Thursday, 29 December 2016

New Year's Resolutions

Whilst we can probably all admit that the concept of a ‘New Year’s Resolution’ is a little pathetic [what makes January 1 any better of a time to start fresh than June 21?], we can all probably also admit that secretly we all create and crave those fresh motivations, too.

That said, coming up with the ‘perfect’ resolution can be tricky – there are a few very important things you’ll need to consider before telling every man and his dog what 2017 will be for you.

1.     Don’t overdo it – you can’t simply overhaul your lifestyle and everything it tails along overnight. You need to be realistic, otherwise you’ll be off the wagon by March, returned to your pessimistic perspective of resolutions in the first place.
2.     Be specific – know exactly what you’re working towards, and find a way to calculate how far you’ve travelled. Download an app [there’s an app for everything], write it down, start a journal… do something ‘real’ to make sure that you treat this resolution with an air of seriousness, otherwise it will fall right through the cracks
3.     Know Why – more important than knowing what you’re working on, you need to truly know why. Why do you want to lose weight? Is it simply for that trip at the end of the year, or is it for your health? Why do you want to quit smoking? Why do you want to be able to run 5 miles? What will your resolution give you in return – there has to be some strong intrinsic motivation to validate the effort that you’re going to have to invest
4.     Tell people – the more people who know what you’re trying to do, the more accountable you will be. It’s simple: if you want to clean up your diet, telling the people you live with or eat out frequently with will enable them to keep you on track, too, so you’re no longer simply ‘cheating’ yourself.
5.     Put yourself first – the entire point of creating a resolution is to dedicate time, energy and conscious effort to yourself. You need to accept and own the fact that you need and deserve the energy that this commitment will take, and you need to consciously decide to prioritize yourself, in whatever way, in the oncoming year.

At the end of the day, there is nothing more remarkable about January 1 than any other day of the year – unless you decide that there is. So make a decision, think it out, write it down, create and plan and invest the time that your plan requires.

2017 can be the year that you stop making resolutions to stick to your resolutions!
You do you, but do you the best way you can.


Monday, 26 December 2016

45 things to do this summer

Without ripping off the Phineas and Ferb theme song, Summer Break is long, and whilst it’s amazing, oftentimes we find ourselves sleeping in, watching TV and sleeping early. #summerfun

For those days when you haven’t got any plans, or when you’re with your friends [but not really because you’re both just scrolling through Instagram], here’s some ideas to get you started:

1.     Have a water balloon fight
2.     Go on a hike/coastal walk
3.     Bake something new
4.     Go to an outdoor cinema
5.     Create an outdoor cinema
6.     Go to a puppy/animal shelter
7.     Find a new brunch spot
8.     Hang by the pool
9.     Buy tickets to a band you don’t know
10.  Take a class in something
11.  Do Deep-House yoga
12.  Have a picnic
13.  Be a tourist in your own city
14.  Read in the public library
15.  Learn to brew coffee
16.  Have a paint fight
17.  Go to some local markets
18.  Have an old-fashioned sleepover
19.  Go on a road trip
20.  Have a bonfire
21.  Toast marshmallows
22.  Go to a Karaoke bar
23.  By a ticket to some city nearby
24.  Go boating/sailing/kayaking
25.  Learn to surf
26.  Try to grow your own fruits and veggies
27.  Have a board game tournament
28.  Pamper evenings
29.  Hang at a rooftop bar
30.  Go to a free music festival
31.  Mini-Golfing
32.  Learn some new DIYs
33.  Start a new fitness routine
34.  Volunteer
35.  Make Tie-Dye clothing
36.  Host an event
37.  Visit relatives
38.  Take photos of everything
39.  Get a summer job
40.  Paint your nails
41.  Home-make lemonade
42.  Have a movie marathon
43.  Complete a fitness challenge
44.  Read the one book you’ve been meaning to
45.  Camp in the garden

Have some more cool ideas? Share them in the comments below to help this list grow!



Friday, 23 December 2016

16 things in 2016

Our years are full of moments: moments that test us, and congratulate us. Moments that surprise us and excite us, and moments that undermine us, or define us. When we are within these moments, we are short-sighted - we see only what lies directly in front of us, and comprehend most fully how those things will affect our immediate future. In fact, this is what struggle is - if we saw every setback and hurdle with the scope and perspective of just how minor things are in the long run, we wouldn't actually struggle at all. (Sounds kind of nice, doesn't it?)

