Friday, December 9, 2016

Family Traditions & Simple, Affordable Christmas Decor

Now that there's a little one in our household it's time to form new traditions to go along with our established ones. (In case you missed it, Graham and I took in my niece Victoria and the adoption will go through in a few months.) So far our established traditions are these:
  • Cookie Day. Graham initiated me into this tradition the second year we were together. His side of the family gets together one day in December to bake dozens and dozens of cookies. I mean A LOT of cookies. I am so excited to introduce Victoria to this tradition next weekend.
  • Collecting ornaments throughout the year. Graham and I make sure to buy an ornament (or something that can be used as an ornament) from everywhere we visit. It's a way to make our souvenirs more meaningful and a way to remind ourselves of our travels and adventures every Christmas season. As we hang each ornament, we say, "Remember this (travel memory)?" It makes putting up the tree more fun.
  • Sending holiday cards to family and friends. We, too, love ordering holiday cards with our favorite photos from the year. It's a common but amazing tradition that I get excited about doing.
  • Giving back either through volunteering, donating, or buying gifts for people in need. This year we chose to buy gifts for two children in need. We've also donated to several causes we care about recently. We might buy more gifts, too! I haven't volunteered as much as I wanted this year, but it's something I want to do more of as a family as Victoria grows up.
  • Decorating together. Our holiday decor is affordable, bright and cheerful. We also like to make our decor personal: Our ornaments are trinkets we collect throughout the year at places we visit and we display loved ones' Christmas cards. I try to keep our spending on Christmas decor minimal because I'd rather spend money on experiences or gifts. 
A glimpse of our home:

I included where we bought our decorations.

These red and green glitter clips were $1 each for a pack of six at Target.

We bought the garland at Lowe's (I think) and I am pretty sure these red bows are from the dollar store.

We bought this ornament and another similar one in Maui.

This ornament was a gift from my sister-in-law in 2014.

This glass vase and small ornaments were $1 each at a dollar store. The candy cane table runner was $5 at Target.
Pine cones and ornaments from Wal-Mart. We previously decorated with real pine cones before moving to Chicago.

We bought this ornament at Tonto National Monument in 2013.

This baked goods box is in the dollar bins at Target. This red tree skirt is from Wayfair for $18.99 (and I got free shipping).

I am not sure what new traditions we will create together as a family of three, but I can't wait to find out. What are your holiday traditions?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

November Favorites

This post contains affiliate links.

November was a crazy month workwise and familywise. Adjusting to life with a toddler has been a challenge. Graham and I are constantly worn out, but we don't like to complain because having Victoria is a blessing and a joy. That doesn't change the fact that it's difficult to change your entire lifestyle and learn to parent a strong-willed toddler. November for me was about trying to relax (sometimes unsuccessfully), so I don't have many genuine favorites to share. The four favorites I am discussing today though were my go-to items all month long.

November favorites:

  • "I Wish You More" by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. This is my favorite book to read to Victoria. It's heart-warming, well-illustrated and well-written. I recommend this for any parent or as a gift for a child.
  • Stress Relief body wash and foam bath from Bath and Body Works - Sleep (Lavender Vanilla).  I have been using this almost nightly to relax and unwind before bed. I love the scent and the experience of a foam bath, especially after a workout. Also, the holiday rush makes me reach for this even more.
  • Thayers Natural Remedies Witch Hazel Toner in Lavender. I have found a gentle, cruelty-free toner I like! I enjoy the scent and it does the job. It's also not too expensive for the amount of product you get (12 fluid ounces). Shoutout to Sarah from Pretty Simple Ideas for the recommendation.
  • Candies' Black Over-the-Knee Boots. I bought these before our family photos in Lincoln Park and I've been wearing them nonstop since. They are comfortable and cute, and you can buy them in brown as well. I love the buckle in the back. 
Photo by Square Mouth Studios of Indianapolis

Shop some of my favorites**: 

** Affiliate links.

Monday, December 5, 2016

4 Awesome Races to Run + Their Medals!

I recently bought a race medal holder on Etsy to finally display my medals from my five-plus years of running. I previously kept my medals tangled in a pile in my athletic attire drawer, and they were begging to be rescued. But I worked too hard to earn this bling to keep it locked away collecting dust.

