My Top 10 Travel Essentials

Travel has been a significant part of my life since I was young. I took my first flight on an airplane at 9 years old. My family & I flew down to Los Angeles then took a Carnival cruise to Ensenada, Mexico. In the years that followed, my parents also blessed my siblings & me with the opportunity to explore Hawaii, Germany, France, & the Philippines. As an adult, I’m grateful to have been able to revisit some of the places that I visited as a child as well as the Bahamas, China, England, Italy, Japan, Spain, & Thailand. If you’re a fellow travel addict, you’ll relate to my love of exploring a new place & immersing yourself in its culture & history. After years of travel mishaps without the basic necessities, I want to share my top 10 travel essentials!

My Top 10 Travel Essentials

#1: ban.do Passport Holder

You don’t ever want to forget or lose important documents while traveling, especially your passport. My ban.do passport holder is not only adorable but also very easy to spot when searching through my carry-on. I love to keep a close eye on where my passport is at all times.

#2: Sun Hat

Despite being born brown, my skin is very sensitive to sunlight. Ever since I was a little girl, I learned to always wear sunscreen with at least 30 SPF & wear a hat to limit exposure under the sun. This sun hat matches all of my outfits & works for so many different activities & occasions. I get compliments on it every where I go. My hat was first purchased for a 10 day trip to Thailand, but since then it’s also been to Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, Napa, & San Diego.

#3: Travel Neck Pillow

Neck pillows get a lot of hate, but I love mine! Especially if you’re going to be on a flight for more than 3 hours, a neck pillow will be your best friend. Sleeping on an airplane is hard enough, so anything that can help your ability to nap more comfortably is needed in my book. My current travel neck pillow is also super cute & resembles a mermaid tail.

#4: Portable Charger

While I’m traveling, I use my phone to navigate as well as translate when I’m in a non-English speaking country. There’s nothing worse than having your phone’s battery die when you’re lost in an unfamiliar place & unable to communicate with people around you. Having a fully charged portable charger on hand will be your savior at the end of the day.

#5: Adidas Slides

First off, I LIVE in my Adidas slides! Sadly, my pug destroyed the original pair that I bought in New York City. πŸ™ When traveling, they’re even more of a life-saver. They easily slip on & off when you’re going through airport security, & I love having my own slides to wear to the beach or around a hotel or resort.

#6: iPad Air

I always pack my gold iPad Air 2 in my carry-on. Sadly, not as many airlines offer built-in screens for long flights as before. So, to keep myself entertained, I use my iPad Air to read, practice drawing using my Apple pencil, listen to music, & watch movies.

#7: Apple AirPods

Most airlines require you to wear headphones. You’re not allowed to have your device’s volume blasting & disturbing other passengers during a flight. I love that my AirPods have no wires to get tangled up in my carry-on. It’s easy to quickly connect them with Bluetooth to my iPad then slip them into my ears. I also keep mine in this adorable dumpling case!

#8: Wipes

Give me ALL THE WIPES! I love wipes for my everyday life, but when traveling, wipes simply make my life easier. I use lens & screen wipes to clean my electronic devices & my glasses. Clorox wipes are great for surfaces on the airplane around my seat as well as in the bathroom. I use baby wipes for the foreign countries that don’t provide toilet paper in public bathrooms, & I use makeup wipes to remove any remaining makeup off of my face at the end of the day.

#9: Hanging Toiletry Bag

I travel with a toiletry bag with a hanging hook. This allows me to have easy access to all of my toiletries in one spot without taking up too much counter space. Sometimes, when you travel with a big group of people, you’ll want to ensure there’s enough space for everyone without hindering your own hygiene routine.

#10: Laundry Bag

There’s nothing I hate more than forgetting to pack a laundry bag! Growing up, I would settle for any plastic bag that my mom had lying around, but as I’ve gotten older, it’s become more important to me to ensure that I keep my dirty laundry completely separated from my clean clothes. This laundry back is compact & easy to pack at the beginning of your trip but expands as needed as your trip progresses.

