3 Charitable Companies You Can Feel Good About Supporting

Feed the hungry. Support the military. Fund cancer research. Rescue a dog. Save the rainforest. End global warming. We have all been exposed to these causes at some point, along with others. Depending on what your experience has been so far in life, different issues will evoke different feelings for you, and it's sometimes hard to know how to help. With so many honorable topics out there, companies and small business are working harder than ever at making a difference. In the words of Tim Scott, founder of Mitscoots, "If we make a really good thing, people will want that thing, and we can go and do good stuff because of it."

As simple and lighthearted as this sentence is, it describes the heart of a true charitable company. The more great product they make, the more people they help; the more people they help, the bigger the reach and impact they have on the world. Here are some creative and charitable companies who actually give back, so you can feel good about buying their products! After all, you are helping our planet Earth become a better place to live, and we certainly need that.

Mitscoots: In simple words, this is a company that makes and sells super cool socks. Why socks, you ask? The founders had extensive experience in volunteering with the homeless community, and saw a great need for socks. A simple thing we all take for granted, socks rarely ever get donated to shelters. Those dingy socks with the holes you threw out? Someone would kill for those. They are a small luxury, but they make a big difference in someone's comfort and health. Tim and his wife decided to fill the void, and started what is now Mitscoots. 

For every pair sold, Mitscoots donates a pair to the homeless. Sound familiar? They then take the initiative one step further by actually employing the very homeless who need those socks, to put the product together. They didn't want to simply be a band-aid on the issue. The company acts as a "step 1" in helping the displaced community transition from a difficult and hopeless situation, into employable members of society. Mitscoots gives them work experience, discipline, guidance, and emotional support as they work through their recovery. With its headquarters in Austin and the product manufactured in the U.S, they can ensure complete quality control and provide the consumer peace of mind that all the product is ethically made. The company works diligently at growing the brand, values its passionate employees, and is always looking for ways they can help the needy.

Sand Cloud: Sand Cloud Apparel is an impossibly fresh and sunny brand that makes you want to become a surfer, or at the very least live near some salt water. When you purchase a Sand Cloud beach towel or any other product, you help to preserve and protect beaches, oceans, and marine life. 10% of Sand Cloud net profits are donated to organizations such as the Surfrider Foundation and Oceana. Both of these organizations work tirelessly to make the world a better place for all of us. And who doesn't like clean beaches?

The brand works with ambassadors to get the message out, so if you are someone who is passionate about philanthropy as well as marine life, or if you're just a beach bum, this may be the perfect match for you! You can find ambassador information here if this cause speaks to you.

The Company Store: This is another charitable company that donates comfy comforters to children who are in transition from shelters into more permanent housing. For each comforter purchased by a consumer, The Company Store donates one to a child in need. The number of homeless children in the U.S. has skyrocketed in the last few years, amounting to one child in every 30 according to a report back in 2014. If helping these young Americans stay warm and comfortable speaks to you, this may be a company you want to support! All product is American made as well. 

We all want to give and support causes that tug at our heartstrings. Sometimes we can't because we have our own needs and expenses. What is so great about charitable companies, is that by purchasing a product you need and would buy anyway, you are helping support a cause you believe in, at no additional cost to you. Let these examples inspire you to search for philanthropic options next time you need to make a purchase! Whether it be something big like a comforter, or something small, like socks, you can make a difference in someone's life.

This post was published on the Huffington Post.



Why I'll Never Take My Future Children to Sea World, or the Zoo

I grew up dreaming of being a Sea World killer whale trainer. As a child, watching from the bleachers in my rain coat, I bought into the fairytale that the animals were having the time of their lives. I wanted to be in the tanks with them, splashing in the water and being the object of envy of every other child watching. I found it amazing that such extraordinary creatures would befriend a human, and I daydreamed of one day having my own pet orca. 

 

As I grew up, I realized that training animals is not what ignited my dreams of working at Sea World. It was my love for animals. Which then led me to open my eyes, and realize that the practices at most zoos and circuses were anything but dreamy. I, like many, had been lied to by tactful advertising.  

After researching and being shocked at what I found, I decided very early on that I would never take my future children to a zoo or an animal circus. I didn't want them to grow up seeing animals as a source of entertainment. I know going to a theme park makes for a great day of fun, after all I was a child once, and my parents took me with the best intentions. However, knowing everything I know now, I couldn't possibly bring my future child into a place that represents fun for humans and suffering for animals. 

It's very cute to see a a baby elephant balancing on a ball. We all find it comically adorable, in the moment. What we don't see, is that the poor elephant has been tied and whipped into submission in order to get that trick down. We don't see that the wild cats and small mammals have been caged, overcrowded and neglected while being transported in unsanitary trucks to their next performance. We don't see the panic a zoo mother experiences when she's ripped away from her babies too early. The sad truth, is that these seemingly cute animals are not happy. They don't want to perform, and they are isolated from their kind. Even when big efforts are made to fake a natural environment, their enclosures are far too small, and they have a limited and depressing life. Orcas are forcibly bred, isolated from their families, and condemned to live in overcrowded treated water tanks. Dolphins, highly sensitive creatures, are available to the public in petting pools, where they can be exposed to bacteria and stress, causing ulcers which they then need to be treated for. Their intelligence is used against them to provide cheap tricks for an audience, during which they can incur injuries, or even death

I don't want my future child looking through a glass wall at a seal swimming in small circles and performing for some dead fish. I don't want them watching a trainer, who is is maybe misguided himself, riding on the back of two dolphins in a pool just before the park closes, and those dolphins get to spend the next 14 hours in a small tank of chlorine marinade until their next show. I don't want to teach my child that we should spend money to watch people exploit animals, and then conceal it with pretty advertising. 

