Cruising in your Twenties

When you’re in your twenties and feeling the tug of wanderlust, you’ll find so many travel options. Between backpacking, road-tripping, all-inclusives, cultural experiences, and much more, you face the tough choice of how to spend your vacation days and best see the world. Have you considered taking a cruise? I personally just returned from my second Royal Caribbean cruise in as many years, and had an awesome time. Cruising in your twenties isn’t usually the first vacation that comes to mind. But cruises aren’t just for families and older travelers. Depending on the experience you’re looking for, it might be a great choice for you! Continue reading

Life Lately: Cruise!

Long time no see, friends! I’ve had an extremely busy couple of weeks, so unfortunately, I haven’t had much time for the blog. That’s a hard thing for me to say, to be honest. I’ve never been one to claim that I’m “too busy” for a commitment. But when it comes to Flinntrospection, I see it as a personal development project more than anything. And if I feel the need to step back from a project to benefit my mind, body, and soul, then so be it. Continue reading

2017 Tone It Up Challenge

*Peeks head out from under rock…* Hello there. Today is the final day of the 2017 Tone It Up Challenge. That means I’ve spent the past 4 weeks following along with the nutrition plan and daily workouts available on ToneItUp.com (since I started two weeks late). That means it’s been a busy four weeks. And I mean busy.

To recap, I started casually trying out Karena and Katrina’s Tone It Up (TIU) daily workouts back in mid-December. I posted about that here — and it’s funny, looking back, at how much has changed in two months! Continue reading

Tone It Up Nutrition Plan First Impressions

After weeks of debate, and swooning over nutritious Instagram stories, I finally caved and purchased the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan. That means I’m a full-fledged TIU member! Never thought I’d be saying that, but here we are. Just a few weeks ago I started following along with the Daily Workouts on ToneItUp.com. I’ve really enjoyed the process and the community thus far. So before I get too entrenched in the TIU 2017 Challenge (for better or worse), I thought I’d share my Tone It Up Nutrition Plan first impressions!

 Tone It Up Nutrition Plan First Impressions: 2017 Challenge

Tone It Up Nutrition Plan First Impressions

Curiosity killed the…wallet?

Let’s just start off with the price. This plan is expensive, yo. Dropping $150 (USD, I might add) is a hefty commitment, especially since I’ve never done anything like this before. Can’t I just Google all of this nutrition info? Pull together some recipes on Pinterest and make my own plan for free?

Technically, yes, anyone could do that. The question is whether anyone will — and for me, the answer is a definite “no”. By the time I put in the effort to research which foods I need to fuel my body for mental and physical exercise, I’m already chowing down on Tim Hortons. I have made some healthier choices in recent months, but my self-regulation is my downfall. The convenience of having things explained, and aggregated in one spot is my biggest draw to the Nutrition Plan. I wanted to see whether the layout and guidelines of the plan would work for me.

I also took advantage of the current bundle offer. For $165 I received the Nutrition Plan membership and the Body Love video series. These video workouts currently appear quite often in the 2017 Challenge Daily Workouts. The challenge is already 1/3 of the way through, which is a bummer for the bundle. But from what I saw in December, members-only videos from previous challenges show up pretty often during non-challenge period Daily Workouts. Plus, I can always do the workouts whenever, right? (…Right? Hah. We’ll see about that.)

This Plan is Future-Proof.

Usually, when I’m making a commitment like this one, I’d take forever to come to a decision.

Should I wait until the next challenge comes along? Should I wait until I’ve used up all of the frozen pizzas in my freezer? Should I just try to eat healthy without any Nutrition Plan? (Continue ad nauseam…)

But the payment structure of this plan is a huge plus — or, rather, the lack thereof. It’s one fee. One-time. Flat rate. And you get every Nutrition Plan update and Challenge supplement download, for free, forever. This is perfect whether you just want to dabble, or if you’re an all-in-or-all-out kind of person, like me. Here’s the current spectrum of Plans available to members for download:

 Tone It Up Nutrition Plan First Impressions: All Plans 2017

I likely won’t use all of these, but they’re helpful to have when the opportunities arise. (Granted, TIU Challenges also usually require a paid set of videos, which are not included.)