What are your Top 10 Travel Essentials? Do you share any of the same ones that I have? Let me know in a comment.

XO Denise

eclipse digital wallpaper

Eclipse: The Sun & The Moon

“The Sun loved the Moon so much he died every night to let her breathe.”

Last week, I came across the entire Twilight saga on Hulu, & I felt compelled to watch it all: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, & Breaking Dawn Part 1 & Part 2. I read the books while I was in college over a decade ago, but I haven’t thought much about the Twilight Saga since then. It felt very timely, since this last Wednesday, May 26th, 2021, we had a total lunar eclipse.

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon & the Sun are on exact opposite sides of the Earth. A total lunar eclipse only occurs every four to five years. Despite the Moon being in the Earth’s shadow, sunlight is still able to reach the Moon as it passes through Earth’s atmosphere, filtering out blue light. This makes the Moon appear red, also known as a “Blood” Moon. Do you get the relation to the Twilight saga yet?

When the Moon moves between the Sun & the Earth, it blocks the light of the Sun from reaching Earth, also known as a solar eclipse. The last time we had a full solar eclipse was July 2, 2019, & we won’t have another until April 8th, 2024. This dance of the Earth, coming between the Moon, & the Sun reminds me of long-distance relationships and how circumstances that are beyond your control can affect your connection with your partner.

Total Eclipse of the Heart

The quote “The Sun loved the Moon so much he dies every night to let her breathe.”, the Pixar short film, Day & Night, & the song “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler recently struck a chord in me. The Sun & the Moon have an incredibly romantic yet tragic love story. The Sun & the Moon have minimal time together in the sky at dusk & dawn. The Moon passes in front of the Sun once every 29.5 days, which we know as a New Moon, & solar eclipses only occur two to four times a year.

It is in the Sun & the Moon’s bigger purpose that makes their need to be apart tragic. The Sun gives us energy. It allows life on Earth to grow & thrive. The moon moves our oceans as well as controls our climate with its gravitational pull that shifts the Earth’s axis. Like the Universe, relationships involve different entities that are constantly changing, evolving, & in motion. If you’re mindful & aware of your intuition, you know when you or your partner is in darkness, but what we can learn from the Sun & the Moon is that separation doesn’t have to affect or control the quality of your relationship.

The Sun & the Moon have minimal time, when they are completely aligned & seen together. There’s a reason why humans are obsessed with eclipses & the energy that surrounds them. We’re all well aware that it’s a special occurrence that needs to be enjoyed & cherished. Similar to a long-distance relationship, any time in person is better than time apart. If the sun & the moon can make things work, a long-distance albeit true, soul-connection between two people can work too. They can each take a step back to let the other shine in the spotlight. Then whenever they’re aligned & the timing is right, they reconnect. And when they do, the whole world stops to watch them.

The Twilight Saga

I am about to spoil the Twilight Saga books & the movies, so feel free to stop reading now, if you haven’t read or watched them & still want to. But I really don’t care whether or not you like the Twilight Saga, because as a writer, it has some of the best literary archetypes as well as Moon metaphors in it:

The Star-Crossed Lovers

Twilight is the time between night & sunrise. Bella is a human who falls in love with a vampire. Similar to the Sun & the Moon, Edward needs to stay in the shadows & out of the sunlight. But Bella, like the Sun, is the bright & shiny new girl in town, who has all eyes constantly on her. For all intents and purposes, Edward tries his best to push Bella away & prove to her that he’s bad & no good for her. Ultimately, he realizes that no matter how hard he tries to stay away for her own good, their connection is magnetic & their gravitational pull toward each other is uncontrollably strong. No matter how far away he tries to run from her, she’s still in his head & pulling at his heartstrings, until he ultimately gives in & surrenders to his love for her.

