy outer layer with egg or pork inside.  Some also contain barbeque beef. They were my favorite to go snack in Vietnam.  You can get them out of the case at Saigon Market in D’Iberville or Lee’s International Market in Biloxi.  

Cafe Sua Da and Another Coffee Nation

There is a coffee shop commercial or independently owned all over Vietnam.  A growing cafe culture is booming across the country. Where tea dominates most of Asia, Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee besides Brazil in the world.  Their coffee is rich and dark. The signature drink is the cafe sua da. It is dark roast drip coffee mixed with condensed milk while the coffee is still hot. It is then poured over ice.  This drink is so addictive! There are several places to get one along the Gulf Coast including Henry’s and Le Bakery. Coffee Fusion in Ocean Springs and their sister shop Boba and Beanz in Edgewater Mall also have a good version.  My actual first taste of the sua da was from Coffee Fusion after graduating from USM.  

If you want to make one at home, you can get the drip containers cheap at the Asian markets locally and use Cafe Du Monde Roast with Chicory.  

A Guide to Vietnamese Food on the Gulf Coast
A delicious Cafe Sua Da on a hot day!

Bubble Tea and Milk Teas

Bubble tea also known as milk tea has been a craze for awhile.  Although it originated in Taiwan, there are some great places in D’Iberville to get these sweet drinks.  There are other Vietnamese dessert drinks that come with different jellies, flavors, coconut water, and finely shaved ice.  They are a great way to enjoy a sweet treat on a hot day. If you want out of your comfort zone I recommend trying a different flavor like taro a sweet flavor from a purple potato like plant or grass jelly added into your drink.  

Where to get one…

Bambu Desserts and Drinks

3680 Sangani Boulevard, D’Iberville, MS 

This place has it all.  You can view their impressive menu here.  There is a range of teas, smoothies, juices, and coffee drinks.  They also serve a delicious dessert waffle made with pandan and have a fridge full of mochi.  I love the taro lover dessert and their classic milk tea with egg pudding.  

Quickly Asian Fusion Cafe 

11516 Lamey Bridge Road, D’Iberville, MS

Their kimchi fries with a fried egg are one of my favorite temptations before going to see a movie around the corner.  However, they have so many combinations of flavors for milk teas that I cannot keep count of them all. This shop is a great place to start since many of their dishes are inspired or recreated from food found all across Asia.  

Happy Year of the Rat!

I am so happy to be able to share my favorite places to enjoy Vietnamese food on the Gulf Coast.  The suggestions are just a small sampling of food found at these places. Watch some travel food shows and get more ideas on what to try once you have tried these.   This week begins Lunar New Year and has rotated to my birth year! The zodiac sign of the rat is the beginning of the rotation of animals. I was born in the year of the rat and now I am excited to see it return!  I recommend finding a fun place to watch the lion dance to bring good fortune in the new year!  

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới 

Happy New Year in Vietnamese 

Guide to Vietnamese Food on the Mississippi Gulf Coast
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What is your favorite Vietnamese food? 

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Revenge of the Pajamas! 2 Years with VIPKid

Time sure does fly when we are having fun!  On January 1, 2020, I celebrated my second anniversary as a VIPKid teacher.  It has been amazing to see the growth of my students and teaching new lessons being created all of the time.  I have been able to keep a steady income comparable to what I made teaching in Mississippi when considering commuting and the personal money put in to being a teacher.  My post last year recapped what I learned so far as a VIPKid teacher.  This year, I was given some unbelievable experiences thanks to VIPKid.  

Making money in PJs.
Ready to teach every morning bright and early!

2019 Milestones 

Here are some of the amazing things that happened this year in my VIPKid teacher career.

I taught reached over 4,500 classes and over 1000 students taught.

My sweet parents helped me reach over 2000 five apple reviews!  

Began teaching some great reading based curriculum and can now teach all 7 levels within the portal.

Two of my favorite people became my first VIPKid referrals.  

Visited China and met 4 of my students and their families! 

2 Years Teaching with VIPKid
The Dino artwork at VIPKid Headquarters Beijing.

Attended my first Journey Conference in Washington D.C. I was able to take a selfie with Cindy Mi our companies founder and meet some dear Instagram friends in person. 

Dino in DC
Dino and I visiting Georgetown Cupcakes

Best of all, I continued to make a full time income  from the comfort of my home office.  

Why I Still Love It

I have struggled with burn out this year, but the beauty of this job is the flexibility.  I have committed to the next 2 months of reducing my schedule to get more sleep and take days off.  It has been nice to recharge. The biggest benefit is that I can do this without asking permission from an employer.  Since it is close to Chinese New Year, many of my students are keeping irregular schedules while they celebrate.  

I also appreciate that the company is evolving and changing.  New curriculum is released all the time as well as updates to current lessons.  It has been a nice change to use AR stickers and interactive features this year as new lessons are produced.  It was so interesting to see the company from the Beijing side on my visit to China. I also had the opportunity to speak with VIPKid staff at a breakout session during the past Journey Conference.

Sounds great right!  If you are ready to get started, contact me @teachingpinapple.  I also have a referral code here.  

Cindy Mi at Journey DC
Katy and I meeting our CEO Cindy Mi at Journey in DC

My Top 3 Tips for VIPKid Success

I am asked by new teachers all the time how to get to a full schedule.  I can say that it doesn’t happen overnight for most of us, but we can all get there if we work towards it.  These are the things I keep seeing time and again that help new teachers grow their schedule.  

