Here’s Why Libby Will Be Your New BFF

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Growing up, I was that little girl who would come home with a Scholastic catalog marked all over with the books I wanted my parents to buy for me. When we had a reading assignment in elementary school, I had to control myself to not finish the book all at once and instead follow the class as we read it chapter by chapter, together. I just loved reading so much.

Fast forward just a *few* years and I admit I’ve had my ups and downs with reading. I’ve had moments when I didn’t read for months and it was not until I started reading frequently again that I realized how much I missed it. The past few months have been great from a reading standpoint, but with that, there has been a small problem rising: reading more means spending more. Don’t get me wrong, I want to support all the authors but I also have savings goals I want to hit. So, what are my options?

Amazon Kindle Unlimited is not for me. 

While I absolutely love my Kindle, their unlimited reading service is just not for me. I tried though! I cross-referenced my reading list with titles available on the service and very few were available, so it’s not worth it for me.

Meet Libby, your new BFF.

Libby

Free books you can borrow online and send directly to your Kindle? Sign me up! Libby is an app that connects with your local library and allows you to borrow books and audiobooks. Sure, there might be a hold on some of the books you want to read but hey, they are free and will be available to you eventually. 

I first learned about Libby recently, thanks to the wonderful Janssen from Everyday Reading and I was surprised that I had not heard about this before! I mean, I knew I could rent books for free at the library, but I thought I had to go back and forth every time and that seemed like a lot of effort for me. Plus, I really do enjoy reading on my Kindle so I didn’t want to deal with hard copies either.   

So, what do you have to do?

    1. Get a library card! I just did a google search based on where I lived and it was super easy. I did have to go in person to show proof of residence, but I didn’t mind it at all.
    2. Download the app and sign up using your library card.
    3. Search for books and start borrowing! 

The only downside of Libby is that there likely will be a waiting list on the most popular books, as the library has limited online licenses available. For example, I am currently on a 6-month wait for Where The Crawdads Sing, but was able to get Next Year in Havana right away. I don’t mind the wait as I always have such a long list of books to read, I am bound to find one from my list that is available right away. Since they give you estimates on when the book will be available, you can place multiple holds and plan ahead! I currently have 6 books on hold that have varying waiting times (anything from 2 weeks to 6 months). Honestly, it’s kind of exciting to plan it like that, but maybe that’s just me? Either way, I love that this is something I can use for free, so absolutely no complaints here.

Had you heard of Libby before? Was I just living under a rock? 

Also, I have no friends over at Good Reads so if you are into that, let’s be friends!

 

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Humor as a tool for revolution and coping mechanism for the current Puerto Rican situation  

Puerto Rico no se deja - Natalia Benitez

Photo credit: Natalia Bénitez

My friend said that if memes could be properly monetized, Puerto Ricans right now would be making bank. In the midst of a political crisis and arguably the start of a revolution for change, Puerto Ricans have shown no fear manifesting their beliefs with creativity, both physically and virtually. From divers underwater showing their protest signs to yogis leading a peaceful yoga class in front of the governor’s mansion – our creativity knows no bounds. If you are Puerto Rican, I bet you are receiving a constant flow of memes from family members, friends, and even coworkers. You have to admit they are good! 

How can a country that is undergoing what has been said to be a historical manifestation have the strength to continue to fight, while also entertaining millions with constant hysterical remarks?

The two coexist as part of a conscious or unconscious strategy, as one of the obstacles that important education and political messages often face is the ability to reach those who need to know said message. From a basic communication standpoint, humor is easy to share, it even strengthens interpersonal relationships. I have seen memes circulating social media that have encouraged me to do my own research to further understand the jokes and/or claims being made. In a culture where we are so overwhelmed by information and opinions from every device imaginable, researching has become key. I have had conversations with my grandma in which it is evident that solely relying on one TV station for your news is never going to be enough again. It is simply impossible to properly capture an entire movement when it is happening virtually and physically, EVERYWHERE.

Puerto Ricans are loud and proud, and it is in our nature to find humor in all situations, for some, in too many situations. You can blame the tropical climate for our “warmth” but perhaps, it is more accurate to look at years and years of situations (political or not) that are so beyond ridiculous that all you can do is laugh. People often say “hay que reír para no llorar” (essentially, you have to laugh to keep yourself from crying) and although that shows our resilience and spirit, it uncovers another big issue that Puerto Ricans are facing: a vulnerable mental health state.

