5 Great Mississippi Gulf Coast Farmers Markets

Now that summer crops are starting to appear, it is time to shop at my favorite places… farmers markets!  I love going to see what produce and food is available in order to plan my menu for the week.  Sometimes I am surprised by a delicious drink or snack.  It is also a great opportunity to get my hands on delicious local honey and pickles.  During the summer and fall months, I make a point to visit a farmer’s market at least once a month.  Now that social distancing is becoming a little less strict, I recommend visiting your local markets.

Here are my top 5 on the Gulf Coast.  

5 Great Mississippi Gulf Coast Farmers Markets
Love scoring local honey at the farmers market!

Florence Gardens Farmers Market 

Location: 12321 Preservation Dr. Gulfport, MS 39503 

When: First Sunday of Every Month 1-4 P.M. 

This one is hands down my favorite Farmers Market on the Gulf Coast.  They only have it a short time once a month, but I try to go each time.  I find a variety of snacks, vegetables, homemade goods, and even meat.  I usually get Mrs. B’s Honey and buy some of the most delicious egg rolls.  (We affectionately call her the Egg Roll Lady!). Booths change from month to month so it is always a surprise who you will find.  

5 Great Mississippi Gulf Coast Farmers Markets
Enjoying some delicious egg rolls!

Biloxi Farmers Market

Location:  Under I10 Bridge Howard Ave. Biloxi, MS

When:  Every Tuesday and Thursday 6 A.M.-4 P.M. 

I often pass by the market on my way to work and see a good number of vendors each week.  The market also is able to continue rain or shine since it is covered.  Sometimes Main Street Biloxi has bands or events during this time as well!  This is a great place to check for live plants as well as produce.  

Ocean Springs Fresh Market

Location: 1000 Washington Ave. Ocean Springs, MS 39564

When:  Every Saturday Mornings 

This is a great place to spend Saturday mornings.  (When you are done, you can enjoy the shops in downtown Ocean Springs.)   Ocean Springs Fresh Market has much more than just produce.  There is fresh baked goods, beef jerky, and more.  Keep track of new items on their Facebook page.  

5 Great Mississippi Gulf Coast Farmers Markets
You can find more than just produce. Be on the look out for sweet treats!

The Pass Market

Location: War Memorial Park Pass Christian, MS 39571

When: Saturday Mornings (Call the City of Pass Christian for Specific Times) 

Forever and a day ago, Leah and I participated as vendors in this market!  On Saturdays, Pass Christian hosts a market at War Memorial Park.  This one has more crafts and art than the other markets on this list.  However, there is food and produce as well.  This market is weather depending so check the radar before going!  

Farmers Market at Long Beach 

Location: Town Green Jefferson Davis Ave.  Long Beach, MS 39560

When:  Saturday Mornings 8 A.M.-12 P.M. 

I  visited this one awhile back, but hope to go by again soon.  (Working almost all Saturdays puts a damper on Farmer Market times!)  I see they have Serious Bread as a vendor as well.  This is a local bakery that has a delicious selection of bread, muffins, and cookies.  Their flat bread is often fought over!   The market is also located next to one of my favorite coffee shops Bankhouse Coffee. 

Honorable Mention:  Woolmarket Produce 

Location: 8416B Woolmarket Road, Biloxi, MS 39532

When:  Monday-Saturday 9 A.M.-5:30 P.M. 

If you need a more flexible time for buying local produce, I recommend stopping at Woolmarket Produce stand.  They are friendly and have a variety of seasonal vegetables and even free range meat.  Woolmarket Produce also helps me get my fancy pumpkin fix in the fall and even sell fresh cut Christmas trees.  They are also located next to a snow cone stand too!  

5 Great Mississippi Gulf Coast Farmers Markets
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Why I Love Farmers Markets

Shopping at Farmers Markets is a great way to support both local growers and reduce your carbon footprint.  A lot of produce at these markets travel a shorter distance and reduce the use of gas used in transport.  It is fun for me to look at the face of the person who grew the vegetables and fruit.  I hope this summer I can score a few yellow watermelons and plenty of local honey!  

What do you like to buy at Farmers Markets?  

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.

Mindful Thrift Store Shopping

One of the reasons I needed to discard so much stuff over the years was my propensity for thrift store shopping.  I would buy stuff as I quickly lost weight moving between 3 different sizes within months.  There were times that I would buy books or clothes to flip on Etsy or Poshmark for extra cash.  Not to mention my book hoarding habit and inability to stop myself from buying vintage dish wear.  Not to mention the cheap prices and half off days!  

However, when I was packing up to leave for Vietnam, I realized that I had gone overboard in stuff! There were over 8 bags of clothes, 20 boxes of books, and enough random things to fill a storage shed.  So since retuning stateside, I have taken time to really consider what I am doing with thrift shopping.  Here are my tips to be an effective thrift shopper without going overboard like me!  

Mindful Thrift Store Shopping
One of my many thrift hauls.

Before Going Plan Your Purchases

For years, I would visit the local thrift store at least 1-2 times a week.  Each trip I would come back with something random.  (Seriously, who needs bedazzled tacky Christmas shoes or a crystal cream pitcher.)  Now, I go with a plan.  If I need some work outfits, I only look for those items and try on options that work.  I do not go in to aimlessly wander anymore.  If you are looking at books, I recommend having a few authors or titles that you want and only purchase those if you are lucky.  

Take an Inventory 

A lot of us have an Achilles heal when it comes to purchasing. Some of us it is shoes while others are hand towels.  Before going to the thrift store take inventory of what you already have.  Ask yourself how many unread books you have on your shelf.  Take a look at dresses in your closet that you rarely wear.  If you need to, make a post about it in your bullet journal or in you phones notes app.  Also ask yourself how much space you have left for your collections.  

Mindful Thrift Store Shopping
Did I really need that many pants!?

Are You Really Saving?

 Saving money is a big benefit of thrift store shopping in the first place.  However, if you shop without begin aware of prices and volume you can be losing money.  Some items are overpriced for being new.  Especially name brand purses and other high end items to discourage resell.  It may be possible to purchase something in better condition for a cheaper price online.  Also, think of the wasted money if you never use the item.  I had several tops and outfits that I realized I never wore when purging to become an expat.  It is much more cost efficient to have a capsule wardrobe and limited to purchasing clothes randomly.  