The Fall

After what seems like a happy, stable relationship in Twilight, New Moon brings in the Fall. Not only does it start in the season of Fall, but it’s the Fall of Bella, Edward, & their relationship. Edward decides that he has to leave & breaks up with Bella the day after her birthday in New Moon. He lies to her, saying that he doesn’t love her, never did, & that he doesn’t want her anymore for her own safety. Bella immediately falls into a deep depression. She becomes emotionally numb & stays that way for months, unsure if her love with Edward was ever real. The second book is appropriately named New Moon, signifying Bella’s new life cycle, without Edward by her side.

Death & Rebirth

Bella “dies” & is reborn a few times throughout the Twilight saga. In Twilight, Edward has to suck out the vampire venom from her blood without killing her. Bella sees & feels death, but she miraculously survives because of Edward’s willpower. In New Moon, Bella dies then has to relearn how to live her life without Edward. In Breaking Dawn, Bella dies then is finally reborn as a vampire. She willingly accepts her new immortal destiny, because she’d rather spend eternity with him than remain human.

The Battle Between Good & Evil

Even Vampires have light & dark counterparts, Jacob’s werewolf pack & the Cullen family join forces in Eclipse & again in Breaking Dawn to build an army to defend themselves over “eviler” groups of vampires. The third book, Eclipse, demonstrates the light & dark coming together. The final book, or two-part movie, Breaking Dawn, showcases a new day & a brighter future for everyone. Despite their differences, vampires & werewolves were able to reach an understanding for the greater good, because they’re stronger together than apart.

We can all learn from the Sun & the Moon. Two individuals can be independent, strong, & unique by themselves, but when their connection is undeniable, everyone will be able to take a step back & see that they’re better & even more special when they are together. The Sun & the Moon only spend brief moments with one another, but their long-distance relationship works. Their sporadic & short encounters are so magical that it makes all the waiting & time spent apart, shining & glowing on their own, worth it. How can you bring that same energy into your relationship?

XO Denise

SOURCES

NASA

Everything is a Test

One of my biggest fears in life is failure. I have recurring nightmares of being back in school. It can be high school or college. But usually, I’m about to take a test that I’m unprepared for because I haven’t attended the class for the entire semester. As a perfectionist, passing tests with flying colors, getting good grades, meeting deadlines, & accomplishing my goals within a specific timeline are important to me. It may just be my perfectionism, but I believe everything is a test.

Dreams about Tests & School

As I mentioned previously, I’m a very vivid dreamer. I love keeping track of my dreams then interpreting them as soon as I wake up. On Sunday, May 23rd, Saturn goes retrograde in Aquarius through October 10th, 2021. Saturn is the planet of karma & life lessons. My recurring nightmares of being back in school are picking up, which I believe is directly related to Saturn’s retrograde. I love being prepared for tests, so it seems only natural that the universe is reminding me to be ready.

I haven’t been in school in over a decade. Dreaming about school often relates to unresolved issues from that time in your life, coming back as life lessons so can learn from them. They can represent personal growth & the need to learn about a hidden part of yourself. You’re at a turning point of your life where you need to expand your knowledge on a current circumstance or future situation. Dreaming of taking a test signifies insecurities, fear of not meeting expectations, & fear of failure.

Similar to final grades school or Annual Performance reviews at work, Saturn showcases the highlights of last year & tests you. If you’ve done well for yourself & show that you’ve learned your karmic lessons, Saturn is here to reward you. You’ll clearly see how you’ve grown & changed for the better. Then, Saturn how you the next steps forward on your journey to ensure it’s smooth sailing. If you’re still in lower vibrations & reliving your past mistakes, Saturn forces you to face your problems head-on. It then launches you into the next chapter of your life, whether you’re ready for it or not.

Saturn’s Karmic Lessons

If you’ve been contemplating quitting your job or ending a relationship, during this retrograde, Saturn may decide for you. You could get fired from your job or find out unforgivable secrets. It’s time to grow up & make decisions for the greater good of everyone involved. If you’ve made mistakes, choose to accept your past for what it is, forgive yourself, & try to make things right with anyone you’ve hurt.

Are you ready to be tested by Saturn? These next six months are what you make of it. Accept that everything is a test. But if you stay mindful & present, act wisely, & consider the benefit of others before yourself when making decisions, you have nothing to worry about.

