Thursday, August 18, 2022

Back to School at Triad Goodwill

triad goodwill, thrift tips, thrifting, thrifting tips, back to school on a budget, mom blogger

This post is in partnership with and sponsored by Triad Goodwill.

Happy Thursday! Did y'all know that yesterday, August 17, was National Thrift Shop Day?! I certainly did and of course, I celebrated with a trip to my local Triad Goodwill to do some treasure hunting. I absolutely love the thrill of the thrift! I love going thrifting just to look but I also really love going with a specific purpose. Whether it's finding vases for my flower stand, hunting for holiday decor, prepping for a project... I just enjoy finding things that I need for a great price! Well, back to school is no exception. Getting my girls ready to go back to school is one of my favorite reasons to head to Triad Goodwill! If you are a parent or guardian, you know that heading back to school can be super expensive. From school supplies to backpacks to clothes, there's so much they need! Well, today I am going to share how I prepped my girls for back to school on a budget and some of my personal thrifting tips that will help you score at thrift store!

My girls have grown up in secondhand clothing for the most part... besides the few years that I made them dress the same every single day, lol. They honestly prefer to thrift their clothing because they are able to find unique apparel that not every single person in their class is wearing. We often go into regular retail stores and leave empty handed because they can't find anything that no one else already has. I feel like thrifting has helped my girls define their own personal style because there's so many options at your fingertips when you are thrifting. You see a variety of brands and clothing styles right in front of you so you aren't limited to just one specific look. They love to shop for themselves but they also always ask if I got them anything when they know I've been shopping at Triad Goodwill! 

When shopping for clothes specifically, we love to go to several Triad Goodwill locations in the same day. You can easily find the nearest location to you here! In the photo above, we drove a little farther to a different city and she scored so many great tees that she absolutely loved. She was even shopping in an all thrifted look from Triad Goodwill! Julianna is currently in the oversized, comfy tees, and athletic shorts phase and these kind of items are so easy to thrift. She was so excited about her finds at this location that we hopped to two more Triad Goodwill locations and found everything we needed clothing wise to get her back to school ready! Best part? Everything was less than $50!

Olivia didn't need as many new items for back to school because we believe in hand me downs and she gets so many of them from her older sister! However, we love letting her hunt for pieces at Triad Goodwill that are unique to her personal style. She absolutely loves unicorns and anything that sparkles so she was so excited to add some new magical items to her back to school wardrobe. I even found her the cutest unicorn pop it purse to carry her hand sanitizer and lip products in style!

I love shopping for clothing and shoes at Triad Goodwill to get back to school ready but they also have other items that will save you so much money (...and who doesn't love that?!). Did you know you can find folders and binders there? I was able to score several school supply items for a fraction of the price I would have paid at a regular retail store! The items I found were in perfect condition. I also spotted water bottles, lunch boxes, and backpacks! I even found a letter board that is just like the one I recently purchased that would be great for documenting the first day of school. Is your student headed to PE class? I found great quality athletic wear from all of my favorite brands! Triad Goodwill makes back to school easy and oh so affordable!

I've sprinkled tips throughout this post but if you are new to thrifting and need some help getting started on your thrifting journey, this part of the post is for you! These are some of my top tips for becoming a savvy thriftanista at Triad Goodwill!

1. Go often! To find the best stuff you have to go thrifting on a regular basis so that you don't miss out on any great finds. I'm pretty lucky and my favorite Triad Goodwill is less than five minutes away from my house. I always go at least once a week but sometimes I go three or four times in one week depending on my schedule. My store restocks multiple times a day so there's always something new to find!

2. Shop for the whole family! I find amazing clothes for the girls at thrift stores! Almost everything they are wearing in all of the photos in today's post is from Triad Goodwill. We have found such cute things for them there!

3. Get a Preferred Customer Card! For $20 per year, you will save 15% off every time you shop at Triad Goodwill. How amazing is that?! This is a must have!

4. Have something in mind that you are looking for to focus your search. It can be really overwhelming to enter a thrift store if you aren't used to searching through stuff to find a bargain. Focus on jeans if that's what you need or a certain item that you need for your home.

5. This one might seem silly but I have found it to be a helpful reminder: look up and look down. I have found some of the best items when I looked up at the very top shelves and when I've squatted down to see what's on the very bottom shelves. The treasures are everywhere!

