OOTD 1

Pair leather with your favorite fall sweater. Here I put my tan leather jacket with my brown off-the-shoulder sweater. Wore this combo over the word’s most comfiest leggings and wedges!

Outfit Details:

Sweater: ZAFUL, $24.49

https://www.zaful.com/v-neck-chunky-cold-shoulder-sweater-p_312172.html?lkid=12211707

Leather jacket: Express, $148

https://www.express.com/clothing/women/who-what-wear-pick-minus-the-leather-quilted-moto-jacket/pro/08803408/color/THRUSH/size/XX%20Small

Leggings: Express, $29.99 (the best leggings ever – trust me!!)

https://www.express.com/clothing/women/sexy-stretch-ankle-leggings/pro/9163393/color/BLACK

Shoes: TOMS, $54.99 (so comfy!!)

http://www.toms.com/featured-shops/black-suede-womens-desert-wedges

Strawberry PB Oat Smoothie

Smoothies are the fastest and easiest way to get in some nutrients into your body early in the morning. I love trying out different recipes and altering existing ones to match my taste preferences. Smoothie boosters, like probiotics, lean protein, or slimming ingredients, are great to add in as well to get those benefits!

My favorite smoothie flavors are: strawberry banana, mango, mixed berry, and acai bowls. These were my go-to flavors until I stumbled upon Domesticate Me‘s website and found the PB&J smoothie recipe. I made my first couple ones strict to the recipe but after some time, you’ll know how much of each ingredient to toss in to suit your own preferences.

I used to use my blender almost 3-4 times a week, which became super annoying to continuously clean up after. I recently got a NutriBullet and haven’t looked back since. This thing is incredible and super easy! I love that it accommodates personal sizes and you can start drinking it straight from the container when it’s ready! The cleanup is a hell of a lot easier, too. I would definitely recommend purchasing one of these. 5 out of 5!

The smoothie recipe can be found here.

Recipe

Ingredients:

  1. 1 banana
  2. Strawberries
  3. 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
  4. Honey to taste
  5. 1 TBSP chia seeds
  6. 2 TBSP nut butter of your choice (I use peanut butter)
  7. Almond milk/milk of choice

Directions:

  1. Toss all of the ingredients into the blender, blend it all up, and enjoy!

I’m so accustomed to making this smoothie that I just kind of eyeball the ingredients and toss them in. I use a fresh banana and then grab a handful or so of frozen strawberries. Tip: try using a frozen banana to make the smoothie colder and thicker. When my bananas start to look a little rough, I peel them, break them in half, and store them in a Tupperware in the freezer. I usually either use a frozen banana with fresh strawberries or frozen strawberries with a fresh banana. I rarely ever use both frozen fruits because it seems harder to blend, in my opinion.

The only ingredient I actually measure is the oats. Then I take a regular tablespoon from my kitchen utensils to drop in two dollops of peanut butter (I use natural peanut butter, like Justin’s Natural Peanut Butter or the Whole Foods brand). I scoop some chia seeds in there. Drizzle down some honey and fill up the container 1/3 or so of the way with almond milk so it can blend easily.

Most of the time I pour it out of the NutriBullet container into a glass and use a straw to drink it. If I’m on-the-go, I pour it into my mini Blender Bottle and I’m out the door.

This is such a simple and fast breakfast for those of you who “can’t fit breakfast in” or who “don’t eat breakfast”. There’s a reason why they call breakfast the most important meal of the day. I used to be like that, too. A smoothie is such an easy start to the day without feeling like you’re forcing a heavy meal down. It’s so important to start the day off with breakfast, to get your metabolism to wake up with you and fuel your day so that you’re not fatigued or feeling sluggish halfway through. When I have zero time in the morning, I whip up this smoothie and usually grab a granola bar of some sort to pair it with, just to help my body get going.

Look out for more smoothie recipes in the future! For now, it’s easy to play around with ingredients and see what works best for your tastes and meal preferences. The possibilities are truly endless!