After Hurricane Maria, the suicide rates reportedly went up in the island. The entire nation lived day after day full of worries, desperation, and angst. Those in the island were too busy surviving to have the time to call out shady government actions or even worse, lack of action. Those in the diaspora essentially dropped everything they were doing to desperately try to find feasible and effective ways to help, overwhelmed by the inability to connect with family members on the island. I am no medical professional, but I think it is safe to say that the island has gone through trauma. By definition, a coping mechanism is an adaptation to environmental stress that is based on conscious or unconscious choice and that enhances control over behavior or gives psychological comfort.

Interestingly enough, you could argue that this “humor as a coping mechanism” strategy was the governor’s own downfall. He claims the expressions said on the controversial leaked Telegram chat (charged with sexist and homophobic remarks) was his way of “releasing tension” from the pressure of his job. So while humor is a powerful tool for awareness and joy, it can also be poisonous and dangerous. Nonetheless, it is undeniable that the majority of the humor utilized lately in public conversations has been positively fueling the right for people to manifest themselves and hold the government accountable. It has also been key in the spreading of information and unification of a country that had been divided for far too long. Now, nothing will ever be perfect and while I can assure you there will be future memes mocking the fighting spirit of Puerto Ricans these days, it is important to remember what fueled the humor from the beginning: indignation and the overwhelming feeling that Puerto Rico has had ENOUGH.

New York, I love you.

Sunset on Manhattan

Today marks what would have been my 7th New York Anniversary. 7 years ago, on a day like today, I landed with my one-way ticket to JFK hoping for the best. I had no clue what was in store for me.

I left New York this past January and have not been able to gather my thoughts of what this has meant to me. To those close to me, you know that New York was sucking the life out of me, slowly but surely. No need to get into details here, we all know New York is expensive and demanding. As it was getting close to my last day in the city, I started seeing things differently, you may call it “graduation goggles”. The crowded trains suddenly felt poetic, the hustle and bustle felt energizing and little by little I started to notice the things I was going to miss. 

I used to compare New York City with a drug, you know it’s bad for you but you keep coming back for more. I expressed some of these thoughts during my 5th New York Anniversary post and I think you can sense in my words that I was about ready to go. New York City lifts you up so high, you are soaring, but then it can drop you so hard, the impact is undeniably sobering. I used to think that it drained you but it still felt so good but now I think you feel that way because you’ve forgotten what normal feels like. I danced with so many of these emotions for years. 

Now, New York City feels like an old lover. I know it was not perfect, there were certainly hardships along the way, but I choose to remember the good times and respect the bad times as they have made me who I am today. I go back and rejoice, feeling lucky to have called it mine for however long it lasted. Sure, there are many things I miss and maybe will always miss, but that’s ok. 

Thank you, New York. I believe there is strength in being able to thank someone, something, anything for the good it did, in spite of all the bad. A kind of broken beauty that requires patience and wisdom to be appreciated.

New York, I will always love you. 

2019 Book Challenge: 5/15 Reads [Book Reviews]

No matter how much I love reading, I always go through some dry-spells here and there. Some longer than others but regardless of time away from books, it’s always so refreshing when you get back to it. I have a goal of reading 15 books this year, here are the 5 books I’ve read so far, in order of when I read them and not how I necessarily rate them. According to Good Reads, I am behind schedule, but I think I can still pick it up. 🙂

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One Day in December by Josie Silver 

If I had to pick the least favorite from this list, this would be it. It’s not necessarily a bad book, maybe I was just annoyed at the main character and for me, it’s hard to look past that. I can enjoy a little serendipity magic here and there but for some reason, the predictability of this book did not hit me the right way. It gave me a little bit of “Carrie and Big” vibes from Sex and the City and I honestly didn’t love that couple. I know a lot of people enjoyed this book (and looove Carrie and Big), but it’s ok, can I respect that!

 

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The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

I am a sucker for good YA, I don’t think they get enough credit, in my opinion. Sure, they can be light and easy reads, but every now and then you find one that makes you feel all happy and hopeful inside. This is one of them. I loved how you are able to get inside the mind of the main two characters and see how they perceive the same exact day through the lenses of their preconceived world views. It also explains a thought that connects love with the dark matter of the universe and I think it’s truly magical – probably because love and astronomy are two of my favorite things – but still, uplifting read in my opinion. 