6. Sizing is so different from brand to brand so don't be afraid to try on a large if you typically wear a small. I've found some really great items by giving an item that wasn't my size a chance.

7. Most people say they don't have the patience to go through all of the stuff so here's a trick I use. I look at the fabric. You can tell a lot about the quality and condition of an item by just looking at the fabric. I don't bother even looking at anything that looks worn out, faded, or the fabric doesn't look like it's of good quality. Josh makes fun of me for this one, but I also just go down the aisle and touch the fabric to see if it's good quality. Good quality = good feeling fabric!

8. Check out the racks and carts of stuff that hasn't been put out yet. I always find amazing stuff there because no one has looked through it yet.

9. Styling your thrifted items is the fun part. You can make a thrifted item work with the latest trends but more importantly it's such a budget friendly way to fill gaps in your wardrobe. If you know you need a pair of shorts or a black dress, key an eye out for those items to get them at Triad Goodwill.

10. Have fun! Thrifting is supposed to be a fun and exciting experience. You just never know what you might find when you are shopping at Triad Goodwill!

I hope I have inspired you to head to your closest Triad Goodwill location to get your kids or yourself back to school ready! Thanks so much for stopping by and I hope you have a great day!

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

St. John Beaches and More

 st. john, st. john travel guide, nc blogger, virgin islands

Hey y'all! Today is third part of my St. John travel series and this post is going to be all about the beaches... and more. We arrived in St. John on June 30 and flew home on July 9 so we had about eight full days to enjoy everything the island has to offer. Even though it's a really small island, we still didn't get a chance to see and experience it all. 

Let's talk beaches first...

1. Maho Bay: This was the first beach we visited and we fell in love with it immediately! If you want to see sea turtles, this is where you need to go. You will definitely see them here! You can just swim in the calm waters and see there little heads pop up just a few feet away from you. Seeing the sea turtles never ceased to amaze me and was one of my very favorite parts of this whole vacation! As pictured above, you can rent a clear bottom kayak right across the street the beach area and it's only $30 for 2 hours. We saw so many sea turtles while we were kayaking! I literally squealed every single time I saw one. This particular beach can get a little crowded so this is one that you will want to get to early (around 9am or so) for good parking and a nice shady spot. There's lots of trees for shade right along the beach so all you need is something to sit on and of course, your reef safe mineral sunscreen.  Our favorite bar was at Maho and there's also a gift shop and food available for purchase. We loved this beach so much that we came back at least 4-5 more times!

2. Cinnamon Bay: Cinnamon Bay is just up the road from Maho Bay and it's also a gorgeous beach! There's also some ruins right on the beach to check out. Besides the beach being gorgeous, there's lots of parking here and a great bathroom... and you know this is important when you are spending the day at the beach. One of the days that we came here, it had been raining off and on all day long so we were able to see the biggest crabs that I have ever seen in my whole life right along the walking path to the beach. The wildlife was definitely one of the most amazing things to observe in St. John!

3. Trunk Bay: Next up along the North Shore is Trunk Bay. It's just minutes from Cinnamon Bay so we visited both of these beaches on the same day. The first time we came to Trunk, it was rainy and it made the water a little rough. But thankfully, we decided to give it another try on a sunny day and I'm so glad we did! It was incredibly beautiful and the water was so calm on our second visit. At Trunk, there's also a snorkeling trail that guides you to see some amazing fish. It's definitely a great snorkel spot! There's not a lot of parking here so it's another place that you will want to get to early to secure a spot and yes, it also has great bathrooms and a foot rinse (which is essential after a day in the sand). There were also food, drinks, and snacks available to purchase here.

4. Hansen Bay: Hansen is located on the East side of the island and it was a journey to get to for sure! Super steep hills and lots of goat sightings later, we made it there. This beach is privately owned but it's open to the public to enjoy. So, there's plenty of parking and a portable bathroom here. They have tents with lounge chairs as well as picnic tables so it's great spot to visit if you forget your chairs or don't have any to use. There's also water sports equipment to rent as well. Everything is honor system so you just put your money to use the amenities in the donation box on the beach. The son of the owner came over when we arrived, greeted us, and explained how everything worked there. He was super kind and helpful. It was such a quiet and relaxing spot! I think we were only one of three or four other families on the whole beach. I would definitely recommend visiting this beach!