Sticking to a New Year’s Resolution

A little late, but Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a fun a safe holiday season! Much like years that have passed, I’m sure you’ve come up with at least one resolution for 2018. And much like years that have passed, that resolution tends to only stick around for a couple of weeks or if you’re lucky, a couple of months, and then disappears completely.

The million dollar question is: how do you turn these resolutions into lasting an entire year…or longer?

I’ve failed at my resolutions each year I’ve made them. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even create them anymore. Instead, I make small goals for myself and once I achieve them, I strive for something bigger. This brings me to my first tip for sticking to a New Year’s resolution.

1. Start Small.

Nothing is more intimidating than setting such a large and broad resolution for yourself and all the pressure that comes with trying to achieve it flawlessly. You can’t just have a resolution of “I want to be healthy”. Sure, that’s a great goal to have but there’s so many components that go into that. Simply, it’s too broad. And also, like I’ve said before, being healthy is a lifestyle and should be something that is fluid for the rest of your life. Going in at 110% all at once sets yourself up for failure shortly down the road. Let’s say you currently don’t have the best nutrition, hardly ever exercise, and have a horrible sleep schedule. You make the resolution to be healthy and go to the gym 5-6 times a week and totally cut out any and all unhealthy foods, it won’t last long. I’m not saying this to discourage you. I’m saying this because it’s realistic. Your body won’t be ready for this drastic change and you’ll feel discouraged and give up or begin to swerve off this path you’ve set for yourself and get back into your unhealthy routine. The best thing to do is start small and work your way up to where you want to be.

Start with a small goal that will contribute to the larger goal you have for yourself. Is your resolution to eat better? Start with drinking an extra glass of water with each meal. Do this throughout the week and increase the amount of water intake each week that follows. You won’t want to snack as much throughout the day when you’re consuming enough water. A lot of the time we think our bodies are hungry when actually they’re dehydrated and need water. Water is also great for bloating and flushing toxins out of your system. Do you see what I mean? This is such a simple and easy goal to obtain!

Do you want to get healthy in 2018? Start with a goal of going to bed 30 minutes to an hour early each night. Or try to wake up early to make time for your workout. You can also try to meal prep for one week and see how you stick to it. Achieve these small goals, master them, and then move on to bigger goals.

This doesn’t just apply to fitness-related resolutions. If you want to watch less TV in 2018, start off by reading a magazine instead. Find another hobby to do and try doing it for at least 30 minutes a day in place of watching TV.

2. Make it a Habit.

Research has shown that forming a habit can take at least 20-30 days. This is not necessarily a concrete number to live by as we are all different and have different strengths and weaknesses. This should, however, be a framework for how long you need to do something consistently for it to become a good habit. For some, it may take longer and for others a little shorter. Try to do what you’re trying to accomplish each day for at least a month and see how you’ve done. It may be waking up in the morning to exercise. Wake up each day for a month and this may already become routine for you. It will get easier and easier each day and start to feel more automatic after time.

3. Don’t self-hate or self-doubt.

Doubting yourself or being hard on yourself if or when you make a mistake will just bring yourself down. You’ll only hurt yourself by squashing your motivation. It’s okay to make a mistake or two, we’re all human – it happens! Instead, move on from it and keep working towards your goal. I know I have eaten one too many cookies in a day. I used to get discouraged and thought this would totally hinder any progress I could make. I realized that this isn’t a healthy way to react to slipping a little bit. Move on from it and keep going!

4. Share your progress. 

Share your progress with your family, friends, or coworkers. Anyone who loves and supports you will support you in your new goals and resolutions. They will want to help you reach your goals and even motivate you to do so. And if you have friends that aren’t supportive in your goals or stray you from where you want to be, you need to let go of them. Let go of any negativity in your life and block it out. This will only hinder your progress and you won’t ever be able to get to where you want to be.

