January 2016 - Prep Essentials





College & Post-Grad

College & Post-Grad
College & Post-Grad

January Bucket List Recap + February Challenge!

I think I bit off a little more than I could chew for the first month of this project of mine. (If you haven't been reading along, check out this post explaining my personal challenge to make 2016 a year full of bucket list accomplishments and venturing out of my comfort zone!)

I was really excited about January's list - probably a little too excited - and I think I underestimated a couple of things...such as not wanting to spend money this month, the amount of time I would be putting into getting back in shape after the holidays, and most importantly the amount of time I would be sick and sleeping away the weekends in bed!

That being said, I still accomplished more than half of my list, and I'm really happy about that!

The one I am most disappointed about is not trying to bake one of my Mom's recipes - yet! I've tried to be super healthy this month and somehow cream cake just didn't make the grocery list, but I'm going to re-add this one for February because it's really important to me! I ended up trying multiple new workout classes - but I only ended up loving one - and it is now a part of my weekly routine! The closet re-design is what I am most excited about, but it deserves its own special post later this week!

Special shoutout to my good friend Meredith for testing out some of these questionable workout classes bright and early on those 1 degree Sunday mornings!

Which brings me to this month's new set of challenges!

I kept the list a little shorter this month to make it more manageable, but I'm insanely excited to cross some of these off of my list! I have never highlighted or colored my hair, and the Balayage trend seems so subtle and simple that I've finally mustered up the courage to give it a try! (A big point in favor of it was that your roots are natural and it never requires any touching-up. It will just grow out eventually!)

We went to Mardi Gras last year on a super spontaneous and last-minute road trip, but this year we planned ahead and a group of my best friends are going down there for FIVE days, including Fat Tuesday! It's sure to be madness, but I can't wait. Keep an eye out for the recap!

What new things did you try this month??

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The Perfect Work Bags + Totes for Every Occassion (And Every Budget!)

One of the first things that really made me feel like I was officially entering the working world was purchasing (as a little graduation gift to myself) a tote that I could bring to work everyday. I had been carrying my Longchamp (and still use all the time) to class every single day of college and felt like I was ready to have something new as a fresh start. 

A lot of my friends had a similar dilemma of deciding which bag would be something they could live with carrying every day, that went with almost every outfit, and that could carry everything they need and still look fashionable (and be affordable!) Naturally, this inspired me to do a post on work purses that meet varying occasions and budgets!

These totes are all great if you need lots of space to bring home paperwork, files, your laptop...and still hold your makeup, keys & a few other essentials! (Personally, I'm partial to the Madewell Transport Tote because for a small additional fee you can get a gorgeous monogram on it!)

These totes are all perfect for everyday essentials - no matter what plans you might have after work. (Truthfully, some of these are definitely roomy enough to take your work home with you too - but if you're a purse packrat like I am who overpacks for even the most mundane activities, these are just the right size for the essentials + a few extras.

Working + working out regularly has become my favorite part of having a set routine everyday. I've really been committing myself to staying healthy and taking better care of myself since graduating, but that doesn't mean you can't do it in style too! It took me a couple months to settle on a gym bag I loved that could also hold everything I needed to bring to get ready for work...but these are all amazing options! (I ended up choosing the Lululemon Urban Warrior Duffel, check out my post all about it and my gym essentials here!)

What is your go-to bag to bring to work? What types of things are your absolute must-have essentials to keep in your bag everyday? I would love to hear from you!

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J.Crew New Arrivals + Top Picks

January has been a complete and total spending freeze (and an actual freeze too...my skin has never been so dry!) I've been trying to take a break from some of the bad holiday habits I slipped into, and it has been a lot easier than I thought it would be! That doesn't mean I haven't had my eye on a few things, though...

I have a big gift card to J.Crew that I've been saving for a rainy day, and my window (browser) shopping has been getting a tad excessive - that store is such a weakness for me. Here are some of the things I've had my eye on lately...help a girl choose!

