A Non-Runner tries the Couch to 5K App: Review

Hey guys! Today I am sharing my review of the Couch to 5K app. There are a few different apps on the market, the specific one I used was the Couch to 5K Runner app (it’s yellow). The concept of each app is the same where they help the user go from not being able to run to running 5 km.

History with Running

Now let me give a little backstory about my relationship with running before getting into the app and the review. I was never a runner. My favourite sports when I was younger was hockey and swimming, two sports that don’t involve running. Whenever I went ‘running’ in the past it was walking with a bit of jogging. The most I’ve ever jogged I would estimate at 2 minutes.

The main reason why I never got into running wasn’t necessarily my cardiovascular abilities but the fact that I am prone to shin splints. If you don’t know what shin splints are consider yourself lucky because they are painful. They are pain that can be along the front or rear of your shin bone. I’ve been getting them for years. I usually get them when running or walking for long periods, but I’ve even got them from standing on the pool deck in flip flops for a long time.

Whenever I have tried to get into running in the past, I would do it for a week or two and then the pain would get so bad that I would stop. But with the pandemic going on I wanted to pick up running again. The nice thing is that I can do it outside and not have to deal with other people (and all the virus concerns that entails). I’ve heard many people talk about the Couch to 5K format so decided to give it a shot.

App Overview

The app is an interval training program that progressively increases the time that you run throughout the weeks. It’s pretty simple. Every run has a five-minute warm-up and cool down. Then within the main ‘run’ is a set of intervals between running and walking. The first run is 25 minutes long but only has 6 minutes of running in total. The intervals fluctuate to help increase the runner’s stamina over the week.

The app is pretty easy to use. I just swipe to pick the run and then hit “LET’S GO” to start the run. I can play my music and the app will give prompts over my music. It will let me know when it’s time to run and time to walk. It also gives little motivational prompts throughout the run as well. While running, the app tells the runner how far along they are, how much time is left and time until the next interval. The app will tell the runner when they are halfway through the run.

At the end of the run the app gave me a summary of the run included time, distance and calories burnt. It will also show a map of the route taken, distinguishing which parts were running and walking. All this data can be accessed in the History time to be referred back to.

The program is structured to be three runs a week for eight weeks. By the end of the eight weeks, you should theoretically be able to run 5km.

The app has a few free runs, but to access the full program the runner must pay. I got the premium 3-month subscription, which is $10.49 for three months (or around $3.49 per month).

My Progress

I thought I would share my progress and process using this app. My first run was on June 1 and I ran 1.7 km. My last run was October 8 (so yesterday) and I ran 4.5 km. So I took double the amount of time and was just under the 5km goal. But I am honestly SO proud of myself.

The first couple of weeks I was consistent in running around 3 times a week but I was repeating runs. I didn’t think it was smart to move onto the next set of intervals if I couldn’t finish one. So I repeated W1/D2 (week 1, day 2 – this is how they name the runs and how I will reference them), W1/D3 and W2/D3 twice. I was in pain. I went from not running to running. I found that I could have easily kept on running cardio wise but my shins were killing me so much that I had to stop. I ended up talking to my dad’s friend who is a physical therapist and he gave me a list of stretches to do before and after my runs. I also got myself a roller stick and that helps SO much.

Around week 3 my shins were starting to adjust and I was able to progress. Until I got to W4/D1. I did this run five times before I felt comfortable enough to move forward. This was the point where my cardio was the issue. It was a jump from 10 minutes of running to 14 minutes. It probably didn’t help that I also took a two-week break in the middle of this when I went to my cottage. That’s probably why it took me so many times haha.

Once I passed that W4/D1 hurtle though I had no further issues. I was able to progress throughout the rest of the program without having to repeat any runs. I also did start going back to yoga in late August, so I wasn’t running three times a week anymore. That’s probably why it took me two months to finish what should have been one month. But I wasn’t mad about my progress. I was running more then I have ever before in my life!

In my last three runs, the time and distance lined up pretty well. I was able to run 3.5km in 35 minutes, 4.0 km in 40 minutes and 4.5km in 45 minutes. So by that logic, I could probably run 5.0 km in 50 minutes. I’m not upset by the fact that I didn’t run 5km using this app because it helped me build the stamina to be able to do so. And either way, 4.5 km is still pretty good!

Would I recommend this app?

Yes, I would 100% recommend this app to anyone who isn’t a runner but wants to get into running.

If you are new to running and have no idea where to start, this is simply laid out for you. It’s easy to see what future runs will look like and it’s easy to track past progress. The app also recently got an update that will ask for your feedback after a run and will recommend whether or not to move onto the next run.

And the app worked! I liked the interval training system because it helped me move from a non-runner to a runner. I would have loved if this app was free, but I think the money I spent was worth it. I also rationalized it that I wasn’t paying for a gym membership (because there were closed and then I had my account frozen). And I think it’s important to invest in ourselves and our health.

If you are someone who is just looking for a way to track their runs then I wouldn’t recommend this app. I think there are probably better (and cheaper) running tracking apps out there.