Nutritional Science(ish).

I read through the “plan” portion of the download (i.e. not the recipes) on Saturday night. The guidelines seem solid, and there’s even some chemistry in there to explain the “why” behind them.

Even though I’ve got a Bachelor of Science, my biochemistry background is super limited. I appreciated the basic explanations Karena & Katrina included in the Nutrition Plan. But then you come across stuff like this:

Fatty acids are broken down by the enzyme hormone-sensitive lipase~ or what we like to call the “Burn Baby Burn Enzyme!”.

My boyfriend was reading over my shoulder and dying of laughter! So take the science sections with a grain of salt…

Meal Prepping is Madness.

My original plan was to dabble in some recipes and try out the Nutrition Plan whenever I could fit it in. But I just knew that I would revert to pasta and takeout, and wouldn’t be giving it a fair shot! So instead, I spent Sunday afternoon grocery shopping and meal prepping, as instructed by the 2017 Challenge Guide.

Wowza.

That grocery run was so expensive! I probably could have guessed. So much healthy food, and some of it premium or organic. Also, I was stocking up on bulk foods that I wouldn’t otherwise have purchased, like coconut shavings and flax seed. (And apple cider vinegar. Apparently that one’s important.)

Joe helped me with some of the meal prepping, since he loves to cook and I’m a mess in the kitchen. But as we all know, practice makes perfect! I made Egg Muffins, Almond Butter Cookies, and Chia Seed Pudding.

Things I Wish I Had Known 24 Hours Ago.

I’ve only had this Nutrition Plan for a day, and it’s already been a learning experience. Here are some things that might be helpful if you’re taking the TIU Nutrition Plan plunge:

Print it out.

If you have an iPad or tablet, you’re probably okay, but it was a nightmare switching between my phone and my laptop all afternoon. There are also printables at the end of the Plan — so at least print those. Plus, there’s just something so comforting about holding the pages in your hands, isn’t there? Okay, maybe that’s just me. I’m thinking of printing and binding mine at Staples ASAP — at least the main Nutrition Plan book, anyway.

Rewrite the grocery list in an order that makes sense for you.

This applies if you’re following a Challenge, like the 2017 Look for Love Challenge, with your meals all laid out. Joe and I kept having to go back for things in the grocery store because we skimmed over an ingredient! Take more time to study the grocery list than I did…

Join the gosh darn challenge on time!

At the end of 2016, I was convinced that my reasons for skipping out on Look for Love were solid. I’m participating in Yoga With Adriene’s Yoga Revolution, and still following the Tone It Up Daily Moves. That’s all the time I have to commit!

But you know what I still had time for?

Facebook.

Netflix.

And lots and lots of dawdling.

So you know what? I’m going to bite the bullet, try something new, and hopefully be healthier for it.


Those are my Tone It Up Nutrition Plan first impressions. To summarize, I’ll say that I’m cautiously optimistic, motivated, and curious! If you have any questions (for a newbie like me), ask away!

(P.S. I also created a TIU Instagram account to document the journey — mostly so I wouldn’t annoy my main account followers, haha! Let’s connect @tiu.hillary)

Are you on the #TIUteam? What were your Tone It Up Nutrition Plan first impressions?

Happy Friday (the 13th…)! Just thought I’d check in and give you an update on my life lately. It’s been a busy couple of weeks getting back into the swing of things at work and settling into a daily fitness routine for the month of January (more on that here). But yesterday, I was laid out all day in recovery mode from my wisdom tooth surgery.

