Friday, June 23, 2017

Where Have You Been All My Life - Favorite Finds Part I

I learned a long time ago that while super creative people that come up with totally new ideas are amazing, they are fairly rare and that there is a certain art to taking what others have created a finding a way to make it your own. One of my former bosses used to say, "We don't reinvent the wheel, we just tweak it." Bloggers are pretty much the same. We take good ideas and adapt them to us and our readers. My idea for this favorite things post came from some of my favorite bloggers' series about Friday favorites.

I probably won't do this post every Friday, so I just left it at Favorite Finds. Also, alliteration makes me happy. Sometimes, you just find new items and think, "Where has this been all my life? Do other people know?!?" and you have to share it. These are my recent finds!

Photo courtesy of
Schick Intuition Razor
I'm sure everyone and their brother knows about this razor, but I am cheap. I hate spending lots of money on razors, so I never bought this one. But the refills for my usual razor were out and I had an Ibotta coupon for this one, so I bought it. And holy life changer! I can shave my legs in about two minutes! I don't have to lather them up first, then shave. You just shave! It's amazing! I am slightly annoyed that they are more expensive than what I normally use, but I consider the fact that I will show up to the gym with hairy legs less often a win. 

My friend Traci over at Choosing Better told me about Poshmark. I am what you would call obsessed. Poshmark is like an online consignment store. It's great because it's on your phone, so people are always looking at the site! You can sell pretty much anything on there! Traci told me about it at a blogging class, but I took my sweet time using it. One day I posted a few items and once the notifications started rolling it, I was hooked!

If you've never tried Poshmark, you can use my reference code URABC and we both get a $5 credit! Win win! Traci has a really good post on how to tell on Poshmark and it's what I've used and have already sold three items in a week! Yay! You can find her post here.  It's helped me sell five items in about two weeks!

What I like most about Poshmark is that it's easy. It's easy to post your items, to share your items and to ship them - they send you a prepaid label, you pack the item up and ship it out via the USPS. When you're listing, you can see exactly the amount of money you'll make off the sale. It's a great way to earn some spending cash on the clothes you don't wear. It's also a great place to find items that might be out of your usual budget - like Lululemon! 

Photo courtesy of

Origins Mask Brush
The last time I was at Origins, I picked up some items for me and gifts for my mom and mother-in-law. I was pretty close to a free gift, so the lady suggested I buy the mask brush to get me to the free item. I thought it would be dumb, but that thing is actually really useful! Who knew?! If you do face masks regularly, which I now do weekly, it's a super easy way to apply your mask and apply it evenly. And it's only $11. Not a bad deal!

Banana Chips
These are my newest snack obsession! I am not a huge banana fan as I need them to be exactly right to not be gross when I eat them. They can't be too mushy and they can't be too hard. Banana chips are the answer to that issue! I first realized I liked banana chips when I had them in the new Sargento Sweet Balanced breaks (another good snack option). I found myself wanting to eat all the banana chips first! So I grabbed a bag of them and it was love and it was love at first crunch! Try some if you haven't!

What are some of your favorite finds?  Happy Friday friends!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Cruising Alaska Part II - It's Not Just for Old People! Adventures in Alaska

Raise your hand if you think Alaskan cruises are for old people? I'm raising my hand with you because I kind of thought they were too. I love to travel and I have always wanted to do an Alaskan cruise, but I still thought they were for old people. But really, they're for all adventuring people!

Now, let's be clear. If you want to bask in the sun in a bathing suit and do nothing, this is not the cruise for you. Some places, like Ketchikan, don't see that much sun and don't expect to sunbathe. At all. But if you like nature, cool history and really good seafood, you'll be just fine!

Let's talk the fun stuff. Let's talk our adventures!

Seattle, WA
We sailed out of Seattle. I specifically wanted Seattle for one reason and one reason only. If you know me well, then you can guess it: Starbucks.  Seattle is home to the first Starbucks and my obsession with Starbucks is strong, ya'll. But I also love seeing new cities and Seattle seemed cool.

We had a little extra time before boarding on Saturday and we had a full day after disembarking the following Saturday. Here are our Seattle highlights!

Lunch at the Space Needle
We did this on the front end. Fun fact, it was Pride week and this was parade day! We thought it was going to be terrible getting around, but we were in walking distance so it was just fine! It was a really gorgeous, clear day, so we were able to see everything, including our ship!

