Starting Out (Again)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

If you have been following my blog, you know that I was trying to lose weight before my wedding in order to lose that extra "freshman-15" (or 20) that I gained throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies. You might also recall my fave workout routine is the Insanity workout program. But I have a confession to make - I have been slacking over the past two months and have been working out maybe a day or two at most while eating snacks in the evenings. Yes, I know, shame on me! And so I fear gaining all that weight I lost and lose all those muscles I gained last year.

So with the warm weather slowly (and I mean slowly...could it be any slower?!) approaching us, I decided to get my butt back in gear and get into exercising again. I work in an office setting all day long, so  you could imagine how much this might will have an effect on me over time. Research has shown the negative effects of sitting at your desk for prolonged periods of time. So if you sit all day long, make sure to schedule in some walking time!
Other than trying to move a little when I get home, I also want to get back into my beach bod! With Christmas and Easter waaay past us (thank goodness!) there are no more upcoming major holidays where eating and eating (....and eating) are considered a must! Which is why I am dedicating my next 60 days to the insanity workout program. Yes I am insane....but I am devoted to complete each day by the schedule provided and while I might not follow their nutrition guide, I will try to incorporate my own healthy dishes and snacks.

And what better way than to blog about it! This way, I am not lying to myself (which most often is the case!) and would feel a sort of "pressure" from you, my readers, to see how my progression is going! Plus I always love reading success stories or stories of people during their workout regime, so I hope to motivate at least one of you out there! Here is my month 1 schedule and what I have completed so far:

My hips/thighs and stomach are the worst problem areas. I have wide hip bones, so my hips are naturally bigger. But the extra fat on them is not natural! So I plan to slim down in this area as well as work on my tummy (and those dreaded muffin tops!) a bit more. I have never struggled with my weight, as I was always a normal weight to begin with. At 5'6", I was always in the 130-pound range. It was only the last 6 years of studying too much and working out too little that has made me gain 20 extra pounds. As a point of reference, this is what I am starting off with.

You can read my week 2 update here.

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I leave you with some motivation! Enjoy!
Note: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own!

CampusBookRentals {Review}

Monday, April 29, 2013

As you all know, I am a recent master's graduate. Which means that I went through SIX years of university. Yep, over half a decade. And let me tell you - it ain't cheap! We all know that the costs of tuition is higher today than it was even a decade ago. And with tuition costs rising, students oftentimes find ways to save on other expensive things - like textbooks. It seems like there is always a new edition out each year or two. Which always seemed to frustrate me - the professor would recommend the new edition, I would purchase it at full price, and would only find out that a couple paragraphs have changed or a chapter deleted than from the previous edition (which were not relevant to me a majority of the time). And then when it came time for me to make some money and sell my books, the book store would either "buy back" the books at up to 80% off that what I purchased it for (really?? REALLY!!) or I would not find any buyers because the millionth edition was out!

Which is why I am super excited to introduce to all you college and university students an amazing website: CampusBookRentals. With CampusBookRentals, you can easily save 40-90% off of bookstore prices by renting new and gently used textbooks What is awesome about it is that you can use the books as if they were your own - you can even freely highlight in them without being penalized. Other amazing perks they offer: free shipping both ways, 30-day risk-free returns, flexible renting periods.

For example, I compared a book you can rent through CampusBookRentals and one that is available from the publisher. Did you notice the "suggested retail price" at the bottom of the publisher's website? Convinced?

So, what if you have books you recently bought and don't know what to do with them? Well you can take advantage of RentBack, which is a new initiative that they offer. It allows students to rent the textbooks they own to other students. A great initiative since it allows you to make more money as others use your  books. Forget about selling the book back to the bookstore or to other students; with this awesome initiative, it allows students to make 2-4x more money.

And for every textbook sold, they make a donation to Operation Smile. Not only do you save money, but you also help an amazing cause for children with cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities throughout the world. And these surgeries are provided for free to children throughout the world through Operation Smile.

