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Christmas Playlist

11 Dec

BLOG-Mas DAY 11

Hello, welcome to Day 11 of Blogmas. Looking for some cheerful holiday tunes to get you in the spirit? I have some suggestions . This list is a compilation of some of my favourites and it’s great background for driving to work or doing housework or just getting into a festive mood.

1) All I want for Christmas by Mariah Carey – NO list is complete without this one.

2)It’s Beginning to Look alot like Christmas by Michael Buble- His mellow voice is becoming synonymous with Chistmas . 

3) Jingle Bells by Michael Buble ft The Puppini Sisters

4) Baby it’s Cold Outside by I dina Menzel and Michael Buble 

5) Sleigh Ride by The Ronettes– One of the best most upbeat versions

6) Christmas  (Baby please come Home) by Little Mix- A great version of Darley Love’s original.

7) Little Drummer Boy by Pentatonix

8) Carol of the Bells by Pentatonix 

9) Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt

10) Last Christmas by Arianna Grande- She does a good job with this 1980s classic.

11) Jingle Bell Rock by Glee- Probably the first and last time I will EVER recommend something by Glee #no hate

12) Joy to the  World by Mariah Carey- Of course!

13) What Child is This by Vanessa Williams- One of her best works to date.

14) Do you hear what I hear by Whitney Houston – Whitney did this one best.

15)  Mistletoe by Justin Bieber 

16) Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree by Breda Lee 

17) Underneath the Tree by Kellys Clarkson 

18) Text me Merry Christmas by Straight no Chaser ft Kristen Bell- This one always makes me smile.

19) Run Run Rudolph by Chuck Berry

20) Santa Tell Me by Ariana Grande 

21) My Only Wish This Year by Britney Spears 

22) This Christmas by Christina Aguilera 

23) Feliz  Navidad by Jose Feliciano

24) Charlie Brown Christmas Dance by Vincent Guardian

25) Winter, You Tease by Layla

26) Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas by (Sir)Paul McCartney 

27) Carol of the Bells by Trans Siberian Orchestra -Yes, I’ve suggested multiple versions of this iconic Christmas song . 

28) Deck the Halls by Pomplamoose – Nataly Dawn’s voice is etheral.

29) Oh Santa by Mariah Carey 

30) Christmas Jollies by  The Salsoul Orchestra- This continues to be one if the most popular Christmas medleys so many years after jnitial release.

There should be something in this list to get you feeling like Christmas. Have an awesome day!

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Travel Tips- Transport

3 Nov

Oli Oli Bus in Oahu Hawaii 
Hello
Today I will talk about transport options to consider while travelling. I have touched previously on money saving transport tips but I wanted to take a more in-depth look at it.
I really love travelling but as I’ve said before you can easily spend half your vacation budget on transport and for me that’s not good. I will take a look at the major forms of transport and some tips on how and when to use them.
1) RENTAL CAR

Rental vehicles are useful if you are traveling in a group or visiting someplace not easily explored via public transport. For example, I had a family vacation earlier this year to Orlando FL. There were five of us and we went to various theme parks and malls. Due to the layout of Orlando and the number of persons, a rental vehicle was our most feasible option. We split the cost and shared the driving load and it worked out well.

TIPS

Shop around– There are dozens if not hundreds of rental car companies out there. Don’t just rent the first thing you see. In some instances you can even bid for a car. Also, most rental companies don’t charge you on booking but only once you actually rent the car so even when you arrive at your destination you can check out different companies for the best deal.

Read Contract/Policies carefully– This is so important. Make sure you are fully aware of the company’s policies on gas, tolls and damage.

Be wary of upgrades– I fell so hard for this the first time I rented a car. I see upgrades the way I see the tactic fast food companies use when they offer you fries with every meal or convenience stores that offer you gum or water: Trickery via the power of suggestion. 

If an upgrade is recommended be sure to get all the details needed. Sometimes the upgrade ,often sold as being a better deal excludes important and mandatory aspects and it is only revealed when you receive your final bill.

Consider Insurance – All rental companies will offer you insurance for extra money per day. This can drive up the cost of your rental in a major way. 

I say consider because the truth is most of us go through most days without having any accidents at all so the chance of one happening in the few days you rent the car are slim. That being said, in the off chance something should happen you may regret not having that insurance. My advice is to clarify how much the insurance covers and if it seems appropriate then get it and protect yourself.

Nix GPS-By this I mean do not rent the company’s GPS  system for $15 per day. In 2016, you can use Google maps or waze or a similar app and use it for navigation. If you are travelling outside your country you can invest in a sim card so you can use the apps.
2) TAXI

This refers to original taxis, not services like Uber. Taxis are typically safe because taxi drivers are lisensed and members of associations and companies. They have to display their names and credentials and rides are either metered or list preset prices for various destinations to avoid overcharging . However ,  taxis are expensive and this is what has fuelled to popularity of  Uber et al. 

For me I use taxis to take me to and from the airport on trips where I haven’t rented a vehicle or on the off chance I am out someplace after buses have stopped running. Apart from that I am very wary of taxis.

TIPS

Ask about average prices beforehand– Getting a vague idea of how much it costs to go from point A to B prepares you for what you will pay and can clue you in if it seems too pricey.

Get an idea of the fastest routes– The meters go according to distance. If your driver takes a more convoluted route, your price will go up. It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the routes via Google maps etc so you know if you’re both literally and figuratively being taken for a ride . This has happened to me before.Don’t let it be you!
3) UBER/LYFT

These are known as ride sharing services. The original and best known is Uber but there are now many similar services available worldwide . For anyone unfamiliar, the service involves using an app where you request a ride from a driver nearby. You are aware of the cost of the ride prior to getting in and payment is via credit card. If you don’t take the ride, you aren’t charged.

