Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Bryson City, NC: Vacationing with a 15 Month Old

We took our first vacation as a family of three back in June. We'd visited family with Carter, but I don't consider that a 'vacation.'  We thought of lots of cool places we could go, but they all ended up sounding so complicated and too much work. We wanted our first vacation to be easy. So we chose Bryson City, North Carolina.


We are not really a beach family. I like to lay on the beach, but I'm only good for like 2-3 hours and then I need to do something. Aaron's the same way. And we didn't want to have to haul all of the stuff down for a toddler to the beach.  So we chose the mountains. I suggested Bryson City because it's situated on three rivers, so we could still do fun water activities.

We stayed four days - Monday through Friday. I will tell you that it was the best plan. We had the weekend to pack and hang out. We drove up on Monday and back on Friday. Driving back on Friday allowed us a weekend on the back end to chill out, unpack and get everything ready for the week.  We also had a going away party for our friend Josh.

Note - there will be links in this post. I'm not an affiliate and this post isn't sponsored, the links are just for helping you out!

Foxcreek Cabins
I found the best cabin on Evolve Vacation Network. I found Evolve through the Bryson City webpage. They had vacation rentals listed and that's how we found the one we stayed in. Evolve was great because they didn't have the extra booking fee of Airbnb.

We stayed in Foxcreek Cabins in the Creekside cabin. There are three cabins total, all together, but the trees are so that you don't feel like you are right beside each other. The cabin had a big front porch, wide enough for Carter to play on while we drank coffee in the morning, that also had the hot tub. You could see and hear the creek from the front porch, too. The cabin had a full kitchen, living room, two bedrooms and a bathroom. Carter loved having the living room to play in.

Our cute cabin!

View from our front porch.
The beautiful creek right by the cabin.

Hanging out on the front porch. 
We brought a lot of his food with us (puffs, cereal bars, squeeze packs, etc) and then bought groceries at Ingles supermarket.  My goal was to only eat out once a day to keep our costs down. The kitchen had plenty of pots and pans, a coffee maker (essential to this mama!) and dishes to use. I was really happy with the set-up.

Things to Do
As I mentioned above, it pretty much rained off and on the whole week. We planned a train ride for Wednesday, but didn't really make any other plans. What I like most about Bryson City is that you don't have to plan anything. We walked around downtown a few times. The downtown is small, but so cute with lots of fun shops. We stopped in to Bryson City Outdoors, and loved the tshirts and gear, but also the beer they have in the evenings. We also stopped by The Chocolate Shoppe and picked up some sugar free chocolates and truffles for me and candy for Aaron.

Fontana Lake and Dam
On Tuesday, we ate breakfast at Everett Street Diner. We talked about what to do because it was raining. We asked around about cool stuff to see and someone suggested the dam. So we drove about 45 minutes from Bryson City to the Fontana Dam. The dam is pretty cool because it's the highest dam east of the Rocky Mountains, but also because they flooded three towns to make it! Aaron, who's a wastewater treatment plant operator, really enjoyed figuring out the mechanics of it.

Looking down the mouth of one of spillways.

Carter climbing to the top!
Looking at the back of the dam.
The Little Tennessee River, which the dam flows into.
We were smart and packed some sandwiches for lunch and were able to eat at a picnic stop on the lake. We got lucky and made it under the shelter and had lunch right before it started to rain again. We also hit some really pretty scenic overlooks on the way to and from the dam.

The view from our picnic spot.

We met a really nice couple at the picnic shelter and we exchanged photography skills!


View from one of the scenic overlooks.

Deals Gap/Tail of the Dragon
On the way back from Fontana, Aaron realized we were near the Tail of the Dragon. It's a part of highways NC 129 and 28 and crosses the state line into Tennessee.  If you get car sick, I highly recommend not taking this drive.  It's 318 curves in 11 miles! And the curves are tight, hairpin curves. It's been made a destination by motorcyclists and other drivers looking for a good curvy road.  Aaron had ridden it twice on his motorcycle and decided he needed to also drive it in the Mazda CX-5. Carter slept through most of it!


Apparently, if you wreck on the Tail of the Dragon, you're supposed to leave a piece of your bike behind.
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Our big excursion on the trip was the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.  I'm not going to lie, I built this up in my head as the coolest thing ever and it ended up being pretty stressful. We purchased the first class tickets, meaning we had assigned seats and we got lunch. Carter was pretty cheap since he's under two. I thought he would love it, but it turns out that 15 month olds aren't that great at sitting still, which you have to do on the train. He also likes to be really loud, which is hard when you're trying not to disturb other people.

