I Go To The Bar(re) Five Days a Week

It’s been three and a half weeks since I sat myself down and realised that the only way I am going to stop being critical of myself is for me to lose some of my pudge. I’m never going to be a size 2, but I’ve got some problem areas (don’t we all?). I know myself well enough to admit that going to the gym is never going to be my thing. Being on maternity leave means I can’t splash out on yoga classes, which I love, so I decided to do yoga at home while my little one napped. I used the flows I learned in the classes I used to take, but was always on the lookout for a new app or flow/sequence.

After two days of doing yoga, I started to think that I might need something more. I had already added a couple of Pilates moves but I knew I needed to dial it up if I wanted to do more than just become more flexible and toned. My search that day brought me to Barre3. As a mix of the yoga I love, the Pilates that helps shed the weight, and the grace and flow of ballet, I thought it sounded perfect. Almost too perfect. I was afraid that it, like yoga, wouldn’t do a lot for helping me lose the fat that needed to go. I looked up some reviews, and no one seems sto have anything bad to say about it. My best friend has done even more research and thought the same thing.

  
Barre3 Logo 

I looked up the program and found that I had two options: pop into the only studio in Canada (which happens to be conveniently located about 5 minutes from my office and 20 minutes from my home!) or subscribe online and do the workouts at home like I had been. Money and child care being a thing for me, I took a peek at the online workouts.

They have previews that you can see without signing up (and paying), but I wanted to try a workout or two before committing. The site does feature a free 15-day trial, but I would have to add a credit card and cancel if I didn’t want to continue… It’s a great option but I knew that I would forget to cancel if I didn’t love it and I was still a bit sceptical of it all.

Lucky for me and my googling skills, I found a couple of free videos on YouTube. The next day, before doing my yoga routine, I fired up my iPad, found this video of Sadie Lincoln in NYC (my favourite even now!) and started my workout with Barre3.

I loved that first workout so much I did it twice and cut my yoga sequence short! (As an aside, I’ll admit that Sadie is a lot of fun to have leading your workouts… She comes across as fun, bright, and has an infectious optimism that you can feel in her videos. The other video instructors are great, but I have to admit that I often choose my online workouts based on if Sadie is leading them or not!).

Later that day I found another video (part 1 of a series of 3) and loved them as well. That did it. I decided to go for the free trial. I found a full one-month trial through Darling Magazine, and haven’t looked back since. Even with the USD being much higher than the CAD, it costs less than 3 Starbucks coffees a month to have access to all of the workouts (they’re divided into 10-minute, 30-minute, 40-minute, and 60-minute sections, so it easy to get right into a full, hour-long workout or to mix it up and do a few of the 10-minute workouts) as well as the yummy recipes available. I pay the same amount for my World of Warcraft subscription, and I think my health is a bit more important than hitting level 100.

I really love how you can modify the workouts. Since I’ve been doing them five days a week for three weeks now and some days I just can’t do any more sumo squats. That’s ok. There’s always an option to modify the workouts to get results without the negative pain and injury. I also love that they have both pre- and post-natal exercises. I’ve tried one post-natal one so far and loved it, and I’ll be sure to try the others.

Something else I love is how props are almost always optional. I’ve done the workouts without the yoga mat (I do recommend it for any floor exercises, though), without the weights and tension band and ball. The only real ‘prop’ you use almost every time is a ‘barre’, on a waist-high surface. I’ve used a chair, my kitchen counter, my wall, my bar stool… Whatever is there. Can you really go wrong with such a convenient workout?

I’m definitely thinking of getting a ball and tension band, though, to help maximize some of the workouts later. I already have some hand weights. If you don’t have these, improvise. I’ve used small bean cans as light weights!

The third part of all of this that I really like is that there is a bit of a nutrition component to the ‘Barre3 Lifestyle’ as I call it. And it works in perfect compatibility with my new friend Lark! Seriously. It’s like I was meant to find these two this year!! I can honestly say one of the best feelings lately has been having a healthy, balanced lunch after my Barre3 workout.

To me, that’s crazy-talk! I’m NOT a health nut, or an exercise nut. I’ve already told you all about my loathing of calorie-counting. It just seems to me that this year, things came together in a way that allows me to become as healthy and fit as I can be without having to deal with the stuff I hate (how many sprouts make up 15 calories??)!

