Friday, February 24, 2017

5 Reasons to Try Orangetheory Fitness

Photo courtesy of Orangetheory Fitness

Getting back into a fitness routine after family leave is among my February goals, so I am really focusing on making working out a priority. I was thinking about this in class Tuesday night, and I don't know if it was the playlist, the motivation or the trainer, but I was reminded that I love making Orangetheory Fitness workouts a part of my training plan.

What is Orangetheory? Orangetheory is a heart rate-based group personal training class. You spend half the class on a treadmill (or a combination of treadmill and rower) and half the class on the floor (or a combo of weight room and the rower), which is outfitted with free weights, benches, TRX straps and other tools. A heart-rate monitor and screen tracks which zone you're in and how many calories you burn. There are also Splat points that you earn, but to be honest I am not sure even after a year of going to OTF what their purpose is. The theory behind the workout is explained on your first visit, which is free.

Reasons to try Orangetheory Fitness:
  1. You need extra motivation. Coaches and fellow students are inspiring and helpful. They demo all exercises and come over to make adjustments when I am doing something incorrectly. It helps me get the most out of my hourlong workout.
  2. You want a personal trainer but don't want to/can't pay full price. Orangetheory classes are basically group training sessions. You have someone to guide you but you share with others! 
  3. You get bored with your workouts. I go to Orangetheory never knowing what we will do. Some days are Endurance, some are Strength, some are Power, some are a combination and some are partner workouts. We even do what is called a Tornado during which we switch from station to station every minute! The studios switch up the schedule to kick us guessing, which means you won't get tired of doing the same workout every time, and they constantly hold challenges and special events. (Mine even had a pajama movie night!)
  4. You're short on time. You'll love it if you want to get in and out of the gym in an hour, including stretching time, but you want a challenging workout. You will sweat and feel the burn at every session.
  5. You want to see results. I have added muscle in places I have never had before thanks to Orangetheory. I also lost some pounds, though I still have work to do to reach my fitness goals.
Bonus: Convenience. Orangetheory studios are popping up throughout the country. When I travel I look for a nearby location so I can squeeze in a workout. So far I have gone to OTF locations in Arizona, Illinois, Kentucky and Louisiana. I wanted to visit an Atlanta studio but the only class time that worked for me was full. Next time!

Photo courtesy of Orangetheory Fitness

Previous Orangetheory posts:

Have you tried OTF? What's your favorite workout right now?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Cruelty-Free Skin Care Products | Current Favorites

** This post contains affiliate links. 

Last year I made the switch to cruelty-free skin-care, makeup and hair products. I am currently happy with the skin-care products I'm using, though I am still mixing up my routine to see if there's something I love even more. One of my goals this year is to learn to make some of my own skin-care items, but right now the products below are working well for me. Do you make your own products? Any tips?

My skin-care favorites at the moment:

  • Pacifica Sea Foam Complete Face Wash: I enjoy the gentle lather and coconut scent of this face wash. It's my go-to facial cleanser! It claims to also tone the skin as well as remove makeup.
  • Thayers Witch Hazel Alcohol Free Toner - Lavender: I enjoy the gentle toner and its scent. I don't really feel like I need to try others, but I am interested in the rose-scented toner from Thayers as well. 
  • Miss Spa masks: I use these affordable sheet masks once a week. I have tried several varieties, and my favorites so far are the Age Defy and Brightening masks. These are affordable; they are $2.99 each at Target. I also liked the eye masks, but those I have only seen at Walgreens.
  • It Cosmetics Confidence in a Cream: I've been using this for a few months now and will continue to purchase it. My skin feels and looks smoother. It contains hyaluronic acid, among other ingredients, which reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. 
  • Mario Badescu Ceramide Herbal Eye Cream: It's too soon to review this eye cream, but of all the Mario Badescu eye creams I tested in the store, I liked this the most. I liked the scent and texture and it has kept my under eyes hydrated.
  • It Cosmetics Bye Bye Under Eye Cream: I meant to purchase this again after testing it in December, but I'll wait until I have used up my Mario Badescu cream. I really enjoyed this cream and saw results. (I am talking about the regular It Cosmetics eye cream, not the color-correcting eye cream.)


