Thursday, January 19, 2017

Birthday Gifts for the Fitness Lover | My Wish List

** This post contains affiliate links.


My birthday is next month, and when I think about what I would like to receive, it's always fitness related. What can I say? It's what I love to do. I pretty much have everything I would want and don't need much else, but workout clothes are used so much that they sometimes need to be replaced. I recently decluttered worn athletic attire or active wear that I no longer like to make space for new pieces that bring me joy and help me reach my goals. Looking for gifts for a fitness lover in your life? Check out my wish list for inspiration!

Garmin Vivosmart HR: I have the older model of the Garmin Vivosmart, which I received for Christmas a few years ago. I love my Garmin and wear it daily. I credit the Vivosmart with helping me get in better shape than I was in a year ago. However, I accidentally washed my Vivosmart, so the numbers on the display are cut off at the top and bottom. I can still make out what it says, but this Vivosmart might be on its last legs. A Vivosmart would make a great gift for fitness lovers, especially runners, or any person looking to be more active during the day.

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C9 by Champion Leggings: You can't go wrong with C9 by Champion. I have many workout pieces from them because they are so affordable and they have held up to many washed, in my experience. I love the new options they have come out with recently, including these Freedom Leggings.

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C9 by Champion Women's Hooded Run Cowl: If you are shopping for a runner who lives somewhere cold, you can't go wrong with gifting a running jacket. This one is versatile in that it would match with just about anything, and it is moisture-wicking fabric. It also has reflective details. Also thumb holes are a MUST.

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Headbands: Runners and other fitness lovers can't have enough headbands, especially if they work out four or five times a week like I aim to do. You go through so much laundry when you work out frequently, so headbands are always a good idea. I like to use headbands to cover my ears during winter and spring Chicago runs.


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What would be on your fitness wish list?


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

More Beauty Empties | My Thoughts

**This post contains affiliate links.


I've been using some products I have grown to love recently. I finally tried It Cosmetics and was impressed, and I continued to use more of my favorite products. A bonus is that I believe all of these products are cruelty-free as well. Here's what I finished using in December and early January:

It Cosmetics Confidence in a Cream Transforming Moisturizing Super Cream (from limited-edition holiday ornament): I bought this as a Christmas gift for myself and I was not disappointed. A mini (.5-ounce version) lasted me for a month and a half using it twice a day. It's not too heavy on the skin, and I like that the scent isn't too intense. My skin feels and looks smoother. It contains hyaluronic acid, among other ingredients, which reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. I repurchased this, although the package I picked up at Ulta had been opened and wasn't the expected consistency. Ulta was nice enough to send me a gift card in the amount I spent, so I will be repurchasing.

It Cosmetics Bye Bye Under Eye Eye Cream: I have been using this sample size since December, and I feel like I can count it as an empty because it is a decent size sample, compared with single-use packets you typically receive. I didn't think it felt too heavy under my eyes, and it made the area under my eyes brighter. I will be purchasing the full size next.

LuLu Blossom Coconut Citrus Sorbet Deodorant: I bought this vegan, natural deodorant at a farmers market recently. I loved the scent. My only complaint is that it dried up after a while and became unusable. But it works well for months before that occurs. It just doesn't last as long as a typical deodorant.

Lush Cup O'Coffee mask: I love the scent of this mask and it was gentle on the skin, but I didn't like the cleanup. The coffee grinds get all over the sink and a couple of times they got in my eye when I was washing the mask off. I liked the gentle exfoliation, though, so I would buy this again.

Brigeo Don't Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask: I received this hair mask for free in my POPSugar September Must-Have Box (sponsored), and it lasted me almost four months. I used it once a week to condition my hair, and my hair felt soft, looked shiny and seemed healthy. It is free of harsh chemicals. A factor to consider is that this mask is $36. I am not sure I would buy this at that price, but it works, so ... maybe?

What products have you used up recently? Did you love them?


Shop some of the products**:





Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Galentine's Gift Ideas

** This post contains affiliate links.

Most of us are well aware that Valentine's Day is fast approaching -- just about every retailer is reminding you, right? But have you considered a Galentine's Day gift for your gal pals as Leslie Knope would?  I compiled five adorable gift options from one of my favorite online shopping sites, Etsy. Your best friends will love them!  I have purchased most of these and plan to purchase the remaining item as well. Enjoy!

Initial Ring: You can get this ring in any letter and in silver, rose gold and gold. It's affordable and cute!

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Lucky Elephant Necklace: You can get this cute little dainty necklace in gold or silver. I've gifted this to my friend who traveled to Thailand recently and visited rescued elephants.

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Roald Dahl Print by Meera Lee Patel: The colorful print says "If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely." This would be perfect to display in a friend's office, craft room, bedroom, wherever!