XO Denise

SOURCES

Dream Moods

Refinery29

laptop on desk near lush houseplant

How to Prepare for a Job Interview

After three amazing years as a Social Media Support Consultant for Adobe, I’m officially saying goodbye on June 25th, 2021. I want to invest in my blog, my YouTube Channel, & continue to help people through my intuitive card readings. But I also need to be rational & keep a stable primary income. I am actively applying to new career opportunities & keeping an open mind as opportunities come to me. The end of June is coming up quickly, but with my approach to job searching & prep for interviews, I’m eager & hopeful. With several interviews under my belt & my experience as a Hiring Manager, here’s how to prepare for a job interview.

Set Interview Goals

I am a very goal-oriented person, so I do everything in life with a goal in mind. Looking for a new job is no exception. I always set at least three goals for myself before an interview. The goals I set are always role-specific & highlight my strengths. By interviewing with goals, I get the most out of my time & put my best foot forward. I proactively find ways to emphasize my talents, even if my interviewer doesn’t directly ask for them.

Here are some examples of my Interview Goals:
  • Show that you’re a Creative & Strategic Storyteller
  • Highlight your Entrepreneurial & Solutions-focused Mindset
  • Share your Love of Learning & how any new project is an opportunity to learn & grow

Do your Research

Learn everything you can about the company you’re interviewing with, & read the role description that you’re interviewing for. Find an About page on the company website, & read every single word of it. What is the company’s mission? Do you agree with that mission? What are the company values? Do you agree with those values? Is the job description clear? Is it something that you can actually see yourself doing every day? Don’t forget that you’re also interviewing this company, & take note of any of your own concerns!

Look for a Team page on the company’s website, & find the person you’re interviewing with. Familiarize yourself with who they are, their role in the company, & how Teams are currently structured. How big is the company? Will the interviewer be your direct manager? Are you having a phone screen with a recruiting coordinator who reports back to the role’s actual Hiring Manager? Keep these things in mind.

Have the Answers Ready

Most interviewers will use the standard Top 10 Interview Questions, or they may use similar variations of the same interview questions. Think of your interview prep as studying for a test. Have the answers ready so that you’re ready for any question asked of you. For an onsite interview, I compile my resources & create a cheat sheet in a notebook to use during the interview as well as take notes.

For phone calls or Zoom interviews, I always use Evernote. I personally love Evernote, & I use it for everything, from Interview prep to Travel Itineraries. After scheduling an interview, I create a New Note, & I fill it with all the information that I’ve compiled. This way, I feel well-prepared, & I have all the answers neatly organized, just in case I lose my train of thought. Instead of awkward silences as I’m trying to gather my thoughts, I glimpse at the bullet points of my Evernote, & I pick up right where I left off. Here’s an Example Interview Prep Evernote Template.

Have Questions for your Interviewer

As a former Hiring Manager for IPSY, the worst way to end an interview is to not have any questions for your interviewer. When someone doesn’t have any questions for me at the end of an interview, I take it as they are either: 1. Not very interested in the company or the role or 2. Not very concerned about if our company is a good fit for them.

Take advantage of the opportunity to get to know your interviewer. I often start interviews telling potential employees that I may be their future boss. If this is your only opportunity to get to know your interviewer on a deeper level, as well as get the inside scoop on the company you could potentially be working for, take it! Have questions ready to ask your interviewer, so that when the opportunity for you to ask questions comes, you’re ready. I am always more inclined to want to work with someone who’s ready to challenge me.

Here are some of my favorite questions to ask:
  1. What would a typical day in this role look like?
  2. Is there anything that concerns you about my background for this role?
  3. Assuming a person performs well in this role, what career growth opportunities are available to them in the future?
  4. What can you tell me about the company & team culture?
  5. What are the next steps & timing of the hiring pipeline?

