Book of the Month: A Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

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February is known as the month of love since Valentine’s Day falls in it. And what better book to pick for this special month than an LGBTQ, historical-fiction The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. This glamorous book manages to fit the first-love of a young gay boy set in Europe in the 1700’s into an action-adventure story.

As the book jacket explains, “Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.”

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Set in the 1700’s, this novel somehow explores many modern-day themes and issues. In fact, I like the comparison of Monty’s grand tour year as the equivalent of the modern-day gap year young adults take after high school before embarking on their studies in college. This book also uses the historical setting to present modern-day themes that today’s YA genre would want to read in a book. These include child abuse (Monty’s relationship to his father, Lord Montague), alcoholism and gambling (Monty’s prolific lifestyle), racism (demonstrated through Percy being high-born yet also being a black character), disabilities (as seen in Percy’s epilepsy and the stigma that comes with his illness), sexism (Monty’s sister Felicity faces sexism as her gender undermines her intelligence and skills in medicine), and LGBTQ (which is illustrated in Monty’s sexuality and his crush on Percy).

I think what impressed me most about this book was how modern it felt within the constraints of the historical narrative structure. I really enjoyed the setting, it gave a fresh take on the similes used in the novel. Sometimes, after reading page after page of YA, you can come across a lot of the same metaphors and similes, but due to this novel’s setting I felt like I was coming across new comparisons that showed off Lee’s writing skills yet perfectly tied into the world-building of this story. It adds this charming, glitzy, old-world glamour feel into it.

The other great thing about this book is how it feels like it’s a little bit of everything – romance, comedy, action, adventure, murder-mystery, historical-fiction, and gay/LGBTQ. And if you like books that travel to other countries, then I highly recommend getting the audio book version of this novel. I listened to this book as an audio book and the voice actor did such a fantastic job at creating these authentic accents for all the various characters ranging from British to French to Spanish accents was just amazing and delightful to hear.

If you are a fun of captivating characters, then Monty is the right guy for you. Lee created such a strong, unique voice in the character of Monty. She manages to capture this entitled, sassy teenage voice right from the beginning while simultaneously making you like it. But this only makes it so much more wonderful for the reader to see Monty’s transformation from the exploits and troubles he endures along the way.

If there is one thing I would critique, it happens to be something that also ends up working in favor for the novel’s plot. I thought the grand tour would be more of this glamorous trip but ended up being a fleeing escape since they are on the run and less of a tour. I felt disappointed because it wasn’t what I had expected, however it also worked in favor of the reader because there was no guessing where this story was going. I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen next and I couldn’t ever guess the next thing that would happen. It felt truly unpredictable in the adventure/action portion of the plot, yet the romance side of it however was plenty predictable but in a good, happy-ending kind of way.

If you are in need of some good humor, some witty banter, and fun all-around then this book should definitely be on your To Be Read list.

Vegan Eats: Las Vegas

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You would think in a city nicknamed “Sin City” that your odds of finding vegan food would be as low as your odds of beating the house. When I think of Vegas, the last thing I think of is vegan food. But my assumptions were wrong because it turned out that this devilish city found a way to make vegan food delectably sinful.

Las Vegas is a very accommodating place to people from different backgrounds, including dietary backgrounds. People from all over the world come to Vegas, so it makes sense that this city would be accommodating to all sorts of customs. But one custom that Vegas is known for is their buffets. That’s right, Vegas even has a buffet with vegan food.

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My first recommendation is The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas. This buffet is known for being very luxurious with only the best and freshest food. This buffet has captured the attention of many meat-lovers, but the reason it has captured my attention is because it’s the only buffet with a vegan menu. As you enter The Buffet, you are immediately transported in a colorful, playful room where flowers float from the ceiling and tea kettles and other kitchen objects are ornately arranged with flowers in bouquets. It feels a lot like stepping into the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Alice in Wonderland. And after being seating, your server will take you to the buffet, which spans over 4 rooms, where you will be introduced to the head chef. The head chef will then give you a personal guided tour of the buffet pointing out what is vegan, since many items that are vegan have to be requested at stations since they are not displayed. My favorite thing was the vegan cranberry muffins, which had these airy, delicious rice-Krispy-like cereal bits in it. I also had the vegan blueberry pancakes, which were amazing. But, you can customize the pancakes to be whatever you wish, I just happened to order blueberries in mine. I tried the vegan matcha chia pudding which was very interesting and different from anything I had before. And if you are a juice or smoothie enthusiast, then you’ll love all the concoctions they make here. I think I must’ve had four of them. This buffet has any and everything you could possibly ask for.