Okay, perhaps “surgery” is a stretch. I only had one wisdom tooth, and it was pretty small. The whole surgery process, from freezing to walking back out to the waiting room, took less than 20 minutes. I was pretty nervous going in. Multiple people in my family are paranoid about needles or dental procedures. I won’t say it was painless, but it was still quick and easy.

An unfortunate side effect of popping out that wisdom tooth is that I had to sit out from exercise for a day or two, to facilitate healing. I’m glad I completed my Yoga Revolution Day 12 (In Sync) practice yesterday morning so I could stay on track! However, I didn’t get a chance to complete my Tone It Up daily moves or my steps for the day. Bummer, since I’d been pretty consistent up until yesterday with both of those.

For context on the latter, I just purchased a Fitbit Charge 2 last weekend, which I totally love. You may remember (from this post) that I kinda… sorta… lost the charger for my Fitbit Flex in the summer and never bought a replacement. I started looking online for Flex chargers (since they’re outdated in stores now), but realized that I really wanted a heart-rate monitor moving forward, which the Flex doesn’t have. And when Joe said that he’d like to have a Flex, that settled it — I’ve got my new one, and he’s got my old one. You know, once we find a charger. I may post a review of the Charge 2 once I’ve had it for a little while longer!

As for my daily moves, I have to say that while I’ve only been following along with Tone It Up’s daily workouts for a few weeks now, I’m actually noticing improvements. The videos are becoming more manageable, and I’m taking fewer breaks and starting to enjoy the daily moves. Given that I started out completely loathing exercise, that’s actually pretty cool.

That’s my life lately. How’s yours?

Have a beautiful weekend!

Yoga Revolution- Kicking off 2017 with Adriene

Happy Almost New Year! We’re counting down the hours with eager anticipation until…2016 is finally over. This year has been quite the roller coaster for most of us. I’ve found that one of the most positive, grounding experiences for me this year has been a renewed commitment to yoga practice, as guided by Adriene from the Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel. So starting tomorrow morning, I’m going to be embarking on the Yoga Revolution journey: a 31-day yoga practice video series with a daily mantra or focus. I’m pumped!

You may remember from that I participated in the “first annual” 30 Days of Yoga back in the summer. This video series launched in January 2015, so obviously I was a bit behind. It took me 44 days to get through the 30 videos, but at least I made it! You can read more about that experience in my Lessons Learned post. To summarize, I learned to build a habit of self-care, find what feels good, and expand my focus from just the physical aspects of yoga to the whole experience.

I continued to attend weekly yoga classes at my office gym and walk through a YWA video every so often. But I was becoming uninspired and the habit was falling away. So in mid-October, I took on the 30 Days of Yoga challenge from January 2016: Yoga Camp.

The main difference between the 2015 and 2016 challenges was the introduction of simple mantras to each practice.

I am strong.

I am supported.

I go with the flow.

I’ll admit that I never got to the point of chanting the mantras out loud, but I did find them very helpful in focusing my energy and intentions throughout the practices.

For this challenge, I actually completed one video each day for 30 days straight, finishing on time! I could feel both my mind and body becoming stronger through the experience, and I’m so glad I did it. And now that I’ve done the New Year challenges from 2015 and 2016, I’m officially caught up — meaning I’m ready for 2017:

Yoga Revolution.

So this will be the first time that I’m following along with others through this yoga “bootcamp”, and I’m very excited! These practices are super diverse: cleansing, challenging, creative, you name it. And participating is totally, 100% free. If you’ve even considered doing yoga, I want to encourage you to join me. It’s going to be awesome!

Sign up right here!

For those of you that have been following my blog recently, you may be wondering, what about Tone It Up? In a previous post, I mentioned that I’ve been following along with the Daily Workouts on the website for a few weeks now. For the duration of Yoga Revolution, I’m going to let Tone It Up take a backseat. I’ll still complete the Daily Moves, but the other workouts/cardio will generally be replaced by my yoga practice — unless I somehow find enough time and energy to do both!

Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you tomorrow on the mat!

