Spring Break in Nashville, Part 1: Belle Meade Plantation

This last week was my college’s spring break, and to celebrate the sunny days ahead, I took a trip to Nashville, Tennessee, for a couple of days! I’d like to share a few highlights of the trip in this article series, and hopefully it’ll inspire you to check out these great sites if you ever vacation to Nashville!

Once I got to Nashville and got a bite for lunch, the first stop was the Belle Meade Plantation. This plantation was one of the largest estates in Nashville. It operated as a Thoroughbred farm, and lineage from infamous racehorses such as Secretariat and Seabiscuit can be traced back to the farm. In fact, a majority of Kentucky Derby winners can trace their bloodlines back to Belle Meade!

This site rests on 30 acres of land, and has 10 outbuildings to explore, including a children’s playhouse, the original 1807 log cabin, two-room slave cabin, and more. You’re also able to explore the mansion itself, though pictures are not allowed on the inside. Our tour guide informed us that the furniture and decorations are either original, from the family’s descendants, or from the same time period. I have to give a kudos for the commitment these people show to keep the experience and history as authentic as possible.

This site offers a variety of tours, and also has a restaurant on-site and a small winery. I chose to get a tour of the mansion, as I mentioned above, and to wander the rest of the grounds without guidance. I would highly recommend taking the tour of the mansion, I think there are a lot of details and information in the mansion that could get overlooked. While I enjoyed walking the grounds on my own, I could see how a guided tour of the entire ground would be enjoyable as well.

Afterwards, I hit the Hard Rock CafĂ© for a gluten-free bite to eat, walked the strip, and got some caramel corn from Savannah’s Candy Kitchen! In my next article, I’ll share another mansion to explore, and the original reason for Nashville as a spring break destination! For more articles, check out my gluten-free Cinnamon Swirl Crumb Cake mix review here or my Spring Starbucks Favorites here! For updates and more content, make sure to follow my Instagram @tarynstales here! Thanks for reading!

A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Swirl Crumb Cake Review

Lately, I’ve been watching the Great British Baking Show, and it’s inspired me to learn a bit more about baking. I don’t know much about cooking or baking to begin with, so I figured I would start small. I decided to use this cake mix from Krusteaz to make a Cinnamon Swirl Crumb Cake, gluten-free, of course.

The batter was light and easy to mix. I was a little nervous about making the layers in the cake since I’ve never made layers in anything before. I think I could have put a little less batter before my first layer of crumb, but not too bad! I found it easy to pour the mix in, smooth it with the back of a spoon, then spread the crumble with my hands. After I crumbled it onto the first layer of batter, I had to smooth it out by hand.

The second layer of batter over the crumb was the trickiest, but I tried to spoon it out in sections, then used a butter knife to spread it as evenly as I could. For the last later of crumb, I spread it the same way as the first

It was easy to cut and serve, and was delicious right out of the oven! For being gluten-free, the cake held together well, and didn’t crumble and fall when cutting or eating. It’s a beautiful and delicious crumb cake, perfect for an afternoon snack or a brunch!

For more articles, check out my Spring Starbucks Favorites here, or my February SipsBy box here! For updates and more content, check out my Instagram @tarynstales here! Thanks for reading!

If eating cake is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Lorelai Gilmore, “Gilmore Girls”

Spring Starbucks Favorites, 2021

It’s March! It’s almost spring, and with spring comes new Starbucks drinks! I’ve been on a roll trying new drinks yet again, and so I wanted to share some of my discoveries with you guys!

Iced Brown Sugar Oatmilk Shaken Espresso

This is one of Starbuck’s brand-new drinks! I’ve never tried oat milk, or a shaken espresso, and I wasn’t sure about a brown sugar drink. But, this drink is a new favorite of mine! It’s sweet, but not overly so. The oat milk is creamy but not heavy, and is from the brand Oatly. For all of the disappointed gluten-free Starbucks lovers, don’t fret! Oatly is the only oat milk that is certified gluten-free. I didn’t feel any effects from drinking the oat milk, but everyone is different. I know oat milk can be heavy for some people, so use your best judgement. After all, it’s always orderable with almond milk! I was worried that since it’s a shaken espresso that it may taste too dark for my taste, but surprisingly, it wasn’t! Everything balanced itself out nicely. I would recommend ordering with light ice, though, because the melting ice will water it down in no time.