Now my race medals reside on a medal holder containing three race photos. It hangs above my desk as a daily reminder that I can do badass things when I try. Seeing them also helps me relive the memorable races I've had. Looking for a medal holder? I recommend this one. I also highly suggest displaying your hard-earned medals.

Thinking of running a race? Here are my favorite medals and the races I ran to earn them.
  • Chicago Fall Half Marathon - Chicago. If you are looking to travel for a half, I recommend the Chicago Half. The medal is enormous: a golden, almost-plate-size token from your race. The race takes place in the southern part of the city. Shuttle service takes you from two L stops to the race, and the post-race party includes a free slice of pizza and beer. This is also the race in which I earned a double medal for also running the Chicago Spring Half. The race shirt is usually a long sleeve that is handy during fall and winter runs. The Chicago Half is usually in late September and registration fees ranged from $70-80 in 2016.
Chicago Half Marathon - September 2015

Chicago Half Marathon - September 2016

  • Ragnar Relay -Various locations. I have run Ragnar (a 200-mile relay race with 12-member teams) four times: three times at the Del Sol and once at the McDowell Mountain trail race. These challenging races make you earn your medal, which was a beer bottle opener the years I ran it. Beyond that, Ragnar has created medals that connect with each other, so each of the 12 runners can finish the race, collect their medals, put them together for a photo op and celebrate. You also have the opportunity to earn double medals with special names and designs that vary by geographic location. Races are held throughout the year all around the country. Registration fees can be heftier than other races, starting at around $120-130 a person, depending on when you register. You also have many other costs to consider, including van rental, food and gear. 

  • Phoenix Half Marathon and Marathon - Mesa, Arizona. I have done this three times (half marathon twice and 10K once), and I liked the consistency in their medal design. A Phoenix was designed on the medal, which fits the name and location of the race. From 2016-2020, though, the medals get even better. They connect to form a copper star; the five medals represent the Five C's of Arizona: cattle, copper, cotton, citrus and climate. They are silver and copper and they look FANCY. Marathon costs were $80-125 in 2016. Half-marathon costs were $70-110 this year. The virtual half-marathon was $49. The next Phoenix Half Marathon and Marathon will be on Feb. 25, 2017. Race bags include runner arm sleeves, which I think is a nice touch.

Arizona Copper Star Medals via Phoenix Half Marathon website.

  • Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon - Louisville, Kentucky. I like this medal because it represents its area and the race so well. The marathon runs through Churchill Downs and is part of the Kentucky Derby festivities leading up to the horse race. This was also my first marathon so I have a special place in my heart for it. Registration fees start at $85 for the 2017 race. The next race takes place on April 29, 2017.
What are your favorite race medals? Share them with me in the comments!

Related posts:

Friday, December 2, 2016

December Goals

2016 continues to wow and amaze me. It's been a year of growth for Floradise blog and for the Flora family. My belief that you can manifest your dreams was once again proved to me and I will walk into 2017 with confidence and gratitude that I am on my way to achieving my goals and dreams. For the last month of the year I have five simple goals:
What are your goals for the month? What do you plan to make happen in 2017?

Previous goals:

Video: Thanksgiving in Louisville

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Lessons from "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear"

This post contains affiliate links.

My most recent Audible read is "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear"** by Elizabeth Gilbert, who also wrote the wildly successful "Eat, Pray, Love." In this book, Gilbert discusses creativity, how we should approach it, and how she and others have found inspiration/creativity. I consider myself to be creative as well. I enjoy writing, photography and blogging in my "free" time. I find any minute I can for my creativity, like a person having an affair does for his or her lover. (This is an analogy she uses in her book, by the way.) I finished "Big Magic" this week, taking with me many key lessons about creativity:

Looking for creativity? Search for it. Write or create what you know. Meet people, travel and have many different experiences. Be curious about anything and everything and pursue your curiosities.

Keep working despite rejection. Never stop moving. If you fail, move on. Don't dwell on your failures.

The reward is the work, not the money. Do what you love, because it is not about the success in the form of money, it's about doing something you enjoy for the pure joy of creating it. Also forget about how people will react to your work. As Gilbert says, "The reaction doesn't belong to you." The outcome does not matter. You are still worthy no matter what the reaction.

"Forget about perfect." Done is better than perfect, in Gilbert's words. There is no use in holding back your talents from the world until your work is beyond criticism. It will never be. You can't control how people feel about your work.