The major difference between this type of service and a traditional taxi service is that the drivers are not lisensed taxi drivers. This results in lower fares and makes it a preferred option for many because of this. On the downside there is minimal regulation of said drivers and there have been some unfortunate incidents involving drivers. 

I say use these services with caution. Obviously I advocate for the most cost effective options but safety always comes first . 

TIP

Read reviews – This is a saving grace where users rate drivers and vice versa. This can direct you away from problematic drivers and towards the good ones.
4) PUBLIC TRANSPORT

This refers primarily to buses and trains. This is likely the second most cost effective way to travel. In most well planned cities and even in rural areas there are regular reliable bus/train services.

 I recommend using public transport if you are travelling to a busy city or of you are on a leisurely vacation where you aren’t rushing to go anyplace (’cause public transport can be tedious!) I also recommend this mode of transport if you are alone or in a small group of maybe two or three persons where it is less expensive than car rental.

TIPS

Get a schedule– So you know when and where the bus you want will be arriving. Many bus services now have apps where you can see in real time the current location and estimated arrival time of the next bus or train.

Plan to leave well in advance– As I said , public transport can sometimes be tedious. As the day wears on there tend to be more and more delays. Additionally ,  buses and trains make stops, a lot  of them. This means that a trip that may take twenty minutes in a taxi could take an hour by bus due to these factors. So leave home well before you want to arrive at your destination.
5) WALK

Sometimes this is the best option. If you’re going someplace nearby and you aren’t in a hurry this can be ideal . It is certainly the cheapest as it’s completely free not to mention getting that cardio in.

TIPS

Know your route-Make sure you know where you are going. Google maps etc can help you plot your course.

Make sure it’s a safe area– Keep to well lit, busy areas especially if you are alone.

 I was once the person who took taxi everywhere and it burned my pockets and my very soul, so I know how important it is to choose the right mode of transport on the right time on your trip.

I hope my breakdown and tips have offered some help to anyone planning a trip and I hope you have an awesome day!

Travel Tips- Visiting a Museum

21 Sep

Outside museum in Costa Rica



Hello

I love museums. I think they are an excellent way to learn alot about a particular country or region or art style in a short space of time. I can’t think of any major trip I’ve taken where I didn’t visit at least one local museum. A museum is a great way to spend a morning or while away an afternoon. It’s chill, entertaining and pretty cheap compared with other tourist activities.
Here are some tips I have if you’re thinking of visiting a museum on your next trip.
1) Decide to go

Museums are one of the most budget friendly vacation activities for the following reasons: 

Many museums charge no fee or a very nominal fee asking only for a donation,  so if you only have $5 to spare that’s usually okay.

A lot of museums offer discounted fees to various persons e.g. students, teachers, senior citizens. 

Many museums offer discounted fees after a particular time e.g The Museum of Art and Design in Manhatten offers “pay what you wish” after 6pm on Thursdays.

 
2) Research

Choose

Museums come in all shapes and sizes. There are massive national museums, art museums, fashion museums, military museums etc. Spend a little QT with google and tailor your selection to your interests so you don’t waste time, money and energy.

Temporary Exhibits 

Many museums have exhibits that last for only a few weeks or months. They’re often interactive and very in depth. It might be worthwhile chosing a museum with a temporary exhibit you might be interested in. A few years ago I visited a temporary exhibit at Museum of Natural History in NY  (my absolute favorite in the world). It was based on using more natural foods and it was outstanding. I got to sample a lot of different foods especially honeys, there was one with elderflower and to this day I’ve never had another opportunity to taste elderflower honey, so I’m glad I went then.

Other Activities 

Most museums have a calender of events for the upcoming month and even year which include exhibits as well as other events like musical performances, films or even workshops often for small additional fees.

Display from Temporary exhibit in Gold Museum in Costa Rica


Statue in museum


3) Pack Light

This is standard travel advice.You’ll likely be on your feet for quite a few hours .Some museums will make you put your bags away allowing only phones and purses. However, if they don’t , you won’t want need to lug around all your belongings at once. So pack minimal items keeping the load down.
4)  Eat before you go

Or after you leave. The truth is that most museum restaurants or cafés are exceptionally overpriced. Now if you specifically want to eat at the museum by all means go ahead but there is a pretty good chance you’ll be paying double the amount for the same wrap or salad you could get from a cafe around the corner.
5) Caution in the Gift shop

This is a sure way to have your money sucked .Gift shops are bright and shiny and make you feel encouraged to buy. Either set a spending limit e.g no more than $30 or decide precisely what you want e.g a commemorative book and stick to it.

I hope these little tips encourage you to visit a museum on your next trip. They really are enjoyable places and you can feel your mind expanding. Happy Travels and have an awesome day!  

Travel Light(Packing Tips)

14 Sep


Hello

Here is another post giving some travel tips. This one focuses on what you should (and shouldn’t ) pack when setting off on an adventure.

Travel Goals…

In my mind’s eye I am an “easy-breezy” traveller. I am wearing an ethically produced maxi dress, beautiful wrap sandals holding my wide brimmed hat in one hand, my large but not oversized beautiful travel bag hooked over my other arm and my cute but not miniscule crossbody bag draped over my torso.

I would have a physical book with an engaging yet lighthearted storyline and I’d be contentedly nibbling on a healthy home made pinterest worthy snack bar while waiting on my next flight. 

I would be the envy of all other travellers. They would whisper to themselves “Look at her, she’s so casual, so worry free, traveling so light”

Sadly, I have more often than not, NOT been this type of traveler. I have been the one with two overstuffed duffle bags literally filled with useless nonsense, struggling and panting to get from one gate to another, who despite having packed everything but the kitchen sink, left the one thing I really need at home . But I am getting better, much better, so much better that I made a 10 day trip to Costa Rica last November with only one large carryon and one hand bag. YASSSS!