We did have fun, though. I enjoyed riding a train for the first time and the scenery.  The guide was funny, super sweet and thoughtful with us and Carter and provided some interesting information. We stopped at the Nantahala Outdoor Center for the layover. I've been rafting there before, but it's been at least a decade and holy crap, I did not remember it being that crazy! Aaron took Carter down to the river edge and then we went back to the bus. Too many people for me!





At the Nantahala Outdoor Center
This is also when we discovered Uncrustables!
I want to do the train again when Carter's older and will better understand and enjoy the aspect of being on a train. At one point, I did apologize to Aaron for the amount of money we spent on the train ride because I felt like it was more work than it was worth. But he pointed out that it was a cool experience, he enjoyed the train and it was something new. If you are going with a toddler, though, be prepared for a crazy kid that doesn't want to sit still.

We went to La Poblana that night for dinner. This did break the "eat out once a day" rule, but it's vacation. A lot of people recommended Guyabito's, but we were impressed that the parking lot was packed out every time we passed La Poblana.  We were not disappointed. Yes, it was a Mexican restaurant. And yes, it was wonderful.

Deep Creek
Our last full day was Thursday.  We really wanted to go hiking and tubing and the weather app kept saying that it was going to rain all day Thursday. But that morning, we had two surprises! We found out that Aaron passed his Grade 3 wastewater test and that we had a clear sky that morning! We got up, ate breakfast and headed out!

We went to Deep Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We hiked to three different waterfalls! Aaron carried Carter in the carrier and he slept most of the time.  At first, we weren't sure if we wanted to do tubing or not because it was a cooler morning, but after hiking, we were all sweaty (Aaron even had a Carter-shaped sweat stain on his back!) and decided it was a go!

Aaron and Carter in front of Juney Whank Falls
Indian Creek Falls


Family selfie with a passed out Carter 
Tom Branch Falls



Carter was not a fan of tubing. We brought his life jacket, which he did not like. He rode in the tube with Aaron and I had my own. The water was frigid! But we figured that if we didn't tube, we would regret it. We ended up going down the river once. Carter cried most of the time, half mad, half freezing and it started raining at the end. The tube rentals were only $6 each, so it was well worth the $12 that we spent.

Afterwards, we went to quite possibly my favorite place in Bryson City: Nabors. It's a drive-in right on the Tuckasegee River. We had the best burgers, fries and dessert all while sitting in the car, watching the river. It just felt so right. It wasn't anything fancy, but it was good!

On our way out of town on Friday, we stopped at Mountain Perks. I wanted a fancy coffee for the road. I also got some of their quiche. The staff were so sweet, the coffee was amazing and I pretty much drooled over the quiche. It was the perfect ending to our first family vacation with Carter.

We loved Bryson City. So much so that we actually started looking at cabins for sale in the area because we like the idea of going there every summer with Carter. It's the kind of place that good summers are made of. If you get a chance to go, I highly recommend it. I know that we will be back!

Baby Gear
I thought I would finish this post up with what we brought for Carter. Our first trip with Carter was when he was 2 months old and we drove to Pennsylvania to see Aaron's grandparents. We basically took our whole house with us. In the Corolla.  It was as ridiculous as you're imagining. I've learned a lot about packing with a toddler, though, and this is the gear we brought with us. I've provided links when possible.

Pack and Play - This is what Carter slept in at the cabin.  I would link ours but it's older (and was free!)
Fisher Price Spacesaver Highchair - Carter's still small enough (and busy enough) that he needs to some help in a chair. This is our regular high chair for him and it's super easy to travel with.
Eagle Creek Pack It Cubes - I use these exclusively to pack Carter's clothes. I put the PJs and bulky items in the big cube, the tops and bottoms in the medium and his socks and shoes in the small one. I also have a cosmetic roll-up bag that I use for his toiletries and medications.
Ergo Baby Carrier - I picked this up at a consignment sale for $50 and it was perfect for hiking!
ezpz Happy Mat - This is my favorite dish/dinner item we have bought for Carter. I have a bowl and a divided plate. They are great because the plate sticks to the table. Those little mats that you can stick to a table? Yeah, he rips those off. But these he doesn't mess with until he's done. Also, the mini plate and mini bowl works great on the high chair above! We also brought a couple sippy cups, fork and spoon sets, the drying rack and kid bowls with us.