Instead, I hope to save the money I would spend on overpriced entry tickets, and take my family to animals sanctuaries and wildlife rescues. I hope to teach them that we should save, rescue, care for, and protect animals. I want to teach my future child to be kinder than my generation is. I want them to be so selfless, that they want to stop the unnecessary suffering of an animal before they feel the need to be entertained. I want them to stand up for the defenseless, and to not buy into what media and advertisement sells them, just because everyone else does. I want them to question things before they believe it, or at least research it before they decide it's for them. 

Most parents see a fun visit to a park as a harmless way to entertain the kids for a day. Maybe they will judge me for not actually being a parent yet, and already making decisions for what I will do. But at the core of this isn't a parenting position, but a humane issue. If we can't at least agree that forcing wild animals to live unnatural lives for our enjoyment is unkind, then we probably wouldn't agree on a lot more than just this topic. 

It's not for anyone to judge families who do go, after all I was one of those kids myself and didn't mean any harm, as of course no parent does when taking their kids to a show. But with all the information we have today, I feel it is our responsibility to make better decisions for the environment, and for other living beings. The way I see it is, why not take the opportunity to help make the next generation better, instead of teaching them that if they don't go they will be "missing out" on something? 

The reality of zoos and animal theme parks is not one of a fun, family day. Parks and zoos do a beautiful job at selling the message that they are "animal friendly," but at the end of the day, no matter their efforts, those animals should never be in captivity. Captivity is cruel, no matter how pretty you paint the picture. Wild animals are not meant to be ridden, petted, swam with, carried, trained, owned, or laughed at. They should be in the wild, undisturbed, and protected. Our job as the new generations of parents and future parents, is to not turn a deaf ear to the cries of these defenseless animals, and to raise up a generation of kinder human beings. One who will put the interest of helpless animals, above their own need for entertainment. 

 

This post was first seen on The Huffington Post.



How to Talk To Your Husband In 3 Minutes

Original article on Debrief Daily, by Deborah Stachelski.


“The Psychology in Home Interior Design (And How to Make the Most Money From It)”

It’s a known fact that buyers are attracted to pretty, de-cluttered homes when searching for their newest piece of real estate. A lesser known fact, is what truly attracts a buyer, psychologically speaking. I know first hand that there are two feelings that happen when you walk through a potential home: Right, and wrong. 

So if you are flipping a home, getting ready to list yours, or buying a piece of property that you hope to rent out or sell in a few years, there are some things you should focus on when it comes to its design.

Create that warm, fuzzy feeling of “home” - The best way that you can do this is to drive around on a Saturday and visit all the open houses in the area. Pay attention to your feelings when you first walk into the house, and try to put a word to it. Is it positive or negative? If it’s positive, why? Try to pinpoint exactly what it is about the space that makes you feel welcomed and cozy. It could be the color scheme, the softness of the rugs, the warm colors in the art hanging on the walls, or the smells coming from that sunny kitchen. 

Consider the neighborhood- Are you in a trendy, new part of town? If so, modern finishes and the latest glass tile design will attract your buyers. If you are in an older area, your potential buyers will most likely be looking for traditional finishes, such as brown and warm tones, hardwood floors, traditional countertops and tiles such as travertine or marble. Building an extremely modern condo with modern finishes in a traditional area will make buyers feel out of place and most likely walk away. Same thing with traditional finishes in a modern, up and coming area.

Color schemes can intrigue, or scare off buyers -  Colors are powerful. Some can be soothing, and some can be anxiety provoking. Designing the perfect home means finding the right balance between a custom feel, but leaving it neutral enough so that EVERY potential person that walks through the house can imagine themselves there. Grey and beiges (or the latest greiges) are always a good neutral choice, and crisp white trim is a must. Bring in a bit of color with small touches in the decor and staging, but don’t go crazy painting the walls colors you personally like, as that may shrink the pool of potential buyers that can fall in love with the home. Stay away from “aggressive” colors such as red and purple, and don't over customize. It may seem like a good idea, but it tends to backfire. Leave it open to the buyer’s imagination, and don’t set too strong of a theme.

Give your home its special “thing” - May it be a bright front door, or an interesting mail box, your home needs something the buyer can refer back to, later. You can bet they are looking at millions of homes, and if they can remember “the house with the blue door”, you are still in the running. 

Don’t under, or over-build for the area - Pay attention to what people are buying and expecting to get in the area you are trying to sell. If it’s an entry-level home, buyers will not be expecting luxury finishes such as high-end granite countertops, top of the line appliances, real hardwood floors, or expensive marble tiles. You are probably safe going with laminate flooring, ceramic tiles, and regular appliances. This enables the first time home buyer to get into the home, and upgrade later on their own time. Win-win for buyer and seller. 

But if you feel your home needs and extra oomph… - With that being said, if your home is a little “blah”, spend money where it counts. Put in a nicer sink, or redo the kitchen backsplash with a fancy tile, a very visible and important part of the house. Pick one room of the house and pick one to two items to really upgrade. Don’t get carried away, as they can add up fast and don’t necessarily pay off.

