Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Measuring Success - 9/30/16

The end of next month makes a whole year on this journey of mine. Since I'm pretty close to that mark, I'm going to do this month's update a little different. That and, let's be honest, there haven't been that many changes.

November is a rough month for me, weight-loss wise. It's my birthday and Thanksgiving. Then right after that, we roll right into party season. I don't cook as much and I definitely eat more. And I've eaten like total crap lately. Early on, I decided to give myself a break this month and made it my goal to just not gain any weight. I didn't even try to lose weight, just tried not to gain it! Given everything that happens in November, I felt that was pretty reasonable.

Instead of my usual tracking of changes (you'll get some, if you care), I've decided to post what I'm most thankful for on this journey and how that has changed.
  • I'm thankful for a ton of support. My husband supports me and tells me all the time that he's proud of me and that he never thought I'd get to this point. I have my gym friends that support each other and even the instructors are supportive while kicking your butt. When I started this, it felt like it was me against, well, me. So much of weight loss and getting healthy is all you and sometimes it's nice to be able to lean on others once in a while. 
  • I'm thankful for pants that fit. That seems ridiculous, but until you've been without pants that can stay up on their own or had pants dig into you because you refuse to go the next size up, you won't get it. The struggle is real. 
  • I'm thankful for a body that keeps going. I push it, hard. A lot. The week of Thanksgiving, I worked out 6 days in a row. Before Burn, I would do two, possibly three days a week and thought I was doing a lot. Ha! If that me could see me now!
  • I'm thankful for people that read about my journey. It helps to know that you're not in some vacuum, that there are other people on their own journeys. I've had people tell me that my blogs help remind them to go work out or that it inspires them. Truthfully, that just inspires me! 
  • I'm thankful for Victoria's Secret and sports bras that actually support you. Cause down dog sucks when your face is in your chest. 
  • I'm thankful for all the little changes. Somehow, I think God is using this to teach me patience because Lord knows it hasn't been instant gratification. But I've found other ways to find success and to be proud of myself. I've always been my own worst critic, but this journey has taught me to find the good things.
  • I'm thankful for how it's changed me. This journey, the working out, the change in diet, has made a fairly significant impact on me. I'm more confident. I look forward to coming to the gym and getting a good butt kicking. I'm less stressed out and more ready for what's coming next. Yoga plays a big part of that, but so do the other classes and exercises I do. Yoga calms the mind and body and the others help rev your soul back up to tackle the next thing. 
So. Changes. 

I lost a whole 0.2 pounds this month! And then I gained it back over Thanksgiving. But I'm still claiming that 0.2 pounds! That makes a total of 19 pounds lost overall.

My measurements stayed about the same.  I actually gained some on my arms (0.25 inches) and thighs (0.25 inches).  My arms have tightened up, though, so I'm pretty sure that's muscle.

I really didn't think there was that much change, but you can see some change in my arms and face. 11/8 and 11/29
Plateaus are necessary in this journey.  You can't have a ton of crazy months without your body playing catch up. At least that's what I tell myself. It's also important to give yourself some grace along the way. I sure didn't put all this weight on my body overnight, so it's not going to come off overnight. It's also important to remember that your body also changes each time you lose or gain weight. Every time I've lost weight, I look different. For example, the last time I was a size 12, I was about 20 pounds lighter than I am now. I didn't work out as much, so I didn't have as much muscle. The human body is truly fascinating.

Overall, I'm happy with November. I've eaten like absolute crap, but thanks to working my butt off in the gym, I've managed to do a good amount of damage control.  I'm hoping to end this first year of this journey with a bang in December. Even if it's not a ton of change, I'm still going to be damn proud of myself. I know where I started and I'm oh so proud of where I've come.

What about you? How's your journey going? How did November treat you?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Treat Yo Self! My Favorite Birthday Freebies!

For most people the Christmas season is either their holy grail of shopping or something to be endured. I used to fall into the former, but I find that as I'm get older, I'm slowly moving my way into the latter. One thing that never gets old for me, though, is all the freebies you can get on your birthday.  Bonus if your birthday, like mine, falls around a holiday.