So we struggle - there are moments through each year that test us and threaten to break us (you're still here: you're not broken), yet in hindsight, those are the moments - far more than our successes - that define us.

2016 has been no exception, for any of us. Personally, the struggles I've faced in my own life have been broad, and by no means are they past. Nonetheless, 2016 has taught me a lot - predominantly about myself.

1. Allow more time for change, chance and reward than you thought. It will come.

2. There is nothing more powerful or rewarding than admitting you were wrong.

3. The most valuable people in your life are not necessarily the ones you see the most often.

4. Hard work pays off. Always.

5. Everyone is busy, everyone is tired, everyone is stressed.

6. Learning to accept yourself will take years, but starting now is better than starting tomorrow.

7. The habits you form define you.

8. Don't be afraid to let unhealthy relationships disappear from your life.

9. Putting yourself first is not selfish - it's okay.

10. Being a strong loser is far more important than being a successful winner.

11. There will always be someone who thinks that what you're doing is stupid or impossible.

12. You don't have to know what you want to do - you just have to start doing.

13. Pursue your goals and don't let anyone tell you that it's too far. It's never too far.

14. If anyone can do it, you can.

15. If it matters to you, it matters.

16. The only approval you'll ever need, and should ever care about, is your own.

2016's lessons are valuable - perhaps you can relate, perhaps not. Either way, take note of the things that have arisen and defined the past year for you, embrace them and allow them to shape your attitude as you enter into 2017.

It's not your choice what happens in the next year, but it is your choice how you react to each event.
Make the choice.



Thursday, 22 December 2016

Vegan Shopping List

The phrase 'vegan' carries with it a whole lot of connotations; namely, negative ones that suggest the person in conversation is either incredibly opinionated, or annoyingly nosey. Perhaps both. These connotations, whilst false, are their own story. The thing I'm most concerned with, and the thing most people misjudge, is the perceived difficulty associated with finding, buying and consuming vegan foods.

As someone who 'went vegan' in college, let me assure you, eating plant-based can be both easy and affordable, if you know how to do it right!!!

At first it may take a little bit of trial and error (a lot of error, in my case), but you get the hang on things fast, and soon enough you'll find yourself eating more, feeling better and glowing more than you ever thought possible!!

If you're a busy-bee who just doesn't have time to go to a grocery store (shopping for fresh food in person is ideal), I recommend either Instacart or Thrive Market - both allow you to filter products as vegan, saving you time. Thrive is especially good, offering bulk pricing for regular sized produce and packaging!

That said, taking yourself and your dog along to the local markets is still the best way to shop; you can buy in bulk (saving you money), and really see, smell and hold the fruits and vegetables you're buying. Plus, you're supporting local farmers, which is great.

For those of you who love the idea of eating a clean, plant-based diet, but don't have the faintest idea of where to start and what to do, I've created my very own Starter Vegan Shopping List, which you can view and download for free here! The list covers a range of food categories, allowing you to walk into the grocery store with some purpose, guidance and sense of direction. From here, you can make the list your own; try new foods and recipes in order to find out what you do and don't like, and challenge yourself into adding new things into your cart each week - you'll likely be surprised with the range and amount of fresh, delicious and healthy vegan food accessible at your very doorstep!



Wednesday, 21 December 2016

winter workouts

The hardest thing about the cold, for many of us, is finding the motivation to pull back the covers from our bed, put down the coffee and brave the outdoors. And whilst I understand the struggle, I have to admit that once you’re outside and cold without turning back, it’s actually an amazing feeling to be working out in the snow, rain or freezing temperatures [do I sound crazy yet?].

That said, it’s the getting out the door that’s the hardest part, and whilst I definitely think that the first step is worth the wrath, sometimes you just can’t. And that’s when we can be thankful for INDOOR WORKOUTS!! [Because you didn’t actually want a rest day, did you?]

Below are a few of my favorite body strength exercises that you can do indoors – for weights, if you don’t have any and don’t want to buy any, you can use anything heavy: full [large] water bottles, your college textbooks [getting your money’s worth] … idk whatever else you have that’s heavy?

