Fire Island 2017


Welcome back to Tantalizingly Tasteful!

Vacations can be hard to take, especially when you’re a young college student who’s summer job hasn’t started yet. Planning a vacation around everyone else’s schedules makes things even harder. Enter the staycation, a term we’ve all become familiar with by now. Vacationing in your own local vicinity. It’s (more) affordable and easy to plan, and a decent substitute when jetting off somewhere just isn’t possible.

It’s hard to believe that a week ago, I was sitting on the beach in Fire Island. All there was to worry about was tanning evenly and listening to good music. No cars, no parents, no responsibilities, no worries.  The ultimate staycation.

Here’s a little look into last week’s staycation on Fire Island!

Wednesday, May 31

The four of us gathered at Torie’s house so we could drive to the ferry, a quick half-hour trip. It was Torie, Dani, Lauren and I. We shoved duffle bags and coolers into the drunk and drove off to catch our early evening ferry.

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Of course the trip started with us packed into a car! From left to right: Torie, me, Lauren and Dani

I used to get boat sick when I was younger, but thankfully, that’s no longer the case. The ferry has become one of the best parts of the trip to Fire Island. I love the view of the ocean, the smell of the salt water, the feel of the breeze. It’s so relaxing and really gets you in the mood to relax on the beach. Plus, it’s the perfect place for the first photoshoot of the getaway!

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A shot of Dani and I on the ferry

We finally set foot on Fire Island around 6:30 or so, so we had missed out on the beach for the day. It can get pretty cold at night, so we went to the house (borrowed from a family friend of Dani’s who only goes on the weekends), unpacked, and ate dinner on the deck. We had a fantastic view of the sunset.

We finished off our night with a walk around the neighborhood. We usually walk into town, but this time around, we walked the opposite direction, choosing our turns randomly. We ended up at the beach for a late-night chat. When we were tired, we went back to the house and cuddled up for the night.

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My outfit of the day! Top: Mossimo; Jeans: Old Navy; Jacket: 1st Kiss; Sandals: Steve Madden; Headband: Target

Thursday, June 1

Dani is an early riser. I, on the other hand, am not. But, she insisted we get up early and take a walk, so Torie, Lauren and I obliged. We walked through town to discover yet another part of the neighborhood. On our walk, we found a school that we didn’t know existed. This gave us a new task: find a Fire Island local. We had so many questions about their lives in the off-seasons, but we couldn’t seem to find any answers. We asked every store employee we ran into if they were a year-rounder or not, and even though none of them were, we were able to answer some of our questions.

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Naturally our walk included a photoshoot! From left to right: Torie, Lauren and I

We found this great market, The Pantry, that we had never been to before, and were thrilled to get our hands on some iced coffee. We continued walking through town, this time stopping to enjoy some local art and scenery.

 

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Torie and I loving life… and our iced coffee! Yes, that says “life,” Torie’s just covering the l.

 

Then, it was finally time for the beach. We changed into our bathing suits, packed our beach bags, and walked the short walk to the beach. Before long, I was laying under the sun, listening to the waves crash. The sun was strong and the water was cold, so it was the perfect balance. Before long, we were met by Dani’s friend, Rachel, who joined us for sunbathing and photoshoots.

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Love my friends and this picture! From left to right: Lauren, Dani, Torie and I
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The cold water couldn’t keep me away! Bathing suit: Clean Water; Top: American Eagle; Sunglasses: Tilly’s; Hat: Powerfect
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A peek at the back of my suit while cuddling Dani

After the beach, we went back to the house to clean up for our one fancy dinner out. We all wanted to look trendy and fashionable, like one should when on vacation with their fabulous friends. We walked through town, trying to find a place to eat and to learn more about the locals. And, of course, we stopped for more photos.

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A shot of the five of us captured by a lovely lady who stopped for us. From left to right: Rachel, me, Dani, Torie and Lauren
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My outfit for the night. Romper: Xhilaration; Jacket: 1st Kiss; Sandals: Steve Madden; Wristlet: Kenneth Cole Reaction; Sunglasses: Tilly’s
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Had to stop for a (fabulous) snapshot of Lauren and I!