I'm not going to lie, I love getting gifts. I love giving gifts. I just love gifts. I revert back to a 5 year old whether I'm giving or getting them. Which is good because as you get older, you don't get as many gifts. That's not a bad thing, it's just part of life. And when you're married and your gift comes out of your joint checking account, it's just not the same (this does not mean you get out of buying gifts, Aaron). Sometimes, it's necessary to just treat yo'self!

©  | Dreamstime Stock Photos

For a while now, my favorite part of my birthday has been all of the freebies and coupons! Many stores and restaurants have loyalty programs now and most of those programs include a birthday incentive. Each year, I take a day for myself and go use all of my coupons.  Here's the list of what I had this year.  I put a star beside the local places in case you aren't local to the Raleigh/Durham area.  If your birthday is a ways off, just bookmark this page for later. Trust me, you'll want it.  Or go ahead and sign up for all these loyalty programs now and watch the emails roll in later.

  • Banana Republic Luxe - $15 off a $15 purchase
    • True story, I have no idea how I'm a Luxe member because I certainly don't buy enough Banana/Old Navy/Gap/Athleta to meet the requirements, but I am and I'm riding that train until they tell me to get off.
  • Blue Nile - $10 off a $50 purchase
  • Burn Athletic - 25% off one retail item*
    • This is my gym and I was super excited for this - hello new bobble water bottle!
  • Cute Buttons - 20% off your purchase*
  • DSW - $5 off a $5 purchase
    • Note - If you are a DSW Premier Rewards member, it's $10. They told me to get off that train a few years ago, sadly.
  • Godiva - $10 off a $10 purchase
  • Hallmark - $5 off a $25 purchase
  • Kohl's - $10 off a $10 purchase
    • This one is particularly awesome. Kohl's always has good sales and you can double up your savings.  This year, I bought a $40 shirt for $6. And you don't have to use your credit card to get the deal.
  • Loft/Ann Taylor - $15 off a $15 purchase
  • Macy's - Free shipping
  • Sephora - a free gift (I got the Marc Jacobs eye pencil and lipstick)
  • The Container Store - 15% off your purchase
  • World Market - $10 off a $10 purchase
My birthday freebies! I always end up using some of them for birthday gifts or holiday decorations/baking.

  • DunkinDonunts - Free coffee
  • Gigi's Cupcakes - Free cupcake
  • Noodles - Free rice krispie treat
  • Panera - Free birthday pastry
  • Qdoba - Free entree
  • Red Robin - Free burger
  • Rocky Top Hospitality - One free entree on your actual birthday*
  • Starbucks - Free drink
  • Sweet Tomatoes - $5 off lunch or dinner
  • Which Wich - Free sandwich
I want to know how women look cute after the gym? Cause I don't. But yay free Starbucks!
A few other freebies that I used to get, but didn't qualify for this year because I didn't shop online:
  • Anthropologie - 15% off a purchase
  • Ulta - Fun fact: Ulta thinks my birthday is 1/19 and apparently I have to call their corporate office to change it, so I just get my birthday stuff in January. But I think it's 2x points all month and 20% off an item/purchase. It's been a while, so I can't confirm exactly what it is.
  • Victoria's Secret - $10 online.  I've been buying my stuff in store (I abhor paying shipping), so I didn't get one this year.
I don't use all of my birthday offers. I would go broke and that would defeat the purpose. Also, some stores like to send me my offers ON my birthday and I've normally already shopped by then. Veterans Day falls right before my birthday, so I usually try to go that weekend to combine the sales with my coupons. Just looking at my purchases (not the food freebies), I saved $62.50 and spent $62.38. That doesn't include the cost of my Sephora freebie. It's all about the thrill of the hunt!

My friend Josh said that he's been doing his birthday wrong because he doesn't get all the free stuff that I do. And it's true. He is. Am I the only person that does this? Hopefully not. But if you aren't getting all the freebies, do yourself a favor and sign up for some loyalty programs! You don't have to use everything you get, but you should definitely treat yo'self!