-       Skipping/Jump Rope [even if you don’t actually have the rope, you can embrace the foolish look and do the actions for the same physiological effect!]
-       Jumping Jacks/Star Jumps
-       High Knees
-       Mountain Climbers
-       Burpees [with or without push-ups, that’s your decision…]

-       Plank
-       Ab Cycles
-       V-Ups
-       Weighted Twists
-       Reverse Crunches
-       Straight Leg Raises
-       Flutter Kicks

-       Push-Ups
-       Triceps Dips [use a chair, bench, whatever]
-       Extended Arm Planks
-       Bicep Curls [weighted]
-       Shoulder Presses [weighted]

-       Jump Lunges
-       Jump Squats
-       Inner Thigh Lifts
-       Crab Walks
-       Calf Raises
-       Step Ups [weighted]
-       Tuck Jumps
-       Donkey Kicks
-       Bridge Lifts

There’s also a number of apps that can really enhance your at home workouts, allowing you to work up a sweat without a trainer or someone to chase down in the park – my personal favorites are Tabata Pro [an interval app; I typically use this when cycling or doing repeated reps of bodyweight exercises], Nike Training Club [offers a whole bunch of pre-determined at-home workouts with minimal equipment required], and the 7 Minute Workout [I just repeat it as many times as I want to fill leftover time at the end of my workout!].

Don’t forget how important it is to get your blood flowing over the colder months, especially for your mental health and emotional wellbeing! Focus less on physical results and more on doing something every day, and by the time summer rolls around, you’ll be fit and fresh in your routine!


Thursday, 15 December 2016

Things to do in NYC (or any major city) alone

As I write this post, I'm sitting on a cheap chair in Barnes & Noble's Bookstore Cafe, sipping on a too-hot Starbucks coffee and patiently tapping my finger as I wait for the 'complimentary' wifi to load my Spotify. Sounds ~artsy~ right? Wrong - It's so very far from artsy. What it is, despite my perhaps-too-honest description, is kind of pleasant.

New York city's Lexington Avenue Barnes & Nobles is filled - I mean, every seat at every table - with people either reading, writing or typing. There is no talking [or no noise, really, save for the faint Christmas carols that blur in the background], but there is an air of peacefulness and respect: every one of us has come here to be with people, without being with people. To be alone in company. It's amazing. And as thrilled as I am to be back in New York [I haven't complained about the cold nearly as much as usual], I've found myself returned back into the position of solo travel.

As someone that really enjoys personal space, and honestly craves 'alone time' a lot at college, this isn't a bad thing. Enjoying a city in solely my own company is not something I've ever really feared or struggled with. However, I know that for a lot of people, being solo in a city, regardless of how familiar or unfamiliar it may be, can be daunting.

Below are my favorite go-to things to do in New York when I'm alone, although you can really do these in any city at all, I'm sure!