Caramel Frappuccino

I know, I know. Where have I been?! A caramel frappuccino is one of the most “basic” Starbucks drinks. I haven’t tried one before, though, because I wasn’t sure if the caramel flavor would be too strong for me. Don’t get me wrong, I like caramel, but an overwhelming lump caramel didn’t sound that great to me. But, it was the perfect balance of cool, creamy almond milk (I order all of my frappuccinos and drinks with almond milk) and sweet caramel. So if you have a sweet tooth, give it a try!

Snickerdoodle Drink (Secret Menu)

This drink is absolutely delicious!! I had never heard of this drink before, and I haven’t been big into trying secret menu drinks yet, but now I’ll definitely be researching some to try! I’ve been ordering this drink like crazy, and I’ve tried it hot, iced, and as a frappuccino. How you order it, is order the size you desire of a white mocha, made with your milk of choice (I get it with almond milk!) and then add Cinnamon Dolce syrup, and Cinnamon Dolce sprinkles. Give it a sip, and enjoy the dessert drink of your dreams. I can’t recommend this drink enough!

Plant-Based Breakfast Sandwich

For the dairy-free people, this breakfast is perfect because the cheese is dairy-free and plant-based. For my gluten-free people, the english muffin is NOT gluten-free. What I did was order it, brought it home, and took it off of the english muffin they gave me and put it on my own gluten-free english muffin. If you’re Celiac, do NOT do this, because cross contamination has occurred. But, if you’re gluten sensitive or intolerant, you may be OK to do this. I know as long as I took care to scrape the crumbs off, I was fine. But use your own discretion. Only you know how much you are able to tolerate.

This breakfast sandwich was delicious! It had a little spice to it, but it was filling, and you couldn’t tell that the egg patty, sausage, and cheese were plant-based. Perfect for an on-the-go or traveling breakfast!

I hope you enjoy these spring picks as much as I do! If you try anything, comment below and let me know! For more articles, check out my February SipsBy Box here, or my Instagram @tarynstales here! Thanks for reading!

You call it Starbucks, but I call it love.


February SipsBy Box

Happy March! Spring is near, and we’re in our final stretch of winter hibernation before the sun’s rays are upon us once again. To help us through the last few weeks of winter, I’m reviewing the teas from my February SipsBy box.

Elderberry Lemon Balm Immune + Stress by Yogi

This caffeine free tea has ashwagandha, lemon balm, black elderberry, lemongrass, licorice, ginger, hibiscus, cinnamon, lemon peel, black pepper, and lemon oil. I love the combination of ashwaganha for immune health and stress, black elderberry for antioxidants, and lemon balm for relaxation, with other supportive ingredients like ginger. This tea has an almost flowery hint to it along with a light but bright citrus flavor. This is a great cup of tea to kick off your morning or end your evening will nurturing your body through the last of cold seasons! I’m on the look out at my local stores to buy a box myself!

Mango Magic by Ahmad Tea

This simple black tea and mango combo packs a powerful punch of caffeine and flavor! I was surprised by how fruity this tea was, and the mango aroma filled the entire room. The two compliment each other perfectly, and the boldness of the black tea plays off of the powerful mango in a delicious dance! A potent black tea with tropical mango, what’s not to enjoy?

Cacao Green by The Loose Leaf

This caffeinated tea combines roasted cacao and kukicha twig green tea for an odd but lovely flavor. The slightly chocolate flavor of the cacao pairs well with the nuttiness of the green tea, but the cacao wasn’t as strong as I thought it would be. It’s an interesting and nutty tea for a chilly afternoon!

Organic Cold 911 by DavidsTea

This caffeine free tea is perfect for soothing a winter cold, or for a little pick me up if you’re feeling a little run down. The peppermint, apple, juniper berries, eucalyptus and organic orange flavoring comes together for a recovery tea that soothes the throat and soul. The eucalyptus had a different put interesting taste with the peppermint, and the sweet apple and orange with a slight bite from juniper berries is the perfect tea to sip on when you’re sick. I will definitely be saving these for the next time I feel a cold coming on!

For more articles, check out my Stash tea haul here, or my January SipsBy box here! For updates and more content, check out my Instagram, @tarynstales here! Thanks for reading!

Winter is a season of recovery and preperation.

Paul Theroux

Tea Haul: New Stash Tea Favorites

As I wrote in one of my previous articles, I did some tea ordering a few weeks ago! The boxes finally arrived, I taste tested, and the results are in: they’re all new favorites.