Don’t Create Unfinished Projects

It is easy to walk around the thrift store and find a wave of possibilities in the goods.  That beat up book self could be perfect with chalkboard paint.  Maybe you can find a part online to fix the record player.  However, this is an easy way to accumulate a ton of incomplete projects.  (I am also bad about this!) If this is a problem for you as well, I recommend limiting yourself to one thrift store project at a time.  Allow yourself a new purchase only when the previous one is finished.  

Avoid Going If Necessary 

This is what I have resorted to the past year and a half.  I have stopped going in order to avoid spending anything and use things I already own.  This has also helped me focus my spending on brands with lifetime warranties and better quality.  I also look for brands with proven eco-friendly practices.  There is also a possibility of me making a dent in my to be read pile of books.  (Well I would like to think so.  One can wish right!?)

Mindful Thrifting
You don’t want to end up in this situation when it is time to move!

Think Before Thrifting

There are still so many benefits to thrift store shopping for your wallet, fundraising, and your carbon footprint.  I still love catching a beautiful and unique item hidden on the ‘junk’ shelf in the back.  However, take some time to think about the things you need and your goals for your overall lifestyle.  While thinking of this article, I found a few great articles here and here about “mindful thrifting.”  I encourage you checking them out if you want to explore this topic further.  

How do you decide what to purchase at a thrift store?

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Products for Sustainability and Saving Money

Today’s topic is related to Earth Day celebrated last week and the launch of my best friends new blog!  I want to welcome Leah to the blog world!  Check out her new website focusing on lifestyle and sustainable living called Muddy Mermaid.  Each week she will give tips on how to live more sustainably and include a weekly “Meatless Monday” recipe.  So to reflect her niche, I have created a list of items that are more sustainable for the environment and money saving. I have tried most of these items, and look forward to reducing my carbon footprint this way.  

Although there is a small investment up front, they can save a ton in the long run.  

Products for Sustainability and Saving Money

Water Bottle with Fruit Diffuser 

This was one of my first sustainable purchases after coffee tumblers and insulated water bottles.  I got these containers to make my own fancy waters for detox and to kick my soda cravings.  Every night I would cut up some fruit and herbs and place them in the basket inside the bottle and let the water ‘marinate’ overnight.  So instead of having fancy fruit drinks in single use bottles, try making your own flavor concoctions.  

Bento Lunch Containers 

I have used divided lunch containers for years to encourage myself to bring my lunch to work.  This way I can avoid fast food and unhealthy choices.  The little divisions remind me to segment out a small amount of meat, some fruit, and more vegetables.  If it helps, there are so many varieties on the market available in any color or style imaginable.  Score cheap ones online or at discount stores like Marshals.  

Beeswax Wrap

These are the coolest things!  They can be used as replacements for plastic wrap, sandwich bag, and snack holders.  What amazes is me that they are reusable.  There are also crafty people on YouTube that sew and customize their own styles.    

Reusable Plastic Bags 

I noticed these on a rack the last few times I was able to go to Target. (So maybe 6 weeks ago?)  They are a thicker plastic and can be washed.  Choose a variety of sizes to fit all of your snacks.  Considering the average American uses 500 ziplock bags a year according to One Green Planet.  That is a lot of baggies!  Think of how much you can reduce that waste by putting your carrot sticks in reusable bags.  

Salad Dressing Containers 

This also helps me facilitate my own lunch.  These petit containers are perfect for salad dressing, sauces, graded Parmesan, and more.  They easily wash and keep me from putting too much dressing on my salad.  They seal well as well, and I do not have issues with their contents spilling into my lunchbox.  

Iced Coffee Bags

This was a recommendation from Muddy Mermaid herself!  These are a great way to create your own coffee shop style cold brew.  There is some trial and error to get the perfect balance of ground coffee to water.  Also, make sure to use filtered water because mine turned out funky from the tap.  This saves to go cups and money throughout the summer.

Reusable Pod Coffee Filters

Many of the little Keurig pods are not recycled and to straight to the landfill.  I realized this awhile back and recycle mine.  However, I still feel like this is not enough.  So I bought a reusable cup that I can easily fill with my own favorite ground coffee.  Not too difficult to clean and way cheaper than a 20 dollar box of k-cups.  

Shopping Bags

Reusable bags are something you more likely need to remember instead of buying.  We all have extra bags from giveaways, conferences, marathons, and other events.  Repurpose them at the grocery story instead of using plastic bags.  If you purchase a sturdy bag you may need less little bags.  For a long time, I carried a collapsible tote in my purse fo such occasions.  Think of all the sea turtles that could be saved!  

Micro-Fiber Face Towels

I received these as a gift and they have replaced 80 percent of my cotton swab single uses.  Instead of cotton swabs, I use these clothes for micellar water, toner, and witch haze.  Then I wash them hot to sanitize them.  They do great with makeup remover as well easily pulling off mascara.  They are small and great for travel.  Save even more money by buying them in multipacks.  

Period Cups 

Trying out this one for the first time took some nerve.  I debated it for awhile and still have mixed feelings about them.  However, they are well recommended and save a tone of waste in feminine hygiene products like pads.   The are basically a plastic cup that can be cleaned and boiled between uses.  They take some practice to get the hang of, but they are a great option if you are looking to try something cheaper and less like a diaper in the future.  

Rice Heating Pads

I use these in place of icy hot muscle strips.  They go in the microwave for a few minutes and last for awhile.  You can make your own or buy them online in any color or size.  I use a save that is about 12 minutes long and 4 wide.  I usually have 2 that I can put in areas that are aching.  They are also super cozy during cold winter nights.  

Where Should I Go From Here?  

This is just a small sampling of items that can be used to save money and live more sustainably.  There are things from bamboo toothbrushes that last longer to produce bags out on the market.  Now you don’t have to try all the things at one time, but incorporate them as needed.  The money and environmental savings can be big.  

What products do you use to replace stuff you normally throw away? 

