Ask Amanda: Healthy Packable Travel

Over the past two years, I’ve  traveled a lot.  Like a LOT lot.  There were times I would spend three weekends out of four outside the country in which I reside, and it was more common for friends to ask “are you going to be in town this weekend?” then actually invite me to something since it was about an 85% chance I would not be.

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I basically kept a toiletry bag, makeup kit, and bathing suit/sarong combo on the ready at any given moment, since there were literally times where I arrived in Singapore’s Changi Airport in the afternoon only to transit through it en route to another destination that evening.  It was amazing, but it was as exhausting as it sounds.

These days, I am much more “local” – I co-own two client-based businesses here in Singapore, which means I am much more tied down to my work.  Outside of a brief ski weekend in Japan earlier this year and a quick jaunt to Bali with my fambam last month, I haven’t gone anywhere for longer than 4 days in 2017.  Wow.

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Here are some places I haven’t been this year…oh wait, minus one, but it’s like an hour away.

That said, because I am traveling less often, I have the opportunity to be more intentional with my packing and travel prep (above and beyond the aforementioned sarong-stuffing), and I now have a few go-tos that I absolutely recommend for being a healthy, well-rested, and fit traveler.

[sidenote: I’ve written on the topic of healthy travel habits several times before, so if you’re looking more for that than what’s actually inside my travel bag, check out LOTS more tips here, here and here]

First of all, let me answer the big question I get most from clients: do you work out on vacation?  The answer is, of course, an unequivocal yes.  So does that mean I always pack at least one “workout” outfit and the requisite sneakers to go with it?  Sure does. But rest assured I make even this part simple – I pack a workout top with a built-in bra so I don’t need to worry about loading up separate sports bras, I exercise in black leggings and my most stylish-but-functional Nike Flyknits that I also wear on the plane, and if the hotel I’m staying at doesn’t have a gym, I pack a jump rope and a resistance band.  Done.

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Bands can make you dance.

Second, I make travel the time to pull out all those luxury samples I get from Sephora and treat myself to some major spa(like) indulgence…even if it’s just in the hotel tub.  I bring the thickest face cream possible and slather it on JUST before takeoff; use the BB/CC cream packets to clean myself up just before landing, and I bring at least one Korean face mask and some fancy body scrub to get glowing upon arrival.

Third, mostly because I am a hundred years old and tend to swell like hell on long airplane rides, I deploy the triple-play anti-ballooning defense of wearing compression socks, taking water pills (please note: this is a travel-only strategy and not something I’d recommend on a regular or even semi-regular basis), and bringing a huge collapsible water bottle on the plane so I can do my best to eradicate the edema situation.

Next, I’d recommend bringing along small sizes of your basic hygiene stuff – think wet wipes, antibacterial wipes, hand gel (for when you can’t get to a proper sink), Kleenex, Shout wipes, a few band-aids, and some probiotic and activated charcoal pills. This mini “first aid” kit will keep you clean, well, and balanced no matter where you’re headed.

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If you wanna get RULL serious about your first aid status…

And finally – what else fills my carry-on bag besides health-related stuff?  I love to drown out the world with my BOSE headphones, bring a couple of books (right now I’m late to the game on You Are A Badass, but loving it so far!), tuck into some unsalted nuts or if I’m ambitious, homemade protein balls, and lay into my super-cozy hooded neck pillow for a nice long haul.

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Not me; perhaps it’s THAT fit blonde?

What are your healthy travel must-haves?  Any tips for maximizing carryon essentials?

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Ask Amanda: Orange You Glad I Tried A New Workout

I’d heard about Orangetheory Fitness for months – possibly years? – from friends in the States, and I’d always said that when I had the opportunity to do it, I’d give it a try.

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The Orangetheory gym, bathed in orange light

Well, as I was driving up to my brother’s house in Phoenix (where I’m staying for the Christmas holidays), I noticed the telltale “splat” logo just across the street – literally a 5-minute walk away.  It was go time.

I knew bits and pieces about the Orangetheory format from friends who’d attended; from what I heard, it was a lot like the Barry’s Bootcamp classes I used to attend in L.A. – interval circuits of cardio and weights, alternated for maximum heart rate and calorie burn.  Seeing as this is how I train the majority of my clients, I admittedly love the idea.

When I walked into the location, I was warmly greeted and given a heart rate monitoring strap – helpful, given that the entire “theory” behind the place is that you should stay in the “orange” working zone (85-89% of max HR) for 12-20 minutes of the 50+ minute class.

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The trainer walked me into the room, helpfully explained how the class would work, and set the 18 of us (!) free on the combination of treadmill running, rowing, and weights that would comprise our ESP (endurance, strength and power) workout.

