Dear Diary

_DSC3292

So I know the new year is technically just another day, and I also know that day is now long past, but as much as I have a good head on my shoulders (most of the time) I can’t help but get into the whole “new year, new me” routine.

Everyone (and I really mean everyone) can always be a bit better, whether it’s financially, health-related, environmental or interpersonal. There’s always room for improvement, and though you can change your life any day of the week, sometimes it takes a made up shift to get your ass in gear. Personally I really love my bad habits, I take ownership of them like they’re a special part of me, and this year I collected bad habits like Pokemon cards (or whatever is relevant these days). Every day I woke up knowing there was an endless list of things I wanted to shift, change and improve, yet every night I went to bed disappointed in myself and the pile of bad decisions weighing on my shoulders.

I started my goals for this new year with a simple list of what I want more and less of in my life, than built out my goals from there. In the end, it turned out something like this:

_DSC3304

MORE >>

Movement
Vegetables
Live music
Time with friends
Sweating
Outdoors
Adventure
Cooking
Dancing
Energy

LESS <<

Thinking about boys
Drinking
Shopping
Animal Products
Sleeping
Parties and Events
Small Talk
Smoking
Complaining
Toxic humans

Action Plan //

None of these less and more ideas make much sense without actions behind them, so after I had established the things that build me up and break me down, I started working out how to implement the changes I wanted (correction: needed) to see. If I was to sum up my 2017, I’d have to call it “The Year of Least Caring” because I really lost sight of so many of the values that make me, well, me. Here’s how I got started spinning a better story for myself:

_DSC3205

Start Fresh //

I really treated my body like a garbage dump last year, worse than I ever have before (even in University when I lived on Pop Tarts, Pizza Pops and Ben & Jerry’s!) I smoked more than I care to admit, even early in the morning (EW) and got into a pattern of having at LEAST two drinks a day. I felt puffy and slow and don’t even get me started on the mood swings. When I decided to start 2018 off on a better foot I knew I needed to do a real Spring Cleaning for my body.

In an effort to reset my body, I signed up for a juice cleanse with Daily Press Juicery a couple weeks after quitting smoking cold turkey on Christmas Eve. I know what you’re thinking – “Didn’t she try this last year?” Yes, I did, but sometimes quitting smoking takes a long time with a lot of tries, and this year I really fully feel like it will stick. It’s been over a month!

I really loved doing the cleanse, though I did continue to eat a small amount of healthy, warm food throughout to sustain my body for the winter. I especially love the lemony activated charcoal juice, and the night time nut mylk!

_DSC3249

I’ve also been upping my antioxidants by drinking Matcha, the purest way to get all the health benefits of green tea! This stuff is supercharged with health benefits and doesn’t come with the same crash coffee does when you wake up with it. I can’t get enough of Matcha Ninja – it’s super easy to use and really high quality (you can tell by how green it is!) and the gorgeous Matcha Book I seem to see EVERYWHERE is filled with amazing new ways to use it in recipes too! Hello vegan matcha and cashew soup!

Cleansing doesn’t end on the inside – I’ve also been refreshing my space with new essential oil blends in my diffuser each day. Oui Fresh has the prettiest line on the market, and I’ve been loving their “Bergamot Mint” and “Rose Geranium” for cold winter mornings.

_DSC3209

Food for Thought //

When I say I treated my body like a garbage dump, I in part really mean I was putting constant garbage into my body. Think Uber Eats takeout almost every night, basically delivered to my bedside in between naps – yeah, not a cute look. I am a super extreme person by nature, so when I stop caring in one capacity it tends to spread like a rot into every piece of my life. Food was a huge part of what my 2017 so difficult, which is crazy considering I LOVE cooking, grocery shopping, and even doing dishes!

In taking back control of my fridge, I set a few really straightforward goals. I was super inspired by A Beautiful Mess’ Weekday/Weekend Challenge, a somewhat more “digestible” take on the Whole 30. Basically you skip sugar and refined sweeteners, refined white flour and rice, alcohol and dairy, plus you’re encouraged to eat a variety of different foods. It’s a really easy way to push yourself to get creative in the kitchen, and to be healthier in a sustainable pattern. Side note – their Oui Fresh meal planning notepads make getting organized simple and CUTE.