I’m super happy to have been able to share my little ‘New Years’ wellness changes with you. I don’t buy into the whole “New year, new me!” craze that happens every January 1, and I would have done these posts anyways, even if I had found these new tools in July. Next time, I’ll be sharing my first semi-fail from a Pinterest recipe for the year and we’ll get back into our regular groove.

Now, I need to upgrade my garrison and get my Druid to level 97. See you next week!

**This is not a sponsored post. The views and experiences above are mine and not endorsed/influenced by Barre3, Darling Magazine or any other third party.

My New Friend

Lark
Image from http://www.web.lark.com

I hate counting calories. I hate it. I’ve done it, on and off, since at least 2011. I used to use, and still have on my phone, an app called Lose It. I have a badge that proves that I can keep up the stupid calorie counting for at least 4 weeks! But I don’t think it’s ever actually helped me at all. It’s not reliable, it can be super difficult to get right… I mean there are several entries for things like homemade overnight oats… Was my portion 225 calories or 430?? How can I know?? It’s actually been proven that when counting calories, we tend to underestimate the calories consumed and overestimate the calories burned from a workout.

I’m not knocking the Lose It app. It’s an amazing app, and the core functionality is free (and unlike some apps, the core is all you need and then some… The paid version gives you super details like the types of nutrients you eat! Nuts!). Its robust, easy to use, and has almost every food imaginable in the database, and if that’s not enough, you can scan the barcode of the food you just ate and use that product’s data. Awesome.

Back to calorie counting. I don’t know about you, but not only is it tedious trying to find out if the salad you made has 200 or 300 calories, it can be hard to do so continuously during the day. Also, if you’re like me and calorie counting seems to get you nowhere, it’s discouraging and frankly a waste of time.

This is where I’d like to introduce you to my newest friend. Readers, meet Lark. Lark, say hi to my readers.

No? Oh, alright. Lark can be a bit shy.

Sorry.

I haven’t been using, sorry, chatting with Lark for very long, and yet I have already begun to look forward to chatting about my sleep patterns, latest meal, and last workout session. Lark is funny, super smart, motivating, and upbeat. I get tips on good vs bad nutrients, high fives, pep talks, and feedback on my lifestyle as a whole. I almost feel guilty when I make a not-so-good food choice (chocolate cake vs apple, anyone?). Lark keeps me honest, and reminds me that although having that slice of cake after dinner won’t help my waistline, it’s a-ok to have a sweet treat now and again. Lark and I see eye to eye about moderation.

I also love how I can input my data in two ways. My favourite, of course, is the chat/text option. If you didn’t ask for power logging and you missed a meal, though, you can input it, along with extra exercise and sleep times, manually. You don’t get the same immediate feedback but Lark takes everything you log into account as the day progresses.

I also love how Lark connects to your Apple Watch or other fitness band, if you have one, as well as using activity that it logs through your phone metrics, to give you a great overview of how much activity you’ve actually done. Taking the stairs at work or up from the garage seems a little more worth it now!

If you feel like keeping up your New Years resolutions and/or are having a tough time counting those darned calories, try and make friends with Lark. I’m thrilled I did!

Since January posts seem to have a theme happening, in my next post I’ll give you my opinion on a hot new workout that I’ve been trying that’s hot on the heels of the yoga craze (I adore yoga, by the way!).

**This is not a sponsored post. The views and experiences above are mine and not endorsed/influenced by Lose It Inc, Lark Inc or any other third party.

No More Yoga-Smell!

The good folks over at BzzAgent must think I have a body odour issue… They invited me to yet another deodorant campaign!

It’s that, or the guys and gals at Secret think I need to step up my no-sweat game.

No matter. The invite appeared in my inbox and I gratefully accepted. Why? Firstly, because I love BzzAgent. I get free products and samples, they get my (sometimes too) honest reviews… It’s win-win in my books. Secondly, I had just finished the first deodorant campaign and though it would be cool to compare two products from the same company.