And one of the most important lessons I took away from "Big Magic" is that you should not expect your creativity to pay the bills. That puts too much pressure on yourself and asks too much of creativity. In fact, Gilbert suggests working as much as you have to in order to pay for your creative endeavors. That is refreshing to hear, especially as someone who has to write and blog on her free time -- funded by my full-time job. Of course, if someday you can make a living solely with your creative endeavor, that's great, but Gilbert herself kept her job long after writing "successful" books.

Have you read "Big Magic"? What did you think? Also, have you tried Audible?

Read "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear"**:

** Affiliate link included.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: e.l.f. Skincare and Makeup

I received these products complimentary for testing purposes.

As I've shared before, this year I've been switching to cruelty-free makeup with a focus on more affordable products. A couple of weeks ago, I was thrilled to learn that Influenster would be sending me the e.l.f. Play Beautifully VoxBox containing five makeup and skincare items. It was almost like I manifested the arrival of this makeup in my mailbox!

The Play Beautifully box included the Hydrating Bubble Mask, Mineral Infused Primer, Lip Exfoliator in Mint Maniac, Matte Lip Color in Wine and Baked Highlighter and Bronzer duo in Bronzed Glow. I've been using these products nonstop for almost two weeks, and I took them with me to Louisville, Kentucky, for Thanksgiving weekend. After incorporating these products into my makeup routine since then, here are my initial thoughts on the goodies:

  • Hydrating Bubble Mask: I've been using this exclusively to clean my face every night, and I am enjoying it so far. When you apply the gel to your face, it fizzles into a white foam or bubble mask. I leave it on for at least five minutes, or until I can't handle the tickles on my face. It makes me want to scratch my nose or cheeks. My face feels clean after using it, and it removes my makeup. Of course, you don't want to get this near your eyes. The packaging looks higher end than it is, which I think is a nice touch.

  • Mineral Infused Primer: I expected to hate this primer based on my experience with the pore minimizing e.l.f. primer. The packaging for e.l.f. primers makes it seems like there is more product in the bottle than you actually receive. Unlike the previous primer I used, though, this primer does not have an unappealing scent. I also know to use a small amount. I have combination skin with my cheeks and face being slightly dry, and I didn't feel my foundation slipping off over my primer. This primer is an improvement over the pore refining e.l.f. primer.
  • Lip Exfoliator in Mint Maniac: This lip exfoliator is rough when you first rub it on your lips. When you press your lips together it smooths over and feels hydrating on the lips. It was a mint scent that I enjoy. I have been using this daily and my lips feel smoother.
  • Matte Lip Color in Wine: This matte color is actually quite smooth and moisturizing on the lips. My lips don't appear cracked or dry at all. The pigmentation is decent and you can keep applying more to build up the color. The color is perfect for fall or holiday looks.

  • Baked Highlighter and Bronzer duo in Bronzed Glow: When you rub your finger on the baked highlighter and bronzer, it feels smooth (after you rub off the top layer that seems to give off no pigmentation, in my experience). You can build up the pigmentation on them to your preference. I prefer more golden highlight, but this highlight is nice. The bronzer, however, is not the right shade for my tan skin. I don't really notice it on my skin. Both have a slight sheen to it, without any glitter. Because it is kind of small, I use small highlighting and bronzer brushes to apply.

I like that e.l.f. has decent quality makeup and skincare for an affordable price. A bonus is that the brand is cruelty-free!

Have you tried e.l.f.'s skincare or any of these makeup products yet? What did you think?

Shop products (or similar)***

** Affiliate links included in this post. I receive a small commission on purchases or clicks through these links. I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes. All opinions are my own. Also, I was not able to find a link for the baked highlighter and bronzer together, but I included similar products.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Gratitude + Ways to Show Gratitude

Photo by Square Mouth Studios

This year, family is at the top of my gratitude list. When Graham and I set our intention for the year as growth, we had no idea that we would be growing our family as well. Yes, we had offered to take care of her if needed,  but it wasn't until 10 months later that we received word she would be arriving (in one week!). Caring for Victoria has reminded me I have much to be grateful for. I should always be aware of my blessings, but sometimes life causes me to lose sight of them.