Open Your Schedule and Certify for Everything Available 

Being from a fishing community, I grew up with the phrase “cast your net wide.”  Meaning, keep all of your options open. Therefore, once you begin teaching, open as many in demand times as possible you are comfortable with.  Also take any certifications offered to you. At first, certifications will be limited, but every one received is an opportunity for a booking. Trial certifications are particularly great for feeling a newbies schedule.  I also recommend late nights on weekends between 1-4 A.M. if you can manage. Those times are popular in China, but not for us working. Short notice also helps bring in any last minute students wanting to take class.  

Make Connections

A student will want to come back to your class if you make them feel welcome and accepted.  You can easily do this by building rapport and taking an interest. Ask them how their day was and their favorite things.  Make a point to include some of the things you learned in your lesson and parent feedback. For example: If a student has a cat, tell them the name of your pet.  Grab a prop that his their favorite color. These connections can be quick, but they have a lasting impact on your overall schedule.  

Focus on Pronunciation 

Most Chinese students are already receiving instruction in grammar and writing in English at school.  What makes VIPKid so important is that students are gaining pronunciation development with a native English speaker.  It is important to correct all pronunciation and offer advice on how to better pronounce English words. They may need help breaking them into syllables or a certain beginning letter sound.  Always offer for students to use the lesson playback in order to focus on words they struggle pronouncing. It is also important to have conversations in English that help them develop stronger skills as well.  

Where Will I Go From Here…

2020 already looks like an amazing teaching year already.  I am excited to say that I will be attending the upcoming Journey Conference in Atlanta and hope to gain even more company insight.  I am also looking forward to teaching all the new supplemental classes being rolled out for the students Winter Break! With my fifth contract, I have also begun working towards the raise criteria which I have been successful at completing the past two years.  

I hope to see your VIPKid adventures soon as well!

Have you tried online teaching?  What did you like about it?

Making Money in my PJs
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Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission is you click through and make a purchase.

How to Start a Bullet Journal Under $15

I began seeing bullet journals a few years after the planner craze began.  At first, I shied away from them only admiring them from my Instagram feed.  As a kid, I would write and practice lettering to no avail. (I still have weirdest lefty scrawl around.)  My doodles would often come out wonky and odd. So I decided to stick to my stickers and stamps. However, I loved seeing the layouts and began adding them to a Pinterest board dedicated to journaling.  Now, I have begun dabbling in bullet journaling as well!  

How to Start a Bullet Journal for Under $15
Find some pen and paper in order to get started on your own BuJo!

What is a Bullet Journal?  When did it become a thing? 

Also called BuJo for short, a bullet journal is simply a mindful way of recording your thoughts.  Some groups call it a “written meditation.” There is no limit to the creative scope a bullet journal can have.  Some people use it for simply tracking daily habits or their monthly planner. Others use them to record deep and personal thoughts as a way of chasing away anxiety.  Whatever, the reason, a bullet journal can be created easily with a few supplies.  

Basic Supplies to Get Started 

There is nothing more you need than just a pen and paper to get started bullet journaling.  The classic kind of paper to use is dot grid paper. However, any style from grid to blank is fine.  A ballpoint pen from the junk drawer will work too!    

Here are a few other things you can use if you would like:

Journal or Paper

Pens

Pencils

Ruler

Whiteout 

Stamps

Stickers

Washi tape

Markers

Highlighters

Colored Pencils 

Start With What You Got or Ask a Friend!

To stay along with my theme of No Spend, I recommend not buying anything to start your first bullet journal.  You can inventory the art supplies you already have around the house. You can also ask friends if they have any extra pens or markers to use for your journal.  Another option, is to raid your kids craft box and use some of their supplies. Challenge yourself to find a notebook you have not touched since someone gave it to you or a half filled one sitting on a shelf.  

How to Start a Bullet Journal for Under $15
All the possibilities!

Places to Find Cheap Supplies

If all of your notebooks have mysteriously disappeared or all your pens are dry.  (By my estimations, I will not have dry pens for pens.). There are places to find cheap supplies for journaling.  I prefer to check the sales rack of discount stores like Marshalls and T.J. Maxx. I found a perfect dot journal for 2 dollars at Marshalls!  Big Lots and Dollar Tree also have extremely cheap supplies that work just fine for a BuJo. There is also the opportunity to use 50 percent off coupons at Michaels or Hobby Lobby.  

Again, I recommend checking all your pens and markers before going to buy more. 

Cheap Supplies on Amazon 

Amazon also has some great supplies for bullet journals.  I have found great pens and journals for cheap. Here are my favorites. 

Beginning Categories For Your BuJo! 

List of your favorite things.

Your goals and dreams.

Address and phone number list.

Make it your calendar and planner.

A gratitude journal.

Memories and moments.

Habit tracker (Water, exercise, etc.)

Best recipes.

Inspiration quotes.

Books Read and book to read.

Budgets

Birthday lists 

Home project log

Play lists (Music, Netflix for examples)

Brain dump

Here are just some ideas for your first bullet journal.  Check out the hashtags #bulletjournal #bujo for more ideas! 

How to Start a Bullet Journal Under $15
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Do you bullet journal?  Would you like to start?  