You could even see Mt. Rainier in the distance! Such a pretty day!

First Starbucks
No trip to Seattle is complete for any Starbucks aficionado without a trip to the first Starbucks! Fun fact, this isn't the actual first Starbucks. It's actually a few blocks from there, but I didn't care. It was a 30 minutes wait to get in line and I happily told my family they could leave me there if they wanted, but I was doing it. They stuck it out with me and I got some new Starbucks mugs! Whenever I travel to new places, I always try to get a Starbucks "You are Here" mug. I have quite the collection going!

Duck Boat Tour
Dad's knee was bugging him at this point after standing in line at Starbucks, so this ended up being Aaron, Mom and I. It was so much fun! We rode around the City and through the lake! Our favorite part were the boat houses.  We're also pretty sure we saw Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, so that was cool too!

Juneau, AL
Juneau was our first stop and had the most to do by far. I've told everyone that I would love to go back to Alaska, I just don't know that I would cruise it again. It's a great introduction to some of the towns, but I'd like more time in some of them! We did one of our two big excursions in Juneau and we kicked around town afterwards.

Helicopter Ride and Glacier Walk
Two big bucket list items for me right here - helicopter ride and walking on a glacier! I'm sorry, if you go to Alaska, you better go see a glacier. If you don't, you're doing it wrong. Better if you can touch it and walk on it! We got to fly over the glacier to see it - it's HUGE! We were then dropped off on the glacier and learned facts about glaciers, how old they are, if they're growing or shrinking (this one was shrinking) and we got to drink glacier water!

The view of the glacier from the helicopter. You can see how far back it goes!

You can really see the texture of the glacier in this photo. 

Aaron did a "glacier push up" to drink some of the glacier water!

Red Dog Saloon and Crab Legs
The Red Dog Saloon is one of those tourist trap places that you can't help but love. The waitresses are dressed as wenches and they sing dirty bar songs, many of which I knew from my Irish bar-going days in Fayetteville!  Also, crab legs are a must in Alaska! This is where Aaron learned how to eat crab legs!

Sitka, AL
Have you ever seen the move "The Proposal" with Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock? It's set in Sitka!  Sitka was my second favorite place and where we did our other excursion.

Wildlife Watching and Volcanic Beach
We went wildlife watching in Sitka. We saw a bear, lots of eagles, sea lions, and whales! So many whales! We also visited a beach with volcanic ash sand.

This is a photo from the beach. The sand is black from the volcano. It was also cool to do this beach because they usually aren't able to get to it due to weather.

Eagle! We saw so many of them!

We got really, really lucky when we were out watching whales. They were right beside our boat! We saw at least three or four of them and one even did came out of the water and did a back flip!

Our guides were super cool on this trip and drew a map for us (like they do everyone!) showing our route, where we visited and what we saw. 

Ketchikan, AL
We were only in Ketchikan for four hours and it rained the. whole. time. Not like a misty rain, but a get you wet to your bones rain. And I was determined to see some totem poles.

Totem Heritage Center
Alaska has some great history with their totem poles and we learned about a Totem Heritage Center in Ketchikan that had collected some of the old totems and had preserved them. We went on an adventure to find them!

The Totem Heritage Center was not within walking distance, so we rented one of these cars. It has a little more power than a golf cart, but not by much! We drove through town until we fond the Totem Heritage Center.

But we found it!

So many old totems! And there were plaques that explained what each one meant.  Some represent death, some marriage, some are familial and other are territorial.

The last stop on our cruise was Victoria, British Columbia.  I don't really have anything on here for our adventures there because we really didn't do much there.  We walked around town, had a gelato and some coffee.  We didn't pull in until 6:00 PM and most of the places had closed by then. So we just hung out and then headed for the ship. 

Sarah's Tips:
  • There are so many things to do in Alaska, but most of the really cool excursions aren't cheap.  Pick one or two things you can't do anywhere else and spend the other days in town. You will still have lots of fun!
  • Get on a glacier! Or at least go see one! I don't get much into politics on here, but many glaciers are receding, not growing. They are still huge and majestic and not like anything else you will ever see, but they might not always be there. Take time to go see one!
  • Alaska is all about nature, but people also live there. Learn about the people and the history while you're there, too.
  • Eat! Eat! Eat! The ships has food, yes, but I guarantee you it's not nearly as good as what you can get in town. And if you find a shack selling crab legs with picnic tables out front, even better!
We loved Alaska and I totally get why people go back so many times! I would definitely go back to Juneau or Sitka and Aaron wants to eventually do one of the land adventures too and see Denali. If Alaska is on your bucket list, don't wait until you're old to do it. Do it while you can still adventure!