Which leads me into:

What I’m doing next

So now what? That’s the beauty of this app that now that I’m done this program I can do whatever I want. I know the app company has a 10k program but I think that’s a little too advance for me. I think I’m going to actually run 5km and then work on bringing my time down. I would love to run a 5k next year. A few of my friends have recommended Strava, so I will be checking that out. Let me know if you would like a review of that app as well!

So guys, I just want to end this year by saying that you can do anything if you work on and believe in yourself. I never thought I could be be a runner, but then I decided to download then app and said to myself “I am going to be a runner”. You can do it guys!

xoxo

Lea

Introducing: My Youtube Channel

Hey guys! I am so excited to announce that I have finally created my own Youtube channel!

I explained this a bit in my first video but starting a Youtube channel has been something that I have thought about doing for a few years now. I kept on putting it off thinking that the timing wasn’t right. But I finally decided to just go for it. I mean what a better time than during a pandemic when I don’t have a job lol.

So please subscribe to my channel that way you won’t miss any videos! I am also going to be posting different content than what’s on the blog so that way it’s not repetitive.

I also haven’t decided when I’m going to be posting since I don’t know how often I’ll be posting. Make sure you also follow my Instagram to keep up to date.

Anyways I’m just rambling at this point. But I’m just so excited!

(I’ll be back Friday with a real blog post)

xoxo

Lea

Recreating my Prom makeup looks 5 years later

Hey guys! It’s officially – it’s been five years since I have graduated high school. Which is crazy to me. High school felt like forever, whereas university went by so quickly. So to celebrate this anniversary, I decided to recreate my prom makeup look!

I first pulled out my old dress. It’s actually a vintage 1970s evening dress. The dress unfortunately doesn’t fit me anymore, so for the purpose of this video I am wearing another black dress. I still have my jewellery and shoes, just missing my hair clip.

I got my makeup done at MAC because there wasn’t a Sephora in my mall at the time. From the photos that I have, I figured that I had a cool-toned smokey look with a big wing. I used my Urban Decay Naked Smokey palette (which I just found out has been discontinued) and Dominique Cosmetics palette. The finishing touch on this classy, Hollywood glamour look was a bright red lipstick. I purchased this lipstick for prom and I still have it today (oops) – the classic Ruby Woo.

I remember thinking that I was wearing so much makeup but looked beautiful. Now, after really getting into makeup the past five years, this look was so easy to do. While I don’t regularly rock a red lip, I do smokey eyeshadow all the time. This was also the first time I wore false lashes and now I wear them all the time.

For my prom I got my hair done by my hairdresser. I think she spent a couple of hours doing my hair. Now I’m trying to not use heat on my hair and I also am not the greatest at doing my hair. So I did a low bun with a hair clip instead.

Five years later I am still in love with my prom look. I think because it’s a vintage dress, there is something quite timeless about the look. Let me know in the comments if you guys went to prom, and if you did what do you think of your dress now.

xoxo

Lea

10 things I can’t live without

Hey guys! Today’s post is based on a video that I saw Allana Davison did a week ago. In her video she shared 10 random things that she can’t live without. I loved this idea because I have so many random favourites that I wanted to share with you guys but weren’t sure how or when to mention them. So here are 10 random things I can’t live without.

1. The Calm app

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Guys, I use this app every single day. For those who haven’t heard about this app, it’s a guided meditation app. Except I don’t use it to meditate, I listen to their sleep stories. They are mini audiobooks. The stories are written to induce sleep and the narrators speak in soft voices. They will put me to sleep within 15 minutes. If my mind is particularly active one night, they also have guided sleep meditations that do work.

I use this app almost every single night. The only time I don’t is if I’m sharing my bed or room with someone else (sleepovers, vacations, etc.). You do have to pay to access most of the stories, but the cost vs times used makes it totally worth it. I don’t know what I would do without this app.

2. Tazo Chai Tea Latte Concentrate

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If you are addicted to Starbucks chai tea like me, you need to get this. My friend who worked at Starbucks said that this is what they use in store, but the concentrate they use it a different amount than the one sold in-stores. So while it doesn’t taste exactly the same it’s very close. I make myself a latte probably every other day.

This concentrate is super simple to use. I just add milk and sometimes sugar and it’s ready to go. It’s good both hot and cold. It’s been a godsend during quarantine when I can’t get Starbucks all the time. I have purchased it at Walmart, Longos and Sobeys (for all my Canadians). But it also available on Amazon, just be careful because some retailers will overcharge for it.

3. My Sony Speaker

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I love listening to music – I have two things on this list related to music. I listen to music almost all the time. I prefer listening to music through a speaker than my headphones if I’m not in public/with other people. I find I can think better if I listen through a speaker and then I’m also not restricted by headphone cords (because I don’t own wireless headphones). Listening through a speaker allows me to do things better than with headphones. Portable speakers are also great because I can bring them to the beach or work.

I got my Sony XB30 Extra Bass Portable Bluetooth Speaker for Christmas about three years ago and it still works like brand new. It accidentally fell from on top of the fridge and one speaker got dented but it still works perfectly! It has some colour changing/flashing lights which can be annoying if they are in your peripheral but it’s fun for parties. I love my portable speaker and if mine broke I would immediately buy a new one.

4. Scented Candles

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I love scented candles. And being stuck at home during quarantine has just increased my love of candles. I find having a nicely scented candle just relaxes me and makes me enjoy my space so much more. I always have one burning if I’m in my room.