Products for Sustainability and Saving Money
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How to Declutter Your Digital Life

Although my closets are still disheveled and not the best organized, my digital life is in ramshackles.  It is years in the making. Years of digital pictures, switching email accounts, and collecting social media profiles like I was getting paid for each one has left me with a huge amount of clutter.  I have made efforts in the past as I got new devices to clean up my computer files. It is just as important to manage your intake of content and information you keep. You become what you are exposed to!  So here are my tips to get started with me decluttering your digital life! 

How to Declutter Your Digital Life

Sort Your Picture Files

This is the easiest way to start your digital makeover.  First go through your pictures and delete any that are fuzzy or random.  For example, I have a lot of random pictures from screenshots and random memes.  If it is not worth keeping, I delete it. Then create folders based on dates, events, people, or however you feel you are best organized.  Assign those photographs to their respective folders. Do not forget the pictures off of your cell phones and tablets. I find it easiest to have them automatically uploaded from my iCloud.  This is a great place to start because I find looking at the photographs remind me of the happiest times in my life, and love reliving the memories.

File Folder Madness

Make sure to find homes for your files as well.  I have a few important folders on my desktop for quick access related to employment.  The rest are in the documents file clearly labeled. Do not be afraid to make sub folders as needed too.

Clear Out Old Emails

This is something I have years worth of as well.  Create folders for important emails, and delete the rest!  You can even mass delete by selecting batch delete through your email provider.  I am a longtime Gmail user which is good and bad. They have unlimited storage, but do I really need to keep it all?  Definitely not!  

How to Declutter Your Digital LIfe

While You Are At It Unsubscribe

Another useful activity is hitting “unsubscribe” from email lists as you lean out your inbox.  If it is something you are still into, you can usually select a lower frequency of emails. I use this as a tactic to avoid spending money online during my No Spend months.  It also makes the volume of emails you receive considerably less daily. Therefore, it is time saving!  

Run a Virus Scan (Even Mac Users)

This past year, I discovered my Mac had cooties!  I had long believed my MacBook was immune to viruses, and I seemed in the clear for years.  Then one day my Safari browser would not stay on Google and would jump to Bing. This was spamware that had found its way on to my “uninfectable” device.  I downloaded the App Antivirus VK for under 8 bucks. It did the trick scanning my computer and deleting the problem files. Make sure to do this before going onto my next step.

Backup Your Computer

Now that you have done all this, you need to back up your computer.  I do this with a 1 terabyte external hard drive that plugs into my USB.  You can choose a fancier airdrop model or cloud service. You just never know when you may turn on your computer to the black screen of death and the sound of a broken fan blade.  

Now Let’s Talk About Your Social Media

I am ashamed to say that I let social media consume a massive amount of time and energy.  However, there are some amazing connections and awesome experiences thanks to it as well. I have made friends I talk to daily on Instagram and been able to share so much of my teaching knowledge with fellow VIPKid teachers.    On the flip side, it is a breeding ground for negative people and false information. Here are my ways to tidy things up a bit.  

How to Declutter Your Digital Life

Unfollow Negative or Toxic People 

I started doing this all the time across all social media accounts especially FaceBook.  This is something I never regret! There are lots of negative things in the world, but to an extent we can CONTROL what we consume.  Do not feel obligated to follow anyone who promotes hate, false information, or downing posts. Now this is different from unfollowing  people you do not agree with. I am happy to live in a country and time where we can have our own opinions. I just can only handle so much fake news sharing!  

Delete Unused Apps

Some studies say that only 1 in 4 apps are actually used on our phones.  Go through and free up space! Your storage statistics will also give you recommendations on what to delete.  Also be aware if you are paying for an app that renews monthly or yearly. (Check your card statements for these sneaky money leeches.). Be sure to disconnect payment and renewal before deleting the apps. 

Clear the Pinterest Slush Pile 

My pins have reached the tens of thousands.  I love spending time cruising all the clever ideas and tips on Pinterest.  This year marks my 9th year on the website. However, not everything is popular anymore.  (I mean, does anyone really make t-shirt headbands anymore?) It was useful to go through my how to boards like my blogging board and checking the pins.  Turns out, a lot of my older pins were no longer available or had broken links. So I would take it a board and a time in order to delete ‘dead’ pins or things that you are just not into anymore.  

Think of ALL the Things

There are so many electronics probably hidden around your home.  You may have CDs that need loaded onto a hard drive or 500 pictures on your phone to transfer.  Make a checklist and begin decluttering your digital life. A clean desktop will feel just as good as an organized closet!  

How do you declutter your digital life? 

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50 Things To Do While Social Distancing

I am going into week 5 of social distancing and time away from my brick and mortar job. Fortunately, I am still going strong with my online teaching schedule. Posting frequently on the library’s Facebook has also taken up time while I try to remain productive at home. However, days have begun to run together and I only know the days of the week by the students I teach in the morning and early evening. So I devised this list of some productive and fun things to try while stuck at home.