White Peach Oolong Tea

At first I was hesitant about this tea, because I was worried that the flavor would be too light for my taste. But I read the reviews that raved about this tea, and decided to give it a shot. And wow! It’s a delicious tea, with a lovely peach flavor. The oolong was perfectly matched with the peach, and it created a juicy tea, if a tea can be classified as juicy. A new oolong favorite!

Chocolate Hazelnut Decaf Black Tea

Dessert tea alert! If you’re looking for a smooth, nutty, chocolate treat, look no further! This mild chocolate hazelnut tea is perfectly sweet, perfectly rich, and perfectly delicious! It’s also decaf, which makes it the perfect treat to sip without getting the jitters!

Chocolate Mint Oolong Tea

I thought the same thing: does chocolate really go with oolong? And mint? And let me tell you that yes, yes it does! I had originally gotten this tea in a SipsBy box, and after trying one packet I wrote the name down to buy once I placed an order. It was one of my holiday go-to teas, and I remember sitting back with a cup and watching my favorite Christmas movie, Krampus. It’s a rich, chocolatey dessert tea with a hint of mint to keep it cool. The scent is also scrumptious; if you try nothing else, try this tea!

Sunny Orange Ginger Herbal Tea

If you know me, you know that I love fruit, oranges, and other sunny tasting things! And this tea is no exception. It’s one of my new favorite caffeine-free teas! Usually I’m not a huge fan of ginger, but this tea doesn’t have an overwhelming ginger flavor. In fact, with this tea I take an inch of organic ginger root, slice, peel, and rinse it to put in to steep with the tea for extra anti-inflammatory benefits. I also enjoy adding honey for some antioxidants. This sunny tea makes a cheerful cup of tea to enjoy any time of day.

For more articles, check out my January SipsBy box here, my visits to local cafes here, or my review of Nubian Heritage’s Cococnut Papaya body wash and body lotion here! For updates and more content, check out my Instagram @tarynstales here! Thanks for reading!

Happiness is a hot drink on a cold day.


Ice Ice Baby: Cold Weather & SipsBy Box: January 2021

Happy winter weather! It seems like winter has finally arrived in my neck of the woods. The past week we’ve gotten ice storms, plummeting temperatures, and snow on the way! School has been cancelled, and a few businesses have closed to keep people off of the roads. Of course, once the ice storm slowed and the roads warmed a bit, I had to make my way to my favorite place.

Cinnamon Dolce Latte for the win! But if a cup of tea is more your style, I’ve got you covered! Check out what I got in my January SipsBy Box.

Christmas Eve from Stash Tea

I was surprised to find this holiday tea in my box, but as soon as I drank it I ran to their website to buy more. Unfortunately, they were out, so I have to wait. But this caffeine-free tea is made with cinnamon, spearmint, orange peel, vanilla extract, orange oil, and clove bud oil. This tea is the epitome of holiday flavor with the minty bite, warm cinnamon, and sweet vanilla. Perfect for sipping in front of the tree or the fireplace on a cold night.

Kings Light from Trankebar

This caffeinated black tea has an herbal infusion of apple pomance, rosehip seeds, rooibos, sweet blackberry leaves, elderberry flowers, peppermint, rhubarb pieces, and mullein flowers. This black tea was different in that it had a sweetness to it, but it still had the dark, classic black tea flavor. If you’re looking for different black tea to try, I’d recommend giving this a try!

Pomegranate Strawberry Green Tea from Miss Tea

This organic green tea with blueberries, pomegranate seeds, goji berries, and strawberry pieces is caffeinated and has a sweet scent! It had a light, mild, fruity flavor and is packed full of antioxidants and free of artificial flavors. As the packaging says, it’s a fresh, fruity, and healthy way to start your day!

Organic Chai Rooibos Tea from Cederbos

This caffeine-free tea is made from pure rooibos leaves and natural chai flavoring extract. It’s also free of artificial additives and sweeteners, and packs an antioxidant punch! I wasn’t sure what to expect when I read that it was a chai rooibos, because to me, chai is usually spicy and rooibos is usually earthy or nutty. But this warm drink reminds me of a maple tea I’ve had before, with the cinnamon flavor giving it a slight spice and a hint of nuttiness from the rooibos.

This Month’s Tea Winner Is…

Christmas Eve by Stash Tea! I’m so disappointed that I have to wait to order myself a box, but it’s something to look forward to!