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Custom Address Stamp by Note Trunk: I bought one of these for myself a few years ago and plan to get another our next move. This is especially thoughtful for the friend who loves to send snail mail. This is also perfect for newly engaged couples or for a friend who has recently moved.

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"You Rock" Amethyst Dipped in Gold: This is an adorable piece for a friend's desk and the packaging is just as lovely. Amethyst is for protection, wisdom, positive energy and friendship, among other uses. You can also get the rocks for different occasions and with different gems.

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Do you celebrate Galentine's Day on Feb. 13?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Phoenix Hike: White Tank Mountains



When you have time in Phoenix, you'd be crazy to not spend some of it hiking. One beautiful area to consider visiting is the White Tank Mountains Regional Park. It's about a 35-minute drive from central Phoenix in Waddell, but it's worth the trek. It's an expansive park with opportunities for horseback riding, hiking, picnics, mountain biking and exploring.

Last time I visited the park was when I lived in Phoenix. Graham and I had hiked the Waterfall Trail after a rainfall, one of the few times you'll actually see water flowing. This time we chose the 1.3-mile Black Rock Trail, which connects with the Waterfall Trail. You can do either the short or long loop, and walked the long option. You'll be surrounded by barrel cacti, saguaros, and more desert flora. The hike isn't too difficult, so anyone can do it. The park is also large enough that even though you share the trails with families, baby boomers, mountain bikers and more, you don't feel too crowded, as you do on other popular mountains. You could spend the entire day at the park and feel entertained, refreshed and energized, which makes the visit well worth the $6 per car entrance fee.





Of course, there are numerous options for trail hikes. You can hike 8 miles or half a mile; it's up to you and your desired level of exercise. Some trails also have markers that show archaeological artifacts or areas, which you should admire but never touch. (Don't deface or take them home, either!) Just enjoy being outdoors in gorgeous weather (assuming you are visiting in the winter).

Be on the lookout for wildlife, rock stacks and desert flora as well. You will see many varieties of cacti, including the barrel cactus. whose curved needles Native Americans used as fish hooks. (I learned that neat fact on a park sign.)






Learn a lesson from the towering saguaros at White Tank Mountain Regional Park. Stand tall and shine!




Have you visited White Tank Mountain Regional Park or Phoenix in general? 

Related post:

Friday, January 13, 2017

Phoenix Eats: Pure Sushi


One of the best parts about visiting my old Phoenix neighborhood is seeing it grow from when we lived there. It was already becoming a dining hot spot when we moved to Chicago in 2015, and even more change has come about since then. One of the newest restaurants I've tried is Pure Sushi at the Colony development near Seventh Street and Missouri in Phoenix. It's next to the Herb Box and Stock and Stable, which I've visited in previous Phoenix trips. Pure Sushi was next on the list because it serves one of our favorite foods.





The restaurant was quiet early on a Friday night. We ordered just three rolls to try, because we weren't terribly hungry. We tried two signature rolls and one spicy tuna. The presentation was nice, but I couldn't help but compare the sushi negatively with the place we regularly go to in Chicago. The local spot in Rogers Park, Chicago, is so much better, in case you were wondering.




Signature rolls were $13 and up, while the spicy tuna was $6. Signature drinks were about $13, while my glass of Riesling was $9, slightly more than I am used to paying. It was delicious, though. I wanted to try the Patron Margarita, but part of me felt like that was an odd pairing with sushi. Riesling might have been just as odd, though, so what do I know?

Pure Sushi didn't blow my socks off, at least these three rolls didn't, but I would revisit to try more rolls and because I don't know of many other sushi places nearby besides Stingray Sushi at the Biltmore shopping center on 24th Street and Camelback Road, where we used to get sushi when we lived in Phoenix. Actually, there are more sushi places, but not many catering to this clientele that prefers a trendier setting. 

What delicious restaurant have you tried recently? What did you think? Share with me in the comments!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Deal: #StartYourYearRefreshed with Coca-Cola Products

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and the Coca-Cola Company. All opinions are mine alone. #StartYourYearRefreshed #CollectiveBias


It’s a New Year, how are you preparing for everything to come in 2017? Have you made any resolutions? Perhaps one of them includes adding healthy fruits and veggies to your meals and snacks? There’s no better way to Start Your Year Refreshed than to incorporate select Coca-Cola products and Albertsons Fresh Fruit packs.

Products like Simply Orange, Minute Maid, vitaminwater, smartwater, and POWERADE will help keep you refreshed and ready to tackle anything in the New Year!

When you buy $15 worth of these participating items*, you’ll get $4 off your Fresh Cut Fruit via Catalina at Albertsons, Safeway and other banners (Tom Thumb, Acme, Shaws, Pavillions, Star Market etc.).

$4 off can be found on receipt as a coupon/credit for your next purchase of Fresh Cut Fruit at your Albertsons banner store.