Kitchens sell houses - This is an universal truth. If you only have the money to renovate one room, let it be your kitchen! The bulk of your budget should go into it, as it is certainly the part of the house the couple or family will use the most. It doesn’t mean you should use expensive products, but make sure it’s bright, and clean. Buyers love natural light in the kitchen, so if adding a large window over the sink is in your budget, it will definitely pay off. 

Ask for feedback - If you are the agent or owner,  stay back but ask buyers to fill out a quick 5-question survey at the end. Include questions such as “How would you describe the feeling when you first walked in”, and “Can you envision your family in this home”. Don’t verbally ask them questions, as buyers don’t like being put on the spot, and that will make all of your hard work pointless as they leave with a negative impression. 

In the end, buying a home is an emotional purchase, and you have to appeal to the purchasers' emotions. Every sense should be kicking in as they walk through the home. Some of the homes I have loved the most while shopping, were the ones that had freshly-baked cookies in the kitchen, fresh flowers spread throughout, the fireplace going, and soft, relaxing classical music playing in the background. Remember that your taste is not necessarily the buyers taste, and constantly check your decisions to make sure you are staying in the “neutral” zone.

 

This post was first published on The Huffington Post, and on the Sydney Morning Herald.

What My Pointer Taught Me About Life and Happiness

I have the tiniest German Shorthaired Pointer anyone knows of. Her name is Embry.  She is about thirty pounds (where the breed standard is about forty-five to sixty pounds for females) of pure love and snuggles. Her main goal in life is to get under the covers. Any covers. Do you have a towel laying around? She wants to get under that. A napkin? That'll work.

She is a happy, grateful dog. For no other reason than being alive. Her main achievements in life revolve around getting bites of chicken, successfully forcing her way into the tiniest spots between two people, and taking intense naps in incredibly entertaining positions. Every day she teaches me how to be a better person, which is strange, with her being a dog and all. 

Every morning, Embry FLIES out of her soft crate, almost breaking the zipper, jumps into our bed, and glues a very cold nose to either of our faces. "Hello parents! I am here! Rejoice!" she seems to be saying. 

She is full of love and and forceful snuggling, and I can't help but laugh. I used to ask her, "What are you so excited about?" but now I hug her and say, "I knooooowww, we are so happy for no reason! Let's party!" A new day, new smells, naps, maybe new toys and treats, fresh laundry to roll around in, potty breaks, eating grass... the opportunities are endless and the world is her oyster.

We run downstairs, and she starts running in small circles wagging her little nub of a tail signaling she's ready to go potty, one of the highlights of life, obviously. If I take too long getting to the door, she sends me one of her snorts that sound like a race horse at the track gate. Still half-asleep, I open the door to let her out and she does her business proudly. She runs back inside and grabs Dharma (her favorite toy, a blue dragon) by the head, and brings her to me as a trophy of a successful potty escapade. Thank you so much, I was really needing a slobbery stuffed animal rubbed against my leg. If only we could celebrate our small victories like that...

I sit down to eat and have my coffee, and the shameless begging begins. Dharma is long forgotten when there are potential treats at stake. She was my husband's dog at first, but she has lived with me for three years now, and I have to admit I have completely ruined her. She sticks her entire GSP nose into my plate or bowl, and snorts again. Excuse you?! I tell her "no," and she backs off daintily, just to fake politeness. "Sorry mama," her raised paw says. Two seconds later, she tries again. "You persistent little nugget," I tell her, shaking my head. I wish I could be that shameless in real life. Wait, but why can't I? I should be as persistent as she is when there's a lot more than chicken at stake...

The day goes on, and I sit down to write as she finds herself a little cozy spot in the living room, where she can monitor me. Sometimes she's an independent woman and goes upstairs and puts herself in her crate. She doesn't need company, she could use a little alone and quiet time to unwind from her busy morning of potty and begging. She didn't even excuse herself, she just left. What life would be like if I could just say, "I just need to be alone in my crate today. Bye." The freedom! 

I take a break from work and go upstairs to do some chores. As I pick up the six thousand pillows and blankets to make the bed, I look over at her inside her crate. She's under her blanket next to Dharma, watching me from the little fabric window. I try to remember why I decided I needed all of this stuff on my bed. Look at her, she has one blanket and she's perfectly fine. She doesn't even feel the need to put up some art in her crate. Why do I need so much to be happy? 

I head back downstairs and start to do some laundry, where I find some of Dharma's friends, Gerard and Madeleine, buried underneath the piles. All of it is covered in black and white hairs, including the clean laundry, which she prefers for napping. She follows me downstairs and I scold her a little for getting into the clean clothes. She's embarrassed and sad about that for a moment, and looks up at me with "I'm-so-ashamed" eyes. Right, you don't fool me missy.

I get back to work, and hook myself up to all my electronics: iPhone, laptop, iPad, remotes, earphones... you know, all the things crucial to my daily survival. Today, like most afternoons, after hours of looking at too many screens, I get overwhelmed and mentally over-stimulated. I look over at her and she's sprawled out on the couch, not a worry in sight. Sigh. She's already forgotten about the laundry, and perks up when she sees me watching her. I wish we knew how to forgive and forget that quickly.