We ultimately decided on a restaurant called the Island Mermaid, where we met the owner and were challenged to find a grammar mistake in his writing. (Please, do not get me started on this, because I found so many that Torie confiscated the articles from me). We sat outside, which meant an awesome view, and just enjoyed each other’s company. Oh, and the food! It was such a great night, if you ask me.

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The sunset view from our table was stunning!
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The only thing that could beat our sunset view was my view! From left to right: Torie, Rachel, Dani and Lauren
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My delicious meal, called the Gourmet Burger (no bun!), which was served with a mixed green salad and garlic mashed potatoes

After dinner, we walked further into town to go into my usual Fire Island ice cream shop, Scoops. Once we were all served, we headed back to the house, where we played some games (how many Target departments can you name without repeats?) and talked until it was time for bed.

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LOVE Scoop’s Birthday Cake ice cream!

Friday, June 2

We woke up early on our last morning so we could enjoy it as much as possible. We tidied up the house so it would be ready for the owners that afternoon, and then got to the beach to repeat the previous day’s routine.

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Dani and I wearing “The Bathing Suit,” as we refer to it.
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Seriously, keeping me out of the water is a difficult feat.
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Dani couldn’t resist a selfie of her two worlds colliding! From left to right: (front) Dani; (back) Lauren, Rachel, Torie and I

When we got back to the house, we packed our stuff and finally got to meet the incredible woman who lets us borrow her house when she’s not there. Dani and Rachel were staying an extra night, so Torie, Lauren and I grabbed our bags, said our goodbyes, and headed for the ferry… where we waited an hour and half because we misread the schedule.

Grey storm clouds hung over us as we boarded the ferry. We were leaving our vacation behind. It had been relaxing, fun and memorable, with lots of laughs and new catchphrases (right, “LAAAADIES?”). But, of course, I couldn’t miss out on one, last photoshoot opportunity.

 

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Torie took this after much convincing. Bathing suit: Merona; Top: American Eagle; Pants: H&M; Jacket: 1st Kiss; Sandals: Steve Madden; Sunglasses: Tilly’s

 

It’s only been a week and I’m already ready to go back. I miss the sun and the sand and the sea… and it doesn’t help that the weather these days has been iffy. But until I go back, I’ve got some other things to plan for, like Camp St. Paul in just two weeks! Well, I guess I’ll see you next summer, Fire Island.

xx,

Toni

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Rebranding Me: A Jumpstart


So, as it turns out, I am terrible at resolutions. If you recall from my New Year’s Resolution post, I made a goal to post on Tantalizingly Tasteful every Friday. Well, I’ve gone nearly two months without a post. And that’s not the only goal I didn’t follow through on.

While I was gone, I turned 20 — which means I’m officially an adult. *gulp* I went back to school, and I’ve honestly been having a great semester. Just like last semester, I’m working on a lot of awesome things that are making me super busy. But that’s not an excuse to get lazy with taking care of myself and my blog.

 

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A picture of me from my 20th birthday celebration, taken by my beautiful best friend Lauren. Thanks to my other best friend Ian for the wonderful “20” balloons. Seriously, best birthday ever!!

 

In the last few years, I have been much more open about my health struggles, both physical and emotional, and I’d like to continue that trend. While my emotional and mental health have noticeably improved this semester, my physical health has noticeably… not. I went on an amazing vacation to Punta Cana with my entire family (21 people total!), but when I got back, I brought that “who cares” attitude home with me. Since then, I’ve been eating whatever I want without considering the impact it might have on my body. My visits to the gym have been far and few between. And I’m starting to feel the difference. My legs hurt and I’m more tired. I want to make a change, but change is hard. Why would I want to make my life any more difficult than it already is if I’m doing alright with what I’ve got?

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A photo with my entire family in Punta Cana! Yes, we planned the white shirts and blue jeans.

The fact of the matter is that I’m not alright with what I’ve got, and sometimes, you just need a jumpstart to help you realize that.