Packing heavy isn’t just physically and mentally taxing, it can cost you. It means maximum luggage fees, it means having to repurchase the crap you forget to pack and sometimes leaving things you’ve spent money on behind. 

So I am going to share a few “packing light” tips and I hope it helps.

MUST HAVES

1) Travel Documents 

Don’t leave home without them or you won’t get very far. Most of us need our passport to get around but don’t forget other supporting documents such as work permits, residency letter etc.

Additionally,  check well in advance about Visa requirements prior to travelling.

2) Prescription Medications

Again, just don’t leave home without them. If you are on potentially life saving medication such as insulin, thyroid meds, asthma inhalers etc please make sure you pack this stuff.

Unlike OTC drugs that you can stroll into any pharmacy, gas station or even book store and purchase, most pharmacists will not issue prescription, meds without a prescription. This means if you forget your stuff you will have to go pay and wait to see a doctor in order to get the prescription written.  This can take a chunk of time not to mention money out of your vacation.

3) Wallet

Just as important as the first two on this list. Even if you have your passport and your medication, if you don’t have a dollar or cent to spend, you are in proverbial duck’s guts. Be sure to pack these three things FIRST!

4) Electronic equipment 

We live in the digital age (that is what we call it right?) and our electronic devices are just as much a part of our lives now as food and water. Be sure to pack your electronics as needed. So if you don’t think you’ll need your laptop for the next 4 days, leave it or if you never use your tabet then forget it. Be sure however, to remember your camera, go pro and any other important photography equipment for your awesome trip!

5) (Mini) Cosmetics/ Makeup

Mini is the important word here. Precisely what you need is rather subjective. I might need skin moisturizer but not shower gel, someone else might need 6 hair products but no mouthwash .(I’m not judging)

The real key, is the amount. Even on a fairly long trip; >10 days you don’t use a full container of any product so you don’t need to carry it. Most  fullsized containers are well over the carryon allowance of 3 FL Oz (100mL) and it means you will have to check your luggage which for most carriers will cost you. 

So, it is worthwhile to carry mini sizes of most of your cosmetics. Most pharmacies, supermarkets etc sell these pint sized versions of your favorite cosmetics for under $3 each and for certain items like deodorant and hairspray I recommend buying them.

But in an effort to be more money conscious I recommend investing in a set of mini empty containers. You can fill them up with small amount of your full sized products instead of having to buy a mini. This is more cost effective ultimately.

As for makeup  (if you wear it) select a few items that create a number of looks for the time you’ll be travelling. You don’t need 3 eyeshadow pallets or 12 liquid lip colors for 5 days! 

6) Clothing 

Of course this is a must have. If you are going anywhere for longer than 24 hours, you’ll need a change of clothes. You’ll need underwear, actual clothing not to mention jewelry, shoes and accessories. 

This is definitely a situation of less being more. Try to coordinate your outfits in advance selecting pieces you can mix and match maximizing each one. For example in a 4 or 5 day trip I may only need two bottoms, 3 tops and a dress. Be even more minimal when it comes to accessorizing.  You can probably get away with one pair of shoes (plus the ones you travel in) , one bag and just a few jewelry pieces.

My mother will legitimaly pack 3 different pairs of shoes and about 10 bracelets to go with each outfit because she couldn’t make up her mind.( She is that traveller with 2 overweight suitcases trying to smuggle an extra carryon piece) Don’t do it!

SHOULD/COULD  HAVES

7) Emergency kit

As easy as it may be to find painkillers or bandaids when on vacation , they may be pricier as you will likely be purchasing from a souvenir shop or you may not find the brand you want. 

I usually carry along a little pouch with some emergency nessecities. Note I said LITTLE. Again it’s all about moderation. In my emergency kit I carry a few ibuprofen tablets, a couple antihistamines, a few alcohol swabs and a bandaid or two. 

I have seen a certain family member who shall remain nameless (cough* my mother* cough) pack a first aid kit so massive I swore there was an actual defibrillator in it. (There wasn’t ). Unless you are going hiking or exploring some other dangerous terrain where you need a proper first aid kit you won’t need anything so elaborate as to include abdominal gauze and actual bottles of alcohol. If you really require that stuff then you should probably be in an Emergency room.

8) Book/Magazine/Art/Craft supplies

So you love to read or do crossword or sudoku or whatever the kids are doing these days.Maybe you are a hobby artist. Going on vacation for many means having time to relax and do something they really enjoy (like reading) so by all means take your hobby items along. Just not too much.

I am guilty of this. I read quickly and I’m constantly afraid of finishing a book and having nothing else to read for the remainder of my trip. I can say without a doubt this has almost NEVER happened. Take 1 book, or one crossword or one roll of crochet thread and one needle. Not five or six. You will overload yourself and probably not use half the stuff anyway.

9) Snacks/Food

This is another thing you don’t need but it can be reasonable to travel with. Perhaps you like a very specific protein bar that you eat every morning at 10 am and you don’t think you can get it where you are going. By all means pack a few. Not ALL. Maybe you have layover and 3 flights to get to your final destination and you want to carry something to sustain you along the way, sure go ahead and pack a bag of chips and an apple.What you don’t need to do is prepare a 3 course meal and portion it out into plastic containers (I have actually seen this). Keep it light.

DON’T NEED

Towels and paper toiletries

When I was very little, we traveled with our towels. Then, on the last day had to pack a moist towel on top of our clothing. You don’t need this in your life. Most hotels and even many hostels will provide clean fresh towels and toilet paper. If they don’t,  check out and get far away, very far away.

