Monthly Archives: July 2013

A Lifelong Struggle & How I Changed My Future

Over the past 8 months I have been on a mission to get healthier and shed the extra pounds I have been carrying all these years. The breaking point was seeing the photos of myself at my sister’s wedding this past December and being totally horrified at the person looking back at me. This was my wake up call, I did not want to look or feel like that on my wedding day which was only 5 months away. I have always battled my weight, being heavier than all the kids in school, constantly being asked why I was fat compared to my thin siblings and a victim of extreme bullying for over a decade. This spiraled me into severe depression for many years and chose to hide my body in baggy tee shirts and jeans. I slowly dug myself out of this downward spiral in my 20’s but I still resented my overall appearance. My mission was not to get skinny but rather feel good in my clothes and most importantly, be healthier.

Although I have always battled being overweight, I refused to ever “diet” as I knew these are never a long term solution. If you deprive yourself of anything over a long period of time, you are just setting yourself up to fail. My motto, everything is ok in moderation. But why couldn’t I lose weight? I am 5’-4” tall with a very petite frame therefore all the excess weight is in my stomach, hips, thighs and face. I honestly thought I ate quite well: making our meals from scratch (no processed or boxed foods), didn’t snack at late night or before bed, only ate fast food on rare occasions as a treat, an occasional soda on weekends (something I used to drink daily), etc. At one point, I was even going to the gym 4-5 days a week doing some serious strength training/cardio and the scale wouldn’t budge. Although I saw some muscle developing, my body fat was not diminishing. I gave up!

B&ADecFast forward to January 1st, 2013, when I decided it was time to figure out what lifestyle changes we(both my husband and I) needed to make to get healthy. The very first thing I did was research online on nutritional recommendations for women to lose weight and keep it off. Let me be clear, I was not looking for a diet but rather a daily regimen that helps with the body’s digestion and promote natural weight loss. I read several studies stating women need 25 grams of dietary fiber to lower their risk of a whole slew of serious diseases and actually helps with weight loss. The second thing I had to figure out was my daily calorie intake and what was recommended for me to shed the pounds the right way. I chose to download the “My fitness Pal” app on my phone and just log all my meals for approximately 2 weeks to get a summary, weighing the good calories vs the bad. This was a real eye opener; I was not eating as well as I thought: too much sugar (granola bars, occasional soda drinks, excess condiments, etc). All of them adding up to bad calories since I lead a very sedentary lifestyle: work at a desk job 45+ hrs a week, no sports, no physical activities, etc.

My goal was to reach 135lbs by May 2013 but to do so, I had to establish a balanced 1200 calorie daily regimen based on my height and current weight of 142lbs. I am no professional, I’m simply sharing what worked for me. Below are my before photos…I am still scared to post them publicly but if my story helps one person, it’s worth it!

B&AStep 1: Introduce 25 grams fiber into my daily diet. After doing my homework, I decided to try the Fiber One cereal as it had the highest amount of fiber (13 grams) and I only need to eat one cup for breakfast. This may seem simple, but for me it was the hardest challenge of it all…I HATE CEREAL & MILK! The first bowl was torture but switching to Almond Milk made it bearable, now I eat my cereal every morning no problem.

Step 2: Get to know you food. The one thing I never did was read the nutritional labels on the products I consumed, it was just better to plead ignorance. This was one of the biggest mistakes as you really need to know what you are eating to properly balance your diet. But beware, just because a product claims to be low in fat or “healthy”…the truth can be found on the nutritional break down. If something has no sugar added, be sure it has lots of aspartame which is REALLY not good for you either. You are best to skip the low fat version and eat a smaller quantity of the regular stuff truth be told. That being said, a lot of the low fat products are great and surprisingly don’t taste any different. I am guilty of loving condiments for added taste on my food: mayonnaise, dressings, sour cream, etc. Switching them out for the low fat version was very simple and I honestly prefer them now.

Step 3: Add more fruits and vegetables. This was quite simple, I added apples or bananas to my lunch as snacks to replace the full of sugar granola bars and supplemented the dinner carbs (rice, pastas, breads) for cooked veggies and/or salads instead. I also started making my own fruit smoothies from frozen or fresh fruit with yogurt, ice and a small amount of juice.

Step 4: Replace high fat proteins with lean alternatives. This is a personal vice, I LOVE my meat! A big juicy steak, beef tacos, pork roast…I love it all! As this was not something I was ready to cut back or give up, I decided to find healthy alternatives to my favorite meaty meals. A simple way is to replace your ground beef with ground chicken or turkey. The ground chicken/turkey will take on the flavor of whatever you are cooking (for example, beef tacos) and is a much leaner protein alternative. Over the summer months we eat turkey burgers and they are quite delicious! (Add guacamole or a light mayo/pesto spread for extra flavor). I was definitely not prepared to give up my steak, so instead I just eat smaller portions.