Looking at the Hubbard Glacier from the bow of the ship! 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cruising Alaska Part I - Planning Your Cruise

Alaska is one those places that is on most people's bucket lists and if it's not, it should be! About this time last year, we did an Alaskan cruise with my parents. We wanted to do one more big trip before we started talking kids and it was also my dad's 60th birthday, so we went for it. I didn't have a blog last year, so I only really posted photos on Facebook. But now that I have a blog, I thought it would be fun to do a couple of posts on our cruise!

My dad snapped this amazing shot of another cruise ship in Yakutat Bay. 

An Alaskan cruise is not like a regular cruise, at least from what I have heard. We hadn't actually cruised before this trip, so I have nothing to compare it to. But I can share what we experienced, what we loved (and didn't) and what we learned! I'm going to split this into two posts - Planning Your Cruise and Our Favorite Experiences.

Once we decided that we were actually going through with this cruise idea, I did a lot of research. I'd never cruised before and Alaska is big! I wanted to make sure that I knew all that I could. Pinterest was amazing and full of great information.  What I'm telling you probably isn't anything new, just what worked for us and how and why we planned our vacation the way we did.

Choosing Your Cruise Line
Choosing your line and your route can be done interchangeably, depending on what your major concern is (route vs. ship). Your main cruise line choices for Alaska are going to be Carnival, Holland America, Norwegian, Celebrity and Princess.  The ships are smaller to fit through the Inside Passage.  One blogger wrote, and it has stuck with me, that you go to Alaska for Alaska, not for what you can do on the boat. And it's so, so true. Your Caribbean boats have more attractions, more food, more...everything. But on an Alaskan cruise,you're up pretty early to visit the towns and most of the cruising is scenic, so you're up most of the day. There isn't a ton of nightlife and, honestly, when you have from 7 am to 11 am in a town, you really don't want to be up super late the night before.

Our ship!
We chose Holland America because my parents had cruised with them before and had a really good experience. They were also right in line with Norwegian on their pricing. We had decided before that we weren't interested in Carnival for this cruise and wanted a nicer line.

  • Smaller ship, so getting off and on the boat didn't take forever. 
  • Food was good (pro), but was also what I call hoity-toity food. A meat and potatoes dude like my dad would not be happy (con)
  • Staff were super nice and attentive. Mom did have some words with one of the ladies taking reservations for dinner, but no issues after that! 
  • Smaller ship so there wasn't as much to do. There was a library with games and books, which we utilized at night. There was also a casino, which Aaron utilized, some shopping, and entertainment lounge.
  • Smaller ship so there weren't many food options. There were options, but not as many as I would have liked. I have heard people say that you can eat and eat and eat on a cruise and by God, I wanted that! But I didn't get it. They had a coffee bar, a few restaurants (reservation and one cafeteria style), but that was about it. Not many choices.  
  • Food options were limited. Let's say my goal was to mostly NOT eat on the boat. It's also Alaska and I love seafood, so that played a factor, too.
Sarah's Tips
  • Talk to others that have cruised to see what line they did and what they enjoyed. We actually met a couple at breakfast one morning that had cruised Alaska multiple times (apparently, this is normal) and said that Holland America was the best and had the best food. I don't know that was our experience, but it was definitely good information. 
  • Look at the decks for each ship. See what ship you're going to be on for your dates/route and what kind of food and entertainment options there are.  
Choosing Your Route
Alaska cruises for the Inside Passage have a standard route that they do: leave either Seattle or Vancouver, Juneau, Glacier Bay or Hubbard Glacier, Ketchikan, Sitka or Skagway, Victoria or Prince Charles and then back to Seattle or Vancouver. Your ports that you stop at in Alaska generally depend on your line.  Holland America always goes to Sitka and Norwegian and Carnival mostly goes to Skagway. Almost all lines go to Ketchikan and Juneau. 