Extras

This is the whole point of this post. You only need what you need. Always think about that when you find yourself wanting to pack something “just in case” You don’t need extra clothing, you don’t need extra snacks, you don’t need extra shoes and purses. I often find myself feeling more flustered than comfort when I am over packed and over burdened with stuff.

DON’T FORGET

These are those items we can often overlook or leave until the absolute blessed end and then forget.

Sunglasses/Shades

This is a pet peeve of mine. It happened to me so many times I’ve lost count. You step out of the airport into the sun and bam! Corneas scorched! All because you forgot to toss your sunglasses on top of your stuff. Now you have to decide whether you are going to spend a chunk of your cash on new ones, overpay at a souvenir kiosk for likely poor quality ones or spend the rest of your days with your hand over your eyes.

Umbrella

This might sound weird to some but I have never regretted traveling with an umbrella. Not once. I have a small one that easily fits in my hand bag.  This is especially important if you’re travelling someplace with a high chance of rainfall. I am that person that whenever it begins to pour I pop out my umbrella and keep moving only to find one or two persons (who I don’t know) nestled up beside me sharing my umbrella. Don’t be a nestler!

Electrical cords/Backup memory cards and batteries

It should go without saying that when you travel with electronics you carry the cords. I have never left one of mine behind but I know so many unfortunate persons who have. Then you are faced with a similar dilemma to the sunglasses situation.

CHECKLIST

To ensure I don’t forget any of these items I have a highly organised mental travel checklist that I won’t allow myself to step through the door without checking off twice. If you don’t entirely trust your mental faculties I recommend a written (paper or electronic) list to make sure you have all that you need and nothing more.

I hope you’ve found some useful tips,  travel light and have an awesome day!

2015 CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE

15 Dec

White and red Christmas gift

Hello all. So it’s that time of year again. The time where you spend more money in a few weeks than you do for the rest of the year. Lol. Holidays can become quite expensive what with dinners, outfits, events, travel and of course gifts.

No matter how hard I try I somehow end up spending more than I planned and I find myself a few days before Christmas stumped as to what to get some of my loved ones. I decided this time to do some research and get some ideas. Now I am sharing some of those ideas. These gifts are primarily for girls but many can be for guys as well. I’ve divided these gifts into different price ranges (prices given in US dollars) from the very cheap to the high end. Let’s get to it!

 

UNDER $10 US

1)

JOURNAL– Despite living fully in the electronic age many of us still have use for plain old paper and pen. I am personally a journal junkie (something I picked up from my mother). There is always something you need to write down, just in case those pesky electronics let you down. Gone are the days when journals were regular notebooks that you wrote “TOP SECRET” on. Many companies make beautiful journals with artwork on the covers and high quality paper inside. Journals are items that can go from literally a couple of dollars and up. However for the budget conscious buyer there are loads of options well under $10. Here are a few options I personally adore from Urban Outfitters, Moleskine and Paperchase. These brands are typically found in the US and UK but in 2015 you can get anything online and most local bookstores carry fantastic options.

(left) Paperchase Bicycle Journal £4($6 US). (top) Urban Outfitters Poppin small notebook in rose gold $8. (bottom) Moleskine journals in red and salmon $6 each.

2)

BATH PRODUCTS– These are oldies but goodies. From the time I was about 13 I was a fan of both giving and receiving bath products. They are great! They are functional, can be very reasonable and are beautiful gifts. You can buy a selection of bath bombs for your friend who loves a good long soak in the tub or travel sized shower gels for the girl who is always on the go. These smaller items are also great stocking stuffers. Where you live will obviously determine the brands you select but some suggestions include Lush and Bath and Body works (BBW). They both have really wide selections and LUSH is known for using fresh ingredients in their handmade cruelty free products.

(top  left) Lush’s Yoga bath bomb- I’ve heard rave reviews about this one.(top right) Lush’s The Experimenter bath bomb which turns your bath water pink, blue and gold . Bath bombs $8.95 each. (bottom left) BBW Be Joyful travel size shower gel and (bottom right) BBW A Thousand Wishes travel size shower gel $5 each.

3)

BAKED GOODS– Cookies, cupcakes, shortbread, mince pies…yumm. The gift of edible items will never get old. They won’t be wasted and after Christmas there is no extra junk to take up room in your home (except for some extra junk in your  trunk depending on how much you eat).

If you are a skilled baker with time and energy to spare you can bake some of your favourite recipes yourself. To cut cost I recommend doing it in bulk so everyone that year gets a box of cookies. This way it comes in at far less that $10 per person.

For those who don’t have the skill or simply haven’t get the time to roll out 12 batches of peppermint sugar cookies you’ll have to purchase them ready done. You can hit up your reliable local or supermarket bakeries or chose to support some small business persons plying their trade from their home kitchen. Either way you’ll end up with some sweet treats to share with your loved ones. Some ideas are sugar cookies, Christmas bark and mini cupcakes.

 

(from top left) Star sugar cookies with jam centres, decorated sugar cookies, Christmas bark – recipes all found on Martha Stewart’s website and mini chocolate peppermint cupcakes from Tide and Thyme blog.

4)

DIT (Do It Themselves)– This is one of those gifts that the recipient has to assemble and make themselves. For example a mug with a packet of cocoa and marshmallows or all the ingredients for a cupcake in a mason jar. These kinds of gifts add novelty, it’s fun to do stuff yourself once it isn’t too difficult. It can also be a very personal gift: if your friend loves pink marshmallows and dark chocolate cocoa, your gift can be tailored to suit this. Lastly these gifts can be cheap. You can get mugs, small baskets and mason jars for mere dollars or less and the rest of the items such as sugar and cocoa powder are very inexpensive. Again, these are the kinds of gifts probably best made in bulk to lower cost . P.S They make great gifts for coworkers.