Step 5: Cut the liquid calories. All my life, I have drunk soda along with fruit juices on a daily basis. This was my one terrible habit that I did not realize was just full of sugars and bad calories. To me, I wasn’t drinking coffee or any kind of alcohol and just figured it was ok. Boy was I dumb! I was drinking my daily calorie intake, on top of all the food I ate. It was rather easy to replace the juice with water, and slowly weaned my soda consumption to 2-3 on weekends pre-January 2013. I forced myself to order water with lemon at restaurants to replace my weekend soda habit. Now, I would much rather have a glass of water with any meal and avoid soda all together. On My Fitness Pal, you can keep tabs on your water intake and work on increasing it over time. If you need flavor, add lemon or lime juice for a natural alternative.

Step 6: Natural Supplements. I couldn’t help be intrigued by the various claims of the miracle Green Tea and Raspberry Ketone supplements for fat burning in your midsection. This has always been my personal demon and was desperate to have a slimmer tummy. I tried a couple different herbal supplements recommended by a coworker to see if they actually lived up to the hype. I found the “Waist Away” which is a mix of green tea and raspberry ketones actually worked quite well in conjunction with my new balanced diet. This is not a diet pill; it is simply a natural supplement that helps reduce bloating in your trouble areas.

Step 7: Healthy in moderation. After establishing a healthy daily eating routine throughout the work week, I knew weekends had to be my time to splurge within reason. If I wanted Taco Bell, I ate it! But that was my giant splurge for the week and made sure to not do it often. If we went to a restaurant, I ate what I wanted but made sure to drink water and skip the soda or alcoholic sugary drinks.

With my new daily regimen established, the weight was gradually coming off. After 8 weeks, I was down to 136lbs and just kept eating well. By April, I actually surpassed my initial goal of 135lbs and was at 134lbs. Many of you may think 8lbs is not all that much but on a person who is only 5’-4” with a petite frame, losing 10lbs is like night and day. My clothes now fit perfectly, there were no more love handles spilling over my jeans and just felt good in my skin for the first time ever! For me, it was not what the scale was telling me but how the clothes displayed what I had achieved. My belly/back was down over 4”, waist 1.5”, hips 2”, I felt good!

B&A.BackSticking to a healthy regime is challenging and it is about a lifestyle change, not diet. In early April, I found myself living in a hotel 4 days a week for six consecutive weeks (due to traveling for work) which meant restaurant food three meals a day. I knew this would be detrimental to all that I had accomplished in the past 3 months and made it my mission to not gain it any of it back. I made sure the hotel gave me a room with a mini fridge so I could have my cereal in the morning and brought apples and tangerines to snack on during the day. My lunches varied from salads, to sandwiches and made sure to skip the fries (except for an occasional poutine since I was in Montreal after all). Dinner was a mix of high protein lean meats with again veggies or salads. Thankfully my supplements and savvy choices allowed me to keep the pounds off and made sure to eat very well the days I was back home.

B&A.NowWhen I ordered my wedding dress back in August 2012, it was questionable if my hips would fit in the size 10 as I should have ordered a 12. Come April 2013 at my first dress fitting, my seamstress had alter the dress to a slim size 8 and strictly told me losing any more weight was off the table after all the work she had done taking it in.

I was so happy! For the first time in my life, I did it! I lost the weight that plagued me all these years and never thought it would happen. Don’t get me wrong, I am still not as healthy as I could be and need to now focus on getting into shape even if it means going for walks or actually learning to run (something I really want to do). Maybe one day I will have a flat stomach (I can dream) but for now I am happy with what I’ve accomplished when putting my mind to it. A healthy lifestyle is every day of your life and you need to find what works for you.

Categories: All Posts, Randomness | Tags: , , , | 24 Comments

This Isn’t Your Average Fable

Well it looks like Collectif beat me to the punch and posted a fabulous 50% Off Sale to celebrate their 20,000 fans milestone on Facebook. With that being said, I had to get moving on reviewing the latest addition to my retro wardrobe…so you could get one before they sold out! This past weekend the hubby and I took advantage of the beautiful weather to shoot photos for the Collectif Gretel Dress in red gingham along with the matching Jean Bolero and English Rose Studs.