I would like to mention that this great company is only offered to US students. However, keep an eye out for when it goes international! Go visit CampusBookRentals and see for yourself how you can save during your studies!

Note: This was a sponsored post. However, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own!

Meet Abi {Guest Post}

Friday, April 26, 2013

Hello all on this beautiful Friday! Today I am honoured to have Abi, a sweet gal from Abi's Little Wanderings, guest posting on my blog! She is such a sweetheart and her posts say it all! And she is from Northern Ireland! How cool to meet a friend from almost half-way around the world! Call me weird, but I tend to read her blog in an Irish/British accent! Anyways, make sure to read about her and get to know her a bit! And don't forget to stop over to her blog and say hello! :)

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Hey there! I'm Abi and I blog over at Abi's Little Wanderings. I am so excited to be guest posting today for Jovana. I am a huge lover of food as my friends will tell you so her recipes are a great source of inspiration. Most of the time I like the idea of baking but when it comes down to it, I scare myself and usually end up burning something, more often than not it's my hand.

So a little bit about me. I'm 19 from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Currently I am an undergrad anthropology student in Queens University Belfast, and I love it. I have the best friends and family ever (I know everyone says that, but they really are the best). I'm surprised I was able to tell you the basics about me without having to write a huge paragraph as I am most definitely a chatter. I never shut up.
Being inspired is the most wonderful feeling in the world, whether it's a small thing or a huge life changing inspiration all are important and bring out the true passions in my heart. Those who know me well know how obsessed I am with Pinterest, I dread to think how many hours I have spent trailing through various things. In this pinspiration post I am going to be mixing it up and showing you various things that I want to try and do.

1. It's Maxi season ladies
Let's be honest, where I live can be a little chilly so when it gets warmer, when the sun comes out I make the most of it. Flip flops, shorts, sunglasses they all come out of the bottom drawer which is regrettably rarely opened. But my ultimate favourite thing to wear in the warmer months, is a maxi skirt. Dress it up with a statement belt, jewellery some kick ass heels or dress it down with some flats, a baggy tee and a messy bun. It's also unbelievably comfortable, a major plus point.
2. Bringing back the smoulder: If you are anything like me I love a bit of vintage in my life. That cat eyeliner is a must have for any night out and those red lips can dress any outfit up. My answer to red carpet make up but that you don't have to pay for. I am a cheap skate student after all.
3. Sharpie Mug DIY: The easiest DIY from pinterest that I have found thus far. It's unbelievably simple. Get a sharpie, a white mug from a cheap shop and get creative. I did two of these, one said 'hello' and the other said 'Good Morning Sunshine'. Once you have done your design sorted bake it in the oven at 350 F./ 180 C for 20 minutes. Done. And you are left with personalised and individual mugs. Heads up though, don't put them in the dishwasher!
4. Wall Collage
There is part of me that would love to have a run down house so that I can make it quirky and fun. I want to throw in an eclectic mix, like mismatched rugs and vintage photo frames. I also have a slight obsession with fairy lights, my electricity bill must be shocking. Anyway, I am going to plaster one of my walls with photographs. Its a plan.

 Shout out to Jovana for letting me guest post! Take a trip over to my blog Abi's Little Wanderings and have a coffee and a chat!

Mixed Berry Muffins - Guest Post

Today I am guest posting over at Abi's blog, Abi's Little Wanderings, and sharing a delicious and yummy mixed berry muffin recipe with her readers! Be sure to stop by the post and check it out! And while you're there, make sure to say hi to Abi!

Mixed Berry Muffins

Mixed Berry Muffins
Prep time: 7 min        Cook Time: 20-25 min           Yield: 12 muffins

-1 cup milk
-1/2 cup butter, melted
-1 egg
-2 cups all-purpose flour
-1/3 cup granulated sugar
-1 tbsp baking powder
-1 cup fresh or frozen mixed berries (such as blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F . Line 12 muffins cups with paper liners.
2. In a mixing bowl, beat milk, butter and egg.
3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar and baking powder. Add to wet mixture and stir to combine. Add mixed berries in 1/3 cup additions, gently folding in each time.
4. Spoon into prepared muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until top springs back when lightly touched.