  1. Find a cosy cafe, order a warm drink, and read/write/watch Netflix. There's a huge difference between reading or watching TV in your bedroom and watching it in a public space - you're no longer 'cooped up' and alone, although you're not forcing awkward small talk with the woman beside you on the bus, either. It's the perfect balance. [If the city you're in is unfamiliar to you, I'd recommend searching for the top quiet cafes, or best cafes to study in - that normally gives you the right kind of results without a buzzing aura of Instagram Foodies]
  2. Go for a run and/or walk. For me, these are two different things, although they don't have to be. Going for a run is, I find, a great time-killer if you're not sure what to do with yourself, as well as a really nice way of seeing the city. Here in New York, I love running through Central Park, taking whatever little pathway I come across, people-watching as I do so. I feel both within and outside of the city at once, which is everything I want in a bustling metropolis. Walking, although offering the same things, is a different experience. Your heart rate isn't amped, yet your eyes are wide open, and you're discovering the city in a similar yet completely different manner. Going for a walk through the streets for a few hours is an amazing way to window shop and familiarize yourself with what the city has to offer, as well as to find a hidden place for late lunch that you'd never been to before!
  3. Take photos. Going around your city, or another city, with a camera can seem touristy-y and foolish [and I suppose to a degree it is], however it gives you a purpose. When you're wandering the city aimlessly, I would argue that you're still doing something, although perhaps you simply aren't aware of it. For those of you who like to feel like there's a method to the madness, and that there's a specific thing that you can point to as to what got you out of bed, then something as simple as taking photos for an album or portfolio is a great idea. Plus, just as with walking around, looking for 'original' photos of a city you either know, or the world has perhaps seen at every angle, can take you to new parts of the city that you'd never venture out to otherwise. Take the opportunity!
  4. Sign up for some classes. I'm not talking about beginner pottery classes [unless you're into pottery, in which case, go for it!] - I'm talking about classes that spark your interest. For me, this includes everything from spin classes to yoga classes, or even creative writing classes. Most major cities have everything on offer, if you're willing to look for it!
  5. Treat Yourself. It's rare that you get the time to really be by yourself, for yourself, so take the chance! Go and spend four hours in a hair salon, coloring, cutting and blowing your hair out, if that's something you've been wanting to do for a while! Or take yourself off to a day spa for a massage or facial - do something that you haven't had time for, and that you mightn't get time for in a while, once you're surrounded by friends, family and commitments.
  6. Stay In. I don't mean the whole time, because this post is aimed at avoiding exactly that state of hermitage - however, a night in with a bottle of wine and some cheap and delicious pizza, in front of the TV [or perhaps in the bath? Weird or cool, you tell me?] does sound pretty incredible, doesn't it? 
  7. Go to a show, film or performance. Your retired grandmother isn't the only person that goes to the cinema at 3pm on a Sunday, alone, and sobs shamelessly the whole way through Nicholas Sparks' predictable-yet-still-somehow-gut-wrenching new film. You can, and should, follow in those footsteps! Go and see a film that you either want to see [but know nobody is going to want to see it with you], or know will make you sob [because this way nobody sees you sobbing] and just enjoy it! The reality is that once you're in the cinema, it's dark and nobody notices or cares, because at 3pm on a Sunday everyone is alone, realistically. Although this doesn't only apply to cinemas - go to free concerts, stand up comedy, art exhibitions, inspirational speeches, book readings... whatever takes your fancy! You don't need someone by your side holding your hand like it's the first day of school again, you do you!
  8. Stop procrastinating. If you have some paper, article or piece of work that you're supposed to be doing over this 'time off' period, just do it. You'll feel a lot more as though you actually have time off if you don't have a huge deadline lingering above you for weeks! [I personally recommend going back to number one to tackle this one... doing your work in a coffee shop rather than your office is that much more freeing]
  9. Foster your newest companion! I have to say that one of the best parts of being alone in NYC during the day at the moment is my puppy... you all know I'm in love with my little caramel-colored shitzu-poodle pup [or "shitpoo" for short], and having her around is honestly like a little bundle of joy. Over the holiday period, lots of pet shelters and even pet stores close down, at least for a few days, and you may find that you have the chance to foster a little kitten or puppy for a few days, to give it a home and some loving over the holiday period! 
  10. Volunteer. Most major cities, even minor ones, have a ton of volunteering opportunities that offer you as much as they offer those that rely upon their services [perhaps more]. Whether you volunteer in a soup kitchen, as a dog walker, in a day care or simply in a local store, your hours of freedom are put to productive use without the looming pressures of 'real work' - plus, if this is a place where you're settling in or will be for a while, volunteering is an amazing way to meet new people and establish connections.

Don't fear your own company, and don't settle for boredom - the city around you is only as exciting as you allow it to be, so just find something to do [make something to do] and you'll notice colors, people, places and atmospheres that you never knew existed.



Sunday, 11 December 2016

Unnown Footwear

source: unnown
Style, Comfort, Affordability - these are the three most important elements to a shoe, yet sadly, the odds of one actually being able to find such a shoe are... slim [to say the least]. Oftentimes, the super trendy shoes either cost more than your three-month-income [six, for you college students], OR conversely, are a financial steal that gives you seven blisters, chipped toenails, a broken rubber sole and no grip as you try to run away from all those frat boys. #Disaster

Thankfully, however, our needs [aka wants] have been heard, met and granted!! Introducing, Unnown Footwear!!!

Now is an entirely appropriate moment for you to be like "Annabel, what are you talking about? I've never even heard of their shoes...." and you'd be right - they're unknown [gettit? unnown... I'm hilarious, I know].

But in all seriousness, Unnown Footwear is a new start-up shoe company, based in LA [although they ship worldwide], creating on-trend sneakers that cater to the budget, comfort and durability required and desired by college students - girls and guys!