Overall, we loved our first family trip. We loved Bryson City, we loved spending time just the three of us and we loved having an easy vacation. What was your first vacation with your baby?

Friday, August 9, 2019

Poshmark: Lessons from a Posh Ambassador

CNN Money did an article a few years ago about women and side gigs. Most do a net working marketing/multi-level marketing (me too, I did Jamberry!), but sometimes you find yourself in a side gig without realizing it. For me, that was Poshmark.



First off, I hate the term side hustle. Why do you have to hustle something? The term "hustle" can have a negative connotation to it, so I don't love it. But it's also pretty accurate here. It's my side gig and I do hustle and make it work for me.

I got into Poshmark about two years ago. One of my blogger friends told me about it and I tried it (read my original post here).  I had some decent success with it, but it wasn't until I had Carter that I got really into it. Then I realized it was actually working for me and I became a Poshmark Ambassador at the end of April 2019. 

A Poshmark Ambassador just means that I've sold at least 15 times, shared 5,000 items that aren't mine, have a quick ship time and positive rating, among other things. But I've been working hard at selling my clothes for the past year or so. Really, since right before I had Carter. I took a month or two off after that, but I've been selling pretty steadily for a year and some change. I've sold 141 items and have 13,426 shares.  I've even started buying some items and reselling.

So, after all of that, here's what I've learned.

1. It's all negotiable, within reason.
Most people, me included, are shopping on Poshmark for a good deal.  My main focus is finding Stitch Fix items and brands at a discount. I love Stitch Fix, but their prices are higher than I like to pay. I've found that I can find a lot of my favorite brands on Poshmark and, if you know how the brands work, it's worth it to take a try and buy it. Some of my favorite brands to buy are Liverpool, Market and Spruce, 41 Hawthorn, and Athleta. I also look for Untuckit for Aaron. Most people make offers on items and don't buy at the price posted. Or, if you're like me, you wait until it's a "Closet Clearout" promotion where you can also get a break on shipping if the seller offers a deal.

As a seller, when I price items, I price them a little higher than what I think they are going to sell for simply because I know that I'm going to be making offers and sending discounts. The prices are still set to sell and, some hot items, will sell at those prices.

As a buyer, you also have to take into account the fees that Poshmark puts on sellers when sending an offer. I had a JuJuBe pump bag, retails for $125, for sale at $75. Someone offered me $25. That was rude and insulting. I didn't even respond. Another person offered me $45, which was lower than what I wanted, so I countered with $55 and they took it. When I make offers as a buyer, I try to think about what I would be willing to accept as a seller. And when looking at offers that a buyer has made, I think about what I would want to pay if I was the one selling it.

2. It's a social market.
If you're getting on Poshmark to set a price and then just let people purchase, it is the wrong market for you. Ebay is probably more your speed. On Poshmark, you want to grow your audience by following other members and sharing their items. They, in turn, share yours and they are seen by a wider audience. Sometimes, that gets you more followers. When I'm doing my Poshmark "work" of sharing items, I often share others' items MORE than I share my own. My followers have significantly increased since becoming an Ambassador because now I'm recommended as a Top Seller for others to follow.

3. Customer care is big.
I didn't worry so much about my rating until I realized that I was making decent money on Poshmark and wanted to grow my sales. But, I always took care of my customers. I keep thank you notes on hand, use some tissue paper and try to protect the items when packaging. I send the lighter items, like tops, in mailing envelopes. I personally have a fear of cutting into something when opening my own bags from shipments, so I treat my customers the same and put their items in large ziploc bags to provide extra protection. I get comments on my packaging on a regular basis in my ratings and I've had a few repeat customers, which is cool on such a large platform.

4. Know what sells - it's not tops and pants!
The things that sell the quickest for me are swim suits, specialty workout items and bras/intimates.  Things I NEVER would have thought to sell originally. I've listed 10 swim items and have sold 8 of them. Specialty workout items like spin shorts (padded) and the bra tops from Athleta and Lululemon sell within a day or two. I've sold every bra and pajama set that I've put up.  Tops and bottoms will sell, but they take some time, so be ready to sit on those. Shoes are really hard to sell, mostly because I think most people are like me and need to try them on. Your higher end brands will always do pretty well, though.