I jump up closing my laptop, pull my earphones out, turn my phone off, throw on some running shoes and take her to the field across the street. I let her loose, and she runs in erratic circles, ears flapping in the wind, looking up at the sky. Forever hopeful, she is looking for potential birds she's never going to catch. Every so often, she sees me across the field and runs towards me as fast as she can, skinny legs flying in every direction. I'm laughing and the sun is setting, and I wonder why I get so caught up with "life" every day. She doesn't care if she looks cute, or if she should post this adorable moment on her Instagram. She lives in the moment, and she chooses to be happy with whatever she's got. She is grateful for the smallest of things, like the freshly cut grass and the warmth of the sun, and now I am too.


This post was first published on The Huffington Post. 

10 Big Mistakes I Made While Planning my Wedding (That You are Probably Making Too)

Planning a wedding is no easy feat. It takes a lot of time, energy, inspiration, and about a million tiny decisions. There is a lot of emotion tied to the biggest event of your life, and everything feels crucial in order for it to be perfect. 

As a wedding planner, recent bride, and a six-time bridesmaid and maid of honor veteran, I’ve had my share of wedding experience, and I can tell you that there is no amount of preparing that can completely prevent you from having some regrets.

To help guide you if you are in the process of planning your wedding, here is a short list of the biggest mistakes I made during the course of my wedding experience.

 

1. Stressing about invitations. I stressed about this a lot, and thought having the perfect shade of gold and the right font was the key to the whole wedding coming together. I kept adding accents to it like calligraphed addresses, wax seals and silk ribbons, and before I knew it, I was at over $1,000 for less than 100 invites. I deeply regret this, because I don't think I even kept an invite myself! And to be honest, how many wedding invitations do you actually remember? Guests could not care less about this, and it's most likely going in the trash within moments of its delivery. Do not bother with this, and put the money towards good food and drinks -- your guests WILL remember that.

2. Worrying about having a variety of alcoholic drinks. I made sure to have at least five types of red wine and five types of white wine, different champagne options, as well as several types of beer. I was so worried about the fact that we didn't serve liquor, that I wanted to make sure my guests had a wide variety to choose from. The truth is, guests are easy to please. They will drink whatever white or red wine you serve, and will appreciate the fact that it's open bar! Most likely, guests won't even think to ask for other types of alcohol because they will typically go for a simple and easy choice of "red," "white," or "beer."

3. Not planning for an extra hour for hair and makeup. And I do mean an extra two hours. Everything will take longer than you think, people will be late, and there will be unexpected changes. Better to have extra time, than not enough!

4. Attempting to DIY anything. I had a few terrible ideas, but the one thing I didn't take into consideration is that I didn't have anywhere to store these homemade atrocities. I ended up spending money on all the craft items, wasting my time, and then changing my mind and throwing them all out. I am all about a good DIY, but when it comes to a wedding, I don't recommend DIY'ing anything since it means you will have to either do the setup yourself, or worry about explaining your vision for these items to someone else. You will also have to worry about transporting them, and tearing them down at the end of the night in your wedding dress, which you don't want to do. Research budget-friendly rentals for whatever it is you need, and save yourself the stress.

5. Blowing my budget. To be honest, I didn't set a budget, which was really mistake number 1. Which led to blowing the budget that was later agreed upon between my parents and I. We went way over because of all the shiny things, and the prettier, more special wedding dresses that were, of course, more expensive. 

6. Losing my husband's hand-written vows. This was by far the biggest mistake, and most traumatizing thing that happened to me at my wedding. He handed me his vows at dinner so I could read them again, and I left them on our sweetheart table. During teardown that night, they got trashed. My sweet Maid of Honor helped me dig through the trash in the midst of my tears the next day, but they were gone forever. My advice would be to have a trusted and detail-oriented friend keep track of any and all special items throughout the night. 

7. Going back to the the venue the next day once it's been torn down.Obviously I had to, in order to look for said vows, but it was truly disheartening to see the dreamy fairytale land from the night before, looking like a drab empty ballroom. I still remember the glass shattering in my mind as I walked in, and the reality setting in that it was all over. 

8. Having too many wedding events packed together. I didn't realize how tiring getting married is. I always wanted a "wedding weekend," so I packed all these fun activities on Friday, then had our wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner... by the end of Friday, I was already tired and it hadn't really even started yet! Saturday was long and extremely tiring of course, but we were not done yet, since we still had the farewell brunch to host on Sunday morning. Needless to say, I cried for three days afterwards from pure exhaustion, and the overall emotional waterfall that happens over the course of a wedding weekend. Do yourself a favor, and don't overcommit yourself to too many activities!

9. Not making a list of photos I wanted. I had envisioned several shots, but my mistake was to assume my photographer could read my mind. She was amazing, but unfortunately several things I wanted to capture were missed. Be very specific as to what you want, write a list, and make sure your photographer has it. I am also very glad I hired a videographer for this very reason!

10. Not walking around my reception and stopping at each table. I actually decided NOT to do this because I thought it would feel forced, but as a result there were several guests I didn't talk to. I also didn't even get a picture with my parents at the reception! Make sure to set aside at least 30 minutes and be intentional (and quick!) about it, and you'll still have tons of time left to shake your bridal booty!

 

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This post was published on The Huffington Post.