5. Salt Pond Bay: This beach is quite the adventure! From the parking area, you have to walk down a trail to get there. This trail is rocky and it's downhill to the beach. You definitely have to be careful but thankfully it isn't too long of a journey. The beach is absolutely gorgeous (the donkeys even loved this place because they were just right on the beach) and there's so much to see in this area! You have to go check out the Salt Pond. The water is pink and you can just pick up the sea salt at the edge of the water. You can also access several different hiking trails from here so pack a cooler and prepare to spend the day. There are bathrooms available here as well. It's such a cool spot and a must visit while in St. John!

Like I mentioned above, there's so many trails on St. John to explore. One of the more challenging ones is Reef Bay Trail, which leads you to petroglyphs. We weren't prepared for that trail because no one besides Josh had proper footwear to take on a slippery trail but pack some good sneakers or boots if you love an adventurous trail experience and go do that one! There's also so many ruins from sugar cane factories to see all over the island so we went to see several of those, including Annaberg. It's a short walk but there's so much to see and some really great views! We could even see a great view of the British Virgin Islands from the area where the girls were standing in the picture below. We also explored some of the other trails around this area.

We also did a boat charter for Josh's birthday during our trip. We booked our charter through Voodoo and chose the Laid Back Lime Out excursion. This charter was on a catamaran boat that offered an open bar, fruit platter, snorkeling stops (plus equipment), and a stop at Lime Out for a late lunch of the most delicious tacos. There were about 30 people on this charter with us our girls were only two or three children. While we loved this charter and totally think it's family friendly, I don't think I would chose it again with children. I think there are probably other charters that are more family focused that the kids would have enjoyed even more than this one. I say all of that but really, it was an incredible excursion that I'm really glad we got to experience it. We even got to see Kenny Chesney's St. John property from the boat, which was incredibly impressive!

And, that's it! It's really hard to put 10 days into 3 blog posts because there's so much more I could say and share. But, to close out, I'll answer the two most asked questions about this trip. The first one was would I go back again... and the answer is 100% YES! I absolutely fell in love with this island. The water, the mountains, the animals. All of it. It's just a magical place! I sincerely hope to go back sometime in the future. And the second most asked question, do I like Puerto Rico or St. John better... and that question is much harder to answer. Puerto Rico is special to me because I fell in love with the culture and the beauty of the island. Puerto Rico is also important to my husband because of his family connection there. If you are looking for a cultural experience and honestly, a more affordable place to vacation, I would recommend Puerto Rico. Josh and I talk about moving there one day because we love it so much! I love both places for different reasons but the shared reason would be they are both incredibly beautiful and have so much to offer. We are hoping to keep exploring next summer by taking our first visit to Europe. And yes, we will be taking our girls because they love to explore too! Keep on adventuring, y'all. There's so much beautiful world to see!

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

St. John Food and Drink

st. john, st. john travel guide, nc blogger, virgin islands

Hey y'all! I hope your week is off to a great start! I am back to share the second part of my St. John series. Today is all about food and drink! First and foremost, food is extremely expensive in St. John, especially compared to where I live in North Carolina. This honestly came as a shock to me and I definitely didn't budget enough for food. So, I'm going to break down what I learned and give you some tips to be better prepared than I was!

1. Check a bag of all (or at least mostly) non-perishable items. My husband was convinced that we needed to do this and I'm glad we did bring some of our own food. On St. John, there aren't any large grocery stores, just small markets. Everything is imported into St. John so that makes everything so much more expensive. For example, a bag of chips would be at least eight dollars, a box of cereal almost ten dollars, and a load of bread would cost you around six dollars. We definitely had sticker shock the night we arrived and went to the local market to pick up some groceries. I'm so thankful we packed tons of snack foods, including breakfast bars, meat sticks, veggie straws, nuts, and more.

2. Our original plan was to cook as many of our meals as possible to save money but we found that buying groceries was really more expensive than just going out to dinner eat night. We prepared our own breakfasts at our Airbnb (cereal, eggs, oatmeal), made sandwiches to take to go for lunch while we adventured, and then we went out to dinner each evening, sometimes sharing a plate to avoid waste and save money. I'll be sharing some of our favorite places to eat in the second half of this post.

3. Skip buying bottled water and buy gallons of filtered water instead. We brought our own reusable water cups from home and just refilled those. We also kept a gallon frozen and used it as "ice" in our cooler each day to keep the items inside cold. The water on tap in St. John is collected rain water so that water isn't for drinking;  it's only for bathing, brushing teeth, and washing dishes.