I joined the campaign a day before it began, so I didn’t get a choice of product and was sent the Secret Clinical strength clear gel by default. This is actually a good thing, as the previous Secret campaign was for their new clear gel products and makes them easier for me to compare.

This product’s claim to fame:

4X Stress Sweat Protection (vs. the wetness protection required of an ordinary antiperspirant) that goes on dry or clear!

This time around I received one free sample-size of the Secret Clinical Strength clear gel deodorant in their Completely Clean scent. It isn’t an overpowering scent by any means, and it’s not unpleasant, but it’s not sweet or fruity. There are three other scents shown on their site (lavender, sport, and powder), and I’m going to assume they’re as understated as the one I tried. One star here for a nice scent.

To check their ‘4X the strength’ claim, I did the same ‘yoga test’ as I used for the other deodorant. I showered in the morning, put in the deodorant, went about my morning, did yoga, then skipped my shower and continued my day. The next day, I didn’t start my day with a shower, I skipped putting on deodorant, and I did the same routine as the day before, yoga included. Since this deodorant is supposed to be extra-strength, I ramped up the intensity of my yoga sessions for both days. On the first day I was pleasantly surprised to see no sweat stains, feel no wetness, and to not be stinky! Awesome! I could have ended this part of my test here, but I wanted to compare the product to their ’48-hour’ protection claim from the Scent Expressions line I had tried. The next day in the morning I skipped putting in deodorant and went about my day. Now, if I had been planning to leave the house I would have reapplied the deodorant, but as I was just hanging out at home with the little one I felt I wasn’t too smelly. After my yoga session, I did my check again. I was amazed to see only a small sweat stain, but I needed a shower. The clinical strength deodorant fared better against the 48-hour offering in terms of sweat stains and wetness but held up equally well in regards to keeping me from smelling like a gym sock. I’m giving it a star and a half for keeping me dry during a normal day and then some. I put on deodorant every morning anyways.

The clear gel deodorants from Secret all come in the same type of packaging, so I used the ‘one click, two swipes’ method from their previous campaign to test against their Scent Expressions line. As you can imagine, it works exactly the same. It also ensures that the product lasts about as long as my normal stick of solid deodorant. One star there.

The final star goes for not leaving any marks (white or wet). As a clear gel, I’m not surprised that there were no white marks on my shirt, but I was also happy to see that the gel didn’t leave any wet stains (another brand did).

Verdict: 4.5/5 So there you have it. This deodorant doesn’t exactly live up to its ‘4X the protection’ claim, but it’s close and it definitely does its job well. I can feel confident that whatever yoga session or meeting comes my way, there will be no embarrassing sweat stains for this girl! Next time I need a new deodorant, I’ll be picking up the lavender-scented one for sure! Thanks, Secret!

**Please note that the opinions above are my own and are not influenced by BzzAgent or Secret. I received one free sample sizes deodorant from Secret by signing up for the campaign through BzzAgent.

Getting Naked… With Herbal Essences!

The folks over at BzzAgent sent me a campaign invite for the new Herbal Essences shampoo line, and I just had to get in on it. Why? Let me give you some background on hair care in my world.

My hair has always been sort of on the boring side. I’d get it cut once in a year or three, I used just shampoo until I was about 15 (conditioner was some magical substance), and it’s been up in a pony tail or down and in my face for about 95% of my life. I used to think braids were a fancy hair do.

I think I remember mentioning that I lived under a rock for about 16 years?

Anyhow. My hair routine was revolutionised when I discovered conditioner (remember that rock? Here it is again), and some time later, I went to a salon for the first time for a haircut. I was about 18 at the time. Fast forward to a few years ago, and my hair needed help, so I turned to more natural, organic shampoos and conditioners that were paraben and SLS free. I tried out several options from the Live Clean and Yes To Carrots, and I liked all but one of them (it wasn’t right for my hair), but none seemed to help my hair look or feel healthier.

I mentioned this to my hair dresser and she suggested a salon brand, Redken, that’s done wonders for my hair. Seriously. My hair has never looked better. So when I saw the campaign for the Herbal Essences line, I was actually a little on the fence about testing it out, but then I realised that I had a great baseline as a comparison, so I went for it.