For fitness-related resolutions, document your progress. Take progress pictures. Continuously weighing yourself isn’t the best way to measure your progress. Muscle weighs more than fat so the scale might not say what you are expecting it to. Take pictures throughout your journey to getting fit. Compare pictures over the course of months and see what has changed. Actually seeing the results will motivate you to work even harder!

I hope these tips will help you conquer your 2018 resolutions!

Two Important Lessons About Fitness

Entering the fitness world and changing your life for the better is a bit intimidating. Tack on the new gym, meal prepping, finding workouts to do and I can see why people fall off track. Taking on a completely different lifestyle is challenging, but you can’t get anything if you don’t work for it.

I’ve been going to the gym most of my life but I really got serious about in within the last two years, after graduating college. I started getting into weight lifting and HIIT at the gym and using BodyBuilding.com and fitness YouTubers as resources. I did the meal prep thing and have tried some dieting. There are two core pieces of advice that I heard and have learned along the way that drastically changed my mindset about fitness and health.

This is a lifestyle.

These words made everything click in my head. I would always get in really motivated moods now and then where I would be super strict with what I ate and diligent about going to the gym for at least an hour, most the time even more. After a few months, something would happen and I would quit the schedule I set for myself and go back to working out sparingly and eating whatever I wanted. This cycle would continue over and over and I would continue to get discouraged because I obviously wasn’t getting any results.

When I heard that these healthy habits are part of a lifestyle, everything made sense. Hearing those words really resonated with me and I hope they resonate with you in the same way. Eating well and exercising are something to integrate into your life, something to commit to and make time for. Focus on preparing healthy meals with foods that fuel your body. Make time to go to the gym and give it your all.

Once you realize this is part of a lifestyle, you’ll learn how to make it work for you. You will learn what types of meals work in your schedule and what type of exercise you enjoy. This will be through a lot of trial and error, but you have a lifetime ;).

Putting this into a lifetime perspective, there is room for balance and moderation. You can allow yourself a cookie once a day, or twice, if you want! Anything you’d like to eat, as long as it’s in moderation. This won’t affect your fitness goals in any way. Balance these treats with your healthy meals and you’ll be good to go as long as the bad doesn’t outweigh the good!

Listen to Your Body.

Have you ever pushed yourself so hard that you make yourself sick? Have you ever forced yourself to work out when you’re really not in the mood and then waste your time at the gym?

I don’t know about you, but I’m guilty of both of these. I have finally learned that’s what NOT to do. Your body knows what’s best and knows how to show it. We all need to stop and listen to our bodies to know what’s good for it. If you don’t feel like working out, you probably shouldn’t and give your body the rest that it needs. Don’t force it if you’re going to feel worse afterwards or if you’re going to go to the gym only to end up doing nothing the whole time. Are you trying to weight lift just because everyone else is but you hate it? Switch your exercise type to something you do enjoy! Maybe you love swimming or yoga. There’s more ways than one when it comes to fitness. It’s all about enjoying yourself and fitting it into your own personalized schedule.

The bottom line is you’re not going to have the best results when you’re forcing yourself and your body to do something you’re not feeling or that you’re not into. Take the time to listen to your body and you’ll know what to do.

Starting Physique: December 2017

Fitness Background:

  • Played sports from elementary to high school
  • Focused on cardio workouts throughout college
  • Started weightlifting about 2 years ago
  • Started incorporating more HIIT and circuit workouts into my gym routine

At the end of December, I went into my gym to meet with a personal trainer to get my body measurements. I’m 5’4″, weigh 133.7lbs, and my body fat percentage is 28%. My goal body fat percentage is at least 19-20%. My focus isn’t going to be on my weight because muscle weighs more than fat. I’m predicting my weight will remain the same or even increase a little.

 

Pizza Under 400 Calories!