Time for an Upgrade: My New Google Nexus 6P

I’ve had my good old Samsung Galaxy S III for three years now. For me, having the same device for three years or more is pretty standard, especially when it comes to phones. In fact, my Galaxy was my first-ever smartphone, so that gives you some indication of how slow I am to catch up to the mobile trends. If I could, I would probably stick with the same device forever. But with all of the apps and processes I’m running all the time, my battery life was terrible and the phone was so slow. Time for an upgrade. Yesterday, I picked up a brand new phone: a Nexus 6P!

Looking into phones for the first time in three years was pretty rattling. They’re so darn expensive now! My first thought was to look into the Galaxy S7 as a natural step up, but the price tag wasn’t very attractive. Instead, I started doing my research into which Android phones out there were the best bang for your buck.

First of all, I’ll mention that I’m not an Apple person. At all. So the allure of the new iPhone 7 was completely non-existent in this search. Plus, my entire life is integrated into Google apps at the moment, so it makes sense to keep everything accessible.

My major concerns when looking for a phone were processing power and battery life. Camera quality was more of a cherry on top than a deal-breaker, considering the not-so-great quality of my current phone camera. But beyond all of that was the price, to be honest. I wanted to be relatively caught up in terms of technology without breaking the bank. And while the successor to my current phone was pretty much top-of-the-line, I couldn’t justify the monthly plans and/or the up-front fees with any provider I came across.

Luckily, as a long-time Rogers customer (because I never change phones, hah), I was offered an extra 3G of data for free. It’s a similar plan to my current one, with $50 down for the Nexus 6P. Totally reasonable for my purposes, and it met my criteria as well. Score!

Now that I have my Nexus 6P, I’m excited to start using and customizing it. All of my apps were copied directly from my old phone to the new one, thanks to Google. (Yes, even Neko Atsume, haha!) I will say that the size increase from the S III is a bit extreme, especially with my tiny hands, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it!

Honestly, because of all the software updates needed, I haven’t had much time to play around with my Nexus since I picked it up. If I develop any strong opinions on this phone, positive or negative, I’ll be sure to review in a follow-up post. But for now, I just want to say that I’m so glad to finally have a new phone. (And hey, now I can download Pokémon Go for real! Not that anyone is playing it anymore…)

What’s your smartphone of choice for 2016?

Whether you’re a cat person, a dog person, or something else entirely, you probably know that cats can be pretty clever. Some of them are true masterminds:

While others simply know how to play their owners like a fiddle:

My cat, Lorelai, generally falls into the second category. She has me and Joe wrapped around her little…claw. She definitely leads a charmed life, and she’s learned how to make the most of it. So now that cats have essentially domesticated us, their owners, what can we learn from them?

Know What You Want

When a cat wants something, they’ll do everything in their power to get it. (If you’re not convinced of that, watch the above videos again.) And when they don’t want something, they’ll make sure you know it. They don’t worry about how you’ll feel if they reject your “pets” or ignore your toys. “Yes or no” is a much simpler equation when you don’t stress over subtext. Keep it simple and be happy!

 Life Lessons I Learned from My Cat — Know What You Want

…But It’s Okay to Change Your Mind

Cats are fickle creatures. They whine at you until you give them what they want, and then suddenly, they don’t want it anymore.

To illustrate this, here is Business Cat.

To illustrate this, here is Business Cat.

But here’s the thing: humans can also be fickle and change their minds. Maybe you’ve been after a specific goal for a while now, only to realize you were pursuing it for all the wrong reasons. Or maybe your tastes changed, or your mood. That’s okay. We’re not static; we’re dynamic. What’s important is what makes you happy now — not what would have made you happy, had everything stayed the same.

Take a Cat Nap: Rest and Recharge

Getting enough sleep is so important for your health and well-being. No one knows this better than a cat. No one.

Life Lessons I Learned from My Cat — Sleep

Zzzz….

