I don't know about y'all, but pretty much everyone in my world has been ordering takeout more than usual, ever since this coronavirus pandemic has become a part of our daily lives. What's really a trip about that is, it's not like most of us didn't make doing that a part of our lifestyle routine anyway, being that 60 percent of us were out here ordering delivery or takeout way before the Rona hit. Yet with all of the constantly changing information that's out here, I would totally understand if you're wondering how much of a risk that you're actually taking by hitting up your favorite restaurant so that they can send you something that you've been craving.
As with all things concerning this virus, the key is to be as knowledgeable as possible while not going into a state of panic. While it has pretty much always been holistically healthier to cook your own meals (check out "Why You Should Consider Leaving Fast Food Alone"), there are steps that you can take to insure that you are protecting you, your family and the delivery person, if you decide to bring some "outside food" in.
1. Avoid Peak Ordering Hours
There are a couple of benefits that come with not waiting until peak ordering hours to get your food. One is that you won't have to wait forever (because a lot of restaurants don't have the same amount of staff that they did before the pandemic started) and two, if you decide to go the carryout route, you will be able to avoid coming into contact with as many people.
(If you don't know what a restaurant's busiest hours are, call them before ordering your food. Oh, and if you're wondering what restaurants are currently making deliveries, check out "60 Deals & Delivery Services To Get You Through COVID-19 Quarantine".)
2. Disinfect Your Screen Door
While this step might seem like you're being "extra", choose to see it as a way of being proactively kind and courteous to the one who will be bringing your food to you.
While it would be ideal if the delivery person simply called or texted to let you know that your food is in front of your door or one the porch (more on that in a sec), if they do happen to knock on the door, do them a solid by disinfecting your screen door and door handle before they arrive.
At the time that I'm writing this, it's not a mandate that everyone wear masks and gloves, so it only takes five minutes to make sure that the person bringing your food to you is extra protected. Something like Simple Green® CLEAN FINISH® Disinfectant Cleaner should do the trick.
3. Sign Receipts with Your Own Pen
There really is no telling how many people touch things like a single pen over the course of a day. So yeah, avoid coming into contact with germs unnecessarily by using your own pen to sign takeout receipts.
4. See If Deliveries (and Your Tip) Can Be Left at the Door
These days, when ordering online, there is becoming less of a need to interact with your delivery person at all. For instance, there are usually notes, in the form of special requests, that you can leave online while placing an order about where you'd like your food to be dropped off. If it can be placed at the door without any human interaction, that's awesome. Speaking of, if for some reason, it is a restaurant's policy to get your signature on a receipt or they typically have people write in how much they want to tip their delivery person, ask if there is anyway to bypass this. The more that you can do with your debit or credit card, the less you'll be putting yourself at (potential) risk.
5. Tip Your Deliverer Well
I once read an article that said, on average, food delivery drivers make somewhere between $8-19 an hour. Not bad if you're just looking to make a few extra bucks, but pretty low if you're working to make ends meet and you're basically putting your life on the line to do it.
Because restaurants are doing their best to stay afloat, we are able to still keep a certain sense of normalcy by enjoying some of our favorite foods without having to go out and get them. That deserves the "thank you" in the form of more than a standard 10-15 percent tip, if you ask me. You can also donate to relief fund organizations that are helping out restaurants, bars and food service workers. You can check out more on that here and here. Whatever you decide to do, please be generous. We're all trying to stay afloat right now.
6. Keep Carryout Off of Your Surfaces
Not to get you all paranoid or anything, but you really don't know where food containers and bags are stored or who's been touching on them prior to them arriving at your house. Just to be on the super safe side, avoid placing the carryout bags directly onto your kitchen counters. Instead, put a towel or some paper towels on your counters first. Use gloves to remove the food from the bags and then immediately throw the bags out (preferably into your trashcan outside) once you've taken all of the food out. Do not touch your face, for any reason, while you're doing this.
7. Wash Your Hands Immediately After Removing Food from Packaging
Once the food is out of the bags and the bags have been disposed of, it's important to wash your hands for 20-30 seconds with soap and warm water. While there has yet to be evidence that coronavirus can be transmitted through food (let's all make sure to keep it on our prayer list that it never does), what we do know is it can live on surfaces including containers and utensils (reportedly for 1-3 hours). So, you want to make sure that your hands are as clean as possible after touching on stuff that your food came in. This brings us to the next point.
8. Reheat Food in Your Own Containers
If you're anything like me and you enjoy your food when it's about as hot as you can stand it, avoid reheating your food in the containers that they came in because, remember, someone handled before you did. It's best to immediately put the food in your own containers and to toss the delivery ones out as well (which yeah, basically means washing your hands just one more time). The other reason why you should do this is because you never know if the containers happen to contain harmful chemicals like BPA; the less you have to worry about, the better.
Oh, and I'm hoping that since I'm sharing that it's not a good idea to reheat in your delivery containers that it's a given to not eat straight out of them. It's kinda hard to eat out of something without touching it. Feel me?
9. Consider Eating Outdoors
Yes, most of us are living in Safer at Home status at this point, but no one said that you can't go outside. If you live in a house or a townhome (that has a yard) it can do you some good to get out of the walls of your home and go outside; not just for a change of scenery but for some fresh air too. Since indoor air pollution is 2-5 times higher than outdoor air pollution, it could do you some real good to have a little picnic, a couple of times a week.
