6 Sneaky Ways to feel at Home in a Hotel

hotelhacks

This past year my job has kept me on the road more often than not. While frequent travel has its perks, it can also get lonely and make you miss the comforts of home. Here are six tricks I’ve picked up along the way to feel more at home when you’re away.

  1. Unpack.
    Whenever I know I will be staying for more than a night or two, I make it a point to unpack right away. I hang all my clothes, put my undergarments and accessories in the dresser and set out my hygiene and beauty products on the vanity. Picking my clothes for the day out of a closet instead of rustling through my suitcase not only feels more like home, it also cuts down on wrinkles and ironing. Also, these Eagle Creek Packing cubes have been a game changer for me when it comes to packing, and being able to fit everything in a carry-on bag.
  2. Slippers.
    I bring a pair of slippers with me wherever I go. They are not much bigger than a pair of socks, but are extremely cozy and make chilly hotel nights feel a lot more comfortable. I got mine at Target, but these are similar and about the same price. Plus, the hotel floors are sometimes a bit questionable. They’re also an easy pick when I want to sneak down to the dining area for breakfast before I get ready in the morning. These are also good to use on long flights if you don’t want to wear your sneakers or dress shoes. Pro tip: Please don’t go barefoot on a plane.
  3. Bath soak.
    Some people might balk at the idea of using a hotel bathtub, but personally I think they’re fantastic- and likely get cleaned more often than I clean my own at home. I have a sachet of aromatherapy bath salts in my personal care bag and it feels amazing to unwind after a long day of travel or a hectic day at a convention. Pair that hot, soothing bath with a glass of wine and you’re all set. This is my favorite one, and I usually pick them up at Whole Foods. Pro tip: Many hotels, especially extended stays, offer a complimentary “reception” each evening, usually from about 5-7pm and serve one free glass of wine or beer. I usually go and grab my free glass of wine and bring it up to enjoy later in the evening in the comfort of my own room.
  4. Coffee.
    It’s rare that the cheap hotel coffee that comes in your room is any good. In fact, you’re lucky if it tastes anything better than watered down shoe polish. I bring a few packets of instant coffee (My favorite: Starbucks Via) and I grab a cup of half and half from the breakfast area if I have a refrigerator. If I don’t have a fridge I just grab a few extra tubs of coffee creamer from the lobby since they usually only leave one or two with your terrible in-room coffee setup.
  5. Toilet Paper.
    Sounds silly, but if I stop at a store on my way to my hotel (which I usually do), I always grab a roll of nice toilet paper. It rarely costs more than about a dollar but it makes a world of difference in comfort compared to the scratchy one-ply TP that is usually standard in budget hotels. You’ll thank me later.
  6. Water.
    This is usually why I pop into a Walgreens or grocery store on my way to a check in. When you travel, you tend to get dehydrated which can lead to serious bloating. It’s never fun wriggling into an outfit you’ve planned only to end up feeling like a sausage in your normally perfectly fitting clothes. I make it a point to drink a gallon of water per day- at home or when traveling- to keep that bloating and water retention at bay.

Hope these tips help you feel more comfortable when you’re traveling- they make a world of difference for me!

Uber in Alaska

As an expat Alaskan I was super excited to see a tweet from @Uber_AK claiming that the first drivers were being dispatched in Anchorage! It always fills me with a little joy to see my home state get the same modern comforts I enjoy down here in the contiguous US.

uber alaska

I use Uber regularly and I can’t imagine travel and transport without it- they have really revolutionized the way I get around. It’s cost effective, quick, safe and reliable.

So Alaskan friends (or anyone else), sign up with this link and you’ll receive $30 off your first ride, which usually makes it free!

 

Drugstore Dupe for Benefit’s They’re REAL Mascara

Love Benefit’s iconic “They’re REAL” Mascara but hate the hefty $24 price tag? Me too. On a whim, I tried L’Oreal Voluminous Butterfly Mascara and as it turns out, it is SO similar to They’re Real! I arguably like it even better, as it’s a teeny bit more volumizing. I got great length and volume, and the comb separates so no clumps. Give this one a try!