Edge of the Hubbard Glacier in Yakutat Bay next to a mountain. 
Our route was Seattle, Juneau, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria B.C., and Seattle.  We chose this route because we really wanted to visit Seattle. When we scheduled our flights, we made sure to have extra time on the front and back end of the trip to explore Seattle. I'm so glad we did, it was amazing!  Sitka was one of our favorite towns and where we did one of our two big excursions.  More about that tomorrow!

Sarah's Tips
  • Figure out the cities you know you want to visit. If you've been to Seattle, maybe port out of Vancouver. If you've been to Glacier Bay, choose the route with Hubbard Glacier.
  • Check out the excursions that you can do in each town on a route. Juneau and Sitka had the most of the towns we visited. The others were great for just kicking around town. 
  • The month that you decide to travel will also help determine your route. June-July is the mid-season for Alaska cruises and when most of the excursions are available!

Choosing Your Room
I've heard that for Caribbean cruises, you don't really need a window. Most of your time is not spent in your room.  On an Alaskan cruise, that's about half true.

When I was doing my research, there were a lot of people that said that balcony was the only way. We did a window and were really pleased with it. Most of the time, we were out on the deck, especially during scenic cruising, or we watched from many of the restaurants and lounge areas.  I did enjoy the window for the days when we were feeling lazy and laid on the bed and watched the towns disappear into the distance. On our line, your room level also determined certain perks like if you had standing reservations or not.

The view from our cabin!
Sarah's Tips
  • Check your budget. Do you have enough budget to upgrade to room with a window or balcony? Does it mean cutting doing something else fun, like a big excursion? If so, don't do it. Always go for the big excursion. If you budget allows for it, go for it!

Ya'll, there are so, so, SO many posts about what to pack for Alaska. What not to pack for Alaska. Here's the down and dirty: lots of layers, nothing really fancy, casual.

Other than your fancy dinner nights, you won't need a dress or dress pants. Yoga and athletic pants are totally acceptable, even welcomed, for most activities. Alaska is an outdoor playground. You'll be whale watching, bird watching, hanging out with puppies and fisherman, and all that doesn't really require fancy clothes. In fact, they'll be in the way. One of our tour guides told us that everyone in Alaska lives off the land in some way. Remember that and you'll be good!

Let's be honest - this is what we looked like most of the time!
Formal night! Dress is from Rent the Runway.
What We Wore/Was Useful
  • Jackets - You only need one or two. It gets really windy and chilly on deck and in Ketchikan it's pretty much always raining. So a jacket with a hood is great.  If you have one that has a lining that zips in and out, that's the best. Otherwise, I would have a light, waterproof jacket and a warmer jacket. Focus on hood and waterproof.
  • Shoes - Tennis shoes. I brought others and lived in my tennis shoes and Toms.  The only time I wore fancy shoes was for our dressy dinners and I wore the same pair each night. 
  • Tops - 3/4 length tops, short sleeve tops and cardigans are your friend! Weather changes all the time and it can be hot and sunny one minute and wet and cool the next. Temperatures were pretty much around the 60s. A couple of nicer tops are good for when you might be going to one of the ship restaurants and want to look a little nicer. 
  • Pants - Jeans and athletic pants. We wore jeans a lot for days in town and the day we did wildlife watching in Sitka, we wore athletic pants (yoga pants for me). Comfortable pants are a plus!
  • Dresses/Fancy clothes - We had these for 2 nights and used them. Ladies, I highly recommend using Rent the Runway for this!
  • Binoculars - These are great for whale and other wildlife watching. We got some really lightweight 8x40 binoculars at REI for about $90 and they worked great.
  • Small bag/backpack - Instead of dragging your huge purse with you, a simple cross-body bag or light backpack is great for carrying what you need (wallet and ID, phone or camera, binoculars). You'll have it most of the day, so you don't want it too big.
  • Mini surge protector - cruise cabins have one outlet in them. I bought this plug in on Amazon for $10 and it allowed us to charge our phones and my ipad at the same time. 
  • Dramamine/Motion sickness medication - I got seasick the first day. Thankfully we were at sea for the first day so we didn't miss anything, but it was pretty horrible. I now know that ginger ale and granny smith apples are your friends when you're nauseous!
What We Didn't Use
  • Heavy coats - you don't need really heavy coats or big shoes for glaciers, they provide all that for you.
  • Camelback - I borrowed a larger daypack from my friend and ended up not using it. I just stuck to my crossbody bag.
  • More than one pair of fancy shoes! I say this for the ladies, especially ones like me that love shoes! You really don't need them. 
Sarah's Tips
  • Figure out what excursions you're going to do and plan for them (wildlife watching = binoculars, hiking = hiking boots)
  • For ladies, I recommend using Rent the Runway for fancy nights. I actually did the unlimited plan for a month so I was able to keep 2 dresses for as long as I wanted. 
  • Fancy shoes - As a shoe lover, I always bring a ton of shoes. I literally wore three, maybe four pairs, the entire time: Toms, tennis shoes, heels for my dresses, and flip flops around the ship. 
Costs - What You Should Expect
This was a really expensive cruise for us. We budgeted for about $5,500 for this trip. We wanted to be able to do everything we wanted to do and not have any regrets. I'm not a huge fan of doing the same trip over and over, so I try and wring everything out of a big trip.