Their sneakers range from high tops to slip ons, in mostly neutral colors [yay for neutrals, yay for shoes that go with everything], with a variety of simple, bumpy and tasseled textures, so there's something for everyone!!

PLUS, you can get them discounted! What college/high school student doesn't love cheaper than cheap, on-trend shoes?! (or what person doesn't, really?)

You can use the code "ANNIEUS" at checkout for 15% OFF! ... OR, if you're based in AUSTRALIA, I have a special discount for you, because that #australianshipping costing your soul (plus tax and tip) isn't cool... those of you located down under can use the code "ANNIEAU" for 20% OFF your order!!!

Just in time for the holiday season, and more importantly, just in time for you...
Let me know what shoes you go for! I'm currently living in my black leather high tops, highly recommend...

Happy shopping, Happy saving!


Review: FitBit Flex 2

I'd never been a 'FitBit' person - you know the kind of person I'm talking about; the one that talks about their FitBit every moment of every day, can tell you the serial number of their product and rattle off the pros, cons, name of maker and various prices off the top of their head. I've never boarded that train.

However, recently I got sent to College Fashion Week in LA by FabFitFun (side note: it was fabulous), and as a part of the VIP goodie bag was a free pre-order voucher of the new FitBit Flex 2. Given that the product was free, and knowing that I would likely never spend my own money on a FitBit for myself (I tend to workout without a watch buzzing on my wrist to remind me), I decided to go for it.

Around a month ago, the watch arrived (as pictured above) and I've been wearing it and getting used to it for a few weeks now. And I have to say; i love it!

Essentially, the FitBit Flex 2 doesn't have a screen on the band: it is thinner and more petite than the original FitBit, and has only five tiny lights on the top, that will light up according to the notification it gives: for example, when I hit my daily step count, the lights flash different colors (party mode?) to celebrate, whilst when my phone is receiving an incoming call (they connect via Bluetooth), it will vibrate and light up white, which will direct my attention to the call.

In order to fully use the watch, you download the free FitBit app for your phone, and sync the two items via Bluetooth. From here, everything is completely customizable! You enter your age, weight, height, activity level, fitness and health goals, sleep goals, daily step goals, etc. The app is entirely your own - you can have as many or as few alerts, reminders and vibrations on your actual FitBit as you like, and wear it only when you want.

You can also use your GPS to track your exercise, which is great, because after having entered in your age, height and weight, the calorie expenditure is calculated incredibly accurately.

Your diet is equally important for your health (you all know I'm a huge advocate for a healthy diet), and the FitBit Flex App allows you to scan foods you're eating, enter in quantities and calories, set calorie goals and monitor your weekly calorie intake vs. expenditure.

Whilst I don't personally think that counting calories is the healthiest approach to weight loss from a mental health perspective (it can become obsessive and addictive), I'm not against having a rough idea of your own consumption and activity levels, and have actually really enjoyed tracking roughly what I do and don't consume in a day.

All in all, I really, really love this product. I wear the FitBit every day (unless, perhaps, I'm going somewhere fancy and I don't want to have it as a make-shift accessory on my wrist), I enjoy keeping up with the app, tracking things, the battery life is fantastic (it lasts a number of days, and then takes around 2 hours to fully recharge), and the durability of the watch itself is great.

It's also not as expensive as I think it could be, for what it does and the benefits you can reap by using it correctly, so I would entirely recommend this as a gift to yourself, someone else, or a kickstart for that New Years resolution we both know you secretly have.

Go for it!!


Saturday, 10 December 2016

Christmas Gifts For Him Under $50

1. Tickets - I am a sucker for experiences and moments rather than 'things,' and so I believe that gifting some tickets to a concert, or a vacation, or a musical or whatever he likes is a completely safe, exciting, personalized and thoughtful gift! Plus, if you plan ahead early enough, you can get tickets cheaaaaaap before the date approaches and the prices jack up! Check out Vivid Seats for your start-out concert ticket venue!

2. Watch - Every man needs a good watch, that's just how it goes. And whilst most watches will cost more than $50, you don't have to spend that kind of money to get a classy, simple, goes-with-everything kind of gift! Check out Asos Men for a whole range of watches in a whole range of prices!

3. Joke Gifts - Who doesn't love a good gag gift? Not only is it funny, but it also shows that you put in a little thought, which is way more important than the amount of money you spent!! My go-to gag gift sites are Uncommon Goods and Off The Wagon.