Even though I love candles, I have a very weak sense of smell so I need strongly scented candles. Bath and Body Works are some of my favourites. They don’t have a Canadian website though so I haven’t had any in a while. Indigo is a great place to get some candles and I’ve enjoyed many of theirs. Some small Canadian brands I have ordered from and enjoyed are Au Natural, Shy Wolf Candles and Natura Soy Candles.

5. Pop Sockets

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I know pop sockets aren’t new anyone, but I still get so many questions about mine from people in real life! Since I first put a pop socket on my phone about three-ish years now I haven’t taken it off. It has changed my life and I don’t think I could ever go back.

There are many reasons why I love my pop socket. It makes it easier to hold my phone. Now that I have an iPhone 8 Plus my phone is large and can be hard to hold. The pop socket just gives me something to anchor my hand better. It’s great for walking around and also lying down in bed. I am a klutz and have dropped my phone countless times, but having a pop socket has decreased that a bit. It also helps so much when taking photos. Because I have a better hold on my phone I can better stabilize my hand to take nice photos. The final reason why I love my pop socket is that it’s so fun to fidget with it. Sometimes my friends would borrow my phone just to fidget with my pop socket. I use it every day and I just love it.

6. Scrunchies

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I love my scrunchies. The only time I’ll use regular hair elastics is if I am wearing my hair in braids or I’m going in the water. I love scrunchies because they damage my hair less than hair elastics AND they are cute!

I’ve bought my scrunchies from a variety of places. I have some from Claire’s, Topshop and Forever 21. Some of my favourites are this six-pack that I got from Amazon. They are all of equal quality. I usually just pick what scrunchie I want to wear based on my outfit.

7. Apple Cider Vinegar

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I suffer from canker sores. I won’t go into details about them, but I’ve had them since I was a kid. When I’m stress or near my period I get a bunch and they can be super painful. People aren’t sure what causes them and they aren’t any cures. My mom read that apple cider vinegar can help and it is the best preventative measure I have found.

It works because canker sores are affected because of pH levels in your mouth, and apple cider vinegar can help regulate it. I take the Jamieson pills because it’s easier than taking the liquid version. This has made such a dramatic difference in my life. If I forget to take them for a couple of days I will get a few canker sores just like that. Now it hasn’t completely eradicated my canker sores. I still get a few if I am stressed. But it has made such a difference in my life. If you suffer from canker sores I highly recommend them.

8. Birkenstocks/Vikings

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Everyone has a favourite pair of shoes. These are mine. I’ve owned a pair of Birkenstocks or Vikings since I was 15/16. These are the best summer sandal. They are just super comfortable! If you don’t know what Birkenstocks are, they are a cork and rubber shoe that will conform to your foot as you wear it. The thick sole makes them super comfortable. I travelled and spend days at the CNE in these shoes and have had no problems.

I usually buy a new pair every two summers. Because they are cork if they get wet they deteriorate. I worked at an outdoor pool for four summers wearing these and got them wet accidentally quite a few times. Since I get them wet that’s why I have to buy them more frequently. But if you’re careful these shoes could probably last you quite a few years. I currently own a pair of Vikings. I’ve owned both and haven’t noticed a difference in quality. Vikings are cheaper so I recommend those.

9. Spotify Premium

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If you don’t have a Spotify premium account you are missing out! I think I’ve had it for almost four years now. I got premium within a month of downloading Spotify. I couldn’t stand the ads and not being able to skip songs.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love listening to music. I would say that I use this app every single day. It has a huge selection of music. But what I love about the app is the number of playlists. I get tired of listening to the same stuff all the time, so I like the ability to find and listen to new stuff all the time. My favourite is the #ThrowbackThursday playlist. It’s full of throwback songs (obviously) but it’s changed every week to reflect some theme. I always look forward to Thursdays and what songs are going to be on the playlist. Spotify has many different paid plans now from when I first got it, so I would recommend checking out the deals they have.

10. Notebooks

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I learn and remember things best when I write them out by hand. For that reason, I have many notebooks. I used notebooks when I was in school to write notes, to do research and to plan out assignments. The process of physically writing something by hand helps me remember it better. I also used notebooks to plan blog posts and do other random things like research trips. I always have a notebook near my desk.

When I was in university I always used the Five Star 5-Subject notebooks – you can get these from Staples. Now I usually buy my notebooks from Winners or Indigo. I prefer having large notebooks that are the size of a regular sheet of paper. I also like having coils on the side because it folds over nicer. Technology seems like an easy, obvious choice but sometimes it’s nice to put a pen to paper.

And those are the 10 random things I can’t live without. Let me know if you guys use any of these things or what some of your random favourites are!

xoxo

Lea

My Morning Routine

Hey guys! I know this is a classic Youtube video and I have also seen a bunch of videos on TikTok of people showing their morning routines. I decided to make a video myself and I writing this post to support that video. I just wanted to mention that I don’t do this morning routine every day. My mornings differ if I’m working out that morning or taking my dog on a walk. I always sleep in and eat breakfast as a family on the weekends. I would say I do this routine three days a week. Anyways I digress, let’s get into the routine.