L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Butterfly Mascara, Blackest Black, 0.22 Ounces

mascara

6 Low Calorie Pumpkin Spice Treats

There’s something about September that suddenly causes me to don crocheted slipper boots and scarves, drink #PSL’s and become the most basic of white girls. I JUST LOVE FALL WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME. I mean, I know it’s still over 100 degrees outside, but the clock is ticking and this casual jacket wardrobe isn’t going to wear itself. Unfortunately the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte rings in at 380 calories and 52 carbs in the Grande with whip- how can we enjoy these treats through the fall season without sacrificing the hard work we’re putting in at the gym? Here’s how! Find a list of healthy, low calorie pumpkin spice treats below!

1. Extra Dessert Delights Pumpkin Spice GUM
I am a bona-fide gum fiend, especially the dessert varieties that I often use to satisfy my insatiable sweet tooth. This is epic, and I plan to scour all the checkout lines in my grocery stores until I find it.

extra-pumpkin-spice-gum

2. Pumpkin Spice Greek Yogurt
For the protein conscious, Chobani released a “small batch” seasonal Pumpkin Spice blended greek yogurt flavor. Can’t wait to try! I can only imagine how good it would be with a graham cracker crumbled on top…

chobani_pumpkin-spice-yogurt

3. Pumpkin Spice Tea
Add a few drops of vanilla stevia and a table spoon of half and half for a low cal, low carb PSL! The Celestial Seasonings Sweet Harvest Pumpkin tea has no calories, carbs or sugar!

pumpkin spice tea

4. Pumpkin Spice Whey Protein
I can’t believe more companies haven’t gotten on this bandwagon! I’m talking to you, Cellucor! Reviews on Amazon say the flavor is amazing.

pumpkin spice whey protein

5. Pumpkin Spice Muscle Egg
Not familiar with Muscle Egg? You should be! It’s flavored, pasturized egg whites! Imagine your protein waffles, pancakes, and smoothies with this delicious pumpkin flavored protein source.

pumpkin spice muscle egg

6. Pumpkin Spice Condoms
Okay, so these aren’t actually real, but I couldn’t resist.

pumpkin spice condom

Pumpkin Spice Protein Frappuccino

Pumpkin Spice Protein Frappuccino, my first installment of me putting pumpkin in everything that goes in my face until about January. Inspired by a recipe my mom sent me for a low-calorie pumpkin spice latte, BUT since Arizona doesn’t give a damn about fall and it’s still 108 degrees outside, a hot #PSL doesn’t sound too great. So iced and blended, it’s still amazing.

Macros for this sweet treat: 204 calories, 28g protein, 11g Carbs, 4.5g Fat, and 6g fiber!

pumpkin spice frappuccino

 

1 scoop vanilla protein (I used Dymatize ISO 100 Birthday Cake)
1/2c pumpkin purée (NOT pie filling) Note: I used frozen pumpkin I had leftover so if you use it right out of the can, add ice!
1/2tbsp pumpkin pie spice (more or less to taste)
1 packet Splenda or stevia
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/2 cup strong coffee (I used cold brewed so it didn’t get bitter- my awesome cold brew recipe here)
Add all ingredients to a blender or magic bullet, blend until smooth, top with a little reddiwhip and some cinnamon <3

MyOatmeal.com review and coupon

Already excited? MoreThanHeels readers use the discount code “HEALTHY15″ for 15% your MyOatmeal.com order!

Oatmeal has been a staple for me ever since embarking on a fitness journey nearly one year ago. My trainer has me on a breakfast of oats and egg whites every morning. Let me repeat that- EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING. Repetition gets old my friends, this is especially true with food. You can only put cinnamon and stevia in your oats for so long before you’d just assume chew your own arm off.

Ant & Kathy

Ant & Kathy

Enter MyOatmeal.com. My dear friend Zlata introduced me to this genius concept- a small local Arizona business that literally customizes your oatmeal. I was intrigued! I ordered up a couple bags and I was hooked. MyOatmeal boats 22 billion different possible combinations- you choose your type of oats, flavorings, add-ins such as nuts, fruits or seeds, and then how you’d like it sweetened (if at all). I was so excited when they agreed to let me write a review, and even get a little sneak peek into the operations at MyOatmeal.com headquarters.

 

MyOatmeal is run by a newly engaged couple (congrats!) Anthony and Kathy in Tempe, Arizona. While they are gaining momentum and popularity quickly, you wont find their products in stores. Anthony is happy serving his niche market well, and sticking to his exclusively online distribution model.

So how does this all work?

