Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Basics of a Good Smoothie



In my attempt to step up my game on the health food front I've developed a completely new appreciation of the humble smoothie. A speedy breakfast, nutritious lunch or an afternoon perk-me-up, there's no time in the day that a smoothie doesn't belong. The perfect way to sneak in some veggies and a superfood or two, plus there's a whole heap of ways to customise based on your tastes or whatever you've got kicking around the kitchen. The hard part comes when knowing what to add, how much to add and if those flavours will work well together. After a little trial and error I think I've come up with the basics behind a good smoothie.

The Base
This is what bulks out your smoothie, the base layer that you can add a variety of flavours to. My base always consist of a banana (the riper the better) and some sort of liquid. A non-dairy milk is my usual choice given that I'm dairy free, but water is ok too. I usually use oat or almond milk.

Sneaky Veggies
My main tip here is start small. Don't jump straight in to a 4 parts kale to 1 part banana combo, you're guaranteed to hate it. Dark leafy greens are good to add thanks to their high nutritional value and ease of blending. Spinach is a good option for beginners and it's my personal favourite. Even the most basic blender seems to be able to deal with it quite well and the flavour is undetectable. I like to shove in a good two or three handfuls and still can't taste the difference.

Flavour Enhancers
Whilst the banana will add a good amount of sweetness and help thicken things up a little, it's also good to add a little more fruit to the mix, especially if you're just starting out. Here's where you can get creative. Berries, kiwi, mango, passionfruit.. fresh or frozen, the choice is yours. Berries are always a winner as they freeze well so can be kept on hand for anytime. I usually opt for whatever is in season to help keep costs low. Experiment a little and see what you enjoy.

The Add-Ins
Not only are smoothies a good way to incorporate some veggies into your diet but you can also sneak in a whole heap of superfoods. I add in both chia and flax seeds as well as maca powder. Chia seeds are a great source of a whole heap of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as well as Omega 3 (particularly important for someone like me who doesn't like fish). Flax seeds are another one high in Omega 3 whilst maca powder helps keep you energised and balance hormones. I add about a teaspoon of each, chia just sprinkled on top and flax and maca blended in. If you're going to try maca powder it's worth noting that it can have a fairly big impact on your body (hormone-wise), so it's best to start with small doses.

Feel free to ask any questions below or send me a tweet. Let me know if you give smoothie making a try!

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Thursday, 18 December 2014

A Subtle Christmas Shimmer



What better time than the festive season to crank out a little shimmer? It's definitely the right time of the year for it, but sometimes it's hard to know where to begin. I don't like to go too overboard a la 90s body shimmer, but there's not reason not to include a little glitz. Nails are my favourite place to experiment as it's easy to remain of the chic side.

A simple nude paired with a little shimmer is festive without being too OTT, perhaps even work appropriate. My favourite pairing of the moment is Rimmel's Oh Mr Darcy and Essie's Set in Stones, my attempt at the whole minimalistic chic look. Whilst I've been known to rock Set in Stones for an accent nail, lately I've really been loving the whole gradient look. Shown above, it reminds me of a white Christmas (about as close as I'll get to one here in Australia) and it's super easy to achieve.

Christmas nails sorted, now I'm just dreading that pesky glitter removal. Cotton wool at the ready girls.
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Sunday, 14 December 2014

To Add To The Wishlist

What's a holiday without a little beauty splurge? And when that beauty splurge happens to feature a neutral eye palette and is aptly named- I'm one happy bunny. Obviously Sephora was one of my first stops overseas and this little set from Tarte instantly caught my eye. The Bon Voyage Set includes a huge 7 products bundled into a handy little travel bag (not my favourite colour/pattern/design ever but handy none the less).

There's a little bit of everything inside; two lip products; Romantic Lip Tint and LipSurgence Gloss, the popular Lights Camera Lashes Mascara, Muse Cheek stain, Maracuja Oil, Smooth Operator Finishing Powder and my personal favourite, a 20 pan eyeshadow palette. Whilst it's still early days I have fallen in love with the mascara (I'm sure it will crop up in more detail around these parts soon), as well as the cheek stain. Muse is a rosey, bronze shade which is just perfect for a natural summertime flush.