When all the smoke cleared, we spent about $7,000. Our cabin and flights were about $4,800. The flight to Seattle wasn't bad, but still not cheap, and we had a room with a window.  Plus, all the extra expenses the ship tacked on (drinks, cleaning fees, etc).  We did two big excursions which was another $1,500 and the rest was spent on other stuff (spending, souvenirs, adventures in town, etc).  It adds up rather quickly. It was a lot of money, but I can honestly say that neither of us felt like we missed out on anything.  If you do an Alaskan cruise, be prepared to spend some money!

Sarah's Tips
  • Buy drinks and bring them on board. We were first time cruisers and didn't know that you can bring on a bottle of wine and sodas, otherwise we would have. This will definitely help cut down on some costs!
  • Look into drink packages. We looked into these and they didn't really make sense for us, but if you're a big drinker, they are definitely the way to go!
  • Be prepared to drop some money on this. There are ways to save, but you also don't want to skimp on your excursions and fun stuff! 

Guys, we stood on a glacier. That ain't cheap, but knowing that I've stood on a glacier? That memory is priceless!

Tomorrow I'll be talking about our favorite adventures in Seattle, Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan! Have you cruised before? What was your favorite trip?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Finding the Zen in My Life

Off and on for the past few weeks, I've thought about my life and where it's landed in some shape or form. It hasn't been a big "a-ha!" moment, but rather lots of little ones that came together. And I've come to the conclusion that I love where I am at in life right now. I really, truly do. I think I've found the zen.

I don't know that you hit this point very often. Where you look on multiple aspects and think, "Man, this is good!" I always feel blessed in what we have and what we've been afforded, but there is a level of contentment right now that I really don't know that I can do justice to. But I'm going to try. 

I love my job. Not every moment of every day. There are many moments during the day where I'm stressed or feeling like I might pull my hair out. But when I step back and look at it, I have a cool job. I get to help people find a home. I get to help make home happen for people that might not be able to do so otherwise. So when I read these networking marketing people (more power to you, nothing against you, I promise) that say "what if you didn't have to work your traditional job?" or "what if you didn't have to miss this?" I have found myself thinking, "But I like my job." At the end of the day, selling skincare or wraps or even Jamberry (which I did) isn't going to bring me the satisfaction that working in community development does.  Because there is nothing like home. 

We're in a good, good place. We both work for the City we live in. November will make two years living here. I've worked in the City for about 2.5 years. My husband hit his one-year mark on Wednesday. Before that he drove a truck all over North Carolina, sometimes pulling 14 hour days. I was a consultant and didn't do much better. Now we're City employees. I go to the gym 6 days a week. I leave work at a decent hour. So does he. We actually see each other. What?! And he just passed his Grade II Wastewater test. I'm so proud of him. We're in a good place physically and mentally.  

I love the gym. I love pouring sweat and watching it come off me in rivers. Things I never thought I would say. I love pushing myself. I love that moment in class where you magically do something you haven't been able to do before. The other night I touched my right elbow to my left knee in yoga. Talk about a "holy crap I just did that!" moment. A year and a half ago, this wasn't me. At all. But it is now and suddenly, I can't see my life without it. I actually love my body for once. Cause it's a beast. 

I've been really wanting to say all of this. And I thought about doing different posts, but I realized that it all comes down to one thing - it's a good life. At the end of the day, we have a good life. Your life is half what happens to you and half how you deal with it. I choose to look at everything we have and not ignore the bad things, but rather find the good that came from them.  The funny thing is that I looked up zen on google and (just go with me here) said that zen can be thought of as a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind. I think I've found that. I've found the zen in my Zinn life (ha). 

Happy Thursday folks.  I hope you find the zen in your life!  

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Couponing the Millenial Way: Rebate and Coupon Apps

Growing up, my mom always had a coupon drawer. It was the top drawer beside the oven. She kept her scissors in there and it was full of paper coupons that she clipped out of the newspaper the Sunday before.

I don't know about you, but I don't get newspapers at my house. I don't clip coupons. And when I do, I don't remember to actually use them.  But I do coupon.  I just do it with apps!

These are all the apps that I currently use. There are others out there, but these are the ones that I actually use. I'm only going to cover the rebate and coupon apps, not the store and group saving apps.

Berry Cart
I just started using this app.  It's for health food junkies.  While I am not a health food junkie, I have started eating more healthy options since doing Whole 30.  I like this app because it isn't store dependent, like Ibotta. It gives you a list of products you can get rebates on, you purchase the item, scan it and your receipt. Doesn't matter which store you bought it from.  The only downside is that there are fewer items to choose from. So far, I've only redeemed one rebate for $0.50.  Part of the issue is that I forget to check it.  I'll have to remember to use it more often!  If you haven't tried Berry Cart, you can use my referral link to join!

Another new coupon website/app.  At least new to me.  It works much like Ebates (see below), but sometimes has better rebates.  I've only used it a few times, but I like that you can get your rebates quicker than with Ebates.  Ebates cuts their "Big Fat Checks" once a quarter. CouponCabin will transfer your rebates once you hit your minimum (mine is $7) and items can no longer be returned. I've used Coupon Cabin three times and saved $15.00.

Ebates is what I call the Gateway couponing app. I mostly use it on my computer versus my phone. Ebates works by using cookies to track your online purchases. They also do specials like double points day or increased points for Cyber Monday.  You can also find online coupons for each store on the site. I've been using Ebates since 2012 and have received $279.00 in rebates! If you do a lot of online shopping, this is definitely an app for you to try!  If you haven't tried Ebates yet, you can use my referral link to join!

My sister-in-law got me hooked on this app and I love it! I've been using Ibotta since January 2016 (I looked it up) and I've saved $270.19! Ibotta is probably my most used app.  I use it all the time and even plan my grocery trips around where I can get the most rebates.  Ibotta, like Berry Cart, provides rebates for items purchased.  However, Ibotta is based on where you make the purchases. There are tons of rebates available, but not all rebates are available at every store. Walmart seems to be the place where most are available. I do shop at Walmart, but it's not my preference. Because of this, I usually end up doing two store runs - Harris Teeter for my meats and specialty and Walmart or Target for my household and rebate items.  There are also bonuses for rebates claimed.  Some bonuses are based on monthly rebates redeemed some are based on brands.

Ibotta rebates can be done one of two ways. Some stores, like Food Lion, are attached to your store rewards card. Others, you scan your receipt or QR code on the receipt. There are also a few stores, like Best Buy, Joann's and Hallmark, where you can get cash back on your purchases.  We've gotten cash back at Best Buy when we bought our TV and my laptop. Two percent is a lot when you're spending $1,500! Your rebates can be redeemed through PayPal or Venmo at $15 or redeemed through gift cards at $20.00. I use my rebates to fund my Starbucks addiction (no joke).  If you haven't tried Ibotta yet, you can use my referral link to join!

Target Cartwheel
Cartwheel is a store-specific app. I've been using Cartwheel since 2013 and have saved $257.40.  Cartwheel has morphed over the years. Target has some serious guerilla marketing with their different ways to save you money and I use all of them. I have the Target Debit Card that saves me an extra 5 cents and have used the multiple Target apps in the past. Now, Target has combined most of their apps into Cartwheel. You can now get the rebates, coupons and points on one app! Makes life a whole lot easier when checking out!

The points section. You get points for each purchase made and when those points reach 5,000, you get something for free.

An example of some of the offers on the app.  You can scan the barcode of your items to see if there are any matching offers.