A little encouragement found while walking my neighborhood.
  1. Challenge yourself to discard so many items. (Example: 20 items in a week or 50 in a month.)
  2. Read some books you already have sitting on your shelf.
  3. Try watching some Korean dramas (#kdramas). Many are available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and the free Viki app.
  4. Write a letter to a long lost friend.
  5. Scan your old pre-digital pictures.
  6. Learn a new language. (Verbling even offers face to face digital classes in all languages.)
  7. Research your family history online for free.
  8. Take an exercise class on YouTube.
  9. Try those beautiful Pinterest cupcakes.
  10. Keep a video vlog of your feelings during self-isolation.
  11. Host a Zoom Happy Hour.
  12. Plant an herb garden in random containers.
  13. Fill out surveys for cash, air miles, or gift cards.
  14. Pick a movie series you love and binge it with popcorn.
  15. Plan your dream vacation for when all this is over.
  16. Try some thing you loved as a kid again.
  17. Foster an animal in need.
  18. Trades stocks on Robinhood. (Get started with just 10 bucks!)
  19. Satisfy your Starbucks craving by making your own cold brew.
  20. Audit your finances by pulling old card and bank statements. (Challenge yourself to find your biggest money drains.)
  21. Laugh until your sides hurt with the podcast My Dad Wrote a Porno. (Warning it is very explicit!)
  22. DIY pedicure. (All you need is some Epson salt, lotion, and your favorite nail polish.)
  23. Clean out your social media accounts.
  24. Have a living room dance party with music from your teenage years.
  25. Read a book on FaceTime to your favorite kids.
  26. Take a free online course. (They are all over right now.)
  27. Dig out the old board games and host a game night.
  28. Find the “Most Instagram Worthy” spots in your neighborhood.
  29. Make a fairy doors for your yard.
  30. Check all your pens, highlighters, and markers to make sure they are not dry.
  31. Back up your phone picks and free up space on your phone.
  32. Camp in the backyard or stargaze from your balcony.
  33. Now is a great time to try that natural deodorant, hair dye, nail polish, etc.
  34. Complete a 24 hour read-a-thon.
  35. Print free adult coloring sheets to try.
  36. Have a tapas night and make sangria.
  37. Repaint a beat up piece of furniture to make it beautiful again.
  38. Make homemade ice cream in tin cans or zip lock bags.
  39. Make a vision board or collage with old magazines.
  40. Visit All Recipes to create your favorite restaurant dish.
  41. Start a gratitude or bullet journal.
  42. Trash all your expired beauty products. (Remember, mascara only is good for about 3 months!)
  43. Make an Amazon Music play list that reminds you of happy times.
  44. Release your inner artist with sidewalk chalk. (If it doesn’t work out you can always hose it off.)
  45. Donate to Feeding America. They need help now!
  46. Record an Instagram TV to share a skill or tutorial to help others. (Pick something you are good at.)
  47. Clean your walls with a magic eraser.
  48. Check into refinancing your mortgage or car loan. (Now is a good time!)
  49. Clean out old email inboxes and unsubscribe from spam emails.
  50. Try something on my 20 in 2020 list.

Get on with it!

I hope this list sparks some creativity and productivity this week. Although I have managed do get what is needed complete, I am still feeling unproductive. So I hope to use this week to get my creativity flowing again to create for this blog as well as new ones I am developing! (More to come later.). I would all my reader fam out there is safe and healthy.

What are you doing during your self-isolation?

50 Things To Do While Social Distancing
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20 Ways to Discard Things

Last month I focused on self-care and well-being.  Since I am writing this beginning my fourth week of self-isolation, I am beginning to endeavor onto home projects.  My top project is cleaning my classroom space, closests, and pantry. (Again using my psychic abilities this content was actually planned months ago.)  So once I pull everything out of storage and create a pile of stuff to discard at my door, what should I do with it?  

This article goes beyond dropping things at Goodwill and thinking of better ways to utilize our stuff besides landfills.  Lately, I have chosen to donate to different places because Goodwill is such a massive profit machine. I also do not want to take for granted what I already have in my home.  So here is my list of creative ways to sell, give, recycle, and repurpose unwanted items.  

Sell

Poshmark, Mercari, and Other App Sellers

I sold on Posmark for several years until about 2018.  (Here is my article about tips for selling there.). App sellers like Poshmark and Mercari are great ways to reach a broader audience with specialty clothing items particularly those that have a name brand.  Selling works best with listing the item with detailed photos and description. Therefore, it is a time consuming process. Both sites take a commission off of your sell and the buyer pays the shipping.  It is a good way to make some extra cash.  

Facebook Marketplace 

Due to safety concerns, I will recommend Facebook Marketplace over Craigslist. (However, still use caution by meeting in a public place and vetting your buyer.)  Facebook Marketplace quickly gets your item noticed by a group of buyers already in your area. My friends recommend placing direct communication on how you will select the buyer if there is more than one person interested.  

Facebook Groups

Joining reseller Facebook groups in your community is a great way to sell locally as well.  Some groups are made specifically for certain items like baby, pet, or home for example. Listings can be much simpler.  It is a great way to sell things in bulk like a group of like outfits. Be sure to read the groups terms and conditions before listing.  Also read comments and discussions to get an overall feel for the way members interact together.   

Consignment and Used Clothing Stores

I recommend this one with caution.  A few years ago, I placed my wedding dress and a Mardi Gra Ball dress for consignment.  They did not sell after over a year and when I got them back they were damaged. They even smelled like smoke!  So I would really check reviews of the place and maybe contact other people who had sold there. Similarly, there are used clothing stores like Platos Closet will buy clothes for cash or store credit.  I did this before moving to Vietnam, but it is a random process. They are picky with what brands and items they will take and the prices are low. When I tried this, I brought them 3 big garbage bags full of clothes and they picked one box worth.  I earned 100 dollars. However, it is 100 dollars more than I had before and it went far my first week in Ho Chi Minh City.

Old Fashioned Yard Sale 

An early morning, weekend yard sale is always a quick way to move things.  However, expect to keep your prices low and patience high. (Yard sale people are intense.)  In these days of social distancing you can host your own virtual yard sale on Facebook or Instagram.  

Give

Humane Society

The Humane society doesn’t just need food and medicine for the animals.  They also need used rags, sheets, towels, and blankets to use in pet cages.  They also take shredded paper and newspaper for liner as well. It surprised me how eager my local shelter was to get our old sheets.  

Fitness Trackers

I have gone through 3 FitBits since 2015.  The one I recently retired is still going, but a little sluggish.  I did not just want to throw it in the garbage. Turns out there is a group called Recycle Health. Recycle Health repurposes your old fitness tracker for those in need.  They also accept the chargers and replacement bands. If you want to donate simply mail the tracker to the address listed at their website. 

Veteran Groups

Non-profit groups that focus veterans are often in need of physical donations.  They can use anything from warm coats to old cell phones. To find out what is needed in your area contact your local VFW or other veterans group.  Keep an open mind to things around your house that can help others.

Domestic Violence Safe Homes

Find yourself with thousands of bath samples from the subscription box craze?  Overwhelmed by 3 semi-annual sales worth of shower gel from Bed Bath and Beyond?  Take these items and donate them to a women’s shelter. I am also sure they could use feminine hygiene products, razors, and other bath products if you have an over abundance.  They are not listed publicly for safety purposes so you will need a contact to deliver them for you. (Hint: A lot of churches have relationships with these groups.)