But, of course, the star of the show is that stunning eye palette. I'm an eyeshadow fiend if there ever was one and this does not disappoint. A stunning 20 shades with a nice mix of mattes and shimmers, even the names are amazing. Fall in Lourve, Merci You Later, Too Haute to Handle and Eiffel for You are a few personal favs of mine, gotta love a good pun. Names aside the formulation of these beauts is pretty fab, they blend easily and last the test of time.

More deets coming soon, but in the mean time... definitely one to add to that ever growing Christmas list ;). 
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Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Exercise and Weight Loss: No Gym Membership Required

A little while back now I spoke about my healthy habits, the small daily changes I was making to improve my general lifestyle. Fast forward six months or so and the whole 'healthy lifestyle' thing is really starting to make an impact. I've never been one to be particularly strict diet wise, the odd sneaky treat is A-OK with me, but as they always say- moderation is key.

I started small with the odd veg-filled smoothie or extra serving of greens with each meal and I really fell in love with healthy foods.  I was shocked at how tasty a healthy, vegetarian meal could be and how much I enjoyed fuelling my body. My quest for a more energised, healthy body soon led me into exercising. Not quite ready to lock myself into a gym membership just yet, I turned to some 'from-home' options. I've discovered a whole heap of fitness sites/videos and even Instagram accounts that help keep me motivated and they're completely free to enjoy from the comfort of your own home! That means no judgemental looks when I struggle to complete push up number five. Upper body strength is really not my thang. Yoga mat and water bottle at the ready, it's time to get into shape from the comfort of your lounge room.

Shed Fat on Instagram- Amazing to follow for a mid day kick in the butt to fit in a little exercise. A range of little circuits you can complete at home, heck you could even do them in the office if you don't mind being a little schweeeaaty (just don't forget the deodorant!). They've got a range of 'Night Exercises' which are great for those super busy days when you haven't managed to jam a work out in earlier.

FitnessBlender.com- An incredibly fit couple, these guys have created more than 360 free workout videos with an extra 3-6 uploaded weekly. Now that's impressive. Whether you want something for your arms, legs, abs or something low intensity or high, there's sure to be something to suit. My personal favourite is their 5 Day Challenge to Burn Fat and Build Lean Muscle. It's extremely painful but so worth it. One I've revisited time and time again. They've also got a super handy search function on their site which allows you to find your ideal workout based on time, calories burnt, difficulty and more.

Yoga with Adriene- For my 'taking a break from Fitness Blender' days when I'm after something a little lower intensity but equally painful. Adriene's Yoga for Weight Loss will clear up those 'yoga is easy' rumours within minutes- boy did it hurt to laugh the next day. 

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Sunday, 23 November 2014

Homemade Granola



 Breakfast is probably one of my favourite meals of the day and I love to experiment, particularly with healthy foods. Smoothies, pancakes, oatmeal, chia pudding.. the list is endless! I use to be such a cereal lover but since becoming a little wiser nutrition wise, I've realised just how full of sugar those innocent looking cardboard boxes are. It can be extremely pricey to pick up cereals that are actually good for you, so why not try whipping something up at home? I love getting busy in the kitchen but for mornings when time just does not permit, it's great to have something healthy in your stash that you can put together in minutes and enjoy.

This recipe is a mix of ones I've seen online but there's really no hard and fast rules. It's extremely customisable, use whatever nuts, dried fruits and seeds you've got hanging around and you enjoy. Same thing goes for spices, if you're not a cinnamon fan you could always experiment with nutmeg or even pumpkin spice- don't be afraid to try something different.

Everything included is super healthy and nutritious. Oats for long-lasting energy, flax seed for all important Omega 3's, pumpkin and sunflower seeds for all kinds of vitamins and minerals, cinnamon for stabilising blood sugar levels, coconut oil for a little healthy fat and agave syrup because it's a much healthier alternative to sugar. I also like to mix up my additions but sultana and almonds are a personal favourite.

I top mine with oat milk, chia seeds and any fresh fruit I've got hanging around, berries are particularly tasty, and you've got a yummy, nutritious breakfast in just a few minutes. Plus this stuff lasts really well in an airtight container.

2 1/2 cups of oats
1 cup almonds
1 cup raisins 
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup flax seeds
3 tablespoons of coconut oil
4 teaspoons of cinnamon (add more or less depending on how much of a cinnamon fan you are)
3 tablespoons agave syrup (you could also use good quality maple syrup)

Start by preheating your oven to 180C and blitzing almonds in a food processor or chopping by hand to make small chunks. Mix together in a large bowl with all the other seeds and oats. Next up time to melt the coconut oil with the agave syrup and cinnamon. You can do this over the stove or simply pop in the microwave for a few seconds. Once all melted, mix through with the dry ingredients you've already prepared. 