The food and drink scene in St. John is amazing! I had my first painkiller in St. Thomas while we waited for our ferry and it was delicious. The Virgin Islands are known for the painkiller; it's a mix of orange juice, pineapple juice, rum, and cream of coconut. It's topped with nutmeg! You can find a painkiller at any bar or restaurant. The seltzer above was my drink of choice during our trip. I especially loved this hibiscus pomegranate but it also comes in several other great flavors!

Our favorite bar was Paddle-In which was at Maho Crossroads, it's just across the street from Maho Bay (which was our very favorite beach that I will be sharing more about tomorrow). On the first day, we bought these reusable cups because every time you get it refilled, you get a discount on your drink. My personal favorite drink from there was the Pink Taco and Josh loved the Banana Hammock.

We also made quite a few trips to a place called Colombo's. It was on the way to some of our favorite beaches and they had the best smoothies! I also loved their cold brew. They also serve some other breakfast food options and smoothie bowls as well. Be sure to try the Maho Bay smoothie!

Ok, now let's talk food. Like I mentioned above, we went out to dinner each night that we were at St. John. Here's a roundup of where we ate...

1. Skinny Legs was our personal favorite! We went here on our first night in St. John and I think we went back at least three more times. It was laid back, great food (the salad picture from the top of this post is from there), excellent drinks, and good prices. It was also so fun seeing the little chickens walking around. We loved it!

2. Shambles was also delicious! The girls got cheese pizza to share and we got the BBQ. I would highly recommend it and be sure to try out the coleslaw!

3. Lime Out is an experience in itself! We technically had Lime Out for a late lunch when we took a boat excursion for Josh's birthday (I'll share more about the boat tomorrow). Lime Out is only accessible by boat so you'll have to book a boat to take you there to experience it but honestly, it's a must if you are visiting St. John! The tacos are incredible. Such great and unique flavors!

4. The Windmill is a spot you must go but not really for the food, you go for the view! The food was mediocre but the view was incredible. It's also a fun spot for the kids because there's plenty of things for them to do, including a swing and cornhole.

5. Salty Mongoose was awesome and their staff is incredible! So the first time we went there, a goat literally tried to steal our entire pizza. I had to hold the hot pan of pizza up in order to save it but the goat still managed to swipe Josh's slice of pizza straight from his plate! The goat grabbed the pizza and ran away with it as fast as he could. It was quite the experience! The staff took care of our check and even gave us free drinks when we got stuck here due to our Jeep needing a new battery. It was definitely an eventful night out!

6. Wok on the Beach is right next to Salty Mongoose and they have excellent Asian food! The girls got pizza from Salty Mongoose and we tried a few entrees from Wok on the Beach. Everyone was happy!

And, last but certainly not least, we made a couple visits to Irie Pops and it's a must if you are ever visiting St. John. It's located right near the dock in Cruz Bay. They have ice cream and homemade (amazing) popsicles. I got the jumbie juice with a poptail (passion fruit) and it was so amazing! (This is an alcoholic beverage and you're able to walk around with drinks in St. John.)

Revisiting all our favorite food and drink stops was fun but now I'm hungry, lol. I'll be back tomorrow for the third part of this series where I cover the beaches and more in St. John. Thank you so much for visiting! Have a great day!

Monday, August 15, 2022

St. John Travel and Stay

 st. john, st. john travel guide, nc blogger, virgin islands

Hey y'all! I hope you're doing well! Now, that the busyness of summer has calmed down for me (hello, summer camp) and my girls are officially back in school, I'm back to blogging! I never mean to take so much time off of this space but it just kind of happens. But, the good news is I'm back with lots of fun content to share! First up is St. John! This will be a three part series where I cover all about traveling to St. John (and on St. John) as well as where we stayed for our trip, all of information you need for eating and drinking plus the beaches, and more!

A few things to note before we get started...