Gretel – Available in sizes UK6 to UK22 ~ MSRP £57.50
Jean Bolero – Available in XS/S to 24. ~ MSRP £30.00
English Rose Studs ~ MSRP £4.00

GretelAs some of you know, I have been working on getting healthier and trimming down which has led to a decrease in my current measurements. I opted to consult with the ladies at Collectif to see what size would fit best now being 36-28-40.5. They recommended a UK12 (size small). The Gretel arrived and I was immediately smitten! A part of me loves the country bumpkin feel of the red and white gingham with lace trim although I normally loathe anything country. Lol. The halter sweetheart neckline with white heart buttons is simple adorable. I did notice the bust was quite snug (causing the buttons to pull) in comparison to other Collectif dresses and strongly recommend sizing up if you are on the busty side. The length is simply perfect as it falls just below the knee and I’m only 5’-4” tall. Losing the lace trim on the swing skirt would really hinder the design. I do wish the side zipper had a hook & eye closure as I find these super helpful when you don’t have an extra set of hands to zip the dress closed. This is something I’ll be adding for sure.

gretel3Something rather new to me is Collectif’s line of coordinating accessories. I spotted the Jean Bolero on the beautiful Georgina from Fuller Figure Fuller Bust, Collectif’s new plus size model and my fairy blogmother. Often times I get asked how to winterize your dresses, well the answer is cardigans and boleros! My collection is continually growing and was super excited to see the new additions to Collectif’s line up. My Jean Bolero is a size XS-S as I personally have very narrow shoulders. Since boleros do not button close and sit high on the torso, you will want to find the right fit to your shoulders. The Jean Bolero is quite warm as it is made from a fabulous soft knit. Boleros are great to pair with jeans or your favorite retro ensemble, the versatility of the cropped design works with nearly any outfit.

gretel4A simple way to complete any look is the touch of simple but classic earrings. The English Rose Studs are a wonderful compliment to the Gretel Dress and Jean Bolero. I’m not usually keen on wearing costume jewelry earrings but surprised to find that I actually really like them. These pretties are available in five fabulous colors, just perfect to pair with any ensemble. The English Rose Studs are lightweight and stay in place with the anti-slip rubber backing. Both a big must in my book.


gretel5I have always overlooked buying more than just clothing at Collectif simply because I didn’t know they had such lovely accessories to complement their designs. Definitely don’t make the same mistake like I have all this time, as they are so lovely and quite affordable as well. The Gretel has become an instant personal favorite in my sea of retro dresses. As soon as we shot the blog photos this past weekend, I couldn’t wait to wear it to work. Needless to say, I received many compliments that day and felt like a million bucks!

(Click on images to zoom)

Categories: All Posts, Clothing | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Add a Little Punch To Your Accessories!

One of the greatest pleasures of blogging is discovering new independent retailers and sharing them with all of you. This time around, they found me! A few months back I received a very sweet email from the creator of Ceci Punch Designs. Of course I did my homework to see what her company was all about and most importantly, was this something my readers would enjoy. I was immediately smitten with the various styles of Ceci’s designs and the affordability of her creations. Being an admirer of beautiful costume jewelry all these years, I was ecstatic when Ceci sent a few pieces to review.

logoCeci Punch Designs has five distinct styles; Fancy Fangirl, Vintage Vixen, Cholita Bonita, Cabana Babe and Bridal Punch. My personal favorite is the Cholita Bonita as it features bold colors, sugar skulls, roses…all perfect for rockabilly girl in me. Of all the beautiful pieces I received, the Skull and Rose necklace is the one I covet the most. Each design is handmade by Ceci and the quality is incredible. I dabbled in jewelry making a few years back and I could not even compare them with hers. They are not only durable but look and feel top quality like high end boutiques sell.

IMG_1375For those true Vintage lovers, the classic timeless designs will be right up your alley. The Tear Drops Noir earrings will pair well with your retro wardrobe going from day to evening. I must admit, I usually shy away from any kind of earrings and stick with necklaces simply because I dislike how they look on me personally. For the first time in ages, I am excited to wear them! You can’t go wrong with silver and black. The copper with pearl and black is another fabulous versatile accessory.

IMG_1390If you prefer to make a statement with your accessories, the Cholita Bonita is the way to go. Ceci sent me a variety of pieces which featured traditional sugar skulls, a personal favorite. Your basic jewelry just doesn’t cut it when you’re wearing the original Deadly Dames designs as they are meant to stand out in a crowd. Often times, I’ll add a skull necklace to liven up (the irony) an outfit needing some extra pizazz. These are the pieces that get the most wear out of all my costume jewelry.

IMG_1384And for the brides to be…Ceci Punch offers custom bridal accessories for you and your bridesmaids. If you are looking for something unique and compliment your dresses, I would definitely recommend getting a custom creation made. Take it from someone who knows, you can spend tireless hours on Etsy searching and come up empty handed.


IMG_1387Where can you buy beautifully handcrafted jewelry for $15-$50 these days? If you walk into a store at the mall, be ready to pay $30+ for something that will most likely fall apart after a few wears or simply looks like it cost $5. I’ve been there one too many times and now only buy from independent artists like Ceci as I know the quality is MUCH better at a fraction of the cost. It’s wonderful to see something new and refreshing out there as the market is so over saturated with cheap, mass produced junk from overseas. Plus I love knowing we’re supporting a fellow vintage lover like Ceci, who has a passion for pinup and rockabilly just like you and I.