My friend Caroline sent me a really awesome blog post the other day that served as my jumpstart. Lee Tilghman, the blogger behind leefromamerica.com, recently posted a blog post about living with PCOS. I read it and, of course, shared her pain. But one thing I noticed is that Lee has done more to help her body in just a year of knowing about her disorder than I have done in eight whole years. It really opened my eyes to what I can be doing to help myself combat the symptoms of PCOS that I see and inspired me to get started.

I don’t think I would have been inspired to make a change if Caroline hadn’t sent me that text. This is why we need jumpstarts. The littlest things in our lives can inspire us to make changes, as scary as change can be. For those of you who are tired of dragging your feet through life, take this as your jumpstart. I’m challenging you to join me as I renew my desire to better myself and my life. It’s nearly Spring anyways, which means it’s time for new beginnings. So, who’s with me? Let me know, and let’s take on these challenges together!

xx,

Toni
Email: tantilizinglytasteful@gmail.com
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Rebranding Me: Learning to Love Myself


Welcome back to Tantalizingly Tasteful! Today I want to talk about something a little bit out of the ordinary for me: body image and self-confidence. Being confident in yourself and your abilities is much easier said than done, but I think the process of getting there is something that needs to be discussed. I want to share my own personal story with you. This is something I’ve been working on for about a year now, and I’m honestly still a little hesitant, but I know that so many people go through the same kind of situation and I want to open up the discussion. So, here goes.

I’ve spent my whole life being overweight. I knew in kindergarten that I was different from the other girls in the class. When I walked, my shorts would ride up my thighs (what has affectionately been known as thwedgie in my family), I couldn’t run as fast on the soccer field, and I couldn’t easily be lifted up. But as a kindergartner, you don’t really understand that having a bit more body fat than the other girls in class is going to make you stand out in a bad way.  I was also one of the only kids in class that wore glasses, and to five-year-old me, that made me “uncool.” I would play a game with my friends in which I would take my glasses off and say “cool Toni,” then put them back on and say “nerdy Toni.” How did I get the impression that a pair of glasses defined who I was?

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A shot from elementary school field day, complete with my classic “thwedgie.”

In elementary school, I was the first of my friends to wear a bra, and it wasn’t because I was the first to hit puberty. And yet, I still didn’t really think anything was too wrong with me. It didn’t really hit me until fourth grade, when a “popular” girl I considered a friend nicknamed me Jell-O. I didn’t understand why she was calling me that, so I was thrilled to think that I had finally made it into the “cool girls” crowd. When I got home that night, I excitedly told my parents about my new nickname, only to have them explain to me that it wasn’t a very great nickname to have. I was incredibly hurt to think that the people that I considered friends saw me that way and, even worse, seemed to be out to make fun of me because of what I weighed. I think about that realization a lot.

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This one’s from my cousin Effie’s wedding. I was 11 and a junior bridesmaid. I had gained weight between the fitting and the actual wedding, so my dress ripped during cocktail hour. I was humiliated.

Fast forward to middle school, when I just continued to gain weight and started growing facial hair due to polycystic ovarian syndrome. At that point, it had become more common knowledge to me that I was the heavier friend, and while my friends really didn’t have anything to say about my “physique,” it was quite evident that I was just different and sometimes had to be left out. I could never share clothes with my friends, I could never eat as much as my friends, I struggled to keep up with them in sports. I had girls pull my bra strap and laugh at me because my bra wasn’t supportive enough for my chest. One of my best friends pointed out to the entire gym class that I was growing a beard. I started to become ashamed of my body, a feeling that I would never wish on anyone. And instead of combating my issues with an improved diet and more exercise, I comforted myself the only way I knew how: food.

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A photo of my mother, my youngest brother and I at a bat mitzvah. Clearly I did not know what a bra was.

In high school, I tried to pretend that I was more comfortable with my body. I had accepted that I was just bigger than my friends, but my weight was still a source of contention with my family. My parents have always been super supportive, and when they worried about my weight, it was always for the sake of my health and not my appearance, but it was (and still is) a sore topic for me. My grandmother was notorious for not giving me a second serving of food to keep me from gaining weight. My parents often told me that certain clothes just weren’t meant for my body type. Even my five-year-old cousin told me I was fat. For me, realizing that even my family remarked that I was overweight was heartbreaking. I felt like no one saw me for my personality or interests, but only saw me as the girl who needed to lay off the pasta and hit the gym. This realization brought on a rough time of self-doubt, self-loathing, depression, and self-harm. When I finally got myself out of that slump, I decided I was going to take ownership of who I was and focus on bettering myself and getting healthy, not necessarily skinny. I told my parents that I needed them to support me despite what I looked like or what I decided to wear. I thought this inner transformation would be good for me in so many ways.

Here’s a picture from marching band in ninth grade. I remember loving this picture because I thought my hair looked so long.

But then prom season hit, and two years in a row, no one asked me to be their date. And I couldn’t help but attribute it to the fact that nobody wanted to go with the fat girl. Of course, I was heartbroken, and debated not going to prom both years, but ultimately I went and had a great time. But the idea still remains in my head that no one wants to date me or be friends with me because of my weight.

A picture of me, alone, at senior prom. Luckily I still had a great time.

I had a similar experience at the beginning of college. Before I moved in, I was considering joining a sorority, but at the actual club fair, I noticed that no sorority sisters even considered approaching me. Instead, they were approaching the teeny tiny skinny girls, the girls who were the “populars” that would have made fun of me in elementary and middle school. It was then that I realized that my body weight can sometimes prevent me from achieving everything I would’ve liked to, and it was then that I was inspired to write this post.

This is one of my favorite selfies from freshman year. Before I found my close friends, I would go home every weekend because I felt so out of place.

That was a year ago, during my very first semester of college. I had completely different friends, completely different interests, and a completely different outlook on life. Originally, this post was supposed to be a wake-up call to me and to anyone reading, a cautionary tale that would hopefully teach people that they should keep themselves from getting heavy so they can prevent themselves from getting hurt. Now, I see things very differently.

It’s taken me a long time, but I’m finally getting to the point that I’m realizing I love the person I am. There may be things I want to change and things that I regret doing, but I’ve learned over the years (and especially the last six months) that the only person I need approval, attention, and love from is myself. The only person who can help me is myself. It also helps that the friends I have now like me the way I am, so I’m not forcing myself to be something I’m not.

I wish I could detail how I got myself to this point, but honestly, I think it was just spurred by a sudden realization that if I can’t love myself for who I am, no one else will. I do have some recommendations, though, that I know have helped me feel happier and more confident and empowered.

  1. Read self-help books: Yes, this is corny, but after reading even a few pages of self-help books, I always feel refreshed and inspired. One of my favorites is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, even though I haven’t even finished it yet. I used to read it every night before bed during the spring semester of my freshman year, and it made me feel like I could take on the world just the way I am. Some more on my list of books to read are Yes Please by Amy Poehler and Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur.

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    You can get your copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller for $10.96 at Barnes and Noble.
  2. Work out: I’ve been talking about this up and down for the last six months, but working out has made me feel a million times better about myself. Every time I work out, I go into beast mode, and I feel like I can accomplish anything. Find an exercise routine you love and stick to it. Not only is it good for your body, but it’s also good for your soul.
  3. Listen to pump-up music: I literally have a playlist called “I DESERVE BETTER” that’s filled with songs that make me feel better and remind me that I am worth the work and worth being treated well. It’s filled with some of my favorite songs, like Hair and Shoutout to My Ex by Little Mix, Stronger by Britney Spears, and Down in the Dumps by Walk the Moon. I highly recommend putting together a playlist that makes you feel great about yourself and helps pick you back up when you start to fall.
  4. Get motivational wallpapers: Inspirational phone backgrounds and computer wallpapers are my guilty pleasure. I like to change them every month just to get something a little different. I always find it so inspiring to turn on my phone or laptop and get some sort of pick-me-up.

    This is the wallpaper on my laptop right now and I love turning it on and seeing this.
  5. Don’t take things so personally: I’ve always been a very sensitive person, and I always let people’s reactions to me affect the way I feel about myself and everything around me. Recently, I’ve come to the realization that you don’t always know what other people are going through, so you can’t hold things against them or let them get you down. Like I said, the only person’s validation that matters is yours, so don’t let yourself get down because of a stupid comment someone else said. When I dyed my hair purpley about a year ago, one of my best friends made a comment that if I lay down on the grass, it would look like Barney. His opinion meant a lot to me at the time, and I was upset about it for a while. Since then, I’ve realized that it’s my hair, not his, and if I like the way it looks, I don’t have to really consider his opinion.
  6. Do what you’re passionate about: Doing things that you love to do and are good at are great for a confidence boost. Plus, if you get involved with something you’re passionate about, you can find other people who are passionate about the same thing and you immediately have something to connect over. When I started writing for my school newspaper last semester (even though it was for class credit), I met so many awesome people who were also passionate about journalism. It was really inspiring and motivating for me to get pointers from them and just be surrounded by people who loved to interview people and write just as much as I do.
  7. Journal: One of the best ways to release negativity is to write it down. I find that every time I write down what’s bothering me, I can better recognize what the problem is and then find an appropriate way to deal with it. Also, I can write down all the positives in my life and reread them if I start feeling down. I also love picking pretty journals that inspire me to write and work hard, like this one from Barnes and Noble.

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    Be Awesome Today Bound Lined Journal, $9.95 at Barnes and Noble
  8. Find support: The biggest thing that has helped me come to terms with the person that I am has been my religion. I was born and raised Greek Orthodox, but I didn’t really get into learning about my religion until I was 16 and went to Camp St. Paul for the first time. Since then, I’ve become more confident in myself and my abilities because I know that God made me the way I am and only sends me challenges that He knows I can handle. Now, I’m not trying to tell you to start going to church every single day or to convert right this second. All I’m saying is that everyone needs someone or something (healthy!) to bring you back when you start fall. For those of you who are not religious, I’d recommend finding something or someone that always has your back and best interests at heart. I have a handful of really close friends that constantly cheer me on and pick me up when I fall. I’d be nowhere without them. Even my parents are there for me whenever I need them, and I can tell them absolutely anything without them judging me or putting me down. The bottom line is that it feels amazing to know you have people who love and support you all the time and can pick you up if you start doubting yourself.

I hope this post gave you a bit of a look into my life and some inspiration and motivation to start loving yourself completely and entirely. Don’t forget to keep me in the loop as you embark on your journey!!

xx,

Toni
Email: tantilizinglytasteful@gmail.com
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Thanksgiving 2016: A Note of Gratitude


In honor of today’s holiday, I’d like to say thanks. I have been incredibly blessed with so many opportunities, relationships, and circumstances that it is hard for me not to reflect on and be thankful for them.

Aside from being grateful for cute shoes, great lighting, and stylish clothes, I am so incredibly thankful for the opportunities I’ve had in my life. I am blessed to have a roof over my head, food to eat, the right to worship, and access to a college application. I am also so immensely thankful for the people in my life.

To my family:  Thank you for driving me crazy, for being too loud, for being too up in my business. My parents, my brothers, my cousins, my aunts, my uncles, my grandparents.I wouldn’t have you all any other way. My life would be incomplete without my constant companions and supporters. I love you more than words could ever explain.

 

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A photo of me, my brothers and some of our cousins, who are basically my entire world

 

To my childhood friends: Thank you for making me who I am. Our jokes and early memories are what made me into the person I am today. Even if time has passed and we have become more distant than we would like, I will always cherish our special memories.

 

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A blurry shot with my besties since babies, Anastasia and Maria

 

To my high school friends: Thank you for the years of continued laughs, tears and support. Your faces make my heart happy. I am so grateful I have you to talk to, to vent to, to catch up with. You truly are irreplaceable in my life.

 

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My beautiful, smart, and funny Post Puberty group: Dani, Emily, Torie, and Lauren

 

 

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Don’t know where I would be without these crazy kids: Dan, Lauren, and Grant

 

To my Greek friends: Thank you for giving me a group to hang with that shares my passion for my culture. I may get overwhelmed and stressed at times, but you have given me something to care about passionately and totally.