4. Fashion - Let's be honest here: guys with good fashion is irresistible. It's just a fact. However, most young guys don't care enough to spend their money on clothes (what???), so it seems that job has fallen upon you. No problem! Get them looking stylish without breaking your bank (because we also want a few extra dollars for our own clothes, surely) with my go-to mens clothing sites: Academy Brand, Zara Man and Saks Off Fifth!

5. Cosmetics - No, not makeup. We're talking about luxury shaving cream, aftershave, cologne, skincare products and the works. Believe it or not, guys need those things, too! Hit up the Men's section of Sephora for the best deals, gift packages and range of products!

6. Drinking Games - Assuming your boy/bae is over the legal drinking age (mmmmm), a solid game involving beer, red cups or even classy glasses is always a fun turn to take!! If it's summer, you could get inflatable beer pong tables, or even just a book on the best cocktail bars in your city! Check out some cool versions of drinking games here, and then just have a glance around - they're surprisingly cheap and easy to locate!

7. Technology - Every guy loves technology, be it outwardly or secretly - so you can't go wrong with some wireless speakers, a new phone accessory or perhaps even a computer game (apparently there's no age limit to playing COD 23 hours a day...) - for the cheapest deals, start your search at BestBuy and go from there!

Truthfully, I struggle way more with shopping for guys than I do for girls, so if you have any suggestions, let's help each other out and leave them below!

Happy shopping!



Christmas Gifts For Her Under $50

Source: 2020 Ave

Shopping for Gifts around this time of year can be two things: fun, and expensive. Luckily, there are a ton of amazing sites and stores that understand this struggle, cater for people just like you, so you can afford to get that amazing makeup palette for your sister, as well as an ugly mug for Aunt Nancy.

1. iPhone Cases - iPhone cases are quirky and cool and necessary, but also often overlooked! Check out my personal fav website here, or explore around! (There's some super cute ones on Easy, just make sure you check the shipping dates to ensure it arrives in time!)

2. Undies - Yep, undies... but not the 'mom' kind; i'm talking super cute, flouncy, fancy, frilly or whatever undies your dearly beloved will love to wear most! Check out these awesome deals on undies, bras and ~bralettes~ (ooh la la) here, and once again, search around!

3. Candy - I'm not suggesting you go and wrap up a box of Sour Patch Kids for your bestie (although if she likes them...... why not?) - I'm talking about those *luxury* candy companies, like this one! Giving and receiving tasteful (and tasty) gifts is fun an original, without breaking your budget!

4. Accessories - Sunglasses, rings, purses, hats, scarves... there are so many cute accessories out there, and it's much easier to get someone's style right with an additional item rather than with a full outfit! For affordable, on-trend accessories, check out 2020 Ave, with quick shipping and easy buys!

5. Stationary - What girl doesn't love stationary? Seriously, it's like we are all five on our first day of school again, excited by pens, and paper, and staplers... Not ashamed, only proud. That said, there's a difference between the type of pens you gift to someone.. check out Paper Source for cards, giftwrap, pens, pencils, stickers, paper and diary's (and wayyyyyy more).

6. Vouchers - Gifting experiences are often overlooked simply because the act of giving a slip of paper can feel or appear a little.... 'less than.' That said, however, you can snag some amazing gifts online that promise incredible, indulgent experiences for her no matter where you are this holiday season...! Check out Groupon for some cheap bargains, and look into facials, massages, hot air balloon rides.... (perhaps skydiving, if she's into that dare-devil-please-put-my-life-in-danger kinda thing)

7. Skincare - Buying makeup can be easy, assuming you stick to the basics (mascara, nude pallets, lip glosses...), but buying skincare adds an extra touch of luxury, with a slightly more necessary product! Of course, you don't want to go stingy with the skincare products, as this will be reflected in the state of your girl/girlfriend/sister/bestie's skin later on (oops?), so I'd recommend spending as much as you're willing/can afford on this. In saying that, and in sticking to my "under $50" benchmark, I recommend you check out Skin Laundry's Online store - they have great quality products, cute and classy packaging, and reliable shipping!