What I'm grateful for this year:

  • Having a fun, sweet, smart, loving and challenging addition to our family.
  • Being able to work from home to care for her.
  • The experiences I had cheering for the Cubs, especially the World Series festivities I was lucky enough to attend.
  • The resources and support that helped me train for and complete the Chicago Marathon.
  • Wonderful family and friends who checked in on us, offered to babysit and sent gifts for Victoria.
  • Being able to pursue my interests and the activities that make me happy.
  • Meeting new people through this blog and through running.
  • The fact that we are on our way to achieve our dream of being business owners in the future.

What are you grateful for this year? Share in the comments!

Photo by Square Mouth Studios

Along with listing what you're grateful for, I think it's key to also show your gratitude through action. It doesn't have to be some grand gesture; any small act of kindness does the trick. Switching the focus to others helps illuminate what we have in our own lives, if you have forgotten. 

Simple ways to give back and show gratitude this week (and always)

  • Participate in a canned food drive or toy drive. (Or organize one in your office or among friends and family.)
  • Give money to local charities or volunteer in your community. Donate to non-profits. Declutter your home and donate the goods to a charity.
  • Write letters to your elected officials on behalf of a cause you care about. Remind them of the needs of the community. 
  • Give up your seat on public transit to someone who needs it. Buy a meal or coffee for a stranger.
  • Buy a gift or bake treats for a neighbor who may not have family around.
  • Invite someone to holiday festivities who may not have lots of family or friends around.
  • Write a thank you note to people in your life for the small and big ways they have impacted you.
In what ways do you give to others?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Cruelty-Free Beauty Gift Ideas

This post contains affiliate links.

This year I focused on switching my makeup and skincare products to cruelty-free options. It's been a struggle to find products that not only avoid testing on animals but also do what they claim to do. There's also the added challenge of trying to be as minimalistic as I can in the process. I don't want to end up with five different primers, foundations or mascaras; I just want one of each that will do the job. Is that so much to ask? (An exception to this is lipstick, because I need plenty of lip options to match my outfit, mood, look, etc.) The products below are on my radar because I have heard/seen positive reviews, they are cruelty-free, and their packaging appeals to me.

My wish list:
  • Bite Beauty's Perfect Bite Set: It comes with four "deluxe size" lipsticks in Fig, Pepper, Honeycomb and Nori. These would make a great gift for makeup-loving friends and family.
  • Kat Von D Shade + Light Contour Palette: I have always wanted to try this palette, which has three highlighting and three contouring shades, after seeing rave reviews. I also think the Kat Von D has excellent and unique packaging. 
  • Milani Rose Powder Blush: I like the rose detail, and I can't wait to see it on my cheeks. Milani is an affordable and cruelty-free drugstore brand.
  • Too Faced Primed and Poreless Primer: I am still on the hunt for a cruelty-free primer that actually minimizes pores, and I am hoping this will be the one.
  • Too Faced Chocolate Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzer: The gold packaging is right up my alley. I also need a slighter darker bronzer than I am using now (Physicians Formula). I have also heard that this has an enticing scent. 
  • Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Palette: I have had my eye on this all year, and everyone single Youtuber and beauty blogger I follow seems to love it. I specifically have my eye on Red Ochre and Venetian Red.
  • Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Gel: I have been using a drugstore brow gel for some time now but I am ready to replace it with a cruelty-free brand, and ABH is known for being the best in brows.

What are you currently eyeing in the beauty department? 

Shop my wish list**:

** This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission on clicks and purchases.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Christkindlmarket Chicago

Saturday was supposed to be the start of my winter hibernation. I woke up to see it had dropped into the 30s in Chicago and the forecast called for flurries that morning. I wanted to stay in bed all day, but the chance to grab coffee with Jessie (Just Jessie Blog) got me out of the house. Besides an Orangetheory class afterward, the weekend was about staying inside for the most part. That was the plan ... until I realized the Christkindlmarket Chicago was opening over the weekend.

Graham, Victoria and I made our way down to Daley Plaza with hopes of finding some ornaments for our Christmas tree. Graham and I have collected ornaments from places we have visited since we first started dating, and the tradition continues with our little addition.

We slowly made our way through the market crowds, pushing a stroller at a glacial pace. A toddler carrier would have been the smarter way to go, because people cut in front of us every 5 feet or so. Patience is key if you bring a stroller. 

Our first order of business was buying a hot pizza pretzel ($5) to warm up. The ATMs at the market were out of order, so I then walked across the street to a bank at Clark and Washington for cash; most of the booths were cash only. Next we warmed up with hot chocolate with whipped cream ($3) and hot apple cider ($3). 