Categories: Accessories, All Posts | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Becoming a Redhead Bombshell On a Budget

The one thing I receive the most compliments on is by far my red hair; it attracts quite a bit of attention wherever I go. It is always with great pride that I am able to respond, “I do it myself!”. This definitely shocks most and even more so when going to the salon for other services, the stylists are raving. One even said to me “don’t tell people, this might put us out of a job”. Well that is definitely not my intention nor why I started coloring my hair at home. When times got tough financially, I had to make difficult decisions and going to the salon on a bi-monthly basis was the first thing to go but giving up being a redhead was not one of them. So that started my search on how to do it myself on a budget and not destroy my hair with drugstore box color.

Photo by: Dana Brushette Photography

Photo by: Dana Brushette Photography

The very first step is to consult with your stylist or trained professional and never attempt at home color without doing so. I was thrilled to discover there was a Sally’s Beauty store in my small town which carried wonderful products available to the public. At least at my location, the employees are licensed hair stylist and able to provide educated information to their customers. I explained to the clerk that I had never done my own color and hoping to achieve  bright red with no pre-lightening or bleaching (something best left to the pro’s). She showed me a line by L’Oreal (L’Oreal Excellence HiColor) which is designed for medium to dark hair and will lift hair 3-4 levels (Note: your hair has to be virgin to lift the 3-4 level and won’t work as well on dyed hair). I decided this was definitely worth trying.

Available at Sally's.

Available at Sally’s.

Color selection all depends what shade you are looking to achieve. The L’Oreal is available in coppers to red hot shades. Personally I’ve tried them all and really love the Red Hot for a true deep red. To achieve a more vibrant red, I mix it with the L’Oreal Hicolor Red Hilights which is designed for highlights. If you are planning to mix products, be sure to stick to the same brand. I’ve tried several combinations in this line and never been disappointed.

The next step was to find the right developer to mix with the L’Oreal color. Sally’s recommended a cream developer as it’s definitely easier to work with since it drips much less. As for the level of developer, please consult with a professional as this all depends on your hair type. For me, I use a 30 Volume to get the brightness  you see in my photos. The higher the Volume, the more strain it puts on your hair so please be careful. The clerk then directed me on the accessories recommended/required for application: mixing bowl, wide tint brush, measuring beaker, black gloves, stain remover(great for reds or dark colors), hair clips, after care conditioners, etc. Don’t cheap out on these items, good tools make application much easier.

Purchase good quality tools.

Purchase good quality tools.

On how to apply color, please follow the instructions on the package and make sure you test it on your skin before applying. A lot of people have skin sensitivities and it can lead to serious damage if you don’t complete a patch test first. Also, reds are very messy as the dye will stain anything it comes in contact with. Wear old clothes, cover your floor/surrounding area, and have paper towels/rags ready for any spills. A personal trick to prevent staining on my hairline is applying a thin layer of Vaseline all the way around, including my ears. This is a life saver and works like a charm. Use old towels to dry your hair as the color will bleed each time you wash it. Be warned, don’t use white or light colored towels.

Color approx. 3 weeks after application.

Color approx. 3 weeks after application.

Also bear in mind, if you have long hair you will need to by more tubes of color. The last thing you want to happen is running out of color mid application. It’s always best to have too much then not enough. Currently, I use 2.5 boxes of color and consume it to the very last drop. To keep the cost low, Sally’s has “buy one get one” sales which will allows you to stock up at a great price. If you decide to change shades, they will exchange any unopened tubes of color. If you plan to continue with this, I definitely recommend signing up for Sally’s members card for $5. This gets you special pricing on everything you purchase for one year.

After coloring, proper haircare is essential to making your red last. First things first, DO NOT WASH IT EVERYDAY! This was the biggest hurdle for me as I was a daily washer and couldn’t overcome fear of oily feeling hair. Trust me when I say, your hair will be less oily if you wash it once every 2-3 days but there is a transition period. Buy a good after color conditioner/hair mask to add in moisture to avoid long term damage. I use Proclaim Argan Oil Intense Hydrating Masque from Sally’s immediately after coloring. When it comes to color shampoos and conditioners, I have yet to find one that works well and doesn’t leave my hair dirty/greasy as they are made not to lather (lather strips color). The key is not to wash often and keeping your hair hydrated. This should help keep your original color from fading for approximately 4+ weeks.

Hair Mask Conditioner

Hair Mask Conditioner

As I mentioned, before attempting home color make sure you consult with a trained professional as this is not for everyone. Application takes time, practice and most of all…patience!

Categories: All Posts, Beauty | Tags: , , , | 12 Comments

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