One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight | Nine

Don't miss these picks from Madewell, too! Ah - so many options! Too bad my J.Crew Gift Card won't work here as well...

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Essentials Apps for Staying Organized in 2016

How many times have you rolled your eyes at the annoying little notification that your "storage is almost full" on your iPhone? It seemed like no matter how many photos I delete, old conversations I erase, and apps I continually remove from my phone, this little notification never stopped popping up! I started a new phone contract on my own once I moved to Chicago, so I was able to get an upgrade to my storage space and luckily that has solved my problem, but I resolved when I got this fresh start that I would keep it. 

I've surprisingly managed to uphold this idea, and have kept my phone pretty clutter-free, but there are definitely a few apps that I absolutely cannot live without, and they have been my go-to sources for staying organized this year! If you don't have these, I highly recommend downloading them asap - just click on the app name below and you will be re-directed to the app store in a separate window!

1. Google Calendar - this is for you Gmail people. I know a lot of people are very attached to the mail app that iPhones have, but I personally have never been able to love it. Since I started working, I've attached it to my work email, but I still stick to a separate gmail app for all personal emails, and I somehow only recently discovered the Google Calendar app. It's so much more streamlined, connects to your Gmail and will even automatically input things like flight information and times straight from your travel confirmations in your inbox! (Plus it adds an awesome picture that matches the location you're traveling to...let the Mardi Gras Countdown begin!) This app is just organized in a much simpler way, and so much of it is automated to connect to your Gmail inbox.

2. The Skimm - So, definitely not an app, but let's pretend for a moment that it is. I've never liked reading the news, but officially felt completely ignorant not knowing what was going on when I'd walk into work and people would be discussing the major news of the day. I love the Skimm because it narrates and summarizes the news perfectly (and usually with a hint of sarcasm and sass that feels directed towards younger woman who want to be in-the-know without being bored to tears!) It's a daily email that arrives in your inbox with just the overall summary of major events in every category - with links to full stories if you want to know more! I read it for 5-10 minutes during my commute and I actually love knowing what's going on without having to watch a full depressing or confusing news story.

3. Dropbox - This one has been around for a while, but even I will admit that I didn't fully start embracing it until a few months ago when my computer had an absolute meltdown - bye-bye hard drive! Thankfully, I recovered most of my data, but now that I'm always shifting from my work computer to my phone to my iPad to my personal laptop - it was definitely time to streamline my approach to reaching all of my documents at the drop of a hat. It has come in handy so many times, and they are re-integrating the photos aspect of it (formerly known as Carousel) so it will connect to your phone and store all of the photos in your camera roll! I love this because I never have to worry about mass-deleting pictures in my phone to free up space and avoid that "storage is full" pest.

4. Venmo - This one is definitely a city essential, but I've been trying desperately to get my parents and college friends to embrace it too. It's completely safe, and connects to your bank account so that you can seamlessly transfer money to friends bank accounts for anything from splitting a restaurant tab to paying your roommate for utilities (plus it lets you put a little caption of what the money is for, which people tend to get pretty creative with!) I use this for absolutely everything - especially because most restaurants in the city don't split the check for you and it saves a ton of time. Whenever someone pays you, you just hit "transfer to bank" and it will appear in your bank account within 24 hours!

5. Qapital - This app has already proven its usefulness for me with a couple of fun vacations I have coming up this spring (more on those later!) This app makes saving up for special trips, occasions, or a big item that you just can't quite afford easy and kinda fun! You connect the app to your bank account, and it will create a separate account just for your special "event" you choose - for example, my ski trip in Breckenridge! You create different rules for the app so that it knows when it is allowed to put money in your fund, and there are a ton of rules to choose from! My personal favorites are: the guilty pleasure rule, the round-up rule, and the spend less rule. Trying to eat less chipotle (and possibly avoid e. coli? Yikes!) Every time you spend money there, Qapital will automatically pull money into your special fund. The round-up rule takes any purchase you make that has change leftover and puts the remaining amount of change into your fund (pennies and dimes add up!) The spend less rule is perfect for people like me who know they spend too much on a place like Starbucks...If you can break your habit and spend below a budget of your choosing - Qapital will take the remainder that you didn't spend and put it towards your fund as a reward! I love this app because it subconsciously helps you save up with little actions in your bank account that are hardly noticeable in the short term, but in the long run can make all the difference! (For more details on this app and the rules you can set, go here!)

