Categories
Lifestyle

New Year’s Resolution: How to Budget and Actually Stick to it

It’s that time of the year again – time to make some goals and (hopefully) stick to them. I realized I have quite a few goals in mind for this year. 2017 was a huge year for me: got married, got a second puppy, left retail, started CrossFit, lost 20 pounds, posted non-singing related videos to YouTube…just to name a few highlights! I’ve felt more like “me” this year than I have in a very, very long time and it feels great. Now that I’ve had some down-time and an actual “Christmas Break”, I’ve been able to sit down and really think about what I want to accomplish this year. It is crazy how much your body needs decompression time. Time to just figure -ish out, without distractions.

While I have some lofty goals this year, one that I really want to tackle is more of a challenge. I’m going to challenge myself to have a No-Spend January and see how I do! Don’t worry – I’m not going to leave our household to go starving or without the necessities. But that’s just it – we’re only spending on things we absolutely need. Crazy, I know. Here’s some tips and strategies on how to knock this challenge out of the park!

1. Set a Budget

The most important part to this challenge is setting a budget and sticking to it. Make some ground rules for what you are willing to be flexible on and ensure (if there’s more than one of you doing this) that you both have set limits to what you can spend and on what category.

I made a list of negotiables and non-negotiables. This helped me prioritize what was actually a necessity and what was more of a luxury.

Then, I took the income that both my husband and I will be making for the month of January. We both get paid bi-weekly, so I made the budget based on what bills were due and how much money we needed to set aside for that.

Next came the groceries. Since we are both heading into the New Year with nutrition being our resolution, groceries are going to be a much easier budget to manage. I just purchased The Everything Guide to Macronutrients by Matt Dustin, that has so many great recipes. So the goal is to pick out recipes each week and only purchase the ingredients required. This is not only going to cut down on our food waste, but it’s going to keep us on track (both nutritionally and financially). This is what we are spending our money on this month:

  • Bills

  • Groceries

  • Pets (Yearly shots + food)

  • Transportation

Those are the only categories that we will be spending on this month! Scary. I know. But since we wrote down our list of priorities and we know within each other those categories how much we will be spending, we will be able to manage. Keeping the categories broad also helps to keep spending more flexible, which will be easier to stick to.

2. Eliminate Temptation

I’m the type of person that goes into the store for one thing and comes out with ten other things and forgets to get what I came into the store for in the first place. Sound familiar? I am soooo tempted by the shiny packaging or the feeling of a new piece of clothing. I will 100% convince myself that I need something – when I actually don’t. So to fight this, I’m going to be completely avoiding stores/malls all month long. Now that I’m out of retail, this is going to be easier for me than in the past.

I’m also going to go through and organize what I already own so that I have plenty of options. However, I’ve recently been ordering more and more from online and it’s so dangerous. To tackle this, I’m unsubscribing from email lists from stores that I love to shop at so that I won’t be tempted by a deal. Out of sight, out of mind kind of deal.

3. Make your own coffee

This has to be one of my worst habits. I really love lattes and fancy coffee drinks that are $$$$$$ expensive. That daily coffee adds up. Even if I switch to just regular coffee, the cost that I spend on coffee per month is embarrassing. I’m lucky enough to work in an office that has a pretty great kitchen and coffee is made every morning. If you don’t have that luxury, then grab some re-usable mugs (I purchased the Starbucks reusable cups and LOVE them – they are lightweight, and super inexpensive), brew some coffee in the morning and take it to go! Trust me, if you track how much you spend in one month on coffee, I know you’ll be shocked!

4. Bring your lunch!

There are so many amazing recipes and meal prep ideas for lunch now-a-days that there really isn’t any excuse not to bring your lunch. I realized that I was spending all of this money on groceries and then turning around and spending more money on more food. Not only were we being wasteful in spending extra money, we were being wasteful with our food, since what we didn’t eat in the fridge went straight to the garbage. Sometimes it feels weird being the only person at your work or school to bring food, but ultimately it is so much better for your wallet and for your body!

5. Cash, only.

Once you’ve set your budget, take out the cash you’ll be spending. This way you literally only have the cash that you have on you and will need to stick to your budget. For some reason, I am so much more conscious about how I am spending my money when it’s cash. The bigger the bill – the better! Anytime I would get money as gifts, it was always so much harder for me to spend larger bills, so I would ultimately just put them into a savings jar (a good habit, that I want to continue doing!).

 

It can seem really daunting not spending any money or sticking to a budget. I’m doing this because when I dug into the last 3 months of my spending – it was shocking. I was spending way too much money on things I did not need. This challenge is to really see what I can do with less and be happy with what I have right now.

What are some of your resolutions for the new year?