8 Things Only Girls Raised By Single Dads Will Understand

Single moms represent a group of incredible women willing to sacrifice everything they have in order to raise happy and healthy children; however, a term we hear much less of is: “single dad”.  Single dads may be rare, but are oh so cherished by their daughters (and sons) for the many sacrifices and lessons they teach their children.  Although my father didn't single-handedly raise us, he was the one who put in the grunt work. There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not thankful for the important skills and lessons he taught my sister and I.  Yet, even in the age of gender equality, daughters who are raised by their fathers are sure to experience some awkward, funny, and frustrating moments.  Here are 8 things that only those of us raised by our dads will understand:

  1. Men are completely capable at being hair pros: I can distinctly remember my dad learning how to put my hair in a ponytail. It was sort of like learning how to ride a bike;  with a little practice, and a whole lot of patience and tears, he became an expert. The downside of this is that I never had a great ballerina bun, and I had to teach myself how to perform the magic that is the “french braid”, but the fact that my dad spent the time learning how to make me look somewhat presentable at preschool is very meaningful.  

  2. Dad’s will generally not understand the importance of a $500 homecoming dress: The day I came down the stairs with my laptop in hand and pointed the little mouse to the dress that I just. Had. To. Have. My dad about spit out his coffee.  $500!?  For a dress!?  That probably cost $25 to make!?  There. Was. No. Way. However, those of us who were raised with a single dad know, “no” doesn’t always mean “no”.  His heart softened, and he caved in, but only after I promised to wash every single window in the house, and clean out the cat’s litter box for an entire year.  Everybody has a price.  Even dads.

  3. Yet they will tell you that a $1,000 set of tires is a necessity: He didn’t understand that I needed that sparkly homecoming dress, yet he was trying to convince me that I needed new tires, and that they cost $1,000. There was no way that those stupid rubber things that got me to school were worth more than my homecoming dress. Luckily, I didn’t have to clean the cat box out for those.

  4. They will get really great at cooking, and make your favorite foods often, because adding broccoli justifies macaroni and cheese for the third time in a week: To this day, broccoli is still my favorite vegetable.

  5. Single dads will try to convert their girly girl daughters into being car/golf fanatics.  Few will be successful: I’m not sure if my dad will ever cope with the fact that my sister and I can’t name the winner of the most recent Formula One race, or the most iconic driver of all time, but we can quote the Kardashians like they are the president. The many hours spent in the shop rehearsing names of foreign race cars aren’t ever going to pay off.  Sorry dad!

  6. Going to the movies will involve a coin toss, but you both know you’ll end up at the chick-flick anyways:  The truth is, he probably didn’t want to see that George Clooney movie, but in his eyes, the fact that his daughter is with him at the theatre instead of driving around with some teenage boy is well worth the boredom. And the overpriced popcorn.

  7. He will awkwardly try to explain the birds and the bees to you, but you’ll stop him at “birds”: No girl ever wants to hear her dad talk about where she came from.  Ever.  When he tries to explain this to you, you’ll quietly turn your ears off and walk away.  That’s what 9th grade science is for, right?

  8. He won’t quite know how to handle a heart break.  But he will try his best: He probably won’t show it, but his heart is breaking for you too.  Instead of trying to make things better with ice cream and a movie, he will just do his best to make sure you know he will always be there for you, no matter what.

Get Ripped in 12 Weeks With Society Letters

As a former health coach, I constantly hear questions along the lines of “how do I get ‘toned’”, or “how do I lean out without gaining muscle and getting bulky”. The truth is ladies, you wont be getting bulky accidentally - it takes a lot of work (and maybe some injections) to get those massive and veiny pecs, and the enlarged jaw line. Trust me, lifting 20 lb dumbbells will not get you there. But as with everything, good things come with work, so “leaning out”, “toning”, and “getting rid of flab” (all code words for lowering body fat), also require some work. 

The plan below is quite strict - something similar to what you would see a bikini or figure competitor do for the 12-16 weeks leading up to a fitness show. It is not a diet that you will be able to sustain without breaking a few rules for a long period of time, and can reduce your body fat quite drastically, and quickly. I don’t do this diet year round - only when I need to for a photoshoot, or a especial event that requires a two-piece and I want those abs poppin’. I eat healthy on a regular basis, but my normal diet is not quite this structured. So proceed with care, and common sense. 

If you feel you need more carbs, sub the “healthy fat” for a “complex carb” in meals 1 and 3. Personally, I find that carbs keep me very hungry, and my body responds better to high fat instead, so that’s what I like to do. You can play around with both and see how you feel and what works best. Just don’t do high carb AND high fat or your overall calories will be too high. 


Get Ripped Diet

Meal 1 - protein + healthy fat or complex carb + fruit

Meal 2 - protein shake or smoothie with protein + leafy green vegetable

Meal 3 - protein + healthy fat or complex carb + veggie or legume 

Meal 4 - protein + veggie or legume

Meal 5 - protein + healthy fat

Meal 6 - protein 

Here’s an example of what your day might look like.

    -    Meal 1 (BREAKFAST)  – 2 egg omelet with seasoned ground turkey sausage, bell peppers, guacamole, and apple slices

    -      Meal 2 (POST WORKOUT) — protein shake with protein powder,  1/2 cup frozen fruit, 2T of flaxseed, 1 cup of baby spinach 

    -    Meal 3 (LUNCH)– grilled chicken breast cooked in olive oil,  sprouts, bell pepper slices, avocado, tomato, and onion wrapped in collard green leaves.