What are some of your must-have apps for 2016?

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6 Quick + Easy Smoothie Recipes for Busy Mornings

Despite the absolutely unbearable winter air that's been delivered to us lucky Chicago residents, I've been starting most of my mornings off with a smoothie for breakfast - note: I have definitely been finishing these before I go outside...

I've really been focusing on sticking to my healthy routine that I've developed in the last couple of months, and while I've never been a big breakfast person, I have to have something before I head to the gym and start a full day of work. Still, the thought of food when I first wake up has never really appealed to me, so smoothies are the perfect compromise! 

I used to think they were difficult, expensive and time-consuming, but I have finally nailed down a couple of recipes that I absolutely love - and the best part is, I really just invented them by playing around with the same groups of ingredients until I found something that worked! 

You absolutely can have very quick, simple & cheap smoothies every day without taking up much of your time or money!

*Note - most of these ingredients can be either fresh or frozen, and you can substitute honestly anything that you do/don't like - I tend to use frozen ingredients because I don't have to worry about them going bad and they're so much cheaper in the winter!*

1. Sweet Berry Lemonade Smoothie - This is my personal favorite, although some people may find it a tad bit too sweet. The trick is using Simple Lemonade Raspberry Lemonade as the liquid ingredient (as opposed to my usual orange juice, water, or coconut water).

1 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
1 cup Simply Lemonade Raspberry Lemonade
A few spoonfuls of non-fat vanilla yogurt (use your own discretion, I usually do 2-3 but it depends what thickness you want!)

2. Banana Berry Blast Smoothie - Another great and easy one, you can use any bag of mixed berries (frozen bags come in assortments) or you can just choose your favorites!

1/2 banana
1 cup mixed berries
1 cup orange juice
A few spoonfuls of non-fat vanilla yogurt (use your own discretion, I usually do 2-3 but it depends what thickness you want!)

3. Black + Blue Breakfast Smoothie - This one is great when I'm looking for something different - the combination of blackberries and blueberries is a much more tart flavor than my go-to strawberries I tend to reach for.

1/2 banana
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup blackberries
A few spoonfuls of non-fat vanilla yogurt (use your own discretion, I usually do 2-3 but it depends what thickness you want!)

4. Green with Envy Smoothie - This one took me the longest to perfect, and the secret ingredient turned out to be the lemon juice (big surprise, I put lemon on absolutely everything!) It's incredibly healthy and definitely gives me the most energy. This is what I reach for if I know I have a particularly big day coming up.

1 cup almond milk (or coconut water - up to you!)
3/4 cup spinach
3/3 cup kale
1/2 lemon squeezed for fresh lemon juice
1 pear or apple, sliced/chopped to make blending easier - yes you can leave the skin on!
*For extra flavor, try adding honey, agave nectar or vanilla extract - 1/2 tsp*

5. Very Berry Green Smoothie - If an all-green smoothie is something you just can't quite love yet, try this one instead. The added berries make it a little more familiar & fruity, while still giving you all of the incredible nutrients from ingredients like kale!

1 cup almond milk (or coconut water - up to you!)
1/2 handful of kale + 1/2 handful of spinach
1 cup apple, chopped (you can leave the skin on)
1 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 lemon squeezed for fresh lemon juice
*For special extras, try adding 1 Tbsp of chia seeds or 1 Tbsp of nut butter (almond or peanut butter)

6. Tropical Health Storm Smoothie - This one is great for mornings that I wake up and the weather says 1 degree...good morning Chicago! The tropical flavors let me daydream I'm somewhere much warmer while I get ready in the morning...and it's so delicious!