Over the weekend, my boyfriend and I took a trip to Trader Joe’s to do some light shopping. This became very dangerous very fast. We ended up spending over $50 when we went in to get only a couple items. But when does this not happen?? There’s just so many items we wanted to try out! One of my favorite purchases was the Speculoos Cookie & Cocoa Swirl cookie butter. OMG if you like sweets, you need to buy this and try it! It’s like the best combo of cookie dough with Nutella. Be mindful though – it’s 90 calories per Tbsp.

Back to the point. I was looking at the pita bread and offered up the idea of making personal sized pita pizzas for dinner! Little did I know how brilliant this actually was.

We came back and cut up our toppings of choice: red onion, green pepper, grape tomatoes, and basil leaves. We topped our pitas with some leftover pasta sauce we got from Aldi (so delicious!) and went to work on making the pizzas, topping everything with shredded mozzarella cheese and oregano flakes. Fun fact: I used to work at Pizza Hut for 4 years so I’m a bit of an expert when it comes to making pizzas ;).

I logged all the ingredients we used into the MyFitnessPal app and was shocked to see that it was only a total of 395 calories! It tasted so great too!

Pita pizzas are awesome because you get to tailor it to what you like and to fit your dietary needs. Be sure to load up on the veggies and protein if you can!

Recipe

Ingredients:
  • Pita bread
  • Pasta sauce or pizza sauce
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese (I used part-skim based)
  • Toppings of choice
Directions (pretty self-explanatory):
  1. Cover your pita in the sauce leaving enough of an edge for the crust.
  2. Sprinkle some mozzarella on the sauce.
  3. Fill in your toppings.
  4. Top with more mozzarella cheese, parmesan, and oregano if you’d like.
  5. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes or until toppings and cheese have cooked.

Easy Breakfast: Everything English Muffin

I am one of the laziest people I know, especially when it comes to setting side time in the mornings for a good and healthy breakfast. This is especially hard during the work week because I give myself the bare minimum amount of time to get ready in the morning. Recently, I’ve been trying to think of quick and simple breakfasts that won’t take too much time out of my morning (because I still want to be able to sleep in as much as possible!). I try to wake up early enough to be able to make some egg whites to get that protein in that I need. I found a good pairing to my boring egg whites and it couldn’t be more simpler!

I was finally able to make it to Trader Joe’s to pick up their Everything But the Bagel seasoning and it’s now one of my obsessions! If you like Everything bagels, you need to go out and buy this now!

This breakfast is super easy and can be made in about 15 minutes max. Take a 100 calorie Light Thomas english muffin, toast it, put some butter on it, and sprinkle on some of the seasoning.

For the eggs, I scramble 1/2 cup of egg whites with 1 egg until they aren’t runny anymore. I absolutely hate runny eggs, but cook the scrambled eggs as you normally would. I top my eggs with a little bit of salsa just to give it a little something extra or you can squirt on a little bit of ketchup. I get tired of egg whites pretty fast so I just need to give it a little more flavor.

And there you have it! Quick, easy, and healthy! I’ve posted the caloric contents below for you to look at:

Recipe

Ingredients:

  1. 1/2 cup 100% liquid egg whites
  2. 1 egg
  3. Whole Wheat or Light English Muffins
  4. Spreadable butter
  5. Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning

Directions:

  1. Turn your stove on low to medium heat. Spray some cooking spray on a pan. Add 1/2 cup of liquid egg whites and 1 whole egg. Mix until combined.
  2. Scramble the egg mixture until your desired texture.
  3. While the eggs are almost scrambled, place your english muffin in the toaster. Toast until desired.
  4. Top the english muffin with a small amount of the spreadable butter. Sprinkle the seasoning on top.
  5. Top your eggs with 1 TBSP of salsa or drizzle on some ketchup.
  6. Enjoy!

This recipe should only take about 10-15 minutes, depending on how long you cook your eggs. Just force yourself to wake up 15 minutes early and you’ll have a great breakfast to start your day!