For more articles, check out my article on local cafes and coffeeshops in my area here or my recent Starbucks favorites here! For updates and more content, check out my Instagram @tarynstales here! Thanks for reading!

In the depths of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invisible summer.

Albert Camus

Tea Ordering and Nature Breaks

Happy Tuesday! It’s been an interesting week already. The temps have been dropping in my area, and we’re in for a chilly week. The weekend was cold as well, but I wanted to get out in nature a little bit. It’s too cold for me to go hiking or walking, even though winter is my favorite season to get out and on the trails, 30 degree real-feels aren’t my favorite temperatures to go hiking in, so I compromised. Instead, I went and fed my feathered friends a few times, and in the evening I relaxed on the dock and watched the water. Eventually the wind ushered me back to my car, but it was wonderful while it lasted.

On the opposite of cold, last week I placed a huge order for teas. Not all of teas have come yet, as I ordered from 3 different websites, but here is a sneak-peek of what I ordered! In this box, I had ordered from Stash, and got their caffeine-free Sunny Orange Ginger herbal tea, their White Peach oolong tea, and the decaf Chocolate Hazelnut black tea. I also ordered a box of Chocolate Mint oolong tea! I’ve tried it before out of one of my SipsBy boxed, and it’s delicious! I had run out of what I had gotten from SipsBy and had to order more. Best chocolate tea I’ve tried yet, although I’m suspicious that the decaf Chocolate Hazelnut may give it a run for the money! I also ordered from Tea Pigs, and I got their box of organic Calm tea, and a sample size of their organic Happy tea.

Last but not least, I’ve been getting ready for gardening season! While I’ve been checking the store and waiting for seeds to come out, I ran across this beautiful orchid! I adored the purple flowers, and I couldn’t help myself! It’s a lovely reminder that even though it’s cold outside, spring is right around the corner!

I hope you all had a great start to your week! Stay warm and cozy! For more articles, check out my review of local cafes and coffee shops in my area here, or my latest Starbucks favorites here! For updates and more content, check out my Instagram @tarynstales here! Thanks for reading!

You are the artist of your life. Don’t give the paintbrush to anyone else.


Visiting Local Cafes & Coffee Shops!

Happy Friday! Since I’ve been on a coffee kick lately, I wanted to share with you all what I tried from some local coffeeshops and cafes! If you’re ever in the southern Illinois area, these are definitely work checking out!

Crown Brew has been in the SI area for quite some time, and last year they opened in their new building. I haven’t gone inside for COVID reasons, but I have used their curbside pickup option! I’ve tried their blueberry lemonade, which was one of the best lemonades I’ve tried. The sweet and tart flavor was perfectly balanced with a hint of blueberry, and it was delicious! I will definitely order it again in the summer, and they have a blueberry and lavender lemonade I haven’t tried but am curious about.

I’ve also recently tried their dark chocolate latte with cinnamon, made with almond milk. If you’re not a fan of cinnamon, I would recommend ordering it without the cinnamon. Personally, I loved it on this drink, and I thought it brought out the flavor of the dark chocolate a bit. It was like a delicious, caffeinated hot chocolate that is my new favorite winter drink.

I also recently went to Longbranch Cafe & Bakery. They made organic treats, dishes, coffees, and they also have some gluten free and vegan options. While I was there, I got a slice of their gluten-free chocolate cake for myself, and a slice of their raspberry cheesecake for my partner in crime.

We both enjoyed our slices of heaven, and the cake part of the chocolate cake was almost cheese-cakey itself, it was very moist and rich in flavor. The icing was fabulous, and I’m definitely getting another slice next time I go. I’ve also tried their iced chai latte made with almond milk, and it was, wow! The spices and peppery aftertaste were strong, and I could see how they could be too strong for somebody who hasn’t had chai before. But I absolutely loved it, and it’s a must-order!

And that’s what I’ve been up to food and drink wise for the past few weeks! If you have any favorite local establishments, tell me your favorite food/drink to buy below or on my Instagram @tarynstales here! For more articles, you can check out my recent Starbucks favorites here, my 2021 back to school experience here, or my Nubian Heritage body wash and lotion review here! Thanks for reading!

You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.

Paul Prudhomme

Treat Time: Recent Starbucks Must-Haves

Happy not-quite-Monday! It’s the third day of the week, and we all need a little pick me up. So today, I’ve compiled a list of drinks I’ve been trying from one of my favorite places: Starbucks! And I’ll admit: I’ve been drinking these pick-me-ups a lot this new year, they’re just that good, and it’s part of a healthy and balanced diet to have a treat now and then. So, let’s get drinking!

