Stream Your Music: A Review of Pandora Plus

It is often tempting to start (or continue adding to) a tangible music collection. There is definitely nostalgia and enjoyment that comes with browsing a record store or CD department in search of an old classic or a new favorite. All too often, though, “physical” music collections take up valuable shelf space in the home and don’t get their fair share of use. Additionally, the existence of a CD uses many resources (plastic for packaging, ink for printing, and fuel for shipping).

Streaming music, rather than purchasing physical copies, is better for a minimalist and sustainable lifestyle, and luckily there are many quality streaming services available.

A few months ago, I subscribed to Pandora Plus for $4.99 a month. I was drawn to Pandora Plus primarily for the “offline” feature, meaning you can stream a few of your favorite stations without using cell phone data. How exciting! For me, this was perfect, especially for the gym and driving on country roads. I wanted my music variety everywhere but I couldn’t keep using my wireless data plan.

 

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A screenshot of the Pandora Plus Offline Mode.

The offline music quality is very good; I’ve experienced minimal skips and interruptions. On my phone, there are only four to five stations available at any given time; four are your most-listened-to stations, and the other is your “Thumbprint” radio, a collection of music you’ve thumbed up (is it thumbed up? Or thumbsed up?). This could be because of the amount of storage space on my phone, though. I’ve also noticed that each station loops about 20-30 songs, so once you’ve listened to (or skipped through) every song, the station goes back to the beginning of the queue. This is not ideal, but with four other stations to choose from, you still have quite a bit of variety. (Important to note: the next time your device is connected to WiFi and Pandora is running, the offline stations will “re-sync” and a new playlist of songs will be added to your offline lineup.)

The online listening perks include less advertisements and more skips, both of which I have been pleased with. Overall, I enjoy my subscription to Pandora Plus and would recommend the service to anyone looking for an affordable way to enjoy new music on-the-go, especially in places without WiFi or cell phone reception.

Which streaming services do you enjoy? Let me know in the comments!

How Instagram Helped My Anxiety

I’ve read many articles about social media’s destructive effects on mental wellbeing. Social media does indeed have the capacity to foster negativity, unnecessary comparison, and feelings of inadequacy. But what if we focused on the beautiful things social media does? That’s what I try to do, and it’s changed my life.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve struggled with anxiety. I constantly needed something to worry about. I could recognize that most of my worries were irrational “what-if?” scenarios, but that didn’t keep them from playing over and over in my mind.

I couldn’t break the cycle of worry, fear, and sadness; it was taking over my life. And then, I discovered Instagram.

winterI first started on Instagram by following popular accounts that I found beautiful. The colors, the places, the stories; I loved it all. Scrolling through my feed of positive messages took my mind off my worries and gave me a much-needed break from my constant anxiety. I realize this is the double-edged sword of social media: its ability to distract from real life can be destructive, but in my opinion, it can also be a reprieve, a chance for mental clarity, and a launching point to realizing personal goals.

As I started discovering more accounts and more people, I was impressed, impassioned, and comforted by the sheer beauty of the world. Social media is an amazing way to connect with different people, ideas, thoughts, and cultures. I was introduced to farmers, world travelers, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, models, moms, interior designers… the list goes on.

My favorite accounts all had two components in common: passion and creativity. Each person was sharing his or her enthusiasm with the rest of the world. The moms share the journeys of their children, the artists are painting and photographing, the activists are working for change, the world travelers are exploring.

The passion of others directly fueled the passion inside me. What was my contribution? What would my space say about me? How could I inspire others and continue this positive trend that had helped me so much? I immediately reflected inward. In the wake of my anxiety, I had lost who I was. I lost what made me feel alive. I forgot I had a creative story to share. I believe that anxiety is energy being allocated to the wrong place. Instead of hiding away in fear and worry, I turned that energy into action.

Social media, I’ve learned, must be utilized only as a celebration of a life well lived. It cannot be enjoyed as life itself, because it isn’t life. Allow social media to inspire, educate, and connect you. Follow only the accounts that speak to you in a positive way. Don’t allow the achievements of others make you question your worth or importance, for you have a story and a passion that only you can share. What will it be?

The Gateway Lodge

When my husband and I were married in 2015, our bridal party kindly gifted us a honeymoon at The Gateway Lodge in Cooksburg, Pennsylvania. It was an incredible time with equal parts adventure and relaxation!

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The relaxing fireplace in the lodge common area.

Last weekend, my husband and I returned to enjoy The Woods Spa. (We took a selfie after, but we still had the massage chair lines on our foreheads, so I decided against posting the picture.) It was so nice to be back in Cooksburg. The massages were wonderful and the lodge was as cozy and charming as ever. I’m looking forward to visiting again when the weather gets warmer.

The Gateway Lodge is a great weekend destination for nature lovers. It is located within Cook Forest, an 8,500-acre expanse of beautiful wilderness in Cooksburg, PA. When visiting in the summer months, be sure to take advantage of the horseback riding, hiking, kayaking, bird watching, and swimming available. Once you’re tired and ready for a break, head back to the lodge and relax before dinner.

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The cozy front porch is adorned with white lights and lanterns.

The restaurant in the lodge is an amazing farm-to-table organic experience. There are gluten-free and vegetarian options as well. If you enjoy wine, the restaurant has been awarded the “Wine List of Excellence” by Wine Spectator. The country breakfast menu includes options such as French toast, a spinach egg bake, fireside oatmeal, an eggy sandwich, fruit, coffee, tea, and more.

As an active person, I love when my vacations mix adventure with relaxation; this is something The Gateway Lodge does very well. I like spending my days outside and spending the evenings relaxing comfortably by the fire. I would highly recommend The Gateway Lodge for any nature lover!

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For more information, visit The Gateway Lodge’s website here.

Green Your Beauty Routine: EcoTools

Hi everyone! In this new series, I’m going to discuss how you can add eco-friendly and low-toxic beauty items to your daily routine. This post will focus on the EcoTools company, whose brushes I have used (and loved!) for several years.

A varied selection of high-quality brushes is essential in your makeup bag. EcoTools provides a broad selection of fantastic brushes with purpose.

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Why do I love my EcoTools brushes? First of all, and importantly, they work very well. The brushes are extremely soft, sturdy, and are easy to clean. The construction and philosophy behind the brushes, though, make them even better. EcoTools brushes are cruelty-free, meaning no animals are harmed during their production. Although most of the brush is made with renewable bamboo, the aluminum and plastic parts are made with recycled materials. Also very cool: their packaging is made with tree-free paper (they use a cotton and bamboo pulp mix instead).

Follow along as I review eco-friendly and low-toxin makeup and beauty products over the next few weeks. Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments!