Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Mother's Day Gifts That Give Back

** This post contains affiliate links. 

When I shop for gifts for holidays and birthdays, I try to support companies that do good in some way, especially those that give money or products to charity. It used to be a challenge to find such companies, but now many popular brands have programs that give back. This Mother's Day will be my first one as a mother myself, so let's be honest: I wouldn't mind receiving any of these gifts!

My Mother's Day picks:

Floral TOMS wedges**: Mom can look gorgeous in these floral wedges all spring and summer long, and she can feel good about providing someone in need with a pair of shoes.

Coral Washed Twill Women's Platform Espadrilles**: For those who want more comfortable, everyday shoes, these TOMS espadrilles are perfect, and they come in blue and gray as well. Plus. these have a vegan microfiber liner!

Diff Eyewear: For every pair of Diff sunglasses sold, a pair of reading glasses is given to a child in need. I like these Barry Black/White Frames with polarized lenses. The mom friend in your life will love these this summer.

Little Market North Shore Overnight Bag: Little Market has a variety of adorable overnight bags for the traveling momma. You can also find makeup bags and trunks. Little Market says: "Every purchase empowers artisans in Guatemala working with Maya Traditions." Frankly, every item on the Little Market website is adorable. You also get a free luggage tag with overnight bag purchase (at least at the time this was written).

Kate Spade On Purpose Canvas Wristlet**: This adorable wristlet has a cute little bow detail. It benefits artisans in Rwanda as part of Kate Spade's On Purpose program.

Where are your favorite places to shop? What would you add to this list?

Note: It's up to you to do research on which companies are worth giving to and how much good they actually do. These are just my picks. Happy shopping!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Let's Dabble: Intro to Climbing Class

** I received a class credit for being a Dabble ambassador. All opinions have always been my own.

As a Dabble ambassador, aka Super Dabbler, I am regularly trying new hobbies via the countless classes on the website. I've tried SUP yoga, sushi rolling and photography, among many other activities. While each class challenges me in some way, my most recent class helped me take on one of my biggest fears: Heights.

This month's Dabble class was Intro to Climbing, which was offered by Brooklyn Boulders Chicago on the Near West Side. The hourlong class is an introduction to rock climbing taught by a CWI-certified instructor in a small setting. My class had only two students, so we had plenty of one-on-one instruction and coaching. We learned the basic concepts of climbing and were given the opportunity to try climbs based on our skill level. Because I had never climbed and I was terrified, I started with V0. (My fellow student was more experienced, so he did more difficult climbs.) After failing a few times, the instructor had me try something easier to build my confidence. Getting to the top of the wall was the mental boost I needed to try a V1. It was an exhilarating feeling to complete it. I forced myself past the certain point on the wall where I would start to panic and get tunnel vision. It's easy to miss an obvious path to the top because you are so close to the wall, but the instructor encouraged me from below. In addition to instruction and motivation, the $35 class includes your climbing shoes and a tour of the facility. The class will fly by!

Because I was climbing, I didn't get much footage, but I put together a video of my experience. Watch below and subscribe for more videos of my fun adventures. Also, if you'd like to try a Dabble class on just about any activity, you can get 10 percent off by using code MARETTE10 at checkout. (An easier method if to use my referral link, which automatically populates the discount.) Dabble classes are currently available in such cities as St. Louis, Seattle, Chicago, Austin and Denver, but hopefully Dabble will expand further. Happy Dabbling!

Have you tried climbing or bouldering? What Dabble class would you take? 

Watch my short climbing video:

Friday, April 21, 2017

What's in My Bag?

** This post contains affiliate links.

I love reading about what people carry in their bags and the items that people consider to be essentials. I was inspired by reading videos and posts to share the contents of my own purse. Into that sort of thing?

What's in my bag:
  • Phone power bank: I previously used a more expensive portable phone charger, but it didn't last long. I am now trying this Techlink Recharge power bank, which comes in four colors: black, white, blue and pink. I like to have this in my purse just in case I am traveling or at a baseball game.  
  • Faux-leather wallet: Confession: I have had this exact wallet for at least 8 years. Shopping for accessories is one area of my life in which I am a minimalist. I don't see the need for me to buy a new wallet until I need to replace this. 
  • Beats Bluetooth wireless headphones with case: I carry my headphones in my purse so I can listen to Audible on the L (train) or watch Youtube videos. These are also a necessity for travel.
  • Oakley aviator sunglasses: These were a gift from Graham, who wanted me to have higher-quality sunglasses. I have had these for about three years and have replaced the lenses once. Oakley had excellent service: They replaced my lenses for me in store. Sometimes I wear inexpensive  rose-gold sunglasses like these from H&M.
  • Pepper spray and whistle with light and compass: I have carried pepper spray in my purse since my days at the newspaper in Arizona. I worked nights (from 2 to 11 p.m. or later, depending on breaking news), so I wanted to have it on hand as I walked to my car in a nearby parking garage. While I never felt unsafe in downtown Phoenix, I liked to have it just in case. The whistle was given to me by a Chicago police officer last year. There had been a recent report of a woman being attacked during a jog.
  • Burt's Bees lip balm: I have written this before, but I can't live without this stuff. It feels like heaven on my lips.
  • Liquid lipstick: I have recently been wearing the Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit Lipstick in Give Me Mocha every time I wear makeup. It goes with so many makeup looks.
  • Pen.
  • Flint Lint roller: This was sent to me in my September Popsugar Must-Have box, which I received for free. I love this because it is resuable and great for travel.


  • Baby wipes: Because I have a toddler.
  • Snacks: Usually an apple or an orange.
  • Hand sanitizer: Because the train.
  • GoPro Hero 5: I have recently been working on uploading more videos to YouTube. (Please subscribe!)
  • Perfume rollerball.

What's in your bag?

Shop the post**

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Cruelty-Free and Green Products

** This post contains affiliate links. Also, it is your responsibility to check whether products are cruelty-free. That information may change.

In addition to looking for products that are cruelty-free, I was recently inspired to look for those with less packaging and that are more eco-friendly. I have made a few switches lately that I am happy with and wanted to share. This is part of my effort to be more mindful of how much waste I create. Sometime soon I'd love to take a class on making some of my own products such as candles and lotions.

The products I've been trying recently:
  • Tom's Lavender Tea Tree With Raw Shea Butter Natural Beauty Bar: I had reservations about using bar soap because I had been using body wash for years, but I have no complaints about it so far. (I am the only person who uses it in my home.) It combines one of my favorite scents, lavender, with tea tree and shea butter. Also, there's no plastic packaging. I use it along with my Eco Tools recycled bath sponge. I find that I use less product because with body wash I tend to squeeze too much out of the bottle, and this costs me less than body washes I had previously been using. 


  • Preserve Shave 5 Razor System: I initially tried Preserve's cheaper razor and hated it. The blade came off easily and was inconvenient to use. The Shave 5 Razor is a thousand times better. It's easier to grip and the blade stays on. I ordered my razor in coral, but it comes in six color options. You can recycle the handle with Preserve and it comes in a reusable container that is great for travel. (It's made from recycled plastic.)

  • Lush Massage Bar in Hottie. This is great to rub on tired muscles and doesn't use any plastic packaging. It also leaves the skin soft and maybe a tad oily/silky. The massage bar has a molded side to help with massaging and it smells like vanilla and spices. It doesn't come in any wasteful packaging when you buy it at a Lush store.
What products have you been using and loving lately?

P.S. If you're interested in reading about creating a zero-waste kitchen, Not Entirely Perfect has a post on this that I enjoyed.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Taking a Toddler to a Baseball Game
at Wrigley Field

Victoria is so lucky and she doesn't even know it yet. She went to a Chicago Cubs World Series game in October and to three games this week at Wrigley Field. While it's not easy to take a two-year-old to such a crowded place, it can definitely be fun for everyone involved. Of course, I don't plan to take her to every game I attend, but when I do, here are some lessons I've learned to make the outing easier. These are specific to Wrigley Field but can apply to other ballparks as well.

Skip the stroller. The fewer bulky items you bring on the train and to the ballpark, the better. For her first game, I put her in a toddler carrier (Ergo brand), and that worked out well. I was able to easily get her in the ballpark and to our seats. Besides, you have to check strollers, so not having one saves you time.

If you can, buy a separate ticket so he or she can have her own seat. (Unless you're OK with your toddler being on your lap for hours, that is.) While babies age 2 and younger don't need a ticket, those on the older end of that spectrum would probably be better off in their own seat and you'll be more comfortable. (I am not taking about infants who can be easily held and don't wiggle as much.)

Bring snacks and a water bottle. Fill it up at water fountains to save at least $5.

Arrive early to avoid the crowds that gather in the concourse. For popular games, you will be shoulder to shoulder with someone in the concourse at Wrigley Field, so it's best to either arrive early or late to the game. Otherwise, be patient. Also, enter through the gate on your ticket because it's closer to your seats.

Choose seats wisely. I would suggest sitting somewhere that's covered by shade in the summer to avoid getting too much sun or being soaked by rain. That means it's probably best to not sit in the closer aisles but rather in the 200-level seats at Wrigley Field. I also suggest not picking seats in the middle of a row, as it can be tricky to get out for diaper changes. The best seats we had with a toddler were in Section 108, Row 1 at Wrigley Field, because she had no seat in front of her to potentially kick.

Look up where family restrooms, stroller check and guest services are before the game. It's best to have an idea of where to go to save time.

Check the weather and dress accordingly. Chicago can have such deceiving weather. It was in the 70s on Opening Night but then it dropped down to the 40s. I brought a blanket this week to wrap her in on chilly Opening Night, but even then I wish I had brought warmer clothes and more accessories.

Get your first game certificate. I didn't do this for Victoria's first game but I wish I had!

Leave early if needed. Though you might not want to, play it by ear based on how well your toddler is doing. I left early this week to avoid the crowds walking toward the train (and because it was a night game and we wanted her to go to bed at a reasonable hour).

Have fun and stay calm. I was extremely nervous about taking her to a game, but I have found there is nothing to worry about. The people around me have always been welcoming of Victoria and many have even offered her snacks. On Opening Night, someone handed me a poncho for her. In October, someone gave her their freebie gloves even though she was already wearing gloves. She also made her big screen debut this week. Don't worry so much on what could go wrong and enjoy the game!

Do you love baseball as much as we do?

Shop carriers**:

** This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Running Playlist | At-Home Yoga |
Half Marathon Training, Week 3

** This post contains affiliate links.

One way to motivate yourself to work out is to create a new playlist. I put together a new running playlist every season to re-inspire myself and give me another reason to get out on the running trail. Need ideas for workout tunes? Check out my Spotify playlist below and let me know your favorite songs right now in the comments. I am constantly adjusting my playlists as I go, adding new and old songs and deleting those I stop feeling inspired by.

Week 3 training recap:

Week 3 wasn't impressive in terms of mileage, though I did feel more enthusiastic thanks to a fitness vlogger I've been watching. If you don't currently follow any fitness Youtubers, I suggest checking some out as a way to find tips, new workout jams and inspiration.

Monday-Tuesday: Rest. On Monday I had intense back and shoulder pain again. I took Tuesday off as well to go see Hamilton.

Wednesday: 45 minutes of yoga. I filmed my at-home yoga sequence and provided the full list of poses in the description box. Subscribe for more videos!

Thursday: 1.76 miles at Orangetheory. We did a ton of inclines! (All the all-outs were at an incline, from 3-5 percent.)

Floor exercises included: burpees, single-arm front raises with 12 or 15 pounds, 500-meter row, 400-meter row, plank to elbows, reverse crunches, etc.

Friday: 20 minutes of yoga at home.

Saturday: 1.75 miles at Orangetheory.

Floor exercises included: lateral goblet lunges, 100-meter row, 150-meter row, 200-meter row, reverse lunges with hops, etc.

Sunday: 3 miles outside. This was supposed to be 6-8 miles, but I got a late start. I had to wait until Graham came home from work and got settled, so I didn't make it out the door until close to 6 p.m. I feel like I could have run the at least full 6 miles if I had started earlier in the day, when I had more motivation.

Goal: 12 miles.

Mileage: 6.51 miles.

Yoga: 65 minutes.


While the mileage was down, the motivation was up. When it comes to tracking workouts, I find it more helpful to focus on what went right than what went wrong. Plus, better weather and a new playlist boosted my excitement for Week 4 of half-marathon training! I also am trying a new workout on Sunday that I can't wait to share. Stay tuned!

Related fitness posts:

Shop fitness favorites**

Monday, April 10, 2017

Fun Family Night at Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament Chicago

** We received complimentary tickets to facilitate a review. All opinions are my own.

One of my April goals was to visit a new place in Chicago as a family. Graham had suggested Medieval Times for months because neither Victoria nor I had been there. I wondered if it was appropriate for a toddler, though, so I did a bit of research via online review sites. We decided to give it a go and we are glad we did: It turns out toddlers fit right in!

You receive a crown as soon as you walk in, which Victoria loved. (She still wears it.) You also eat with your hands -- it doesn't get more toddler than that! And no one will judge you if your toddler screams and cheers throughout dinner because everyone else is doing it, too.

Victoria was thoroughly entertained during the entire two-hour show. She loved the horses, the knights and the princess, whose throne was directly to our left. We also gave her a light-up rose, because when in Rome ...

The Red Knight gave us a flower. :)

That Medieval Times Chicago is family-friendly doesn't mean childless adults can't fun, too. In fact, we saw many people on date nights as well as large birthday party groups. You can get your share of adult beverages in souvenir cups with your four-course dinner. (Either buy drinks before the show or order them from your bartender during drink service. Cash and credit are accepted for drinks.)

Vegetarians are welcome as well. I called ahead to request a vegetarian meal, but the server also asked about vegetarians or those with dietary restrictions. I ended up getting served my meal slightly ahead of others, which I was not at all upset about. My veggie meal began with hummus and veggies and pita bread. Next, everyone was served the "dragon's blood," aka tomato soup, with garlic bread. The main course was a veggie stew that I found satisfying (I didn't have to eat it with my hands, don't worry.). It contained rice, potatoes, tomatoes, and three beans, and I was offered hot sauce to go along with it. Meanwhile, everyone else munched on chicken, potatoes and corn-on-the-cob. (I, too, was offered the potato and corn.) Lastly, we capped the meal off with pound cake that I paired with one of the signature drinks.

After the show, the knights walk out together and you have the opportunity to take photos with them. Victoria loved waving to them and she introduced herself to the Red Knight. He was sweet to our toddler as we said goodbye.

Overall, Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament was an easy night out with Victoria. We didn't have to worry about her being entertained and making a mess. She had an absolute blast and has been asking every day since if we can go back. I found it a win because I was completely relaxed and we had a fun night out together. Win-win!

Have you been to Medieval Times? 

P.S. If you're wondering about the horses, I found these links interesting:

Watch our Medieval Times video:

Previous family outings:

Friday, April 7, 2017

Hamilton | Broadway in Chicago

Hamilton Chicago, Broadway in Chicago, Privatebank Theatre

Like many Chicagoans, I spent quite a bit of time scanning Ticketmaster for "Hamilton" tickets when they first went on sale. Most of them were super expensive ($300-400) and sold out, so I gave up. Then, in November, I heard about more dates being released and found two balcony seats available for $80 each (including fees). I scooped them up immediately!

My friend Rachael and I took the train downtown (to Monroe stop) and walked a block to Privatebank Theatre, where we found a large crowd gathering outside. The lines to get in were quite a mess. We stopped to take a couple of photos and just wandered through the doors when we saw an opening. I was instantly struck by how beautifully ornate the theatre is. It opened in 1906, and you sort of feel like you're stepping back to that time when you walk in the doors.

Hamilton Chicago, Broadway in Chicago, Privatebank Theatre

Because our tickets were on the balcony, we had to walk up stairs to get to our seats. I huffed and puffed my way up, wondering if my being out of breath was due to the excitement or a lack of fitness. (I'm sure it was the former. haha) The nearest women's restroom is down the stairs on the second level, by the way, but there's a bar/snack bar on each floor. Some seats on the balcony have obstructed views, but we were in Row M and I could see everything. At certain points a person a few rows down moved her head and blocked some of the actors' feet, but that's no big deal at all.

Hamilton Chicago, Broadway in Chicago, Privatebank Theatre

I won't recap the story, because I'm sure you know what Hamilton's about, but instead I'll tell you about how it made me feel. It was stunning. I was blown away by the talent of the cast; and the songwriting is incredible. I also feel like I learned (or was reminded) more about history there than in high school. Maybe that's an exaggeration. ...

I had completely forgotten that Wayne Brady is currently joining the cast to play the part of Aaron Burr. While I am familiar with Brady, I had no idea his voice was so impressive.

As you can probably tell, I enjoyed "Hamilton" and want to try to see it again. I think everyone should see it if given the chance. It's worth the hype!

Have you seen "Hamilton"? 

P.S. If you don't want to pay for theatre parking or want to take public transportation, consider using Spothero to find more affordable parking nearby. Using my link gets us both a $5 credit. Thanks!

Shop Hamilton tees**

** These are affiliate links.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Current Cruelty-Free Hair Products

** This post contains affiliate links.

Product photos from respective retailers linked below.

Besides switching over to cruelty-free makeup and skin care items, I also switched my hair products to those that avoid animal testing. The switch has been a long process, and I am constantly trying out new products to find my holy grails. These are the items I am currently testing out to see if I want to make them staples:

Renpure Coconut Milk Nourish Shampoo (about $9-15, depending on where you buy it): I actually thought I was buying conditioner when I picked this up, but that's OK. It smells like coconut and seaweed or bamboo (so it has a natural scent, I guess). It does the job.

Hask Monoi Coconut Oil Nourishing Conditioner ($5.99): Can you tell I look for nourishing products? I picked this up from Ulta just to try it since it also came with an oil. I believe it lives up to its claims to soften and strengthen; my hair has been pretty healthy lately. One gripe: I can't squeeze the product out of this bottle cap; I have to take the cap off. I do not like this packaging at all.

Hask Monoi Coconut Oil Nourishing Oil ($2.99, free sample with conditioner): This came with my conditioner. I only use a tiny bit on my ends because otherwise it's too oily for my taste.

Not Your Mother's Clean Freak Refreshing Dry Shampoo ($8): I use this infrequently, but it does the job. The large bottle lasts me forever!

Not Your Mother's Double Take Dry Finish Texture Spray (about $6): I thought I was buying hairspray when I bought this. Ooops! It does give you volume but there's no hold in my experience. (A note from NYM's website on this product: "There are no animal ingredients or animal byproducts in NYM products except: Knotty to Nice Conditioning Detangler, Way to Grow Leave-In Conditioner and Double Take Dry Finish Texture Spray. These products contain keratin protein extracts – a hydrolyzed ingredient that can be found in countless other beauty products industry wide. The keratin used in our haircare products comes from sheep’s wool, after they get a shearing. No animals are harmed for or in the production of our items."

Occasional products:

Briogeo Don't Despair Repair Deep Conditioning Mask ($36!): I haven't repurchased since I ran out but I kind of want to. It was a nice treat to do occasionally, though it's not cheap.

Yes To Coconut Ultra Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner ($5-8): I actually really like these and will probably go back to them unless I find something I like more. They smell great, nourish my hair and are affordable.

Josie Maran Argan Oil ($48, received as a free mini): I received this for free from Sephora. I've been enjoying using it occasionally. I am unsure yet if I will repurchase.

Do you have any recommendations? What are your favorite products right now?

Shop the products**

Monday, April 3, 2017

Chicago Spring Half Marathon Training, Week 2

** This post contains affiliate links.

Found this Reebok sports bra at Marshalls. 

Week 2 of half-marathon training was an overall success despite minor setbacks. I was better about not making excuses and I doubled my mileage from last week, both much-needed victories and boosts of confidence! I feel so inspired going into Week 3. Let's do this!

Here's how Week 2 went down:

Monday: 2.25 miles at Orangetheory.

Also: Situps with torso rotation, planks lifting alternating leg/arm, 1,000-meter row, bicep curls on the TRX strap, single-arm snatches, squats, etc. I've been using 15 pounds for most moves.

Tuesday: Light yoga at home.

Wednesday: Rest day. I wanted to run outside or go to Orangetheory, but 1. It was rainy and cold. 2. I didn't get child care in time and 3. I didn't plan my meals well. (I can't really eat a big meal right before class.) I felt like a failure -- at training, being a parent, being a wife, and blogging. I felt much more hopeful after talking to Graham and having sushi for dinner. Do you ever have days like this? Tell me how you get through them in the comments, please.

Thursday: 1.5 miles at Orangetheory. It rained However, I was in much better spirits. I wrote down exact times I needed to eat and have things done to allow myself to work out.

Workout highlights: 30 power jacks with 8-pound medicine ball (two sets; would have preferred 10 pounds), Y raises on TRX strap, 600-meter row, 500-meter row, lateral bench hopovers, tricep extensions (15 pounds, three sets), etc.

Friday: Rest day.

Saturday: 5 miles on the treadmill. It was a beautiful day in Chicago (compared with the rest of the rainy week), sunny and 50 degrees. I would have loved to run outside, but I had planned to use the gym's day care when I thought it was going to be gray/cold/rainy. (Graham had to work so he couldn't watch her.) I felt great! I watched fitness and travel vloggers during my run to motivate me.

Sunday: 2 miles at Orangetheory.

Floor workout included: squats to bicep curls, atomic mountain climbers, squat jumps of the TRX straps, hoppers, squats to alternating reverse lunges.

Goal: 12-15 miles.

Week's mileage: 10.75 miles.


I'm learning that being a mom doesn't mean I have to sacrifice my necessary workouts or alone time; I just need to plan. (I also shouldn't feel selfish! I finally used the child care center at the gym, but I'm not sure how I feel about it yet. The alternative would have been to schedule a sitter for Saturday morning so I could run outside. When the weather is even nicer that will likely be my solution, even though it costs more. (Child care at the gym is free.)

I felt great when I ran, and even better when I trained in the weight room. I love seeing slight changes in my arms, notably my arms. I still get uncomfortable in my shoulder; so I take it easy on the weight when we do stuff like reverse fly(s) and tricep extensions.

How are you doing with your goals?

Previous recap:

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Friday, March 31, 2017

April Goals

March kind of got away from me. I had so many plans and goals that were derailed by my battle with a lack of motivation and the end-of-winter blues. I am looking forward to a fresh start in April with new goals. But first let's check in on my March goals:


  • Figure out a day care solution. So far it's still just me watching Victoria, but I have two sitters who can come over to help during busy days. Checking out day cares and preschools is on my to-do list.
  • Go on a date night. Graham and I took our first night away from V in two months to go to our friends' engagement party. I want to do regular date nights from now on. I am not going to say I would like to do one every week, though, because Graham's work schedule is chaotic and it's not always realistic.
  • Start half-marathon training. I started training ... three weeks late. Also, I ran fewer than 10 miles during my first official training week, so I had a rocky start. I plan to get back on track this month.
  • Attend four yoga classes. I attended three yoga classes and did more at-home yoga this month. I also renewed my Yoga Alliance membership and applied for a teaching job. I plan to write some yoga posts in April. (If this is something you'd be interested in reading about, please comment below.)
  • Go on at least one group run. Not done. I signed up for several, but I never made it. (See my post on motivation to work out for more.)

  • Enroll in a photography course. The four-week class I want to do starts in June. In the meantime I plan to practice on my own and read photography blogs.
  • Create an updated media kit. I started my media kit but was too tied up with freelance writing to devote much time to this. 
  • Write and send a newsletter on running. Not done. I plan to work on this in April. 

April goals


  • Ramp up half-marathon training. 
  • Attend four yoga classes.
  • Match March's freelance writing income (or surpass it). Let me know if you'd like to see a post on sources of freelance income.
  • Make blog updates. I want to start working on updating my pages, header and more. Any designer recommendations?
  • Film at least four YouTube videos. Please subscribe!
How did you do on your March goals? What's on tap for April?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Chicago Spring Half-Marathon Training, Week 1 | Lessons From My Slow Start

** This post contains affiliate links. 

Shop Flipbelt in various colors.**

I almost didn't share this half-marathon training recap, but I wanted to share the lessons I have learned about balancing fitness and family/life. It's never easy, but it's important to remember your why. Why is this training important to me?

  • I want to be a good example to Victoria.
  • I want to feel stronger.
  • I want to be healthy.
  • I want to prove to myself I can do it.
  • I enjoy running (when the weather isn't miserable).

Monday: 1.65 miles at Orangetheory Fitness.

Floor workout included:

  • 800-meter row
  • 250-meter all-out row
  • 500-meter row
  • 980-meter row
  • Weighted reverse lunges (30/20/10/10)
  • Static crunch scissor kicks (30/20/10/10)
  • Squats (tapping the bench) (30/20/10/10)
  • TRX strap squat jacks (8 reps, 3 sets)
  • Bench stepups with 12 pounds (8 reps, 3 sets)
  • Side plank hip dips (8 reps, 3 sets)
  • Goblet squats with 20 pounds (8 reps, 3 sets)

Tuesday: Strength and restore yoga, 60 minutes.

We didn't do a single Warrior pose or full sun salutation, but it still felt challenging. Most of the class focused on hip and shoulder openers because the two students (including myself) requested them. I found Fierce pose, aka Chair pose, especially difficult, probably because I haven't done it in months.

Wednesday: 2.2 miles at Orangetheory. I chose to attend class over doing group training outside. Sorry, not sorry, because it was 30 degrees, and there was no way I was running outside. I used to do it all the time, but lately I ask myself, why do that when you have a membership at Orangetheory?

Floor exercises included:

  • High rows on the TRX straps
  • Two 700-meter rows (My time was 3:09 for each.)
  • Squats with 15-pound weights
  • Alternating Supermans
  • Leg lifts
  • Single-leg deadlifts

Thursday: Rest day. Light stretching.

Friday: 1 mile run and yoga at home. I wanted to run the 3-4 miles it said on my training plan on this 75-degree day, but by the time Graham was home and I could go outside, it had cooled down to the low 50s with wind that made it feel in the 40s. Chicago weather is just so fun! I made it about a mile before I realized I was underdressed and returned home.

Saturday: 1 mile. I tested out how I felt in the weather and I was not up for it at all. The wind makes a drastic difference.

Sunday: Rest.

Mileage: 5.85 miles.


Yes, I realize this mileage is pathetic. I don't feel completely out of shape, so I know I will still be ready for the half-marathon in seven and a half weeks. This will be my eighth (I think) half-marathon (in addition to two marathons, two 10Ks and four Ragnar Relays), so by now I know what it takes to prepare myself for a race. While I am disappointed in my slow start, I am celebrating the small victory that is beginning my training (officially).


Don't feel guilty for prioritizing family. I skipped Sunday's workout to sleep in, cuddle with the family and then get ready for the Shedd Aquarium. I knew I would surpass my step goal that day, so I didn't beat myself up about it.

Track macros and steps. Hitting your rest day counts is just as important as your training day macros and steps. Watch portion sizes!

Be flexible. As much as I'd love to stick to the schedule I set in my planner, life gets in the way sometimes. I might schedule a 6:45 p.m. workout but then I have no child care or work runs late. I write down other workout options in my planner in case that happens. For example, my planner will say 6:45 OTF or 8 p.m. OTF. If I can't run outside and there are no classes available, I will try to instead do some yoga and exercises at home using videos or my own teaching plans.

Be kind to your body. Lately I have needed more rest days because of my shoulder and back soreness. While most of the discomfort has subsided by now, I still want to be careful in my workouts to make sure I am not overdoing it. It's also important to incorporate stretching, foam rolling, massages (on your own or professional), and other self-care methods.

What are your current fitness goals? How do you make time for fitness/your hobbies?

Current favorites**

Monday, March 27, 2017

Shedd Aquarium With a Toddler

Our family Sunday Funday tradition continued with a day at Shedd Aquarium on Sunday. It was a wet and foggy day that called for yet another indoor activity, so we booked last-minute tickets to the Shedd for a lively day.

One of my goals as a parent is to teach Victoria to love and respect animals and nature, so while I have mixed feelings about aquatic shows, I wanted her to see the good being done by institutions such as the Shedd. Victoria was captivated by the fish, turtles, sharks and sting rays, which she recently become more interested in because of the movie "Moana." You can easily spend an entire day at the aquarium, especially if you get Total Experience or Shedd passes.

Tip: Do not book last minute like we did if you want the Total Experience or Shedd passes. You will be charged an extra $15 a person to skip the line and most of the shows will be sold out. Also, find parking at a lower cost on Spothero** vs. $19 to park in the Adler lot or similar prices at Soldier Field. (FYI: Kids 0-2 get in to the Shedd for free!)

Shedd suggests bringing an umbrella stroller, but I had no trouble in a regular jogging stroller. Of course, as with any popular attraction, you have to be patient with people who walk in front of you. It happens, and you'll probably do it, too.

Despite that ticket lesson learned, we had a successful family outing with no toddler (or adult) meltdowns.

How was your weekend? Have you been to the Shedd?

Previous Shedd post:

Watch a video of our day!

** This post contains a referral link to Spothero. We each get $5 off if you book parking through my link.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Chicago Spring Bucket List

Spring is finally here, though Chicago has yet to get the memo. The only way I can get through the remaining weeks (days, I wish) of this weather is to plan all the fun activities I want to do this season. Thus, another Spring Bucket List is born!

Here's what I have on deck:

  • Take three Dabble classes. I have my eye on a summer cocktail class, a jewelry-making class and hopefully at least one other. As I've said before, Dabble is a great way to find your next hobby and you can use code MARETTE10 to get 10 percent off your first class
  • Plant my garden. We'll be heading to our favorite gardening shop soon to pick out way too many plants and garden supplies. I CAN'T WAIT.
  • Volunteer at the community garden. The Petersen Garden project in Chicago has countless opportunities to volunteer. 
  • See Hamilton Chicago! I bought tickets to Hamilton months ago and our show date is quickly approaching. This will be a highlight of the season.
  • Run the Chicago Spring Half. I have about nine weeks to train for the Chicago Spring Half. It was a fun race last year and I like that we got a free plant to take home.
  • Go to as many Cubs games as possible! Enough said.
  • Visit the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. I haven't been there, but it'd be a nice place to practice my photography skills this spring.
  • Go to a farmers market. Fresh veggies from local farmers -- what could be better?

What's on your spring bucket list? Need some inspiration. Find some ideas below!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

More Products YouTube Made Me Buy

Five more types of products I purchased because of YouTube videos. (I have various shades of the polish and eyeshadows.)

** This post contains affiliate links.

I recently shared five products I was inspired to buy after watching YouTube videos. Welp, there's more than just five products on the list of beauty products YouTubers made me buy influenced me to buy. Today I'm sharing Round 2. Luckily, these are all affordable products! Bonus: These are all cruelty-free brands.

Despite purchasing all of these products, my makeup collection is fairly small. I bought a lot of these products to replace non-cruelty-free items. (I am still using up some of my non-cruelty-free items before I replace them with those not tested on animals, because I don't want to waste products either. I also recently donated gently used and sanitized products to a women's shelter.)

Five more items I bought:
  • Makeup Geek shadows: I had never even heard of this brand before watching beauty gurus on YouTube. I liked the affordability and pigmentation I saw in videos, so I decided to give these a shot. While I like them, I notice some of the foiled shadows come apart easily. (I have broken a couple of these eyeshadow pans.) The mattes are nice, though, and Coco Bear is my favorite shade. 

  • Wet n Wild Megaglo Contouring Palette: I wanted to try contouring, but I didn't know where to start. I heard in multiple videos that this is a great starter palette, and they were so right! It's also super affordable. I used up a whole palette and was sent a new one as a free gift with a recent foundation purchase (below). Score!
  • Wet n Wild Photofocus Foundation (Desert Beige): I loooove this foundation; it's the only one I use right now. It's my perfect shade, too. I like the vast shade range in this collection, and it looks great on my skin. I would say it's natural coverage, which is why I like it for everyday use. If you have oily skin you might not enjoy that it stays slightly dewy. I don't love the scent but I can look past it for $5.99.
  • KL polish in Gumption, Snickerdoodle and Dass Esspensive: These are cruelty-free as well as free of harsh ingredients. Also, this formula lasts longer on my nails than other brands I had been using. I like the polishes, though you can only order them online. (Dass Esspensive is beautiful but it's sold out on KL Polish's website.)
  • Milani Retouch and Erase Light-Lifting Concealer: Many YouTubers have been talking about the Milani products that were released recently, including this concealer. I decided to replace my empty Too Faced concealer with this, but I got a shade that is a bit too light for me, so I still need to try it in my correct shade. On first impression, I think I would like more coverage. 
Note: Products are cruelty-free to the best of my knowledge. You should always conduct your own research if you're interested in becoming cruelty-free.

What are your favorite products right now?

Shop some of the products**

Related posts:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Gaining Back Motivation to Work Out | Half-Marathon Training

** This post contains affiliate links.

Yoga pants by 90 Degrees by Reflex (similar)**; C9 sports bra (similar)**; Fabletics headband**; Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17 shoes**

In October I became a work-from-home parent, and the adjustment period has taken a toll on my fitness motivation. Keeping up with a toddler is a workout in itself, am I right?! I've skipped workout after workout recently and I find myself in a rut. My half-marathon training was set to begin March 1, yet it's three weeks later and I have only run 11.35 miles. My excuses to skip runs or fitness classes include but aren't limited to: Chicago weather, getting sick, back and shoulder pain and prioritizing family time over fitness. The real reason I have been slacking on training, though, is simple: I have lost motivation.

The Chicago Spring Half Marathon is May 21, which is in nine weeks. It's really now or never: I need to start seriously training. I want to re-prioritize fitness because working out is a key part of my physical and mental well-being. In an effort to burst out of this rut, I'm sharing ways I plan to regain motivation when the gym is the last thing I want to do.

  • Read fitness blogs. I find that I am inspired when I read a fitness blog post or watch a vlog. The passion can be contagious. Surround yourself with motivational influences.
  • Write down a specific workout and time in your planner. When I list something in my planner, I MUST do it. If you're the same way, scheduling a class in advance may give you the necessary jolt.
  • Find a buddy. My friend and I were discussing our lack of motivation this weekend and we asked ourselves, why haven't we worked out together yet?! I have no problem canceling workouts I plan myself, but I can't imagine canceling on a friend.
  • Make it a family affair. Lately there have been days when I don't want to leave the house for an 8 p.m. workout (the only time I can go sometimes) because I want to be back in time to put Victoria to bed and read her a story. We recently bought a running stroller, and I am counting down the days until I can take her with me on short jogs in nice weather. (Plus I won't need to save my running for so late in the day and can instead do them during my lunch break.) Graham has also expressed an interest in training for a race together, during which we can motivate each other.
  • Create a new playlist. Every season I put together a running playlist on Spotify. I get excited about uninterrupted time to listen to new music and current favorites. (Stay tuned for a new running playlist!)
  • Compile a vision board on Pinterest or on actual paper. Use motivational quotes, images and workout plans as inspiration. Visualize the results you want to see. Remind yourself why you work out in the first place.
  • Try new workouts, running routes, class times, teachers/trainers. Mixing it up in some way keeps your workouts exciting and interesting. Take the most scenic running path! Sign up for a different group fitness class! Grab a new pair of colorful leggings! Try a different style of yoga! 
  • Wear a fitness tracker daily and track meals. Seeing your progress can give you a boost of confidence. It's also fun to hit that daily step goal!
  • Keep a workout journal (take photos of yourself or share your workouts on social media). Write down how you feel before, during and after. Share your successes and failures to figure out what works for you and what doesn't. Ask yourself if there's something to be grateful for about the workout process and find an inspiring community via hashtags (#fitspo, #fitfluential, #MondayMotivation, etc.). Also, photos can help yourself see progress over time that isn't always obvious to ourselves.
  • Set out your cute new workout clothes. Updating your worn-out athletic gear makes you want to work out! I recently got the pink/purple leggings above and am so excited to wear them more often.
How do you stay motivated? Share your tips in the comments to help each other out!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Cruelty-Free Empties

** This post contains affiliate links.

My most recent empties feature new and familiar products to me, but all of them are cruelty-free! I've been focusing on self-care recently, especially when it comes to my body and my skin. This round of empties reflects that. Bonus: These products are all affordable!

  • Miss Spa Brighten sheet mask ($2.99): I have written about how much I like these affordable sheet masks several times; they are a regular part of my skin-care routine.
  • Wet 'n Wild Photofocus Setting Spray ($4-5): I liked this drugstore setting spray. It set my makeup in place and made any cakey-ness disappear.  I didn't have any issues with creasing either! I really don't think it made my makeup last that much longer -- at least I didn't notice a difference. My only complaint is that the spray is a bit strong. I didn't have to repurchase because I got another for free with a recent Wet 'n Wild order. Win! Although, I haven't been using this much yet because I am currently trying out the Milani Make It Last setting spray.
  • Ole Henriksen Clean Truth Cleansing Cloths (trio was about $15, sample had 10 cloths): I got a trio set of Ole Henriksen products recently as part of a birthday haul thanks to family. These cloths have a citrus scent (reminds me an Orange Creamsicle) to them that became a bit much for me after a few uses. They were gentle on the eyes and removed most of my makeup, but I am not in love with these wipes.
  • Dr Teal's Pure Epsom Salt Soaking Solution, Eucalyptus & Spearmint (about $4.50): I go through these bags of Epsom Salt regularly. (I probably have used five or six in the past month.) I have had soreness in my shoulder and back, and these help me relax after workouts or after a long day at my desk. I also enjoy the Lavender soak. 
  • Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm ($3.99): I cannot live without this lip balm, especially in the winter. I have other flavors but the original is the best. I don't know why I even bother with the other flavors/scents; it's the best.
  • Udderly Smooth Hand Cream (about $3): I got this hand cream as part of a self-care gift from a family member when we brought Victoria home. It saved my skin during this winter! I liked to carry it in my purse. 
  • Lush Hottie Massage Bar (not pictured, $12.95): I bought this on a whim because I found myself at a Lush store in Chicago before brunch with Jessie. I was intrigued by the massage bars, and the Hottie is meant to help sore and tired muscles. It's shaped with bumps on one side so that you can massage the area. It has a warm, almost spicy scent and the oils (including jojoba) dissolve into your skin, leaving it super soft. I would definitely buy this again.
  • Lush Brazened Honey Fresh Face Mask (about $9): I liked this gentle, moisturizing mask, which also has a bit of a spicy scent. (It contains ginger, fennel, cardamom and turmeric.) I think I prefer the Cup O' Coffee more, so I may go back to that one, even if I disliked the mess it creates. You really can't go wrong with Lush masks though.

What products have you been loving lately?

Shop my empties**