 

Categories
Holidays

Best Holiday Baking Recipes

I don’t know about you, but my sweet tooth comes out in full force during the holidays. There’s something about making homemade sweet amazingness baked goods that just puts you right in the Christmas spirit. Here in Toronto we have about a foot of snow on the ground and we’re expecting more this week, so it just feels so right when you have a cup of hot chocolate and a couple (4+) sugar cookies to snuggle up on the couch with.

This holiday I actually have the time to bake since I am no longer in the retail industry. To be honest, Christmas is WAY less stressful and I am actually able to spend quality time with the people I love and do fun and festive activities! Christmas is also way less stressful this year because both Adam and my family decided to do “secret” Santa for all of our gifts. You can probably guess why secret is in quotations…it’s never really a secret by the end of it – especially when you want to get gifts that people will actually use/like. Not only are we doing this as a money saving option, but we’re making it more about what Christmas is truly all about; spending time with people you love versus spending a ton of money on gifts!

With that being said, don’t show up to your holiday outings or quality time with friends and family empty handed! Below is a round up of my top 5 favourite (and easy) holiday recipes that you can make for your holiday gatherings. Some have a few more steps to them, and others you can whip up last minute and it will still be amazing!

1. Gingerbread Cookies.

Stay tuned for a blog post on this one soon! This recipe is SO simple and the cookies turned out amazing! Screen Shot 2017-12-17 at 9.23.38 AM

 

2. No Bake Peanut Butter Balls

I’ve made these without the graham crackers that this recipe calls for and it still tastes amazing, so if you don’t have that ingredient handy in your cupboard, I wouldn’t sweat it!

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3. Three Ingredient Cookies and Cream Fudge

I posted this recipe last year on my blog for the #12DaysOfChristmas series. This is my ultimate favourite recipe. It takes no time at all to make. Just be sure to factor in the time it takes to place harden in the freezer!

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4. Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

The mix of shortbread cookie and chocolate is the best combo ever. Here are two different versions because I love the idea of using Hershey kisses that are pictured below,  but I don’t love the recipe that was used… cornstarch is 100% not the right ingredient for this (in my opinion). I use Martha Stewart’s version and it turns out amazing! Be sure not to over cook this recipe, I put them in the oven for the shortest time and trust me – they are done even if they don’t quite look it! PS. I’m loving the interactive elements on Martha Stewart, where you can actually check off each ingredient and steps as you go through the recipe.

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5. Sugar Cookies!

Of course, this classic make the list! Sugar cookies aren’t as difficult as you think! This recipe even shows you how to decorate your cookie like a pro! No royal icing required.

Quick tip: I use the already made icing, I found them in huge tubes at Bulk Barn and Walmart this year and they are so easy to work with. If you want to do details though, I would probably stick to the real deal, but this was easy for flooding the cookies!

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What’s your favourite holiday baking recipe? Have any that you must make every holiday season? Let me know in the comments below!

Stay connected with me on social media to get even more inspiration! 

Instagram: @stephhdavis
Twitter: @stephhdavis

Merry Christmas!
lxiv

Categories
Fashion Lifestyle Photography

Winter Outfit Idea

This outfit is the perfect shine meets casual look for the winter season. I love pairing blouses with denim – it’s my go-to outfit no matter the occasion! Take a look at the outfit below with our pups, Ace & Koda. You can follow their adventures on Instagram here.

Here we took the pups for a nice little stroll before it got too dark outside. This was a little time ago at the beginning of November when Koda was so much smaller! She is almost 4 months now and a lot more light in the face! She’s growing into her paws and we are so curious if those ears of hers are actually going to stand up! And not pictured here – it was 3 degrees and cold! That scarf kept me nice and toasty, but my nose was chilly by the end of it!

Special thanks to Christina Davis of Magic in Colours Photography for the mini-shoot! Check out her social pages here: Instagram and Facebook link above!

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The Outfit:

  • Coat is from Forever21 last season, find a similar one here from the Gap
  • Blouse from Anthropologie
  • Denim from the Gap, similar pair here
  • Chunky Infinity Knit Scarf from the Gap a few seasons ago, similar one here (right now under $12!!)
  • Necklace from Anthropologie, similar one here
  • Shoes from Call it Spring, similar ones here

What are some of your go-to winter outfits? Let me know in the comments below!

Love,

lxiv

Categories
Decor Holidays

Budget Friendly Christmas Decor

It’s cold and rainy on this Saturday morning here in Toronto. All I want to do is snuggle in bed and watch YouTube videos all day; but I’m supposed to be putting up all of our Christmas decorations. I specifically book this weekend off work every year to do it, but I’m not quite in the mood. So to try to put me in the holiday spirit, I figured I would post my newest pieces that I added to our Christmas decorations this year. And the best part? All budget friendly and inexpensive!! I purchased everything below from the Dollarstore and Canadian Tire. I am really, really loving the Canvas collection from Canadian Tire. Year after year they come out with some classic pieces that are decent quality and for a great price.