1 cup almond milk (or coconut water - up to you!)
1 cup kale or spinach
1/2 banana
1 cup frozen pineapple or blueberries
A few spoonfuls of non-fat vanilla yogurt (use your own discretion, I usually do 2-3 but it depends what thickness you want!)

Happy sipping, and let me know what you think of some of these! Hopefully they will help you start your mornings energized, alert and ready to take on the world!

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3 Golden Globe Beauty Trends + Tips From Celebrity Makeup Artist Jenny Patinkin

Monday morning was an interesting start for me, because I was on the news! I am incredibly lucky, because I have an unbelievably successful and talented friend who works in PR in New York. (Her life is seriously #goals!) Her client, celebrity makeup artist Jenny Patinkin, was being featured on a live morning segment this Monday morning to showcase three Golden Globe beauty trends and how you can do them yourself at home, with her philosophy called "lazy perfection". 

(Now that is a makeup strategy I can get behind!)

Jenny was so amazing and talented, and it was so exciting to get to meet her and see her in action! The three looks she chose to feature were a bold lip, dark eyes and brows, and a gold + bronze look. (Her inspiration came from Laverne Cox with her dark bold lip, Jaimie Alexander with a "modern Elizabeth Taylor" look, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley golden glow. 

    Bold Lip    |    Dark Eyes & Brows    |   Gold + Bronze

Being behind the scenes and hearing all of the tips from Jenny was so much fun - and a total makeup novice like me can use all of the help I can get! Jenny says that the key to her philosophy is "taking the path of least resistance...smudging and good brushes...and to make sure that your application is forgiving, and doesn't require a lot of precision." She believes that if you have the right brushes, you can make anything happen! (Be sure to check out her new brush line, the gem collection, here - she was super sweet and gave me a free sample of one of them...I can't wait to use it!)

 Here is a recap of her tips to get each look at home and help you achieve "lazy perfection":

Bold Lip: She kept the rest of her face clean and neutralized the other colors in her face, letting the bold lip speak for itself. Jenny eliminated any pink-ness in her face and then used a nude lip pencil to start. This is much easier to apply, and should match closely to your natural lip color, really only acting as a way of giving your lips definition. Jenny chose to avoid the trendy "matte" lip colors we've been seeing lately and instead used "Blood Roses" by Kevyn Aucoin - this color is a little bit glossier and keeps your lips from cracking the way they would with a matte lip color.

Dark Brows & Eyes (featuring me!): Jenny referred to this look as a "modern Elizabeth Taylor" with a classic smokey eye. This look includes dark eyelashes, a dark rim around the eye, and softly defined brows. She says that the "lazy perfection" secret to this look is to use a lot of smudging, and not to get too caught up in precision or clean lines. She used "The Smokey Eye Baton" from Surrat Beauty - it is dual-ended with both a soft eye pencil & a pre-filled eyeshadow smudger that can be used along your lash line and along your eyelid. Her final tip for this look is to be cautious not to overdo your brows, because it causes too much contrast against the eyes.

ps: I had such a hard time keeping still during this segment - I was fully convinced that I had the worst resting bitch face, and I think I blinked about a thousand times...I'm not used to all of that eye makeup! It was such a cool experience, though!

Gold + Bronze: Jenny believes this will be a very trendy look for this upcoming spring, especially because anyone can wear it - this is not a look designed to make you look tan the way you might think, but to just make your complexion and face look warm and youthful. For this look, Jenny used a "cool gold" on the eye - avoid using a gold that is too yellow - along with lots of mascara and a simple liner. For the cheeks, Jenny used a bronzer that has a little bit of highlighter mixed into it to give you that glowy look - this bronzer is "Ambient Glow" by Hourglass. The number one thing Jenny stresses is that for bronzer, it is very important to use a very soft fluffy brush - hard brushes grab onto the bronzer and over-apply it, making it too hard to blend and smudge. 