Check out page.  This is also where coupons are listed if there are any.
Cartwheel has offers for items in store. Most are percentages off, but sometimes there are also manufacturer's coupons.  You can have up to 50 offers at once.  At one time, you had to complete badges to get extra spots, but those have all been unlocked. I hardly ever use all of them, but it's nice to have them available. Once you check out, you can also scan your barcode to get points. The good thing is that this barcode is scanned before you use your Target card, so you get the full points before the additional 5% is taken off. These points add up and at 5,000 you can redeem a free item such as water bottles, coffee, food, entertainment items, and clothing. Target knows how to get you!

There are many other apps out there that can be used. Receipt Hog is another, but there is a waiting list for that one and I haven't been able to get on. What coupon and rebate apps do you use?

Friday, June 9, 2017

What I Learned Tracking My Food For a Week

Yesterday I talked about some of my tips for tracking your food. It's one of the most annoying things to do when you're trying to lose weight or get healthy, but it's also one of the most effective tools you have. I thought today I would tell you what I learned from tracking my food for a week.

I actually know how to eat.
I'm not talking about just ingesting food. I could probably medal in that. But I mean eating good food, food that fuels your body. I look at how many calories I eat in a day (about 1,800), which is a lot more than I ate when I did Weight Watchers (about 1,200), but all my meals have at least one veggie and a protein in them. I'm eating good carbs like whole wheat English muffins and Jasmine rice when I do eat carbs. I snack a lot less. Overall, I actually eat fairly healthy.

My downfalls are sweet tea and Cookout.
No one needed to tell me those were my downfalls. Well aware, trust me. But I didn't know how bad it is. And it's real bad! My favorite Cookout tray and drink weighs in at 1,600 calories. One thousand six hundred. I usually eat about 1,800. That's a crap ton of empty calories! The sweet tea alone is 400! Does this mean I'm giving them up? Heck no! I just know to eat them when I've worked out a lot that day and to plan to eat really well the rest of the day.

Just in case you were wondering...

I eat a high fat and protein diet. And my body likes it!
My Fitness Pal breaks out your macros for you. My friend Jen showed me a hack to do the more complicated macros, but I decided I wasn't ready for all that. So I stick to the three pots they give you - fats, carbs and protein. The goals MFP set for me at 50% carbs, 30% fats, 20% proteins. Most days I've been about 40% carbs (give or take) and then the fats and proteins fluctuate, but they are higher.

When you're tracking your food, I think it's important to analyze your eating habits once in a while. Are you eating actual food? Are your calories made up of fruits, veggies, whole grains and meats? Or are you eating snack food and diet food? I lived off 100 calorie snacks and frozen meals when I did Weight Watchers and when I was in grad school. I thought that was healthy eating. And those are decent substitutes once in a while, but they aren't good calories. They aren't going to keep you full. Look at your food, see what you're eating and see if you can find ways to make it better. Once you know how to eat, tracking just becomes a tool you use to get you back on track. Not the end all, be all. If you're using MFP, you can link up with me at scdavenport85. Happy Friday folks!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Good Hair, Good Outfit and Good Weightloss: How I Didn't Hate Tracking My Food

This time last week, I was a Debbie Downer. I did my May progress post and I had to work really, really hard to find something good to say. Not really how you want to end a month. But this week, it's been a good week!

I posted this on Instagram yesterday.

Kimono: LulaRoe Lindsay Kimono S/ Top: LulaRoe Classic M/ Pants: Vince Camuto Leggings L/Earrings: Premier Designs
My hair has been doing awesome lately, so I decided it needed to be documented. I pretty much let it do what it wants. I do roughly the same thing to my hair, except when I feel fancy and I scrunch it. Other than that, I use mousse and blow dry with a round brush. However it comes out, is how it feels that day. And apparently this week, we're feeling good.  I also got a little inspired watching all my LulaRoe Facebook live sales and came up with this cute outfit. I felt good yesterday. And here's why.

Those 5 pounds I gained last month? I lost most of them this week.

Literally, between last Thursday and today, I've lost 3.5 pounds. I actually had lost all five as of Wednesday morning, then 1.5 of them came back. But still - 3.5! I didn't do anything new or different on my diet except this: I tracked my food.

Insert eye rolling emoji face.