Key Takeaways

Being well-prepared for an interview is the first impression that you make with a company. In order to make a good impression, you want to demonstrate why you’re the best candidate, but you also want to show that you’re testing to see that they’re a good fit for you too. If a typical day in this role is not something that you’re jumping out of your seat to do, you can take it as a red flag that you should keep searching. If you’re applying to an entry-level position & hope to move into a managerial role one day, you’ll want to ensure there are opportunities for growth.

You need to take control of your career & decide what is going to be the best choice for you.

Even after several phone screens with recruiters & Zoom interviews with potential colleagues, hiring managers, & even startup Founders, I’m still searching for the perfect role for me. I may have the luxury of having until the end of June to find the right role, but if you’re currently unemployed, I want to express the importance of not rushing the process. Don’t accept a role that you’re not excited about, take a significant pay cut, or choose to work at a company whose culture doesn’t align with your own beliefs, goals, values, & definition of hustle.

You deserve to have a career that you love, so don’t settle for less!

Wait for a job offer that pays you well, because you know your worth. There’s no reason to take a $30K pay cut in this economy. Find a role that makes you excited to get to work every day, & truly find joy in your career. If you keep these things in mind when you prepare for a job interview, you can’t go wrong. Good luck!

XO Denise

white l o v e led signage

What is Love?

Unconditional love feels magical. Too often, individuals focus on what they want from their partner, instead of accepting their partner as they are. With my Cartomancy, Oracle, & Tarot love readings, I teach my clients to stay rational & loves themselves, because it’s important to not become too attached to a specific outcome. When you’re blinded by love, you ignore red flags. It’s not my job to confirm or deny if the individual that you’re asking about is your person. But I give you the advice to help you decide if your partner in question is worth the pain & heartache.

About a month ago, I updated the bio on my personal Instagram to “1 Corinthians 13: 4-8”. I’ve loved this bible verse since the first time I heard it. Even if you’re not Catholic or Christian, it’s safe to agree that it’s a beautiful way to describe love. I use it today as a guide for my thought process.

Love is patient.

If your person is pressuring you to be physically intimate, commit, get a pet, or have children before you’re ready, they do not love you. Your true love will never rush you or want to make you feel anything but comfortable & safe with them. Someone who loves you understands if you’re not ready. Taking intimacy to the next level or taking a huge, milestone step forward when the time is right is important. Your person is patient & willing to wait until you’re ready. They don’t force you to do something that scares you or will make you unhappy.

Love is kind.

Someone who loves you is not mean to you or anyone you love. To be clear, in moments that they’re playfully teasing you, they’ll go out of their way to reassure you that they always mean well & would never purposely hurt or be malicious towards you.

I dated someone who told me that my sister was annoying & self-centered. I immediately came to my sister’s defense, since he only spent time with her when she was visiting me at school. My sister would talk a lot because she was updating me about her life since we lived apart for the majority of the year. His unkind comments about her when she wasn’t around were unwarranted & not true. Another unkind memory from an ex is being told that the erotic & seductive faces I make “in the bedroom” are very unattractive. Thinking about that insult gives me anxiety, & it still makes me self-conscious about the way I look whenever I’m about to be intimate with someone new.

Love does not envy.

I dated someone who would cry & call themselves dumb whenever he would fail & I got an A on an exam or a paper for the same class. Someone who loves you will not make you feel guilty for being you. They will want to celebrate your successes in school or your career. They’re not intimidated by the amazing qualities that you possess that make you, YOU.

Love does not boast.

When I worked as a Bank Teller, men would flaunt their money to make me go “weak in the knees” far too often. I also dated someone who bragged about how good he looked naked after losing 30 lbs, inviting me to watch him change every chance he got. But love is not proud or self-seeking, & it does not shame others. Being attractive & wealthy is one thing, but showing off or thinking that you’re better than others is unnecessary. In my opinion, acting in this manner is just a mask to cover up how insecure they potentially are on the inside.

Love isnt easily angered.

Someone I dated walked out on me, despite having a broken ankle, because I was watching a video from a dance battle, where my dance crew beat his. He didn’t even bother to tell me to not watch it in front of him or that he was upset. He just up & left with no warning or communication that I had done anything wrong. I also dated someone who got upset when I no longer wanted him to control my diet any longer. Someone who loves you will be willing to talk to you about an issue that hurts or upsets them before getting angry.