8. Subscription - It wouldn't be a gift guide without me mentioning the gift that keeps on giving.......... subscriptions! Be this to a magazine or a product that you know she'll love, a monthly/yearly subscription is a great idea to get someone more ~qualified~ to do the shopping for you! Personally, I'm subscribed with FabFitFun and adore receiving their boxes (oh, and check out my sidebar for an extra $10 off code!!), but I also really love the sounds of Urth Box - although can't speak from experience there..!

Those are my top 8 individual gifts for girls this christmas, but below I've included a few websites that offer a range of classy, quirky, cool and affordable knick-knacks, all of which I highly recommend giving a browse...!

~ Belle & Blush
~ Urban Outfitters
~ The Body Shop
~ Function of Beauty

Psst... Keep an eye out for my gift guide for boys, because if boys aren't hard to shop for, nobody is...


Wednesday, 7 December 2016

coffee - a pre-workout kick

Coffee has a ton of health benefits [when consumed in moderation, of course!], but not many people are aware of just how great coffee can be as a pre-workout energy drink - perhaps even better than an 'actual' pre-workout shot [as though you needed another excuse to drink that morning coffee, right?].
So let's begin by addressing a few drawbacks of your pre-workout product;

1. Dehydration
A typical pre-workout contains two key ingredients; caffeine and creatine. Now, whilst you're probably thinking to yourself "so? coffee literally is caffeine" - it's the combination of the two in a single drink or sachet that makes pre-workouts so much more dehydrating than coffee on its own. That said, consuming either requires a certain awareness on your part, so make sure you either carry water with you, or if that isn't possible [running around the city with a huge water bottle? No, thanks], be sure to drink one extra glass than normal after your workout, just to be safe.

2. Price
Let's be honest, pre-workouts in all their forms - pills, powders, shots, drinks - are an investment. And whilst I'm all for investing in a product if it is going to aid your health and/or fitness, in certain cases such as these, the cheaper option seems just as good, if not better. [Not to mention that you can find coffee way more easily than your pre-workout...]

3. Over-Compensation
When you purchase a pill or powder [or anything, really] as your kickstart, you are consuming a pre-measured, pre-determined amount of stimulants. Ideally, we'd like to think that consuming a large quantity of stimulants would simply amp us up to be able to burn it, and a lot more, off through our exercise. [Of course we want to think this; isn't this the point of consuming a pre-workout?]. However, for the average person, this simply isn't the case. Just because you've consumed enough caffeine or creatine to run a marathon, doesn't mean you will. What can all this excess stimulants do? Over time, with regular consumption of these products, you could find yourself with blood pressure issues or kidney damage.* The joy of coffee, however, is that you can know your body and control how many espresso shots you consume in order to correlate your intake with your planned workout.

So now that we have that out of the way - what makes coffee any different?

1. Metabolism Booster
Coffee - especially when consumed black [recommended] - amps up your metabolism, which in the morning before a workout, is a great way to re-start your system for the day after sleeping and lying flat all night. Additionally, the caffeine in black coffee can aid your body in using fat stores as a source of energy as opposed to glycogen or the food you may have eaten late the night before [and isn't that a huge plus for all of us??]

2. Enhanced Focus
Depending on the workout of your choice, focus can be difficult to come by, especially if you choose to workout alone rather than in a big group or class setting. Personally, as someone that enjoys running long distances, I often find that when I don't have coffee or simply run whilst I'm tired, I end up turning home earlier simply out of mental boredom and mental barriers that don't correlate at all with my physical condition. This can be super frustrating if your workouts are cut short due to your mental state as opposed to your actual performance and ability to see the exercise through - consuming a little bit of black coffee around 30 minutes before your workout can clear your mind enough to allow you to not only see your goal, but also to see it through, with greater clarity and determination.

3. Better Blood Flow
When you work out, the oxygen you desperately inhale, be it during aerobic or anaerobic exercise, is what fuels your muscles and allows them to continually contract, performing the exercises demanded of them. This oxygen is transported through your body via the bloodstream - thus, the greater the amount of oxygenated blood flowing through you, the better for your workout. A recent study** found that those who consumed coffee (caffeinated) 30 minutes prior to their workout had a 30% increase in their blood flow over a 75 minute period! This is a huge change in your blood flow, and will make a serious difference to your body and performance both during and after your workout!