St. John is a gorgeous island and it's super special place, especially because two-thirds of the island is a National Park! The locals are kind and laid back. They definitely operate on island time! Be sure to always greet them with a good morning, good afternoon, or good evening. That kindness is much appreciated... everywhere! Also, when you are packing for a trip to St. John, leave the dressy/fancy clothes at home. You won't need them! We lived in swimsuits at the beach and comfy clothes for everything else. Be sure to wear proper clothing over your swimwear when you are leaving the beach areas. You can literally get fined for not being dressed properly, especially when walking around Cruz Bay which is more a downtown kind of a scene. Also, sunscreen! It's super important that you have the correct kind in order to protect the reefs. You can find more information on what's required here but basically you need a mineral sunscreen that is free of Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, and Octocrylene. I stocked up on this kind of sunscreen for our trip and we loved it. It definitely goes on white and takes a little time to rub in but it did a great job of protecting our skin.

First up today is travel and stay. I started planning our trip a little over four months before we departed and during the planning process the thing that I was the most nervous about was actually getting to St. John. But, it was a pretty seamless process.

Here's what you need to know:

1. There isn't an airport on the island of St. John so you have to fly into St. Thomas. 

2. From St. Thomas, you can take a longer taxi ride to Red Hook to take a ferry to St. John or you can take a shorter taxi ride (less than 10 minutes) to Crown Bay to take a ferry from there as well. After pricing it out, it was going to be less expensive to do the shorter taxi ride over to Crown Bay. The ferry from Crown Bay to St. John was about 30 minutes (but it was also a beautiful boat ride). Also, CASH! You will need cash. For the taxi ride, for tips, etc. The ATMs charge high fees so I would definitely recommend bringing cash for the trip so you don't have to worry about finding a place to get it.

3. I would highly recommend purchasing tickets for the ferry in advance and you can do that online here. I think we got lucky with the timing the day we arrived but to be sure you won't be waiting for a long time, buy your ferry tickets as soon as you're able to do so. You can also go ahead and buy your tickets for your return from St. John back to St. Thomas.

4. The ferry brings you right to Cruz Bay, which is the more populated area of the island and this is also where all of the vehicle rental places are. Renting a vehicle is a must for getting around on the island, particularly a AWD/4WD vehicle and I would personally recommend getting a jeep. You will literally see jeeps everywhere you turn and it's because of the terrain on the island. So many steep hills! You will also certainly drive on some rocky paths to get where you are going as well. We rented from Sunshine's Jeep Rental and had a great experience. They picked us up in our jeep rental right at the ferry dock! Also, as soon as you book your trip, you will need to immediately secure a rental because they get gone super fast.

5. Vehicles travel on the left side of the road in St. John. I personally never drove at all during our trip but Josh said you get the hang of it pretty quickly. He also found that traveling on the left gave more visibility on the mountainy turns.

6. There's animals everywhere so drive cautiously! Around every turn there's a super strong possibility of seeing donkeys, goats, chickens, peacocks, and even miniature horses. This was one of my favorite parts of the island! When we headed out each day, we would make guesses on which kind of animal we would see first that day.

After getting our rental vehicle, we traveled to the other side of the island to meet our Airbnb hosts. We rented an Airbnb in the Coral Bay area of St. John. Like I mentioned above, Cruz Bay is the busier side of the island and Coral Bay is more quiet. But honestly, this is a really chill island so you can't go wrong with any area that you decide to stay in. I had really no idea what to expect as far as our Airbnb went because the pictures just really don't do this island justice. We followed our hosts up the the most steep, rocky and bumpy path that I have ever traveled on in my life. I was for sure a little nervous at this point but the views were incredible when we arrived at our place. 

Paradisea has two rental options. The upstairs (the space we stayed at) has a large kitchen, dining room, living room, bathroom, and two bedrooms. There's also a one bedroom rental downstairs but no one was there during our visit so we had the whole property to ourselves. There was a great pool that was a big hit with our kids!

One thing to note: this property did not have air conditioning. We found that a lot of rentals didn't have AC so if that's something you need, be sure to note that when booking a place to stay. Sleeping without AC took a couple of nights to get used to but it was honestly not that bad. We slept with the windows open and the fan blowing. In general we kind of just got used to the no AC life because we ate at outdoor/open air places and spent our days outside. I think our bodies just got accustomed to it and the temperature stayed around 80-85 degrees all day and all night long.

Our rental also was well stocked with a cooler, snorkel gear, beach towels, beach chairs, and so much more. It was so nice to not have all of those amenities and not having to worry about rental or purchasing them on the island. We also really loved the outdoor shower and huge outdoor deck spaces. I am really missing these incredible views for my morning coffee! I'll be back tomorrow to share all about food and drink on the island. Thanks for stopping by and let me know if you have any questions!