 

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The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

This is the kind of book that gets turned into a fun romantic comedy-ish, you enjoy it and move on and there’s nothing wrong with that. Although it was quite predictable, I really appreciated the diversity and unique stories that we got exposed to, in addition to the main storyline. I felt like it painted an accurate, balanced picture of today’s world and I respect that. I also can always appreciate a solid male character that is respectful as he is sexy, especially when they care so much about their family like you will see in this book. 

 

Field Notes on Love

Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith

Ah, to be young and take chances, what a wonderful thing. I really enjoyed this YA, mostly because I felt like I was truly in this journey with the two main characters, discovering new things with them. Their traveling mostly happens in a train from New York to California and that was something I had never really thought of doing. I probably pictured it all more glamorous in my head than it probably is, but still, anything that has to do with travel and discovery will likely strike me the right way. The book also talks about success, performance, self-confidence and how you perceive your talents. It’s spoken to more as it relates to a student’s project, but you can make so many connections to your own life with it, regardless of your age or skillset. 

 

Daisy Jones & The Six

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This book is truly something. You’ve probably heard all the buzz around it already but I think it’s worth the hype. I wouldn’t say it is my favorite book of all time, but it’s definitely my favorite from this list. Daisy Jones & The Six is beautifully raw and perfectly broken, with characters that make you feel a rollercoaster of emotions. It also has a way of conveying a whole music album just through words. How I felt I was in a music performance when I was just reading words on paper (or my kindle) is beyond me and anyone that can achieve that has true talent.

Have you read any of these books, what did you think?

Not exactly sure what the next 5 books will be, any recommendations? For the next 5, I am looking for a more historical fiction vibe, but open to anything if you think it’s worth it!

Considering Daily Harvest? Here’s My Honest, Unpaid Opinion. [Review]

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I probably first heard of Daily Harvest over a year ago. Slowly but surely, I kept being targeted through multiple channels, you know how fun that can be. I had decided that it was not for me until I saw a food blogger, who is known for making her own recipes and doing lots of home cooking, try it and promote it with her own twist. She would make the harvest bowl meal at home, adding her own toppings and it made me reconsider. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a good base for your meal, already prepped?

I got a good starter deal, ended up being about $5 per cup, for 9 cups. Selections were good and Daily Harvest does a really good job of providing information about what you are about to get. Everything from ingredient explanation to a description of what it tastes like. It even tells you which cups are better for workout recovery, stress-relief, etc.

I’ll break down my experience by type of cup because they each have their own pros and cons. I am also including real images of what I got. 

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Harvest Bowls

The first bowl I tried I heated in a pan at home. It looked like a really small quantity so I added spinach, pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds. It was actually delicious but not filling enough, unfortunately. I was thinking I could make a batch of quinoa to heat up and add to the bowls which I think is great, but kind of defeats the purpose of the whole ready-to-go cup.

The second bowl I tried at work. I had to bring my own microwavable bowl as it seems the cups are not microwave-safe, a little hassle but not terrible. Once again, the food was not enough. It can’t be just me! When I am at home it’s more bearable since I will have other stuff available but when you bring a meal to work, you plan around it being successful. So there I was, still hungry at my desk thinking what I could do. Ended up getting a small salad which resulted in me wasting more time and money.

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Oat Bowls

I am used to making my own overnight oats at home with a base of yogurt. These bowls are mostly oats and fruit, with whatever you decide to add (I did almond milk) and I’m not used to the consistency. Flavor and quantity were good for breakfast. Further down this post, I included an expectation vs. reality comparison of the dragon fruit oat bowl. It looks beautiful but it’s actually deceiving in terms of what the product looks like and the quantity served. It is about half of what is shown. I get it, overflowing cups are better to show your product but it leads to disappointment.  

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Soups

I did not try any of their chilled soups because honestly, that’s not my thing so it wouldn’t be fair to taste and review something I already know I am not into. I did give the hot soups a try and they were good. The taste was not that different from your average Campbell’s soup but it seems like you are getting less sodium in the cup which will ultimately be better for you.

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Chia Bowls

Confession: I had never had a real chia bowl until this point. I put chia seeds in my personal overnight oats but I had never had these many chia seeds in one place! It was actually not that bad. I was not a big fan of the feel of the banana soaked overnight but the flavor was definitely there. Same critique with the oat bowls though, deceiving quantity and too expensive for what you actually get.