(left) Cupcake mix in a jar from Hostess with the Mostess. Tip: the cupcake can actually be baked in the mason jar. (right) Cocoa and marshmallows in a mug from Seeking Shade blog.

5)

DIY– Of course DIY gifts can be very thrifty once planned well. They include anything from previously mentioned baked goods to gifts in jars  but other cute ideas are homemade body scrubs , lotions, lip balms and bathbombs. YouTube and various blogs are choc full of tutorials on how to make these gifts using simple household items. These gifts are again personal and novel.

(left) DIY bath bomb from Martha Stewart and (right)DIY scrub from The Kitchen McAbe.

6)

A PLANT– Know any friends with a green thumb? Or even those with a brown thumb? A small house plant is cute and affordable, many being found in supermarkets and plant shops for under $5. You can buy any small plant , a flowering plant or a kitchen garden herb but my personal recommendation is a succulent. Succulents are small, can fit on desks and coffee tables,they are beautiful and coming in countless shapes and colours and most importantly very hard to kill. Take it from me  a hardened plant killer who now has not one but two flourishing succulents! You can place them in a cute pot and tie a ribbon around it for presentation. These are great gifts to give in bulk as well.

(top) Mini succulents in copper pots. These planters are for sale at Julia Kostreva’s online shop.(bottom left) Numerous colours and types of succulents to chose from. Picture from Anna Sheffield. (bottom right) A succulent garden using an array of mini succulents in a large shallow pot. From Quinn Cooper Style.

 

$10-$20 US

7)

ADULT COLOURING BOOK– It could NOT be a 2015 gift guide without one of these on it! Somehow over the past year or so these books have become increasingly popular and are so on trend right now. Many people say they are great because it’s calming. I can personally concur, as I have one myself. These books come in far more intricate designs than a typical children’s colouring book making them slightly more challenging and more time consuming (in a good way).

If you chose to give someone a colouring book you can add a set of colouring pencils or pens to go along with it. These books are practically in every book store in the world although some of the nicest ones I’ve seen were actually in airport book stores! So if you’re traveling it might be a great place to pick one up.

Lost Ocean and Enchanted Forest books illustrated by Johanna Basford $10 each on Amazon.(bottom right) Steadler colouring pens.

8)

KITCHEN GADGETS– My sister inspired this. She has a very unnatural obsession with any kind of kitchen gadget. So to clarify, your cutlery, cookware and dinner ware, that’s all regular boring stuff. Your blender, stand mixer, food processor and other small appliances while being gadgets they are all normal and run of the mill….aka boring.

The gadgets I speak of include exciting things like cheese boards, tea infusers, vegetable spiralizers, and much more. I have a personal recommendation: the brand Norpro. They have a very wide array of products which are very reasonably priced and good quality and I’ve seen their stuff selling all over the world.

(top left)Vonchef Stand Spiralizer $15. (top right) Active Kitchen hand held spiralizer $11(or less!) . (middle) Marble pattern cheese board and slicer by Norpro $16. (bottom) pair of manatee tea infusers $15.All available on Amazon.

9)

A NOVEL– For the reader girl in your life, this is a go to gift. With the dawn of kindle many persons opt for ebooks but you’ll find the hardcore reader still loves and appreciates the feel and smell of a physical book. New books get churned out daily and there are loads of genres to chose from. I personally love YA and Fantasy so my suggestions are based on my preference however there are tons of on line guides with great suggestions for all kinds of novels. Most paperbacks fall into this price range and some hardcovers do as well. For suggestions, Good Reads never disappoints and Amazon also has a great list of best sellers.

 

(top left)Twilight Tenth Anniversary Edition Life and Death by Stephanie Meyer $13.(bottom left) The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh  $11 this one has made quite a number of suggested reads lists.(right) Dangerous Deception by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl: the second installment in the spin off series of Beautiful Creatures series $15.  All available from Amazon

10)

TECH ACCESSORIES– These are those things everyone needs but never thinks to ask for. Earbuds, phone cases,tablet stands .Your loved ones will definitely appreciate these functional gifts.

(left)Apple Earbuds $18.(right)Newstyle Case and Detatchable bluetooth keyboard for Samsung Galaxy Tablet $19.

 

$20-$30 US

Woah.. getting fancy now. Lol. Spending more than $20 US per gift is getting out of a poor party girl’s comfort zone but sometimes it isn’t about the literal dollars but rather the bang for your buck. So keep that in mind when selecting gifts for your squad this year.

11)

GIFT CARDS– There was a time where gift cards were ridiculed. They were considered last minute or thoughtless or lazy etc because they seemed so impersonal. That is no longer the general consensus. Gift cards are super useful for the girl who actually does have everything or for friends and family who live too far away to physically give them a gift as they are bought online and delivered electronically. They are also long lasting as many have no expiration date.

(left) iTunes and (right) Amazon gift cards are two popular options.

12)

MAKEUP – Palettes, lip colours, seasonal gift sets. These are all the rage year round and more so during the Yuletide season. I think these are great gifts for makeup tic in your life or even for an ordinary gal who likes to doll up every now and then. The thing about palettes and gift sets is that you get a little bit of everything and it’s a great opportunity to see what you really like. Many of these sets may have only sample sizes of things but that’s fine, if you don’t like it no worries and if you love it then you can go purchase the fullsize.

Some makeup making waves right now include Lorac, Urban Decay and SmashBox all with awesome palettes and gift sets. Others include Too Faced – any of their products with cocoa powder are instant sell outs and Nyx – a brand which has really upped their game recently massively expanding their product range yet keeping it totally budget friendly with very good quality.

(right)Too Faced Melted French Kisses Lip gloss set $25 from toofaced.com. (top left)Lorac PRO Metal Eye Palette $28 from ulta.com. (bottom left)NYX Beauty on the Go Palatte with 36 shadows, 9 blushes and 7 lip colours $30 from nyxcosmetics.com [BARGIN ALERT!]