Cookie Dough Crack Bars

A couple weekends ago I was scrolling around on Instagram discovered this mouth-watering recipe on Rachel Mansfield’s page and immediately had to give it a try! I made a quick trip to Whole Foods to pick up the 6 ingredients (only 6!) the recipe called for to make this guilty tasting, and addicting, “Cookie Dough Crack Bars”.

I’m not much of a cook, or even a baker, but I can handle the easiest of recipes. I had never used almond flour, coconut flour, or coconut sugar before so I was a tad nervous about how it would turn out. But how can you beat using only 6 ingredients and absolutely NO BAKING?!

These took me 10 minutes to make and then an additional freeze time of 40 minutes so no hard work at all!

After tasting these I think I’m now on this coconut sugar bandwagon. It made it so much sweeter in a different and more tasty way. It’s definitely hard to put it in words but something to definitely try out for yourself!

These are so addicting and will seriously satisfy any sweet cravings you may have (I have a SERIOUS sweet tooth!). As a plus they’re vegan and GF too!

Recipe

Ingredients:

Cookie Dough:

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 3 TBSP coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 3 TBSP coconut oil (liquid)
  • 1/2 cup and 2 TBSP creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Chocolate Bark:

  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 2 TBSP coconut oil

Directions:

  1. Mix together almond flour, coconut flour, and coconut sugar.
  2. Add in coconut oil and peanut butter and mix with a mixer.
  3. Stir in the dark chocolate chips.
  4. Place dough in a square pan and put in the freezer.
  5. For the chocolate topping, combine the chocolate chips and coconut oil and microwave in 30 second increments until smooth.
  6. Top the dough with the chocolate so that all the dough is covered. Freeze for at least 40 minutes before cutting into squares.

Find the original recipes on Rachel Mansfield’s blog here! And check out her other killer recipes – you won’t regret it!

Experience Diaries: Firefly Music Festival 2017

My first ever Firefly experience

For those who don’t know, Firefly is a music festival that takes place in the middle of June at the Dover International Speedway in Delaware. It’s a 4-day music festival featuring top artists of various genres. You camp out in the fields the entire time, whether that’s in a tent, RV, or some form of glamping.

The 2017 Firefly Music Festival was my first ever Firefly experience. My boyfriend had consistently went for the past 3-4 years and I decided I wanted to try it and see what all the hype was about.

We went group camping with at least 20 or so people consisting of my boyfriend’s friends and their mutual friends, as well as one of my best friends and myself. I invited my friend, Julie, to go with me because I knew she would be down to try it with me and could brave it out. We honestly had no idea what to expect.

Here’s the lineup of artists that performed at the 2017 Firefly Music Festival:

Day 1:

We had the camping package from Thursday until Sunday. We arrived early in the afternoon on Thursday and parked outside of the Dover Speedway. Our first task was unpacking the car and setting up our campsite. I obviously was ready to get this done as soon as possible so we could all relax, drink, and hangout. However, the distance from our car to our camp spot was pretty far and we had to make many trips to make sure we got everything. Hand carrying and walking multiple tents, chairs, tables, beer cases, alcohol, etc. was a lot!

Fast-forward and we were finally all there hanging out, drinking the afternoon away – it was such a great time! It was hot outside but still breezy out, which was nice.

That night, we went to a silent disco because we didn’t know the artists that were performing. If you don’t know, silent discos are pretty cool: you get headphones that play the DJ’s music and you go to the dance floor and dance to your own beat, literally.

At Firefly, their silent disco was held in a cleared out space in the woods with a stage for the DJs. There were two different stations that you could listen to for the corresponding DJ. It was hard to get my friends and I all on the same station so that we could dance crazy together. At one point, I started wandering around and saw that the gate blocking off the stage wasn’t closed all the way and went in and went up on stage. Other girls figured this out too and we were all on stage with the DJs which was so much fun! I’m notorious for getting on stages :)! This was the best night of my trip! Highly recommend checking out a silent disco if you can!