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So, for my second plate back at the buffet, I had the vegan sushi which I customized with cucumbers, carrots, avocado, and pickled cabbage with a side of veggie spring rolls. And for dessert I had the chocolate and raspberry sorbet with a vegan chocolate chip cookie. As you can see, I made sure to get my money’s worth out of this dining experience. Eating here for breakfast will set you back at about $25 per person, but if you are a big eater like me, then you’ll get a lot of tasty food to fill you up for the day.

Vegas Fun Fact: Steve Wynn (owner of the Wynn and Encore Las Vegas) is a vegan, which is why all the restaurants in his hotels have a vegan menu in addition to their regular menus. All you have to do is tell the hostess that you would like a vegan menu. Make sure to check out these restaurants menus online to see what might interest you. I’ve heard the steakhouse at the Wynn has an amazing truffle risotto and a delicious Portobello “steak.”

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My next recommendation is a place that is more suitable if you are with a group that might not eat vegan, but you do. In the Grand Canals at The Venetian, there is a great restaurant called Black Tap Burgers. It’s a great spot to grab a good burger and beer, but what’s surprising is that they offer a lot of vegan options as well. I ordered the Vegan Burger which comes with a black bean patty, vegan mayo, pickled onions, salsa verde, and cilantro with a side of fries. And, if you are gluten-intolerant, then you can also order your burger with a gluten-free bun. This burger was surprisingly juicy for a black bean patty and the salsa added a fun twist to an old classic. Although fries are a classic side to the burger, I decided to try some of their other snacks and sides that also happened to be vegan. I shared the teriyaki broccoli which is seasoned with ginger, garlic, sesame, and scallion. And, because I couldn’t resist one more side, I also had the crispy brussels sprouts which came with a sesame-tahini dipping sauce. These sides were just as amazing as the burger, so make sure not to skip these extras. They also have other vegan options like their burger bowl served with quinoa and a black bean patty, but I think I had some of their best vegan options here. The really nice thing about this place, is I could comfortably get what I wanted while my non-vegan husband ordered a regular burger. And since it’s in the Grand Canals, you get to see one of the coolest and unique place in Las Vegas.

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My trip to Vegas was short and sweet, so I didn’t get a chance to try every vegan restaurant, however, listed below is a list of other restaurants in Las Vegas that have vegan menus that I’ll definitely be trying next time I visit.

  1. Fine Dining Vegan Restaurants at the Wynn Las Vegas include: Costa Di Mare (Seafood), Lakeside (Seafood), Mizumi (Japanese/Sushi), Tableau (American), SW Steakhouse, Wing Lei (Chinese/Michelin Star Restaurant)
  2. Fine Dining Vegan Restaurants at the Encore Las Vegas include: Andrea’s (Asian-inspired cuisine), Sinatra (Italian)
  3. Casual Dining Vegan Restaurants at the Wynn Las Vegas include: Allegro (American-Italian), The Buffet, Charlie’s Bar + Grill (Sports Bar), Le Cave (wine pairings with food), Red 8 (Chinese/Thai/Korean/Vietnamese), Terrace Pointe Cafe (Breakfast/Brunch)
  4. Casual Dining Vegan Restaurants at the Encore Las Vegas include: Jardin (American cuisine), Wazuzu (Pan-Asian)
  5. VegeNation – Located downtown Las Vegas, this place offers a wide-ranging variety of vegan options from Vietnamese Pho to African Yam Stew to veggie burgers all at an affordable price.
  6. Yard House – Located on The Strip, this American burger joint offers vegan options with Gardein meat-substitutes in their burgers and street tacos at a cheap price.
  7. Pancho’s Vegan Tacos – Located on the Eastside, this place offers up vegan tacos for all those taco lovers out there.
  8. Panevino – This Italian restaurant offers a plant-based menu for both lunch and dinner. Located in Southeast Las Vegas, the restaurant offers cool views of the Vegas skyline.