5. Keep packaging items you get from your own orders and reuse!
This goes back to customer care - you want to package well, but you also don't want to spend a fortune on it! Especially if you're trying to make a profit. You can use, and are encouraged to use, USPS Priority Mail boxes. They're free and you can get them at pretty much any USPS location. I like to use the envelopes for smaller/lighter items. But some things, like pump bags, don't fit in those boxes. So I keep any good shipping boxes I receive. I also keep the plastic sleeves that items come in and reuse those. I've also recently started keeping the cards that my earrings come on and reuse those as well. This is good for the environment, but also cuts down on having to buy packaging.

6. You can sell anything, even if it's stained, if you call out the issues.
Be honest. Be honest. Be honest. I really don't know how much I need to say that, but be honest. I've bought things that have small stains, fabric pulls, etc. I've had people buy the same from me. But your photos, comments and price need to reflect that. I take a ridiculous number of photos, but I also don't want anyone saying, "I didn't know about that!" I actually had to contact a buyer because I sold a PJ set and had it listed as a Large when the top was a Medium and the bottom a Large. They were fine with it, but I also had to be ready to cancel the order and issue a refund in case they weren't.

7. Be a good buyer.
Sellers make money when the buyer accepts the item. We work hard to package it and get it out quickly. When the item comes, check it out that day/night. Accept it and rate it based on the shipping speed, the accuracy of the item. Not if the item fits you. And if you're happy, leave a note. Or if you're mad, leave a note. But don't wait two days to accept the item. Especially if you're a seller!

I love Poshmark. It's been a great way for me to clean out my closet and to replace a lot of things. Now that my baby weight is off, a lot of my work clothes from the past year are too big and, quite frankly, I want some new stuff! Poshmark is a great way to get "new" items for yourself on a budget and make some money on items you no longer use. If you're selling on Posh, drop your name below so I can follow you and share your items!  If you decide to sign up for Poshmark, use my code "ZINNLIFE" to get $10 off (I get $10 too!).  Happy poshing! 

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Century Club: 100+ Rides with Peloton

Back in November, I posted about getting my new Peloton bike. You can read about that here. I originally planned to ride it for a month and then do a review. That obviously didn't happen. Then I wrote a draft post at fifty and that didn't happen either. It doesn't matter. I've hit that first big mark - 100 rides, the Century Club. And I felt like that this was a great way to come back from my blogging hiatus.



The question I always get asked the most, sometimes with apology, is if I use my Peloton. Most home gym equipment gets bought with great expectations and then becomes a clothing rod. At least that's what happened in the house I grew up in! But I do actually use my Peloton. As of today, I'm at 188 total workouts since November 2018. That includes rides, stretching, strength and a couple yoga classes.

For me, what makes Peloton different than just having a piece of equipment is the community. Is it the same as being in a class with an instructor you've known for years that calls you out when you're slacking AND when you're killing it? No. But I love that I get high fives from people that are riding at the same time as me. I usually do on demand rides because of my schedule, but I really wanted to do a live ride for my 100th ride. I wanted that call out from Alex Toussaint! I did! But it just wasn't working out for my schedule and I didn't want to get behind, so I just went and did a fun ride with Cody. And I got SO. MANY. high fives from people that were riding with me.  These people didn't know me, but they knew that I had accomplished a big goal and were proud of me. People you don't know that are supporting you is awesome. And rare.

The next big question I get is schedule. When do I ride and how. Mostly, I ride before work. My leader board name is #5AMmamarides. Cause that's when I ride, between 5 and 5:30 AM. I mostly do on demand classes so I can stick with what I like. But I've done some live classes when I have a day off or a weekend and a more flexible schedule. I'm not going to lie, though, I love my on demand classes. I choose the class and instructor I want, I have a decent idea what's coming up during the class and I know the playlist.

Once you do Peloton, I think it's pretty natural to pick your favorite instructors. I've taken most of them at least once. But there are a few that I always come back to and it's all based on the type of ride that I want. If I want a good butt kicking, Jess King is my girl. She takes no crap from you and puts together some tough rides. If I need a good mood boost, I go with Cody Rigsby. He's from North Carolina, hilarious and always says, "It ain't that deep!" Sometimes I need to hear that. My other two faves are Emma Lovewell and Alex Toussaint. I love their music and their workouts. Alex has a Club Bangers series that is my FAVE and Emma just did a full Red Hot Chili Peppers ride. Honestly, I think all of the instructors are good. I have others that I like, but those are the four that I regularly rotate through.


