Holiday Gift Guide: Alternative Ideas

Ah, Christmas. Although I’m not a fan of winter, I can’t deny how much I love Christmas. I especially love living in the city around this time… the lights, the glittering snow, the music…it’s all so magical! I’m going to be blunt here for a second and say that all of the magic gets blurred out with consumerism, though. I will admit, when I was a kid, I obviously loved the gifts and the idea of Santa, but now that I’m an adult, it’s not really something I support. Even in my early teens, when my parents asked me what I wanted, I’d respond with “I’m good. I don’t need anything”.  I’m more excited about sitting with my family and enjoying their time, especially  during Christmas dinner.  I’m already not a fan of malls, and when you add the pressure of purchasing gifts for multiple people, it just adds stress to the season (for me, anyway). Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE shopping for others…but I always think in the back of my mind that there are others who are less fortunate, and who could benefit from receiving a gift. I just think it’s silly that a bunch of adults who are perfectly capable of purchasing their own items wait for Christmas to receive material goods from one another.

I guess what I’m trying to say is maybe reconsider material gifts this year? If not for others, then for yourself. Maybe instead of asking for that $300+ Kitchen Aid batter mixer, ask others to make a donation to your favourite charity because in all honesty, you probably have more than enough shit. We’re all th ultimate hoarders with our gadgets, technology, makeup, clothes, etc., and I say enough! Focus on the gifts that won’t be around forever: cooking/baking with your family, appreciating family traditions, having a cup of hot cocoa with good company, attending a Christmas market, etc.

I’ve been noticing a lot of Perfect Gift Guides posts lately, and while it is the season, I wanted to take a different approach and offer a Perfect Gift Guide that doesn’t involve material goods. I promise I’m not the Grinch….probably more of a Cindy Lou Who 🙂

1: Charity Donation

As I already mentioned, giving back is a gift in itself. If someone asks what you want, ask them to make a donation to your favourite charity, their favourite charity, or BOTH. This is also a wonderful gift for someone else because who isn’t pro-being a good person, pro-saving the world, and/or pro-kindness? Hopefully the person in your life is pro-all those things!! 😛

2: A Pet

This is my personal favourite. PREPARE TO BE THE BEST VERSION OF SANTA CLAUSE EVER. Adopting a puppy, cat, etc. is an incredible gift that ensures love, loyalty, and….lots and lots of patience! Heads up though, because you want to make sure that the person receiving a pet would be 100% okay with the idea.  Remember to consider adoption because there are lots of fur babies and older animals that are in need of loving homes.

3: An Experience

Is someone constantly talking about how much they want to take up drumming, yoga, ballet dancing, etc.? Consider gifting someone a lesson or a class for an experience they have always wanted to try, or something they already love doing. As I mentioned in my post about my anxiety, Mark gifted me an unlimited yoga class membership, which was such an incredible gift in helping me personally and physically! You can read more about that post here. Experiences win everytime. Another fun idea is Season Passes. They can be used for Museums, National Parks, Amusement Parks, etc.! If you especially want to have a fun time, try WINE TASTING.

 

Introducing my Frenchie, Rory!

4: Prepare a Meal

This one works really well if you want to give Mom (or whomever does the cooking) a day off. In my home, Mark and I will cook each other meals all the time, and it’s something that shows your appreciation for the other person. Cooking or baking for someone is very personal, and there is no faking that love! It’s always nice to come home to a home-cooked meal, especially when it includes all the flavors you and/or someone else enjoys. If you want to be extra cute, create a little menu and give it to them before hand so that they can decide what they’d like to you make for them!

5: Your Expertise

Are you a fashion lover? Provide your expertise and help them organize their closet, or styling their outfits. Makeup or Hair guru? Give them a fun makeover! Plumbing? Unclog their toilet. LOL. The point is, use something you’re good at to help them out. They’ll appreciate it.

I hope after reading this post, it has inspired you (even a little), to reconsider material goods as Christmas gifts.  What are your thoughts on gifts? On no gifts? Is there anything I’m missing? Let me know in the comments!! I love hearing from you guys.

Wishing you a stress-free season in the meantime xx

OOTD: Ruffle Sleeve Trend

Hi, lovelies! I hope you all are having a productive week. I am down 2/3 exams (my last one is December 15th), and I CANNOT wait to have my celebratory alcoholic drink when I finish the last one because boyyy, do I ever need one!! Aside from studying, I did arrange some time to see the new Christian Dior exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum. If you’ve been following me on Instagram and saw IG my stories, you know just how amazing it was! I was in sparkle heaven! I went with my friend, Courtney, who was the perfect date because not only does she also love a good dress overload, but she also understood the historical value of the exhibition. Nothing is worse for me than going to a Museum with someone who has no interest in history, so it was so nice to go with a friend who just GETS IT. The one thing I will say, is that the exhibit was a lot smaller than I expected. Still, it added intimacy which was a nice element as exhibits at the ROM tend to be larger and overcrowded.

What I Wore:

I am beyond obsessed with the ruffle sleeve trend right now! This shirt also comes in white.

The sparkly details are always my favourite part when getting ready.

SHOP THE LOOK:

Top and necklace: M Boutique // OTK Boots: Steve Madden ON SALE // Purse: Ted Baker

Let me know if you are loving or iffy about the ruffle trend in the comment section below! I hope you all had a fantastic weekend. I organized my emails and phone so mine was productive AF (also, this is what my Saturday nights have become haha). Enjoy the work week!!! 2 more weeks ’til, Christmas!

 

Not sponsored. All opinions are my own.

Real Talk: How to Reduce Your Anxiety Naturally

Not a fun fashion post today. Okay, I’m going to level with you guys – I have anxiety. I know we all do to some extent, so we can all relate to this topic. I really hesitated writing a post about this because I wasn’t am not sure how I feel about it, but F it. I am in no way a medical professional, but I wanted to share my thoughts on the subject from my own personal experiences share some of the helpful ways I deal with anxiety.

I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder two years ago. For those of you wondering, it is essentially like going up on a roller coaster with absolutely no idea when it will go down. You’re scared of the drop, a little excited, but in the end you know you’ll have to endure it. Anxiety is like going up, never knowing when it’s coming down, and not knowing what you’re enduring. Okay, this is the case for me anyway.

I’m very lucky that my anxiety is not intense. I’m able to live my life quite normally, and not have it hold me back. This is not the case for everyone, and that’s okay. People handle situations differently based on what tools, resources, support, etc. they have, and we can’t judge anyone for things they can’t change. While we may not be able to change our genetic makeup,  I’ve found that there are ways to combat anxiety naturally. I am not a girl who likes to take pills…even for headaches. I will literally try everything natural before it has to come to that. Luckily, I’ve experimented and found some things which really work for me, and that hopefully will work for you also! So if that’s something that might be of interest to you, read on..

Unplug from Social Media

If you take anything away away from this post today, it should be this: as fun and entertaining as it is to be plugged in – it may be doing you more harm than good. In a world like today where technology is constantly buzzing around us, and people can instantly reach us, there is absolutely zero time for ourselves. It’s a known fact that social media can impact our lives negatively (including our health). It practically forces you to compare yourself to others through curated feeds which are more often than not total bullshit. When I feel like I have unexplained anxiety, I turn off my phone and I don’t go near it for either a few hours or the entire day and I promise it helps. If you’re worried that people will be pissed at you because you aren’t replying to their texts (hello! anxiety trigger), lose those people. Those people suck. If you’re like me and work 24/7 and are worried about losing productivity, don’t. Trust me, it’s never worth it. PUT THE PHONE AND COMPUTER AWAY!

Surround Yourself With Amazing People

It’s really that simple. What’s that saying, you are the average of the five people you surround yourself with? Yea. Maybe their bad energy might be rubbing off on you. People who constantly complain about their life without rectifying their situations, are full of excuses, never take responsibility for their actions, speak negatively, aren’t genuine, make you feel like bad about yourself & your values, etcetc. WILL GIVE YOU ANXIETY. Get yourself a group (or one person) who makes you feel good. If there are more cons than pros to having that person around, it’s time to reevaluate your people. I used to be a person who had so many friends. But quality over quantity, guys. I have a much smaller group now but I truly love them. I honestly talk about how much I love them all the time. You want that. FIND THAT. And if you can’t find it, shoot me a message and I will be that person, because I basically like everyone and I promise I’m a hoot. 🙂

Yoga and/or Meditate

I’m obsessed with Yoga. Last year during exams, Mark surprised me with a membership where I can take unlimited yoga classes, and I try my best to take advantage of this gift. If you think Yoga isn’t for you, keep at it. I had tried it a few times before and never got into it, but when I really wanted to take care of myself and my anxiety – I pushed myself to go for it. I can’t even begin to tell you guys how wonderful I feel now after a yoga session now. What I love most about it besides it making me feel so relaxed – is seeing the progress in the strength and flexibility of my body. I’m actually amazed. You can even do yoga at home if pricing is an issue as there are some really fantastic YouTube guides to get you started. If you’d like me to share my favourite yoga channels, let me know below in the comments. Otherwise, practice breathing/meditating for a few minutes everyday. I promise only good things.

Pursue Your Interests / Learn About Your Interests

If Yoga really isn’t for you, don’t force yourself to do it. I always try to try everything twice. First to experience, and the second time to confirm if it’s for me. If you like running, knitting, swimming, etc. make it a habit. Anything involving exercise is usually a safe bet to make you feel better because, science. But if physical activity isn’t your thing, it can even come down to cooking your favourite meal. Don’t know how to cook? READ A COOK BOOK. These are the type of mental distractions which are super healthy, and will make you feel GOOD.

Write Things Down

I’m a huge note taker, planner enthusiast, and time management freak. I like to be as organized as possible with my time, and I put 100% of my attention into whatever I am focusing on. This used to be so problematic because I would try to multitask 5+ things as once and instead of completing a task and moving on, it would lead to me having so many unfinished projects. This was my biggest anxiety trigger (discussed more in next point), and I knew from a young age that I needed to not continue managing my life this way. Now, I make a list of goals I want to accomplish everyday (every week, month, etc) and write them down on paper. Yes, paper. It’s so interesting that when everything is dancing in your head, it can feel stressful, but when you write things down and see it on paper, it becomes less overwhelming. Also, it’s the best feeling EVER to cross something off your list when it’s accomplished. Give it a try!

Know Your Anxiety Triggers

Try to learn and understand what is making you feel anxious. To conclude on the above, I try to stay away from negative people, excessive technology use, and poorly managing my time as these are my main triggers. Taking the time to understand your own anxiety will do wonders in preventing it from happening.

Get It In

Wink-wink, nudge-nudge. No further explanation necessary.

 

I hope some of these work for you! I also recently launched The Sparkle Style Facebook page, so if you like my posts so far please go and follow me HERE!

Have a magical week! xx

HELLO, from the blog!

Hi, friends!

I have been absent (very absent) on social media and the blog these past weeks. As you may already know from Instagram, I was backpacking in beautiful Italy for the summer. When I travel, I really like to immerse myself with all of the new sights, smells, and culture. With this, I prefer to disconnect from online activity, just to really take it all in! As I’ve mentioned before, I am very committed to living my best life and for me, that means knowing how to properly balance my online/offline time. In a world like the one we live in today, this often translates as not being a dedicated blogger. As much as I’d like to share everything with my readers, sometimes it’s the most authentic when I am not forcing content or post deadlines. I hope you understand…

I am in my second year of undergraduate studies. It’s a lot harder this year juggling school and life (maybe a post about that soon?), but I’m learning so much in both realms. I’m currently going through mid-term exams (PRAY FOR ME), but I am going to try to post about my travel experiences in Italy. In the meantime, feel free to contact me on Instagram or e-mail if you want to connect. xo

Much love!

Cuba Travel Guide

Hi, friends! I apologize for not posting in quite some time. If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know that I’ve been in Cuba and have been busy with exams. The biggest takeaway that pertains to this post is that Cuba has really awful internet connection, if you’re even lucky enough to find it! If you’re planning on seeking sunshine in Cuba anytime soon, expect to not experience a wifi-friendly environment. On the bright side, this means more time to actually enjoy the surroundings free from technological distractions 🙂

Beautiful Havana

I’ll start off by selling tourism here by saying how magical Cuba is. Travel in general is pretty magical, but Cuba really is a gem. Between the hospitality of the people, absolutely gorgeous architecture, lush nature, and sweet smells; Cuba is a treat for the senses. I’ve traveled quite a bit and I have never experienced so much LIFE anywhere else.

If you’re fortunate enough to ever visit Cuba, here are some helpful insights to prepare you for your trip:

  1.  Cuba and Canada are lifelong friends. Being Canadian instantly connected the locals and I. Our countries have a flourishing relationship. If you’re from Canada, expect to make friends easily. (This is just what I experienced- I can imagine the people being friendly to everyone!)
  2. If you plan on going to Havana (which you absolutely MUST), plan on spending at least three days there. There is SO much to see. Old Havana alone has so many hidden treasures that can take up an entire day. Just roaming around Havana aimlessly will enrich your soul. You will see so much of their culture, and it’s beautiful Seriously, make an effort to get lost!
  3. This goes without saying, but the beaches are 10/10. You can find a lot of great beaches off the beaten path and even if they aren’t maintained, they are some of the prettiest I’ve ever seen. Don’t stress too much about which beaches to make a point of seeing, they’re all stunning.
  4.  Skip the all-inclusive. Sure, if resorts are your thing, go for it. But, you’re better off with an AirBnB situation. Cuba is extremely affordable so eating and drinking can be done without too much budgeting. Having your own rented place will allow you to really immerse yourself in the culture and cuisine. Also, the Pina Colada stands on the local streets are the best I’ve ever had. Take it from someone who opted for an all-inclusive, I really regret not doing this when I went. I would’ve spent less $ and appreciated the experiences more.
  5.  Spanish is their official language but you can get by easily with English. I found almost everyone knew at least a basic level of English. I do recommend however, as with any country you visit, to learn a few basic phrases in their mother-tongue. This is out of respect, but also to gain a better sense of the world.

  6.  Great service? Tip! Just as in Western society. I was told when I asked service professionals that 1 peso is sufficient.
  7.  A warning to you females: Cuban men can be very forward and vocal. This can be a good thing or bad depending on your personality and comfort level. They will ever hesitate to tell you how beautiful you look, and you might receive several marriage proposals. It’s nothing like the degrading cat calls you might receive from construction workers but rather, extremely poetic comments and gestures. I’m the type of person who is super awkward with attention, so I wasn’t a fan but…I could definitely see how a lot of women would love this.
  8. Another warning to you females: The men are super attractive. I just had to find an excuse to gush. Moving on….

  9.  There is currently a Zika virus outbreak in Cuba. Bring that bug repellent with you!
  10.  Cuba is extremely safe. I walked around the streets at night without any worries. If you’re looking for a fun trip by yourself or with your girlfriends, Cuba is an ideal destination.
  11.  I traveled with Air Transat who provided me with my Visa documents to enter the country. Consult your travel line when booking your vacation and inquire if they provide your visa, or what steps to take to acquire entrance.

Overall, Cuba has the perfect balance of history, culture, tropical beaches, and scenery. I really wanted to get away for a bit because Canadian weathers are physically painful. I personally love learning about cultures and history, but I craved a sunny destination trip. Cuba was perfect to get the best of both worlds.

If you guys have any questions about traveling to Cuba, feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment below. If you have any additional insights, please share them with me also!

I hope you guys have a productive rest of the week, and a happy easter!! xo