4 Ways Audio Books Can Transform Your Day

 

audioBook1Saying audio books are better than printed hardbacks/paperbacks can easily be damning in certain circles. But before you click away, just hear me out. Do you ever find yourself not having any spare time? Let alone, time to sit down and enjoy a good book? When I’m having a busy work week it’s nearly impossible to fit in an hour or so to open up a book.

My New Year’s goal is to read at least one chapter a day. But by the third day in January, I was failing to fit in my chapter a day. Then I discovered the audio book section in my local library. Normally, these can be pretty pricey, especially if you get the CD format instead of the MP3 drive version, but both of these beauties are completely free with a library card. And I was pleasantly surprised to find a varied mix ranging from current bestsellers to the classics.

There are many ways to use audio books if you think you don’t have enough time to fit reading into your schedule. And whatever genre you are interested in, there’s an audio book for that. Need self-help or motivation books. Check. Want to read a suspenseful thriller? Check. Or, need something with a little romance? Check, check check.

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One great use of an audio book is to listen to it on your daily commute to work. A 20-30 minute drive can turn into 40-60 minutes of reading (or listening to) a book a day. And with the right book, your daily commute will become more enjoyable.

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My second favorite way to listen to an audio book is to download it onto my phone and plug in my headphones and listen to it while I walk my dog. My library has MP3 digital audio books available to download, but you can also try Amazon or Audible to find any book you want to listen to in a digital download format. I try to walk my dog everyday for 20-30 minutes, so this is just another way I squeeze in more reading.

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Also, another great thing about the digital download of an audio book on your phone is that wherever you go your book will be right there with you. For example, if you have to go to appointments where you have to wait, like a doctor’s office, then this is just another way to squeeze in more reading and pass the time.

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A fourth way to incorporate an audio book into your daily life is to listen to it while doing chores or errands. I think I can say that no one looks forward to doing chores, however listening to an audio book helps me get them done with less complaint. I simply download the book on my phone, plug in my headphone, and I’m off to wash dishes or vacuum.

While I love having the feel of a paperback in my hands, right now with my schedule, audio books are a life saver and they help e enjoy many parts of my day.

The Perfect Book and the Perfect Night in on Valentine’s Day

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This Valentine’s Day, my husband and I will be taking a break from the hoopla that is Valentine’s Day. So, instead of putting pressure on each other with gifts and dinner reservations, we’ll be staying in and hanging out at home. And if you find yourself at home too, then I have the perfect book to keep you company, because who needs a Valentine when you have the perfect book.

Tucker Shaw’s Oh Yeah, Audrey! is a well-written easy read that pairs Audrey Hepburn’s most infamous character Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s with your inner fangirl in this sparky and delightful novel.

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Just as the book jacket states, 16-year-old Gemma Beasley runs away to New York City for 24 hours to meet up with other Holly/Audrey fans to see a special anniversary screening of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. But best laid plans can and do go awry when Gemma gets swooned off her feet by a real-life Paul Varkjak. Gemma lives her New York minute life by following the mantra of “What would Audrey do?” but ends up in situations closely similar to Holly, where she ends up around suspicious people with questionable motives.

I absolutely loved Gemma and her reactions to the things going on around her. It felt completely authentic and very relatable. I was a little disappointed in the fact that it’s set in only 24 hours. This led to little character development, especially all of Gemma’s friends and Gemma’s love interest. Because of this, some characters felt like clichés, like the fabulous gay best friend and the entitled rich-boy who thinks he can buy a girl. Actually, that last character bothered me a lot because the novel shows him genuinely pursuing Gemma. I mean, why bother having him spend month after month having hour long phone calls if all he wanted was sex? This character just didn’t add up to me.

But, nonetheless, this novel successfully delivers a story about friendship and about Gemma finding herself while paying tribute to Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly.