So I set my alarm for 8 a.m. but I usually snooze it for a bit and then spend some time on my phone. I usually like to get out of bed at around 9 a.m.

I prefer to workout in the mornings because that’s when I have the most energy. If I workout in the afternoon or evening then I’m too tired to do anything else. I also just like to get it out of the way. I always work out before I eat because otherwise I find that I am lethargic during my workouts. I am currently doing Chloe Ting 25 Day Hourglass Challenge. I’m not doing this every day so it’s taking me a bit longer. I like doing programs or challenges because it gives me a goal and structure.

By the time I’ve finished my workout, I’m hungry and ready for breakfast. I like a variety of things for breakfast but one of my all-time favourites is avocado toast. I personally like to top mine with salt, pepper, everything-but-the-bagel seasoning, olive oil and balsamic vinegar glaze. I highly recommend everything-but-the-bagel seasoning. My mom made the mix for me so that’s what I use. I usually eat a piece of fruit with breakfast as well.

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I also read the newspaper – I know not a popular activity for young people to do. I had to read the Globe and Mail because of my program and the habit just stuck. It’s actually a habit that I am really happy that I picked up on. It’s actually incredible how much more up-to-date I am on global events. So many times I’ve had conversations with people about topics and I was able to contribute or even educate because I’ve read the paper. I have a paper copy just because my mom reads it too.

This might be weird but I always make a cup of tea before I shower. I like to drink it while I get ready and do my makeup after my shower. I make it before so it’s perfect temperature after I’m done my shower. I like to drink black or earl grey in the morning.

After breakfast, I shower. I’ve lined by my hair washing days with when I work out. After watching a few Youtubers go on Curly-Girl hair journeys, I have started to do a modified one myself. I am slowly replacing my hair products with sulphate and silicone-free options, and I am trying new techniques with my hair. I want to do some more research and experimentation, but expect a post about it sometime in the future.

Now that I have more time I have been doing face masks more! I usually cleanse my face in the shower and then apply a face mask depending on how my skin is feeling at the moment. I can always do a face mask collection if that is something you guys are interested in. Let me know in the comments!

While I do my mask I usually slather my body in lotion. My body skin is pretty dry so I always moisturize after showering. I’ve mentioned this before but I have pretty bad body acne as well. So I always use an acne cream and a moisturize meant for the face on my chest and shoulders. I like heavily perfumed body lotions for the rest of my body, but if I were to apply that to my chest and shoulder it would break me out. After applying my lotions I get dressed, wash off my mask and finish my hair.

Finally, I do my makeup! I know a lot of people aren’t wearing makeup at home during quarantine but I do it for two reasons. First, it’s because it helps bring some normalcy and routine to my days. My putting on makeup makes me feel less of a slob and more productive. And second I am usually testing out products for a post that I am working out. If I am not testing out products, I usually do something similar to my 5-minute makeup routine. After I am done my makeup I start doing whatever task I have planned for the day!

Now I do want to mention that by the time I am done it’s usually noon. I realize that I am lucky and privileged to be able to take all my mornings for myself. Since I am done school and currently looking for work, I have the luxury to take my time and do all of these. My heart goes out to all the people who are stressed and worried. And thank you to all the front line workers who are spending their mornings helping everyone out.

xoxo

Lea

14 things to do inside during the pandemic

Hey guys! Today I am sharing a list of things you can do while quarantined/social distancing! My school has now been moved online, my work is closed for the next three weeks and my yoga studio is closed. So since I will not be leaving my house for the foreseeable future. I am sure many of you are either in quarantine or social distancing, but might have more free time than me (I still have assignments to do 😢). I have created a list of fun things you can do indoors.

1. Clean

  • Now is a great time to clean out your closet, fridge, pantry, etc. Get a head start on that spring cleaning.
  • Make sure to also clean surfaces that are used frequently, especially if you are living with other people

2. Bake

  • Baking can be very therapeutic. It often involves ingredients that you already have in your pantry like flour, sugar, baking powder, etc.
  • Try making breads. They can be very time-consuming, so it can be a good way to spend an afternoon.

3. Read

  • Now is a great time to read that has been sitting on your self.
  • Reading allows you to escape what is going on while also using your brain!

4. Watch Netflix

  • This one is pretty obvious. If you are like me, you might have a long list of shows that you have been wanting to watch. Now is a great time to get through that list.
  • Try watching a movie from a different genre every night! Or try a documentary so you can learn something new.

5. Do some art

  • Art is a great way to relax and de-stress. You don’t even need to get art supplies if you don’t own any, just using a pencil or pen can work.
  • Try following along to a Bob Ross video. His voice is so soothing.

6. Do a puzzle

  • Puzzles are a great way to stimulate the mind and keep you focused one task.
  • Sudoku is my favourite, but there are also jigsaw puzzles, word searches or logic games.

7. Board game night

  • If you live with people, break out the board games! A simple game of Monopoly can take up almost four hours.
  • If you play Uno, keep track of the scores. Whoever loses has to do something like make dinner that night.

8. Have a self-care spa sessions

  • Take a bath, do a face mask, paint your toes. Whatever relaxes you.