Note: All of these websites ship internationally.

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ARTWORK– So you more than likely won’t be able to afford any original artwork for under $30 US. You won’t even get an original print for that amount. Luckily there are so many more ways you can give a friend something from their favourite artist while sticking to your budget. Many artists now, in addition to their original work and original prints produce items featuring their work that may be functional such as kitchen towels and calendars or 3D pices such as figurines and jewelry and more affordable ways of enjoying their work such as coffee table books and regular prints.

Golden Apple Toad King Throw pillow cover 18″x18″ by incredibly talented and prolific Barbadian artist Cherise Ward $23. Available from society6.com ships internationally. P.S The model in this is my sister :). Strangeling: The Art of Jasmine Beckett-Griffith coffee table book by Jasmine Beckett-Griffith which contains reproductions of some of her most popular pieces with accompanying poetry.$25 from Amazon.

 

LUXURY ITEMS

Read or watch any gift guide and this buzzword will get thrown in there somehow….LUXURY gifts.

What does that mean?

When I imagine luxury I think of Italian sports cars, champagne, yachts, people dripping with gold while sipping champagne and driving their Italian sports cars back to their yachts… you get the idea.

However most of us will never live that way and when we speak of luxury we mean much different things. For me, a luxury gift is anything which costs more than I am usually comfortable spending on any one item but I do anyway. When you’re on a budget you can probably only buy two or three luxury items at Christmas. These are the kinds of things you get your sibling or significant other or bestie or if you’ve been a really savvy saver all year you might have enough to get all your loved ones luxury gifts. Here are some.

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JO MALONE FRAGRANCE-Just as with the adult colouring book, no gift list for 2015 would be complete without mention of this company. And believe you me my friends with good reason. Jo Malone is synonymous with luxury. The packaging is simple yet rich with a black and white colour scheme and the fragrances are all clean yet decadent. Jo Malone makes perfumes, bath products and perhaps most famously candles. For someone who truly appreciates a good fragrance this is the perfect gift.

 

(left)Peony and Blush Suede home candle by Jo Malone £42 (approx $64 US).(right) Pomgranate Noir cologne £85( approx $130 US) for 100mls. Unfortunately jomalone.com only ships to the UK however there are multiple retailers who ship internationally such as Macy’s and products can also be bought on Amazon.

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A SUBSCRIPTION-Back in my day  the only subscriptions were for magazines and CDs. Nowadays, subscription boxes are taking over fast. Basically you receive a box of surprise goodies and preset intervals usually monthly just as you would your favourite magazine. The options are almost limitless. There is something for everyone’s interest from Japanese cosmetics to healthy snacks to some specifically for your pet! Also, you can still get someone a regular magazine subscription. Lol.

(left)FitSnack Subscription box $13.99 US/month for 1 year from fitsnack.com. (right)KitNip Box approx $25/month- they are  willing to accommodate international shipping.

NOTE: Most of these subscription boxes are US based and only ship there. Some do ship to Canada and the UK. For everyone else there are some that do ship internationally. Alternately you can use a service where you get a US address for shipping purposes and then ship from there to your country of residence . One suggested company is myus.com. I suspect that as subscription boxes become more popular that shipping will become more widespread but until then chose carefully.

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AN EXPERIENCE– Another buzzword. An experience is basically anything you have to give a gift certificate for as it isn’t something you can physically give. This ranges from massages to horseback riding lessons to skydiving. This is another great option for someone who has everything or the adventure seeking friend.

Skydiving Gift Certificate.png

Give the gift of adventure…

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LUXURY HANDBAG– This is an instant winner with just about everyone but especially your fashionista friends. There are bags to suit every style and every budget. Here are some options…

(top left)The iconic Le Pliage in neo by Longchamp $225US. (top right)Moschino edgy small white quilted leather bag $398 US.(bottom) Chanel calf skin large bag approx $3500 US.

I hope this gift guide was able to inspire ideas and give some useful information. Happy Holidays and have an awesome day!

3 Christmas gifts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BECOMING A PRINCESS(every poor party girl’s dream come true!)

10 Mar

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Yes I am standing in a hotel room taking a selfie while wearing a crown of leaves. It was part of my Tiana costume

Yes I DO mean Disney’s “Frog Princess”

Why is that?

The reason is the Disney Princess Half Marathon brought to you by runDisney and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Basically it’s a half marathon (13.1 miles or 21K) with a princess theme. It happens once a year (this is year no.5) and proceeds are donated to a number of children’s charities.

I first heard about this just over a year ago via a magazine article. Unfortunately I cannot recall which magazine it was, but I would like to thank them for putting a bunch of grown women dressed in a combination of excercise gear and tutus and crowns on the front of their publication because that’s what made me buy it! If I remember correctly the opening line was something like “What would make grown women dress up in tutus and run?” And boy was I eager to find out.

MIND,BODY AND SOUL

After reading the article I felt enlightened. It involved running, which meant I needed training which is good for the body, it was for charity which is good for the soul AND….you got to dress up like a princess, LIKE A PRINCESS! Hello HELLLOOO I am so there! That is great for the mind. I couldn’t wait to do it! I went online looking it up the same day! Unfortunately sign up wasn’t avalible for another few months so I had to wait! Uggghhh!

RUNNER I AM NOT

I bet anyone reading this who doesn’t know me might be inclined to think I am an avid runner. One of those people who jumps out of bed already in her sneakers at 5am ready to literally hit the ground running. WRONG! I actually hated running up until 2 years ago. All throughout school I would walk laps at P.E, and I only knew how to walk on a treadmill this is how much I abhored running. Dancing sure, aerobics sure, running no thanks.