Like I said before, this is a fast read and can easily be read in a day. So, I recommend watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s (available on Netflix) to better understand all the book’s references. For Valentine’s, all you need is a fabulous evening. Whether you inhibit your inner Holly Golightly by wearing a black dress, black opera gloves, pearls, with a coffee and croissant in your hand, or you stay home in pajamas cuddled up with a book on the couch with a glass of wine, just remember that this Valentine’s Day can still be fabulous darling.

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And if you stay in and find yourself reading this book, just remember Holly Golightly’s advice, “A girl doesn’t read this sort of thing without her lipstick.”

Easy Vegan Valentine’s Day Dinner

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Valentine’s Day can put a lot of pressure to do something extremely nice for your beloved partner. With commercialism pushing materialistic goods onto customers, it can be easy to lose sight of what this day is truly about. Valentine’s Day is about celebrating romance and being with the person you love. A great way to spend one-on-one time with your partner can be having a nice romantic dinner. But trying to get a dinner reservation on Valentine’s Day? Forget about it, I have a better option for you that’ll be way more heart-felt and lighter on your wallet. This Valentine’s Day, give the gift of food by making a beautiful dinner for your loved one. And don’t worry, this won’t be a crazy difficult 5-course French meal. This easy vegan Valentine’s Day dinner will make you be impressed with yourself for putting together a fancy-looking home-made meal with little effort.

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If you’re like me, then you might be disappointed that Valentine’s Day falls on a Wednesday. Who has time to cook a delicious home-made meal in the middle of week? I know I don’t. Here’s where your new best friend, Gardein, saves the day. Gardein has a tasty orange “chicken” that can be made in less then 20 minutes. And if Gardein isn’t in your local grocery store, you can buy it online, or if you live near a Trader Joe’s then you can see if they carry their own brand of vegan orange chicken.

And the meal itself is seriously easy to put together. All you’ll need to do is cook 1 cup of rice in a pot on the stove. For 1 cup of rice, use 1 ½ to 2 cups of water. About 1 minutes in, start cooking the orange chicken and voila the rice and the orange chicken will be done about the same time. I like to top my orange chicken with sesame seeds, but this is optional.

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And if you want to be extra fancy, I recommend serving spring rolls (which are vegan) as an appetizer. You can find spring rolls in the frozen section of your grocery store. If they are spring rolls, not egg rolls, then they are usually vegan. My favorite spring rolls are from Trader Joe’s, but there are many cheap selections from Safeway that are just as tasty.

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Now, if you can’t find the Gardein orange chicken, or you prefer to make a simple dish then let me recommend this amazing Pineapple Fried Rice recipe that is super easy to make and super impressive for any date.

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Pineapple Fried Rice

Prep: 15 minutes Cook: 30 minutes Ready in 45 minutes

Ingredients

3 cups of water

1 ½ cups of rice

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (Peanut oil if you prefer)

1 small yellow onion, chopped

1 cup of frozen peas and carrots from a frozen bag mixture

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

3 tablespoons soy sauce

½ can of pineapple chunks

¼ cup roasted peanuts

Directions

  1. In a saucepan bring water to a boil. Stir in rice. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat peanut or vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, pineapple chunks and pepper flakes, to taste. Cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high and stir in cooked rice, green onions and soy sauce. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Add frozen peas and carrots and cook 1 minute more. Remove from heat. Mix well. Garnish with peanuts, if desired.

Now, if you want to add a nice dessert to your Valentine’s Day dinner, then we might need to revisit that 5-course French meal again. Just kidding, we won’t be needing all 5 courses, however, let’s revisit everyone’s favorite part of the meal – dessert. My favorite vegan dessert of all time is Pepperidge Farm’s Raspberry’s Turnovers. And yes, they are fluffy, flakey French dessert that is 100% vegan. And best of all, it’s readily available in the dessert section of your local grocery store. They also have them in apple and peach flavors too, if that suits your fancy.

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I know champagne is the typical go-to for a romantic dinner, but champagne can be pretty pricey. I love to pair a home-made dinner with Italian Sodas, especially the Grapefruit and Blood Orange flavors. It’s different enough to make the occasion special, and tasty enough to add a fun element to your dinner. If you are interested in making your own, try the recipe below to taste a tropical version of an Italian Soda.