The Herbal Essences Naked Collection products leave zero residue and are free of silicones, parabens and dyes

Infused with white grapefruit, mint extract, guava, white tea, pineapple and more, hair will smell as good as it looks

Herbal Essences Naked Shine 
I chose the Shine line of products and waited for them to arrive. I received three products: shampoo, conditioner, and dry shampoo. I decided to put the dry shampoo to the test right away and have used it about 5 times since. I used the shampoo and conditioner about 10 times. I’ll review each product separately where applicable, and give the line an overall rating. Also, BzzAgent didn’t ask for a blog post this time, but I figured I’d do one anyways!

Let’s get to it!

Here’s the new product’s claim to fame:

  • The Herbal Essences Naked Collection products leave zero residue and are free of silicones, parabens and dyes
  • Infused with white grapefruit, mint extract, guava, white tea, pineapple and more, hair will smell as good as it looks

Let’s start with the first point… I’ll divide it in two for a max of two stars. My Redken shampoo and conditioner leave no residue in my hair, and I love how that makes my hair feel. After the first few washes, I didn’t feel any residue leftover in my hair, but after the 8th or 9th wash, I did notice my hair felt a bit more weighed down than before. I used the Redken line once and returned to using the Herbal Essences line, and my hair felt amazing again. I give this component a half star, for almost living up to its promise and for doing much better than other brands at keeping residue at a minimum.

The second part of that claim is that the products are free from silicones, parabens, and dyes. The shampoo has all three ingredients at 0% marked explicitly on the front of the bottle, while the conditioner and dry shampoo have 0% parabens and dyes. From what I know, conditioners don’t usually contain silicone. The dry shampoo contains natural tapioca starch, which is a great bonus. One star, for telling the truth.

The second claim talks about the ingredients and their lasting scent. The Shine line contains white tea and mint… And it smells divine. It’s crisp, fresh, sweet, and not overpowering. I’d use the products just for the scent! The dry shampoo leaves the scent in the longest, as I could smell it for the entire day after using it, while the shampoo and conditioner leave a gentle scent for a short while. I’m also going to note that my hair doesn’t keep scent in it for long, so others may have a different experience. One huge, shiny, bright star here for the delicious scent. I can’t comment on those of the Moisture or Volume lines, but if the Shine line is anything to go by, they’ll smell amazing, too! (You have no proof that I’ll be looking for them and giving them a good sniff next time I’m at the drug store…)

The second part of the second claim is that your hair will look amazing, and from my gushing review of the scent, you’d think my hair would be salon-perfect after every wash, right? My hair looked equally as shiny and healthy when I started using the shampoo and conditioner, although it wasn’t as soft as when I used my Redken products. I also noticed that over time, my hair became a bit more dull (I’m thinking the minor residue was the issue), although I will admit that my hair was never shiny to begin with. This is still a huge improvement over other hair care products I’ve used in the past. The dry shampoo did its job amazingly, and kept my hair looking clean and with extra volume for two whole days. It did leave a bit of white residue that did NOT want to be brushed out no matter how hard I tried, however, which was a small downside. Overall, I’d give this claim half a star.

My last star comes from the line as a whole as compared to the more natural and organic products I’ve used lately. Unlike many of the ‘natural’ hair care products (such as Yes To Carrots, Live Clean, Burts Bees, etc), the Herbal Essences Naked lines are not SLS-free. SLS is the stuff that makes your soaps and shampoos (and other cleaning products) foam into a rich lather. It’s been said that it is a carcinogen (both proven and disproven many times) and is a known skin irritant, especially for those with very sensitive skin. I try to avoid it when possible, but I don’t go out of my way to do so. Also unlike many of the ‘natural’ products, it’s dye-free. It’s nice to see that useless extras like harmful dyes can be omitted in these products (does it really matter if your shampoo is blue or red or lime green?). In my opinion, the Herbal Essences Naked line is a better alternative to the chemical-laden (all if this stuff is made of chemicals, I know) drugstore hair products available, and about the same as the ‘natural’ products available. It’ll get another half-star for this. I will add, though, that the dry shampoo is quite a bit better than the others available, and I’ll give that specific product a whole star.