You have your choice of quick rolled instant oats, 5 grain rolled oats and flax, steel cut whole oats, signature smash blend, gluten free quick oats, and organic gluten free thick rolled oats. You might be asking yourself- hey, aren’t all oats gluten free? Yes, but the oats they label as such are certified gluten free, and are manufactured in a gluten free facility. Each order is created and packaged by hand based on a recipe calculated by a complex algorithm that is generated when you customize your blend. Watching your diet closely? That same algorithm calculates your calories and macronutrients instantly on the screen, and leaves you with a full nutrition facts label printed on each bag.

Nutrition label

Nutrition label

 

Their flavors are sourced from a company that also creates flavors for ice cream, so you can imagine the extent of incredible combinations you can come up with. This is where you can really have some fun and get creative! Next,  you can add nuts, seeds, or fruits (or all of the above!) and make the blend your own. Choose your sweeteners, which is something Anthony says should not be skipped- the flavors rely on sweetener to taste right. The choices are brown cane sugar, brown cane sugar granules, white cane sugar, monk fruit or Splenda. Monk fruit and Splenda are both calorie free and sugar free options. You can also opt to sweeten it yourself at home. Next, give it a name and you’re all set. A few days later, your customized bag of oatmeal will be on it’s way to your doorstep.

MyOatmeal creation station!

MyOatmeal creation station!

 

Fruits, nuts and seeds

Fruits, nuts and seeds

Another option you have is to customize something called PB Lean- dehydrated peanut butter powder that has 85% less calories from fat. It can be added to shakes, baked goods, yogurt or reconstituted with water and used like regular peanut butter. All of the flavor options from the oatmeal can be used to flavor the PB Lean as well. 

So how was it?

Here is a little run down of the flavors I have ordered:

  • White chocolate + cheesecake with cherries: A+
    My favorite flavor I have tried. Definitely sweet, and the white chocolate flavor is on point and most noticeable. The cheesecake flavor is a little masked, but it’s no worse off. The dried cherries are sweet and a little tart and are a perfect addition!
  • Creme brulee + dulce de leche with pecans: B
    For this blend I used the ‘Signature Smash Blend’ oats which needs to be cooked a little longer, so when I microwaved them the flavor was a little lost. Problem solved by soaking the oats in boiling water before microwaving to cut down the cooking time. I think next time I will do dulce de leche OR creme brulee separate so I can really distinguish the flavors!
  • Cake batter with chia seeds: A
    Loved this flavor, and it was a great base to add random mix ins like fresh fruit or berries when I had them on hand. This is another flavor I will be sure to reorder. The chia seeds absorb moisture, so I would usually add a few more tablespoons of almond milk to compensate.
  • Coconut Cream Pie with macadamia nuts, coconut flakes, mangos and pineapples: C
    This blend taught me to not go overboard with adding too many things! Less can be more. It was too much going on- totally my fault!
  • Caramel + cinnamon bun: A
    A great blend and its my favorite to use in protein pancakes, waffles and baking!
  • PB Lean- Chocolate Hazelnut + Sugar Cookie: A+
    This was AMAZING. I’m actually craving it right now as I’m typing. The only thing I’d do differently is possibly add ‘Peanut butter’ flavor to whatever future blend I make, so it has a more distinct peanutty flavor. I think the lack of peanut oil (hence: low fat) takes away some of it. However, with the great macro count and fun flavors, I could see this easily replacing traditional peanut butter in my diet!

Overall, I don’t think I’ll buying regular oatmeal from the grocery store again. I’m a MyOatmeal devotee! While it’s a little more spendy than your plain grocery oats, the quality and customer service is more than enough to compensate. Plus, variety is the spice of life- and 22 billion varieties makes life pretty spicy :)

When you’re ready to order, MoreThanHeels readers get 15% off! Use coupon code HEALTHY15, and be sure to like MyOatmeal on Facebook to get the newest updates on seasonal flavors, specials and events!

FCC Disclosure: I was not paid for this review, but MyOatmeal did provide samples. I have also purchased their product personally.

6 Steps to Resolutions that Stick

new years resolutions that stick!

It’s said that only 8% of Americans stick to their resolutions each year. Those are some pretty lousy odds, if you ask me! So what are those  magical 8%’ers doing that everyone else isn’t? Here are some tried and true ways to make a change in behavior that sticks.