9. Play some video games

  • I have been plays Sims the past couple of days, it’s my favourite video game.
  • Play with others if you can! Do a Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros tournament.

10. Do an at home workout

  • There are so many different workouts available on Youtube. I am currently doing the Blogilates 14 Quarantine challenge.
  • Working out with give you a rush of endorphins and help cheer you up.

11. Go on a walk in nature

  • Going on a walk outside will help you feel like stuck and the sunshine can help boost your mood.
  • Walking in nature can help reduce the odds of seeing someone else. Bring your dog if you have one!

12. Pick up a new skill or hobby

  • Now is a great time to try or practice a new skill or hobby. It could be learning a new language or a new instrument.
  • Practising for an hour each day could really help you improve that skill!

13. Try something on Pinterest

  • Whether it’s a recipe or diy project, it can be fun to do something with your hands.
  • Share the results. Whether it was a success or failure, it will be helpful for others to see the results!

14. Call your friends and family

  • This is a very stressful time for everyone. Reach out to people can chat with them 💖

Let me know in the comments what you guys are doing during this time! Stay safe my friends!

xoxo

Lea

Making the switch to reusable cotton pads

Hey guys! Today I will be discussing reusable cotton pads or rounds (whatever you like you call them). I am trying to be more mindful of the waste I am creating because climate change is real and alive everyone. While I am by no means perfect, I am trying. One product that I noticed I used a lot was cotton pads. I use them to remove my makeup, tone my face and remove nail polish. I have a massive stockpile, and once I was on my last package I decided to buy some reusable cotton pads.

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I know there are many options on Amazon, but it felt counterproductive to buy a sustainable product and have it shipped in plastic to my house. So when my friend told me about OKO Creations, I decided to check them out. They are a Canadian company and are in 200 stores across the country. I was able to buy them at my local Organic Garage.

I purchased the OKO Creations Makeup up removal pads. They come with eight pads. On the package, it says that the pack replaces up to 750 disposable pads per year. Not sure how they got that metric but either way switching to reusable pads does save on disposable ones.

I have decided to use these pads for makeup removal and for toning my face. I don’t feel comfortable using these pads for removing nail polish, so I will still use disposable pads for that purpose. But since I don’t remove my nail polish very often and only use one pad I felt like that was okay.

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Washed (left) vs. brand new (right)

These pads before quite well. I find that they work better once they have been washed once, so it might be good to wash them when you first get them. They are larger than normal pads, so I can remove a full face of makeup with one pad. I will say that they do absorb more product than a normal disposable pad, especially toner.

The pads clean fairly easily. The instructions were to rinse and soap after using to reduce stains, and then to put in wash and dryer like normal clothes. I put them in a small garment bag. I haven’t had any issues washing and found the staining to be minimum to none.

I have only been using the reusable pads for a couple of weeks so I can’t attest how long they will last. But I think even if they only last half a year that’s still better than using disposable pads every day.

I like these pads and will continue to use them! I would highly recommend them to anyone looking to switch over to reusable cotton pads. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!

xoxo

Lea

I went to a makeup convention! IMATS Toronto Experience

Hey guys! Sorry for the lack of posts the past the two weeks! The past two weeks have been crazy with school and then Thanksgiving and then midterms. But now it’s reading week! I am hoping to create a lot of content this week 🙂 For today’s post I am sharing my experience going to IMATS Toronto!

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IMATS stands for International Make-up Artist Trade Show. If you didn’t know, I am from Toronto so that’s why I went to that one. I have heard of other conventions like BeautyCon and Gen Beauty. Those events don’t come to Toronto, but when I heard about IMATS I thought it would be similar. Spoiler alert: I was wrong.

IMATS is for makeup artists. Beauty enthusiasts like myself can go, but it’s meant for working makeup artists. Many booths were selling SFX makeup and pigment palettes. The demonstrations were also meant for makeup artists – but more on that later.

I was surprised me was how small the event was. There were about about 15 to 20 vendors at the event. That sounds like a lot, but to put that into perceptive BeautyCon has over 200 vendors. There were a few brand names like Benefit, Makeup Forever, NARS and Beauty Blender. There were a few brush vendors – the only one I knew was Royal and Langnickel. There were also a bunch of indie brands as well. Most of the vendors had sales, ranging from 20-40% off retail price. There were no free samples or goodie bags.

I purchased four items. First I got the Benefit Precisely My Brow Eyebrow Pencil. You guys know I am a die-hard ABH Brow Wiz fan, but I have never tried any of the Benefit brow products before. So I decided to pick up the pencil since it was on sale. I purchased two brushes from the brand Stilazzi – the S203 and S302. Finally from Clionadh Cosmetics – a small Canadian Indie brand – I got one single shadow. I got the shade Sand Blast, and while it wasn’t cheap I have never seen a shadow like it before.

Now the speaker I saw was probably the best part of the whole event. I saw Kevin James Bennett speak.  I didn’t even know was an award-winning makeup artist until after the event when I looked him up! He provided so much information. He talked about brushes – which ones to buy and to use. A big tip he had was to use synthetic brushes since they can be used wet and dry. I could have sat all day and listened to him!