    -    Meal 4 (SNACK)- Almond/peanut butter and veggie snacks

    -    Meal 5 (DINNER) – salad w/ field greens, smoked salmon, red and green onion, red and green bell peppers, walnuts, cucumber, celery, balsamic vinegar/olive oil for dressing

    -    Meal 6 (SNACK) - Bulgarian yogurt with chia seeds and stevia


Get Ripped Workout

You can move the days around to fit your week. 

    •    Monday – 40 minutes of weight training with 2 minute intervals of cardio, like jump rope, in between sets

    •    Tuesday – active rest day (walking, yoga, etc.)

    •    Wednesday – HIIT workout – 12-20 minutes intervals (sprints, plyos, etc) + 20 minutes of regular cardio

    •    Thursday – 30 mins weight training + 20 minutes regular cardio

    •    Friday – 12-20 minutes HIIT workout + 20 minutes of regular cardio

    •    Saturday – Rest day

    •    Sunday –  30-40 min HIIT (combination of plyometrics and sprints)



Some guidelines to remember:

  1. Alcohol and soda should be limited to social engagements only. If you must drink alcohol, low cal vodka is the best choice.
  2. All fruit and carbohydrates consumed during first half of day
  3. 2.5-3L of water every day 
  4. Organic and grass-fed foods whenever possible
  5. “Cheat” meals once a week if you must, or during social engagements, or when you feel like you nee done - not to exceed 1500 calories
  6. Follow a gluten-free diet for the most part - avoid pasta, bread, grains and overall processed foods.
  7. No artificial sweeteners or sugar  - stevia OK
  8. Okay to add seasonings and salsa/hot sauce/etc for flavor
  9. You should feel hungry every two hours on this plan - it means your metabolism is kicking up.
  10. This plan may be hard at first if you do not eat somewhat healthy, but keep at it and it will get easier as your body de-toxifies itself! If you get anxietty and binge eat, just get back on the horse on your next meal and don’t sweat it! :)
  11. MOST IMPORTANTLY: This plan is practically impossible to do without meal prepping (meaning you choose a day out of the week and cook all your main food and package it in to-go containers in your fridge). Since it’s so many meals per day, there’s just not enough time to cook it all every day and you will most likely skip meals, defeating the purpose. Think of your metabolism as a furnace - and every time you eat you’re feeding the fire! When you skip meals, the flames diet out :( So make Sunday your meal prep day and have fun!

A Father's Love: The Traveling Jam Jars

Photography by Kelly Rucker Photography

Photography by Kelly Rucker Photography

It was April of 2001, a few months before 9/11, and we were on a plane to the U.S. We were leaving everything behind -- our family, friends, our comfort zone, and moving to a new country, but as I looked over at my dad across the aisle, it didn't feel scary. He, an engineer, had been transferred to a large company in Houston, Texas, so we packed up our family of five, and off we went. 

My father had a simple beginning. What he didn't have (and still doesn't), is a simple mind. Growing up in Brazil isn't easy, I would know because I spent the first 15 years of my life there. He spent his first 45. There is a lot of resistance, a lot of difficulty, and not a lot of opportunity. My dad found a way to fight his way through school, then enrolled at the most prestigious Polytechnic School of Engineering, and began his career. 

My parents got married at 26, and my mom moved away from the small, quaint town she was from. This was yet was another brave risk my father took, believing he could give her and their future family a better life in a bigger city. My mom was also a brave one, for taking on the challenge. As his career started taking off, he had a job opportunity in Sweden. Now, my older brother and I were part of the picture (we were one and three at the time), and that presented new challenges. I don't know many people like my father, who believe in themselves and have the confidence to know they can achieve anything they go for. Moving to an entirely new country with their baby and toddler, not knowing the language, isn't for everyone, but he wasn't fazed. 

We lived in Stockholm, Sweden for a little over a year. My dad learned the language within a couple of months so that he could work, and mom stayed home with us. That was a big move for his career, and after a year or so, we were back in Sao Paulo, Brazil. As the years passed, growing up with my dad was somewhat like living with a rockstar. In those days, leaving the country was for "other people", and he was always traveling. He would come back from a work trip, and as soon as he walked in the door, my brothers and I would line up and stare expectantly at his suitcase like the children in Les Miserables, waiting for the goodies he would bring us. Without fail, he would always bring me one of those tiny jam jars you get at hotels at breakfast. He knew I loved them, and I collected them like they were jewels. 

After a few more moves here and there, we moved to Houston and it felt like a permanent change. My dad's career was doing great, and we were able to have what seemed like a huge house with a one-acre yard, something unheard of in the crammed city of Sao Paulo. Now in High School, we all had cars, something else we never dreamed of. My dad traveled most of the time for work, but he never wanted to put the burden on the family, so we lived in a nice suburb and he would drive an hour and back to the airport every few days. Every trip, I would get a tiny jam jar. 

I never once saw my dad complain, and that was something that stayed with me. He also never boasted, bragged, or talked about money, another thing I take with me. Being brilliant doesn't nullify the need for humility, and that is a trait I learned from my dad throughout the years. Everything felt safe when he was around, because he never panicked, regardless of the circumstances. When hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit Houston, he calmly taped all the windows in the house, packed up important documents (the man has a folder for everything), put us all in the minivan, and started what turned out to be a fourteen-hour drive to Dallas. "<em>Better safe than sorry</em>," he said.

