Surviving the Bikini Series: Week 1 Recap

Image result for tone it up bikini series 2017

To obtain more info on this plan, click here. Also, I am not recommending a fitness routine or diet to you without the suggestion of double checking with your health practitioner.

I have always struggled with my weight. When I got “diagnosed” with Scoliosis in 2004, I started working out. Hard. I felt that it was somehow my fault for my spine turning into an “S” curve instead of developing perfect and straight like it should. I was so hard on myself. Flash forward to today, working at a desk for the first time in my life. 8+ hours sitting down at work and then going home, or my local Starbucks, to blog or study was not helping my posture, figure, and overall health. Not only that, but I was also noticing a change in my creativity and attitude. I was more irritable, prone to start meaningless fights with those around me, fatigued, and, to my extreme surprise-super inflexible. In my first years of college, I started practicing yoga, pilates, and Zumba. A few weeks before the Bikini Series started, I attended an event at my local hot yoga studio and was, quite frankly, sad and disappointed in myself that I was in pain and could not obtain the poses like I once could.

Keep in mind, I’m only 26. I was journaling one evening and started to write down my frustrations on paper. Then, right beneath that, I wrote out questions to myself to see if I could be honest with myself. They were questions like “How do you want to feel?”, “What foods do you notice make you feel fatigued, bloated, or overall, really unhealthy and sluggish?”.

That brought some clarity and perspective. Then, I saw Karena and Katrina’s post on Instagram about the 2017 Bikini Series. Crap. Again, already? Keep in mind that I have followed K+K, founders of the crazy popular and successful, Tone It Up brand, since about 2014. Working out for free via their YouTube videos here and trying a recipe there, I realized they had always helped me feel great. Clean. Lean.

Naturally, I became a member, bought the Nutrition Plan and signed up for the 2017 Bikini Series. I sought out other “#TIUGirls” in my area, or that I found extraordinarily inspirational, on Instagram and simply committed to myself. I had to tell myself that. I am doing this for you and  your benefit only. I want to share my journey with you all in the hopes that one girl out there may find a bit of inspiration to begin her own journey to an overall healthier lifestyle.

There are 8 weeks total. This is the recap of my first one.

Monday | Crap. I missed my first Booty Call (the AM workout you do as soon as you get up). No worries, I will make it up later. I had meal-prepped the night before (THANK GOODNESS FOR THIS!), so I essentially had my meals figured out for the week. I will tell you that this is KEY and a habit I hope to retain for years to come. It really takes the stress out of finding proper-yet really damn good-nutrition for the week. I did the 5 Daily Moves and the 20 minutes of cardio that were on the TIU Weekly Work-Out Schedule and felt AMAZING. I did start the week with a bit of a cold and was not feeling a workout at all , but I remembered the heart-to-heart I had with myself and felt so compelled to fulfill the commitment. I did it. I felt damn good.

Example of next week’s nutrition plan!

 

Tuesday | Woke up feeling pretty great. Groggy from cold medicine, but no upset stomach, no fatigue. Worked out.

Wednesday | Feeling even better today. Went for an after-work walk with my lovely friend Julie and her dogs. According to her Fit Bit, we completely over 7,000 steps. It was a long walk; 70 minutes or so.

Thursday | Still sticking to my Tone It Up Nutrition Plan for the Bikini Series and noticing my taste buds changing. I felt satisfied and full after consuming much smaller portions.

Friday | Slipped a bit today due to a brand representative bringing us lunch at work. I had stayed up pretty late Thursday night studying and reading, so the last meal for the work week that I had planned on was not prepped. To top it all off, I was running to late to work this AM, so I ended up eating half of an Italian sandwich from Jimmy John’s, a dill pickle (guilty pleasure!) and a water. I am proud to say this was my only “slip-up” the whole week!

Saturday | I am feeling really…”happy”. I can feel that my joints have better range of motion, my muscles are feeling tight and a little sore–which I don’t mind–, and I am feeling more me.

Sunday | Reflecting on my first week, I can say that I am really proud of myself. I am feeling so grateful for life, health and the opportunity to decide to change something I don’t like, and the wisdom to realize it will take continued discipline, inspiration, and perspiration 😉

If you are reading this post and can relate to ANY  part of this, I want to tell you that I am with you. I am here to listen to your doubts and to tell you that you need to get over your fear and just. freaking. do. it. 

XOXO,

M

 

#OOTD: Cold-Shoulder Florals

I have to be honest with you guys for a second.