My favorite thing about Peloton is that this is about me. I have no issue telling people that my biggest struggle in becoming a mom was the loss of identity. Before Carter, I was so independent. And then he came and my whole world got turned upside down. I had to figure out who Sarah is now, not the Sarah I was before.  Peloton let me pick up and continue the part of me that loves to work out and feel strong. I don't have to choose between doing something for me or spending time with my kid. I get to do both. It's helped me get off my baby weight and get my A1C and my cholesterol down. I get to watch my progress by beating my personal records and beating challenges. I also love that I get to target areas I'm working on. I'm doing the Crush Your Core series and I've been adding on arm segments after my rides to work on getting my arms toned up. It's not all about the bike and I love it.  I can honestly say that this is the best thing I've done for myself since having Carter. Cause you know what? We get to be important, too!

If you have any questions about Peloton, feel free to ask them! I'm happy to share the love! And if you're thinking about buying, use my code 4X8PUM to receive $100 in accessories (I get a credit,
too!)

Monday, April 15, 2019

Favorite Finds (Lately!)

Guys it has been for-ev-er since I posted. But, that's life.  I've been working on losing the rest of this baby weight and have been in "treat yo-self!" mode for a while. I have found some really good stuff and I just really wanted to share it with you! And I don't make commission off any of these links, I just really, really like this stuff.

Pink Ombre Raffia Earring

Photo from Holleygirl.com
A girl that I used to buy LulaRoe from started her own boutique called Holleygirl.com. I always loved her style and, truthfully, it was a big reason why I bought so much from her! I picked up these earrings, a pair of shoes (see below) and a top from her new shop. These are a bit bigger than my usual style but I've been wearing them on repeat and have gotten so many compliments! They're light and fun and perfect for spring and summer!



Photo from Holleygirl.com

I picked these up with the earrings. They run a little big, but I didn't want to pay to ship them back, so I kept them. Wearing sock liners has helped! I've had them for a week and have already worn them twice! I do recommend sizing down. I'm between an 8.5 and 9 and the 8.5 is almost too big. They are really fun and I've gotten lots of compliments on these too. Also, $26 for a fun pair of trendy shoes is just right.




I have an impromptu mid-week day off when my office moved buildings this past week and I treated myself to a little shopping.  Loft has always been one of my go-to stores. In fact, as I've been fitting back into my pants, pretty much all of them are from Loft. I was looking for some capris and I found this cute, bright top. I wore it to work last Thursday and I can tell you it's going to be on repeat. My favorite part is the sleeves - a fun detail, but they don't get in your way. Bonus - it's also in plus sizes!

 
Photo from NordstromRack.com

Another item I found during my impromptu day off! Nordstrom Rack is one of my favorite places to get lost for a few hours. I rarely actually buy stuff, but I have found some awesome pieces, including this super comfy denim jacket. Jackets are usually not my thing because they're sto stiff, but this one is buttery soft. I don't feel like my movement is restricted at all and it's under $50.  It's also available in plus sizes. I highly, highly recommend it!

I've also bought a couple tops and some super cute shoes off Poshmark, like these shoes!


I probably need to chill out on the shopping for a while, but it's nice to not hate your body and to try and clothes and they actually fit. Let me know if you end up picking any of these items up, I'd love to twin you!
 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Measuring Success: January 2019

I wasn't planning on doing a Measuring Success update for January. It was a short blog month and I didn't want it to feel like it was all about my weight. But then I got Carter's first birthday photos back and then I listened to this amazing sermon on Sunday and had an 'a ha!' moment. So, you get a Measuring Success post.

Back in early January, I shared that I'm now pre-diabetic and am eating a low(er) carb diet to help control my weight and A1C number. It's been a month since I started that journey and I'm down 5 pounds. That's a modest weight loss for a month, but that's a really good number for me. In the past, that would have taken two to three months. I'm really proud of it. But that's not what makes me want to share.

We did Carter's first birthday photos a few weekends ago. The fact that we've even done them and that we're almost to a year is crazy and a whole other post. But, we got back those photos. And I love every single one of them. But I really love this one of me and my boy.

Photo by Linsley Schneider Photography
This is a woman that is beaming with love for her little boy. She's proud to be his mom. She's not worried about how fat she looks. Don't get me wrong, I totally adjusted my shirt a few times during that session, but mostly, I was having fun with Carter and Aaron. Those photos were about my little man and us as a family, not just me. But we also took them so that I would have a few photos of me with Carter that a) aren't a selfie and b) aren't horribly unflattering because husbands have an uncanny ability to take the most horrific photo of you. There are entire memes about this, so I know it's not just me. But that day, I felt pretty. I wasn't awkward, I didn't mind being in front of the camera. I wasn't sure how those photos were going to come out and that was okay.