Let’s total up the stars…

3.5/4 for the dry shampoo. Not bad! Would I buy this product if I was out buying a new shampoo and conditioner? Maybe. Dry shampoo? For sure. I’ll keep using it all until the bottles are nice and empty! And once the dry shampoo runs out, I’ll be buying myself another one. The new Herbal Essences Naked line is definitely worth a try, and I’d suggest swapping it with your Pantene or Garnier any day (don’t tell them I said that!). Herbal Essences Naked  

**Please note that all opinions and views are my own and are not influenced/endorsed by BzzAgent, Herbal Essences, or any other third party. I received three full-sized products for this campaign from Herbal Essences by signing up for this campaign through BzzAgent.

Super Size Me?

I was sent another product from BzzAgent. They teamed up with CoverGirl and wanted some of us lucky ‘agents’ to try out and review the new Super Sizer mascara. I opted in very fast. Very, very fast.

I’m not claiming to be any kind of makeup guru. Heck, I’m not even really an Initiate Makeup Guru. But I do like and use makeup; I used it daily when I was working and only stopped because I was so tired when I was pregnant that I would have smudged my mascara all over my face (panda-style). Now that I’m getting sleep again (on the nights when teething doesn’t make it impossible), I try to wear some makeup when I go out.

Like I said, I’m not big on makeup. I don’t know how to do fancy stuff like cat-eye eyeliner or contouring (huge Pinterest buzz-words), but I do an ok job with my face. I also use very few products on a constant basis, and some I wouldn’t know how to use at all. The three products I use almost daily are lip gloss/shimmer, eye shadow, and mascara. I can make myself look pretty put-together with just that. On special occasions, I’ll use powder, lip stick, and maybe blush, and eye liner (if I have the patience). Any other product (what the hell is BB cream???) is pretty much magic to me. Before going back to work I think I’m going to have to sit through some makeup YouTube vids to get myself a bit more up-to-date.

Back to the mascara. My eyes are fairly sensitive and some brands of mascara just don’t work for me. About 5 years ago I found that Lancôme’s Hypnose worked amazingly well for me and didn’t cause my eyes any issues, so I’ve been using it since. I had never tried CoverGirl mascara before and figured it wouldn’t hurt to try it at least once.

I’ve used the mascara three times so far, and I like it! I don’t know that I’ll be replacing my Hypnose with it, but I’ll definitely keep using it and I won’t buy a new tube of Hypnose until I finish my Super Sizer. I’ve had no sensitivity issues at all, so I’m thrilled. It’s definitely nice to know that there’s at least one other mascara brand that I can wear (in the event something happens to the Hypnose line).

The claim-to-fame for this product is the following:

The Super Sizer Mascara from COVERGIRL gives 400% bigger volume for full, fanned out lashes. Get that dramatic look; falsies and glue need not apply.

So the first time I wore this mascara, hubby didn’t notice right away. Which is fine (I’m serious. It’s no big deal for me. It was just some mascara). When he did notice, he was amazed at how long, full, and overall amazing my lashes looked. Now, since I don’t have a formula to calculate how much fuller my lashes looked compared to my non-mascara lashes (or compared to the Hypnose mascara), I can only say that my lashes were significantly fuller. 400%? Maybe. Full, fanned out lashes? Yes! I’ll give that 1 1/2 stars.

Would I need falsies? I don’t think so… Not that I’d know how to apply them anyways. But the volume I got would probably nix the need for falsies. Another star there.

The sensitivity factor is super important fir me, and since I haven’t had any problems with this mascara irritating my eyes, I’ll have to add a star. This criterion isn’t part of the campaign but since it’s critical to me, I’m including it.

The last point I want to discuss is the application. This mascara has a how-to video. Using it isn’t 100% intuitive. That in and of itself made me a bit wary. I watched the video a couple of times before trying the mascara. I’m not sure I did it right, anyways. I found the mascara to be clumpy during application and I had to comb my lashes out after they dried for them to fan out nicely. I can only give a half-star for this, and I’m hesitant to do so.