I was feeling really self-conscious about posting some of these photos and almost didn’t post it at all. I was hospitalized recently and had been prescribed a mixture of antibiotics and pain relievers that induced side effects like bloating, water retention, break-outs, and irritability. I did not feel like me at all. But if I am going to share my life with you, I might as well bare it all.

I love the cold-shoulder trend that reemerged for Spring & Summer 2017, but I hadn’t found one that I felt flattered the top half of my body. Then, I was perusing the aisles at TJMaxx and fell in love with this one. Floral prints are nothing new for the warm weather months, but I feel good in it! The material is so soft and the sleeve doesn’t drop too low down my arms which can overwhelm my petite figure (I’m only 5’3″ btw).

I paired it with these distressed crops from Chico’s. Let me tell you something. For a curvy Latina like me, I have never loved any boyfriend style jean or loose crop pant. But I tried these on and knew I had to get them. They’re just the right amount of distressed and so, so soft. Another thing I love is that this particular silhouette is higher-waisted that most denim bottoms I have tried on. I tucked the top in just a bit and voila.

The shoes I’m wearing rep another trend we’re seeing in footwear this season: the simple strapped sandal. While these Franco Sarto ones do not have the block heel, I love the wedge because it doesn’t hurt my right foot-which is still fractured.

You all know I am an accessory girl through and through. They are the glue that makes or breaks the outfit you try to piece together. I decided to keep it simple with some of my favorite silver accessories from the line I’m a stylist for-Stella and Dot. The choker and engraved necklace layered together make for a quieter, more delicate statement. The bracelets I love pairing together because they are so lightweight and look good with anything. The ring is one of my all-time favorite pieces, as well. It’s malleable so you can adjust how close or far apart the different layers of the ring are. PLUS, if it’s that time of the month and you’re bloated, like everywhere, you can easily open the ring up just a tad wider. How’s that for versatile accessories? My watch is an old rose-gold Fossil watch that I bought during my time working with their Bellevue Square location a few years ago.

Let’s take a moment and talk about these sunglasses because I have gotten so many questions about them. We’ve seen the reflective lenses all over the Gram and for good reason; they’re fun, flashy, and perfect for summer. I saw this exact pair on my favorite UK style blogger Fleur de Force on a recent trip of hers and bought them right away. I hadn’t tried them on before, but I was familiar with the Quay brand and knew that if I wanted a pair of statement sunglasses that these would be it. These are the All My Love lenses and they come in a few other different color combos.



XOXO,

M

Introducing: Stella & Dot Summer 2017 Collection

I recently attended a stylist boot camp training in Seattle. I was joined by inspiring and incredibly hard-working ladies to view the new collection and learn better ways to serve and style you, our amazing customers.

 

 |P.S. I’m wearing our Essential Fringe Necklace in Silver & the Ruffle Sleeve Top from Chico’s |

In this post, you will find some of my favorite pieces and a video by our Chief Creative Officer, Blythe Harris sharing more about the inspiration behind them.

Multi Stripe Ikat Getaway Weekender Bag | Stella:

1. Getaway Bag in Multi-Stripe

I have this bag and I carry it everywhere-even if I am not traveling! The straps are comfortable and the inside is incredibly roomy. I use it as my “mobile office” and carry my laptop, planner, catalogs, etc. I may throw my gym clothes in there sometimes, too 😉

The Aven Layering Necklace can be worn so many different ways! Making it the perfect vacay necklace.:

2. Aven Layering Necklace

This piece looks so much better in person; genuine leather lariat, Mother of Pearl discs, and mixed metals make for a gorgeous 4-in-1 necklace!

All In Pouch - Good Vibes | Stella & Dot  Available 3/30!  www.stelladot.com/sarahtaliaferro: Good Vibes Striped All In Pouch | Stella & Dot:

3. Good Vibes Pouch

Sometimes a girl is running late and needs to pack some makeup with her, am I right? This one is perfect.  The message is a so feel-good that I find it setting the tone for the day when I look at it.

Modern Shiny Silver X Cuff Bracelet | Stella:

4. Silver Sculpted X Cuff

This is not your average cuff. It can fit small to large wrists and is so chic and shiny in person that it really looks more expensive than it actually is! Check it out on Blythe in the video below! Must. Have.

Gros craquage pour ce magnifique plastron Tresse  un must have pour ces vacances  Repost @brandilynn_31  #tressenecklace:

(Image source)

5. Tresse Statement Necklace

Wow. When I saw this at bootcamp, I was so blow away by the gorgeous lapis colored beads and the intricacies of the detail. This is the statement piece to wear integrate into your wardrobe this season. Instantly dress up a white blouse and jeans or accompany your favorite warm-weather dress.