Public, School, or Classroom Library

Libraries may not be able to use every book donated by adding it to the collection, but they can often resell them to fund important library programs.  (Like purchasing refreshments for the yearly Christmas program.) Most school libraries have more flexibility in what can be put in the collection. I could use some donations as prizes for reading rewards as well.  If all else fails, teachers always need materials for their classroom libraries. Classroom teachers also can use games, flash cards,and art supplies as well to offset instructional costs.  

Recycle

Plastics

A variety of plastics can be recycled including those plastic Mardi Gras cups taking over your pantry!  Before tossing something, consider if it can go in the recycling bin first. A full guide to recycling plastic can be found here.  

Electronics

Several companies offer cash trade in or free recycling of old tablets, computers, and phones.  Apple has a great trade in program that pays out in store credit.  I have also been able to sell broken items on eBay for people to fix or use for parts.  

Mailers 

Reuse bubble mailers sent to you if they are not soiled or too torn. I am still reusing old Ipsy mailers that are sturdy and a metallic pink.  Be careful, to cover all barcodes. The exception to this rule is Amazon boxes.  My friend lost a package because it was sent back to Amazon sorting instead of her sisters!  

Gift Bags 

When you give me a gift bag, I will reuse it.  I also use plain and cute store bags as well. For years, I would use Victoria Secret bags for bachelorette gifts whether they came from the store or not.  

Hazardous Material Pick Up or Drop Off

Do not put caustic things like batteries, paint, nail polish, and other hazardous materials in the trash. Check your state’s policies and drop off locations.  

Repurpose

Think of a Friend 

When I did my book declutter last Spring, I thought of my friends as I discarded.  Share the book if something they are interested in or something nostalgic send it their way!  I sent a book of sea stories to a friend who is a Marine Biologist and a local ghost story book to a friend who has moved away.  Think beyond books and consider personal style, hobbies, and interests of your friends.  

Find a New Home in Your Home

Some things can be more useful in a different room.  For example, I use some little wooden boxes for sorting jewelry.  There are plenty of ways to reuse baskets and bags as well.  

Craft and Art Projects

Discarded items make great opportunities for art and craft projects.  Old t-shirts can become a useful quilt for example. Paper can be used to create artistic collages or even greeting cards.    Check out options online or check out craft books from your local library. However, actually use the items instead of letting it collect as another potential project.  

Fix It Up

Think of yourself, can the thing be fixed?  Check for extended warranties and replacement options with customer service departments.  I plan to get my favorite pair of boots resoled soon. That way I can extend their life.  It is surprising there is a whole market online as well for replacement parts by selling broken items.  Maybe you can even find a tutorial on YouTube to help you out.  

Kids Make Believe Station 

When I was a little girl, I would get in trouble breaking into my mom’s eyeshadow and using it like face paint.  What little kid hasn’t wandered around the house in oversized high heels. Take some of these items to create imagination stations for the kids in your life.  Camping plates make a great kitchen set. Old clothes can be a princess wardrobe. This is a fun way to give things a second life.  

Think Before Trash 

I hope this post has you thinking of all the possibilities out there for things you do not need anymore.  As landfills get bigger and resources get strained, it is a good idea for all of us to practice some thoughtful reusing practices.  I know as I begin to clean my house as the quarantine days grow longer, that I will be pressed to ask myself some of these questions as well.  I at least have a good start to finding the answer.  

How do you discard things?

20 Ways to Discard Things
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2020 No Spend Review

My post in January about this year’s no spend feels like a lifetime ago.  Literally the world has been turned upside down.  When I embarked on my yearly saving’s stretch, I decided the most exciting thing would be a road trip to Journey in Atlanta where I would allow myself to get Starbucks on the way there and back.  (Spoiler that was cancelled.) Until the end, I can say that I did okay following my rules. Here are my thoughts and break down about my most recent exercise in living frugally.

2020 No Spend Review
A walk on the beach was a great way to enjoy the afternoons without shopping!

2020 Challenges 

The biggest challenges come at the beginning and end of the no spend.  My goal was a little longer this time with 3 months. As usual, I crave stopping for coffees throughout.  I made a few exceptions this time. Ed and I also took a road trip to Oxford for friends and a concert. That night, I splurged for the 28 dollar Uber back to where we were staying. (I know yikes!)  Otherwise, I did stick pretty closely to my 30 dollar social budget.  

However, I feel like no spend is a punishment after a few weeks.  It is difficult to turn down social engagement for nights inside. Also, seeing everyone’s Instagram posts of their Starbucks orders are so tempting. The days can begin to feel a little repetitive a few weeks in.  Sometimes I just wanted to go wander somewhere instead of going straight home after work, but did not want the temptation.  

January 

My first round of no spend worked fine since I was overwhelmed with both Christmas spending as well wel medical bills.  I had the lucky situation of having to pay a hunk of my deductible for December and again for tests in January. That paired with my need for sleep caused me to cut my VIPKid schedule drastically.  I taught about half of what I normally do and it was fine. Being on a strict no spend helped me find a way to manage my financial and self-care delima. I cruised through January above water and with a little cash to spare.  

February 

This is the month I had a road trip to Oxford and the outrageous Uber fare.  My friends and I also enjoyed Mardi Gras within the social budget. Ed and I also completed a No Spend Valentines enjoying a good dinner together of dumplings we made at home.  I went on a quick business breakfast at Greenhouse as well to network with a fellow VIPKid teacher.  By doing this, I was able to pay a chunk of medical bills without going into my savings right away.

2020 No Spend Review
Our big social outing during our no spend was to see The Weeks in Oxford, MS.

March

This is where things get hairy according to my self-imposed rules.  First, I treated myself to Greenhouse Biloxi after a doctors appointment with a fasting test.  Then talk of self-quarantines, social distancing, and lockdowns began. So I decided to try to support as many local businesses as possible with the upcoming hard times.  I made a point to get coffee and carry-out from some local places. This past week would have been my final week of no spend, but it was pretty much a wash around the 16th when my library job was shut down.  