1. Don’t make a resolution, make a GOAL. Resolutions tend to be pretty vague- I want to call my parents more often, I want to lose weight, I want to stop procrastinating. Goals are specific- I want to call my parents every Sunday, I want to lose 1o pounds, I want to finish all my assignments no less than 24 hours prior to the deadline. Make your resolutions specific and measurable!

2. Make it public. Tweet about it, blog about it, tell your friends. This makes it REAL and adds a layer of accountability. Having a partner to check in with can make this even more effective. Accountability buddies keep you on track, and help a friend out in their goals as well.

3. Give yourself a deadline. A deadline doesn’t mean “2014″. If you want to learn French, make a goal and give it a deadline- like “Learn 10 useful French phrases by March 1st”. Add this deadline to your calendar or planner. It also helps to break these goals down even smaller- so maybe at the end of each month, make sure you’ve learned at least 2 of those 10 French phrases. Or maybe that’s 2 pounds of those 10 you want to lose. Breaking down goals into smaller goals makes it feel a lot more achievable. 10 pounds can seem tricky, 2 pounds feels a heck of a lot easier.

4. Reward yourself. When you lose those two pounds, reward yourself with something (preferably not food, obvi). Maybe it’s a new pair of workout pants. If you learn your two French phrases this month, maybe treat yourself to a massage. Rewarding yourself for good behavior is a great reinforcement of your new habits. Consider a big reward at the end of the end of the year if you meet your annual goal- trip to France to practice your new skills, maybe? :)

5. Don’t get discouraged. If you miss a milestone or a goal, don’t get derailed. It’s easy to want to throw in the towel if you get off track. Use it as an opportunity to see what it was that caused you to slip up and reflect on it. What can you do differently when that challenge presents itself again? Regroup and start fresh and definitely don’t beat yourself up.

6. Celebrate your success. We are often our own worst critics- so start being your own biggest cheerleader instead. Recognize your successes and be proud of them! Share that with others- you never know who you could be inspiring!

So what are your goals for 2014? Post in the comments!!

I tried it- Clear and Brilliant laser resurfacing

Although I’ve been lucky to skate through 30 with just minimal signs of my age, I am noticing things beginning to creep up. A lifetime of oily skin has left me with noticeable pores, marks from old breakouts and uneven pigmentation. Thankfully, significant wrinkles aren’t something that have plagued me quite yet, so I haven’t been looking to take drastic action. Wearing face makeup every day is a hassle, and I was hoping to find something that let me wear less, or none at all.

Any time we start looking at cosmetic solutions, the trade off for dramatic results is generally cost and downtime. Neither of which were a luxury I could afford, so Clear and Brilliant treatments really appealed to me.

So what are they?

Clear + Brilliant treatments are a step above a chemical peel, and a step below heavier resurfacing lasers like Fraxel. Instead of 1-3 treatments that leave you out of commission for a few days, it’s a series of six that let you go back to your normal activities pretty much right away. It’s great start to laser resurfacing, or awesome maintenance if you’ve had a larger treatment previously.

So what is it like?

I opted to go for a full set of six treatments to get the best result. They were spaced two weeks apart and performed at my dermatologist’s office (Van Dyke Laser & Skin). One of the medical assistants gave me the rundown of the process, asked me if I had any questions, I signed some consent forms and had the doctor gave me the thumbs up and we got started.

First, the MA cleansed my skin and applied a topical numbing cream which sat on for about 30 minutes. The feeling of having a numb face definitely took some getting used to, but I was grateful to keep the discomfort to a minimum.

Clear + Brilliant Treatment- Numbing Cream!

Clear + Brilliant Treatment- Numbing Cream!

The treatment itself was done by one of the estheticians in the office, and took about 30 minutes. She put a cold fan on my face where she was treating to further help any discomfort. I wouldn’t call it painful at all- more annoying than anything, but some parts were more sensitive than others. Overall, it was completely tolerable. I would describe the sensation as feeling “prickly”.  The esthetician asked me questions and kept the conversation going to keep me distracted, which also helped. When it was done, she slathered me in a soothing cream and some sunscreen. Keeping your skin protected is always important, but it is EXTRA critical after having peels, laser or any treatment done.

After the treatment it felt like I had a sunburn and ice packs helped this sensation calm down pretty quickly. I was able to ice for as long as I needed. Within about 15 minutes, most of the hot sensation was subsided. I looked red and a little swollen, but not like a weirdo. I just looked like I got too much sun.