Hold Yourself to the Highest Standards

Lorelai is always grooming herself. Whether she’s had an active day or a lazy one, she always takes the time to get fresh and clean — or, at least, the cat version of fresh and clean. For cats, it’s instinctual. Lorelai isn’t out to impress anyone. She makes herself a priority, just for her own sake. I think we can all take a page from our cats’ books on that one.

Spend Time with the Ones You Love

One of the happiest surprises I’ve experienced in getting my first cat was how much time she wanted to spend with me. I’d always heard about cats being solitary and avoiding their owners most of the time. To clarify, Lorelai isn’t cuddly and playful at all times. She needs her space as much as the next cat (or human).

But even when she’s napping or doing her own thing, she’ll usually still choose to be in the same room as us. And if the presence of your loved ones makes you happy, spend time near them. Even if you’re not actively “hanging out”, everyone will benefit from the positive energy of being together — just like cats do!


What life lessons have you learned from your cat?

Life Lately - Birthday & Long Weekend Update

Hello from our nation’s capital! I’m out of town this long weekend to visit family, act like a total tourist in my own province, and see my sister off as she heads to university for her freshman year.

But first thing’s first: this past Thursday was my birthday! I can’t say I’m particularly excited about being 23, especially given a certain worrisome Blink-182 lyric. 22 was a fabulous year for me, though, so I’m looking forward to whatever the coming year will bring.

Of course, I still had to go to work on my birthday, but I was able to leave relatively early (and by relatively early, I mean 6PM). Actual working aside, it was a decent day in the office. My manager actually stayed late the night before to cover my desk with balloons, which was super nice and unexpected. It’s good to know that we’re all in this together.

I’m not one for big birthday celebrations. As such, the evening was relatively low-key. In what has now become a birthday tradition, Joe and I had dinner at East Side Mario’s, which is honestly one of my favourite restaurants — cheesy, I know, but how can you pass up unlimited salad and garlic bread? After our thoroughly filling meal, we went to the Putting Edge for some mini-golf!

I don’t know about you, but I hadn’t been mini-golfing for years. And I was pretty bad at it. No surprise there. Luckily, Joe and I managed to achieve our mini-putt goal: not letting the group of kids three holes behind us catch up!

Following our escapades, we returned home and watched the final two episodes of Stranger Things. Guys, this show is fabulous, and if you haven’t watched it, now is the time. It’s only eight episodes and can definitely be binge-watched in the span of a long weekend.

Speaking of long weekends, I’ve finally kept my promise to myself that we’d go somewhere over a long weekend this summer. This was our last chance! We’re staying with my aunt and uncle and doing some museum-hopping and shopping while we’re here. My sister is also moving into her residence in Carleton for the first time. I can’t believe it — she’s all grown up!

I have a busy couple of weeks ahead once I return home. It’s important, then, that we use this weekend for some fun and relaxation. Hopefully the blog won’t be on the backburner for too much of September!

How are you spending this long weekend?

30 Days of Yoga: Lessons Learned

A few days ago, I finished the final video session of 30 Days of Yoga on the Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel. It was an empowering and enlightening experience that taught me quite a bit about yoga — and myself.

I mentioned in an earlier post back in the spring that I was just beginning to practice yoga regularly, so I definitely classify myself as a newcomer. After taking a weekly class at work for a couple of months, I realized that my yoga practice was hindered by the length of time between classes, and the amount of stress endured during that time. I felt like any progress made was superficial and I wanted to take things to the next level. In the interest of a healthy lifestyle, I decided to undertake a 30-day home practice video series.

30 Days of Yoga — in 44 Days

With my highly variable weeknight schedule, I knew it would be more reasonable to commit to a morning yoga practice. I took “days off” from the videos in order to attend my usual morning yoga class on Wednesdays. Plus, after the first full week of the program, I went camping and delayed my progress until I returned. So all in all, it took me 44 days to complete 30 videos.