If you want to catch the full 8-minute segment, watch the video here and see where Jenny explains each look (and you can see me and my good friend Paige (aka Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) being completely out of our comfort zone and having a lot of fun doing it!

I also got to take a lot of fun behind-the-scenes pictures while we got ready for our close-up!
Check them out!

And that concludes the recap of my first (and probably last ever) 8 minutes of fame on the air!

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Preppy + Chic 2016 Calendars & Planners

Confession time: I have a little bit of an obsession with desk accessories. I was 100% that kid growing up that got beyond excited to get all of my new school supplies and spend the whole night laying them all out in perfect order, organizing them to death. (I was pretty cool, I know). I still feel the same way about office supplies and decorating my desk space - especially now that I spend so much time there at work!

I've put together some of my favorite calendars and planners for 2016 (of course keeping in line with my never-ending obsession with gold). I plan on making a few other small changes to my desk space - both at work and at home, so be on the lookout for the finalized photos once that is all finished!

Brush Script Calendar MyAgenda Gold Planner | Foil Blotter Calendar Watercolor Foil Calendar Gold Leatherette Planner | Gold Dot Planner | Gold Foil Desk Calendar | Linen Stripe Planner

Coming back from holiday break at work I wanted to make a few small changes to re-vamp my desk space and give myself a fresh start to the year - and I realized I was missing a very crucial thing: a calendar! Up until this year, I've always had a planner that I write in and carry with me (I still do, but I only use it for blogging and not my daily life). I've been wanting to get one, but have found it insanely easier to keep everything on my phone, with meetings & plans constantly changing and my handy little gmail app & calendar syncing together a lot of plans directly from my email.

All of that aside, there is still something to be said about physically writing down dates and important events on a calendar and being able to visually see them - especially to count down for some of the exciting trips I have coming up! (More on those later...)

How do you like to stay organized and on top of all of your events, meetings & commitments? Have you fully made the switch to digital, or are you stuck in limbo like me? Would love to hear some of the ways you balance the two!

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Morning Commute Playlist

I'm the type of person that needs constant noise. Silence is maddeningly loud to me - I can't concentrate on a single thing unless there is some sort of background noise, music or chatter. (Definitely caused some problems for me when it came to taking exams in school).

One of my favorite parts of my day has become my morning commute - some people act surprised that it takes me about 35-40 minutes to get from door to door on my way to work - pretty standard in the city - but I don't mind and I've definitely grown to love it. My morning commute is my personal time to wake myself up, collect my thoughts, assess my day, and scroll scroll scroll along all of my social media. (Because, you know, obviously a lot has changed since I checked at midnight before bed...right?)

An absolute necessity for my morning commute is my playlist. I need songs that are calm enough to not be irritating first thing in the morning, mixed in with a couple of fun songs to get me pumped up to take on the world and tackle another morning of attempts to keep my eyes open at my desk!

I've uploaded my morning commute playlist for anyone else like me who likes to let music set the tone for the day...enjoy!

What songs do you love to start your day with? I'm always looking for new suggestions!

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Designing My Gallery Walls: Featuring Evelyn Henson Art Prints

One of the biggest projects on my mind for 2016 is to finally tackle this gallery wall project that I've been, *ahem*, procrastinating on since I moved back in JUNE! Not okay. I've come up with a lot of drafts and ideas - but when it came to executing them and actually buying, I always seem to have a reason not to do it.

I've finally settled on a design, and once I give my wallet a little break form the holiday splurge-fest, I plan to finally make the purchase! The trickiest part was deciding which prints should be which size (no one told me how hard  it is to find an appropriate balance between large, small and mixed!)