Immediately post Clear and Brilliant treatment

Immediately post Clear and Brilliant treatment

The next day my skin had a strange rough texture, almost like sandpaper. It was tender, and it felt better to use cool water when I cleansed or showered. I was advised to use gentle products for the first 24 hours, so I used Dermalogica’s UltraCalming Cleanser, Calm After the Storm serum and Safety Blanket moisturizer by MyBody skincare. I found this combination to be perfect during my skin’s healing period. You can also use really plain and gentle items from the drugstore, like Cetaphil cleanser and moisturizer.

Thankfully I was able to put on makeup right away, so there was no time off from work or normal activities. Makeup went on slightly differently, but still looked fine.

Wearing makeup after Clear and Brilliant Treatment

Wearing makeup after Clear and Brilliant Treatment

After about three days I noticed that the sandpaper texture was going away on my face, but took a little longer to go away on my neck and chest. Neither were uncomfortable at all, though. By the time two weeks rolled around and I was ready for my next treatment, everything was back to normal.

So how were the results?

Great! With treatments like this, you have to have your expectations in the right place. It’s not going to give you as dramatic, practically overnight results as some of the stronger, ablative lasers. I experienced all the things I was hoping for- smaller pores, a more even skin tone, and fewer brown spots. I am very happy with my results, and plan to get another treatment every few months to help maintain them. Plus, I am wearing less face makeup than ever before and that was my ultimate goal! The photo below is after my first treatment and after my last. Unfortunately the lighting is different, but I think you can still see quite a bit of the improvement.

Clear and Brilliant before and after

Clear and Brilliant before and after

If you want to get Clear + Brilliant treatments yourself, you can go to their website and find a provider in your area. If you’re in Arizona, I totally recommend Van Dyke Laser & Skin. They do a fantastic job and make you feel very well taken care of!

Foil Pouch Tilapia

This is a great way to cook fish that is easy, fast, DELICIOUS and has super quick clean up.

foil pouch tilapia

Just add a thawed fish filet of your choice (I use tilapia) to a foil sheet big enough to wrap loosely around the fish. Add veggies and seasonings. I used onions, green onions, lemons, Mrs Dash and white wine. You could also try peppers, zucchini, etc! Close the pouch but make sure it doesn’t touch the fish or veggies. You want to make a sort of “tent” for the juices to steam the fish. Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove carefully because the pouches and the steam inside will be HOT! Serve with your favorite sides and enjoy!

7 Ways to Use Your Instagram Photos You Might Not Know

1. Make a pillow

One of my personal favorites. Stitchtagram lets you make a collage style photo pillow. Wouldn’t these make a great wedding gift? The site also does clutches and coin purses.

2. Make an iphone case

casestagram

Casetagram allows you to make an iPhone case with either a collage of your instagram photos, or one single image. Possibilities for this are endless… a beautiful sunset, your kids, you and your significant other. Personalizing your phone case is a great way to show off something dear to you.

3. Send them as a post card

postagram post card

This is one I use very often, and am very happy with it! Instead of going through the trouble of printing a photo, buying a stamp and heading to a post office, why not just let an app do it all for you? It’s beyond easy. Import a photo of your choice in postagram, tell it what else to say and who to send it to, and it’s off- postage paid and all for just $1.

4. Wear it as a necklace

instagram necklace

 

Etsy seller CircleAndSpades will create a tile necklace from your instagram photos. Taking the old locket necklace and giving it a twist :)

5. Make a set of coasters

Coastermatic lets you protect your coffee table and show off your vacation pictures all at once. You could even choose photos within a certain color family to keep your decor in mind!

6. Wear them as a friendship bracelet

WearShare creates a water resistant bracelet with your choice of images plus a scannable QR code. These are so fun, I’m sure they’d especially be a blast for a teenager. You could also use these for VIP events, gatherings, company parties- so many different ways you could use these to give a personal touch.

7. Tile a backsplash

 image from http://lynnandtonicblog.com

While it would get a little spendy to tile the ENTIRE kitchen in instagram images, doing a few strategically placed throughout your tile project would look nothing short of amazing. ImageSnap offers them in a number of different projects, even as small as 2″x2″. You could also use 4″ size as coasters!

Any other out-of-the-box ideas on using instagram photos?? Let us know in the comments!