I started on the treadmill/rowing interval set, which comprised of:

  • .5 miles at a running pace (1% incline) / 100m row
  • .35 miles at a fast running pace (3% incline) / 250m row
  • .15 miles at an all-out sprint pace (5% incline) / 400m row
  • .15 miles at an all-out sprint pace (10% incline) / 250m row
  • .35 miles at a fast running pace (3% incline) / 100m row

Heart rate sufficiently blasting in my throat, I moved on to the three-part strength series, which progressed from two dumbbells to one dumbbell to no dumbbells, as follows:

After completing both series, we had about a 3-minute stretch and cooldown and were sent on our merry way, with “the board” bearing our overall results (disclosure: I spent 20 minutes in the orange zone and 32 in the green zone, which was apparently ideal for the purpose of the ESP class, and I burned 669 calories overall).

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This type of training is not only challenging but encourages a 36-hour afterburn, an effect that occurs only when training is completed at 70-85% of MHR – which, of course, is the entire Orangetheory concept.

All in all, I loved the workout – the intensity was adjustable to several levels (if you aren’t down with the full-on sprints on the treadmill, there were walking, elliptical, and bike options; the dumbbell stack went from 5 to 20 pounds), the music was spot-on (a mixture of high-tempo Christmas carols and Top 40 dance hits, which I loved) and the vibe was positive, energetic, and encouraging – in fact, I’ve already signed up for my second ($28, hoo boy) class tomorrow morning.

If you’re looking for something to give you HIIT-style intensity, PT-style attentiveness, and SoulCycle-style energy, Orangetheory is exactly that – and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to build fitness, lose weight, or just have fun working out over the holidays.

Have you ever tried a maximum-intensity group circuit class like this?  What did you think?

Ask Amanda: Fly Away With Me

I just checked in for the first legs of what is about to be an absolute whirlwind of flights – Singapore to Melbourne to Adelaide on the first leg; Adelaide to Bali to Singapore to San Francisco to Phoenix on the return.

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God, I hope not

Whew.  I’m already exhausted and I haven’t even left (or packed, but that’s another story).

That said, with all the air travel I do (and the propensity toward colds and flus this time of year), a loyal #AskAmanda reader asked me how I possibly manage to stay healthy through the festive season – and I admit, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve.

Some of these are going to be a bit redundant from the last time I wrote on this topic, but there’s more to staying healthy while traveling than just popping Emergen-C (though I do recommend it) and a lot of it bears repeating.

First off, prep yourself for your travel plans.  So many people get swept up in the holiday season and don’t pack or prepare for what’s ahead – which ends in a lot of stressed-out rushing, last-minute forgetful packing, and utter exhaustion before you even hit the security gates.  Be thoughtful with your packing, choose comfortable clothing (and if you tend to swell like me, compression socks and loose pants) for the flight, toss an empty water bottle in your bag for some in-flight hydration, and take the time you need to actually get to the airport, no stress – believe me, it helps.

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Second, arm yourself with nutrition.  Skip the over-salted, under-nutritious airplane and airport food and bring yourself a nice bag of nuts, homemade sandwich, and bottle of water so you don’t starve or dehydrate on those oh-so-dry airplanes.  If you wanna get really fancy with it, wrap up some hummus and crackers, or even slice some fresh veggies for a quick in-flight crunch (and feel victorious while everyone else is wrestling open a laughably tiny peanut bag).

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Third, focus on hand washing and sleep, in that order.  The moment you hear someone with a hacking cough or wet sneeze on the plane means you’ve probably already come into contact with something they’ve touched or breathed on, and it should be a red alert to jump up and wash your hands (or in a pinch, use hand sanitizer).  Most of the common colds and flus can be combatted with this simple act, yet it’s the thing so many travelers forget to do that leaves them landing with a sniffle of their own.  And I know it’s easier said than done, but SLEEP – sleep! – if you possibly can.  Close your eyes, breathe deeply, use a neck pillow, do whatever you gotta do so that you don’t arrive at your destination a wacked-out, sleepless mess.  (Ladies, throw a nice thick face cream on before you doze for an extra spa-like bonus as you catch your crucial zzzs.)

And finally – don’t forget to move.  The aforementioned hand washing is a great excuse to get up from your seat, and when you do, take yourself through a few easy stretches to encourage circulation, keep your muscles active, and maintain mobility so that you don’t land feeling stiff and tired.  I always grab an aisle seat to make getting up as easy-peasy as possible, and my average rate of standing movement is about once per hour (believe me, on these 17-hour long-haul direct flights, even that seems like a feat!).