What I Learned This Time Around

Each time I complete a no spend challenge, I take something new away.  My first time helped me break my shopping addiction.  Last year I found I sometimes used loopholes in coping with spending no money.  This time it proved to be annoying while I worried about different things in my personal life, but was forgoing things that could have comforted me.  It did teach me to enjoy the little things at home instead of getting too annoyed. I certainly took more walks outside, sat on the back porch, and spied on my hedgehogs snacking in their cages.  

2020 No Spend Review
Finding ways to enjoy myself without spending money.

What is the longest you have gone on a no spend? 

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How to Part with Books

Many of my friends will think this is an April Fools post.  I mean seriously, who can have too many books?! The answer is me, I had too many books and still do. The book discarding project happened because I wanted to move overseas, and still do.  However, in the process, it is difficult to store a whole home and books take up the most volume when you have a collection like mine.  There were three overflowing shelves, books hidden around the house, and this does not include online copies of books on my Nook! I discarded several boxes of books before I left for Vietnam, but still had more than I can read in a life time.  So last spring, I set to discarding my massive book collection. 

How to Part with Books
My shelves were worst than this!

Pick Your Reasons

Before you begin sorting through your mountains of books, define why you are beginning this project.  Are you downsizing to a smaller place or preparing for a cross country move? Do you want to focus your to be read pile in a more appropriate manner?  Do you have dreams of Instagramable #shelfies with your beautifully styled and color coordinated bookshelves? Think of these reasons first so you can better decide your parameters of discard.  

Emotional Cargo

Books are some of my favorite possessions and most precious.  I have painstakingly collected them over the years. (Or hoarded them however you prefer to look at it.). They represent different  stages of my life and reading interests. Some were treasure found in antique bookshops or given to me as gifts. I swapped, thrifted, and dug through donation boxes in library book sale rooms.  When I was feeling wealthy, I would go to Barnes and Noble or Books A Million to buy new copies.  

So like any keepsake it becomes difficult to part with them.  It is made even more difficult if you love the stories in the pages.  I also have my own FOMO (fear of missing out) when it comes to all the books I own, but have not read.  

Get Sorting

So now that you have explored your why, and the emotional parameters of sorting books, now it is time to.  Get started. Here are my tips to get started.  

Don’t Do It All At Once

This task cannot be completed in one day.  I recommend breaking chunks throughout a day or over the course of a few days depending on your personal library.  Figure out a system to sort the books. All mine originally were in a big cluster besides the ones read on one bookshelf.  I sorted by books I would definitely keep, and then been sorting the ones I was unsure of after. Think of the method that would best serve you.  If you are visual, sorting by color and size may be better. Academic researchers may need to sort by topic or time period. Heavy fiction readers may need to think of all their genres and create a balance.  

How to Part with Books

Questions to Ask Yourself

For me, sorting the books was an agonizing decision.  I am a mood reader so I worry that each book I discarded would be a book I craved later.   Here are some questions and filters you can use in your own process.

-Are you done with the research or content in this book?

-Will you ever re-read it?

-Do you still like this author or genre?  (We can only read so many Twilight knockoffs)

-Are you still doing that hobby?

-Look at the book reviews.  I discarded anything below a 3.25 on Goodreads.com 

Find Them a Good Home

Many of my books went to places that could use them.  For example, all my YA books went to a friends high school classroom.  I placed many in the book sale room in the library as well to earn money for kids programming.  The best were traded into my local favorite book shop Southern Bound Books. Now I am using the credit to find meaningful gifts for friends’ birthdays!  Some Goodwills are no longer taking books so I recommend finding a place where they will be appreciated. It does make parting with them much better! 

Find Electronic Copies 

If times get desperate, you can always change to digital copies.  Countless classics are even available for free online with services like Open Library or the Gutenberg Project.  I found some under 5 dollar copies of physical tbr books for my reader. This is a creative way to save space and have the material still at your disposal.  Remember, you can usually find a copy at the public library as well!   

Is It Worth It? 

It was hard, but after a couple of weeks, my shelves were so much better off.  I could find what I was looking for. My shelves are much more visually appealing with room to fit my knickknacks and picture frames.  Also, it is much more manageable. Since organizing, I have only purchased one physical book. Just one! Although it has been tempting to buy others.  Instead, I order them from the library to read or stick to what I have. The day has still not come, but I hope to see a bare spot on my shelf eventually.  One can hope right?!

Can you part with books?

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Finding Yourself Abroad: A Practical Guide to Moving Overseas

Ever sit at your cubicle under fluorescent lighting dreaming of adventure.  Day dream of seeing cobble stone street instead of strip malls on your commute home.  If you have ever considered traveling away from the humdrum and trying something new this article is for you. I have twice moved myself overseas.  Once in 2008, as an international student in Scotland and again in 2017 to teach English in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  

Here is what I learned from these experiences and researching a lot of other scenarios as well.  

A Guide to Moving Overseas
Imagine your lunch break here! (Luxembourg Gardens, Paris)

Think of Your Why (Include goals)

Wanting to move overseas is not enough to get you there.  It is a process that is an exercise in patience, organization, and sheer will.  The way there isn’t always apparent nor is it easy. So before even researching, write a list of what you want out of living as an expat.  For me when I left for Vietnam, I wanted a shorter work week, launch my career as an ESL teacher, and of course have an adventure. So think of your career goals, skills you would like to develop, as well as your personal goals for the future.  Then think of how they could be improved by moving away. 

Be Open to Different Countries

Many people ask me about Europe or Latin America first when chatting about living overseas.  I mention this fact first because I want to drive this point home early. It is best to be flexible on what country you want to live as an expat.  The reason for this is because some careers and countries have different needs depending on the place. Let’s use teaching as an example. Teaching English in Europe is difficult for Americans because of VISA requirements along with the fact that U.K. Citizens can easily work on the Continent.  Alternately, South and Central American pay their teachers very low. So it is difficult to live there comfortably even with the low cost of living.  

One way to avoid disappointment is to make a list of several countries you could see yourself living.  Think of places you have visited and cultures you admire. Use that as a starting off point to begin researching.