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Smoothies

If you look at the Daily Harvest ads, you would think your morning routine just got so much healthier and easier. Well folks, it wasn’t like that for me. First, my blender has the little contraption in the middle so the frozen chunk of smoothie did not fit properly. I had to cut it with a knife but it was not that simple, ended up ruining the little Daily Harvest cup it comes in so I was not able to pour it back in like they tell you to do. I added the amount of liquid indicated (I used almond milk) but after blending, it still did not have a drinkable consistency, it was more like a gelato. I had to add more almond milk before it was better. Same thing happened with another smoothie in which I used coconut water. Flavor wise it was ok – not bad, not amazing. I personally think the basic smoothies I make for myself are just as good (and cheaper). I did love their Cold brew + Almond smoothie, nice coffee boost for the morning.

Overall, you get good cups, but are they worth the price? Without a discount, on a regular plan, the lowest you can get a cup for is $6.99 and that entails ordering 24 cups at a time. $6.99 wouldn’t be terrible for lunch or dinner if it were filling enough, but $6.99 for a soup, smoothie or oat bowl? Not so much, but I guess it depends on where you live and what your usual food habits look like. For example, if you are going to a fancy smoothie bar for a $10 smoothie every day, then yes, this might be a good substitute, but if you have the time to source your own ingredients and make your own, that will be your best route.

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I do, however, see some value to always having some cups available in my freezer (better than having a frozen pizza), but given their subscription model, you can’t just buy a couple to have around just in case. You have to order a certain minimum per box, which makes sense from an effectiveness standpoint, you don’t want to waste all the packaging materials in one little cup. They are good with allowing you to cancel ahead of time so you can always skip if you want to keep your own schedule. I would recommend setting a reminder so you don’t get stuck paying for something you did not plan to.

If you want to try it, feel free to use my code: https://daily-harvest.com/r/RE-H2TYD89

With that discount code, you will get 3 free cups on your first order – that will be about $23 off right away as opposed to their regular welcome offer which is $30 off split across your first 3 boxes. I think getting the deal all at once on your first box is better if you are really hesitant or skeptical. That way you also reap the most benefits if you never order another box.

I think I knew Daily Harvest was not for me after the 3rd cup but I decided to finish the whole box before officially sharing my verdict. It’s just not enough food to justify the cost. I don’t regret trying it since I will no longer stress over the ads thinking “hmm should I try it?”. It also helped diversify my own meal prep by exposing me to some ingredients I would not normally think would go well together (hazelnuts in a brussel sprouts tahini bowl?). When reviewing their marketing materials, however, that’s when I lit up more. Their images are not accurate at all and that is a HUGE turn off for me. That’s disrespectful as a consumer. I am surprised they are able to run all of the images and videos they run because they are highly deceiving.

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Still, in the essence of keeping this review true to my experience, I have to say they do have good customer service. I had an issue with a delivery date – I was not going to be home and I guess my skipping did not go through (or in all honesty maybe I thought I skipped it, but forgot). Point is, I was able to get a generous credit for my next box which was very much appreciated.

So there you have it, Daily Harvest is not for me and I am ok with that.

Have you tried Daily Harvest?

If so, what did you think?

If not, were you considering it?

Let me know!

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Valuing Your Coveted Attention in an Overloaded World

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Some people hate advertising and all it entails – intense targeting, invasion of privacy, lack of transparency, etc. Add in the layer of the modern social media landscape and it all starts to blow up out of proportion, it is believed that the average person is hit with over 4,000 ads in a DAY. As a consumer on the receiving end, it can be exhausting, confusing and just straight up overwhelming. Truth is, advertising is not going anywhere, it will just keep evolving. People were complaining about commercials invading their TV time, now you scroll through Instagram and you get instantly targeted. Business is not going anywhere, people will always find ways to reach the people they think they need to reach.

Personally, I don’t mind ads (targeted or not) because either: 1. I’ve found information or products of value through them or, 2. I work in the industry and understand that people (and brands) need to make a living.

Attention is the new currency and in a world of overload, you either embrace it with control or get trampled. With over 250,000 people (in the US only) working on the marketing industry, it’s not realistic to assume we can all live unplugged lives and honestly, even if you are not in marketing, there’s too much happening online that unplugging yourself will likely affect your chances of success.

It all comes down to intention. If you choose to spend your time on social media (or the internet, for that matter) be more intentional and avoid mindless scrolling. Clean your feed from things that don’t bring value, respect your time and attention and treat it with the value it deserves.

Cristina Nogueras Marketing Clean your feed from things that don’t bring value, respect your time and attention and treat it with the value it deserves.