The Final Line: Coffee is a great, affordable, accessible and healthy pre-workout, when consumed correctly and in moderation! [I recommend black coffee in the morning - just one cup - to wake you up, but early enough that it doesn't affect your sleep later that night]. As with any supplement, you'll need to do the research and find a balance that works for your body as well as your workout goals - different people react differently, so if you've never had coffee, start small [single-shot] and see how it affects you. Your workouts are about to be a whole lot more intense and effective!




Tuesday, 6 December 2016

SoulCycle - Is It Worth It?

Recently, thanks to my recurring injuries (hips, knees and calves.. what did I do to deserve this?!), I've been trying to work out in different ways in order to evade the specific parts of my body that hurt.

Whilst I'm a runner through and through - nothing comes close to the feeling of a good run, for me - I've expanded my cardio horizons recently to include spinning.

Last year, i toyed around a little with FlyWheel - an indoor spin class company in LA, and really loved it. However, their classes were a luxury, given that their studio was located a fair drive away from where I live by campus, and thus became a Sunday morning treat more than a weekly workout routine. This year, however, a new SoulCycle studio opened up in DTLA, and given its much more convenient location, I began to test it out.

I won't compare FlyWheel and SoulCycle here in this post (that's a whole article of its own!), but instead I'm going to focus on the one I'm currently investing in.

What is SoulCycle?

Essentially, it's a chain luxury company proving high-intensity spin classes with super qualified instructors and really (really) loud music. The vibe is young and intense, the classes are fit for all types of riders, and the instructors are overflowing with energy every single class. Oh, and the rooms are dimmed, lit instead by candles and dark lights.

The only downside - cost.

SoulCycle classes are $30 each, with an additional $3 per class to rent shoes (something most of us need). You can't buy a membership - which I personally think would be way more financially appealing - but you can buy class passes; 5, 10, 20 etc., each averaging out to be slightly less than $30 each (though not a lot less).

So essentially your workout comes down to your income;
Is SoulCycle a good workout? Yes
Is SoulCycle fun? Yes
Is SoulCycle affordable long-term? For most, No

Unless you know that the cost of this workout doesn't bother you (in which case I say, go do it!!), I'd recommend SoulCycle as a social activity - get your friends together, go to a class together, splurge a little and then get brunch after! It's a great way to amp up your energy, get your blood pumping, do strength and cardio training at the same time and just dance along to some awesome music!

Let me know what you think of SoulCycle, and whether you'd like any comparisons between other companies offering a similar service!



Sunday, 4 December 2016

Christmas with Tobi

You all know I'm a sucker for online shopping (and given that it's finals right now, all I do is procrastinate, which means that all I do is browse, browse, browse...) - that said, it's going into winter and I've been struggling to find some cute-but-still-event-appropriate clothing that fits the LA attempt of cold weather whilst not looking too floral or bright for the darker days.

I decided on neutrals, because of course, you can never go wrong with neutrals, no matter the occasion, and thankfully, the team over at Tobi Online Clothing managed to have affordable, wintery, navy/black and super cute clothing!!!

You can check out my top three outfits below, all ordered and shipped speedily from Tobi, as well as check out their stock for yourself, with amazing deals and outfits for all your holiday events!

Yay Holidays!

Let me know what you think/what cute clothes you order, because I'm always looking for a few more steals!






Monday, 28 November 2016

The Perfect Christmas Gift Box

I personally love giving others gifts - I enjoy seeing their faces, and I love the feeling of knowing that I found that perfect gift.. oftentimes, however, I find the stress of searching for the 'ultimate' Christmas gifts each year crazy - I'm a perfectionist, which inevitably means that this year must outdo the last which must outdo the last and so on. Sometimes, however, it seems like I've hit a financial and creativity wall, and the search for original gifts (no socks, candles or mugs, please) can be impossible.

Since pairing with FabFitFun earlier this year, I've grown to love their boxes and the quality of their products (I've invested in a subscription for myself, because #treatyourself?) - and more importantly, I believe that it's the perfect gift for any girl into fashion, health, fitness, beauty and lifestyle products (let's be honest, who isn't?)

PLUS, FabFitFun deliveries are packaged in super-cute boxes, so your gift wrap worries are long-gone, adios, au revoir!

You can check out FabFitFun here, and use the code "ITSLIT" at checkout for an additional $10 off your first box!!

(Also, let me know your thoughts when you receive your first box! Feedback is welcomed!)



Sunday, 20 November 2016

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