Morale: high

Day 2:

The weather drastically changed from warm and breezy to just hot and a sweaty mess. No shower and I was beginning to feel gross but anyways…

One of the best concerts I’ve seen took place today! I had only listened to Twenty One Pilots’ songs on the radio and never dove into their albums but OMG I was missing out! Their performance was so incredible and entertaining. Both the members were doing crazy stunts and running around on stage. It was filled with high energy and everyone was digging it. I’ve actually watched the YouTube video quite a few times since seeing it in person (shown below)! Another recommendation: go see Twenty One Pilots!!

Morale: decent

Day 3:

Still gross and sweaty and getting creative with my hairstyles. I’ve learned that it’s very difficult to change inside of the tent.

Morale: low

This night we saw Kesha, The Weeknd, and Chance the Rapper.

Julie and I were super pumped for Kesha – we’ve been big fans ever since Tik Tok came out. She played some of her beginning stuff up until pre-Praying, which kind of left us disappointed. It was unfortunate timing to see Kesha because it was before her most recent album came out. She sang her old stuff but in a weird rock-n-roll kind of way. It wasn’t the Kesha I knew or expected. Then two of our friends got pick-pocketed so we were ready for The Weeknd.

The Weeknd sounded exactly as he does on the radio as when he’s performing on stage. He has such a beautiful voice and really killed the show! Unfortunately, Selena Gomez didn’t show up. (Note: they were dating back then in case anyone forgot)

Chance the Rapper started at like midnight so I was pretty tired then and his music wasn’t helping my case lol. He was great on stage as well and played I’m the One which was awesome! Obviously the whole crowd was standing but I wish everyone decided to sit and chill because that’s the kind of vibe Chance is.

Day 4:

Sunday had finally come. I was the sweatiest, smelliest, and hottest I think I have ever been in my life. Everyone around me was super hungover. I was just ready to go home at this point.

Morale: extremely low

We originally planned to go to a couple shows but Julie and I convinced my boyfriend to go home around 3 in the afternoon. We hung out with everyone until then but just couldn’t make it in the venue.

As soon as I got back to my apartment, I took the longest shower I have in awhile and vegged out on the couch for the rest of the night. The shower felt like such a luxury!! And luckily I had the next day off from work, too, to recover.

Overall thoughts: 

The last day of the festival I was so miserable I wanted to leave in the morning just because I wanted a nice long, cool shower and lots of sleep. Looking back though, it was a great experience with great friends, which I took for granted in the moment. It’s one of the few times a year everyone in that group can get together for a long weekend. I saw amazing artists that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I think I will go back again this year but may or may not consider staying in a hotel.

  

Let Me Introduce Myself…

Thanks for landing on my blog! My name is Tara Lofton and I am the face behind Just Tara Things. Just Tara Things will be a showcase for my many interests so stay tuned and see the content I’m planning for you all! I didn’t want to write on and on about myself so here are some quick facts for you.

Quick Facts

Age: 23

Hometown: Sykesville, MD

Undergrad Degree: Media Arts & Design with a concentration in Creative Advertising and minor in Communication Studies

College: James Madison University

Favorite Cheat Meal: Chick-fil-A

Dream Job: Event Planner, Blogger (?!), Stylist, Personal Trainer, or own my own business

Cocktail of choice: Margarita on the rocks, Redbull Vodka (bad I know) or Vodka Cranberry (a classic)

Coffee order: Medium iced coffee with caramel swirl and skim milk, from Dunkin’ Donuts

Favorite type of food: Mexican

Favorite vacation destination: anywhere tropical!

Favorite City: Boston, MA or San Diego, CA

Hobbies: brunching, working out, binge watching TV shows or movies, knitting, photography, design, crafts, snowboarding, and hanging out with my boyfriend, friends and family

Favorite Netflix series right now: Mindhunter

Likes (a few!): dogs, moscato, lazy days, horror movies

Dislikes: seafood, traffic, red wine