  • Your email address is a precious gem – Treat it like one! Brands are hungry for it so only give it away when it matters. Be mindful of where you subscribe and utilize it to your advantage.
  • Take control of your feed – You have two options: you either engage with the content you enjoy so you get more pleasant/useful things in your feed or you visit your feed less. Also, be intentional with who you follow as that will affect what kind of advertising you are being served.
  • If you know ads are inevitable, use them to your advantage – Looking to buy a dress for an upcoming event? Engage with any brand that sells dresses and soon you will start to see other brands flow in with other considerations and potentially, even some discounts. Let ads help you with something you already know you need because, why not? The added layer and disclaimer to this is to be smart about what you get thrown your way and learn to make your own calls.

Use advertising as a guide and starting point to further educate yourself on the matter. Sure, buying a dress might be a pretty straight-forward purchase for most people but as you get into products and services related to health, wellness, finance, etc. you have to be your best defendant. Disclosure is key – I am looking at you influencers who never disclose! – deceiving is ALWAYS wrong.

Cristina Nogueras Marketing Just because a brand has money to target you with beautiful advertising doesn’t mean that the product or service behind it brings anything of value, or is even safe.

Just because a brand has money to target you with beautiful advertising doesn’t mean that the product or service behind it brings anything of value, or is even safe. I could go on forever on that, but I will not. 🙂

If you want to try and live a successful, disconnected life, by all means, go for it! You are my true hero. But if you are like me and can’t really do it, that’s cool too, let’s help the industry and ourselves by setting better standards, protecting our attention and only “selling” it for true value.

Photo by Andreea Ch from Pexels

How I fell in love with Portugal’s wine country and other Portuguese tales [Vol 2. Douro]

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I had already shared how I was not expecting much on the wine front from Portugal before our visit. Shameful, I know. You may associate port wine with Porto but did you know that the grapes are actually harvested in the Douro region? In fact, if they are not from there, it’s not technically port wine. The process may slightly vary by the producer but in general, grapes are harvested and transported to Porto where they are stored for aging and eventually consumption. Also, there is a LOT more to this beautiful wine region than port wine, we tasted plenty of other varieties that were just absolutely wonderful.

For our trip, we decided to rent a car in order to travel through all of our stops:

Porto -> Douro -> Fatima -> Albufeira -> Lisboa

I 100% recommend renting a car if you can, as it not only gives you freedom from schedules but you can also explore at your own pace and change things up as you go if you so desire.

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For our stay in Douro we stayed at Quinta Nova Nossa Senhora do Carmo, which you can see in this photo. When looking at where to stay in Douro, I saw plenty of gorgeous quintas in the region but I wanted to make sure we could stay in a quinta that offered wine tastings and actually had a vineyard. Our stay was short but wonderful. Due to time constraints, we actually did not leave the quinta once we got there and honestly have no regrets.

cristina nogueras photography portugal douro quinta nova wine and cheese vacation

We began our stay with a wonderful spread of ham and cheese and started tasting some of the wonderful selections from Quinta Nova right away. Their reserva was one of our favorites and definitely affordable considering the quality and taste, says the girl that is happy with a $10 bottle of wine at the liquor store, but you get it. 🙂

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My favorite part was walking through the vineyards, just me and Brian. There was not another soul in sight and the weather was absolutely perfect, not too hot or too cold. This region is truly a beauty and the landscape is breathtaking, unlike anything I had seen before. It’s also very calm, the kind of vibes you have to stop for and take a moment to really take it in because it’s a magical experience.

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Quinta Nova offers a delicious dinner with a chef’s menu and of course, dedicated wine pairings. Each course was a unique experience and everything was purely exquisite. Dinner wouldn’t have been completed without an excellent dessert and of course, port wine.

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The breakfast selection the next day was also delicious but the best part was enjoying it all with a morning view. I mean, how often do we allow ourselves to not only enjoy breakfast time but enjoy it with this kind of view. Good coffee, good food and knowing that the day can only get better. That’s what vacation should feel like.

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You can never have enough of something wonderful, right? I would have loved to stay longer in this region and explore further. If you have the time, definitely recommend you explore other quintas and even take a boat through the river. Even if you are tight for time and can’t stay for the night, Douro is not far from Porto and you can do a day trip to get a taste of the magic (it’s only a little over an hour drive).

Stay tuned for more of my Portugal series and feel free to message me if you are planning to visit and have any questions about my experiences. 🙂

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