Friday, December 30, 2016

2017: Making Moves | 2016 Recap
Plus Goal-Setting Tips

** This post contains affiliate links. 

Graham and I set an intention every year, and every year we have been amazed by how it comes true. 2015 was the year of adventure. 2016 was the year of growth. And now 2017 will be about health and success. Our version of success is to be business owners and work for ourselves. We've already made headway: Step 1 was paying off nearly all of our debt in 2016. I am grateful and proud that we accomplished that. Step 2 is to make the necessary investments and build up our wealth. It's scary. It's exciting. It will probably take some time, but if we go for it, we could be living our dream in early 2018 -- or sooner! Of course, to get there we need to make small steps to better ourselves. Breaking down that intention further, here are my 2017 goals:

2017 Goals:

  • Run a marathon. I missed the lottery for the 2017 Chicago Marathon, so I will wait to see which marathon seems like the best option. I would love to cheer for the Chicago runners or volunteer, though. 
  • Build up our savings for both emergency funds and a long-awaited international trip we'd like to take.
  • Make investments into our future business.
  • Go on an international trip as well as several trips out of state (road trips, visiting family and more). I'm thinking Orlando, Minneapolis, New York City and Seattle.
  • Take video editing and photography classes.
  • Volunteer at least once every quarter.
Whenever I set new goals I like to look back at what I have just accomplished. 2016 was the year of growth, and we certainly did that in every aspect of our lives. Graham and I progressed in our skills, we added a little one to our household and we each accomplished personal goals.

2016 highlights:

Top beauty posts of 2016:

I incorporated more beauty posts on Floradise because I became more interested in finding holy grail products that are cruelty-free. My monthly favorites posts became my way of sharing my findings and experiences.

Books to motivate you in 2017**:

Most of the books I like to read are autobiographies and self-improvement works. My favorites of the year:

Tips to set your 2017 goals:

It's OK and great to be inspired by others, but don't feel like you need to set 20 goals for the year because you saw someone else do it. It's perfectly fine to set one goal or to set many. It's also OK to break down larger goals into smaller ones. More tips from my post on setting goals:

Brainstorm and Analyze.
Create lists of what motivates you, want you desire out of life, etc.
Write down words that describe your priorities. Ideas: Friendship, love, money, music, strength, confidence, generosity, admiration, nature, laughter, comfort, travel, family. Identify the areas that are most important and use them to guide your goals.
Ask yourself: What do you want your life to look like? What are your passions?
Write down what you want to achieve. If it helps, break the goals down into categories for different parts of your life. (Career, health, personal, etc.)
Ask yourself why you want to achieve a certain goal? What's the underlying desire?
What resources can you list to help you achieve your goal? (Trainer, friends, books, classes, etc.) Write them down.
What investments (of time or money or anything else) do you need to make? Identify them.

Dream big but make more realistic short-term goals to work toward that big goal.
Try to find a middle ground between setting too easy of a goal and too unattainable.
Leave fear out of the goal-setting process. It has no place in it.
Leave judgment out of goal-setting. You might be worried about what people think. Put your own thoughts of why you want to achieve the goal above all other opinions.
Do you have a goal that you think it's too late for? Repeat this: It's not too late! Write down reasons and ways it can still be achieved.

"If we wait until we're ready, we'll be waiting for the rest of our lives." -Lemony Snicket

Be specific.
Write down exactly what you want (when, with whom, and how). The more specific you can be the better.
Start with one or two main goals. Once you have your main goal(s), you can break those down into smaller milestone goals.

Remind yourself of your goal(s) and your "why."
Write them down and display them around your desk, bedside, in your wallet, etc.
Make a vision board or create a Pinterest board.
Set reminders on your phone of your goals.
Share them with friends or on social media.
Surround yourself with people with a similar goal(s).
Meditate or pray about that goal. 

Schedule time for your goals.
Break your goals down to smaller goals and plan out when you can work toward each goal. 
Ask yourself: What small steps can I take today to bring me closer to achieving my goal? What can I do each week? Make working toward your goals a part of your daily to-do list.
What's a realistic timetable for achieving your goal? Write down due dates. 
Practice single-tasking. For each day or each week, consider focusing on just one goal. Focus all of your energy on it until it's accomplished, then move on to another goal/milestone.

Observe the changes/Hold yourself accountable.
Measure your success. This is why I check in with myself with my monthly goals. Where did you fall short and can you break that goal down even further into smaller steps?
Celebrate your successes and don't beat yourself up about the failures. Try again. Adjust in areas where you didn't hit your shorter-term goals, but keep working toward them.
Don't compare yourself to others. This is YOUR journey.
When you're feeling discouraged, think about times in your life that you overcame an obstacle. You can do this!

2016 races:

I ran more than 500 miles in 2016. While I did not run as many miles as I did in 2015, I can forgive myself because the difference was 50 or fewer miles, and I had a hectic October and November that included bringing home a toddler. I managed to cut my half-marathon time and I completed my second marathon. I trained differently for my races and the hard work paid off. 

My recaps:

Favorites for Fitness in 2017**

If, like me, you have fitness goals in 2017, you might be thinking about investing in workout attire. I've had my eye on new fitness gear in the hopes Santa would bring me some for Christmas. While he did bring me some amazing gifts, workout clothing was not one of them. I'm instead putting these on my upcoming birthday wish list:

C9 Champion Sweater Fleece Top in Vivid Violet 


C9 Champion Women's Freedom Leggings in Plum


Under Armour Mid Printed Sports Bra

Garmin Vivosmart HR + Fitness Band in Purple


What are your goals for 2017? Share them with me in the comments, and thank you for supporting Floradise blog!

** This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Takeaways from
"The Universe Has Your Back"

Graham and I set an intention of growth in 2016, and one way I fulfilled that was to work on myself through fitness, new experiences and reading self-improvement books, among other ways. I've read "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear," "You Are a Badass" and "Year of Yes," along with other books, this year. My most recent read, or rather listen, on Audible is "The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith" by Gabrielle Bernstein. I have heard of another book of hers, "May Cause Miracles," which I have yet to read. Something about "Universe Has Your Back" called to me. I think Bernstein would agree that the universe brings you what you ask for, and the lessons in this book were what I needed to hear.

The key lessons for me:

What you judge in others is what you judge in yourself. What you love about others is what you love about yourself. I've heard this before, and I have realized the truth in this more and more as time passes. I have someone in my life whom I have judged for being self-centered. I realized that the actions she has taken that I dislike are similar to ones I have done myself, and they are actions I am not proud of. I have since tried to understand why that person doesn't reach out to me. It's because I myself have not reached out to her. We have more in common than I thought. This understanding has helped me work on those behaviors I don't enjoy in myself and forgive and understand those behaviors in her. I hope this realization will also bring us closer.

Let faith take the lead and let go of goals. "Hold great visions and then release them." This doesn't mean don't make goals; it means make your vision clear and then trust they will happen and let go of the outcome.

Bernstein at first came across as self-important to me, but then she explains herself with a self-awareness that made me realize she really does want to help others. She seems passionate when she says she wants to help readers find their calling and join her in "being the light." She is honest about instances in which her ego came into play and in which she was judgmental. She also shares what she has learned from those experiences. You can great specific guidance on meditation and specific poses and prayers to say. She often refers you to her website for more help. I enjoyed the book overall, and it helped me overcome a certain funk I have been in this month.

Bernstein can best explain and list her steps for transforming fear to faith, and the Audible version of her book is a quick read if you'd like to do just that.

Have you read this book or any others by Gabrielle Bernstein?

Read "The Universe Has Your Back"**:

** This post contains an affiliate link.

Monday, December 26, 2016

First Christmas with Victoria
and Favorite Toddler Gifts

** This post contains affiliate links when available.

This Christmas is special and different for a few reasons. It's our first with Victoria, which made it especially fun buying and wrapping gifts. It was also the first that Graham and I decided to spend on our own in Chicago, without family. It wasn't that we didn't want to be with them, but we wanted to establish our own traditions and celebrate with them before and after. There's also a third reason we are glad we spent time on our own this year: A few days before Christmas, our dog Taylor collapsed and was unable to move or breathe. We frantically took her to an emergency vet, who told us that she had fluid in her chest surrounding her heart. After an emergency procedure and lots of testing, we found out she has a mass in her chest. While we are grateful she is still around, it's been a sad, defeating and scary time. We tried our best to make stay positive and remember an important part of the holidays is to cherish our time together. We visited family in Louisville the next day when it became clear Taylor was doing better, and she seemed so happy to see her old stomping grounds. (That's where she was born.) Another way to take our minds off the pain of change is to see the smile on Victoria's face when she learned that Santa had visited our home while she slept. She is so loved by many who sent her adorable and fun gifts to open on Christmas morning. She spent the day scattering her toys about, playing with all of them and insisting we could not put them away.

Some of my favorite that she received from us and from others:

  • Cloud B Twilight Turtle nightlight. Turtles are my favorite animal, so when I saw this nightlight I knew I wanted Victoria to have it. It doubles as a stuffed animal and lights up Victoria's room with stars that change colors.
  • Elena of Avalor jewelry. We watch this show every day, and I think Elena is a great role model. I also like that they have snippets of Spanish on the show.
  • Melissa and Doug chunky wooden puzzles and art easel. I became acquainted with Melissa and Doug toys at Target when Victoria arrived. She loves a puzzle I bought her so much, and now she has four more! One is the alphabet, another is numbers, a third is dinosaurs and a fourth is safari animals. She also received a dinosaur floor puzzle that she loves assembling! I really wanted to get her the art easel as well, because coloring is one of her favorite activities. I recently saw this one at a friend's house, and her toddler and Victoria bickered over it at one point, so I knew Victoria would love to have this in her room.
  • Moana musical globe and jewelry box. This was a gift from Victoria's grandparents, among other items. She already loves putting her Elena of Avalor jewelry inside. It also plays a song from the movie.
  • VTech Smart Shots Sports Center. This will be nice to have this winter since we can't go to the park to play with a ball anymore. She can stay as active as possible (and entertained) inside our place.
  • Peppa Pig Peppa's Red Car and long-sleeve shirt. Victoria loves this show. She watches it every day and requests to watch it incessantly during road trips. The theme song from the show never leaves my head. 
  • Hermione Granger wand. Obviously. Victoria seems interested in Harry Potter, and she already pretended that a reed diffuser stick I have is a wand, so of course she will play with this wand. 
  • ABC Yoga book by Christiane Engel. This book shows kids how to do yoga! It has adorable names for the poses, too.
  • LeapFrog LeapStart Interactive Learning System. With a stylus she can point to the activity books and learn with this system, which we bought in pink. (It also comes in green/blue.) So far she just has one activity book. The levels progress from preschool to first grade.
We are incredibly grateful to have people who care about us and wanted us to have gift cards to help shower Victoria with gifts. Of course, Christmas is not about the gifts, but we think Victoria deserves them and so much more.

And, really, the best gift was being together and as healthy as possible. Taylor has given us so many gifts and lessons in her lifetime, and we hope we have many more.

Did you receive any special gifts this Christmas? It doesn't necessarily have to be a possession. Let me know in the comments!

Favorite Gifts for our Toddler**:

Friday, December 23, 2016

November/December Empties

** This post contains affiliate links when available.

My quest for my holy grail products continues with these empties, which I finished in November and December. Most of these are skincare-related, as I dealt with some texture and breakouts related to stress and diet. This was after our toddler arrived, and the change was overwhelming for me; it showed on my face. I feel like I had more empties than this, but, alas, they disappeared. Let's get to the items I had collecting dust awaiting this post:
  • Yes to Grapefruit Correct & Repair Pore Perfection Night Treatment: The citrus scent is appealing and refreshing. I noticed my pores were minimized after using for a couple of weeks. I didn't notice much improvement in redness, but my overall complexion improved. The only downside was that the cream felt a little heavy and when pushed down, more than I needed was dispensed. The affordable price of under $15 makes this an appealing product. I would repurchase.
  • Lush Cup O'Coffee Face and Body Mask: This mask smells like a cup of java, making it a perfect start to the day. But I used this at night as well on some nights. The smell makes you want to eat it! The ground coffee gentle scrubs away any impurities. I will definitely repurchase.
  • Hydrating Bubble Mask: (Review from my recent post) 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. I can't say it's my favorite cleanser ever, but it does the job. I would repurchase but right now I am using my Pacifica cleanser. This mask was sent to me for free by Influenster for testing purposes. 
  • Burt's Bees Brightening Refining Tonic: The overall product is fine, but I did not enjoy the scent at all. I expected a more citrusy, grapefruit scent, but it was daisy extract that I apparently do not like. I bought it because Burt's Bees is one of my favorite brands and I like that it's cruelty-free. I will stick to my other Burt's Bees products. If you like the scent you might enjoy this product. It's a matter of personal preference.
  • Maybelline Brow Drama Sculpting Brow Mascara: This lasted me months before drying out. It kept my brows in place and I had no complaints. The sculpting brush really does the job. I only replaced it because I wanted to try Anastasia Beverly Hills and stick to cruelty-free brands. The $7 price tag is also super affordable. 
  • Miss Spa Detox Mask: I've talked about loving the exfoliate mask in the past, and I enjoyed this one as well. I noticed an instant improvement in complexion and it's just a nice pick-me-up. Also, it's only about $2-3. I will buy this again.
  • Dr Teal's Pure Epsom Salt  Soaking Solution, Soften and Nourish: This is one of my new favorite Dr. Teal's products. The scent is soothing; perfect for late evening soaks before bed and after my workouts. I will definitely buy this again.

Shop my recent empties**:

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Favorite NYE Looks
from Rent the Runway

** This post contains affiliate links. 

I have absolutely no plans for New Year's Eve, but that hasn't stopped me from eyeing looks from Rent the Runway! I have friends and family members who use the service regularly and swear by it, and that's piqued my interest in using the service for my next big event. NYE would be the perfect opportunity to rent a designer dress!

These are some of the dresses I would consider for the big night:
  • Hutch Black and Gold High Low Dress: It's a different silhouette than you're used to seeing over the holidays. It's flattering on anyone! I love the high-low design. Rent: $60; retail: $415.



  • Theia Dipped in Vanilla DressChampagne sequins make this dress perfect for New Year’s Eve. This gives off a Gatsby vibe that I adore for the holidays. Rent: $50-70; retail: $750.



  • Hutch Navy Colorblock Dress: Stand out from the black, red and gold crowd in this colorblock dress. It's adorable! Rent: $40; retail: $270.


What are your plans for NYE? Are you going out or celebrating at home? Which dress would you pick?

** This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Floradise blog.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Phoenix Travel: Camby Hotel

Last week was yet another whirlwind. In my life, weeks are either super slow or an avalanche  there is no in between. On Wednesday night Graham and I went to his work holiday party. At 4 a.m. the next morning I was on my way to Midway Airport to travel to Phoenix for work and for my holiday party. I landed in Phoenix about 9 a.m., changed into Phoenix-weather appropriate clothing and worked a full day in the office. I couldn't keep my eyes open at this point, so I returned to my hotel room that evening for one glorious night of uninterrupted sleep, a rare occurrence in my life as a new mom.

My blissful sleep was at the Camby Hotel in the Biltmore area of Phoenix. The best way I can describe the Camby is quirky. I'll let the photos do the talking:

I loved the chandeliers throughout the evening and lobby. 

This neon mixed media saguaro was my favorite. 
The artwork/light in my hotel room was my favorite.

The bathroom was well appointed.

After coming home to one of the worst weekends I've had lately. I wish I were still at the Camby right now! What's the best or quirkiest hotel you've stayed in? Share in the comments below!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

CTA Holiday Train | Chicago

The real feel was 6 degrees on Tuesday afternoon, but that didn't stop us from venturing out to see the CTA holiday train, or Santa's Express! We went to the Loyola CTA stop and waited as patiently as possible while icicles formed on my eyelashes. Finally, after about eight trains passed, the holiday train arrived to much cheering from everyone on the train platform.

The doors opened and some elves hopped out to greet us. They pass out candy, too! 

Victoria was thrilled to see Santa's sleigh, which is located toward the rear of the train, along with a Christmas tree. 

We rode the magical train for a few stops before saying goodbye to Santa and his elves. And then it was time to go home and drink hot chocolate!

Have you been on the holiday train?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Holiday Ornament Making with Dabble!

It's been snowing in Chicago all weekend, and the only things that could draw me out of hibernation were yoga on Saturday and a holiday ornament-making class on Sunday that I found via Dabble.Co. I've written about my Dabble classes before (Read: SUP Yoga and Photography) but I have since become a Super Dabbler, which is an ambassador for the platform that gives you access to any sort of activity you might be interested in trying. I will be taking complimentary classes found on Dabble and sharing my honest reviews and experiences with you. I was so eager to get started that I picked a class a week after beginning as an ambassador and brought along my friend Rachael from Tea for Two, a lifestyle blog here in Chicago.

We drove on the snowy streets of Chicago to a home studio in Wicker Park, where we were greeted by Katie Netti, the instructor. She has workstations set up with all the supplies you need: clear ornaments in two sizes, tweezers, cotton swabs, wooden picks, all sorts of little decorations for your ornament, ribbon, glue and so much more. 

craft supples, miniature environment ornament, holiday ornament
Some of the supplies I picked for my mico-environment holiday ornaments.

You can either make one large ornament or two smaller ones. Katie suggests practicing before you actually start gluing things in, and it helps to get the hang of handling such tiny objects. I actually ended up creating two large ornaments. My first creation broke through no fault of my own (it had a tiny crack) so I was able to recreate my vision in another ornament. Luckily it happened with enough time left to spare. Katie let me take both home, as the broken one was still intact (just the top part where the removable top clasp attaches). Once you insert all your decorations, you insert the clasp and pick a ribbon. You can also attach a bell and a hook as I did. Katie even sends you home with a box and bubble wrap to safely transport your creations.

It can be tricky to get your objects to stay put, and I had glue all over all of my tools when class was done. I made a bit of a mess,  but I liked my creations.

The first ornament I made (in process).

My finished product contained moss, three tiny cardinals that Katie pre-made (and then re-made for me), mini pine cones, a tree, mini apples and snowflakes. 

The class is $25 for students, and I think it's an incredible value considering you spend two hours with hands-on guidance and all the supplies you need. (You are free to bring your own as well.) You go home with one or two ornaments and probably some new friends. Katie also offers you tea, water or coffee to sip while you work, and if you're lucky you might get to meet her cats, which are typically placed in the room during class. She took them out at the request of all the students, who wanted to meet them and weren't allergic. I would happily attend this class next year. 

Dabble is primarily in markets such as Chicago, St. Louis, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver and others, but the platform is growing to other cities nationwide. 

Have you tried What class(es) did you take? If you're interested in trying a class and you live in one of the Dabble cities, use link for 10 percent off a class!

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