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CheeCha Puffs {Review + Giveaway}

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I love snacks. But I tend to avoid snacks with high fat, high sugar and high sodium. Not to mention high in calories as well! During movie nights, I sometimes find myself indulging in potato chips, but make sure to "count" the number of chips in my bowl (because if I don't, I would probably eat the whole entire bag during one movie, and then cry about it after!). So it was hard for me to find chips that are low in calories, fat and sodium. So when I found these amazing new "chips" at my local store, I was so excited to try them! They are low in calories and fat; are made with no MSGs, GMOs and trans-fats; they are puffed (not fried!), and come in so many yummy flavours!

So when CheeCha Puffs sent me over some samples, I was more than ecstatic! They sent me over SIX different flavours to try, two bags of each! I only ever tasted two of the six flavours they sent me (one of which I am in love with!), so it was very fun to taste and get to know more flavours. That is one thing I love about this awesome snack: they come in so many different flavours to choose from.

These were the awesome flavours they sent over!

Since I was given so many flavours to sample, I thought it would be fun to do a taste test with friends! This way, they could help me taste all six flavours, since it probably would've taken me a while to do. So I enlisted the help of my husband and two other friends to help in this fun tasting!

Our two favourite flavours were the vinegar and dill pickle.

We also all really loved the cinnamon flavour, especially me (it really does satisfy those sweet cravings!). And with ONLY 92 calories per 2 cup serving (20g), that makes snacking sound like a "good" thing! They really remind me of these:
The one thing we all found from the chips is that they don't have much (if any) food colouring added. For example, the triple cheese flavoured puffs did not leave our hands orange, like cheezies would (yay no orange coloured intestines!).
I think I have my friends hooked on these, since they have never heard of this brand before. They loved the chips. I had to take the pictures before they all got consumed!

CheeCha Puffs also come in great gluten-free flavours: Original, Sea Salt and Spiced Pepper, Sea Salt and Vinegar, Luscious Lime and Fiesta Salsa. 

I love what I see when I look at the nutrition label. For the Triple Cheese flavour bag, only 2.9g of fat per 20g serving. The sodium content is a bit high, but compared to regular potato chips - I am happy!

 CheeCha Puffs is a Canadian company, with many retail locations to choose from. And if you are from the US you could purchase them on Amazon or  The Gluten Free Mall.

Am I making your mouths water yet? Well, here is some good news! One lucky Canadian reader will win one free product coupon to try any flavour of your choice! Just fill in the info below and cross your fingers!!

Giveaway will run from today, April 25th until Thursday, May 2nd. Open to Canadian residents only. Winning entry will be verified so please, play nice :) Good luck all!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Note: I had to change the "tweet" message since I apparently did it wrong (oops!). For those who already tweeted the old message: no worries your entry is still valid!!! :)

Note: I was given the product for review. However, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own!

Weekend Recap

Monday, April 22, 2013

Hey everyone! Hope you all had a great weekend! It was a busy one for me. Here is what my weekend looked like, in pics :)

Our whole town woke up to a white surprise Saturday morning. It is the weekend of Earth Day and who would've thought we would still get snow? It isn't as bad as I'm making it seem like. But I am just wondering: if April showers bring May flowers, what does April snow bring then?
 This is from our compost area we have in the back yard with the leaves...snow in April just makes me cringe!

I met up with my sister and my best friend for a nice brunch. We went to a cute little place that just opened up here in town. I enjoyed a nice glass of cold lemonade. I LOVE lemonade! Especially during the summer months since I sip on some lemonade all.the.time during the hot summer days!
This is now my new fave brunch dish:  breakfast flatbread. It is just scrambled eggs, cheddar, bacon and spinach on a warm naan bread drizzled with hollandaise sauce.