A Private Undertaking

Since I started this blog, I’ve taken on a number of “challenges”. I wrote a post a day back in April for the A to Z Challenge; I basically invented my No Buy July to save money (but mostly so that I could blog about it); and I committed to a number of monthly goals that I posted for the world to see. It’s helpful for me to use this blog as a form of accountability. But when I decided to begin 30 Days of Yoga, I kept it to myself, with the exception of a handful of close friends and family.

Why didn’t I declare my intentions online? There were two reasons in this case.

First, I wasn’t sure that I would be able to commit. Waking up at 6 is quite the adjustment when you’re used to 6:45 — especially when you know you don’t need to be up that early.

And second, I felt that using an external form of motivation would defeat the purpose of the commitment. If I really wanted to use this time to deepen my practice and create a ritual, the drive would need to come from within. And while it took two weeks longer than intended, I think the decision to keep my 30 Days of Yoga to myself was a good one.

“Find What Feels Good”

One of the things I love about yoga is that its main focus is not on the poses themselves. Many sequences are physically demanding, and can be out of reach for some people, depending on their practice and development. From what I’ve learned on this so-called 30 Days of Yoga journey, there are two priorities in yoga that overshadow the quest to “achieve” a certain pose: mental/emotional/spiritual connection with the body, and physical alignment.

Without a focus on the first priority, you may as well be exercising in a boot camp class rather than taking yoga. And without a focus on the second, you may cause yourself unnecessary injury and stress. There are ways to modify essentially every pose to allow for a positive, yet challenging, experience. Adriene provided a lot of direction on this topic in the video series, which I found very helpful. She summarizes this concept in the slogan “Find What Feels Good”. The self-love aspect of yoga feels very authentic, even at the beginner stages, especially when compared to other health and wellness trends that are popular online.

Spoiler Alert: Day 30

Note: I’m going to spoil the ending here. Only read this section if you have completed 30 Days of Yoga, or if you have no intention of ever doing so, for whatever reason.

Or maybe you’re the kind of person that reads the last page of the book first. In that case, read on.

It’s easy enough to follow along with a yoga video. Sure, there are tricky poses and pranayama techniques, but you learn the tips, the tricks, the physical alignment “checklists”, and the lingo along the way. But as I neared the end of the sessions, I started to panic. What would I do once it was all over? Would I stop practicing daily? Would I find a new series of videos to follow? Or would I have to — gasp — make up my own routines?

As the series neared its conclusion, Adriene’s instructions tended to be more open-ended. At a given point, I could take on a challenging flow, use the time for rest, or anything in between. She was building up my confidence in directing my own practice. She convinced me that I could, in fact, have a self-directed practice.

I made grand plans to do my research. I’d develop some sort of weekly plan for the types of poses for which I would prepare each day. I wanted to create the perfect playlist that would ease me into each portion of the practice. Maybe I would set goals for developing my endurance, strength, or patience. I procrastinated on all of this. I figured it could wait until the evening on the day I completed my 30 Days of Yoga.

But then, a twist!

Adriene intro’ed the 30th day video as a self-directed practice!

If I had been really paying attention, I would have known that each of the previous 29 videos had been leading up to this one. Without my intense preparation, though, was I really up to the task?

Turns out, yes, of course I was. (Plus, the video provided the playlist.) It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. The important thing, though, was realizing that my preparations would have defeated the entire purpose of the exercise. There is a whole lot of yoga I have left to learn, but when it comes to making the most of a home practice, as Adriene says, it’s all about finding what feels good.


Now that my 30 Days of Yoga are complete, I intend to continue with yoga at home, with a blend of both personal and video-led practice. If you haven’t tried 30 Days of Yoga for yourself, I would definitely encourage you to try it out, whether you’re brand new to yoga or a little further along. The videos are light-hearted and instructive, and Adriene is hilarious and awesome. I really believe you’ll get a lot out of the experience, like I did!

What has been your favourite yoga experience?