I can't even tell you how excited I am to show everyone the before and after pictures, but those are a little while away, so in the meantime here is what I have settled on, with a little lot of help from Evelyn Henson:

I think I could be declared an official stalker of the Evelyn Henson Instagram account...but it paid off because I finally found all of my dream items, and they were all in once place! These prints all have such a clean and colorful look, I decided to let them speak for themselves and get all matching white frames.

I want to hang this gallery wall in the huge hallway we have when you first walk in to our apartment. Unfortunately, this space is embarrassingly empty, because our apartment is really large and we haven't wanted to shop for a space size that we will likely never have again. 

Originally, I was looking at a completely different vibe that was more elegant and less colorful - but I figured one of the best perks of having a girl apartment is the girly decorating, so why not live it up while I still can?!

Evelyn Henson is so incredibly talented, and these prints are all fabulous, I just know they're going to be an amazing pop of color in an otherwise drab and empty space. When I move, they will most definitely still have a home!

We also have a very drab and dreary kitchen space, and when I saw these food-themed prints I knew they would be a perfect way to brighten the whole room. I love to cook, so I spend a lot of time in there and being able to look at these every day would make it twice as much fun for me. 

*plus...how could I not buy the "brunch" print? Brunch is my favorite form of socializing, and no one does it quite like Chicago in the summer*

Counting down the days until I can show you the real thing, but in the meantime I will just have to daydream. What do you think of these prints & layouts for my gallery walls?!

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L.L. Bean Boots vs. Hunter Boots: The Ultimate Guide

This is a re-post of my most popular post of all time (two years later it still brings more views to my site than any other post - here's hoping eventually I can top myself, because the first one has gone viral!)

I know this winter has been unseasonably warm, but there's no doubt in my mind that a full-fledged winter is coming, and that means snow boots (or rain boots, for those of you lucky enough to escape brutal winters like Chicago has).

Now that I have owned both Bean Boots and Hunter Boots for over a year, I feel like I can give a more accurate and thorough review of them to help everyone make an informed decision about which shoe is right for them! 

First, The Major Differences...
Obviously, the style and overall look of each of these shoes is very different. I can't speak for your own personal style, and I've seen both look adorably styled in countless outfits - but if your concern is like mine was before I started college that Bean Boots are ugly - I promise you are wrong! My dad was adamant that I would love those shoes, but it took me two years (and a horrible blister experience with my Hunters) to come around to it...and I haven't touched my Hunter Boots since! 

Hunter Boots are a lot heavier, and have less traction than Bean Boots - but for super heavy rains, they will keep your legs (and leggings/jeans) dry - a major plus. Bean Boots are great for any terrain, especially snow and are so incredibly comfortable, it kinda feels like a luxury when I get to wear them to work!

Now, the Hunter Boots Rundown...
There are a lot of people that still say they love these boots...but if I'm being perfectly honest, I don't know any of them personally. My personal opinion (and that of almost all of my friends) is that these boots are clunky, rub your heels completely raw to the point of literal bleeding even with the cute socks you can buy, and after about two years of regular use, the soles of mine wore down and started to leak a little bit in heavy rain. 

& the Bean Boot Breakdown...
Like I said, I was very against these boots at first (cut me some slack, I hadn't seen any pictures of people styling them so adorably, and these really weren't on my radar yet!) but after consistent blister problems and some leaking in the toes of my Hunters, I was ready to take the plunge and try these out. One downside is they are always backordered for months - you have to order them in August if you want them in time for winter - but they are worth the wait! They're comfortable, more flexible, and L.L. Bean will repair them in the unlikely event that they do ever get worn down or just a little bit too much use!

Sizing Guides for Both Boots!
No matter which boot you decide on, I want to make sure you get the best possible fit, because that is how you will avoid any blisters or discomfort! 

Bean Boots run large - order one size down from what you normally wear. (I know you are thinking, "but I will wear them with thick socks!" They know that...and the site (and myself) still recommend that you order a size down) Trust me! They also come in different heights - from what I have gathered, and what I own, the 6" is the most common and popular. They are a medium length that hits a little above your ankle, great for tucking jeans/leggings into them, and pairing with boot socks. If you are really going to encounter crazy amounts of snow, consider the 8" or the fleece-lined ones, but otherwise 6" will do just fine. 