Tropical Italian Soda (Non-alcoholic Blue Hawaii)

Ingredients

3 parts Club Soda

½ part Orange Juice

½ part Pineapple Juice

Mix all parts into a container. Serve over ice and enjoy.

Make this Valentine’s Day extra special by trying some of these dishes and/or recipes and I wish you a wonderful, romantic day spent with loved ones.

Vegan Makeup Brands

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If you are new to being vegan, you might not know that a lot of makeup companies still test on animals. I honestly have no idea why animals need to be tested for mascaras and lipsticks. It’s absolutely ridiculous to me. But, not to worry because more and more companies everyday are becoming cruelty-free and are making their ingredients vegan. So, I’ve compiled some of my favorite companies that range from high end, to drugstore, to natural makeup brands.

Before I dive in, I’d like to note that certain vegan makeup brands are excluded from this list because while they retail in the US as vegan; however, they sell to China which tests all their imported makeup on animals.

Below are bullet point lists of my favorite vegan companies and if you are interested in seeing more vegan makeup companies then make sure to check out Cruelty-Free Kitty. They have a great compiles list of vegan makeup brands that you can see here. And if you love the galaxy animal prints above, then make sure to check out The National Anthem on Etsy to buy some of their cool prints and wall art décor. You can see some of their cool artwork here. And now, onto the list of vegan makeup brands.

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Vegan Eats: Sonoma, California

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Sonoma County is mostly known for its rolling hills covered with rows of vineyards. However, it’s becoming one of the biggest hubs for vegan and vegetarian restaurants in the Bay Area, second to San Francisco. For this post, I am covering three different cities that are within Sonoma County. So, wherever your wine tasting adventures may take you, I’ve got you covered. Let’s dive into the tastiest vegan eats Nor Cal has to offer.

First up is a vegan restaurant in the quaint town of Sebastopol called Slice of Life. It’s nestled next to Whole Foods, so it can easily be missed or overlooked. But this is a place you surely don’t want to miss. There is a wide range from which you can you can order here. Some of the local favorites include: Tofu Rancheros, Kale Caesar Salad, Mushroom Stroganoff, California Tempeh Reuben, Queso Dip (made from cashews) with blue corn tortilla ships, Nachos, Vegan Pizza, and the Nut Burger served with sweet potato fries. I ordered the AvoFresco Sandwich which was jammed full of two layers of avocado mash, carrots, pickled red cabbage, sprouts, and lettuce. This was a very filling yet healthy lunch option also served with a vegan coleslaw. I love a good sandwich and this one is packed full of veggies, so if you are a garden salad lover then this is the sandwich for you. I also had the sprout salad topped with an avocado dressing. As you can see, avocados are a main staple in a Northern Californian’s diet. And for dessert, I had the raw blueberry cheesecake, which this place is known for. There are gluten-free and oil-free options on the menu as well. The dishes range from $5-$12 and since they only use fresh local organic ingredients that means you are getting a good deal to eat healthy.

My next suggestion is a vegan drive-thru in Rohnert Park called Amy’s Drive-Thru. If you miss those days of eating at In N Out or other fast-food chains, then Amy’s is a great option for you. Amy’s might sound familiar to you because this is the same company as Amy’s Frozen Food which is headquartered in Sonoma County. Most of Amy’s frozen food products are vegetarian, but what’s cool about Amy’s Drive-Thru is that there is a whole menu dedicated to vegan options. Just be prepared for a long line, this place can get busy. But the staff does a wonderful job of keeping the line moving and getting the food out fast. They are mostly known for their burgers, chili (vegan) cheese fries, non-dairy shakes, vegan mac n cheese, and vegan pizza. So, since I was craving my non-vegan days at In N Out, I ordered The Amy Burger (with vegan cheese), fries, and a non-dairy chocolate shake. This place does not disappoint. It satisfied all those fast-food cravings I had. The pricing is comparable to other burger joints and that’s impressive since they only use local organic ingredients.