Ornament options are abundant at the market; it was overwhelming. Nutcrackers, angels, snowmen -- you name it and you can find it. A heart-shaped bark ornament caught my eye at one of the booths ($9), and then we bought more food. That became our main focus; Eat as much as we could. Perhaps some hot spiced wine or beer can warm you up as well. Be sure to get it in one of the market mugs ($8). We also picked up potato pancakes ($6), milk-chocolate rice crispy treats ($4) and bourbon chocolate balls ($4). We came, we saw, we ate.

Had the weather not been so cold for my Arizona blood, I would have wanted to stay longer. But I couldn't take it anymore. I haven't taken my coats out of storage because of wishful thinking. I mean, it was just 70 degrees a few days ago. How did it go from summer to winter overnight? 

We left with full bellies, one ornament and plans to return on a day when we are dressed more appropriately. I hope to pick up some goodies for loved ones next time I go.

Have you been to Christkindlmarket Chicago? What did you buy?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

My Favorite (and Least Favorite) Orangetheory Exercises

I was in an Orangetheory Fitness class this week when I realized I've been an Orangetheory member for more than a year. After attending classes two to three times a week since October 2015, I have learned a great deal about myself and my body, and I've seen results in the form of 6-7 pounds lost, a drop in clothing size and more defined muscles. Some workouts are better than others, of course. I have found that the experience depends on 1. Your attitude and effort. 2. The coach's ability to be motivating. 3. The playlist. I have also found that I like some workout moves more than others.

Some of my favorite exercises: 

* I am including a basic description, but I am not a trainer, so these may not be the best way to describe how to do them. Consult your trainer or a professional for help when you don't know how to do something.
  • Squat jumps to chest press with medicine ball press. (Holding a medicine ball, squat down and jump up while pressing the medicine ball forward.) These will leave you out of breath. They work so much of your body at once and are especially challenging as part of a run/row.
  • Squat jacks with medicine ball. (Hold a medicine ball, then jump your feet out as in a jumping jack while lifting the medicine ball overhead.) These are also great cardio. The medicine ball of 8 to 12 pounds adds more of strength component.
  • Goblet squats (with weights). (Hold a weight in your hands like a goblet, then squat.) I like to use at least 15 to 20 pounds. I love all squats because they yield the results I seek. They also work the muscles I need to strengthen for running.
  • High and low rows on the TRX strap. (Hold the strap handles in your hands, then lean back. Row with elbows into your sides next to your ribs and then again with elbows out.) I like these when working my upper body. I have noticed increased strength in my back and biceps thanks in part to these. Because you are leaning back, you are also in kind of a standing plank that works the core. You control how much tension is on the straps and how difficult the high/low rows will be. 
  • Single-leg V-ups. (Lying down, raise your arms overhead. Lift one leg about 45 degrees while bringing your arms toward that leg. Switch legs. Keep moving.) I love any and all core work; let's be real. These get my heart racing while working my core.

My least favorite:

  • Chest press on the TRX strap. (Face away from wall, grip one handle in each hand, get in pushup position with your body at about a 45 degree angle, slowly lower body with elbows as if in pushup, then push body to your starting point.) I feel like I can never find the right position to challenge myself. Trainers are there to help, but I still don't enjoy these. These are essentially pushups while standing up.
  • Side plank with crunches or leg lifts. (Get into a side plank with elbow on ground. Your top hand is on your head or stretched overhead and away. You can also have your bottom knee down. Then keep hip/waist lifted and crunch by bringing your top leg toward your elbow to tap it, or lift your leg for leg lift.) Side planks are difficult for me because my shoulder bothers me. It's not so much the crunching or lifting that is too much; it's the tension in my shoulder. Other people without shoulder issues would like these.
  • Squats with tricep kickbacks. (With feet hip distance apart and holding weights, bend knees, bring elbows to 90 degree angle, then straighten your arm.) I can never do these properly. The coach has to come correct my body position EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I also have issues with my right shoulder feeling uncomfortable after doing these.
  • Rollouts on the TRX strap. (Stand with arms in front of you, gripping the TRX handles. Lean forward until your arms are extended over your head and you are at about 45 degrees. Keep your core stabilized and your body in a straight line.) It takes me several reps to get the hang of where to position my feet for rollouts. It's easy to lose your position. 

Previous Orangetheory posts: