À la carteExercisePhysicalsoulTravel

Why I’m moving to AUSTRALIA!!

Lauren Michelle

At the end of January I will be selling, donating, and trashing ALL of my material items, packing up only my clothes and essentials into ONE checked bag to hop on a plane to AUSTRALIA. SOLO.

YOUTUBE VLOG NOW UP: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnClJM_ddDo

I’m not just traveling to Australia for vacation or holiday. I am MOVING to Australia. I will be moving there for anywhere between six months to a year. The goal is a full year.

BUT WHY LAUREN?! Because I ain’t no 9-6 job kinda gal. I am currently working for a company that I have been with for 3 years (since my freshman year of college). I have actually been promoted TWICE in management within the last 5 months. I make a good salary for a 22 year old who just got out of college & I work with GREAT people. BUT, I’m not passionate about my current line of work and do not want to keep it as a career for the rest of my life. Every day that I spend in the office, is a day I am wasting of this company’s. It is not fair to myself nor to the company to waste their time, when someone who is passionate about this line of work could help the company grow more than I can. The only way for me to live a life doing the things I find happiness in, is by actually doing it.

BUT WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING IN AUSSIE? I’m moving Down Under to become an Au Pair. Huh? Is that even English? Many people like to explain being an Au Pair as a live-in nanny gig – it’s much more than that. Being an Au Pair is all about cultural exchange. You are there to be a an older sibling to the child (or children). You are to engage with the family. You are there to fully experience a different culture. You are there to make relationships with the family, other Au Pairs, and people on your travels. The Au Pair lives with the family full time, takes care and spends time with the kids to act as an older sibling, is supplied food, sometimes a vehicle, and a weekly stipend. An Au Pair does not have bills to pay and get’s paid. As told from many stories, being an Au Pair is not always easy, but with the right family it is always rewarding.

The family I will be an Au Pair for for the first 6 months of my stay have two children, twins to be exact (9yrs old, a boy & girl). They live in a very small town in Queensland, supply me with my own room that includes a queen bed, wardrobe, TV, DVD, etc. and plenty of free time when I desire. From emailing, messaging, and Face-timing with the family here is the gist of what I’ll be doing: taking kids to school, free time until it’s time to pick them up, taking them to extra activities, helping with homework, spending time with them, light cleaning and cooking when needed, and just being a part of the family.

DO YOU GET TO TRAVEL? Ohhhhhh yess, baby. One of the raddest things with working with this host family is the amount of free time I will be able to use to travel. My “schedule” with the family is set up as a roster due to their work. I will be working 5-7 days on with the kids/family and then have 5-7 days off. That means 5-7 days off the travel the East coast of Australia!!! I am SUPER blessed that this family supplies me with a vehicle to live out of with cooking items and bedding, as well.

I’LL HAVE MORE TIME FOR THE THINGS I ENJOY. Meeting new people. Creating and cultivating relationships. Traveling. Blogging. Vlogging. Fitness. Food. LIFE.

Like I said above, the only way for me to live a life doing the things I find happiness in, is by actually doing it. The free time I have between the kid’s school and days off will give me the chances to focus on those things. I will be able to travel to new places, try new food, blog and vlog about those places, and meet people from all over the world interested in similar adventures. Not only am I there to be an older sibling to the kids and give love and teach them, but most importantly, the endless things I am going to learn from this family and experience.

IT’S NOT ALL SMILES… That’s right. I’m not talking about working as an Au Pair (I know it’s not all sunshine and rainbows taking care of kids), but I’m speaking about leaving my life back in America. This is a SUPER exciting experience and change. I knew that if I pass up this opportunity I would regret it for the rest of my life. BUT selling everything that I own (as I will not have a home back in America to store my belongings, as my parents are doing the same thing to travel the United States in an RV), is hard for me. I tend to make connections to material things quite easily. For example, someone will basically have to rip all my photos, books, journals, and records out of hands. Overall, the hardest thing to leave will be my family and friends. Even though I am not the only one leaving, as my parents will be traveling the United States and my brother will be moving to Thailand for a short bit, not being in traveling distance to them will be a whole new ball game. Leaving behind friends and relationships I’ve made being in this college town isn’t the easiest either. But because all of my peeps won’t be in the arms distance to me, doesn’t mean we will lose what we have. That’s what life is about – keeping connections and energy between two or more bodies when you can’t be there physically. 

BUT IT GETS EASY! Becoming an Au Pair gets easier because of all of the endless love and support I have been shown throughout the quick process. Without the support, encouragement and external excitement, I don’t think I would be as ready as I am. THANK YOU. Without you people, I’d have more nerves than I could handle. I’m excited to share this experience with you all.

Alright mate, don’t be shocked if I come back with a thick accent, knowing how to surf, unbrushed beach hair, a pet joey, and hundreds of deadly animals…

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ExercisesoulTravel

Why I Solo Travel

Lauren Michelle

I get it all the time: “That’s dangerous to be going alone.” Especially being a female. It’s sweet for people to express they care about my personal safety, but you can hear the doubt in their voice, as well. If we are being real, there are a lot of things that can go wrong when you travel by yourself. We see it happen in the movies, real life, and in our thoughts. Yet, there are still a lot of things that can go wrong when you travel with others.

I guess you could say I am a “people person.” I am easy to get along with, make friends pretty easily, don’t mind having a conversation with you as long as it’s not all small talk, and genuinely love people. It’s all about being surrounded by people I can relate to, a tribe that radiates good vibes, and family. The interactions with people that produce laughter, tears, “chemistry,” excitement, nervousness, etc. keeps me alive. So why do I travel solo? 

  • I thrive on challenge and Traveling solo isn’t easy. You have to do all the research, make the itinerary, and the decisions all by yourself. It basically takes double the time to plan. Making all the decisions includes figuring out how much you will be spending. You have to budget a little tighter, as you don’t have others to split certain costs with. Putting in the work to figure these things out to me is like a fun (sometimes stressful) puzzle. It sounds pretty stupid, but it’s a challenge of proving to yourself that you can survive on your own in a different way than just going to college or moving out of your parent’s house.

  • You’re not really solo when you’re on a solo trip. Think about it… traveling solo provides a wide range of opportunities to make new connections. You begin to realize that you’re not the only solo traveler out there. It puts you in this position of having to reach out to strangers. You may just be asking someone for directions, starting or responding to a conversation with the person next to you on the plane or going out to a bar crawl. You are immediately thrown into this social setting where being solo, is no longer a concept. I get anxious when I’m in a room of complete strangers or do not know where I’m going, but I also thrive on that feeling. It forces me to step outside of my little shy bubble. I guess you could say I enjoy the feeling of being nervous? LOL what kind of human am I? You go in solo but end the trip with relationships with like-minded people from all over the world.

 

  • If I continuously wait for others, I’ll never go anywhere. I’m pretty sure we all have had those times when you make plans with someone and they cancel last minute or decide to bounce. Once that happens, it changes the whole scheme of things. You begin to realize that if you continuously wait for someone else to take your plans into action, then you’re going to be waiting a very long time. I am the one who is in charge of my reality and I will never get what I want unless I make the moves. I’m giving it my all.

  • It’s not “soul searching.” I don’t believe in the little phrase of “soul searching.”  Have you ever heard, the more you look for the positive, the more you will realize the negative experiences? Relating this to traveling alone and “finding yourself,” the more we go out into the world, exploring, trying purposely to find who we are, the more we are going to realize we don’t know who we are. Finding out who you are should not be a chore. It comes when you least expect it and when you aren’t digging for it. I’m just one of those people where travel gives me value. It sparks the action of self-reflection. Sitting on the edge of a canyon, quietly sipping my latte in a coffee shop, watching the sun set over the ocean… it brings me back to the place of knowing all the material things in life are not what determines a person’s value. All those things don’t seem to be so significant and my whole world can be so different. Our successes don’t define us. Our jobs don’t define us. Our social media accounts don’t define us. It’s about meeting people with different backgrounds, jobs, and perspectives. It’s about learning what in our life is important: friends, family, significant others. It’s about realizing what you are capable of. It’s about letting yourself – and just you – be vulnerable with all aspects of the world. 

Yes, traveling solo can be quite lonely at times, but overall it feels like something is watching over me like sweet serendipity. Maybe because stepping out into the wild is dangerously wonderful. It’s a way of life. It’s a part of my life. I’ve got the time and I know that it’s worth the climb. I want everything the world has to offer and I can’t do it without the good, the bad, and the everything in between. When you travel solo you realize that there is beauty in the effortless. That is having the world at your fingertips.

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À la carte

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

Lauren Michelle

We all know that the hottest item on the Starbucks menu this time of year is the Pumpkin Spice Latte. It satisfies the “basic” inside us all. This recipe is perfect for when you don’t have the time to wait in that massive line, don’t want to get out of your pajamas on a Sunday morning, and want to make the recipe to match your taste buds.

The best part about making homemade Pumpkin Spice Lattes is not just that you don’t have to spend $4 every time you want one, but you can add as much whipped cream as you’d like! If you’re anything like me, I’ll take one sip and then add another dollop… or just spray the can right into my mouth. Don’t judge, I know I’m not alone.

RECIPE: 2 Servings

  • Canned pumpkin puree – 2 tablespoons (load those babies up for some extra pumpkin flavor)
  • Pumpkin pie spice – 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon – add too much and the consistency may feel grainy
  • Pure sugar – 2 to 3 tablespoons – if you like your lattes sweeter instead of bitter, opt in for more sugar
  • Dash of black pepper
  • Vanilla extract – 2 to 3 tablespoons – same as above, the sweeter you like it, opt in for a splash more
  • Milk (I prefer to use Almond Milk for the thinner consistency in the latte) – 2 cups
  • Espresso – 1 to 2 shots (reference the espresso you buy to determine how much is 1 shot)
  • Whipped Cream – As much as your heart desires

  1. Combine the pumpkin puree, pumpkin spice, and dash of black pepper (to add a subtle bite) in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat over medium until the puree is hot and you can smell Fall brewing in your home.
  2. While your pumpkin puree is heating up, begin making your espresso for each mug.
  3. Add the sugar to the mix in the saucepan. Keep on medium heat and continuously stir. The mix should begin to look like it’s turning in to a syrup. Don’t let it burn!!
  4. Pour in the milk and vanilla extract, while stirring. If you leave it on the stove, it WILL boil over… trust me on this…
  5. Once the puree and the milk have been mixed together thoroughly, transfer it to a blender. Blend on high for 30-45 seconds. Should begin to look frothy!
  6. You should now have your two mugs with their shots of espresso in each. Add the frothy pumpkin mix to each mug. I prefer to stir it before topping with whipped cream.
  7. Top with favorable amounts of whipped cream and a few dashes of pumpkin pie spice.
  8. Feel yourself being basic and love it!

Remember, if you are someone who likes your drinks strong, opt in for less sugar and vanilla extract. Since I’m not a huge coffee fan, I added more sugar, vanilla extract, and whipped cream. PLAY WITH IT. You can make your Pumpkin Spice Latte any way you want.

Even better, now that you know how to make your own, you don’t have to wait a full year for them to hit the Starbucks menu. Enjoy it all year round!

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ExercisePhysicalsoulTravel

Meet Me Mondays: Jack Lenton

Lauren Michelle

Many of you may not know who Jack Lenton is, but let me tell you, he is about to take the world by storm. He’s going to turn into the name that first comes to mind when you think “fitness industry success.” Jack Lenton is the director of Be.Fitness, an online platform that is partnering with the world’s top fitness athletes to teach people the steps to fitness industry success. BeFitness is currently in the prelaunch stage, but when you see the big reveal you will NOT be disappointed. I’m getting excited with giggles and anticipation just telling y’all about it.

From his Meet Me Monday series, it is no joke that this man takes life head on. He’s self aware. Ready for adventure. Always up to interact with great people. All about taking action. Creative. A successful former physique coach and consultant. Intelligent. He is Jack Lenton.

Instead of me telling you what you’re going to think of Jack and his soon to be world fitness domination, let me tell you who Jack Lenton is to me. At first, he was just this British bloke I met while working my part time job in college, getting “parcels” for him, telling him his total for rent, and making side conversation while he passed by (it might have been the accent that got me – typical American, I know). Quicker than I could ever imagine, Jack became more than an acquaintance, he became a life long best friend. He’s more than that best friend that you do dumb shit with (even though we’ve had plenty of those moments resulting in cop encounters, James Bond moves, and rafiki sticks). Jack is a full-time supporter, a legit life enthusiast, someone who does not boast, a man who will challenge you to your core (physically in the gym and mentally), always interested in a deep conversation, a man who is not afraid to be vulnerable, and most importantly, someone who can never be replaced.

I did not interview Jack because of BeFitness. I interviewed Jack because he’s someone who has made an impact on my life, encouraged me to take the jump into Meet Me Mondays and is probably Souled on T.E.A’s number one fan (besides my mom of course). I interviewed Jack because I knew you could learn something from his series.

LENTON LEARNT (get it? Sounds like “Lesson Learned”… anyways…)

  • Actively participate in the goings-on around you. Being aware of your environment, the events, and the people means you are living in the PRESENT. Don’t experience the yesterdays. Don’t wait to experience tomorrow. Experience life NOW.
  • You can live your dream life if you choose to live in that state. Set yourself up to live that life. It’s not easy. It takes hard work, but you have the ability and the mindset to make those changes and live the way you want to. Play & tussle & wrestle with the flow of life.
  • ACTION. Taking action will only lead you to overcoming the challenges you are bound to face. Are you going to allow the inertia of life to get you by? Are you going to sit there and expect things to be handed to you? Or are you going to take action and create and get what you want because YOU worked for it?
  • You only have the power to live life to the fullest every single day. You don’t have the power to control the days when you’re no longer on this earth. Whether or not you leave behind a legacy, the importance should be found in living up to the values, beliefs, morals, and goals that you set for yourself on a daily basis.

Platforms:

Instagram: www.instagram.com/_jacklenton

Twitter: https://twitter.com/_JackLenton

Website: https://www.jacklenton.com

BeFitness Website: Be.Fitness

BeFitness Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/BeFitnessOnline/

BeFitness Twitter: https://twitter.com/BeFitnessOnline

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ExercisesoulTravel

Meet Me Mondays: Blunts & Blondes

Lauren Michelle

Mike Guard, who many of you may know as Blunts & Blondes, is taking the bass realm of EDM by storm. You might have caught him at festivals like Sunset Music Festival, Imagine Music Festival this past Friday, opening up for some of the biggest names in EDM, or on tour. Wherever you saw him, I bet you got grimey and deep in emotion.

This Meet Me Monday all started with Mike standing me up for this interview! He stood me up for almost two hours to be exact… But if I’m being honest, I couldn’t even be mad at him when he showed up. He turned out to be THE nicest, down to earth, and probably dopest dude I’ve interviewed yet. His presence was extremely calming – it might have been because he smoked a big fat one before showing up, but he’s got a personality I definitely did not expect.

Checking out his Instagram, other interviews he’s done, and just from the sound of his stage name “Blunts & Blondes,” you would think this man is only about a good roll and hot chicks, but he’s got A LOT more substance to him than that. He truly cares for the team he has and the audience that supports him. He doesn’t want to just make music for the fame. His music is about reaching that deep euphoric feeling and inspiring people to be themselves, feel, and do whatever that gives them their high. Mike gets the meaning of putting in that hard work and hustle to get where you strive to be and, the most important factor, not stopping that hustle once he’s reached a peak. He may be the face behind Blunts & Blondes, but his humble personality accredits a lot of his fame and success to his team. I am beyond stoked that I got to know that version and even more excited to share this side of Blunts & Blondes with YOU.

Blunts & Blondes’ takeaways: 

  • Mature and Grow: As time evolves, so do we. When we mature and grow, so do our dreams and wants. It’s normal.
  • Know what your dream is and never stop working to reach it. If you think you’ve hit the jackpot of the dream, keep pushing yourself to work harder. 
  • Sometimes fear can be your motivator. Let the fear of not becoming successful, the fear of getting stuck in a rut, the fear of whatever sets you back, push you to overcome that obstacle. Don’t let fear win. Use it to your advantage.
  • Surround yourself with people who are diligently working towards their goals. Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future… Am I right??
  • You don’t have to be influencing the world by yourself, you can be a part of a bigger picture, a bigger community, to help influence the world.

Mike’s dream life is more than just performing on stage every night. When I asked him to explain his perfect “dream day” (wouldn’t fit in the video – sorry!) it went a little like this:

I’d wake up around 10 a.m, hang out with my friends, maybe we could go play some golf, go fishing, and hang out at the beach area. Not the beach, cause I DON’T like the sand, but I like the beach area. I like the water, but fuck the sand. Mainly I’d want to spend the day with Mac Miller, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and my dog Boogie T, and we would head to all the ice cream parlors. And obviously throughout the whole day be smoking pot.

Included in his perfect day and one of his favorite things to do right now is to play a really emotional show that creates an natural high for people, as well.

If you haven’t witnessed Blunts & Blondes living out his dream with your own eyes and ears, you’re definitely missing out. Fix that. You can catch Blunts & Blondes on stage at The Ritz (for all you OG fans), on a wild tour coming up, at a really really really lit after party, or karaoke if you’re lucky enough…

P.s. If you’re ever looking to impress Mike with a solid scoop of ice cream, that shit better be the classic chocolate chip with the FAT chocolate chips.

P.p.s. He recommended Columbia Burger to me and now I don’t think I have ever trusted a human being so much in my life.

Thanks Mike for being a pretty rad dude, showing up 2 hours late (don’t ever let that happen again…), supplying me with the best burger joint in town, and KILLING your Meet Me Mondays series. See you soon for Karaoke ;P

http://bluntsandblondes.com/#events

https://www.instagram.com/_bluntsnblondes/

https://soundcloud.com/bluntsnblondes

https://twitter.com/_bluntsnblondes

https://www.facebook.com/bluntsandblondes

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ExercisesoulTravel

Meet Me Mondays: Gabe Burdulis

Lauren Michelle

Declining a scholarship to Berklee, one of the highest ranking universities for music in the United States, Gabe Burdulis left his small town in Wisconsin at 18 and moved to Nashville. Since he moved to Nashville, he has been a full time musician, doing exactly what he’s dreamed of doing since the 7th grade.

Gabe’s style of music reminds me of a more airy and acoustic version of John Mayer or Jason Mraz. His vocal tones and harmonies are polished and make an audience feel like they can dance and let loose during a performance. Once of my favorite tracks of his on Spotify (his Spotify profile is linked below!) would have to be “Dear to Me.” He might be a small town Wisconsin boy at heart, but on stage he has opened for the newly famed X Ambassadors and toured with Grammy Award winning band, Los Lobos! It doesn’t stop there, he travels the United States (and in my case, to another country) to perform music for everyone to experience it in their own manner.

I met Gabe 1,730 miles away from Florida…on accident! I actually only “knew” Gabe for 5 days. Within those 5 days, I was able to see a man of kindness, compassion, gentleness, and full of energy. In July I traveled with multiple churches to Grenada, an astounding Caribbean island located near Venezuela, for a mission trip. Gabe came straight from Nashville to work with the organization hosting the camp to perform music for every student, chaperone, and local participating. I didn’t ask Gabe to join the Meet Me Monday series until the last day of the mission trip was approaching, but over the week I saw something in Gabe. He seemed quite shy, but knew how to make a serious connection with the people around him through his music. His music has the ability to captivate those surrounding him no matter if it is back home in the United States or in a different country.

Key Points:

  • People’s dreams can always change and evolve even when you have this same passion from the earliest you can remember
  • Invest in your dream at all times. Investing in your dream may sound strict and scary. It doesn’t have to be. You can continuously work towards your dream life while still doing cool things that you never thought you would be able to do and having a great time doing it. If you can’t enjoy the journey to your dream, how will you enjoy the dream?
  • We are here to challenge ourselves every day.
  • To grow and prosper from your current situation or goal you would like to reach you need to do something different. You need to take action in things you are not used to or feel 100 percent comfortable with. Jump outside your comfort zone!
  • The Chain Reaction – everything we have experienced has had a chain effect on every other experience.  Contemplate if what we are doing is the right and creating that positive chain reaction.
  • Everyone messes up sometimes. That is OKAY. We have the ability to start over and start fresh each day. If we don’t think we have the power to change direction when we mess up, we will just continue that exact pattern and get stuck in a rut. When we realize that we have the ability to change ourselves and learn when we make a mistake, we grow from it and use it to correct the mistake we made.

Make sure to say “Hi” to Gabe and show him some love!

pastedGraphic.png gabeburdulis@gmail.com

pastedGraphic_1.png https://gabeburdulismusic.com

pastedGraphic_2.png gabeburdulis

pastedGraphic_3.png

pastedGraphic_5.png https://twitter.com/gabeburdulis

pastedGraphic_6.png https://www.instagram.com/gabeburdulis/?hl=en

pastedGraphic_7.png https://www.youtube.com/user/gabeburdulis

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À la carteExercisesoulTravel

Meet Me Mondays: Shane & Emily

Lauren Michelle

Shane & Emily are the most hip duo from the Tampa Bay Area (or so I would say!). Shane & Emily are redefining what it means to live their dream life by not living by the “rules.” They have ditched the idea of buying a house, staying in one place, and following the current status quo of what you should be doing when you’re in your 20’s. Shane and Emily have taken the world into their own hands to live their dream life, continue working towards it everyday, and make an impact on the world through their craft.

Let me start off with saying that I don’t think that I would have wanted my first interview to be with any other. Shane and Emily were a delightful surprise to calm my nerves of my first Meet Me Monday series. They surprised me with the depth of their answers to the interview questions and brought a lot of laughter to the scene!

The energy that Shane and Emily generate with their pop/acoustic/ folk tunes is incomparable to another duo. I have found with my experience interacting with musicians is, many musicians are more worried about themselves than the audience they are performing too. Like Emily mentions in the interview, there are many musicians that are self-seeking, only worried about making a hit song or becoming famous. Shane and Emily’s mannerisms are far from self-seeking. When you come in contact with artists who are continuously working to better their craft for their audience, you can feel the passion radiate from their stage performance.

Below are a few key points you can learn from Shane and Emily’s Meet Me Mondays interview: 

  • It’s okay to live your dream life now, but you should always leave room to grow.
  • Challenge yourself to live your dream life by trying new things and pushing yourself and others to get better at the craft.
  • We should encourage others who are striving for similar goals as we are.
  • Go out of your way to do something for other people. Not to find a benefit for yourself in the long run, but to genuinely help someone else out.
  • Do something because you WANT to, not because this is how we are told it is done.
  • There are no rules. When you find what your purpose is, you realize that you are the creator of the “rules.”

** Much love and appreciation to Shane & Emily for helping inspire the world with their outlook on their dream life. Check out Shane & Emily on all social media platforms listed below **

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Shaneandemilymusic

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shane_emily/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Shaneandemily

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8GxDXedG-o8aoGUxPsmxvg

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ExercisePhysical

Static vs. Dynamic Stretching Before Training

Lauren Michelle

First, let’s start off with the real reason why we stretch before a workout. No, not because we feel sore or tight; I will discuss this topic a little later -just scroll down if you’re impatient. The purpose of stretching is to promote a positive impact on a few of our physiological variables: increase our muscle’s core temperature, get our heart rate up, reduce muscle stiffness, and improve the amount of oxygen our body utilizes per minute.

Uncover the definitions: Static stretching is where you hold a position for 30 seconds or longer to really stretch your muscle. Dynamic stretching is reaching that stretch position but not holding it for a long duration. Your body is still moving during the stretch.

When people performed static stretching before training, the individual’s strength was decreased from the beginning of the workout and for an hour after the static stretch. Their strength decreased by 13%! Some people may not think this is a huge gap in numbers, but if you are someone training for a competition or trying to hit a 1RM this could greatly vary the amount you can lift. Static stretching decreases muscle stiffness but there seems to be a correlation between a decrease in strength and a decrease in muscle stiffness. For example, let’s say my usual 1RM in bench press is 180 (LOL imagine me pressing 180 lbs) without static stretching beforehand; now if my strength also decreased by 13% from static stretching before the bench press, then my 1RM would turn out to be around 157 lbs. Now that’s a solid 20 lb difference (give or take if my strength decrease is actually 13%. This is just an example based on the research).

Performing dynamic stretching before a workout has proven to increase an individual’s strength and performance. Why? Because dynamic stretching hits all the physiological variables we spoke about earlier ( an increase of core temperature, increased heart rate, slight decrease in muscle stiffness, and an improvement of you oxygen consumption). Overall, dynamic has been shown to improve performance by 1.3%. A few of my favorite dynamic stretches are below!

Make this a fluid movement: Downward Dog and transition to a lunge. Perform on both sides.

 

Chest and shoulders: Grab a band and begin pulling as far as part in front of you and in one clean movement stretch above your head. Perform multiple times.

 

Feeling sore or tight before your workout?

We all tend to use the word “stiff/tight” when we wake up sore the next day and can barely get out of bed. Remember that feeling like your muscles are still contracted and you no longer have a full range of motion (ROM)? Yep, that’s muscle stiffness. Have you ever noticed that muscle stiffness has a bad connotation to it? Picture someone in the gym getting ready to train legs but is holding a static hip opener stretch before jumping into it (YO, this used to be me), and their usual reason is that their hips feel tight. Static stretching before training may feel good because you no longer feel as “tight,” but it actually hinders your performance (as we addressed above) because your muscles end up losing a bit of their elasticity. This “stiff” feeling isn’t always bad before training. Getting rid of your muscle stiffness reduces your muscle’s elasticity and lessens your muscle’s recoil action. Alright, think of your muscles during this time period as a rubber band. If you take a rubber band and stretch it as far as it can go for a long period of time (static stretching) when you let go of the rubber band it will have lost a lot of its elasticity and will not recoil as much. Your rubber band (you) has lost its force producing capabilities. Now, if you take a rubber band and stretch it for a quick second (dynamic stretching), BAM, it shoots right back and keeps its elasticity!

When to perform  static stretching

Save it for later. Static stretching focuses on holding your muscles at a longer length and would produce a greater benefit when it is not paired with exercising. Static stretching is good for both your ROM and flexibility when practiced on a normal basis. You are best to perform static stretching long before your workout and after your workout. Some examples of static stretching are pictured below!

The Basics!

  • Dynamic stretching before a workout increases your strength training
  • Static training before a workout will hinder your strength training
  • Both dynamic and static stretching increase your range of motion (ROM) and flexibility.
  • Muscle stiffness is not always a bad thing. It contributes to your muscle’s elasticity/ recoil.
  • Dynamic stretch before a workout. Static stretch after your workout.

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   *Information gathered from athletic subscription M.A.S.S. All                           information is constructed from scientific research articles and studies.

 

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Travel

50 days in Europe for under $2,500 – All Inclusive

Lauren Michelle

Have you decided that Europe is your next destination? Are you interested in cheap travel? Do you not believe me about traveling Europe for 50 days spending under $2,500.00 for everything?

I grew up around this notion that traveling abroad will cost you tons and I know that other people can agree with this. I’m an example of how incorrect that statement is, and you can be too. I am giving you permission to change the cost of travel.

The summer of 2016, I traveled from Florida to Europe. Most of it with my two friends and bits of it solo. All in all, I spent 50 days in 6 different countries and only spent $2,500.00 for everything. EVERYTHING. This means, flights to Europe and back, flights between Europe, all forms of transportation, food, accommodation, and all attractions. I walked up the Eiffel Tower, ate in restaurants almost 3 times a day, had gelato every day in Italy, went to multiple pub crawls, seen the most beautiful cathedrals in every country,  and had the TIME of my life without hurting my broke college girl bank account.

Before and during the planning of my Euro trip of 50 days, my goal was to spend no more than $4,000.00. I calculated that I would spend under $2,000 in plane tickets, $30 a night for hostels, $15 a day for attractions, $42 per city, and $30 a day for food. This was the answer that I got from reading up on other blogs

 

I wanted to spend less than $4,000 because to me that’s a whole heck of a lotta mula, so I made it happen. The only way to properly execute is through organization and budgeting  Below, I slice it into the categories you’d spend your money on whilst traveling.

  • Transportation: Flights, Trains, Metro, Buses, etc.

There are tons of websites you can use to book your flights. You can purchase straight from the airline (this may be beneficial if you have rewards credit card with airlines) or use a second party website. When looking for flights out of the U.S to Europe, I compared prices from Skyscanner, Google flights, Cheap-O Air, etc. Personally what I found to be the best deals, came from Google Flights. Google Flights gives you multiple options when it comes to airports to depart/arrive and the cheapest options from the airlines. If your trip is flexible, play with the dates! Some days it will be cheaper to leave from a certain destination than another.

Flight to/from Europe: Surprisingly leaving for Europe during its busy season, I was able to score my plane ticket from Florida to Paris for a cheap $300.00 on Norwegian Airlines. Be aware that red-eye flights are usually the cheapest! My trip home from Frankfurt was closer to $400.00.

Flights in Europe: I flew to each country I visited. In total, I bought 8 different plane tickets. For fare between Europe, I traveled on CityJet, Vueling, and RyanAir. I found the best deals with RyanAir, as my flight from Barcelona to Italy was a wopping $30.00. The other day they had a fare of only $8 to get from London to Scotland. It’s all about the SEARCH for the perfect price.

Trains/Buses: Out of the 50 days, I only took a train once, as I arrived in Frankfurt and needed to travel closer to my host family. My train ticket cost me $23.00 for a 2 hour trip. I took buses most of the time from the airport to the specific city I needed to go to. Bus trips cost me no more than $10.00 and most had free WIFI on the bus!

Note from Rome itinerary of bus from the airport and pricing

Metro: The metro is usually always packed, but it is the BEST way to travel as it is SO CHEAP. England’s metro price was the most expensive out of all of the countries I traveled to. It costs about $6.00 for a single journey ticket and can increase depending what zone you are traveling to. For the metro in all countries,  you can pay individually for your metro pass each time you go in or you can prepay a loaded card. I chose to pay individually each time I went, as I tried to travel by foot to most destinations. France, Spain and Italy will cost you about $2.50 for a single journey ticket and you can use most of them a number amount of times within an allotted time period. For example, I could use a single journey ticket In Rome to multiple destinations within 100 minutes of not leaving the station.

 

 

Your feet: Transportation can add up if you are trying to jam pack your days. Personally, I traveled most of Europe by foot (besides the flying to new countries). One day I walked 10 miles in Paris.  When you’re in Europe you will realize that mainly everything is in walking distance. Plus, walking gives you more opportunities to interact with the locals and explore! Guess what? IT’S FREE.

A 10 mile walk got me a picture of a lifetime
  • Accommodation

There are multiple options for cheap accommodation when it comes to Europe. I spent most nights in hostels. These are like hotels but cater towards tourists and backpackers to meet each other and have a place to mingle. Hostels will cost you about $8-$30 dollars a night depending on the time you make reservations and the time of the year. HostelWorld has hundreds of hostels to search from in each country.  There is also Couchsurfing. I have not tried Couchsurfing yet, but it is next on my list! This is where you can stay in an extra room or a couch of a host in a certain city for free! Some may view this as dangerous, others will view it as a place to exchange cultures – you have be smart in these situations. But I was housed in Germany for a week for free. I was given room and board in return for my help on a horse farm. This type of exchange was through Work Away (you can read about Workaway and my experience here). Another option to keep it cheap is to stay with any family or friends!

A friend from the WorkAway experience!
  • Itinerary

I go more in depth about creating an itinerary and how specific you should be in a previous blog post, which features an example of my Rome itinerary, but it does come into play with cheap travel! When you have an itinerary of what places you would like to go see, places to eat, and adventures to take, you will have an idea of how much each thing costs – that’s if you do your research. Keeping an itinerary on most days will keep you from splurging too much if you have calculated out how much you can spend each day and where you are going to spend that money. This leads me to…

The Vatican, Vatican City, Italy.

 

  • Budgeting/Extra costs

To accompany my itineraries, I budgeted out how much I was going to spend each day. My goal was to spend no more than $30.00 for food, $20.00 for attractions, and $10 for transportation each day. Now if you add up (30+20+10) x 50 days you get a total of $3,000.00. Keep in mind, you will not end up spending $30 for food each day, you’re not going to attractions each day that cost money (a lot of places are free to enter: Cathedrals, parks, gardens, and places of interest), and if you are utilizing those things at the end of your legs, most days you will spend ZERO DOLLARS on transportation!

This was probably the 4th time we had gelato that day…

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After the 50 days I calculated exactly how much I spent in each category:

Not each day will be the same. Some days you will spend more than others, and some you will spend little to nothing. If you fill your days deeply exploring the city and not jamming it with touristy attractions and expensive restaurants, you will see just how far you can stretch your dollar. To sum up how I truly spent $2,500 on a 50 day Euro trip… it was done through RESEARCH to find the best DEALS, being FLEXIBLE with dates in choosing flights and itineraries, WALKING to destinations, EXCHANGING services for accommodation, and staying ORGANIZED and BUDGETED.

 

The cost of a trip does not express how much fun you had and the memories made, so why break the bank when you don’t have to?

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Let me know what you have done for cheap travel abroad and any secrets you’d like to share!

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À la carteExercisesoulTravel

A Letter from Someone Who Doesn’t Have a “Dream Job”

Lauren Michelle

When I am asked what my dream job is, I try to think of this elaborate answer to blow your mind, but I just ain’t got one for ya. There are some that I think would be cool, but none that I’d want to do day in and day out (except for being a full-time puppy owner). Yes I’m young, yes I don’t have everything figured out and yes I still have tons of opportunities to come across, BUT it’s not the fact of having everything planned out; it’s about having “enough” in life and knowing what that is.

What is my dream?  I dream to live fully.  I’m in love with LIFE (yes I totally know I sound like a complete hippie right now). Every aspect of it. People. Experiences. The here and now. Memories. Adventure. Success. Failure. Cultural diversity… People are asked all the time (trust me, even I did), “If you could do anything in the world what would be your dream job?” Why is there an emphasis on the job? Of course, jobs are important and can be a necessity to live; I understand, I have one. I’ve finally realized that what I have mistaken for so long, the struggle of finding a dream job, is no mistake at all. Instead, I have a dream life. My life is my career. My life is my job. Everything I do should be to work towards my dream life. Having no dream job and just a dream life may sound dangerous or even fantasy-like to some of you, but it’s not. Striving for a dream life is not striving for perfection. It’s having enough.

 I’m able to have a dream life by evaluating my “enoughs.” It can look something like this: Traveling is enough. Exploring is enough. Learning is enough. Love of a family is enough. Sustaining healthy relationships is enough. Living is enough. These “enoughs” are all that I need to create my dream life. I don’t need to wait for the wave of success from the dream job to tell me that it’s the only “enough”.

You are guaranteed to get enough when you define it. You only find enough when you tell enough where to be found – Jon Acuff

Don’t mistake this for being busy but not getting anywhere. Don’t mistake this for working hard but not actually doing the hard work. I still use my skills and services to be present and push through to reach my goals when I could be slacking. I do the hard work because it allows me to work hard. I still pay attention to the nitty-gritty and pursue things other people don’t want to do. Having a dream job does not define the hard work I put into creating my life. Having a dream life motivates me so I can put in the hard work to work hard.

Order your dream life now and pay for it every day

How do I support my dream life of “enoughs?” A dream life is no fairy tale, it’s just like working towards a dream job. There is serious hustle involved. Those who don’t have a dream job don’t always slack in creating a future for themselves. Hustle is done by doing the things every day that gets me closer and closer to my aspirations and my purpose. If I can work towards these “enoughs” every day, then I am living and achieving my dreams. I’ve seen people work towards a “dream job” because of the payoff it will have for them in the future and I have met people who have “making money” as one of their “enoughs;” this is something I will never understand because

Making money isn’t always easy and it sure won’t make you happy, which is why it is so odd we’re so concerned with making money. Money won’t keep me from leaving or stop me from grieving. Life ain’t cheap and not all good things are free but when it comes to money there is no “enough” and no too much. – Making Money by Ben Rector.

I’m tired of probing people with the phrase, “What’s your dream job?”

It’s time to start asking, “What is your dream life?”

Dream jobs focus on the why of why you did something, but uncovering and defining your “enoughs” focus on the why in why you are here. Allow your enoughs to push you to live your life the way you do. My advice to you is, don’t spend 9 hours a day ticking along with time because of the future payoff. Find something challenging, thought-provoking and moving. When we pursue, day in and day out, the “enoughs” that brings us fulfillment, then our perceptions about ourselves, our motivation and our relationships change. We begin to live our dream life.

Sincerely,

Someone who is putting in the hard work for more than a dream job.

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This letter is not to put a bad connotation on the phrase “dream job” or degrade those who have a dream job. If you have a dream job, do the hard work – just don’t forget about your “enoughs.” This letter is to relate to others who don’t have that “dream job.” To those who can’t decide right now on what career they want for the rest of their lives. This is to those who have a free spirit (here’s hippie Lauren chiming in). Most importantly this is to those who are so infatuated with life, dream job or not. Just like walking away from a Bachelors Degree, life will change over the course of time and I may or may not find one dream job for the rest of my life.

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À la carteExerciseTravel

Why I Deleted Instagram

Lauren Michelle

It’s 2017 so this may be a shocker to some  all of you. Today we think the more social media accounts we have, the better. This wasn’t the case for me. I literally just deleted my Instagram account less than two hours ago.

Two hours ago I did the whole “5-second rule” (no, I didn’t eat food off the ground to make this decision!) and looked at my Souled on T.E.A Instagram where the button read “Delete Account,” counted to five, and just hit the damn thing. This wasn’t something I did on a whim for no reason; this was a decision I’ve been thinking about for a few months now. I just needed that 5-second rule to trust my gut and get the job over with.

To all my social media freaks and geeks, here’s the reason to my madness:

  • I went in with the wrong intention

I created my Souled on T.E.A with the intention of engaging my brand and content with an audience, but it wasn’t my only intention. Honestly, I began to focus on the numbers and was itching for them to skyrocket. As if the numbers would give me value or make me a more successful and better blogger. LOL what kind of thinking is that?

  • Hosting multiple accounts became a pain!

I had THREE Instagram accounts to look after: the blog, my personal account, and one for the company I work full-time for. Scheduling posts for three Instagrams became a nuisance, time-consuming, and stressful. Making sure the quality for all three accounts were 100% was not difficult (because ya girl is a perfectionist), but I noticed that the posts on my personal and blog Instagram were exceptionally similar.

  • Two Instagrams –> two personalities?

I don’t think so! Like I said, my personal Instagram account and my blog Instagram were almost identical in terms of quality, types of photos, and content. The only difference was that I did not advertise my blog posts consistently on my personal account – why not, Lauren? YOU ARE YOUR BLOG! In a way, it felt like two different personalities. If it’s me, then I should have nothing to hold back & if unfollowing happens because it is not the content my personal followers were expecting, then I highly encourage the unfollow. I don’t believe in following something/someone who does not surpass your expectations or provide the service you were looking for; I wouldn’t want anyone to do so for me! Since my two Instagrams were similar, I do not believe that I will have too big of an issue with this. We follow people on Instagram because we are nosey and are curious about their lifestyles. If both accounts portrayed my life honestly, then what’s the purpose of me hosting two different accounts? I don’t have two lives and it is only fair to show my raw self and content, in both my life and my blog on one platform.

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Whether I have 10 or 10,000 social media followers ceases to be important when I put my phone down and join reality around me. The followers that are important are the ones by your side every day. Instagram followers can be there for you virtually and help you globalize, but they never determine your value or success.

This would be the perfect timing to play Camp Rock

On my blog planner, I have a few words printed on my logo: TRUST your gut, QUALITY over quantity, LEAD by example, and BELIEVE in your power. What kind of person/blogger would I be if I can’t act upon the words I set up for myself to see every day?

**Whatever change you want to make, I hope you lead by example in trusting your gut and believe in your power to provide quality over quantity to exceed your expectations**

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If you want to check out my content for my blog deets and everyday normalities,  you can follow my only Instagram at @laurenmichhiiee & join the T.E.A community at www.facebook.com/souledontea

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ExercisePhysical

Should You Weigh Yourself?

Lauren Michelle

You can probably find a million and one articles on why you should not weigh yourself. I’m about to tell you the complete opposite: you SHOULD weigh yourself.

There are multiple studies that show people who weigh themselves daily have either less weight gain or more weight loss than people who don’t weigh themselves as often (i.e: weighing in 2 times a week compared to 2 times a month) [1]. These studies show that weighing in daily is beneficial to those who are currently overweight and striving for a specific weight loss goal or trying to avoid weight gain [2].

If that is your current health status, then maybe weighing yourself every day could be best for you, or maybe start off one/twice a week to ease into it. This article is focusing more on the individual who is not sedentary, lives an active, healthy, and fit lifestyle (i.e: works out/lifts 3 times a week, looking to lose weight but gain muscle mass, and has a healthy diet).

I’m about to dive into 4 reasons why you should be weighing yourself consistently throughout your fitness journey. Let’s get crackin’:

  • Improves self-awareness: You become aware of your daily food intake, your sleep patterns, and stress levels. Regarding food, the more sodium intake you have in your caloric diet, the more water your body is going to retain. Consume less sodium and your body will retain less water. Sodium comes from foods naturally and most from processed foods. Foods naturally low in sodium are fruit, vegetables, oils, and cereals, while meat and fish contain a bit more [3]. How much alcohol are you consuming? Alcohol leads to dehydration = water retention. You could also see how your daily sleep patterns affect your weigh-in. Did you know too little sleep can increase your cravings (I know I’m not the only one who eats more and more the later I stay up)? You’ll also become aware how stress becomes a factor (are you a stress eater?).

 

  • A change of perception: Let’s get real, there’s a misconception of linking fear to weighing yourself. Watching the needle on the scale creep up is one of the things people worry about the most. Weighing yourself and knowing how to deal with the number you see and analyze it is a huge key to success in your progress. If you’re not working out properly and trying to gain more muscle but seeing yourself losing weight, then you can calculate what you’re lacking (i.e: not consuming enough protein to keep your muscles regenerating and growing). If you see yourself gaining weight when you are trying to hit a lower goal, you have to understand that muscle weighs more than fat, so this scale increase (if not too large) could be telling you that you’re gaining more muscle! And if you know a thing or two about fitness, then you’d know that the more muscle you have the more fat your can burn! (you can find my article on The Power of Perception here!)

 

  • Understand it’s just a number – Yep, I went there. It’s just a number, y’all! A number that can’t dictate how you should feel about your body. Do you feel like you’re making progress? No longer feeling fatigued and tight in your clothes? Can you now run 10 minutes longer than before? When you’re in a routine that pushes you to your limits, while still having control with correct nutrition and plenty of time for recovery, then what power does the scale have over you (unless you’re competing)? Fitness isn’t just about physical strength, it’s a mental challenge as well. There is no such thing as feeling good about yourself because of the number on the scale. You have to learn to love yourself first before you try and love the number on the scale.

 

  • The number on the scale will never stay 100% the same: (unless you’re Houdini): Weight, in general, is not a static number (this relates back to the first point!!). It’s going to fluctuate based on your Of course, if the numbers begin to vary by a mass amount, then this is something you should take a deeper look into and make sure that you are sticking to your routine, eating right, and becoming healthier instead of falling off track (get an accountability partner to help you with this!).

 

Since I am no doctor, I am not going to advise you to weigh yourself a certain amount of times a week, but I do think weighing yourself can have many benefits in your fitness journey if you allow it to, overcome the fear of what your body is telling you, and fight the negatives of the mind. If weight loss is your goal, then sure, weigh yourself according to the researchers. Personally, I find myself to better track my progress through a weekly weigh in. I know people who track it twice a week or even every two weeks. Weighing yourself isn’t all that bad, as long as you find what works for you, you are able to overcome that little devil on your shoulder, and are ready to make serious gainzzzz.

[1]. Are Breaks in Daily Self-Weighing Associated with Weight Gain? http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0113164

[2]. Linde, J.A., Jeffery, R.W., French, S.A. et al. ann. behav. med. (2005) 30: 210. doi:10.1207/s15324796abm3003_5

[3]. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal. http://advances.nutrition.org/content/5/2/188.full

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Travel

6 Irresistible Gulf Coast Beach Destinations To Add On Your Bucket List

Lauren Michelle

This “grab your sunscreen and tanning oil” themed bucket list comes from Danielle Tower, writer and owner of The Taste Team, LLC (she even featured me on her site).These top sandy destinations are no joke as they are coming from a gal who has been all over the U.S.A. Find all of Danielle’s social platforms at the end of the page to get in contact with her!

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Most travelers love to fit in a day at the beach on their itinerary. Some must travel to enjoy beaches, while many of us are blessed to have one almost right outside our front doors. When thinking of the perfect beach destinations, most think of the Caribbean, an exotic island, or even a larger city on the coast. There’s no denying the world of gorgeous beaches is worth exploring. However, there are a few gems you shouldn’t overlook. Though not given as much notoriety, at these beautiful beaches you can have an enjoyable vacation without emptying your wallet. There are plenty of eye-catching beach territories in less chartered areas on the Gulf Coast.  When planning your next beach trip, keep these six destinations in mind.

 

Dauphin Island

Dauphin Island is a town outside of Mobile, Alabama on with a small community and nice beach. They have two locations to access the beach with one called West End Beach. The area also has a string of beach house rentals to extend your enjoyment. Though the Southern area is quiet and peaceful with neighborhoods nearby, there are still a few activities to get into. Most of the attractions are on Bienville Blvd.

  • Things to do near Dauphin Island

On Dauphin Island, you can take a tour of Fort Gaines, visit the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and The Esterium, or take a stroll through Indian Mound Park. If you happen to visit during Mardi Gras, you can catch a parade. The town has been known to kick off Mardi Gras with the first parade each year. Another great thing about the island is the summer entertainment. You can find movie nights in the summer and live music on Sunday.

You’re not limited to the island since it’s so close to other cities.  There are a few places to eat in the area, and you can always take a short drive to The City of Mobile for more local dining options. When you’re ready for more adventure, put your car on the ferry and take a ride to the next beach destination, Gulf Shores.

 

Gulf Shores/Orange Beach

You may already be familiar with Gulf Shores, Alabama as their ever-growing Hangout Fest has caught much attention.  This area isn’t short of resorts and vacation rentals for you to stay as close to the turquoise water as possible.  The town also has plenty of places to enjoy live music and view the beach while dining.

  • Things to do in Orange Beach

Like all the other beaches, you’ll have all the water adventures you can handle.  And if not, you won’t be far from the water park, Waterville U.S.A.  Shopping is about 20 minutes away in neighboring Foley, Alabama at Tanger Outlet Center. Golfing is at every turn. Kids will also enjoy Pirate Islands Adventure Golf, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, and The Track Family Recreation Center.

 

Pensacola Beach

Pensacola Beach Boardwalk is where you can find shopping, dining, and entertainment.  Once you pass through the toll, you’re ready for adventures of all sorts. You’ll also find hotels and vacation rentals to stay near the most popular attractions.

  • Things to do near the Pensacola Beach

Pensacola beach is surrounded by a variety of dining options with the best view you can find.  Casual dining at Crabs on the Beach gives you four different seating options.  You can dine in, eat by the bar, on the patio, or order right from your lounge chair on the beach. For high-end casual dining, try The Grand Marlin. This establishment has a delicious menu of daily fresh seasonal favorites.  You can dine inside or on the covered patio with an ocean view.

After you’re done parasailing and have enjoyed the seasonal Dolphin cruise and other beach amusements, you can still enjoy the beach area in the evening.  At night, the area turns into a hangout spot.  Many of the bars and beach-side dining offer live music to enjoy.

 

Panama City Beach

Not to be confused with Capital of Panama in Central America.  Panama City sits directly between Pensacola and Tallahassee. That means if you’re looking for more options besides Pensacola Beach, just keep on driving a little down the road.

  • Things to do in Panama City

This beach destination has attractions and things to do for all ages.  In addition to fishing, boating, and water sports, Panama City also has eco-adventures like St. Andrews State Park.  This park still has the water activities, but you can also take their nature trail to observe the plant and animal life.

Shipwreck Island Water Park and Gulf World Marine Park are adventures the kids will enjoy to the fullest.  You can also join Pirates of the High Seas GeoTour.  The geocaching tour is a pirate themed treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices.

 

Destin

As you get closer to the beach, even the drive through Destin, Florida is a lovely site.  Just like Panama City, the Emerald Coast water is kissed with a hint of blue you can’t find anywhere else.  With resorts like Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort and beautiful beachfront hotels like Hilton Sandestin Beach, Golf Resort, and Spa, you can have the best view of the beach with impeccable service.  Scenic Hwy also has many vacation rental options.

  • Things to do in Destin

After you’ve treated yourself to a spa day, you can do shopping at Silver Sands Premium Outlets or Shops at Destin Commons.  Visit HarborWalk Village for boating, cruises. water sports, and ziplining.  Shopping, gaming, and beachfront dining are easy to find in the village too. Another dining option with a gulf view is 790 on the Gulf. This lavish restaurant inside The Inn at Crystal Beach adds their tasty Cajun flare to seafood favorites.

If the beach isn’t wet enough, you can spend the day at Big Kahuna’s Lost Paradise and try all their water park adventures. For the risk takers, the park even has bungee jumping. The Track is also a good place for some family fun with their popular Go-Kart rides. This place will keep you enthused with mini golf, water bumper rides, skydiving, an arcade, and other amusements.

Biloxi

Biloxi, Mississippi is well known for its casinos, but they have lovely beaches too. This is another trip for a scenic view en route to your destination. When you exit Biloxi Bay Bridge you’ll run directly into the beach and many other attractions.

  • Things to do in Biloxi

Besides casinos, casinos, and more casinos, there are the resorts and dining at the CASINOs. Aside from gaming, you can find shopping, spas, and entertainment. Outside of the casinos, you can take a cruise or do boating and other water sports. If you drive down Beach Blvd, you’ll find a long group of beachfront restaurants serving a variety of cuisines, including Mexican and seafood.

After dinner, you can take a walk on one of their piers near the beach.  Like other Gulf Coast beach destinations, there’s a water park near Biloxi too.  You can find Gulf Island Water Park in the neighboring beach town, Gulfport.  There you’ll also find shopping at Gulfport Premium Outlets.

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Danielle is a freelance writer and owner of The Taste Team, LLC, a platform for travelers and foodies to publish about local dining, travel, and entertainment. She’s a free spirit who’s passionate about being able to do what she loves, which is traveling and writing. When she’s not on the run or stuffing her face, she’s somewhere reading, spending time with loved ones, working out, catching sun at the beach, trying new foods, or walking the aisles of the health food store. Visit The Taste Team’s website and follow us on social media to see all our team’s travel adventures and foodie finds.

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Exercisesoul

Why You Should Be Coloring – Featuring Artist & Interior Designer: Kendra Castillo

Lauren Michelle

The artist in me is telling the artist in you, that even though you are no longer a kid, you can still color. I’m a huge advocate for finding any way to express your creativity and not letting fear hinder your potential; this can even be paired to coloring. Don’t let the fear that coloring is just for kids stop you.

At first, when the adult coloring books came out I thought they were pretty neat-o, but never bought one because I thought I didn’t have the time to just focus on coloring. If I’m being real, when I sit down and color it takes me a looong time cause I’m a perfectionist.

The work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you – Elizabeth Gilbert

I’ve always had a love for art, drawing, and photography (hence the Architecture major in the beginning of college) but when I entered college I couldn’t find the time to pursue it as much. A couple weeks ago I grabbed one of the most beautifully simple coloring books and just scored, shaded, outlined, and saturated the shiz out of that paper. Took me about an hour just to color one page. It may have taken me a long time but I was in a different state than normal. I was focused, yet relieved. I was present and technology was absent. I was in a sense structured, yet in a state of freedom.

Kendra Castillo, a culturally creative artist & interior designer, produced a 6 page printable coloring book (pictured below) that I couldn’t get enough of. While I was filling in these floral scenes, I remembered why coloring is so darn good for ya:

  • It’s a form of personal expression: Light and cooler tones are friendly, warm, and open. More use of dark shades express an authoritative and powerful mood. Bright hues can show your playful side. Pastel colors are more calm and soothing.

  • The good ol’ nostalgia: This could bring you back to the time when you were a kid: light hearted and optimistic. There’s nothing wrong with a blast from the past!

  • Maintains dexterity: Clearly, coloring is a hands-on kinda activity. You’re keeping focus on hand strength/ grip and staying inside the lines (we don’t always have to “color outside the box”).

  • You activate the right hemisphere of the brain: Yes, the right hemisphere of the brain controls the left side of the body but it is also aids in releasing your creative and artistic abilities. You should give the left hemisphere of your brain, cool down on the analytical gears turning in your mind and let the flow begin.

 

  • Calms down your nervous system: Coloring helps reduce stress and anxiety as it relaxes your amygdala. The amygdala is the center of for your emotions and regulates our fight or flight response.

 

  • You activate the left hemisphere of your brain: It’s not all about being “right.” Yes, you’re engaging the right hemisphere through your artistic abilities, but concentrating on color balance and design you are activating your problem-solving skills in the left hemisphere of your brain! Smarts isn’t all numbers, being creative can improve your problem-solving skills as well.

 

Check out Kendra Castillo’s 6 page coloring book, featured above,  HERE!!!

Kendra is an artist in the Pacific Northwest, she loves a good cup of coffee, yoga pants and getting to know other people’s life stories. Her life motto is “finding beauty in everyday moments.” She believes that there is beauty and joy to be found in every situation,  and her hope is that her artwork brings joy to everyone who sees it.

 

Platforms you can connect with Kendra Castillo on:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kendracastillodesigns/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KendraCastillo_

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KendraCastilloDesigns

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/kendracastillo/

Website: https://kendracastillo.com/

 

 

 

 

 

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À la carte

Homemade Belgian Chocolate Nutella Waffles

Lauren Michelle

Do you know what my favorite part about lifestyle blogging is? I get to write about food – so what?  That means I now have an excuse to guiltlessly eat MORE food… like com’on – I am living the dream.

How does this sound: waking up in the morning to a stack of Belgian chocolate waffles being warmed to a fluffy inside and crispy corners? Coming home from a solid day at work and all you can think about is chocolate for dinner (no shame)? I don’t see how either time of the day can get much better. I might not be there to make you your waffles upon awakening (future husband – I got you), BUT you can make them in under 10 minutes!

I fell in love with Nutella when I spent some time in Germany over the summer; I ate it EVERY morning for breakfast (no joke). Totally good for my health right? Actually, I inhaled it, spoonfuls of it. I’d wake up, make my pot of tea, sit down with every item in the pantry that had carbs and covered it with Nutella until I thought I was drowning in it. I might have bathed in Nutella – okay, not really, but I would be lying if I said I haven’t contemplated it….

With that being said,  only make these for the people you love. What’s better than the people you love, carbs, chocolate, and warm Nutella topping? – Don’t fight me on this.

Most important item: WAFFLE MAKER

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.5 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 3 tsp Baking Powder
  • 0.5 cup White Sugar
  • 4 tbsp Unsweetened Nestle Cocoa Powder
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1 tbsp Melted Butter
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract

  • Strawberries – whole heck of a lot
  • Melted Nutella – whole heck of a lot

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat waffle iron while you’re whippin’ up this magic. Grab a large bowl and dump in your dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and unsweetened cocoa). Mix mix mix.
  2. Stir in all your liquid ingredients (eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and butter). Stir together till it’s consistency is even, there are no clumps, and it’s a bit fluffy. This is your money – don’t mess it up (you can only mess it up if you use baking soda instead of baking powder – be aware, I’ve done this before.
  3. If your waffle iron isn’t non-stick, slap some Pam on that baby. Pour your money (mix) into that maker (get it? – it’s your money maker… no? Ok). Cook until edges are a bit crispy. While it’s cooking, put some Nutella in a little side bowl and microwave for about 30 seconds or until it is melted and slice up your strawberries.
  4. While your million dollar baby (the waffle, not me) is still warm, drizzle the Nutella (pour the Nutella if you’re not looking to share) so it drips perfectly into the indents, and garnish with strawberries!

P.s. Make a few batches of these and freeze them for quick and easy access 😉

 

Let me know in the comments that I’m not the only one who would bathe in Nutella… or at least tell me what your favorite type of Belgian waffle is!

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