And for my last recommendation, I suggest an Ethiopian restaurant located in Santa Rosa called Abyssinia Restaurant. I first came here many years ago with my husband and his parents. This place is great for vegan and meat-eaters alike since they have options for both. While my husband and his parents ordered the beef combo, I ordered the vegetarian combo. Served on a traditional ingera bread (a thin flat bread) are beans, lentils, a garden salad, and sauces seasoned with spices and flavors that made this dish taste very rich and complex. To eat this dish, you simply tear the ingera bread and scoop it up using your hands. I loved the experience of eating with my hands and the dining experience I shared with my family tasting this culture new to me. For about $15 a person (meal and drink included), you get a great deal on traditional African food.

Places to Eat

  • Slice of Life

6970 McKinley St, Sebastopol, CA 95472

  • Amy’s Drive-Thru

58 Golf Course Dr W, Rohnert Park, CA 94928

  • Abyssinia Restaurant

913 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Closed Sundays

Thrifty Girl Guide: Workout Clothes

Many people start the new year with the goal to work out and exercise more, and if you are on this journey then this post will help you motivate you to achieve that goal. If you aren’t on that bandwagon of new year’s resolutions, then not to worry, because finding workout clothes for a steal is still a good enough reason to keep reading this. Because, let’s be honest, even if we aren’t working out in our workout clothes, they are still incredibly comfy to lounge around in. But work out clothes are so expensive. I knew there had to be a better way to find something comfy enough to move around in without breaking the bank. Keep reading to find out I bought 5 workout outfits for only $50!

Here is my first look where I paired these Reebok capris with this FILA top. I like the contrast of the accenting neon yellow against the greys and blacks. The Reebok capris were only $7 and the FILA top was $5, both found at Goodwill.

In Look 2, I found thee amazing pink Nike shorts at Macy’s for only $4. Buying summer clothes in winter is a great way to find exclusive discounts. Plus, Macy’s also has some good coupons that reduce an already great price to an even better deal. The black top seen here is from Danskin and at only $4 it puts the good in Goodwill.

Look 3 is my comfy lounge around the house look. These are all workout clothes, but I tend to them casually as my normal clothes. You don’t need to workout to feel comfy, so another great use of these outfits is just to wear as your normal clothes. Normally, these Spalding pants retail at $55. But I found these at Goodwill for only $6! I paired them with this athletic top that I was gifted for Christmas, but it too was second-hand.

In Look 4, you can see I found another Danskin athletic shirt but this time in white. I paired it with these Under Armour shorts I found at TJMaxx for $12. So, for a total of $16 you can look like a total work out goddess.

For my fifth and final look, I paired my favorite Adidas capris with this black Nike athletic shirt. Bothe were found at Goodwill. The capris cost $5 and the top cost only $3!

Getting in shape, being more athletic, whatever your goals for 2018 may be, just know you don’t have to break the bank to invest a little into yourself. Now, that you know where to find the best deals for workout clothes, I hope you have enough motivation to kick-start 2018. I’ve linked below some of my favorite YouTube channels if you need a good workout but can’t afford a gym membership. These at-home workout videos are short enough to make it easy to fit into your schedule but intense enough to feel a good burn. Good luck with your workouts or make 2018 your most comfy year yet.

YouTube Channels:

  1. Boho Beautiful: Has great Pilates and Yoga workouts
  2. Lucy Wyndham-Read: Great low-impact and short workouts that make it easy for everyone to exercise.
  3. Zuzka Light: High cardio, core strength, and short workouts that will make you feel the burn.

Save Like a Girl Boss: Issue 1

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One of my new year’s resolutions this year is to save money where I can, but it’s a little hard when I like to spend certain expenses on taking care of myself. I think it’s important to do things that make you feel good as well as boost your morale and self-esteem. For me, that means getting my nails done once a month. I limit myself to once a month, so I don’t spend a lot, but recently I found a way to cut my expenses in half.

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I normally get a fill with gel polish, which costs $26, and including a tip makes it about $30-$31. I have no idea why nail salons charge $10 more just because of the gel polish. However, I do like the gel polish because it can last 3-4 weeks on acrylic nails. But a whole bottle of gel polish costs less than $10. So, for this past Christmas and birthday, I asked for gel polishes that came in plenty of different colors to start my own mini salon. I found some good collections that are reasonably priced on Amazon. This one here has six bottles for only $16, making it less than $3 per bottle. What a steal!