 

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Thankful that GOYA brought Faye, Stacie, Eleni, Athanasia, and Dionisia into my life

 

 

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Love my crazy friends from the Greek and Cypriot Student Association

 

To my college friends: Thank you for putting up with me 24/7 in a way that no one else has ever had to do. From class to the suite to club meetings, you have my back and best interest at heart. Thank you for knowing how to cheer me up and make me smile when I need it most.

 

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The Mad Wicked Tight Deadass Team of Toscanini: Arjun, Alyssa, Marissa, and Mike

 

 

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A blurry selfie with my best friend and biggest supporter, Ian

 

To my Camp St. Paul family: Thank you for giving me a place to belong, a place where I can return year after year. You are my solace. Thank you for teaching me the importance of being faithful in relationships and in life in general. Thank you for giving me endless amounts of hope, love, kindness, and support.

 

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Missing this moment from the first week of Camp St. Paul 2016

 

To my teachers, professors, and mentors: Thank you for believing in me and pushing me to try new things and break boundaries. I have learned so much over the last 19 years, and a lot of it has been from you. Thank you for showing me the beauty and importance of knowledge.

 

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Incredibly grateful that one of my mentors, Maria, started out as my camp counselor and is now also one of my best friends

 

To my Tasters: Thank you for joining me on this journey. My blogging has been spotty at best, but so many of you have stuck by me through it all. I am endlessly and inexpressibly grateful for your support, love, and care. I am genuinely looking forward to many more blog posts and interactions with you all. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!

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Happy Thanksgiving all!

xx,

Toni

Email: tantilizinglytasteful@gmail.com

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Rebranding Me: Beginning A Journey of Self-Discovery


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“Above all, remember to love yourself.”

My hair used to be brown, then it was brassy red, then the color of red wine, then a dark brown that really looked like black, and now it’s a combination of the four. It occurred to me around the time that I started dyeing my hair that I wasn’t really sure who I was. Sure, I had a vague idea of what I liked and disliked, but I began to realize that many of my “opinions” were actually just the regurgitated words and thoughts of friends and family. I had never consciously sat down and decided exactly what it was that Toni thought, admired or despised, I just repeated what I heard everyone else around me say.

The problem with me not knowing was that if I didn’t know who I was, no one else did either. I have friends that are so completely sure of who they are that you can describe them in a nutshell just minutes after meeting them. I, however, was not one of those people. I blurred the lines of fashion styles, personality, sense of humor. And so I decided, it was about time I defined myself.

I’ve struggled with self-esteem issues since my early teenage years. I was never pretty enough, never funny enough, never well-liked enough, etc. Throughout high school, I compared myself to my friends and classmates, and drove myself insane. I started college out pretty much the same way, until I got tired of that same old routine. I soon realized that the reason I was always so unhappy was that I was comparing myself to other individuals, each of whom was unique and beautiful in their own way. The issue with that is that I was not seeing any of those people in their own context, or even myself in my own context. In other words, I was failing to realize that what may work for one person in their life does not necessarily work for me in mine, and I was making myself unhappy.

That’s when I decided it was time to make a change. I didn’t want to feel lost or discouraged anymore. I wanted to find out who the real Toni was, imperfections and all. And this blog is the (ongoing) story of how I took my first real steps towards rebranding myself.

I’d like to give a shout-out to my mom. A few months ago, I decided I wanted to focus on my health– emotional, physical and mental. She suggested that, in order to keep myself motivated and accountable, I do what I do best and write about my journey. I’m really ready now to tackle this challenge head on. So here I am. Thanks, Mom, here’s to you.

This is just a little bit of background information to explain my blog’s new look and focus. My hope is to update the blog every few days with inspiration, ideas and plans. I hope that these posts will not only help me stay accountable and motivated, but that it will also help other people get out of their ruts and find out who they are.

 

Just a little motivation I found on Tumblr

 

To anyone reading this: We’re in this together. If there’s something you want to read or see from me, or something you want to share, let me know. I’ll leave my contact info below so you can reach me. If you put the work in, and you continue to love yourself, this journey will be worth your while. Best of luck to you. Looking forward to seeing your progress and mine.

xx,

Toni

Email: tantilizinglytasteful@gmail.com

Twitter: @TTasteful

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