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6 Reasons To Go On a No Spend

The time has started again for me.  I have begun my fourth No Spend stretch.  This year, I plan to go from January to the end of March.  I am doing this no spend with the goal of decluttering my home and to save up for another upcoming International trip!  (What can I say, London is calling!) It is important when planning a No Spend to choose your why and make goals accordingly.  

Here is a list of my top 6 reasons to go on a No Spend in 2020.

6 Reasons to do a No Spend
A No Spend is a great way to kick start savings.

1. Pay Off Debt Then Save

According to CNBC older millennials like me average up to 42,000 dollars!  What is sobering is that the debts biggest source is from credit cards.  Secondary to credit cards are student loans. So to get a jump on a loan principal or to pay off debt is a great start to a No Spend.  If you meet those goals, then you can begin to stockpile a savings.  

2. Focus on the Non-Material

Sometimes I get on these tangents and want the next big thing.  Now that my computer is aging past the 7 years mark, I am itching to buy a new one.  However, I have an Ipad backup and my husband has a computer that can be used in a pinch.  So why do I need a new computer tomorrow? What is worse, if I look at new models, I will be inundated with ads for new computers.  This is just a personal example of the culture of consumerism we experience daily. A No Spend is a way to separate from that culture for awhile.  I mentioned in my tips from last year, a way to have a successful No Spend is to remove tempting emails and social media accounts.  

I find it refreshing to take some time away from this and be thankful for what I have.  

6 Reasons to go on a No Spend
2020 is a great time for a No Spend!

3. Stop Using Shopping As Therapy 

I really concentrated last year on breaking this pattern.  Instead of going home to relax after a long day, I would go to a store to shop.  I would do this as a way to make myself feel better. If you find a sense of relief in shopping instead of facing feelings a No Spend may be a good challenge.  Before beginning, make a list of other things you can try instead like walking the beach or adult coloring sheets.  

4. Make Dent in Clutter

This reason is a big part of why I am beginning another No Spend this year.  I have dumped so much stuff in my classroom’s closet and a cart by my desk. Last year, I halved my book collection and craft supplies.  Now I want to find a place for and reduce the clutter building up since the holiday season. When I stopped shopping last year and went through my books, I was amazed at how much I had accumulated.  Even with all the ones I got rid of it would take me over 10 years diligently reading to get through what I have left on the shelf. (That doesn’t even touch what is on my Nook!) 

5. Find Where Your Budget is Failing 

Our money goes into little vortexes like monthly service fees for things we do not use or food we let go to waste.  (Lettuce going bad in our fridge is one of mine.) When I stopped spending, I realized where some of my money was going.  For me it was mainly buying random stuff, not following the grocery list, or over-shopping at Thrift Stores. The things wasting your budget become like a spot on a clean white wall.   

6. See Where to Question Expenses 

Doing No Spends has allowed me to realize things that I do not need.  For example, I do to stockpile 3 containers of body wash. I can use what I have until it is completely out.  I also do not need 12 different shades of pink lipstick. Soon, I hope to switch some of my products to washable alternatives.  For example, instead of cotton swabs for toner or micellar water, I can use these awesome fiber clothes my best friend gave me. If you want to learn to live on less, a No Spend can really get your creativity going.    

My 2020 No Spend Rules 

So now it is time for the big reveal.  You can see last year’s rules here.  Some will be the same, and I have made a few different exceptions this time.  

The Rules:

*No random trip to get coffee or eating out.  Unless it falls within the first exception.

*No purchasing anything unnecessary including clothes and books. 

*Declutter my closet and classroom during the No Spend.  

*Use what I already have with toiletries, food, and cleaning supplies before purchasing more. 

The Exceptions:  

*This time I am allowing myself a $30 dollar social budget.  I can use this for movies, experiences, or social time. (I can use part of this money for coffee or eating out if I am not alone)

*This time we will still buy gifts and celebrate birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and new babies.  

*I can purchase replacements or anything essential for my 3 jobs.  (This includes blogging, teaching, or the library.)  

*I can spend money on food, lodging, and other things within reason when I go to the VIPKid Journey Conference in March.  

So far, I have done okay.  The only exception has been to go with a few friends while they were still in town to bubble tea and one lunch date with Edward.  I let this slide because of timing, but now I am on the straight and narrow!  

Beginning this week, I will post updates on my Facebook page.  Please join myself and community there to discuss your progress!  

How will you implement No Spend in 2020?

6 Reasons to go on a No Spend
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Why I Use a Paper Planner and You Should Too!

Back in high school, I found myself loaded down with all the things.  I would juggle multiple organizations, extra curricular, and school. Soon, I found myself carrying a paper planner and updating a wall planner in my room by 10th grade.  Since then, I have used a paper planner. Many things have rocked my planner world over the years. First was being given a Franklin Covey Life Planner in college. There my brain resorted the ways I prioritize my schedule.  Then around 2013, I began seeing these cute Erin Condren Planners decorated on YouTube and Instagram. Now, I have used a Plum Paper Planner for about 5 years. This paper planner is my most useful life tool and I use it daily. Here are the reasons I use my paper planner and how you can start your own organization journey!  

My Planner is Customized to Me

Firstly, I chose a planner that I customized for my life.  My current Plum Paper Planner is a vertical layout broken into morning, afternoon, and evening. It also has spots for more checklists than I know what to do with.  I added dotted-paper to each monthly tab as well as extra at the end of the year. This way, I use my planner as a type of bullet journal aka bujou to track goals, reading, and health.   It has become close to a one stop shop for me to run two jobs and a growing self-started blog.  