One day, just over 2 years ago I found myself at a gym in a country I did not live in. It was very quiet as it was the middle of the day, I was on the treadmill working up a good sweat from speed walking when I just felt this urge to run. I ignored it at first becase “I don’t run” but then more and more I felt as if the only way I could be satisfied with this work out is if I broke into an almighty full speed pelt. I looked around, there was hardly anyone there and those there had no clue who I was so I just did it. That’s when I realised that I loved it! There is something about running that allows all your pent up energy to just seep out. Very theraputic.

SIGNING UP

Many months after reading the article I went onto the website and signed up. I was barely in time (afterbeing so eager), the event was almost full! My advice is to start checking well in advance so that you know exactly when the event is declared open (July the year be.

After signing up I had to plan the entire trip. The race took place at Disney World Orlando FL so I would have to travel there, find accomodation and of course spending money. Enter POOR PARTY GIRL MODE! Every trip I’ve had since I started working has been a budget trip (ironic no?) so I’m something of an expert by now. Planning a budget trip will be dealt with in another post.

WHICH PRINCESS?

So like I said, this is a princess themed race. Almost all the participants are women and most of them dress up as a princess (so did some of the men). Of course I was going to dress as a princess,I just didn’t know which one!

Should I be one of the original classic princesses like Aurora, Snow or Cinderella? Or one of the modern classic ones such as Ariel (Who would be 41 years old now btw) or Belle or Jasmine. Or maybe I should be one of the new kids on the block like Tiana or Rapunzel or Elsa? I was so torn I never decided who to be until about 7 days before the race. This left me with 7 days to get a costume!

TRAINING

I almost didn’t write a paragraph about this because I almost didn’t train! I procrastinated and when I finallly started “trainig” I’d do it for 2 days then stop for 3 or 4 and repeat this cycle. My excuse was “I’m so busy and tired”. I don’t reccomend this approach. I plan to do this race again and when I do I will have an actual schedule and a training partner to help keep me on track. There are a number of 3 month and 6 month training plans avalible free online(which I still didn’t use), I reccomend starting there.

BECOMING TIANA

For about 2 weeks prior I had narrowed my choices down to 2 princesses;Mulan and Tiana. My reason was that these were girls with guts.The hard work and bravery exhibited by Mulan and Tiana was more appealing than the damsel in distress type of personalities a lot of the others had.Finally I chose Tiana.

The night before I left for FL (3 days before the race) I went to a fabric shop in a mad rush. I told myself I could easily find a costume upon reaching FL but my thrifty inner voice reminded me how much that might cost me buying all pre made stuff. So I bought ;

1) CLOTH: 2 shades of green 1 yard each costing me a total of about $8.50 US,

2) FASTENERS

3) GREEN THREAD

From the toy/craft store I bought

4) TIARA-a plastic one and

5) GREEN FELT– to make my Tiana crown.

The total cost of all those raw materials was approximately $14.50 US. I already had my sneakers and I was planning on wearing my workout capri’s underneath the skirt. The only thing I needed was the green top.

THE CROWNING

Tiana is the frog princess and in Disney’s version she is from New Orleans. Her entire outfit has a natural swampy vibe. Hence her crown is not shiny silver or gold but rather made of leaves. I love bling as much as the next princess but I love this crown.

I used a very cheap plastic silver tiara, probably meant for a little girl’s birthday. I cut out some leafy shapes from the felt and hot glued those babies onto the tiara. It was quick and painless.

SKIRTING THE ISSUE

Making the skirt was neither quick nor painless.

My sewing machine has bitten the dust and sew  so I hand to do it all by hand. I was tired and didn’t have the energy to measure myself so I wrapped each piece around my waist and cut accordingly. I then stitched on some fasteners to hold the edges of each skirt together and also to hold the outer one to the inner one.

For the time I had I give myself a thumbs up, however, considering what an avid DIY-er I consider myself I really could have done a much better job had I put more thought an time into it. This is a mistake that will not be repeated next year.

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That’s a blurry pic of me cutting and stitching away

I decided to add the flower to the skirt which can be seen on Tiana’s green ball gown using some of the green felt I had bought.

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I drew out, cut out and attatched using fasteners.

I was all set, well almost, I just needed a green workout top and that would be easy right? WRONG!

I regretted my choice to be Tiana more and more with each passing minute when I went shopping for a green athletic top. There was either no green or the wrong green or it costed a small fortune, I just couldn’t win! I figured I’d have more luck at the expo which took place 2 days prior to the race but it was more of the same. I finally settled for the cheapest one I could find which was not the colour I wanted but the closest to it, and it ended up not fitting me as well as I wanted it to.

Nevertheless I was stil totally excited to become Tiana.

EXPO

I arrived in Orlando 3 days before the race. On the day before I went to collect my package (number and shirt and arm band) It all happened at the ESPN Sport Centre. When I arrived I knew it would be a great day because there was an Oikos truck giving out free greek yogurt!

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Oikos Truck

I got my free yogurt and proceeded to collect my race package.Then I went to the Fit For a Princess Expo (located in the ESPN centre as well)

I have been to expos  before but never ever have I ever been to one like this!The sheer number of vendors packed into this 1 room not to mention the customers! This place was overflowing with both merchandise and people.

There was everything you needed and everything you didn’t need. New Balance (the official shoe of runDisney) practically had an actual shoe store set up with back rooms and all!

There were lots of vendors selling headbands and sleeves and socks to match your costume. There were some selling tops and skirts and tutus( some quite pricey I might add). People were selling the modern waist pouches (some blend right in with the top of your pants), athletic tape, energy gels and blocks. I did feel ovewhelmed but I kept it together and just went down one aisle at a time. The only thing I bought was my green top.

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Me with my number and some Disney friends

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Expo madness!