XOXO,

M

March Favorites: Beauty 

I am trying something a little bit different with the monthly favorites posts, so let me know if you guys like this categorized style instead of just having all of my current favorites in one big post!  Also, if you have not checked out my post on the products I loved in March, check that out here.

Fragrance: If you guys have followed me for a while, then you will remember from my old blog (moment of silence, please) La Vita Di Moda that I was gifted the Chance Eau Tendre by Chanel fragrance two Christmases ago and it has been my favorite ever since. I typically gravitate towards the fruitier scents (Prada Candy is as sweet as I will wear), but this one is “decidedly young” with its notes of white musk, jasmine, and grapefruit.

Buy here.

Hair: I am so excited to share this hair oil with you because I was SO impressed with it. I do color and heat style my hair, so when a product really enhances the color, shine, and makes it soft and bouncy, you better believe I will tell you all about it. This product was sent to me via Influenster, but these opinions and this review are my own! Pictured above, this little bottle of Madam C.J. Walker’s Scent & Shine Brassica Seed Oil is fantastic for all types of hair and is literally the best alternative to a silicone-based hair product because it doesn’t give you that gross product build-up weighing down your hair. PLUS–it has notes of spun sugar and red velvet cream. I don’t think any hair product I have ever tried leaves my hair smelling so good! I have been adding a few drops to the ends of my hair and then running my fingers through my strands AFTER I flat-iron or curl my hair. I will be repurchasing this one.

Try it for yourself here.

Lips: There are three stand-out products in this category. First off, I know I am not the only person out there with dry lips carrying over from the winter. No matter how hydrated I try to stay throughout the day, my lips were constantly chapped. When I received this e.l.f. product in the same box as the hair oil, I was really hesitant to even try an exfoliating lip product. The exfoliator label totally intimidated me! I am so glad I did. This minty product is grainy, but not too harsh on the lips. I give my lips two or three applications, rub together, then wipe off with a warm cloth. This has left my dry lips refreshed, moisturized, smooth, and prepped for my actual lip color application. Can we all agree that a lipstick over chapped and flaky lips is NOT a good look? Ok, good.

The second product I definitely splurged on. $25 for a lip balm seemed so ridiculous to me, but holy moly–it was worth every penny because it is a full-blown lip treatment. I have been a devoted fan of the Fresh skin care line, so I trusted the brand already. However, I had never tried these balms that are a cult favorite in the beauty community. This lip balm is one of 13 different shades and scents, and smells and feels like butter on the lips. I really only ever needed one application on my lips, but if you try this for yourself, you will find yourself giving your lips a few swipes! This is its full description: “Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment Sunscreen SPF 15 moisturizes, protects, and smooths the lips with real sugar—a natural humectant—delivering delectable and dependable moisture. A blend of nourishing oils, including meadow foam and black currant oils, maintain hydration levels and supple, healthy-looking lips while grape seed oil, rich in antioxidants, and vitamins C and E provide protection from wrinkle-causing free radicals. The formula provides essential, year-round protection from damaging UV rays, and the tinted treatments also offer sheer coverage or build-able color.”

The third product in the lip category was a matte liquid lipstick from Stila. I use my Kat Von D liquid lipstick in “Lolita” so much that I’ve repurchased it 3x in less than a year (it IS that good), but I found a competitor this last month. I haven’t really delved into the Stila line, so this was a really pleasant introduction to their range. It’s in the color Patina and it’s a really pretty, yet dusty and light mauve-rosy liquid lipstick with a matte finish. It smells great and the application is not fussy at all. I may have used it so much that I was scraping the sides with the brush trying to get all of it out.

1. E.L.F Cosmetics Lip Exfoliator in MINT MANIAC

2. Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment w/SPF 15

3. Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in “Patina”

If you have made it this far into the post–you are my favorite person on the planet and we should meet for coffee!

I had heard and read such hype about this new (ish?) concealer by Nars that I knew I had to try it out for myself. It’s called the Soft Matte Concealer and it has worked wonders for me in covering dark circles (thanks late nights), discoloration, and some acne scars that I have. I’m so loyal to my creamy concealer from the same range, but this one is higher coverage and has yet to crease for me. A+. P.S. I wear the shade “custard”.

Buy it here.