There are countless places selling unique and customized planners.  Happy Planner even gives the capability to change the order of the pages.  Even store brands are available at Michaels for a fraction of the cost that focus on academic, financial, and health planning. A grass root movement has come as well where people are taking an old fashioned pen and ruler to a notebook to create what they need for cheap.  There is something out there for everyone.

It Has Filled My Former Scrapbooker Void 

I spent close to 8 years being obsessed with scrapbooking.  However, I would plan more than actually scrapbook. (Ironic I know!)  Paper crafts are cheap and I love stamps, pens, and all the stickers! So now, instead of scrapbooking I decorate my planner as a creative outlet.  It is something I do anyway, and I find it as a unique memory book at the end of the year.  

With focusing on limited paper crafts, I was able to discard several boxes and drawers of stickers, stamps, and punches.  Now, I can actually find what I have and use it when needed.  

I Use It For More Than Just Appointments 

My planner helps me keep track of more than just dentist appointments and my work schedule.  I have a bill tracker, reading list, and goals. With the extra dot paper, I can create whatever I need to make it as functional as possible.  There are many different ways to use a planner.  

It can also be used as a habit tracker.  There are so many stickers and stamps sold to track water intake, vegetables, and exercise to add into planners.  Want to log how much time you spend watching Netflix? Add it as a volume in a planner!

Write It Down and Remember It

I type things all day, but I will remember it if I write it down.  Until I add an alarm to everything on my phone I will not remember it.  However, if I write in my planner, I am more likely to remember. It isn’t a full proof system, but I feel a lot better writing it down to help.  I also can see the week in a full spread to plan my days with what works best.  

Actually, scientific evidence supports this theory that we can process and remember information better by the simple action of writing it down.  

It Satisfies My Inner Control Freak 

Using a paper planner is a great step to take in controlling your time.  It can be used to track time wastes and priorities. I use mine for all of these things and more.  If you are ready to get started you cannot go wrong with a fancy Erin Condren or a Dollar Tree planner.  Get one, start writing in it, and find what works for you!  

Do you use a paper planner?  What kind do you use?  

Why I Use a Paper Planner
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20 Things to Try in 2020

I talked about my resolutions and goals for 2020 already.  However, there are still so many things to do, to watch, to read, and to try!  I made this list thinking of my 3 overall resolutions and things I enjoy. I especially focused on things I do not get enough of these days with my busy schedule.  My friend Tabitha at Tabsy Wabsy always is a boss at completing her New Year’s Resolutions.  I do not always have the same direction with them. So here are my 20 ideas for positive things to incorporate in 2020. 

20 Things to Try in 2020 from My Sassy Starfish:

 1. Learn something new.

No day like today to start a new skill.  I began learning Chinese in 2019 through a company called Verbling.  I would meet once a week with my teacher in Taiwan via the websites classroom feature.  It was like fancy face time site. Each week we would laugh and I would learn new words in Mandarin.  My practice served me well by helping us navigate China. Pick something you want to learn and find a way to do it.  There are so many apps, websites, and resources out on the world wide web now.  

2. Dust off your library card.

If you do not use your public library, you are letting a valuable resource go to waste.  Even if you are not a traditional reader there are many things to take advantage of at the library.  The system in my county has recent DVDs of blockbuster movies, free children’s programming, and even an online app for free e-resources.  Through the app, I am allowed to download 4 ebooks, audiobooks, movies, or music albums a month. Many libraries also do community outreach with free adult classes in art, yoga, and many other things.  Also note, library funding is dependent on use. The less it is used the lesson money libraries receive to keep operating.  

20 Things to Try in 2020
Go see what the library has to offer!

3. Watch a documentary and/or read a non-fiction book.

As an avid lover of a good story or romantic movie, I often balked at watching non-fiction.  This went for documentaries and reading. I thought the material dry, but now I have found a whole range of interesting reads that are in the non-fiction drama.  Eight of the 35 books I read in 2019 were non-fiction. Take a look at the documentary category on Netflix or take a look on Goodreads for some recommendations on where to start.  

4. Pick up a hobby that you have wanted to try.

In the back of our brains, we each  have some secret desire to try something.  It may be simple like crocheting a scarf. Sometimes it is loftier like yours truly wanting to write a book.  You can start anything by looking it up on YouTube. Seriously, I know so many people self taught in knitting, ukulele, and Pilates from online videos.  There has not been an easier time to find information on something you are interested in learning. Best of all, you can usually find the basics for free!

20 Things to Try in 2020
Give something new a try!

5. Go an entire day without complaining.

I have to admit that this one is tough for me.  Some days I just do not have anything nice to say or positive outlook on life.  However, force yourself for a day to not complain about one thing. Take it in stride if your coffee order is wrong, have a few deep breaths waiting on traffic, and go into work with a smile.  Somehow, starting this exercise in the morning lifts the whole day up and allows us to find the good around us.  

6. Start a gratitude journal.

My gratitude journey began in 2019 and is continuing onto 2020.  I wrote a guide to begin it for yourself in November.  One key component is to write your gratitude points down somewhere.  The journal can be a focal point of all the good things in your life.  If you begin it now, by this time next year, you will have a treasure trove of positive thoughts.  