Matcha Green Tea Creme Frappuccino

If you’re not a matcha fan, this concoction may not sound the most appetizing, I’ll admit, but it’s one of my new favorites! If you like matcha with a hint of sweetness, or matcha lattes, you’ll probably like this drink as well. It’s tastes like a matcha latte but colder, creamier, and a bit sweeter. I get it made with almond milk, to cut down on the dairy, but I’ll admit: when I can tolerate it, I have them leave the whip. #guiltyascharged

Chestnut Praline Frappuccino

This was hands down probably my favorite holiday drink from Starbucks for 2020. I loved it in the latte version, and since I’ve been on a frappuccino kick, I decided to order it cold. I honestly did not think that I would like it as much as I did!! It still had that coffee flavor, the nutty taste, but the sweetness was amplified and I felt that I could taste the spices better in the frappuccino than the latte. I love my lattes, but next time, I’m going straight for the frappuccino on this one. Again, order it with almond milk and say no to whip to cut down on exposure to dairy if you’re sensitive!

Peppermint Mocha Creme Frappuccino

Even though the holidays are over, I’m still all about those holiday drinks. Again, I love the peppermint mocha as is, but I had to try it in frap form. If you’ve ever had a frozen hot chocolate from Dunkin Donuts, that’s what the base of this reminds me of! It has a little spice of peppermint and coffee, but the cold creamy chocolate taste reminds me of a frozen hot chocolate with peppermint! It was absolutely delicious, and if you wanted to try something new and different, I’d definitely recommend this drink. Once again, have it made with almond milk and no whip to cut down on exposure to dairy, but if you’re super sensitive, you may want to hold off on the chocolate curls as well. I’ve found that if it’s made with dark chocolate, like these are, it’s not usually made with dairy. But it’s always better to air on the side if caution if you’re not feeling adventurous!

And those are my recent favorite drinks from Starbucks! For more articles, check out my Back to School article here, or my Nubian Heritage body wash and lotion review here. For update and more content, check out my Instagram tarynstales here! Thanks for reading!

Sometimes you just need the cup with the little green straw.


Back to School: Spring 2021 Edition

Happy Friday! My first week of school has officially wrapped up, and I can’t believe we’ve already started the spring semester!

This semester I’m going full-time again, and I’m taking 3 classes: Business Communication, World Religions, and Contemporary Mathematics. But, this time, I’m not going to campus for any classes. 2 of my classes are defined as online anytime, where I can log on and work on them at any time of day. And my math class is an online scheduled class, where I log into a Teams meeting everyday at 10 for an hour of “class”. The only times I will have to visit campus will be 3 times for proctored exams, and I’m grateful to be able to take my classes online during this time.

I’ve taken online anytime classes before, and while they’re not my favorite, I enjoy them because I’m able to pace myself and be in control of my own schedule. Last semester (read my article on the beginning of fall 2020 here!) I had a hybrid class for statistics, where I logged in for a Teams meeting Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8 for “class”, went to campus for an in-person class on Thursday, and had Tuesday off. Personally, I didn’t think the formatting of that class was particularly helpful. It would have been easier for students and our teacher to just stick to one or the other. So, I get to try that out this semester with contemporary math, so after this semester I’ll be able to see what I like better for my science classes next year! The only downside to contemporary math so far is that I have to have my webcam on the whole class, or I’m counted as absent. It’s weird, and I’m not a fan, but it definitely makes class more interesting.

My Business Communications class seems pretty self-explanatory, and I’m enjoying that I’m able to control the general schedule and what I do. It’s a lot of freedom, and I enjoy it because I like planning and organizing my time. My World Religions class I’m excited for because I’ve eyed it ever since I started at this college. I’ve always been interested in other religions, and how they relate to each other. I was surprised when I posted and started responding to our Introduction thread this week, because everybody seems so friendly, open, and excited about the class. It’s a great thing to see, and I’m excited to learn and interact with this class through our discussion boards.

Taking a nature break!

All in all, the first week of classes has been interesting! If you’re a student, have you gone back to school yet, and what different modalities is your school offering?

For more articles, check out my post on stress and how it affects our bodies here, my review of Nubian Heritage’s body wash & lotion here, and for updates and more content, check out my Instagram tarynstales here! Thanks for reading!

Wake up with determination. Go to bed with satisfaction.