Look at Cost of Living Versus Earning Potential 

It is important to research carefully and weigh the pros and cons when considering cost of living.  When looking at jobs check into their going salaries in the countries you want to live. A lot of information can be found on international expat boards like Dave’s ESL Cafe and others.  Also consider the time of an average work week versus pay. Will you have to commute from affordable housing? How much would that cost? Make a list of your normal expenses in a month like utilities, cell phone, rent, and compare them to your dream locations.  

On the same note, I almost accepted a job in Hong Kong managing two school libraries with an International School.  However, my salary was not as good as it sounded due to the expensive housing market in the city. I also would have been faced with a crowded commute and 50 hour work week.  It was more reasonable to take a 20 hour work week with the pay scale offered in Vietnam. Especially when considering my average dinner costed 2 dollars!  

A Guide to Moving Overseas
One of my favorite strolls. (London, U.K.)

VISA Logistics 

The most frustrating, confusing, and tedious process of moving overseas is deciphering the rules for the VISA.  However, it is the most essential. Nothing can happen without the endorsed passport and proper paperwork. Here is my basic breakdown of the process.  (Seriously it gets complicated, so consider this the cliff notes version.)                           

What is a VISA?

A VISA is your legal authorization to enter a country for a certain period of time.  All VISAs have an expiration date and they vary depending on country rules as well as purpose.  They have fees attached and will request documentation that you meet the requirements to enter the country as dictated by their government.  Some will require proof of employment, degrees, and some medical records. It will certainly vary from place to place. So do not assume after researching one country another will be the same process.  (Even if they are right next to each other or on the same continent!)

3 Common Types of VISAS

Here are the three main types of VISAs that are commonly used when entering foreign countries.  

Student VISA

This was my first VISA issued to me when I moved to the U.K.  It is given for the sole process of studying in that country. They last for the extent of the length of the academic program.  Some have a limited option for employment. (In 2008, I was allowed to work 20 hours on my student VISA.) The documentation required proof I could afford study in the U.K., my medical records, and proof of my academic achievements using official transcripts/degrees.  

Tourist VISA

Some countries do not require this, some you need this before entering, and others you need one if you stay past a certain time.  They are only meant for touring and short visits. It is illegal to work on a tourist VISA in almost all if not all countries. So only use this for vacation time!

Work VISA

If you are reading this article, you probably need a work VISA.  Therefore, you will probably need to find a job before you leave to be sponsored.  There is a popular belief in some countries like Vietnam or China that you can go on a tourist VISA and find a job there.  However, this is a terrible way to do it because it sets you up to be scammed. It would also require you to pay to leave and re-enter the country on the correct VISA.  (Also known as a VISA run.)  

A Guide to Moving Overseas
This could be your backyard! (Tarragona, Spain)

How to Get a VISA

Consular websites for countries should give you the basic rules for all VISA types.  Find the locations of these embassies as well in your country. Most employers will give you the steps for a work VISA or their Human Resources will guide you through the process.  For my British VISA, I had to send all my documentation to the consulate assigned to my state including my actual passport. My company in Vietnam used a service to email a letter. My temporary work VISA was granted upon entering the country with that letter.  Read the fine print, often your passport cannot be expiring within 6 months.  

Note:  Sometimes you have to pay a VISA service to get your passport endorsed at an embassy.  This is the case for our Chinese tourist VISA.  

VISA Costs 

Be prepared to pay several hundred dollars in VISA costs.  Some companies will pay it for you. (Lucky you!) I have also heard of companies reimbursing you the costs if you stay with them a certain amount of time.  Most of the time it is up to you. So when creating your move away budget, make sure to be aware of the VISA costs.  

Do You Have to Teach English?

You do not have to teach English to move away.  However, it is a popular path for many. Take into consideration your past employment, skills, and degrees.  There are marketing companies, and media outlets that have English content overseas. Check to see if your own company has international divisions or partners. Maybe you can do the things you need for a transfer.  

Many people I met in Ho Chi Minh City started teaching English, but quickly moved on to other industries once they found the right contacts.  So it may be a good idea to use teaching English as a springboard to get started.  

Ways to Prepare 

You found the perfect place, right job, and your VISA is on its way!  Now what? Here was my basic process when leaving for Vietnam, and I would use it again if the opportunity ever showed up again. 

A Guide to Moving Overseas
This used to be a common walk for me! (Edinburgh, Scotland)

Discard Stuff

Seriously, the least amount of stuff you need to store the better.  I only got to get rid of some of my things before leaving. It was stressful for my husband and me.  So I recommend only keeping the most important things. Consider if your couch is on its last leg anyway or if you would prefer new plates when coming home anyway.  I listened to a great episode of Rise Together about a financial author, David Bach, who relocated his family to Florence. (Obviously, this was pre-virus.). The best advice he gave was to think if you would really want that item in 3 years.  You won’t miss much of it I promise.

Check Air Miles, Etc.

Leaving on a jet plane to an uncertain future?  No better time to cash in rewards or air miles. Remember, if you are part of a frequent flyer program in an alliance you can apply those points to airlines within the group.  Also check on credit card rewards. I used my Capital One Card to fly to Ho Chi Minh City for 15 dollars after fees. That is right, 15 dollars!  

Scan and Gather Documents 

In country, you will need official documents. That means your ORIGINAL degrees and such.  That is right, you might have to take it out of the frame and stick it in your carry on. What I did was create an accordion folder of my originals and copies.  I even left a copy of everything with my family state side in case something went astray.

Documents to Scan and Photocopy:

All Degrees

All Academic Certifications (Example: Teachers License) 

Official Transcripts 

Passport

Drivers License

Shot Records

All Credit and Debit Cards

Any International Insurance Plans 

Medical Prescriptions 

Save Money

Moving always has costs, but moving overseas can have big costs.  Be prepared to pay fees from apartment deposits to cell phone activation.  If there is some time before you leave, it is important to have some money when arriving overseas.  

Call Credit Cards and Banks 

Banks and credit cards will cut you off if you use them overseas without verifications.  Call the customer service located on the back of your card and let them know your plans in detail.  Also, know how ATM fees work in your new place and the max you can withdraw in a day period.  