10. Don’t Leave Your Leftovers Out
Food poisoning sucks and since hospitals are being pushed to their absolute limit as it is, you want to avoid getting it as much as possible. One way to do that is to make sure that you don't leave whatever food is leftover out for too long. How long is "too long"? Two hours. Also, make sure that whenever you do reheat your leftovers, you do it at a temperature that's around 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
BONUS: Support Those Who Are Lookin’ Out
Thankfully, as if this month, "Federal law mandates new paid leave requirements for restaurant workers affected by coronavirus". But there are restaurants who are going above and beyond the bare minimum (and paid sick leave is definitely a bare minimum). Starbucks actually offers "catastrophe pay" (two weeks on top of their standard two-week sick pay) for employees who've been diagnosed with coronavirus. Recently KFC donated $400,000 to Blessings in a Backpack which is a non-profit that gives weekend meals to hungry kids, free of charge while Taco Bell donated $1 million to No Kid Hungry, a campaign that also feeds children. Domino's is donating million of slices of pizza to essential workers and school children. Several restaurants in New York are making free meals for hospital workers. I also want to give a big shout-out to Houston-based chef and restaurateur Jonathan "Jonny" Rhodes for recently turning his restaurant Indigo into a grocery store for low-income families (ain't nothin' like a good Black man, y'all!). I also found David Cabello's new app Black and Mobile to be a cool addition for such a time as this.
Other chains are being proactive about taking less money out of our pockets. For instance, if you use Burger King's app, they will give you two free kids meals with a regular order. TGIF Friday is giving a free kid's meal for every order over $20. Olive Garden has a two-for-the-price-of-one promotion. Several chains are offering free delivery (read more on what other chains are doing here). Figuring out the restaurants in your area who are helping their workers, you and the community and then ordering from them first is a great way of saying "I see you and I appreciate you" as they try and keep their doors open.
Do you feel a little better (and safer) now? Good. Now how about getting off of here and ordering you something to eat? With all that's going on right now, you deserve it.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
15 One-Pan Dinners That Are Perfect For Women Who Don't Feel Like Cooking
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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How To Navigate Group Travel With Your Friends While Maintaining Your Autonomy
I come to you fresh off of a vacation that I used my tax refund to pay for, delieverdt! I am advocating for you to consider group travel to get the most bang for your buck. Often, traveling with a group is way more budget-friendly to split high-end accommodations rather than to pay for a hotel for one person (when solo traveling). And if you didn't know, rooming in a vacation home as opposed to a hotel room affords you the luxury of more privacy with features like a private pool, a whole kitchen, the ability to have your own room in a house, etc.
Yes, after watching a few reality TV episodes with people being bunched into a beautiful home only to start shaking tables and throwing drinks, it's tempting to let your imagination run wild with all of the negative scenarios that could play out when you travel with friends. I know mines did! However, with a little maturity and self-awareness and making an investment into having more effective communication skills when it comes to the hard stuff, I respectfully suggest that if you are reading this: You don’t really have a problem with group travel, you need to learn how to navigate traveling in a group setting.
Below are some tips I applied to my recent trip to maintain my autonomy while traveling with friends:
Set your personal intentions on why you are attending before agreeing.
The best way to enjoy group travel is to set one's intentions before going. Get your “why” defined because it's super important! Though you may have been invited to celebrate a friend's birthday or another occasion, I think it’s imperative to pair why you're coming to show support for another person with finding ways to take actions that will also benefit you. Unless you are one of the lucky ones getting an all-expense paid trip to celebrate with your friend, you are under no obligation to stick around your travel group every waking moment.
So let's explore your other intentions for saying yes to the trip. Is it to try some local cuisine, an excursion that you haven't participated in, or get into photography? Set that intention and stick to it because you deserve to feel fulfilled by the trip you're going on after spending your hard-earned money and PTO.
Courtesy of Zaniah B
Manage your trip mates' expectations by setting boundaries before the trip.
Effective communication is a major key; this is your chance to give the trip organizer a fair warning of what you are and are not interested in doing before they feel blindsided on the trip. For example, if you know you don't feel like ziplining this time around, let the group know ahead of time to manage the expectations of everyone being together on the trip, and this also creates an opportunity for some alone time.
And while you set your boundaries, make sure you are also planning time together with the group too! Meal time is a great way to regroup throughout the day to check in and allow yourself to say “yes” to an unexpected invitation to do something spontaneous with your girls! Give yourself just as much time to be with your group as you spend away from them. Balance is another major key!
Courtesy of Zaniah B
Be prepared to give grace.
No matter how great the personalities are, there are some moments when everyone won't mesh too well with each other. It's not personal, and it doesn't have to ruin a person’s trip. We are all imperfect human beings, and traveling can bring an additional level of stress you wouldn't have encountered in a more casual setting like brunch. This makes it easier for miscommunications and misunderstandings to happen. Practice as much empathy as possible, listen more than you speak, and work on responding and not reacting.
There are so many factors at play, like alcohol consumption and being forced out of one's comfort zone in many ways that can amplify situations that you would otherwise be able to smooth over. Most importantly, give yourself grace too! I personally use group travel to improve my ability to connect and co-exist with people whom I may have never considered having much in common. It helps me brush the chip that I have on my shoulder of being “ different” by exposing how random women have more in common than not.
Group travel recharges me through the mutual compliments, shared experiences, and bonding that occurs with women on these trips. The seriousness of adulting can be isolating, and planning an independent getaway can be a daunting task; a girls' trip may just be just what you need.
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