_DSC3266

_DSC3285

Speaking of getting creative, I also want to cook through a number of cookbooks this year, with the added challenge of making recipes vegetarian that aren’t written that way. I’m starting out with Cherry Bombe’s Pink Spaghetti and Beet Ricotta Dumplings!

Last but not least, I’ve been seriously upping my vitamin intake. My friend Dana gave me some of her Ritual Vitamins while I was visiting in LA and I’m totally hooked! They’re vegetarian, made for women specifically, and taste minty when you swallow them. I also introduced Ouai Thinning Hair Supplements to offset some of my bleaching damage, and adding Moon Juice’s Pearl Powder to my smoothies for skin clarity.

_DSC3218

Heart Over Head //

I spent far too much time last year out, making empty connections and running from event to event every single night. Constantly sleep-deprived, my soul was drained from all the small talk and my body was tired of processing too much champagne. This year I’m making sure I cherish my time, investing in people, places and things that make me happy, like the dog park and my weekly Soul Cycle classes. I’ve also been reading “Light is the New Black” and it’s been super helpful when it comes to figuring out what really fills you up, and what brings you down. I highly recommend getting a copy and marking it up with notes like I have!

Back to Basics //

I’ve tried using natural products off and on over the years but I always end up giving up because it’s too hard to find products that actually work. This year I decided to try one last time and I was super pleasantly surprised by both my toothpaste and deodorant discoveries. Davids toothpaste is natural, vegan, made in the USA and comes with a handy metal took that helps squeeze every last drop out of the tube (SO GOOD!) I really love the subtle minty flavour and my teeth are looking just as white – in fact last time I went to the dentist I had not a single cavity!

_DSC3279

Deodorant was a bit more daunting – we’ve all struggled with the bad smell moments associated with making the switch. This time around I tried the Kaia Naturals Takesumi Detox Charcoal Detox Deodorant, which promises you’ll be BO-free by 30 days after your body detoxes from chemical deodorant. They sent me a booster soap to try along with it, which accelerates the process, and honestly it it worked SO well, SO fast, I will never ever go back! You can read all about the five steps here, but for me I saw results immediately and haven’t had a smell problem even after the most intense workouts.

I started working on this action plan a few days before Christmas Eve, so I’ve been at it almost a month. I don’t want to sound like a phoney, but I actually feel better than I’ve felt in YEARS and for the first time, all that happiness is accredited to me, on my own – there’s no prince in sight, but I’m no longer a damsel in distress anyway. Let 2018 be known as the year I stop waiting for someone to save me and just save myself!

What are you doing to get your New year in gear?  Share with me in the comments below!

_DSC3272

Dear DiarySips, Sweets & Snacks

DSC_0178

Well, as expected living on just juice was a challenge- in fact, for me it was pretty much impossible. I’m a super active person, and I always have about 100 things on the go, so attempting to go so many days without any carbs and then survive two days drinking only liquids honestly just didn’t really work.

Though I did my best to relax, I ended up working and running errands like crazy before collapsing into bed and sleeping almost all day both days. I felt like I was missing out on a bunch of important time, and by the end of day one I just got SO hungry. What can I say? I truly love to eat, and though a cleanse might work if I was laying poolside in the sun all week reading books and taking long naps, a few days without food in the middle of cold Toronto winter and a crazy busy work week started to feel almost unhealthy.

And so, At the end of day one I ate a few bites of kale salad, and on day two I couldn’t help but snag a few pieces of the vegan sushi we made with Juniper Wood Kitchen.

DSC_0117

After my indiscretion, I ended up consulting Marcelina, curious why not eating even made sense in the first place. She explained that because our digestive system is always working hard to, well, digest, it never gets a break to heal and regenerate. By ingesting only liquid foods, we give it that break to cleanse and gather energy instead of continually loading it with solid food to process. This makes a ton of sense, but in the end I couldn’t ignore what my body was telling me- I really needed to eat, so I did.

Though I’m sure cleanse experts will shake their heads, I still feel really good about how I’ve done so far. It’s been a whole week since I’ve touched a cigarette, and six days without any animal products or junk food, which for me is VERY big. I didn’t crack and order a pizza, I didn’t go out drinking with my friends (despite their insistence vodka is basically just a potato), and most importantly I’m feeling so inspired to make all sorts of healthy vegan recipes this week!

But not so fast… I’ve still got one last day to go! I’ll report back later this week with the full review.

Dear DiarySips, Sweets & Snacks

DSC_0194

So here we are, almost halfway through January- oh how times flies! I was a little slow to get started on my resolutions this year, and you may have noticed I’ve been a lot more quiet than usual. what can I say? I needed a bit of me time! Anyway, here I am, back and better than ever.

In an effort to fast track some of my 2016 goals, I decided to try something I’ve failed at multiple times in the past: a cleanse! Now I know what you’re thinking- “Alyssa, you’ve mentioned time and time again that you don’t like cleanses and you’d rather eat? Who even are you!” Trust me, I’m definitely not attempting to survive on lemon water and cayenne for a week. Instead of trying to jump into a pre-set juice program or create on my own cleanse schedule based on the internet as I have in the past, I decided to turn to my favourite local juicery for help.

Village Juicery, to be precise.

I’ve had a pretty serious addiction to Village ever since they opened a couple years ago, and every time I visited to stock up on chocolate nut milk (you MUST try it) I became more curious about their Reset programs (aka custom juice cleanses). I loved the idea of a reset this month, especially with all of my 2015 bad habits and recent emotional baggage that I’d like to leave in the past, so I set up an appointment with Marcelina, one of Village’s in-house nutritionists, and dove right in.

Lesson one: you cannot just “dive in” to a juice cleanse! Marcelina and I talked through all of my eating habits, my energy levels, how I sleep, how much alcohol I drink (insert face palm) and more before she carefully drafted up a schedule of juices tailored to me. Because I’m so deeply attached to eating, she planned out two “Prepare” days, two “Eliminate” days, and one “Reset” day, which in English means I only had to make it through two days of just juice. During the other three days I’d be able to eat nuts, seeds, fruits and veggies (specifically greens!)

DSC_0185

And so here I am, reporting from the end of day 2. In an effort to prep and make my cleanse as successful as possible I started eating only veggies and a tiny bit of whole grains (brown rice mostly) right after my appointment at Village Monday, which means I’ve had no processed sugar, caffeine, white bread products, or alcohol for four days! It’s been a massive change for me considering I basically live on pizza and donuts, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve been dreaming of burritos and slices of cake nonstop for the past 48 hours.

Anyway, moving on!

I picked up my first 2 boxes of juice magic yesterday morning and got started right away. On top of the juices and little health shots Marcelina included chia breakfast bowls for the first two days, and some really tasty kale pulp crackers. She also included a calendar with timing for when to drink everything, and cute little tips for what to focus on each day (because she’s the sweetest ever), which made me feel a lot more motivated right away. That said, I somehow missed a memo, and for the most of yesterday I didn’t eat any veggies, just the breakfast bowl. That’s right, I put myself through hours of juice-only life by accident. MY BAD.

DSC_0179

Once I figured out I could eat veggies, nuts and seeds for these first official two days everything got a lot less dismal. I made a super tasty salad for dinner night one with tahini dressing, kale, cucumber, peppers, and an entire avocado (can you tell I miss my fats?), and snacked on my kale crackers with hummus all day yesterday. I feel sleepy much earlier than usual (Marcelina recommended sleeping before 10!) and have been battling a few headache attacks, but overall I feel really good about day one and two. My body actually feels nourished, which is an altogether new feeling, and as I start to shed my bad habits (I haven’t smoked since Sunday!) I can feel some of the bad vibes and sad feelings evaporating out of my life as well.

Starting this morning, it’s the big Kahuna- two days of just juice. Wish me luck? I’ll report back soon…

Dear Diary

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 2.07.06 PM

After almost a week of rest and regeneration, I’m finally feeling up to facing 2016 with everything I’ve got. January is practically made for self-improvement and new goals, and though 2015 wasn’t my favourite year on record it certainly taught me a lot about myself and where I’d like to be next.