These products I don't consider necessities, but I purchase them every once in a while. All of them are cruelty-free as well:

  • Lush Cup O' Coffee Mask: The coffee-scent mask is a nice way to wake up. I enjoyed the exfoliation, but not the mess. (It leaves mini coffee grinds in the sink when you wash it off.)
  • Yes To Coconut sheet mask: I enjoy the scent and hydration of this sheet mask. 
  • Burt's Bees grapefruit facial wipes: I don't always use wipes because I like to reduce my waste, but I enjoyed the scent of these. I pick them up when I will be traveling and for days when I wear more makeup than usual. 
  • Mario Badescu facial spray: I didn't think this is a necessity at all, but I loved spraying my face throughout the day as a pick-me-up. The scent is lovely as well.
  • Desert Essence Jojoba Oil: Jojoba oil has many benefits. I used this to help remove makeup and as a moisturizer, among other uses.

Shop my products**:

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Birthday at the Field Museum Chicago | Free-Admission Days

A perk of living in Chicago is that many of the museums are free on certain dates/months. Luckily for us, the Field Museum is offering free general admission to Illinois residents during the month of February.

I awoke on my birthday thinking it'd be nice to spend the day wandering around the museum. As I've said before, you would have to spend days, even weeks, at the Field Museum to see and admire everything it has to offer. 

This time we started with the Nature Walk. We completely missed this section of the Main Floor on our first visit recently. We also checked out more of the west side of the main floor, including Mammals of Africa and Reptiles and Amphibians, before taking a break at the Field Bistro. I tried a mini bottle of Moscato that was delicious!

I also was intrigued by the packaging of this lemonade. The beverage wasn't as sweet as I expected.

Later we walked through the Ancient Americas exhibit, which explored Incan, Mayan and Aztec civilizations. It leads into the Northwest Coast and Arctic Peoples exhibit. I was captivated by the totem poles, masks, tools, history -- all of it. It was one of my favorite parts of the museum. This exhibit ends at the North American Indians exhibit, another riveting section.

The museum will be free for the rest of February. More dates are announced throughout the year. 
I have a lot more to explore at the museum, so I may be back this month.

Have you been to the Field Museum? What was your favorite exhibit?

Previous Field Museum visit:

Monday, February 20, 2017

Stay at the Islander Resort | Islamorada, Florida Keys

When searching for an affordable, beachfront hotel option in the upper Florida Keys, I came across the Guy Harvey Outpost Islander Resort. The photos caught my eye, and the resort had decent reviews on I booked a three-night stay for us to explore the Keys during our recent trip.

When we drove up to the resort, an outdated sign greeted us. I didn't remember seeing that in any of the photos, and the rest of the resort was in better condition. The lobby was decorated nicely and the front desk agent was super friendly and energetic. She informed me that we were in a poolside suite, which according to her is the best option. 

We drove up to our unit and opened our door with a good old-fashioned key (no hotel key card). Our room had a full kitchen, something I appreciate because it helps save cash by allowing us to cook some meals. There's also a screened patio area and lounge chairs outside.

We typically request rooms with two beds so we don't have to share with our toddler. The room contains a large closet and drawers with plenty of room. (That's where I found the safe, which wouldn't open. I didn't bother asking the front desk for help.) As I found out during our stay, the poolside location is nice, but it does get a bit noisy sometimes during the day. It was convenient when we wanted to go to the pool, restaurant or beach, though.

Have a seat and admire the view from the pier. 

The A/C in the unit was also a bit loud at times, but it wasn't an issue. We weren't in the room that much anyway and we only needed it one day.

The laundry came in handy. I was able to do laundry one day for $1.50 per wash and $1.50 to dry. There is no detergent vending machine, though. I bought a $1 bottle of detergent at a nearby dollar store. 

I enjoyed both restaurants at the resort, especially breakfast at Bonefish Flats. The service was great at the latter. (See my previous post for more details on the food and prices.)

Was Islander Resort the fanciest option? No. But it was comfortable and not too expensive. The amenities were nice (You can rent kayaks and other gear at the beach!) and the location was convenient for us. Nearby we found many parks, the scuba diving museum and lots of shops and restaurants. It was about 40 minutes from the Turtle Hospital in Marathon and about an hour and a half from Key West. I would stay here again.

Have you visited the Florida Keys?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Pescatarian Diet on Florida Vacation

When you don't eat meat, it can be tricky to find foods to eat on vacation. I do eat fish, so that expands my options. The tricky thing is being somewhere like at an amusement park where you are unfamiliar with the food selection. I did the best I could when choosing food options. Are you pescatarian? Here are ideas on what you can expect to find at various Florida locations:


  • Ceasar Salad ($9.99): What you would expect from a salad. I was able to share this with V and we were both satisfied.
  • Veggie burger and fries (about $10): The worst veggie burger I've ever had. Fries were good.
  • Veggie omelet and small orange juice ($13.08): Decent, filling. Shared the omelet with my daughter, who seemed to like it.

Magic Kingdom

  • Zucchini burrito with beans and rice ($10.49): Delicious and filling. Could have used some salsa.

  • Mac and cheese ($8.19): Large, creamy portion. We could have shared one bowl instead of buying two.
Animal Kingdom

  • Hummus with veggies and falafel ($11 total): The falafel was great. Hummus was just OK. The portion was a lot more than necessary for amount of veggies and pita you get. Great veggie option.

  • Mickey Mouse pretzel with cheese sauce (about $6?): What you would expect from a pretzel. A filling snack while walking around the park.

Islamorada, Florida Keys

  • Ceviche (I think $15): Yum! Not as great as my mother's but decent.

  • Veggie enchiladas ($9.99): I ate every bite of the green-sauce enchiladas. Delicious, filling.

  • Fried ice cream ($4.75): Just OK. Not as crunchy or flavorful as I would have liked.

  • Crab cakes ($8): Yummy. Would order again.
  • Lobster tacos (about $14): Just OK. They were filling and I liked the avocado. 

  • Large Greek salad ($11) and baked potato (about $2.50): Basic, not that impressive, but filling. Lots of feta. I wasn't really in the mood for anything else. The views from the oceanfront restaurant are serene.

  • Breakfast bullet ($13): I made myself a bagel with cream cheese and salmon, onion and capers. I also had eggs with spinach and feta and breakfast potatoes. I loved it all.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I Survived a Kickboxing Class

In August, I bought a three-class package to an ILoveKickboxing studio that was opening in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago. For $10, I got three kickboxing class and a pair of gloves; you can't beat that deal! And yet, it's now February and I just took my first class. What can I say? Life got in the way. ...

I arrived for the 10:15 class at 9:45 to talk about my fitness goals, get my gloves and hear about the format of the class. I then went into the locker room to drop off my things (Bring a lock!) and take off my shoes. No shoes are allowed on the mats, and your water rests on the side of the mat. 

For your first class you have a teacher's helper who instructs you on the basics while the rest of the class does other moves. The class began with a warm up (running around the mat, side shuffles, burpees, etc.) and stretching. Then we did basics like jabs and roundhouse kicks, followed by partner workouts. The class finally ended with more burpees and squats (One partner held a squat while the other did three burpees; then we switched.). Finally, we stretch. 

The instructing style is very much high intensity and loud. Students cheer, the teacher yells. I quickly discovered that kickboxing is quite difficult to learn. The instructor's helper was great about giving tips and adjustments when needed. She was also super friendly and encouraging. 

Overall, I enjoyed my first kickboxing class. Will I go every week? Probably not, but it's worth incorporating into my fitness routine to tone up and get an amazing workout. I am just not the hollering and interacting type. I prefer more inner-self focused activities like running and yoga. That's just my introverted self, though. If you love workout out in an interactive setting, kickboxing could be for you. I did, however, sign up for my next class, so my first impression could change. Also, if you're stressed out and need to hit a punching bag, this could be for you. The studio was even planning an event to tape a picture of your ex (or something you don't like anymore) onto the punching bag for a class.

How did I feel after class? Everything hurt. (haha!) I was sore, for sure, and the soreness occurred in parts of my body I am not used to being sore. I consider that I success.

Have you tried kickboxing?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

February Favorites & Goals

** This post contains affiliate links.

Amid vacationing, family leave and taking care of business around our home, I haven't had a chance to set solid February goals or write about my recent favorites. Have I mentioned it's also my birthday month? The theme for me lately has been self-care and getting things done. It's been a month so far of catching up on things I've been meaning to do and preparing for a new season that will bring about change for our family. In the spirit of inspiration and helping others, I'm sharing this month's favorites and goals.

Shein Burgundy Glasses Print Top: I've been wearing this as much as I can. I absolutely love the color and print. I originally purchased the top to wear to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but I didn't make it there. I will save that for our next trip to Florida to visit close friends.

Get this Harry Potter-inspired tee for only $10 here.

Wet 'n Wild Megalist Liquid Catsuit Lipsticks in Nice to Fuchsia and Mocha: These are comfortable and pigmented liquid lipsticks that stay put. Best of all: They are only $4.99. I even paid less than that. They were three for $10 at Walgreens recently. Get you some!

Mocha and Fuchsia

Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance palette: I am about a year late to this bandwagon. Everyone I follow raves about this palette, and I finally know why. It's beautiful and the shade selection is great for both everyday looks and date-night makeup. I brought this with me on vacation and used it every single day. I love it. I notice a bit of kickback when I touch my brush to the pans but it's nothing major.

Too Faced Perfect Eyes Eyeliner: This eyeliner glides on and has great pigmentation. I am wearing it almost every day. Plus, Too Faced is cruelty-free.

February Goals:

  • Enjoy my remaining family leave. I have less than a week left of time off and I want to make sure I am as present as possible with my family. I want to relax, take care of myself (and my family) and make plans (and moves) for our future.
  • Find family-friendly activities in Chicago.
  • Get back into a fitness routine. My training for the Chicago Spring Half Marathon begins on March 1, so I need to prepare myself by working out at least three times a week. I just tried kickboxing and I am still an Orangetheory member, so this goal shouldn't be too difficult. We also just joined the local YMCA, which offers day care. Yay!
  • Make it to one group run and one yoga class. I've been neglecting my running group because it's been so cold for this Arizonan's taste. I've also been neglecting my yoga practice. I want to get back into a consistent practice. My body and mind need it.
  • Pursue more freelance writing and editing opportunities. I just finished editing a book and I was selected for what I hope will be an ongoing writing opportunity. I would love to add more opportunities to the list.
  • Search for a photo-editing course. 

What are your goals and favorites this month?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Dabble: Fused-Glass Dish Class with Chicago Glass Collective

My most recent experience was a Valentine's Day fused-glass candy dish at Chicago Glass Collective. The ability to make something to give as a gift for the holiday piqued my interest. I also thought it'd make a great friend or Valentine's outing, but I didn't have any luck finding someone to tag along.

 I realized when I walked into the building that I didn't know the suite number, but I saw a sign in the foyer for a Valentine's Day event and assumed that was it. I was buzzed in and walked into the corresponding suite, only to see it was a boutique, not a glass workshop. I kept walking down the hall to explore. The next door was Chicago Glass Collective. Success!

Leslie, the instructor, had sent an email with directions and the suite number was on the class description, by the way.

The class was small, at three students, so we got to know each other better. We had a fun time, drawing inspiration from each other and sharing a bottle of red wine. The session begins with the basics of working with glass before you are set free to make whatever design you want. It didn't have to be Valentine's Day themed; you could use any of the provided tools or even Google a design.

I decided to make a dish with a clear base and a white top. (Sorry, I am not using correct terminology.) I knew I wanted leaves on it, but I didn't know where to begin. Leslie offered to let me peek through her plant book for inspiration and she suggested tracing the design onto the glass with a Sharpie. (The black burns off later.) That was a genius idea!

You have two hours to make your dish, but we all finished a bit before that. Once you're satisfied with your creation she will put it in the kiln for you. You don't take it home that night, because it won't be ready.

My fellow students' creations:

Chicago Glass Collective offers other classes on, as well! It's a fun way to spend an evening and you make something pretty to take home or gift!

Have you tried Dabble? What was your favorite class?

Previous Dabble experiences:

Watch my glass-dish class video:

** I am a Dabble ambassador, so I receive a discount on classes. Use code to get a discount on your first class! Dabble is available in cities such as St. Louis, Austin and Denver!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Vacation Beauty Empties

** This post contains affiliate links. 

Traveling recently helped me work through some of my beauty (and perfume) products and really get to know them. Today I'm sharing my recent beauty empties and what I thought about them, as well as whether I would repurchase them.

My empties:

Milani Prime Shield Face Primer - Mattifying and Pore Minimizing: I have been using this for months now, and I liked the slight blurring effect on my pores. It mattifies, so it worked on my oily T-zone. Be careful to use only a little bit. Overdoing it caused my foundation to slide off. I plan to try a different Milani primer next.

Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray mini: I used a mini size of this setting spray for travel purposes and it lasted me the entire trip. I liked that my makeup lasted on long days at Disney theme parks. I plan to try the new Milani setting spray next.

Milani Conceal + Perfect foundation: I love this full-coverage foundation. I could build the coverage to what I wanted or simply use it as concealer. I need a slightly darker shade though. The price is right and the brand is cruelty-free. A win!

Colourpop Creme Gel Eyeliner Pencil: This eyeliner didn't last as long as I would have liked on the eyes. It's affordable, though! Also, it's not as pigmented as other liners I've tried. The pencil form makes it good for travel.

Studio 35 Fruit Enzyme Bamboo Sheet Mask: I picked this up from Walgreens during our travel because I felt like I really needed a sheet mask. The sheet mask is brightening, though it wasn't as moist as other sheet masks I've tried. It dried quickly. For $1.99, it works, though it wasn't my favorite.

Tory Burch Jolie Fleur Fragrance Trio sample minis: I LOVE these perfumes. I wore them every day for almost a month, and now I plan to buy the full-size perfumes. Using the sample versions was ideal for travel; I just stored them in my purse. I love all three floral scents: Jolie Fleur Rose, Jolie Fleur Bleue, Jolie Fleur Verte.

What products have you been using and loving lately? Share them below!

Shop some of my empties**:

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Disney's Animal Kingdom

Being able to visit Disney World's Animal Kingdom park was an unexpected treat. I wasn't sure if we'd make it, but we were gifted park-hopper passes by a generous friend. We woke up early that day to make it on the Disney shuttle bus by 8:30 a.m. and arrive at the park around opening time. It was a chilly Florida day -- really. It was in the 50s and 60s thanks to a cold front.

When we rented our stroller, which normally costs $15 for a single per day, I was asked if I had paid for a length of stay rental. I had not because I didn't think we'd be visiting another park, but the cast member gave us the discounted rate after I showed him my receipt. (Our total stroller rental cost at Disney for two days was about $28, including tax.)

The entrance at Animal Kingdom was a lot more crowded than Magic Kingdom had been, at least it appeared so because it's a much narrower space to form lines in. The security officers thoroughly searched our belongings, adding to the wait time. The bag check here was a lot more meticulous than Magic Kingdom, for sure. 

We finally made it inside and tried to scatter away from the crowds as much as possible, so we checked out some animal enclosures before boarding the train to Rafiki's Planet Watch. We took part in some of the badge activities (You can collect badges around the park.), then got in line to meet Chip and Dale. After that we headed into a center where we could see tanks of reptiles and meet Rafiki. He was one of my favorite characters. Outside, we came across the petting zoo, where we said hello to some goats. The park was filling up by then, so we returned via the train to see more animals.

We wandered around Asia, where we checked out the monkeys for a bit. We then had a falafel and hummus snack before it was our turn to meet Minnie and Mickey at the Adventurers Outpost. The wait was just a few minutes thanks to our Fast Passes. When we walked out of the outpost we spotted Baloo, who was adorable and sweet.

After admiring the Tree of Life, we headed to DinoLand next and our little one took an hour or so nap in her stroller while we munched on Mickey-shaped pretzels and cheese sauce. It was getting a bit more chilly, so coffee was a good idea. Thank goodness there is a Starbucks inside the park, because you really need it for a long Disney day. No matter your age, you will be exhausted at the end of the visit. It's just a fact.

When our toddler awoke, we rode the Triceratop Spin. We also walked over to Africa to walk the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. We saw the gorillas, zebras, and lots more.

It was then time for our next Fast Pass and the best ride of the day: the Kilimanjaro Safari. It is the best ride in the theme park, by far. We got up close to rhinos (one even ran toward me, scaring me but also amusing me), zebras and other animals. The lions were also active, as were the elephants. I wished the safari would have lasted longer!

By this time our day was winding down. Our toddler danced with some performers in Africa and we checked out the shops before heading to the exit. We decided to spend the next couple of hours at Epcot park with our friends, where we ate fish and chips in Ireland for dinner. We also checked out the aquarium. 

It was a long but fun-filled day in Disney World!

Have you been to Animal Kingdom? What was your favorite part?