Follow along below to see my favourite new pieces this year. I’ll be posting a full house tour in the coming weeks to show you how I decorate our apartment for the Holidays! So, stay tuned for that!

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This year we’re going for a farmhouse/rustic vibe with very little pops of red. I want the space to feel cozy with a ton of lights and more neutral metallic accents. Check out my Pinterest Board “Christmas 2017 Decor” for my inspiration.

The total for all of these decorations came under $40! You don’t have to spend a whole lot of money to achieve a festive atmosphere! Some Christmas music and good cheer go a long way!

Now that I’m feeling a little more inspired, I’m going to get started with my decor!

Merry Christmas and Happy Decorating!

lxiv

Categories
Lifestyle

Easy Meal Prep Ideas for Lunch or Dinner!

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Yesterday I participated in my first ever CrossFit Competition for our box, CrossFit Canuck, who turned 5 years old today! The gym hosted a in-house competition, “The Canuck Games”, in true CrossFit fashion to celebrate this milestone!

The Canuck Games was an all day event with 5 partner WODs total and let me tell you – it was HARD. I would consider myself fairly athletic, but I was never part of any sports teams during High School or University (even though I was asked to join a few). Instead, I focused on Student Council, my singing and my studies. I never thought I had time to work out or join a sports team. But since I’ve been doing CrossFit, I can’t tell you how happy I am! Sure, there are bad days and good days like anything else, but I can’t explain how wonderful it feels when you lift something above your head that you never thought you could. The strength portion surprises me every time I step up to the bar.

I’ve been a little more aware of how I’m fueling my body since joining CF. I knew before joining CrossFit that I didn’t feel like I was getting the proper amount of nutrients (honestly, I still don’t feel like that 60% of the time) and I’ve been putting in a lot of time into researching this and ensuring that I’m nourishing my body properly! Meal prep has been a savior for me since I’m a very busy person and want to do a million things all at once. If I don’t meal prep,  I am so so guilty of picking up fast food because with a billion excuses like “time is of the essence” and/or “I’m too tired (or lazy) to whip some actual food together”. This is a continual challenge for me and something I will keep working on!

Since I’ve been doing so much research myself, I figured I would share with you my meal prep for this week. Mind you, it isn’t everything that I will eat all week and I did make some Healthy Oatmeal Cinnamon Cookies to go with this that I will post in a later blog post, but it does give you an idea of some of my go-to favourites for meal prep.

The amount of food I made today will last my hubby (I can finally say that now!!) and I about 2-3 days of lunches or dinners. I usually will pre-pack the food and then leave some extras in separate containers to mix in with different meat or different sides for variation because I can get really bored, really fast and I am definitely the type of person who will leave food in the fridge for months because I didn’t feel like eating it….

IMG_0259On the menu this week was Italian seasoned Chicken Breast with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Carrots with Green Beans. For snacks this week I packed Veggies with Roasted Red Pepper Hummas, some Dark Chocolate and Cherry Kashi Granola Bars, Vanilla Greek Yogurt and Fruit!

IMG_0260I used the Club House Italiano seasoning blend as a dry rub on the chicken breasts and cooked them in the oven first. Then for the sweet potatoes and carrots, I peeled them and diced them, used about a tablespoon of olive oil and seasoned with garlic powder, salt and pepper. My favourite way to prepare the sweet potatoes is by Grocery Girl. I season the potatoes differently and add other vegetables, but the cook time is how I prepare them! Finally, nothing fancy for the green beans – they are boiled and seasoned with salt and pepper. You could easily add some Parmesan and Garlic for some extra taste.

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I usually roast beets with the sweet potatoes and carrots, but opted to boil them this time and then peel the skin off. I seasoned them with garlic, salt and pepper, diced them and put them in a separate container in the fridge to grab as a side for any other meal.

IMG_0262Below is the recipe breakdown for how I made our meals this week.

Italiano Chicken Breast

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • Club House italiano seasoning
  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Place chicken breasts on sheet and season both sides of the breast evenly.
  3. Cook in the oven for 15 minutes, then flip the chicken and place back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes. The time may vary depending on your oven!
  4. Allow to cool, and cut into desired sizes for meal prep!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Carrots

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper
  1. Peel and dice the potatoes and carrot.
  2. In a bowl, mix the potatoes, carrot, olive oil and seasoning until well combined and all of the vegetables are coated.
  3. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  4. Ensure all of the vegetables are flat on the baking sheet and ensure you don’t overcrowd the veggies!
  5. Cook in the oven for 15 minutes, then give them a little mix with a spoon for even baking and bake for another 10 minutes. I usually test the vegetables with a fork to see if they are the right tenderness for me, so adjust your cook time for your preference!