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The long story short of it is this – with some simple planning, healthy eating, comfy clothing, and basic moving, you’ll avoid the common travel bugs lurking within those big metal tubes, and ensure that your Christmas is a happy and healthy one.

What are your tricks and tips for travel?  How do you arrive feeling refreshed and relaxed?

Ask Amanda: Harried Holidays

Perhaps it’s more symptomatic in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world – we do up the sugar-fueled trick-or-treating for Halloween in October, binge-eat like patriots on Thanksgiving (and days after) in November, and ramp up a December so full of holiday parties and celebrations that, come January, we can barely drag our bloated carcasses onto the scale, much less face the gym.

Ugh.  It’s a vicious cycle, peeps – but a predictable one, and one you can break.

An #AskAmanda fan (and real-life kickass client!) of mine inquired last week about how to stay on track when the holiday season threatens to break our wills, and I thought long and hard about whether to reveal the following fact (deep breath):

Nearly every winter, I lose weight.

Yes, you read that right.  I decrease in mass during the holiday season.  I tend to start off January at my year-long lowest weight, typically peaking somewhere around my birthday (June, don’t ask me why, maybe because I hate summer?), and then downhilling past the October/November hump and ending up at a nice clean and lean place come December.

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So how does this happen?

First of all, I am a big rules person.  Those of you who know me IRL know that I am a giant fan of deadlines, limits, boundaries, and accountability (especially when it comes to fitness and health).  When the holidays start pushing into my world with their nonstop flow of parties, happy hours, and general disruption of schedules, I push back – with a consistent plan that keeps me centered and focused.  Some examples:

  • At the risk of beating a dead horse, I only allow myself to eat within an 8-hour window, then I fast the remaining 16.  Got a holiday party at 9pm?  Either push your eating window (2-10pm, for example) or finish up your eating well before, and toast a glass of champagne – but skip the canapes.  Easy peasy.
  • Not so ready for the strict window?  Try this: set a carbs deadline instead (I suggest either 2pm or 4pm, depending on how strict you wanna play it).  Rather than confining all your food to a specific time limit, simply give yourself an end game for the white stuff (refined sugar, flour, bread, pasta and rice) and hold yourself to it. Egg rolls after 4p?  Pass.  But let the good times roll on that chicken satay!

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  • You can also focus on playing the swap game – pick and choose your battles, so to speak.  Got a company holiday party catered by your favorite restaurant?  Plan for it by “trading” your dinner for a spin around the appetizer buffet instead.  Got a boozy cookie-baking party with the gals?  Choose one – the sugar or the swill – and allow yourself a little indulgence without going overboard.  Life is all about choices, and when you feel in control of your own, you’re less likely to make the wrong ones.

Second, I make my own workouts even more of a priority – and a stress reliever! – when the end-of-year schedules start to pack up.  I experience so many client cancellations in the month of December  I want to tear my hair out – and most of them are for reasons like last-minute shopping, back-to-back events at school or work, or prepping for holiday travel.  As I say so often to clients and classes alike – “when you want to do something, you’ll find time – when you don’t, you’ll find excuses.”  So just cut the crap and:

  • Schedule your workouts into your calendar.  Make your most important meetings the ones that maintain your personal health, energy, and spirit – what could be more crucial when the holiday rush threatens to drain you of all of that?  If you want to get super real about it, assess yourself a strict “cancellation fee” if you do skip – making a contribution to a worthy political cause (cough, cough) or putting five bucks in a gift fund for your mother-in-law.  Money talks, and eventually, you’ll listen.
  • Seek out exercise classes that you want to go to.  GuavaPass and other services like this are great for this time of year because they allow you to break up the monotony without (financial) commitment – and who wouldn’t feel less stressed doing a workout like trampoline gymnastics, boxing, or aerial yoga?  When the workout is exciting, new, and fun, you can view it as pleasure – rather than the boring ol’ routine of picking up dumbbells in a sweaty gym.
  • Make working out together a social engagement.  One of my favorite memories in my entire exercise history was when a bunch of girlfriends and I “sweated to the Oldies” at Richard Simmons’ SLIMMONS studio in Beverly Hills.  He wore a sequined tank top and a tiny Santa hat; we wore neon 1980s workout gear and danced like no one was watching.  Afterward we got dinner and drinks and it was an absolutely perfect holiday get-together – better than any parties I’d been to that year.

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My final tip is this: drop the guilt.  It’s the holiday season, a time to celebrate what makes you happy, be with friends and family, and enjoy the decorations, festivity, and magic that truly only comes once a year.  Focus on what’s really important this time of year – gratitude, compassion, and kindness – and no matter what, you’ll lose the “weight” of negativity and frustration that tends to build up during a long, hard year.