And I also found some time to get my nails done. I got the gel nail polish, which I love since it lasts me more than a month without any chipping (even with all the housework I do!). And since I get the french tip style, it is so easy to retouch with the acrylic nail polish I have at home as my nails grow.  I just love the shine of the nails after a nice manicure!

Hope you all had a great weekend! And happy Earth Day today!

Creamy Linguine with Spinach and Mushrooms

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pasta dinners are always an easy dinner to make since it takes less than 30 minutes for the food to go from stove to plate. Since I had some spinach left in the fridge from our last taco night, I opted to make an easy and creamy pasta dish. I always try to spice up pasta dishes since the same recipe over and over can get pretty boring! I always love adding mushrooms to my pasta - it just adds so much flavour and complements the dish well. And adding some spinach also adds some juices into the pasta. This dish is both nutritional and filling. Enjoy!

Creamy Linguine with Spinach and Mushrooms
Prep time: 5 min        Cook Time: 15 min           Yield: 6-8 servings

- 1 lb pasta (I used linguine)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 package (8 oz) mushrooms, sliced
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 bunch spinach, finely chopped
- 1 can reduced sodium cream of mushroom soup
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package. Drain and reserve.
2. In a skillet over medium heat, add olive oil. When hot, add garlic and allow to fry a bit but not brown, about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook mushrooms until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes.
3. In the pot with the cooked and drained pasta, add the spinach and mushroom mixture and stir until combined. Add the can of mushroom soup and allow to warm up over low-medium heat. Add Parmesan cheese.

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Meet Erin! {Guest Post}

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I want to introduce you all to a lovely blogger that I had the chance to meet recently! She runs the blog Surprised By Joy. Through our email exchanges and reading her blog, I have gotten to know her a bit more. She is truly a sweet person and her blog is very inspirational! I hope you all take the time to meet her and check out her blog!

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Hi! I’m Erin from over at “Surprised By Joy” blog.  I’ve been blogging for a little over a year now and I am hooked.  My daughter, over at “The Marvelous Flight of Cara”, is the blogger who inspired me. I chose my blog title for the significant meaning behind it for me:  C.S. Lewis wrote a book of the same name.  Lewis’ aim was to identify and describe the events surrounding his accidental discovery of and consequent search for the phenomenon he labeled “joy”. What I, “surprisingly discovered”, is that I can count it all joy even in trials, and in God’s strength this is how I choose to live life.  

So, I began writing about what God was teaching me and what was going on in my life soon after Cara’s wedding was over (December 31, 2011) and my husband and I were officially empty nesters.  I have absolutely loved being a wife and a mother, and now I am in a new season of life, which I also love!   I am pursuing God as never before, learning Mandarin and preparing to move to China in July for four years.  I will be assisting my husband in his class teaching English at a large university and so hope to volunteer at an orphanage in our city!  We’ll establish relationships with the students, and host them in our home for fellowship with the hope of sharing Jesus with them.

When I think about my life so far with all the beautiful memories and also the struggles that have occupied time, I can count them all joy!  I have learned that it’s the trials in life that change me into the woman that I was created to be.   God allows them in my life for my benefit and with His strength and wisdom I can live in joy regardless of what comes along.

Life As We Make It

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

It seems like we as a society are now "on a clock" basis than what we used to be. It seemed like people lived the "good life" back in the day when we used to converse with one another face-to-face (*gasp*, what no Facebook?!) and took time to enjoy our lives. The "good life" when we enjoyed each others company and lived a more slowed-down life. Our schedules are now packed with late-night meetings, inhaling fast food (because we don't have time to eat slow, nor to make a home-cooked meal), lacking sleep due to work deadlines, updating our Facebook status on how busy we are (how do we even find the time to update that?), oh and keeping up with the Kardashian's too. 