Protect your magic // I’ve been hesitant about this one for awhile, but I think it’s finally time to embrace it based on recent life lessons. I’ve always loved how easily I trust, how strongly I love, and how much I throw myself into new experiences, but sadly I think the best thing I could do moving forward is to learn to be a bit more guarded. Giving away your magic feels wonderful until you have nothing but a few specks of glitter left for yourself, and I think I need to teach myself to only give what I receive back. To read more about the art movement that’s inspired me, click here.

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover // For a long time I was too busy to make time for one of my favourite things: learning. From watching documentaries to devouring books, I used to love to soak up new information like a sponge, and I’m really seriously invested in bringing that hunger back to my life. Also, podcasts! Any recommendations?

Go green // I don’t know what happened, but I used to eat so much healthier not long ago. These days I survive on a diet of mostly cheese, simple carbs, and sugar, which may look cute in photos but honestly, it does NOT feel good. Effective immediately I’m going to cut back on the diary and sugar, and work towards a mainly plant-based diet. I’ll be sure to share any new favourite recipes here!

DSC_0236

Snuff out the smoke // Very few of you know this because I never ever bring it up online, but I’ve smoked on and off for years. It always used to be just a casual social thing, but recently it’s become much more of a habit than I care to admit. I’m hoping to stop completely by the end of February, and in the meantime I’d love any tips you might have!

Run for it // Nothing in the world makes me feel more strong and totally free than a good run, in fact I always joke I run my best when I’m dealing with some form of emotional trauma. I want to work morning jogs into my daily routine instead of just sporadically when I’m feeling too sad to function.

Dear Diary

DSC_0074

I have to admit, I’m terrible when it comes to finances. I’m very big on instant gratification, which means collecting pretty things has always won out over building up a savings account or putting away my credit card. I consistently overspend on everything from weekly groceries to photo shoot props, and there have been a few times when I honestly got in super over my head with debt.

As fun as mindless spending can be every once and awhile, it definitely adds up over time, and when this new year started I decided enough was enough: it’s time to be a responsible adult, at least when it comes to my bank account! The first step I took was changing my Visa over to an Avion card so that when I do have to spend I also gain travel points- a decision that helped make my recent trip to Mexico a whole lot more affordable. I also set up a tax-free savings account that I vowed never to touch (not even for a pair of glittery Miu Miu shoes!), and started to make bigger payments on my visa debt every paycheque.

But even with those steps in place, I found I was still struggling with debt. The interest rates on my account were pretty out of control from building up over the years, and no matter how much money I put toward the balance it always seemed to catch right back up with me. Overwhelmed and frustrated with my lack of progress, I turned to Mogo.

Mogo is a new Canadian financial services company that aims to help people like me “Uncredit Card” their lives. First, I signed up for one of their “liquid loans”, an instant loan system with interest rates significantly lower than my actual credit card, and a really manageable payment plan to pay it back. I used Mogo liquid to pay off my Visa in full so that I could put a stop to their sneaky monthly interest charges once and for all, and now every paycheque I make payments on my Mogo loan instead, which meansI pay significantly less interest and I will be debt free sooner! Better yet, if I have the loan balance after 12 months, Mogo will lower the interest rate even further as a reward for good payment history (for example, 9.99 could drop to 6.9). Pretty cool right? Mogo also helped me set up my Visa to pre-pay bills and improve my credit score, but I’ll save that bit for my follow up post when the loan is all paid for.

But wait- there’s more!

I also signed up for a Mogo pre-paid Visa card to use as a Visa replacement during the month. Basically this card acts just like a Visa, but without the fees and high interest. You pre-load it with your allocated spending money, and it even comes in crazy cute prints (I went for macarons- duh!). I’ll report back in a few weeks on this feature!

Last but not least, I started making contributions to my savings pot every paycheque. Now that I have a stable full-time job, putting money aside suddenly feels more important than ever, and it’s nice to watch the money I’m investing in my future slowly grow.

Want to learn more? Stay tuned for my update post when the debt has been totally paid!

This post was sponsored, but all opinions are my own. To inquire about sponsored posts, please send me an email at alyssa@randomactsofpastel.com