Hunter Boots only come in whole sizes, so if you are a half size I recommend going a size down. Again, based on personal experience, having a size that is too large will triple the amount of blisters you get. Otherwise, these seem to fit pretty true to size. (Again, don't be fooled by the thick sock trickery - boot companies like these know how their boots are typically worn, and they account for that when creating their sizing guides!) With these boots being so common and easy to find, absolutely try them on in a store first to make sure. Bring some thick socks, walk around in them, and know that they do stay pretty stiff for most of their lifetime, so don't assume they'll be overwhelmingly broken in later on.

My final recommendation? My Bean Boots have never hurt my feet or caused blisters...and my Hunter Boots have been in time-out for over a year now. Both are great boots - but I certainly don't see myself switching back anytime soon!

If you have any questions at all about sizing, deciding, or styling either pair, leave me a comment! I'd love to hear from you!

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8 Healthy Habits That Won't Interrupt Your Life

One of the biggest problems people (and myself) tend to encounter when it comes to personal fitness and healthy lifestyle habits is the struggle of a time balance between everything that is important to us. It's difficult to make some of the changes we aspire to, when we already feel like our plates and calendars are completely full!

I always find myself wishing and hoping that I could lose those extra few pounds, or eat a little bit healthier, or squeeze in more time to workout - but naturally...your friend wants to get drinks after work! Or, you had trouble falling asleep last night, so you definitely need to sleep in and hit snooze instead of the gym, just this once! Or one of my personal biggest excuses - I don't have time to workout and shower/dry/style my hair, and I have xyz event to attend later.

These are some really great habits that are simple and easy to adopt into your (already busy) daily routine that really will make a difference in your overall health and fitness - and they're a perfect way to get started on whatever healthy lifestyle resolutions you may have for yourself this year!

PS: This picture is my insanely gorgeous & talented cousin Julia, who is an incredible surfer, yoga instructor and all-around #girlboss! She is one of my biggest inspirations in a lot of major ways - but the top of the list is definitely her healthy lifestyle habits!

1. Stretch Every Morning: There's no excuse not to do this - you definitely have 120 seconds to stretch your body, move around, and get your muscles ready and prepared for the day. This is healthy for a lot of reasons, whether  you are working out or not, and it will help wake your body up and loosen up from whatever fitness regimen you are doing, making your muscles more prepared for continued growth and toning.

2. Drink Detox Waters + Smoothies to Start Your Day: Fruit infused waters are incredibly cheap and easy to make. Cucumbers, mint, strawberries, lemons...these are all easy-to-get items that take only a minute to slice up and throw in a water bottle to put in the fridge overnight before bed. They're a lot more refreshing, they'll help you drink more water (and add a yummy taste!) Don't miss my list of infused waters and their benefits here! Smoothies are also a great way to get your metabolism moving in the morning without a heavy breakfast. Adding in protein powders or pairing with a banana/yogurt/protein bar are all great ways to get a filling but low-calorie breakfast.

3. Skip Heavy Meals & Eat Small Snacks Throughout the Day Instead: Having small, portioned healthy snacks throughout the day is easy to do and will keep you feeling more alert and less bloated and full + it will keep your metabolism moving. I know to some people it sounds like work to pack a bunch of snacks, but all it takes is a little planning! Be on the lookout for my post about healthy snacks to take to work - but there are easy options like pretzel sticks, grapes, nuts... this will help keep you feeling full & satisfied, and will satisfy any cravings you might be having out of boredom for unhealthy snacks!

4. Make the Gym A Weekend Priority Too: You don't have to go to the gym every single day, and you don't have to go all weekend either - but it needs to be just as much of a priority to you as your other weekend activities. Even if you only have 30 minutes to spare for a quick routine or class - the weekends tend to be when we are the least healthy from alcohol, food, and lack of activity - meaning this is the prime time to be combating some of these behaviors with a little exercise! 