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THE RACE

I was up at 2 am on Feb 23rd. The race was set to start at 5:30 am and you needed to be there at least an hour before. I had about 6 different friends message me at that time just in case both my phone and the alarm clock failed me. I had eaten well the day before and made sure I was in bed by a reasonable hour. I slept but not well and when I got up I was groggy, despite all the adrenaline coursing through me.

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My outfit

I put on my DIY budget friendly costume and went to await my pre ordered taxi for 3 am. Myself and the lady I shared my taxi with (Belle) stumbled out into the dark and wisely used the last real bathroom before the port-a-potty craziness was all we had to rely on.

After a long walk in the dark I arrived in a large parking lot where what I can only describe as a full on rave was going on. There was a stage with a backdrop and on it a DJ with his turn tables blasting tune after tune. There were already thousands of persons there in all their princess glory. There were 2 back drops where people were in line to take their pics,food trucks selling brekfast, An area to drop off your bag and a tent for those who had paid extra to have massages and breakfast served and relaxing couches etcImage

Me by the backdrop

The place was a cornucpia of costumes! The classic princesses seemed quite popular: Cinderealla, Aurora and Snow. But every princess was represented there. The Ariels had some of the most creative costumes with scale print tights and sleeves, actual shell bras, net for skirts, head pieces with starfish. Love Love!

There were princesses in every shape and size, age and race,it was beautiful.

There were those dressed as other Disney characters: lot’s of Minnies,the villans Ursula, the Queen of Hearts and even Malificent, Tinkerbell was well represented (my favourite disney character by far), I even saw some Pricess Leia’s! There were people dressed just as a princess, none in particular and those in no costumes at all.

We proceeded to our corals, another loooong walk in the dark. I was in the last one to start so I actually began my race approximately 1 hour and 37 minutes after the first group. When my time finally came I just ran. I ran and ran and ran. I actually thought I’d have to stop a lot sooner than I did but I impressed myself. When I finally did stop it was to use the bathroom. And after that I just continued. It felt amazing!

This was a real race but it was a fun one too. In addition to the theme and everyone all dressed up there were endless photo opportunities along the way. Characters were around every corner for you to  stop and take pics. I would have loved to take some pics with them but the lines were just too long! I said next time when I am better trained and can run this race faster, I’ll be able to stop. What I was able to do however is snap pics of the characters as I went past them.

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Captain Jack Sparrow and Prince Eric by a ship

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The Villans

Those are just a couple, there were sooooo many more!

As the race progressed there reached a point where just about everyone was walking. It kind of felt good, everyone was just kind of enjoying each other’s company looking at all the people in front of us and all those behind us. People were popping thier energy gel shots left right and centre (myself included) and gulping water and gatorade. By now the sun was fully up and it was beginning to get a little warm adding to everyone’s decreased energy.

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Some of princesses

Finally the end drew near! Around the 11th mile I regained some energy (thank’s to my gel shot I guess?) and began to pick up the pace. As we got closer to the finish (In Epcot near where we started) there were more and more spectators. They were very encouraging and I felt more inclined to run again and run I did!

Finally 3hrs and 9 minutes after starting I completed my first half marathon!

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The FINISH!

This was a phenomenal experience. I was more than a little nervous leading up to it, but having done it I suddenly realise how much I am actually capable of if I just try. I wanted to do this for the charity and the fun of dressing up and the good it would do my body but what I didn’t expect was to feel so inspired! By others :I saw a lady with severe arthritis walking like a bat out of hell, I saw a lady with a broken leg wearing her boot an coutless pregnant ladies getting the job done, I was also inspired by myself. Three years ago there is no way I would even have considered this. I just wouldn’t imagine I could do it, I would have been discouraged by the naysayers who would have said it was dangerous and a waste of money etc but I did it and of that I am immensely proud.

I have made a little compilation of advice gems(princesses,gems get it?) based on my experience

LEARNING GEMS

1) Start Low and Go Slow– I went straight into a half marathon which is 13.1 miles or 21 Kilometres after having never run any long distance race in my life. This is generally not recommended. Most people start with a 5k then move up that way you can adapt and improve so that when youu reach the really long distance you are ready for the challenge.

2) Train– This is something I cannot honestly say I did. Not in any special way. I continued my usual on again off again exercise routine and thought about joininga gym so I could practice on a treadmill.This never happened. Sure I survived but I got shin splints and as I sit here typing this I still cannot go down stairs properly. Yes an injury can happen to the best prepared of athletes but it’s less likely.

3) Eat well– If you are anything like me and most of my friends you are on a perpetual pseudo diet. In the 2-3 days leading up to a big race forget all of that. Eat full meals inclusive of the evil food group we call carbs. Also eat brekfast the morning of your event.

Just as important as eating before your race is eating afterwards. Most events provide participants with some kind of light meal afterwards. It is recommended to eat very soon after completing your race and again 3 hours later

4) Hydrate– Do this before, during and after your race. Also ensure that afterwards your urine is clear and not dark brown or red. Darkened urine may be a sign of rhabdomyolysis a potentialy dangerous conndition.

5) Shoes– Run in the shoes you trained in. I saw so many people buying brand new shoes at the expo, I was hoping they were buying them to wear for after the race for some other reason. It is reccomended that you not run a race in brand new shoes.

6) Sleep– Never underestimate the importance of it. You need to rest before and after a race. Before to conserve energy and be relaxed and clam and afterwards to recuperate.

This is just my anecdotal advice based on what I’ve read and learnt of the years, I hope it helps some potential runner

This has been an extensive post(a half marathon in it’s own right) I applaud anyone who made it to the end lol!

I hope whoever reads this enjoys it and feels as inspired as I do. I leave you with a pic of me showing off my medal (the one everyone who finishes the race gets! LOL)

Have an awesome day!

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