And this is how I was finding my life to be. During my graduate studies, I was always on the go - working, studying and sleeping was my daily routine. After completing my master's, I found myself working for a great company. I wasn't bogged with late-night meetings or tight schedules, but it seemed like my life was getting busy. And it got even more busier when I got engaged. I found my daily routine to be something like this: work, eat, plan for wedding, sleep. It was really a go-go-go type of lifestyle.

That is, until I got laid off early this year due to tight budget within the company. While I found myself cleaning and cooking every day (sometimes twice a day) to keep busy, after about the third day I realized how different life is when things are slowed down! I was used to the constant go-go-go lifestyle that this time off (that might have been much needed maybe?) was foreign to me. In all honesty, an uncertainty of when (and if) I will go back to work was scary. I started searching for new jobs, worrying about the unknown, and again being in the go-go-go state of mind. I saw this layoff as a negative event in my life. Instead, and I see this now, I should have looked at it in a positive way. A way of God telling me that I need to start taking better care of ME and enjoying my life before it is too late. I now have found a job and work every day, but I have since learned to take things as they come and slow down a bit. I no longer stress about how much I can fit into my day, take things as they come, and breathe a bit!

So friends, I will leave you with this very inspirational quote from one of my favourite people, Oprah.

A Daily Dose of LOL

Monday, April 15, 2013

Happy Monday everyone! It is always harder (at least for me) to get back into the mindset of work after a nice and relaxing weekend. One of my usual morning pick-me-ups is visiting a Facebook page that I am subscribed to and reading some of the funny pics posted. I thought of sharing with you all, to help get your Monday off to a great start! Enjoy!

(Note: I do not own any of these images. They belong to their rightful owners)

Energy Bits Review + Giveaway

Friday, April 12, 2013

I was given a great opportunity to try out some Energy Bits to go along my regular exercise schedule. I was so excited, since I tend to lack energy after the end of the day when I usually do my workouts. Since I work an 8-4 job, I tend to come home exhausted from the long drive and a long day. I am also very conscious as to what I put into my body - I do not consume energy drinks, caffeine gives me heartburn, and I am not one to pop any artificial pills for energy. So when I read that these awesome Energy Bits are made from 100% organic spirulina, I was excited to try some!

So, what is spirulina, you ask? It is a microalgae that lives in fresh water and feeds off from sunlight and water through the process of photosynthesis. Spirulina naturally contains organic vitamins, minerals, enzymes, trace elements, protein and amino acids. It provides a natural and excellent energy boost to those lacking energy from everyday stresses or long hours of work, shift workers, sport or fitness enthusiasts, active individuals and people who lack consumption of daily fruits and veggies.

I took some energy bits before my workout. My first day I took 10 and found that I definitely gained some energy than my exercises without taking the bits, but felt that it might have worn off by the end of my 40-minute workout. The second and third days I took 16-24 to see if my energy changed the more I consumed, which it did. On my third day, I took a few more in between my cardio session for increased energy!

Usually, during my 40 minute cardio workouts I start off pumped and ready to work out but after only 15 minutes I tend to get tired and sluggish. Normally by the end of the workout I am ready to just jump in the shower and plop into bed. But not these past few days! I even flew through the ab workouts, which is always a drag after an intense cardio workout. The bits also suppressed my hunger, since I always tend to get a little hungry after any cardio workout.

I am happy to say that these little bits packed with energy have helped bring a little punch to my workout session! Thanks Energy Bits!
(Please excuse my sweaty self!)

Now it's your turn! You have a chance at winning a free sample of these awesome Energy Bits! All you have to do is enter the Rafflecopter below and cross your fingers!

Giveaway will run from today, April 12th until Friday, April 19th. Open to Canadian and US residents only. Winning entry will be verified so please, play nice :) Good luck all!

EnergyBits is also giving a 10% discount when you purchase any of their bags of bits! Simply enter the word "BLOG" into the coupon box and the discount will be applied!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: I was given the product for review. However, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own!
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