5. Try Different Routines - Don't Get Stuck in a Rut! A lot of people get frustrated because they're doing everything right, going to the gym on a regular basis, and they stop seeing results. This is likely because you're not changing up your routine. Doing the exact same cardio length/level/machine every single day will work for a very short period of time. Switch machines, go to a class, try different motions or at the very least try different programs and settings on your machines! (If you're like me, you're limited to a few types of motions because of old knee or ankle injuries...this doesn't mean you can't mix it up, and you will see results a lot faster if you move new muscles in new ways!) 

6. Drink Insane Amounts of Water: I preach this a lot, like here & here, but that's because it is my number one favorite health habit. There isn't anything easier in the world to do to make yourself healthier. Water has so many benefits that listing them is almost fruitless...boosts metabolism, keeps you full and helps cut meal portions and cravings down, eliminates toxins, hydrates your muscles...and like I said in #2 - if you get bored of water, add some fruit infusions to them to keep it interesting! I always find myself chugging it when it has a little bit of flavor. 

7. Don't Stress When You Can't Fit A Full Workout In: Workout when you can, where you can. No one always has time to hit the gym for a full workout + shower + styling hair, along with whatever other chores/errands/social activities you have to do that day between classes or work. What we always seem to overlook are the spare moments we have where we could still squeeze in some amount of activity on those days - but we get it in our heads that if the gym isn't happening, neither is exercise. Have 45 minutes before you meet your friends? Lay down a yoga mat or blanket and do a quick and sweat-free ab routine. Binge watching your new Netflix addiction? Do some lunges or abs every 15 minutes from a timer on your phone. 

8. Do The Little Things: Take the stairs more. Walk more often. Turn house cleaning into an iPod dance and lip-sync party (my new personal favorite: doing dishes + listening to "Perfect" by One Direction - no judgement!). Utilize commercial breaks of your favorite shows to stretch or work your abs. There are a million very small fragments of time throughout our day that fitness can seamlessly be worked in- you just have to get creative, and commit yourself to doing it! Those little things add up to become the difference in those 5-10 pounds you really want to lose!

Most importantly, of course - have fun with it. Fitness and personal health is a super important goal, but it can be frustrating, exhausting, and mentally draining - especially if you don't feel like you're seeing the results you want. The important thing is to keep at it, and if something isn't working, change it! 

I hope these tips were helpful - what are some of your favorite little ways to stay healthy without making a major time commitment?

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2016 Challenge - Cross Off Your Bucket List and Win Prizes Doing It!

Happy New Year!

In case you missed it, yesterday I did a recap of all of the amazing "firsts" I was fortunate enough to experience in 2015. It was a major year for me - graduating college, moving to Chicago, starting my first real job, and a lot of fun packing in between.

This walk down memory lane has inspired me to create a challenge for myself...

For the entire year of 2016, I will be cultivating a bucket list to be divided up every month and conquered. My hope is that I will look back on 2016 this time next year and realize that I achieved incredible things I have only dreamed of, and experienced more thrilling events than I could have hoped for. At the end of each month/list, I will share photos, recaps & stories of how it went!

My challenge to all of you is to do the same! This is so much better than making one singular New Year's resolution that you may or may not stick to, because instead of resolving to try to improve one aspect of your life, you will be constantly challenging yourself to take charge and improve the overall quality and happiness of it. And doesn't that sound so much better?!

I will be kicking off this challenge with my first list for January!

And to help encourage all of you to participate and take on this challenge, I'm asking you to share your monthly goals with me and one lucky person who accomplishes them each month will receive a prize!

Stay tuned for a post at the end of each month asking you all to share what "firsts" you experienced in order to be eligible for the prize (but the real prize is all of the amazing things you're going to end up trying, I promise!)

More details to come...

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