Nowadays, he is an entrepreneur and an investor, and is always looking for ways to increase his talents and abilities. He showed me with his actions, what kind of man I should marry. I can happily say I am now married to an engineer as well, what a surprise. Seeing my dad give his life for our family, and work so hard without ever complaining, inspired me to go for my dreams and not be afraid of failure. His fearless spirit to just go for something new and try it, put that spirit in me as well. To this day, he still brings me the tiny jam jars, and I am now almost 30. It's just one of those "dad and daughter" things we share. Every time he hands me one of those tiny jars after a trip, I am reminded that with everything you do, family comes first. 

 

15 Lessons We Should All Learn From Regina George

You've all seen Mean Girls, right? If you haven't, please exit this blog immediately, call in sick to work and watch it on Netflix. 

If you have watched it... how many of you have felt personally victimized by Regina George? She was the ultimate mean girl, and you wonder what we could possibly learn from someone like that? A lot, actually! Here are some lessons to take away from the Queen Bee.

1. It's OK to not call or text someone back immediately. We all have lives and are busy! We shouldn't feel guilty about not being reachable 24/7.
2. Be confident in your own style and others will follow. When Regina had holes over the nipples of her shirt, people weren't shocked. Instead, every other girl cut holes over the nipples of their shirts. Don't second-guess yourself; confidence is the sexiest accessory a woman can wear.
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3. It's OK to ask someone to stop doing something incredibly annoying. Especially the guy on the plane who keeps talking loudly on his cell phone.
4. Know your food. Learn about nutrients and food labels so you can have a healthy diet instead of gaining 20 pounds by accidentally eating Swedish carb bars.
5. It's never really safe to eat at Taco Bell.
6. Not everybody in life is going to like you, especially if you're popular or successful. Just do you, and realize that when people hate on you, it most likely only stems from jealousy. You can't please everyone, so be fabulous for yourself!
7. Learn productive ways to deal with your anger. It's OK and even healthy to express anger and frustration! Just make sure you're not taking it out on your loved ones and are dealing with it in a positive way.
8. Some days, you just need to give yourself a break.
9. Retail therapy is totally a real thing.
10. It's OK to have fat pants, and to have fat days. Or weeks.
11. Know how to take a compliment. Stop putting yourself down and arguing with people when they say something nice to you! just say "thank you," and fight the urge to say something negative.
12. It's OK to have an emotional moment and a good cry. We can't have it all together all the time -- having feelings makes us real people!
13. You can only wear your hair in a ponytail once a week. Also, you can only wear sweatpants on Fridays. Really, ladies! Take care of yourself and your appearance. Dress for the occasion, wherever you go. Yeah, sure, beauty may be skin deep or whatever, but a first impression can go a long way. Take pride in taking good care of yourself -- it will make you feel purty and good about yourself!
(OK, rules are meant to be broken -- you can swear sweatpants whenever you want). 14. Being a leader sometimes means people won't like you. But it's better to be a leader than a follower! Be confident in your abilities to inspire and lead people, and don't get discouraged when someone criticizes or isn't a fan of your work.
15. There is power in numbers! You know I believe in this one (hence you know, starting this blog). Being a leader that is all inclusive and encourages others without being clique-y, is a sure way to achieve success!
Every girl has dreamed of being Regina George at one point or another. Being the "good" version of her, and not the evil, is actually a pretty good idea. She had a good side to her, and we can all learn at least one lesson from her powerful ways. Love ya!

 

 


This post was first published on the Huffington Post

 

 

Cruelty-Free Cult Beauty Buy Alternatives

Well as you know, I LOVES the bunnies and pretty much anything to do with animals. Since getting married, I've had to adopt a system, to not only check all products for "animal friendliness", but also for toxicity levels since my dear husband is very concerned about that. He wants my nails to outlive me, so I can't even use regular nail polish anymore. 

So, I am the weird lady at the store scanning the bar codes of soaps and detergents to determine if the scores are acceptable, and typing in the name of the company into Peta's database to make sure even the parent company doesn't test their ingredients on animals. Some companies will say "this product was not tested on animals", but that doesn't mean the ingredients weren't! It gets very tricky.

(One thing to know right off the bat, is that any product manufactured in China will have been tested on animals as the government there requires it.)

So without further delays, here is a list that I have put together of 14 products I have switched to after finding out my original picks were indeed, tested on this adorable bunny. Okay, so I'm not sure this was the actual bunny, but the image should help convince you to take this cruelty free step with me :)

TARTE: I looove Tarte, and especially like their blushes. This brand was started by a lady entrepreneur (and you know #girlbosses are my jam) because she couldn't find a makeup line that was all natural. So she made one herself! Ingredients are harvested from the banks of the Amazon River and naturally baked by the sun, how cool is that? The blushes are highly pigmented and don't feel sticky. "Watermelon" and "Natural Beauty" are my faves! The ingredients are all non toxic and you can feel good about putting them on your skin! It's practically like doing a mud treatment, right?

E.LF.: This is definitely one of the most affordable (prices are $1-$3 for each individual product!) brands and I love their vegan brush line. You wont be getting professional quality but they are soft and good quality for the price! My fave is the blending brush, I use it almost every day!