*Participating products:
  • Simply OJ 89oz
  • Minute Maid Light FDA 59oz
  • Fairlife 52oz,
  • smartwater 700ml
  • Odwalla 15.2oz
  • Suja 12oz
  • ZICO 16.9oz.
  • vitaminwater 20oz
  • smartwater 12 pk 1L
  • POWERADE 32oz.
  • Core Power 11.5oz (new!)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

December Favorites
& a Disappointing Product

** This post contains affiliate links.

December had highs and lows, and so will this post about products I've been using. I like to focus on the positive, so I will start with the products I loved in the last month of 2016 before getting into a product that let me down. My December favorites are my new running shoes, a new nail polish from Kathleen Lights, my new pajamas (an adorable onesie!) and an amazing camera lens. My disappointing product was a high-end concealer I've been using for two months now.

First, the favorites:
  • Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17 in purple. Graham gave these to me as an early Christmas gift and to motivate me to run my virtual half-marathon. They come in my favorite color and sort of a cosmic color scheme. I have long been a Brooks fan. I find that their shoes, the adrenaline specifically, give me the right amount of support. Even when I let experts suggest shoes for me they pick the Adrenaline for me. It's meant to be.


The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17 shoes come in many other colors, too.

  • KL polish in Gumption (blue). Youtube made me buy it! I was looking for a cruelty-free polish, so when I saw Kathleen Lights came out with her own line, I bought two colors immediately. I have been wearing Gumption nonstop since early December. I find that normally nail polish chips on me on the first day, but this polish last me at least a couple of days before chipping, which is an eternity for me. This is without applying a base or top coat for testing purposes. I was impressed. I have not yet tried the other shade I purchased, Snickerdoodle, but I will share my thoughts when I do. I also like the applicator brush. It's wide enough to cover your whole nail, which makes applying the polish a breeze. I should mention that in a recent video Kathleen says she tweaked the formula for future releases, so the polish will be "a hair" thinner.

Follow me on Snapchat: @floradise

  • Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G Lens. This was another gift from Graham. He is supportive of my interest in photography and wanted to get me another good lens. I absolutely love this lens. It makes shooting in low light situations a lot easier. I find that it takes quality images that I have been posting on my social media channels and blog since. You do need to move your feet more to frame your image, but I love the images I have taken with this. I still need practice in using it to avoid non-focused images. (See the image of the Born This Way concealer below for an example.)

My disappointing product:


  • Too Faced Born This Way Concealer. This creased on my every time, no matter what I did. And it didn't last long at all. It also didn't cover as much as I'd like. Even more disappointing was that the packaging -- which I adore -- came apart and spilled some of it all over my makeup bag. I continued to use it because it was about $30 so I didn't want to just waste it. If you've had a positive experience with it I'd love to hear about it. 




Monday, January 9, 2017

A Phoenix Hike

Dreamy Draw Recreation Area

The No. 1 activity I had planned during our weekend in Phoenix was a hike, even if it wasn't too challenging or long. I longed for the Phoenix sunshine, especially as we made our way to the Chicago airport with a real feel in the negative digits. I didn't pack any jackets or sweaters for Phoenix, which was wishful thinking considering it does get chilly in the mornings and evenings. I ended up wearing Graham's Cubs hoodie or his jackets when I couldn't take the desert "cold." Victoria spent some time with her great-grandma while Graham and I took a quick trip to the Dreamy Draw Recreation Area, our old stomping grounds. It's not the most impressive mountain area to hike, like Camelback Mountain or Piestewa Peak, but it was our hiking spot. It's also huge, you could spend all day or multiple days exploring the vast network of trails, which are shared among hikers, dog walkers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. We would hike here frequently when we lived in Phoenix, usually during summer storms. We called ourselves storm chasers, in fact.

We went to our old sunset-viewing area during the early afternoon to get a glimpse of the city. We were also treated to a coyote sighting.




I was quite comfortable and cool in my new workout gear, which was a Christmas gift from my older sister. She knows the way to a fitness lover's heart! Plus, all I ever want for the holiday is athletic wear to help me reach my goals. She bought me an outfit from Fabletics** in my favorite color, purple.

Fabletics is offering a first outfit for $10 until Jan. 10, 2017. **


The tank has side band detail.
Took this photo of the back of the tank after the hike.


The top is the Theresa Tunic Tank, which covers your assets, if you know what I mean. I appreciate that because sometimes I feel self-conscious when I wear athleisure clothing out and about. This tank is a little longer on me because I have a short torso, but I think it would be flattering on many body types. Also, this would be ideal for yoga, because during certain poses your top tends to move about and expose your midriff, and this could help with that. It's a racerback tank as well.

The print on the leggings is my favorite. It's called the Metallic Pebble print, but it reminds me of my cosmic inspired Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17 running shoes, which I wore for the hike. The size small leggings fit perfectly.


Shop my Fabletics outfit **