7. Go internet free a morning a week.

Screen times have breached hours (mine included) and some research shows we check our phones of 200 times a day!  Take back some of your time for a morning by putting your phone on silent or turning it off. Make an effort to do this more often when convenient.  I find a good day is one I can lock my phone in a car in order to go paddling or hiking. Do the same, and let me know how it makes you feel!

8. Try a new tea that does not need sugar.

I have and always will be a dessert first kind of girl.  Sweet treats are always my preference. However, sugar has proven major health consequences. So after looking at the amount of sugar in sodas and specialty coffee drinks like frappuccinos, I decided to stop drinking calories all together.  It involved training myself to drink black coffee and give up sodas completely. (More on that later.) Tea has turned into a good way to give some cozy and comfort to cold nights. There are several flavored varieties I like, and I look forward to trying more like Tazo Tea’s Glazed Lemon Loaf.  Pick up a variety pack and give some new teas a try!  

20 Things to Try in 2020
Tea can be a great source of comfort during a busy day.

9. Find a new way to move.

I have been able to squeeze in my daily walk less frequently lately.  Now, I am thinking of ways to incorporate movement into other daily tasks.  Some ways I will do that is incorporating a yoga video before bed and converting to a standing desk.  Think of ways to get moving and where that can fit into your day.   

10. Make fruit infused water to replace sodas.

In order to not pick up a soda habit again, I will infuse water with fruit.  There are literally hundreds of combinations online. My favorite is simple with lemon, cucumber, and mint.  I also enjoy using blood oranges into my water infusions. Think of your favorite flavors, fruit, and herbs. Use that list to try out your own creations.  

11.  Find a volunteer opportunity with something you love.

I did a lot of character building community service throughout high school.  It was a great way to learn new skills and grow an appreciation for the overall community.  However, now as an adult, I have fine tuned skills and participated in studies that make me a better fit for certain groups.  For example, I am CELTA certified to teach adults English. I would love to find the time to teach a free adult ESL class with a non-profit. Therefore, using my skills to the best of my abilities.  Everyone has something to contribute in areas that interest them most. Think of yours and keep an eye out for areas of need in your community.  

12.  Set a friend date night.

For my friend Leah and I it was Wednesday for several years.  We would meet for dinner at my house and watch Gossip Girl. In the 1960s, ladies would meet weekly for card games.  Now, I have trivia on Thursday. I find it difficult to squeeze in the time, but I appreciate these evenings the most. Try to find a friend date night with your closest friends and do something you love even if it is just one a month.    

13. Send a surprise handwritten letter to someone you miss.

This is a cheap, personal, and easy way to brighten up someone’s day you care about.  I have sent and received several in the past year. The ones I received have sat proudly in my living room and then my inspiration board in my office since then.  It means so much that someone took the time to write a letter by hand to tell me how they feel. Share some of that love in 2020!  

20 Things to Try in 2020
Dust off the stationary and send a letter snail mail.

14.  Have a social gathering and leave all phones in a basket at the door.

Going along with number 7 and 12, when you are with friends and loved ones make a point to turn off your phone.  Leave them in the car or place a basket for them to ‘rest’ at the door. If you are very handy and have spare cords you can create a charging station to make use of time well spent!

 15. Find a free local event or festival to attend.  

Chances are there are free local events in your own community.  The Mississippi Gulf Coast’s various groups host plenty! The City of Gulfport and  other sponsors host a free movie in Jone’s Park each week during the summer months. Public libraries often host free events in their meeting rooms as well as Chamber of Commerce groups.  Take a look at events near you on Facebook to start.

16. Sell or recycle unused technology.

Instead of letting old phones, chargers, iPods, and other electronics sit in the ‘junk drawer’ try to find creative ways to dispense of them.  It is not a good idea to throw them in the trash due to acidic batteries, etc. Apple will recycle most used phones, tablets, and computers for free.  Sometimes they qualify for an Apple gift card pay out as well! Otherwise, check with your state’s waste disposal facilities.  

17. Pick one room and declutter it.

I am sometimes overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in our house.  (Especially since it is only 1,950 square feet!). There are bits of piles of random that accumulate on a chair, under the night stand, and especially in my VIPKid classroom.  Instead of focusing on all the things. Take one room and focus on it until it is clear of clutter and to your liking. THEN you can move on to the next one.  

18.  Clean out junk email in your inbox.

Most of us have more than physical clutter, but we also have digital clutter as well.  Take some time to delete old, spam, and promotional emails. If it is older than a month, it is probably not important or relevant.  Author Brian Tracey in his book Eat that Frog! Discussed how he saved time by mass deleting all the emails he received while on a business trip.  He realized it was a big waste of time and if it was important they would email them back. My method on Gmail is to scan the list in batches of 50 then ‘select all’ and delete that batch.  

20 Things to Try in 2020
We can declutter our homes and technology.

19. Try some 5 ingredients or less recipes.

I am so put off by recipes with 20 ingredients.  (Even if it contains ingredients I already have!)  Therefore, I scan cookbooks and Pinterest for the simplest version I can find.  If I want to make taco soup, for example, I will scan through Pins until I find one that looks good with the least amount of ingredients.  Websites like All Recipes and Food Channel are chock full of variety.  

20. Find a way to save time on a daily or weekly task.   

Make a list of the hours a day or week you do certain things.  Look that things that really drain your time and keep you from the things you want to do.  Example: My commute is over an hour total. Instead of dreading the time, find an audio book or podcast to enjoy on the way.  Think of ways apps and technology can help as well. My Instant Pot has a timer feature to begin cooking that I have not used.  I would like to test it on a day off. Then use it as a way to have a warm meal cooked before I get home on my late days at work.  

Finally

That list seems daunting now that I have written it!  However, I feel like it is obtainable when incorporating a few things a month or focusing on one in a week’s time.  Give it a try and let me know what you think!

What would you like to try in 2020?  Could you find anything on this list?  

20 Things to Try in 2020
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2020 New Year’s Resolutions and How to Set Your Own!

Not only did we begin a new year, but a new decade today!  I have been thinking about my resolutions and reflecting for the past 6 weeks.  The end of October, I became more intentional with my free time. Previously, Netflix and exhaustion dictated my time.  Now, I focus on a content calendar with a strict posting schedule. 

I have seen a lot of good results, and am a lot more productive each day.  Let’s take a look at the plan for 2020.  

2020 New Year’s Resolutions
Ready for 2020!

A Different Look at Goal Setting

Usually, I go with specific goals that are a little too lofty.  I mentioned this in my 2019 Resolutions Post.  In 2019, I focused on my spending fast that was mostly successful.  I do have plans to to complete another one the first quarter this year, but it is not my main goal.  I am going to focus on 3 aspects of my life and then break them into manageable chunks.

Each month, week, and day I will think of what I am doing in my daily habits in order to complete these.  There are several great goal setting podcast episodes at Do You Even Blog? If you need some guidance, I recommend taking a listen.  

2020 Goals:

So there are three main categories I want to focus on this year.  I took some time to think of the things I did well and things I ignored this year. (Another great recommendation from a podcast!). In 2020, I want to find ways to improve on what was lacking this past year.  I boiled it down to 3 categories.  

Focus On My Health 

This has been the area I have let go the most since I went to Vietnam in 2017.  It all started with daily sweet cafe su das, and has grown to another sugar addiction.  I focused on my health after my adrenal gland problem in 2015, but now I feel far from that mindset again.  Here are some basic things I will re-incorporate back into my daily routines.

  • Drink less caffeine and get more sleep instead.  Since starting online teaching, I have been chasing enough sleep.  Time to prioritize sleep over money.
  • Begin exercising again 5 times a week instead of 1 or 2.  Resume my daily walks and try some yoga as well as fitness challenges. 
  • Drink my daily allowance of water!   Try adding hot lemon water and fruit infused water as well.  
  • Convert my VIPKid teaching set up to a standing option.  
2020 New Year’s Resolutions
Planning to focus on health this year.

Be More Present 

My screen time log is embarrassing.  I am on my phone more than I am off of it.  However, I built some amazing relationships using social media in 2019.  True friends that have encouraged me and helped me get motivated. However, I do not need to spend this much time online!  On top of my regular screen time, I teach online and spend a lot of time in front of the computer at the library. This also reaches into my personal life where I zone out in front of Netflix.  I am not against doing this sometime, but I am much happier and productive without days in front of screens. Here is how I plan to reduce my screen time this year. 

  • Unplug at least 30 minutes before bed to read.
  • Turn off my phone and/or put it on airplane mode so many hours a day.  Therefore, I am not even tempted.  
  • Work on posts and writing offline and use my multiple journals in order to brainstorm. 
  • Start a bullet journal and coloring to exercise my creative side.  Crochet and play the ukulele instead of watching television. 
  • Be more present when spending time with my spouse, family, and friends.  Turn off my phone or leave it in the car. 
2020 New Year’s Resolutions
Take time out of the day off screen..

Grow My Own Business 

This seems contradictory when considering my previous post.  However, I think unplugging will give me the perspective to find creative content and refocus my ideas.  By the end of this year, I hope to create an income through several planned digital products. I have absolutely no intention of leaving either of my jobs, but I would like to reduce my online teaching schedule.  I will do this by…

  • Focusing my content to the needs of you!  (Let me know what you need help with lifestyle, organization, and saving money wise.)
  • Create consistent content on a weekly schedule. 
  • Launch some online products this year.
  • Stay tuned for a big surprise in April!  

My Basic Tips for 2020 Goal Settings 

As I mentioned earlier.  All this did not just come up over night.  I drafted several different versions and ideas for what I wanted my goals to look like in 2020.  It was not until I started reading and looking at some different resources that I structured them this way.  Here are some of my tips from things I learned from failing and achieving my past resolutions.  

  • Take a look at the previous year.  What did you achieve? If you did not achieve something what kept you from it? What would you like to do more of that makes you happy?  Think of this time next year, and what you want it to look like.  
  • Write it down.  You can do this several ways.  Online on a word document. You can create a vision board using visuals or write them down in your planner.  
  • Make them a little bit of a reach, but still attainable.
  • Check in with your progress throughout the year.  
  • Find an accountability partner or audience.  Last year, I posted weekly no spend updates on my Facebook page.  This kept me honest and I would have to admit if I caved with a Starbucks visit.  
  • Break your goals down further in order to meet parts of them in small time frame.  For example, if you goal is to lose weight you can begin with focusing on your water consumption, then add exercise, and so on each month. 

Go Forth and Conquer 2020

Whether you plan to conquer the world or just improve a small part of your life it is a good idea to reflect on the previous year.  Making resolutions helps us think about the new year (or decade) in a more positive light. Find a place to display your goals so you see them every day.  That way you are not finding yourself next December wondering how another batch of goals slipped by unnoticed.  

Thank you again for continuing to support My Sassy Starfish!  I love talking and finding out content that best helps you. Please send me a DM on Facebook or leave a comment if there is something you would like me to talk about this upcoming year.  

2020 New Year's Resolutions And How to Set Your Own!
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What are your resolutions for 2020? 

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My Favorite Blog Posts of 2019

I am so excited to conclude another year on My Sassy Starfish!  This has been the most productive year so far on the blog! With a little planning and determination I have produced 2 posts a week since the end of October.  The shift in my VIPKid schedule became a powerful motivator this Fall. I have discovered so much by sticking to my schedule.  

Here is a list of my favorite post this year!  

Would I do it again? A look at my Ancestry DNA one year later.

Posted:  January 20, 2019

Why I liked it:  This post has been the easiest for me to share on Facebook.  So many people post questions about DNA testing. It was great to have a longer perspective on how the results change and evolve.  

King Among Cakes: King Cake Explained

Posted: February 17, 2019

Why I liked it:  I wanted to make this post for awhile.  King cake season is my favorite, and it is so uplifting it comes around after all the holiday lights are taken down.  This post delved into a little history and a little local culture. I am so happy it is almost that time again!

3 Ingredients Homemade Products

Posted: March 17, 2019

Why I liked it:  This post caused me to go into the depth of Pinterest.  I found so many creative ways to use simple ingredients.  It was nice to rethink purchasing expensive for simple alternatives already in the kitchen. 

How to Survive a Month of No Spending

Posted: April 8, 2019

Why I liked it:  Every time I complete a no spend, I learn so many new things.  This year’s was taking principles from the book A Year of Less by Cait Flanders.  Using her ideas had me approach this time a different way.  

Mississippi Gulf Coast Coffee Crawl

Posted: October 23, 2019

Why I liked it:  My favorite coffee shops in my hometown.  What’s not to like?  

An Evening Stroll at Coalville Cemetery “The Rough and Ready”

Posted: October 30, 2019

Why I liked it: At my library job, I kept finding references to Coalville in the newspaper.  Coalville is one a long time family church for my paternal grandfather’s family. Also a majority of my immediate family is buried across the street.  The cemetery has interesting. symbolism and a rich history that is not often mentioned. It is by far my most popular post this year.  

How We Afford to Travel: Real Talk From a Real Couple

Posted: November 10, 2019

Why I liked it:  This post was an honest look at the way Ed and I justify traveling in our financial decisions.  It also was a pleasant journey down memory lane where I got to reflect on the events that led to our first international trips to our latest to China.  

The Two Job Juggling Act: How I Work 2 Full Time Jobs

Posted: November 13, 2019

Why I liked it:  For the past 19 months I have worked 2 jobs at full-time hours.  This post delved into the thoughts and practices I use every day to live this lifestyle.  It is tough, but I know there are more difficult things out there.  

The Southern Obsession with Hallmark Christmas Movies

Posted: December 4, 2019

Why I liked it:  This is another post I planned a long time ago and looked forward to creating.  Every year, watching these Hallmark movies has been a way to enjoy time with friends and let off some holiday steam.  They seem to be particularly captivating in the South so I wanted to talk about it!  

Where to go next?

I am excited about the course My Sassy Starfish will take in 2020.  This Wednesday, I will reveal my goals and resolutions for next year.  Growing and creating will be a great part of that effort. It makes me confident next year will be even better!  Thank you for coming along for the ride. 

My Favorite Blog Posts of 2019
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Have a Hygge Christmas

Merry Christmas internet and real family!  (Since I know a lot of y’all are reading this!)  The grand finale of the holiday season is finally here.  Although, I have to admit, I love the excited feeling that charges the evening of Christmas Eve.  Some of my best memories are standing on the porch on clear Christmas Eve nights and looking at the stars.  Something about a winter night, makes them shine brighter. The next day, since my childhood, is a flurry of multiple family visits.  Some years, I have gone to 5 houses for visiting. There is always a lot of hustle and bustle instead of hygge

However, this year, I am striving for more hygge with the holidays.  Here are some things I hope to accomplish and enjoy.

Have a Hygge Christmas!
Gifts for the kids ready to go.

Make a Hot Drink

Using my list of 6 Cozy Holiday Drinks, I would like to enjoy one of these on the couch Christmas Eve.  Although it is not supposed to be cold this Christmas on the Gulf Coast, it will be cooler than usual.  I also love my hot coffee with a Christmas morning breakfast. Usually we find something legendary to replicate and enjoy.         

Keep My Feet Warm

Since I am known for cold feet and hands, I usually done on some warm socks.  I hope to use these double layered plaid socks given to me by my mom. The plan is also to teach in my pajamas (like usual) with VIPKid Christmas morning.  I just need to find the Santa hat!  

Relax (Some)

The hustle has been real since June of  2018, and it is not slowing down. I am looking forward to sharing my New Year’s Goals next week as well.  Still, I would like to take a moment to breathe and enjoy the day.  

Give the Perfect Gifts

Due to planning ahead, almost all gifts are already wrapped and ready to go under the tree!  I am really not worried about what I will get, but so excited to share the new books for my nieces and nephews.  This year is special, because I am sharing the book that became my favorite in 5th grade with niece!  

Have a Hygge Christmas!
Some Christmas Eve vibes!