There is no one that hates food tracking more than I do. I did Weight Watchers for years. I know that tracking works, but I hate it! It's just one more thing to add to an already busy day. But, I also really can't argue with 3.5 pounds in a week! And let me tell you, I ate.  In fact, I'll post one of my days here:

I eat a lot of calories in a day. But I also work out 5-6 times a week and do at least 400 calories each class, sometimes up to 1,000 calories (I did that Tuesday night). There is a sweet spot between too many and not enough calories. I'll talk about that in tomorrow's post. But today is about how to not hate tracking your food!

These are my tried and true (we're talking since Weight Watcher days!) tips for tracking your food.

1. Load it all in at once.
I load in all my calories in the morning. I meal plan each weekend (takes me about an hour), so I already know what I'm having for breakfast, lunch, dinner and my snacks.  I load in everything that I am taking with me that day. I'm generally right on the line with those calories, sometimes a little over.  I almost always get extra food calories, sometimes a lot, due to my activity level. Whatever I don't eat at the end of the day (aka, whatever is still in my lunch bag when I get home), I just take off.

2. Meal plan ahead of time.
Number one can't happen if you haven't meal planned. There's this annoying saying that is oh so very true, "Fail to plan, plan to fail." If you don't meal plan, you are going to be grabbing whatever is closest to you or quickest, which are generally not your best options. I always have good meals that I enjoy making and eating and snacks that I like and satisfy my cravings.  By doing that, I know I'm going to eat what I have and not want something else. If my Lean Cuisine days taught me nothing else, they taught me to always do meals you actually want to eat. Otherwise, McDonald's will always look better.

3. Be honest about your calorie intake.
That sounds simple, but it's not. Most fitness or food tracking apps are only going to be as useful as you are honest with yourself. The more active you are, the more calories you get to eat, because you're burning more calories during the day. Don't say you're active when you mostly sit at a desk all day (ahem - 25 year old Sarah, I'm looking at you). And you can also eat too few calories. Eating only 1200 calories a day while working out like a mad woman is just going to make you hangry all. the. time (ahem - 30 year old Sarah, I'm looking at you). Your body will also hoard calories. When you're setting your calorie goals, be honest. How much do you actually weigh (I've lied to myself about that, too)? How active are you? It's okay to not be that active, you just need to be honest with yourself.  If you're honest about yourself, you'll find that your calories are actually pretty easy to stay within.

4. Stop buying diet and low-fat foods.
This sounds like it has nothing to do with tracking, but it does. It really does. I ate a ton of low-fat and diet snacks when I did Weight Watchers. This was before they changed it up and really encouraged eating a ton of fruits and veggies. It was all about your points and you could eat whatever you wanted, as long as you stayed within your points. And I did. And I was hungry all the time and hated tracking because I felt like I didn't get enough to eat. That's because I wasn't actually eating real food. I was eating chemicals and air. At least that's what my body got out of it. Whole 30 taught me how to eat. My meals average about 450-500 calories, more than what I did before. But I don't really snack all that much, either. I'm not hungry that often and when I am, it's almost always after a workout (cause it's 8 PM and I haven't had dinner). Eating good foods helps you with your tracking. By eating better food, you're snacking less and are more satisfied. Your body has what it needs and you're less likely to eat crap.

5. Realize tracking isn't the answer.
Yes, I'm talking about how tracking has helped me get back on track. But did I magically lose 3.5 pounds just because I tracked my food? No. I lost weight this week because I realized how many calories are in my Cookout trays (dear Lord it was bad) and was super careful the rest of the weekend. You'll have really good days when you lose 2 pounds in a day and you'll have days like today, where I gained 1.5 pounds back. Tracking is just a tool. One of many. When you realize that it's not going to make or break you, just help you, it doesn't seem quite as daunting. Back in Weight Watcher days, I honestly would have gotten really upset with today and wondered what all I did wrong. Now? I just realize it's my body and bodies fluctuate.  

Tracking is not the devil.  I've found that it actually goes hand-in-hand with meal planning. You could even load all of your calories for the week when you're meal planning and adjust from there! I literally just had that light bulb of a moment, ha! If you've hit a plateau, try tracking your food for a week. Not to diet, just to help you get an idea of what you are actually eating.  Tomorrow, I'll go over what I learned just from tracking my food for one week (including a weekend with Cookout and an actual cook out) and what healthy calories look like!