So what are my overall thoughts on IMATS? While I loved seeing the demonstrations from makeup artists, I would not recommend going if you are an average beauty enthusiast. The deals and selection were not that great. If you want to learn from a professional it would be better to go to a masterclass instead of this event. I had fun and I was glad I went, but I don’t think I would go next year. Have you guys ever been to a makeup convention before? Let me know in the comments!

xoxo

Lea

Room Reno – Updating my Childhood Bedroom

Hey guys! As many of you know, I have moved back to my parents house for the foreseeable future. I am doing another year of school and then I’m going to try and find a job, so who knows when I will move out (not to mention that the Toronto housing market is insane). For that reason I decided it was time to redo my old bedroom. The last time I had redone my room was when I was 14 years old. As you can see from the photos below, I really liked purple, books and One Direction. While all of those things are still true, I wanted the room to match who I am now. Also there was no room for a desk in my room, something I will definitely need when I go back to school. So it was time for a room reno!

This was a long process to redo my room. My parents and I have decided back at Christmas that we would redo my room. During my reading week in February I had done a massive room clean out, donating a large amount of the stuff that was in my room. I donated around 100 books and tons of clothes. I had also packed up all of the stuff that I wanted to keep at this point. I would like to to shout out my father (even though he doesn’t read my blog). He helped me so much with this reno. First he painted all my walls for me while I was writing exams in April. He also built the bookshelves and my closet while I was away in Europe. Finally, he widened my existing desk and put a wider top on it. Couldn’t have done any of this without him. After I came back from Europe I spent the next while going through all my stuff and putting it all away. I finally finished my room this past week.

I would just like to mention that nothing in my room is new. Everything was either already in this room or from my university house. I already linked a bunch of stuff in my University Room Tour blog post, so I could check that out.

My bed and most of the bedding is the same as before. I got this new summer duvet from Home Outfitters, which is going out of business (lol no link sorry). I was able to get it for 40% off! My hanging light fixture was in my room before, and I actually bought it at the CNE a couple years ago. Most of the stuff on my beside table I had before. My alarm clock is from Miniso and was around $9 (maybe?). I bought it a couple weeks ago, so it should still be in store. Finally, behind my diffuser is my Google Home Mini. I actually got it for free when Spotify was doing a promotion to get people to sign up for Premium.

Across my bed is the bookcase that my dad built for me. I was inspired by sunbeamsjess’ bookshelves  (here is her Youtube video if you are curious, she is also amazing would totally recommend her channel). I decided to put my tv in the middle, with books and knick-knacks surrounding it. If you are curious for a more in-depth bookshelf tour, head over to my Instagram and check out my highlight about it. I did include some close up photos of my knick-knacks. Most of them are either from my old room, special mementos or antiques from my grandmothers. I also have my perfume collection and my candle collection. If you are interested in seeing either of these collections let me know in the comments and I can do so!

Beside my bookcase I have this antique dresser. On top I have some decor bits and my ukulele that I got for $20 at an antique sale. Inside my wardrobe I have all my Polaroids on one side and a mirror on the other. Inside the wardrobe I have shirts and stuff on top, underwear in the bins and sweatshirts on the bottom.

Across from the wardrobe is my closet, which my dad was nice enough to redo. On the right is two bars for hanging clothes. I have most of my hanging pieces on top, and I keep some bags underneath the bottom hanging one. To the left are some shelves with more clothes. There is also a rode to hang longer dresses. On the bottom of the shelves I keep bags, and on the top I have some miscellaneous clothes that I don’t wear but want to keep.

 

Finally, beside my closet is my desk! Like I mentioned before, my dad rejigged my desk so the top and side is bigger. On top of my desk I have some makeup, some pens, desk lamps, and a candle (from Bath and Body Works of course). I have this jewellery case that I received as a gift a couple years ago. I keep mainly nice pieces or stuff that I wear infrequently in here. Most of my daily pieces are kept in a box inside my desk. The prints I have linked in my previous room post.

And that is my room completely redone! I am so happy with the results 🙂 I am also happy because my parents got a new router, so the internet connection is stronger in my room! I hope you guys are enjoying this lifestyle posts, let me know in the comments if you have any post suggestions!

xoxo

Lea

 

I Went on a Contiki Trip! ~ European Encounter 2019

Hey guys! So today I am talking about my trip to Europe. I have mentioned before that I went to Europe for two and a half weeks in May, but I don’t think that I explained that I actually did a Contiki trip! In my post I’m going to explain everything about Contiki and my trip. And the end I will also give some general tips about travelling in Europe.

What is Contiki?

Contiki is a travel tour group designed for 18-35 year olds. They first started in Europe but now run tours all around the world. The tours vary in length, from 10 days to a month or more. They have more that 140 trips in Europe, so you basically just pick where you want to go and they organize everything for you. You travel with around 30-40 other people on a coach bus. They organize all the hotels and around half of the meals for you. On top of that, there are some included activities along with a bunch of add-on activities that you can do (which I will break down below).

Contiki, along with other travel groups for young people, have a reputation as being a party-bus. They are known as just being 18-22 year-old, mainly Australians, just getting drunk the whole time. Contiki is also known for being high-pace, with barely any time in the locations you are going to. Also some of the accommodations are not the greatest. I learned all of this through reading reviews on the website and also reading other blog posts.