Using my favorite bible verse, while reflecting on my past loves helped me easily decipher who truly loved me & who did not, so I hope that it helps you too. Love at its best is selfless care & respect. A person who truly loves you will always respect your boundaries over their own desires.

Someone who loves you buys your favorite snacks on a road trip without being asked. They insist on bringing you a care package with medicine & personal care remedies when you’re sick. Your love prepares a plate for you when you’re too preoccupied to ensure you eat. They defend & protect you, even when you’re not around. If your person repeatedly hurts or mistreats you in any of the ways listed above, it’s safe to say that they do not love you. Learn the difference between what love is and is not, because unconditional love is not the same as unconditional tolerance.

XO Denise

This Bread is BANANAS

Bananas are one of my favorite healthy snacks, but I will shamelessly admit that I love to eat a couple then “forget” about the rest so I can use them for my ultimate banana bread recipe instead. Three years ago, when I was in the San Francisco Pride Parade, the company I worked for at the time bought a ton of fresh fruit as a snack for our team. As an end result of buying in bulk, we were left with a ton of apples, bananas, & cutie clementines. They completely overwhelmed our break room. We did our best to eat the fruit, but by the end of the week, our office manager offered the overripened bananas to the team to take home. I wanted to try baking banana bread in the past but never had the opportunity, because my family usually devours bananas within a few days. So that very night I was eager to finally have overripened bananas to try baking banana bread.

I’ve tried many different banana bread recipes in the past few years, & I’ve enjoyed tweaking my favorites ones in hopes of creating my very own banana bread recipe one day. Today, I’m going to share my ULTIMATE BANANA BREAD recipe, because I’ve finally perfected it. After three years of trial & error, let me tell you… this bread is BANANAS!

My Ultimate Banana Bread Recipe

  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Total Time: 1 hr 10 min to 1 hr 15 min

Ingredients

  • 5 Overripe Bananas
  • Butter or Non-stick spray to grease
  • 2 cups of All-purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp of Baking Soda
  • 1/4 tsp of Salt
  • 1 tsp of Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 stick of Unsalted Butter
  • 3/4 cup of Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/3 cup Sour Cream
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Optional: 3/4 cup Chopped Pecans or Walnuts, and/or Chocolate Chips

Baking Tools

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350Β° F
  2. Grease loaf pan with butter or nonstick spray & set it aside
  3. Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, & cinnamon together in a mixing bowl
  4. Mix the butter & brown sugar together until creamy in a separate bowl
  5. Add eggs to the butter & brown sugar mixture one at a time; continue to mix
  6. Mash your bananas in another separate mixing bowl or using the stand mixer bowl
  7. Add sour cream, vanilla extract, & butter & brown sugar mixture to the mashed bananas; mix until well combined
  8. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixture
  9. Optional: Fold in nuts and/or chocolate chips
  10. Spoon the batter into your loaf pan & bake uncovered for 30 minutes
  11. Remove from oven then cover with aluminum foil to prevent from over-browning then bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes
  12. Use a toothpick or a fork to poke the center of the loaf. It should come out clean when fully baked.
  13. Allow bread to cool before serving

Tasty Tips

  • Banana bread is best, while served warm!
  • Top your slice of banana bread with:
  • Store at room temperature for up to 2 days
  • Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week

Over the past three years, I’ve baked banana bread loaves for my close friends & family, because my secret ingredient to any of my recipes is LOVE. With three years of tweaking my recipe, I love to customize it for the person I’m baking for because not everyone has the same preferences. While I love putting pecans & chocolate chips into my banana bread for myself, my sister hates chocolate. I’m not opposed to pivoting & tweaking my recipe so that she can enjoy the banana bread too. I encourage you to adjust my recipe as needed for your own loved ones. Either way, I hope you enjoy my ultimate banana bread recipe! πŸ™‚

XO Denise