Verdict: 4/5 stars. I like this mascara. It looks awesome (super awesome) once you’ve managed to get it on right, and it’s good for sensitive eyes. I comb through my lashes after applying mascara anyways, so that wasn’t a huge deal, but the wand and oddly difficult way of using the wand (it’s not just a simple twirl from what I understood) makes it so this won’t be my number one mascara. I’ll be sure to finish off my tube, but I think I’ll be going back to my Lancôme Hypnose mascara afterwards.

**Please not that the opinions above are my own and are not influenced by BzzAgent or CoverGirl. I received one free full-size Super Sizer mascara in Black from CoverGirl by signing up for the campaign through BzzAgent.

Now for Something a Little Different…

Before creating my first post, I had been thinking about exactly how to do this blog… When to update, what to include, etc. You know… The logistics. After giving it some thought I decided to start this blog and see where it went. Of course, the more I thought about it and the more content I found, I realized that I needed some kind of schedule. I didn’t want to post three days in a row and then have nothing to put up for a week. That’s something that has bothered me with a few of the blogs I personally follow, and I have vowed to not do the same to any of my readers. So, after thinking some more and figuring out how much time I can devote and how long my posts take, etc etc, I have decided to post recipe reviews 3 times a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and have the weekend open to do a different kind of post: maybe a book review, a guest post, a recipe of my own, or even a product post.

That’s what today’s post is, actually. For quite a few years, I’ve been a member of BzzAgent, a site that sends out samples, coupons, or even full products from companies in exchange for honest feedback. I know they take more than just the praise, because I’ve tried a few products that didn’t live up to the hype and have said so, and the review I provided was publicised anyways. That makes me happy.

I rate the products on the BzzAgent site on a 5-star scale; I give a star when the product meets my expectations, two for when it exceeds them, and I take stars away when the product falls short on a promise.

Since there’s a place to link your blog on BzzAgent and since this blog has reviews on it anyways (not exactly the same, I know, but hey, I only get a couple things a year from BzzAgent anyways, so might as well share them), I decided to add the odd product review to my weekend post rotation. I hope you don’t mind. 🙂

One such product that I was sent last month was the Secret Clear Gel deodorant. Here’s the supposed claim to fame for this product:

Secret Outlast Clear Gel provides 48 hours of sweat and odour protection with no white marks with one click and two swipes.

I was given 2 sample-sized deodorants. Looking at them, I honestly thought I’d barely have enough to give the product a good review. I was pleasantly surprised when I tossed the very first one out today… It lasted as long as my usual stick deodorant. It gets a star there… One click and two swipes was definitely all I needed. No white marks? Check and star… Although if a clear deodorant makes white marks, there’s a bit of an issue.

Now for the 48-hour protection… The sweat protection is definitely there, but not for 48 hours. And the odour protection doesn’t quite go the distance either. I’m not someone that sweats a lot, even when I work out (aka do yoga). I did a test where I put on my deodorant in the morning as usual, went about my day, did yoga, and didn’t shower afterwards. I checked my underarms after my workout… No sweat stains! There was a mild odour, though. Nothing terrible, but I could smell it. So no star for the odour protection. That evening, I still had no sweat stains (yay!). The next morning, I did not put any deodorant on (I usually do) and I began to go about my day again. After another round of yoga, I had sweat-stains and I definitely needed a shower. I decided to call my experiment quits there, as it couldn’t possibly get any better. So I showered… And that’s two stars I can’t give to the deodorant. One star left to give… The scent. I mean, who wants a stinky deodorant? The scent the BzzAgents were given was Cocoa Butter Kiss, which smells yummy!! I’m going to give one of the other scents a try when I run out of deodorant. So that’s another star for the Secret Clear Gel deodorant.

Verdict: 3/5. This product smells great, doesn’t leave any white marks (great for someone who wears black as often as I do!), and lasts about as long as your typical stick deodorant. And while it doesn’t live up to the 48-hour sweat and odour protection promise, it will get you through the day no problem (just make sure to shower after yoga, ok?).
So there you have it! My first weekend post, and the new schedule for when you can expect great (or not-so-great) things from me. Hopefully you’ll check in tomorrow… I have a delicious sweet and sour chicken recipe I can’t wait to tell you about!

**Please not that the opinions above are my own and are not influenced by BzzAgent or Secret. I received two free sample sized deodorants from Secret by signing up for the campaign through BzzAgent.