So why did I choose Contiki? I was travelling by myself. All my friends were either still in school, too broke to travel or travelling other places. I decided that I didn’t want to wait all my life to travel, so now was the time. Of course my parents were extremely worried about me travelling by myself, so we settled on me doing a group travel trip. I choose Contiki because despite its reputation and a few bad reviews, the majority of the reviews were amazing. I also liked the trips they had compared to their competitor, Topdeck.

My Trip

I did European Encounter in May 2019. I went to ‘ten’ (really nine because we only drove through Belgium) countries in 17 days. I was abroad for 18 days because I stayed another day in London after.

My trip was: start in London, Amsterdam for two days, Berlin for two days, Prague for two days, Salzburg for one day, Venice for one day, Rome for two days, Florence for one day, Cinque Terre for one day, Luzern for one day, Paris for two days and then back to Paris. I had the most amazing time in Europe, it was one of the best experiences of my life.

I really liked the route and the layout of my trip. Obviously there are still some places I would like to see, but I felt that I was able to see a lot of Europe. The three cities I felt that I didn’t have enough time in were London, Paris and Rome. T be fair these are some of the biggest cities in the world so it’s hard to see everything in two days. I think the trip was also good at picking out which cities we should days to spend one day in versus two days. For example, Venice is so small that I think if we had spent two days there I would have been bored.

Now to address the ‘reputation’ of Contiki. For some reason, there are a lot of Australians and New Zealanders who go on Contiki trips, and my trip was no exception. But there was a nice mixture. There was six other Canadians, six Americans, a couple from South Africa, and a girl from India. So I would say only half our of group was Aussies and Kiwis. The other thing was the average age of people on our trip was older than others. A few people on my trip had done Contiki before, and they said that our trip was older and more tame compared to the other trips they had done. I would say the average age was probably 23 or 24. There were a few 19-20 years olds and a few 30 year olds, but most people on this trip were around my age or older. There was also a lot of couples on this trip, six to be exact! Almost half the people on my trip were in relationships, which I think helped tame things down. We all liked to party and have fun, but it was not an every night type of thing. I think that the length of the trip and the destinations we were going to, along with the time of year, drew in a older group. All of this was fine by me because I wanted to have fun, but I didn’t want to be hung over every day.

I think the people were really the stand out part of Contiki. I liked the majority of the people on my trip. It was so cool to talk to people from all over the world. Not only was I learning about Europe on the trip, but also all the places people were from. I am so surprised with how close I got with some of the people on the trip, I am definitely planning to visit some of them soon!

The other great people on the trip were my trip manager and driver. A trip manager can really make or break a trip, and we got lucky with an amazing trip manager. The nice thing about doing a tour group besides solo travelling is that you have someone there on the trip whose job is to give you recommendations and make sure you are having a good time. My trip manager was amazing at giving good recommendations, and was very quick to solve any issues we were having.

Hotels

Contiki has options to stay either in hotels, hostels or camping. Call me a princess, but I personally wanted to stay in hotels. I know hostels are cheaper and some of them are really nice, but since I didn’t have a say where we were staying I thought that the hotel option would be better. I noticed that some of the reviews were quite negative about accommodations, so I was a little worried going into it.

Overall I would say that I was pleasantly surprised. I would say everywhere but Italy – with the exception of Rome – we stayed in pretty decent places. I noticed that generally the nicer the places, the further away from the city centre we were. For example, my favourite hotels were in Amsterdam and Rome which were super far from the city centre. But in some cities, like Berlin and Prague, we were closer to the centre so it really varied city to city. The hotels in Italy were generally the worst, but they weren’t awful. They were only bad because they were really outdated.

The worst hotel was the one in Florence. We stayed in the Albergo Auto Park, and honestly don’t ever go there. When I first walked into the room it smelled so strongly of cigarette smoke, it was disgusting. I went down to the front desk and mentioned it, and they basically said just open the windows. Then as I was trying to take pictures of my room, I heard through the super thin walls that some had found bed bugs. We were all staying on the same floor, so every on the trip immediately panicked and looked for bed bugs. Luckily no one else found any, and the hotel was good enough to switch the guys who found bed bugs to a different room. The rooms were tiny, and everything was outdated except for the bathroom. The bathroom was redone, but they had done a pretty crappy job. Overall, I think you could find better places in Florence then this place.

A final note on hotels/accommodations. I had paid extra to get a single room, since I was travelling by myself I wanted my own space. But if you were travelling with other people they were really good about it. They had friends room together, and all the couples were able to get rooms together. The only funny thing was that I often got better rooms than the couples. For example, in Europe it’s cheaper to have two single beds pushed together than an actual double bed. So I would often have a double bed while the couples had two singles. But overall it wasn’t a huge difference in quality of the rooms.

Below I have a slideshow of all the pictures of the rooms that we stayed at. I have included the names of the hotels and also just my thoughts, in case you are looking for places to stay.

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Activities

As a part of Contiki, there are some included experiences along with a list of ‘free-time add ons’. These free-time activities are not free though, you do have to pay. Some of our included experiences were a number of dinners, which you would get free food but would have to pay for any drinks. The quality of these dinners would vary, but overall pretty good. Some of the other included activities were a bike ride in Edam (small town outside of Amsterdam) and in Prague, a bunch of free walking tours, a leather demonstration, a Swiss watch demonstration and a perfumery tour.