What are your favorite stay-healthy holiday tips?

Soaring Through the (Healthy) Skies

Readers, you may have noticed that I travel from time to time.  And by time to time, I mean a lot.  And by a lot, I mean I am averaging about one international trip per month these days (add to that that I already live abroad in Singapore) and I rarely, if ever get sick.

[Funny but notable aside: I actually did get sick last week in Singapore, after three unusual weeks without travel (sore throat and swollen glands; it was harsh but passed in three days with the aid of honey lemon, sleep, and one dose of DayQuil to get through a long workday).]

That being said, I am a really healthy person and I am very lucky to have always been that way – but I’m not without a few tricks up my sleeve for staying healthy when I’m out and about.  Sure, a solid foundation of healthy habits (read: eating decent amounts of vegetables, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly) helps, but here are my strategies for getting through my travels healthfully:

Wash your damn hands.  Seriously guys, this is the #1 thing you can do to combat the most common offenders (cold and flu) and especially when going through airports, where you’re constantly sharing germs between boarding passes, magazines, seats, and who knows what else, it’s a must.

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Pop the herbal remedies.  I am partial to plain ol’ echinacea (although I know others swear by Vitamin C or Emergen-C or Airborne) because for me, it works.  Not only does it help stave off a cold, but it can actually cut down the days of suffering if you already have one, which ain’t too shabby.

Hydrate.  Nothing makes you feel worse than getting off a plane feeling swollen, dry, and lethargic – all of which are symptoms of dehydration.  I like to chug a bottle of water en route to the airport, take the empty bottle through security, then fill it up again and chug as I wait to board.  One final fill-up for the plane and I’m set for the trip (related: skip the sodium-laden airplane food and snack boxes – go for coconut water, fruit, unsalted nuts, and packets of oatmeal for a quick hunger fix).

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Sleep as much as possible.  Got an hour flight?  Zonk out with relaxing music (or noise-canceling headphones, if you’re bougie) and get a solid nap.  Longer flight?  Be “that guy” and do everything in your power to get comfy and steal a snooze, including using a neck pillow, taking a soft blanket, wearing fuzzy socks, and slipping on an eye mask (bonus points if it’s scented with something soothing like chamomile or lavender).  There is no shame in this game, folks, and ye who sleep on planes arrive refreshed – not frazzled.

Know your health care options.  When the best-laid plans to stay healthy go awry (case study: my massive head cold a few years back while flying in for my niece’s 1-year birthday party where I was a surprise guest and had to be “on” among a sea of friends and family members for many hours), always know where and how to find a reputable doctor, no matter where you are.  I love Amino’s “find a doctor” service, where you literally just type in what you have/need (example: bronchitis), fill out a quick bit of information about yourself, and boom – you’re connected to doctors in your area that can help.  It’s a lifesaver!

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As the saying goes, the best offense is a good defense – so make sure to prep yourself for healthy holiday travel this year and spend the holidays feeling great – not sniffling under the mistletoe.

What are your best healthy travel tips?  How do you stay well over the holidays?

GOALvember Updates & Running Ragged

Party people, it’s still the great month of November which means that GOALvember is still very much in effect.  I am keeping my health and wellness goals strictly on point until I head back to the U.S. for the holiday season, at which point I will joyfully allow myself the American excesses of eggnog, cookies, and locally brewed craft beer.

Until then, I am plugging along on all ten (!) of my goals, though they’ve definitely morphed in form since first I wrote…

For example, running once a week in the death humidity, heat and haze of Singapore seemed like a pretty decent goal…in late September.  Fast forward to now when it’s beautiful blue skies, slightly cooler (I mean, it was only 75 at 6:20am this morning!), and oh yeah, I’m registered for a Ragnar Ultra Relay.

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What’s Ragnar Ultra, you ask?  Oh, nothing much.  Just a 200 mile (321+ kilometers for you overaseas readers) footrace for time with only 6 runners, one van, and no sleep.  And yep, believe it or not, this was MY great idea (of all things) to make the most of a trip back to the States in April.  Luckily I have the best team on Earth to train with, so even remotely I know we’ll keep each other on our game.

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Continuing my love/hate relationship with yoga, I tried two new studios this monthRealYoga at The Centrepoint (think “legit” Indian style bendy yoga with an instructor seemingly determined to tear me in half) and Wings to Wings near Chinatown, a studio I found on my newly obtained Guavapass membership (jury’s still out on the GP, by the way, since it doesn’t have an app and seems to have far fewer studio options than my beloved Passport).