TOO FACED: Better than Sex mascara- This is one of my favorite mascaras, and one of the few cruelty-free ones that don't make my eyes burn. You have to work with it a little bit as it does add tons of volume and if you're not careful it can get kind of clumpy. But keep sweeping along the whole lash and it works itself out!

NYX: I love this brand, it is super awesome and affordable! You can find it almost anywhere and it is totally animal friendly! My faves are the liquid black liner and the kohl liner! (I can't vouch for its toxicity as I have not done much research in that regard.) 

HOURGLASS: The Immaculate foundation by Hourglass is a bit different then what you may be used to. It has sort of a whipped texture, and dries very fast on the skin, so make sure to be quick. I prefer to apply it with a buffing motion using a flat foundation brush myself. I used this on my wedding day after trying approximately 12 different foundations, as my worst fear was being shiny and oily on my day! This thing DID NOT move. I would not recommend this for every day wear, but if you're like me and want your face to be on point after hours and hours for a special occasion, (and you have oily or combo skin like me), this is a great option! Combine with the Becca Primer and your face will not move for days (but I hope you wash it that night).

ANASTASIA BEVERLY HILLS: Brow Wiz. Alright now, let's talk about the Brow Wiz. This is BY FAR, the best eyebrow product I have ever used in my LIFE!! I am obsessed and have gone through 5 in the last 2 years. They are amazingly thin and accurate, something I find very helpful, and perfectly pigmented, so that even if you have a heavy hand you wont be looking like Martin Scorsese! I. am. addicted.

URBAN DECAY: Individual Shadows. I love these little guys! For my wedding I layered "midnight cowboy" with "space cowboy" (this one has a super fine powder consistency so it's easy to layer for shimmer), and my eyes were sparkling like a sky full of stars all night! No glitter fall out either, yay! (But don't forget to use primer!)

TOO FACED: I love the Cocoa Powder Foundation! It has cocoa extract and smells uhhhhmazing! I sweep it over my whole face as a setting powder with a fluffy brush, or press it in using a sponge if im going foundation-free and want some light coverage and oil control. 

KAT VON D: The Lock It concealer is one of my favorites! It is heavy duty, no transfer, almost like the stuff she makes for covering up tattoos! It is also oil- and paraben-free, which is a total plus!

URBAN DECAY: The Naked Palettes are amazing! Super pigmented and in combination with the primer, do not crease! I have the Naked 2, and in my opinion it's the best and more blendable/customizable one for my skin tone (olive). But they are all amazing!!

BECCA: Becca Ever Matte Poreless Priming Perfector. - This his primer is the real deal. It is SUPER thick and super long lasting. I would use it on longer wear days (like my wedding day), only in my T-zone, and sparingly. One bottle has lasted me over a year! I have had friends use it and think it's too matte, so be careful and maybe get a sample at Sephora before investing the $36! It's one of those I like to have, but for every day I usually would skip it and use a lighter primer. 

PHILOSOPHY: This is such a fun and clean brand. I love all the smells and truly like how effective the skin care is. I love using amazing grace for cleaning my makeup brushes because it doesn't leave any residue, and I am a total NO RESIDUE lover!

ALBA BOTANICA: I use several Alba hair and skin care products, and they are all great! They smell great and are non-toxic as well! You can easily find them on Amazon, or Whole Foods and Central Market. 

BARE ESCENTUALS: The Warmth Bronzer has been my favorite since High School! It just does something amazing for your face no matter what complexion you have! It immediately warms it up and photoshops it to make it look smooth! It's pure love between us. This brand is totally bunny friendly and natural, and I recommend you trying some of the products because you're sure to love at least one. 


ABRANDS I USED TO BUY BUT NO LONGER DO, DUE TO THEIR ANIMAL TESTING PRACTICES

  • Benefit 
  • Mac
  • Loreal
  • Estee Lauder
  • Stila Cosmetics
  • Ralph Lauren (I cried with this one, RL is my all time favorite brand)
  • Viktor and Rolf
  • Cetaphil
  • Peter Thomas Roth
  • Pantene
  • Herbal Essences
  • Suave
  • Aussie
  • Dove
  • Band-Aid (Johnson & Johnson)
  • Chapstick
  • Clorox
  • Crest
  •  Lancome (L'Oreal)
  • Lubriderm (Johnson & Johnson)
  • Mary Kay
  • Maybelline
  • Nair
  • Organix Hair (it says on their site that they don't, but I trust PETA's site more)
  • Pampers
  • Origins (Estee Lauder)
  • Ponds (Unilever)
  • Revlon
  • St. Ives (Unilever)
  • Tommy Hilfiger (Estee Lauder)
  • Vaseline (Unilever)
  • Victoria's Secret (Limited Brands)
  • Walgreens
  • Windex (S.C. Johnson)
  • Neutrogena (Johnson & Johnson)
  • Gillette Co.(Procter & Gamble)
  • DOLCE & GABBANA (Procter & Gamble)
  • Dawn (Procter & Gamble)
  • Clinique (Estee Lauder)
  • Clean & Clear (Johnson & Johnson)
  • Bobbi Brown (Estee Lauder)
  • Aveeno
  • Almay

 

This post is not sponsored in any way, and it is a sincere review of products I personally love and purchase with my own money :) . The brands under the list have been verified on the PETA website as of today's date.)