 

What are you go-to meal prep foods? Share them with me below!

lxiv

Categories
Lifestyle

Recipe: No Bake Energy Protein Balls

Hello again!

I’m sorry for neglecting this blog. Life has been busy planning for the wedding and keeping busy this summer. I’ve also been dedicating quite a bit of time to eating well and going to Crossfit (which I am totally loving by the way!). I have seen what a huge difference eating well and exercise has on your mental health along with your physical health. It has not been easy, that’s for sure. And according to the scale, I haven’t lost too much. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing since I can see changes in my body and that I’m gaining more muscle. I will more than likely share some of the things I’ve been doing to help guide me on a healthier lifestyle! For now, here’s a recipe I made a long time ago but never had the time or drive to post. Follow along below to see the full recipe!

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What you’ll need:

  • 1 Cup of Oats
  • 1 Cup of Peanut Butter
  • 1/2 cup of Chocolate Chips
  • 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Honey (not pictured)

The beauty of this recipe is that you can add/subtract whatever you want from the ingredients!

Mix all of the ingredients together, roll into balls and refrigerate! I typically will place them in smaller containers or little bags so that they are ready for me to grab and go!

More to come on this little blog of mine, and I will promise to try to post more regularly! I have a lot of content ideas and can’t wait to share!

Let me know below if you’re going to try this recipe in the comments below.

Happy Healthy Baking,

lxiv

Categories
Decor Holidays Lifestyle

12 Days of Christmas: Oh, Christmas Tree

Can you believe only 5 more sleeps until Christmas? How has December flown by this fast? And, only 5 more days left to post for the 12 Days of Christmas!! I hope you’ve found some inspiration and joy from the posts so far. A huge thank you to those of you who have been following along! For today’s post, I will be sharing our Christmas Tree and some of the ornaments I added to our collection this year.

img_2056_2img_2057img_2059_2img_2062img_1814Our theme this year was metallic (lots of warm golds, bronze and silver) with classic red and green plaid with flecks of gold.I purchased the ornaments (in order) from Anthropologie (both “Merry” and “falala”), Urban Outfitters and Winners! The Christmas tree is from Canadian Tire from a few years ago.

I feel like everyone puts on their ribbon differently on the tree and at different times of the entire decorating process. I started my decorating by placing the ribbon, then adding the shiny, matte and sparkly ball ornaments and then added my special pieces in areas that were highly visible! I continue layering until I like what I see…it’s never about making it perfect – trees should be unique!

As you already know from previous posts, I love sparkle during the Holidays. It reminds me of the look of freshly fallen snow on a crystal clear night that sparkles when you look at it. I’ve also come to realize that Winter is my favourite season…Don’t be too mad at me for that!

What’s your favourite theme/colour story to decorate for Christmas? Let me know in the comments below!

Merry Christmas!

lxiv

Categories
Decor Holidays Lifestyle Photography

12 Days of Christmas: The Toronto Christmas Market #tcm16

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I always found it so interesting that people tend to already live in such amazing cities or towns but choose to travel around the world. I have lived in Toronto my entire life and have to admit that I do not know my city very well when it comes to what makes people want to travel here. I’ve been making a serious effort to explore my city and to visit some amazing places at home! This year, I was determined to go to The Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery District. So, my finance, fur-baby and I ventured out on the coldest night (so far) and explored!

I was so happy to discover that dogs are allowed and welcomed at The Christmas Market! Ace was definitely a crowd pleaser in his cute little Christmas sweater. We couldn’t get very far without stopping for people who wanted to say hello to our handsome little fellow.

Our first stop (no doubt) was a Grilled Cheese station. I can’t even express in words on this blog how yummy our grilled cheese was. We ordered “Christmas Dinner” grilled cheese, which was turkey, cranberry sauce and brie. I promise to post about how to make this amazing sandwich. I have a few favourite food groups and grilled cheese is absolutely one of them!

We wandered around some more, looking at the different markets and new light displays. Overall it was a beautiful sight. I just wish there was a few more things to do…as it got a tad boring by the end and only ended spending just over an hour there. I think it would have been too cold to stay any longer anyways!

But, it’s definitely worth checking out and will certainly put you in the Christmas spirit!

Next on my Christmas Market list is Nathan Philips Square (somewhere I also have never visited!!).

Take a look at some of the photos I snapped (in between trying to keep my fingers warm – I definitely need the touch gloves for Christmas).

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What are some of your favourite places to visit during the Holidays?

Merry Christmas!
lxiv