Clean eating is going well also; it’s getting more habitual to grab a salad for lunch (although today I did break down and get some delicious vegetable spring rolls – still veggie servings, dammit), my new obsession with sous vide everything means I’m cooking at home pretty much every night, and those vicious Tim Tams have finally made their way OUT of my house (for good).

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Finally, in the spirit of renewal and self-betterment I even took the time to clean out my closet (a quarterly ritual for me back home; first time I’ve been able to do it here in six months of living) and put aside a dumpload of clothes for donation.

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As always, purging feels amazing – but I can’t wait to acquire some great new pieces during after-Christmas sales back in the good ol’ US of A.

Have you set monthly – or “before year end” goals for yourself?  How are you progressing toward your best self?

12 Days of Fit-Mas: A Gift Guide

Wondering what fit people really want for the holidays?

Well, if you’re me, you want simple, high-quality functional items that you can use/wear/enjoy every day.  

I scoured the internet to find my favorite practical gifts for the fitness buff in your life this holiday season – and I hope you can find something just right!

On the first day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

a massive 64 ounce water “growler”

On the second day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

two running gloves

On the third day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

three resistance bands

On the fourth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

four monkey-face kettlebells

On the fifth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

five pairs of printed leggings

On the sixth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

six Crossfit dice

On the seventh day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

seven pairs of rundies

On the eighth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

an 8-piece vacuum-seal food container set

On the ninth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

a nine-pocket hanging toiletry bag for the gym

On the tenth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

ten-toed socks

On the eleventh day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

an eleven-dollar stackable protein shake bottle

On the twelfth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

twelve inspirational hair ties

What are you asking for from (fit) Santa?  What healthy gifts do you love to give?

Would Amanda Eat It?

Ah, the holidays.  You are faced with homemade and store-bought treats aplenty, goodies brought home from friends and family, and the occasional late-night slip into Santa’s cookie tray.  It happens.

But what about when your loyal, trusted Trader Joe’s throws a major curveball of deliciousness?

Enter Cookies N’ Cream Cookie Butter, the latest in a series of amazing butters by Mr. Joe (other varieties include original, cocoa swirl, and crunchy).  At first glance, you might think – “well, of course Amanda won’t eat this one” – but read on for my full assessment:

The good:

The bad:

  • it’s a sugar bomb.  But you knew that was coming.  17g per 2TB makes it even worse than eating actual frosting from a can (don’t believe me?  Here’s a frosting label for comparison.)
  • the first ingredient is sugar.  ‘Nuff said.  There’s more sugar than any other ingredient in this product.
  • there are 3.5 grams of saturated fat in a serving, which is about 20% of what you should get in an entire day.  Not great.

The verdict:

  • Ok, obviously I can’t get behind a product that is literally worse for you than eating processed frosting out of a can.  Let’s be real.  But what I can say is that as a sugar substitute in holiday baking (such as these Cookies & Cream Rice Krispie treats), it’s a nice “sometimes” treat when you really want to throw caution to the wind and indulge.

The alternative:

  • Worry not, butter lovers!  You can always make your own cookie butter at home, if it’s the cookie thing you’re seeking, and if it’s more the butter, check out this amazing list of homemade nut butter recipes (yes, even some with chocolate!).  Anytime you can decrease the number of ingredients and preservatives in a food simply by making it yourself, you are taking a step toward better health that starts in your own home.

What food products would you like to see featured on this blog?  Comment here or on FB!

Weekend Roundup

I know, I know – I’ve been an absolutely reprehensible blogger this week.  Can I claim wedding stress?  Holiday engagements?  Work ramping up before the break?  Well, whether I can claim those excuses or not, that’s where I’ve been – but now I’m back.

Let’s kick off the weekend with our friendly ol’ roundup – looking around the internets for what I am interested in – and think you’ll really like, too!

If there is a heaven, my dear Spartacus will be waiting for me there.  Even the pope says so.

LA might know sunshine, but NYC knows soup.  Here’s a dozen amazingly seasonal recipes.

If you haven’t picked up your ugly holiday sweater yet, this is your last chance.

I LOVE doing glitter makeup at the holidays, but I always worry about looking like a trashy disco ball.  This tutorial takes the guesswork out of it.

Gift guides are fun because they’re always over-the-top and ridiculous.  This one is for the stylish, high-end yogi in your life – or more likely, in your dreams.

Free online and TV-based personal training?  Yep, NBC is doing it.  And it looks awesome.

Y’all know I love the cheap thrills from Forever 21.  This week they’re so cheap they’re FREE.

What are you reading about and looking at this holiday season?  Leave a link!