Complete my December Daily

Today draws an end to my 2019 December Daily challenge on Instagram.  It has been another great December, and now I can scroll through my feed to be reminded of it.  This year’s favorite is by far my new little hedgehog Finn’s Christmas picture under the tree!  

Have a Hygge Christmas!
Finn’s first Christmas!

Look Towards the Future

I would like to encourage everyone to take a break on Christmas day.  Whether it is in a dim room with the Christmas tree on or over a warm pastry with coffee that morning.  Take some time to think about the good times and the bad times you have overcome. Then you can look towards a bright future in 2020.

Have a Hygge Christmas!
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How do you like to celebrate Christmas? 

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6 Cozy Holiday Drinks

Now that this week has turned consistently cool on the Gulf Coast, I can enjoy some warm holiday drinks!  It seems sad to bet sweating while trying to enjoy a hot chocolate. During cold nights, I will enjoy a hot decaf tea before bed, and sweet drinks at all the holiday parties going on.  Here is a small selection of the ones I look forward to most this Christmas week!  

6 Cozy Holiday Drinks
Take advantage of the cold weather and enjoy some hot drinks!

Eggnog Sugar Cookie Tea

I must admit that I can drink the Celestial sugar cookie tea on its own.  However, sometimes I like to make it a little special. I will add eggnog to my recently steeped tea.  I prefer to use the almond or soy milk brands of eggnog. Silk Nog or Califia Farms Holiday Nog are particularly delicious with a fraction of the sugar in regular nog.  Here are the details:

Ingredients:

8 oz boiling water

1 Celestial sugar cookie tea bag

¼ cup soy or almond nog 

Steep your tea in a large mug while warming the nog.  (I usually do this in the microwave, but stove top works as well.)  Remove the tea bag and add the warm nog. **Makes 1 big cup.  

Malted Milk Hot Chocolate

When it comes to Sonic Drive-In, the malts have always been my preference over the milkshakes.  The little extra malted milk adds to a treat makes my taste buds dance! So this year, I am going to try this drink I found from Martha Stewart.  

Ingredients:

4 cups of milk

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract 

4 oz semi-sweet chocolate (chopped)

¾ cup malted-milk powder

Mix vanilla and milk.  Steam over stove in a pot 5-6 minutes.  Whisk in chocolate until melted. Pour over malted-milk powder in another saucepan, and whisk until combined.  **Makes 4 servings.

6 Cozy Holiday Drinks
Make some delicious and unique hot chocolate using malted-milk powder.

Honey and Cinnamon Nighttime Drink

I consulted with my friend and fellow baking enthusiast Lisa at Mrs Price’s Plates.  She recommended this simple and delicious drink.  Cinnamon always brings back nostalgic Christmas memories from cinnamon cookie ornaments to cinnamon dolce lattes at Starbucks.  This drink is the perfect night cap for everyone in your family.  

Ingredients:

1 cup milk

1 tsp honey

2 drops vanilla extract

1 pinch cinnamon 

Warm milk in the microwave until hot and foaming.  Stir in honey and vanilla. Then sprinkle with cinnamon.  **Makes 1 cup.  

Hot Chocolate Affogato 

Affogato is an Italian dessert drink.  It is often made with gelato and coffee.  However, to put your own holiday twist on it, you can simply pour your favorite hot chocolate over a scoop of peppermint ice cream.  For extra fun, stir it with a candy cane or peppermint stick!

 This drink sounds so fancy by that name.  However, I enjoyed this drink at progressive dinners sponsored by my church youth group when I was in middle school.  I still love this drink with Blue Bell’s peppermint ice cream!  

Crock Pot Mulled Wine

Mulled wine is a delicious and easy drink to serve during the holidays.  We like to make them over the holidays for large gatherings. Most recipes are simple mix, heat, and serve.  Poppy’s in Ocean Springs has a great packet to make your own mulled wine. If you want to make it using your own spices, here is what Ina Garten uses.

Ingredients: 

4 cups apple cider

1 (750 ml) bottle of red wine 

¼ cup honey

2 cinnamon sticks

1 orange zested and juiced

3 star anise

4 orange peels (optional for garnish)

Combine all ingredients and bring to boil.  Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Serve immediately and add garnish.  **Makes 8 servings.

Mock Starbucks Holiday Spice Flat White 

There are many ways to create a frothy flat white on its own.  A flat white is a popular Australian coffee that is served at Starbucks year round.  However, during the holiday season they serve a spiced version. The flat white itself is characterized by the espresso with micro-foam.  (A latte, on the other hand, uses steamed milk with little foam.) Milk can be frothed on the stove with a whisk or a fancy machine. Here is a great recipe from Don’t Sweat the Recipe

Ingredients: 

1 – 2 teaspoons tangerine sugar (Tangerine zest mixed with sugar.)

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/eighth teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Put these ingredients mixed at the bottom of your mug.  Pour hot espresso on top and then the foam. **Makes 1 serving. 

6 Cozy Holiday Drinks
Top it off with something sweet and yummy!

Top It With a Delicious Bow

Be sure to top your festive drinks with something delicious.  Whipped topping, marshmallows, and candy are classics. I also like to sprinkle cinnamon for an extra kick.  This can be done with your daily coffee or even hot chocolate made with a pouch. Treat yourself whether you are by yourself or entertaining!  

6 Cozy Holiday Recipes
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What is your favorite hot holiday drink? 

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