But they came out beautifully. And all I see is how much I love that kid. Five pounds isn't a huge number, but feeling like I can do this, like it's something that can be handled and not this overwhelming scary thing is huge.

And then I sat in church on Sunday. And one of the campus pastors was preaching about feeling hopeless. He read some twitter posts with #hopeless. They were pretty funny. He then asked us to write down what we felt hopeless about. And I thought. And I thought. And I honestly couldn't come up with something. Usually, it would be my weight or my size. My health. But, it's not hopeless. Part of that is because I've learned that I can do this in my own way. But it's also because after I spoke with my doctor, I gave it all to God. I decided what I would do, but I also put it in his hands. And I left it.

So here I am. Not hopeless. So proud of how beautiful I feel looking at this photo and so very, very proud of this amazing little man. He keeps me on my toes, but he is the sweetest. He's also teaching more about myself than I ever thought possible. Mostly, he's teaching me to love myself a little more, trust God and that it's going to be okay.

And don't worry, you'll get to see the rest of his photos soon. He turns one this month and I can't wait to show him off!


Friday, January 18, 2019

Low(er) Carb Me: Why and How it Looks for My Life

Over the course of my life, I've done multiple diets. I've done Weight Watchers (twice), Whole Thirty (twice, modified) and Paleo.  It's always been weight related, but more along the lines of "I want to lose weight to look better" not "I need to lose weight to deal with some health issues," which is where I am today.  And, thanks to my doctor, I'm now going low(er) carb.


How I Got Here
I've always avoided low carbohydrate diets because, hello, I'm southern. Sweet tea. Cupcakes. Pasta. All the good things in life.  For the most part, I assumed that if I ate fairly decent and worked out a lot, it would all take care of itself. And, for the most part, it did. I did really well with Weight Watchers, losing 50 lbs in college and keeping most of it off until about four to five years ago. You can read all about that hereI tackled it again with working out like crazy and mostly eating okay. That time I struggled big time to lose weight. It wasn't until I did Whole 30 and Paleo (ahem, low or no carb) that I actually lost a good amount of the weight. That should have been a big clue, but that sweet tea. It's part of my soul. 

So, February 2016. When I had Carter, I was a really ugly number that I won't say. But I will say that I gained 50 lbs while pregnant with him. And I worked out up until 34 weeks. Let that sink in. 50 lbs while still working out 3 times a week up until essentially the last month. I had pre-eclampsia with him and was basically put on blood pressure medication to even be able to leave the hospital. 


31 weeks and still going strong!
Those five days we spent in the hospital were mostly about my blood pressure.  The pre-eclampsia. The magnesium I was on that he subsequently got some of and caused sleepiness, delayed hunger and jaundice. My crazy blood pressure spikes. Those five days were on me. And it was hard, made me a little crazy, but we were able to leave and we went on with life. 

I started working out again when I was cleared. I lost about 30 lbs of my baby weight within the first month or two, but the rest just hung on for dear life. But trying to breastfeed and do a diet weren't working so I didn't even think about working on my weight until after I weaned from pumping at 6 months. 


1 week post partum vs. 3 months
Fast forward to about two weeks ago. I had my annual physical and my six month check-in since the last time I saw my doctor. My triglycerides were high. My weight was high. And my A1C was 5.9. Pre-diabetic is 5.7. My doctor gave me homework to work on my weight, but mostly, to reduce my carbohydrates. So, here we are. 

What it Means for Me
Before I had Carter, I was healthy. Or at least I thought I was. I had an OB/GYN, but that was it. Now I have a General Practitioner I see every 6 months, a cardiologist and an OB/GYN. It's kind of crazy, but I also feel lucky that I get a chance to fix this before it gets worse.

Part of this means I don't get to say "oh the scale doesn't matter" any more. Now the scale matters a heck of a lot. It's still not the end all be all and I know that some weeks will be worse and some will be better, but I also know that the number on the scale has to go down. I can't dismiss it and say, "oh I'm losing inches" anymore. The number has to go down or I stay on blood pressure meds and I go from pre-diabetic to diabetic. That's kind of terrifying, by the way.

It also means a life style change. If you've fought your weight your whole life, or even a few years, you know that diets don't really work. At some point, you stop them and then you gain the bad habits back and the weight that went with them. That's why I liked Weight Watchers - it taught you a new lifestyle. So I've been working to find a low(er) carb lifestyle that works for me.

What it Looks Like
I didn't go total low carb. I'm not doing keto, because I like to be realistic. I work full time and have a baby. Things need to be easy. And I also need to want to eat whatever it is we're having for dinner or else I'm real quick to suggest a Cookout or Taco Bell run. And the hubs rarely says no to either of those. I also know that high blood pressure and diabetes is genetic for me, so these changes need to be things I can stick to. Not something that I can brush off with "Oh, I'm going to do this until I lose weight and then go back." Nope. Not an option. These changes need to be for good, because I'm fairly certain it doesn't get easier as you get older.

Here are the biggest changes I've made:

I only drink my coffee in the morning and then no more sugary drinks.  This hurts my heart. Big time. But I was drinking way to much sugar! This means no more sweet tea, no Diet Mountain Dew, no extra Starbucks runs. Sigh. How this looks in real life is drinking water in the morning on the way to an appointment instead of my coffee because I know I'm going to get Starbucks afterwards.  And to be clear, coffee by itself isn't bad. It's the sugars in how you make the coffee (ie - my lattes with syrups) that are bad. I do still allow myself a glass of wine, but only when I have extra calories at the end of the day.

I changed my snacks at work to good fats and protein. We've been pretty lazy about choosing good snacks lately. Apparently most people do their snacking at night, I do mine during the day at my desk.  I was doing a lot of crackers, chips, cookies, etc. Now I've graduated to 100 calorie nut packs (portion control!), wheat thins with Laughing Cow cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese. I've even eaten lunch meat and a slice of cheese as a snack when I was out of carbs for the day. I still allow myself Milano cookies for my lunch dessert and the occasional Hershey's kiss. So far, this has worked out really well for me. I don't really miss my old snacks and I'm not wasting precious carbohydrates on snacks when I could use them on a better dinner.

I changed my macros. I use MyFitness Pal to track what I eat. I've used it for a few years now and it works well for me. I load everything in that morning that I plan to eat that day. I meal plan on the weekends, so I pretty much always know what I'm eating for lunch (leftovers from the night before) and dinner. My macros were 50% carbs, 30% fat and 20% protein. I did some research to find out what low carb was (25% carbs) and then found somewhere I was more comfortable. I'm doing 35% carbs, 35% protein and 30% fat. And I'm finding it pretty easy to stick to those ratios (or somewhere close) just doing my changes.

We cook most nights and only eat out twice a week. This was a big change. I'd gotten really lax the last few months about cooking. It was so much easier to just to get take out somewhere than me try and cook a meal. We'd already talked about this before the doctor's visit because hello January credit card bill. It was scary. But I also know that it's easier for me to make better choices at home than out. I got an Instant Pot and the new SkinnyTaste One and Done cookbook for Christmas and I've been wearing them out! I've simplified the meals I make and I try to choose ones that are better for us, have more protein and, if they have carbs, they're good ones. Like fruits, vegetables, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, etc.


I focus on better choices. My ultimate goal is to lose weight. I have weight goals in mind, some I've even voiced to Aaron. I might even publish them soon, who knows. The next goal is to reduce the number of carbohydrates that I eat and, when I do eat them, to choose better ones. So I've focused on better choices. This past Sunday, we went to my niece's birthday party. I ate two cookies and a cupcake. But those carbs were worth it! My better choices that day were: I didn't eat the chips at Jason's Deli, I brought my own drink to the party and drank that instead (Crystal Light Lemon Tea), I ordered a salad at Wendy's that night for dinner and drank water instead of getting a diet soda. I did eat more carbs than I should have, but those better choices added up to a lot of carbs that I didn't eat. And that's what I'm focusing on. At least one better choice a day. A salad instead of a burger. Drinking water instead of coffee at home so I can drink a Starbucks. Saying no to the donuts in the break room and not even looking at them. Getting water instead of sweet tea at a restaurant.

And it's working. Because I've been doing this for two weeks and I've lost 2.8 lbs. I've had co-workers ask me if I'm losing baby weight.


I was working on the same 2-3 lbs from July until December, if that tells you anything.  I'll be posting some recipes I've found that we really, really like and other stuff that works for me and this new lifestyle. You can also follow more on my instagram @thezinnlifeblog.