The free-time add ons basically feel into three categories: dinners, tours or others. There were six dinners, and I did half of them. I didn’t do all the dinners because I had heard mixed reviews online and they were expensive. The nice thing about the dinners is that the alcohol is included and endless, so you can really get your money’s worth if you drink a lot. The food at the dinners were generally above average but not the best I’ve ever had. The nice thing is that they always feed you a lot, I never left those dinners hungry. For choosing what dinners to go to, I would recommend picking the ones that you think you would like the food the best. I did both of the Italian ones but passed on the Dutch, Czech and Austrian ones.

The tours are generally ones that are above your average walking tour. Some of them had food included, like in Berlin and in Venice. In Rome, to go into the Vatican and Colosseum we had to pay, but the nice thing is that we got to skip the lines. As a history person I would definitely recommend these tours, because I got to learn so much from them.

The final type of add ons were the ones that were unique to the cities but super cool experiences. In Amsterdam there was a canal cruise, in Venice a gondola ride and in Switzerland a lake cruise and a ride up to the top of a mountain. These were some of the best experiences I had on my whole trip. They are not things you can do anywhere else in the world, and so it was so cool to do it. The canal cruise in Amsterdam was such an amazing way to see the city, and we also had an open bar! Going to the top of a mountain in Switzerland was super fun to do, because for a lot of my friends it was their first time seeing snow!

The final thing I liked about these add-ons is that the fact that you are doing them with your group. Yes it’s possible to find your own restaurants or book some of these tours yourself, but it can be hard to do with a big group. The nice thing is that you are with all the new friends you have made. When trying to decided what activities to do, I would just pick what interests you. I would say the majority of the add-ons were worth it, and I enjoyed them.

Overall Thoughts and Recommendations on Contiki

I friggin loved Contiki, but I don’t think it’s for everyone. Contiki is definitely meant for extroverted people. Yes it’s possible to leave the group and do your own thing, but you are still spending many hours on a bus or at dinners together with these people. Most of the time you get about an hour in the hotel sometime during the day to freshen up, and then whatever time at night before you go to bed by yourself. You are with people 24/7, so if that’s not your thing, then Contiki can be very draining.

Contiki is also very fast-paced. We stayed a max of two days in a city before moving onto the next one. It can be very tiring to constantly be moving. While I was sad that my trip was over, I was definitely started to get burnt out by the end. If on your holiday you want to spend more time in one place, then Contiki isn’t the way to go.

I think I should also mention that on Contiki you do spend a fair amount of time on a bus. There are some large distances between places that can take a time to cross. I personally didn’t mind the busing. My cottage is 7 hours away, so I have no problem sitting in a car all day. I also spend most of the time talking to my friends or playing games – one of my friends brought a card game and we would play multiple games a day. I also watched a few movies. My trip manager was also great at using this time to talk to us about the places we were going to. You can also nap on the bus as well. I would just recommend bringing some ways to keep yourself entertained on the bus and also some stuff for motion sickness if you are prone to that.

Something I didn’t do, but a lot of my friends did was add time in a city before or after their trip. I would definitely recommend this. People either came a few days before and toured London, or stayed after in Paris or London. Because we didn’t really stay much in London, this is the only way to really see the city. It can also be nice to actually stay put somewhere after moving around for so long. I would personally recommend doing this after the trip, because then you can hang out with the people on your trip if they happen to be doing the same thing. Some of my friends were stayed in London after, so I was able to hang out with them the one extra day I add.

General Europe Travel Trips

In North America, it is way more popular to use cards to pay for everything but that is not the case in Europe. Definitely bring cash and use it. Especially for paying meals, it’s way easier to use cash because they don’t split the bill. What happened is that usually either everyone would pay cash, or one person would pay the full bill with their card and everyone would pay them back. This happened quite often with Ubers and cabs as well.

Try and get a good data plan. While in North America there is wifi almost everywhere, wifi isn’t that great in Europe. Even in hotels it can be crappy. It is way easier to have data to be able to get Ubers, look up directions, look up places to eat, etc.

My two favourite places were Berlin and Prague. I liked Berlin because there is so much history but there is also such a fun party scene as well. All of the Holocaust/WW2/Cold War museums are free, so it is really easy to learn about their history. In Berlin, I highly recommend going to karaoke because it was so much fun. I really liked Prague because it was pretty and cheap. Prague has a very cohesive look to it, so it feels like you are back in time. Prague is also really cheap, so you can go out and eat well while you are there.

If you want to do shopping, Prague is a pretty good place to go because it’s so cheap. If you are looking to get makeup, I would definitely recommend France especially French brands because they are way cheaper than back home.

I don’t have a ton of restaurant recommendations, but I would recommend Lokal in Prague, Ristorante Wanted in Rome (right near the Colosseum) and Carluccios in London for brunch.

But ya that was my trip! This was honestly the trip of a life time, and I definitely have caught the travel bug now! Can’t wait to go somewhere else! If you guys have any questions about any of the places that I went to just let me know and I have answer them/offer some suggestions 🙂

Lea