FINALLY-if you are looking to try out a new brow product, the Benefit Goof-Proof Brow Pencil in Shade 2 has an angled waxy pencil that has left my brows in the best shape! I have the Easy Shape and Fill Mini (I wanted to try it out first), but I will definitely be buying the full-size version! You can define and fill your brows with this little guy, AND it stays on all day. At $12, it’s a major steal.

Buy it here.

What have been your favorite beauty products lately? Have you tried any of these already? Leave your comments below because I am–obv–always trying out new things. Anyone up for a fashion-related March Favorites post??

XOXO,

M

#NowPlaying: “Issues”

I have been so hooked on a Spotify playlist called Chill Hits over the past month. I play it when I am getting ready in the morning, when I am cleaning, and even to relax before bedtime. It really does encompass different genres and artists that share a same mellow tone. I first heard this song about three weeks ago and I saved it even before it hit its chorus.

To me, the song reflects a really tumultuous relationship that is representative of both egos and their bittersweet adoration for each other. Let’s just say this one really hit home.

Julia Michaels, a singer and songwriter from right here in the US, is only 23 years old, but she already has added projects with Demi Lovato, Justin Bieber, Gwen Stefani, and Fifth Harmony to her resume. I can’t wait to hear more from her!

Learn more about the artist here.

Take a listen and let me know what you think!

March Favorites: Skin Care

Can you believe it’s the end of March?! It’s basically April, which is two months away from June, so in reality-it’s basically summertime.
Optimism aside, I wanted to share all of the beauty products that I have been using for the past month with you guys. There are a few that have been on the market for quite some time, but are new to me.  Confession: some of these are so dang good that they have found a permanent place in my beauty routine. Also remember, that what may work for my skin may not work for you or give you the same results.

FTC Disclaimer: Everything was purchased by me, unless otherwise specified. 

Skin Care

The Body Shop | Tea Tree Skin Clearing Toner

Body Shop's Tea Tree Skin Clearing Toner.:

I use this toner right after a warm shower when my pores are nice and open. It is incredibly refreshing to the skin and really works to get any extra makeup off the face. I’ve noticed that over time it has helped improve the evenness of my skin and has helped control the discoloration and redness I sometimes get.

Ganier SkinActive Micellar Water Cleanser & Makeup Remover

Win It: 1 of 10 Garnier SkinActive Micellar Water Duos:

I was incredibly skeptical of the Micellar water hype. I was very hesitant to leave my go-to-skin routine of makeup wipes and cleanser. This.has.changed.the.game. So Micellar water is basically a liquid in which little particles called micelles act like magnets and attach themselves to dirt, makeup, etc. So, when you rub that cotton pad with this water on your skin and wipe away, you are taking all the mascara, blush, shadow, etc. with it. My combination-type skin has been so happy with this and I have even noticed an increase in its brightness!

OLEHENRIKSEN Truth On The Glow Cleansing Cloths

After getting out of my comfort zone and trying the Micellar water, I figured I would mix it up with my makeup removing wipes, as well. I love, LOVE, my Neutrogena makeup removing towelettes, but these are coming in as a very close second-favorite! I was already a fan of the OLEHENRIKSEN brand because they make up their products without parabens, sulfates, or phthalates and just feel richly on the skin. These wipes though (“cloths” sounds fancier, doesn’t it?) give your makeup removing routine an upgrade. In addition to the wonderful citrus scent, the quilted cloth gives your skin a “day at the spa” feel because of the jojoba seed oil.

 Lotus Youth Preserve Eye Cream

@freshbeauty #Lotus Youth Preserve Eye Cream #review #bbloggers #malebloggers #skincare:

I have always been a firm believer that it is never too late to start an anti-aging product to your skincare routine. However, I have been more mindful after turning 25 as well as more aware to new anti-again products that enter the market. I love eye creams and I had purchased this one before, but I didn’t care enough at the time to apply it to a routine and use it consistently. I obviously did not see any results the first time. I wanted to give it another try because I really enjoy other products from the Fresh line and I am glad that I did. This formula is incredibly lightweight and gives the skin around the eye area an incredibly refreshing and cooling sensation. It includes a combination the brand calls, Super 7 Complex, “which is specifically designed to minimize and prevent early visible signs of aging, enhance radiance and provide antioxidant protection, further boosted with protective star fruit extract.” Works for me. Only downside? If you apply a little too much, you will find that the product balls up when you wipe away the next morning.

I hope you enjoyed this and found it helpful in your search of products to add into your routine. Look out for my favorites this month in both beauty and fashion.

XOXO,

Melissa