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I still go to the nail salon once a month. But, now I ask for a fill with no polish, no top coat, nothing. This costs $16, and with a tip makes a total of about $18-$19. Afterwards, I go home and apply whatever polish I want to. And recently, I got a chrome kit that included nine colors for only $16 on Amazon, which I’ll link here. Below, you’ll see the evidence of how good this stuff works. I’ve had it on my toes for two weeks and the chrome is still great.

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At the salon, they charge $15 for chrome nails, but for a dollar more you can get a set of nine chrome colors.

Initially, you’ll have to put up some money to invest in a few good bottles of gel polish, but overall, it’ll be cheaper. If you can get gel polishes gifted to you like I did for Christmas and your birthday, then you’ll save even more money like a girl boss!

New Year, New Goals

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In my last post, I referred to new year’s resolutions as a reason for many people changing their diets this time of year. Weight loss is the number one new year’s resolution, but it’s a hard one to keep since true weight loss requires you to change a lifetime of poor habits.

I’ve never been a big fan of the concept of new year’s resolutions, mainly because I’ve always associated them with failure. I don’t know anyone who’s ever stuck to their new year’s resolutions. So, I prefer the term goals. By its definition, the word goal means to have an end or a desired result. So, for the new year, I’m creating new goals for what I want to get out of 2018.

Keep reading to see how I plan my new goals for 2018 and how I’m going to accomplish them.

Goal 1: Eat Healthier

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This is a goal most people try to accomplish with the start of a new year. I’m not trying to lose any weight, but I am trying to reduce how much processed food I eat and to decrease my overall sugar intake. I already eat a vegan diet which helps me get my fruit and veggies in, but I’ve noticed that I’ve relied a lot more on vegan junk food that is highly processed and usually high in sugar. The way that I am achieving this goal is to just cut out what I know is bad for me. No more vegan junk food like potato chips, vegan desserts, and sodas. Instead, I’m replacing them with fruit. If I crave chips, I’ll make myself baked potatoes with seasonings. Same thing, way healthier option. If I crave vegan chocolate chip cookies or vegan desserts, I’ll have fresh fruit like strawberries. And if I crave sodas, then I’ll make a fruit smoothie. The key essential things to do with changing your food habits is to reduce the amount you eat out (so you don’t cheat) and you stock up your fridge. These two things will help you stay focused and not get distracted with other, lesser, food options.

Goal 2: Save Up For A Car

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Believe it or not, my eating healthier will actually save me a lot of money. By staying in, instead of eating out, I will eat out less which means I’ll be saving more money. And this helps with my next goal because my husband and I want to purchase a new car by the time our insurance expires at the end of June. This gives a time line of when we need to buy a car, which motivates us to start saving immediately. In fact, we started saving last month in December. The best way to make a new goal work is to just start it, no need to wait or procrastinate, just start it today. And make sure you plan out how much you can realistically save up each month. My husband and I looked at our last paychecks for the month of December and budgeted how much bills, rent, etc. are for the month and how much we have remaining. So, our goal is to save $2,000 per month. And last month, we did extra good and doubled that and saved almost $4,000. So, we are already at a great start which is good because it propels us forward. And while we are saving, we are researching and researching like crazy for our next car, which constantly reminds us why we are working so hard to save money.

Future Goal Ideas

Those two are the only goals that I have made my definite goals for 2018, but I plan to add a few more as the year goes on. However, I know that things change and so may my plans. As long as you are open-minded and flexible you can add as many new goals for the new year as you want. Here are some ideas that I have (which aren’t set in stone) that I hope to implement in 2018.

  1. Go to my mom’s for Christmas.
  2. Save up to go to Bahamas with my mom and siblings next year for Christmas break vacation.
  3. Plan weekend get-away’s with my husband
  4. Visit my grandparents in California (in February)

And I’ll add things to the list as the year goes on, but for now this is all I want for the new year. I hope you have a great start to a new year and that you get to achieve your new goals too.