What are some good choices you've made lately?

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Hello 2019! Challenges and Goals for the Year

We've been in 2019 for two weeks! I'm starting this year off right - I've been riding my Peloton and cooking! I started writing this post two weeks ago and am just now posting it, so new year, still same me.  Also, as of today, I have an 11-month old. Whoa!


Last year, I chose a word for the year and set three goals. I chose 'grace' knowing that 2018 was going to be a big year and a bunch of life changes and boy was it!


Carter Hollon joined our family February 16. He was two weeks early thanks to pre-eclampsia. Being a mom has the been the best and hardest part of my life. In a matter of seconds, everything you once knew is gone and this whole new world takes over. Over the past year, I've struggled with identity loss, finding balance, finally realizing, and accepting, that rarely is there total balance.  Choosing 'grace' as my word was huge for me. It released me from so many expectations that I would have put on myself, making those struggles that much harder. Whenever I felt like I failed, I remembered to give myself some grace. And for the most part, it worked. Crying and buying things also helped.  

My three goals were to survive (which we did!), keep blogging (which I kinda did?) and to be healthy. If you take into account all that grace above, I'd say I did okay!

I've been thinking about my word for this year and I'm going with 'intentional'. I want to be intentional with my time and focus on family and relationships. I want to be intentional with Carter and what we do with the little time we have with him, his toys, the books we read, etc. I want to be intentional with our money and save more and spend less on Cookout and Taco Bell. I want to spend our money on experiences with my family. Finally, I want to be intentional with myself.

That's a big one.

So, if you follow this blog, you know that I've struggled with my weight and getting healthy. It's pretty much why this blog exists.  Turns out having a baby pretty much kills your body. I've been on blood pressure medication since Carter was born. I wasn't able to leave the hospital without it. Now, I'm also pre-diabetic. Both of those are hereditary for me, but also have everything to do with my current weight. The good news is that both of those are easily controlled by diet and exercise. The bad news, is that my diet now actually plays a role. RIP sweet tea and lovely carbs. But I need to take care of me, so I will.

In keeping with my 2019 word 'intentional,' these are the challenges and goals I've set for this year:

1. Do something athletic or to move every day. I'm not saying do a full-blown workout everyday, but rather, something that gets me moving. This is actually the winter challenge for Peloton. They've challenged their members to do a class every day from January 7 - February 5. It can be a full blown class or just a 5 minute stretch. And with the Peloton, I have no excuses. I can do a ride, yoga, a 10 minute core or arms workout, or 5 minute stretch. But doing something that gets me moving every day makes me focus on my health much more than I ever have before.  So far, I've only missed one day since starting this challenge on the 5th!

2. Eat out twice a week or less. I started this challenge for January with Aaron. We eat out WAY too much. My credit card bill in January was a clear indication of that. And it's not even that great - it's a bunch of dirty chinese (you know, the places in the strip mall), Cookout and Taco Bell. If we only eat out twice a week, we are going to choose better places. And I'm going to eat a lot better!  Do I think this will always happen? No, that's why it's a challenge!

3. Do date night/date day monthly. Ya'll, I love my doctor. I never had a general practitioner (GP) before Carter because I never got sick (that had nothing to do with my immune system and everything to do with not having a kid!), but now I have one and she is amazing. She also has five kids and understands the working mom struggle. She suggested we do date "days" and let daycare do the babysitting. We've done it a few times, but I want to make sure we do it or a date night at least monthly.

4. Do a family day once a month. I was writing out these challenges and goals and I thought about the fact that I had nothing for Carter! I don't really want to emphasize things like "no screen time" or other things that just make me feel like a bad parent. Instead, I want to focus on things we can do together. Our weekends tend to be full of errands and social gatherings, etc. I want to focus more on the three of us and do something as a family once a month. That could be going to one of the museums in the Triangle, going to the park, a day trip somewhere, etc. But a day or afternoon that is just about us being together.

5. Be better about blogging. I kind of fell off the face of the earth blog-wise after Carter. It's hard. I work full time, mom and wife full time. So I don't always have time. But I'm forever thinking about things I could blog about and then forget to sit down and actually do it. So, this is me, intentionally stating that I'm going to do better at this. Will I? Who knows. Hopefully! 


So, this is me in the beginning of 2019. Starting my journey to a healthy me all over again, mom to an almost one year old, community development professional (you know, my real job) and, hopefully, still a blogger. Let's do this guys!