Spread the mixture out over a lined baking tray and pop into your preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes. I like to check back every 10 minutes or so to give things a little stir and make sure it's not getting too crispy. Regular stirring will also help minimise the chance of burning the top bits. 

Once it's cooked to your liking remove from the oven, I don't like mine too crunchy so usually only leave it in for about 25 minutes. You can now stir through any dried fruit and once cool, pop into an airtight container to keep fresh. It keeps well for at least 3 weeks, I think that's the longest I've ever managed to keep a batch going for! It really is that yummy!


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Sunday, 16 November 2014

A Skincare Update

It's been a while since I've talked skincare on the blog. I've been going through some tough times on the skin front, one minute it's looking better than ever, the next I'm going through a massive breakout and I'm really at my wits end. This hasn't left me feeling too inspired skincare wise however there have been a few stand out products helping me get through.

First up is one I can't believe hasn't made an appearance yet, Nip and Fab's Glycolic Radiance Renewal Pads. Some of you will know that I'm an acid toner fan with my previous mentions of Clarin's Exfoliating Toner but these N&F pads have really made an impact. This is my second tub of these- see why I can't believe I haven't mentioned them yet?! They're very gentle for an acid product, I've even been using them twice daily. They seem to really help with those pesky, under-skin, blemishes that like to stick around for ages.

Another one aimed at helping on the blemish front is Origin's Clear Improvements mask. I've had this in my stash for quite some time but recently I've really been getting some decent use out of it. Best when used on a regular basis, it may initially cause a breakout or two but with regular use (think once or twice a week) my skin looks noticeably less congested. Great for those weird red spots that aren't really spots but are kind of just there, chilling in all their congested glory.

A new addition to my skincare stash is the very well known Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair. Shown above is little sample I received in a gift with purchase however I'm fairly sure I'll be picking up the full version. I was always worried it would be way too heavy for my oily skin but it actually soaks in with ease and leaves my complexion glowing come morning. A good option for something very hydrating but not as heavy as some moisturisers.

I couldn't do a skincare update without mentioning Clinique's Take Off The Day Cleansing Balm; my daily makeup remover of choice. I have made a seriously hefty dent in this stuff. I use it every day to remove all traces of makeup before continuing on with a second cleanse. It removes even heavy eye makeup and a little goes a long way.
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Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Holiday Planning Tips


A post exam treat is on the cards for my boyfriend and I. Four hours after our final exam for the year we'll be hoping on the plane to Singapore and a week later, Kuala Lumpur. Much holiday planning has ensued and it time things on the blog got a little holiday-centric. Think inflight skincare routine, multi-tasking holiday beauties and carry on essentials. It's all in the works. I can't be the only one that gets completely over involved in holiday preparation. Holiday themed YouTube videos are my fodder of choice and lists are begun way, way in advance.

Today I'm coming at you with my top holiday planning tips. Now by no means am I a travel expert but I have most definitely caught the travel bug. In true Virgo style I love the opportunity to organise just about anything and here's my favourite resources for when holiday time comes around.

TripAdvisor is your best friend- I can not imagine choosing a hotel without the help of TripAdvisor. On my trip to Thailand last year I stayed in 5 different hotels, all found through TripAdvisor and all amazing (check out the pics here). You can arrange hotel listings by budget, location, lifestyle.. it really is an amazing resource. The forum section is also super helpful, either reading through everyone else's feeds or posting your own question- the community are so incredibly helpful!

Skyscanner is a pretty close second- the minefield of flights can be a difficult one to navigate, finding the cheapest option on the day/time that suits you best. Step in Skyscanner. A website and app that allows you to search a number of different airlines for the cheapest result. My favourite thing is searching 'destination: everywhere' and planning countless different trips, so sad.

Plan, plan and plan but leave some spare time- I think this is such an important thing to keep in mind. Depending on the style of holiday you're going on, it's understandable for you to want to plan just about everything, but it's important to keep some spare time. By all means make a list of all the attractions and activities you want to see and do but save time for those little experiences you can't plan. Venture off the beaten path and explore the real culture of where ever you're visiting, it's often how the best memories are made.
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