”Trade the typical for something colorful”~ Greatest Showman
(Lisbon, Portugal)

Pack Less Than You Think You Need

My first jaunt living overseas I brought 2 rolling bags and mailed 2 boxes.  I didn’t even use everything I sent. So when I moved to Vietnam, I downsized to a medium rolling bag, a large North Face Crestone (60 liters), and a rolling suitcase.  It was fine, but I think I want to go smaller next time! For example, I brought some of my favorite OPI polish not realizing I could go for a gel mani/pedi for $11 a pop.  Most places you can get what you need. Here is a quick hack while you are making a packing list. Join an expat group for the city you are moving to. Then ask your new friends what they recommend you should bring!

As recommended by a dear friend who has also made this life change, bring something that can remind you of home. I would not recommend anything valuable to heirloom. However, a stash of pictures or a special necklace can be a great comfort moving to a strange place.

To Be Continued!  

There are so many more things I can tell you, but for now I will leave you to absorb this information.  In the future, I will make a part II to this focusing on helping you get acquainted and acclimated when you get to your new county.  I will say that you need to be prepared for a difficult psychological and emotional time. But you are also setting yourself up for an amazing adventure that you will be telling in your old age.  

What country would you move to?  

A Guide to Moving Overseas
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Books I Wish Were Movies or T.V. Shows

When curating my list for last month’s post about my favorite book to movie adaptations, I was surprised that there are so many books that I would like to see on the screen.  Going through my bookshelves made me so thankful that I was able to read so many amazing stories.  I would like to see each of them adapted for various reasons. Here are my reasons here! 

Books I Wish Were Movies or T.V. Shows

Infernal Devices Series by Casandra Clare 

The steampunk sub genre is my top guilty pleasure even before bodice ripping romance novels.  The images of clock gears with Victorian petticoats brings out the romantic in me, I guess. However, I have found very few steampunk books are even good much less wonderful.  The Infernal Devices series is my one exception so far in my reading journey.  The first book, Clockwork Angel, begins as a prequel to Cassandra Clare’s wildly popular Shadowhunters series.  There are so many things that make these books amazing like a love triangle, hot dudes, machine army, and an interesting mystery throughout the series.  

Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

The Lunar Chronicles is a four part series that uses a post-apocalyptic world to retell the fairy tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White respectively.  In this world, there is a plague, and earth has colonized the moon creating a group of people with powers to manipulate minds. The main character is not only a strong female character, but also a cyborg.  Certainly, the amazing book cover of the red shoe in the robot foot would make an amazing teaser poster.  

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson 

I read this book while spending time traveling around Spain.  It was my first read by the author Maureen Johnson, and it has really stuck with me.  (Although, so many of her other books should be adapted too!) After the death of her beloved, but eccentric aunt, Ginny is surprised by the delivery of a large backpack, debit card, and package of handwritten letters.  In those letters, her aunt sends her on a quest across Europe retracing her steps and teaching her about life along the way. It is the best combination of travel writing and Y.A. Contemporary I have found.  

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert 

This book was such a pleasant surprise for me.  Amy Reichert did so well describing love and food in vivid detail.  The two points of view are from a chef and a food critic. They happen upon each other and make an agreement to get to know each other without any preconceived notions so they do not share what they do for a living.  Little does the chef know that the food writer slammed her restaurant with a scathing review. The story unfolds and I would love to see this as a romantic comedy.  

The Remnant Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson

The first book The Kiss of Deception had me hooked by just the description!  Princess Lia escapes on her wedding day to a small fishing village deciding a life of being a royal wife is not her thing.  Two men go after her, one her jilted fiancé and other an assassin sent to kill her. The story is told from all 3 points of view, but you don’t know who the assassin is until the end!  It is fast-paced and exciting. It would be a great epic series for Amazon or other big streaming service that could keep us binging for seasons.  

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

This book jumps between modern day Hollywood to a small island of the coast of Italy in the early 1960s.  The story twists from there with a love story. I love the descriptions of the Italian coastline and little villages.  The story could echo back to the colorful movies with Sophia Loren. I was able to get lost in this plot and it was the perfect compliment to my road trip in the Florida Keys.  I could imagine this book making a great movie for a girl’s night. (When we can all go out again and stop social distancing.) 

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The expatriates writers that lived in Europe after World War I lived as exciting lives as those found in the stories they wrote.  This book takes the perspective of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley and creates a story of their early years in Paris. It is the perfect compliment to read with a Moveable Feast as well that was published after Hemingway’s death about this time as well.  All timelines and facts are true, but it is nice having her perspective. I watched a movie a few years ago with Clive Owen as Hemingway long after this time called Hemingway & Gelhorn.  However, I think it would be a great view to have a young Hemingway on screen as well.  

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova 

This book is a modern day Dracula hunt like none others written.  It is also an epic journey through places in Europe. (See a theme here with me?)  It is an easy story to get lost in. A young girl living in Amsterdam goes searching for her missing father that is linked with his hunt for Dracula.  It turns up many surprises about her family, the past, and how we perceive the family vampire.  

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein 

This is my only World War II themed novel on the list because 2 that I really love are being adapted this year!  (They are All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah.) Code Name Verity focuses on a strong female friendship between a young pilot and spy.  They both end up in German occupied France and all choices they make are life or death.  

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 

This book is so magical, literally.  It is about a pair of dueling magicians chosen as children to compete in a magical competition to the death.  (They are pawns to settle the argument of nature versus nurture when it comes to magic.). The circus is the platform for their challenge.  Each night something new and mysterious is added to the attractions. When they fall in love things get really complicated. The nightly elements would make this book a great television series where each episode portrays a new feature of the circus.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray 

This final book could replace my love of Pitch Perfect as my favorite quirky movie.  A group of reality show stars cast for a show about a beauty contest crash on a deserted island.  Think Lord of the Flies, but with glitter. It is hilarious, but also takes a real look at our values in society.  

That’s a Cut

This list was a fun way to revisit my Goodreads ‘read’ pile and look at my physical bookshelves as well.  I chose all of these books based on how amazing they were in my head when I read them. I think they would translate well to film, but it would be up to Hollywood to do them justice!  

What book do you wish will be adapted to movies or television?

Books I Wish Were Movies or T.V. Shows
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