Are there freebies you get that I don't have listed? Bonus point if they include cupcakes, coffee, yoga pants or shoes!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Beasting Thanksgiving: Keeping Up Your Fitness Goals So You Can Eat All the Things!

Thursday is the day. The day I dream about starting in June. Thanksgiving.

You're probably tired of reading about my deep love of Thanksgiving, but this is the last blog about it for a while since we'll be moving immediately into Christmas after tomorrow. Heck, most people are already there! Poor little Thanksgiving gets left behind by most, but me! 

I love this day because it's all about my two favorite things: food and family. Both can be a little tricky though: not enough and you want more, too much and you're in pain! When I thought about this post, it started off as "how to not over-indulge" but let's be real. That is the point of Thanksgiving.  I'm certainly going to over-indulge. It's like the one day out of the year that you can eat everything, be as gluttonous as you want and no one will judge you. You can choose to eat five pies and no vegetables and it is okay! So this post isn't about how to not over-indulge, it's about making sure that you can and not feel bad about it! Here are four ideas to help you get your workout on so you can eat what you want and not undo all the good you've done!

When I was in college, this meant drink all the alcohol before you got to the bar so you didn't have to spend as much money (sorry mom). Adult pre-gaming for Thanksgiving now means getting all the workouts in before the big day, cause now I drink all my alcohol at home. I guess that means I now just game? This week, I did a class Monday night, will do two classes tonight and I have one scheduled for Wednesday morning! Get all of your normal workouts in before the big day and maybe add an extra just for good measure.

My schedule at Burn for the next three days!
Check Your Gym Schedule
Getting in your normal classes before the big day is important, but some places are open on the day of Thanksgiving.  My gym, for example, has two classes that morning. They are early, which allows you to get in, burn some calories, and get back home before anyone misses you! Make sure you are extra nice to your gym people that day! 

Get Outside with Your Family!
We all know that Thanksgiving takes forever to prepare and only 10 minutes to eat. Instead of sitting in a chair and watching football all day or napping after the meal, maybe head outside together! Play some football or take a family walk. Growing up, when we went down to my mom's sister's house for Thanksgiving, we always took a walk around the property after lunch. It was a good way to spend some time together and helped us not feel as disgusting as we did.   

Make Black Friday Your Olympics
I love Black Friday. It is the ultimate in shopping olympics.  The deals, the crazy people! If you normally shop on Black Friday, make sure you wear your fitness tracker or use an app on your phone to track your steps.  Make it a goal to get 10,000 steps that day! That might mean parking as far out as possible. Maybe not moving your car from lot to lot. Find some ways to make that crazy shopping day work off some of that food you downed the day before. You're already going to be out, so make use of it!

Get Back on the Wagon
Thanksgiving is just the beginning of a month of eating really wonderful but terrible for you things. We already have five Christmas parties on the calendar and it's not even December yet. And that doesn't even include time with our families! Even if you don't do anything over Thanksgiving, make sure you get right back on the exercise wagon. Get back in the gym, get back to walking or running or lifting weights. I told Aaron my goal for this month was not to lose weight, but to not gain any. Between my birthday and Thanksgiving, I know that's going to be hard. December is going to be even worse. It's a super busy time of the year and you need to make time for yourself. Make you a priority. The hardest part of the gym, or exercising in general, is just doing it. You can make it through 45 minutes or an hour as long as you get there.

Me and my 12 lb turkey before  class Monday night!
 We're hosting, so tomorrow is my cooking day and I have two classes tonight. My goal is to get 10,000 steps in today and tomorrow between my class and all my time in the kitchen! What are your goals for Thanksgiving? Are you going to try and work out before or do damage control after? Or are you crazy like me and going to work out every day possible?  

Happy Thanksgiving week everyone! 

Friday, November 18, 2016

30 Things I Have Learned

Today is my last official day as a 30 year old. Tomorrow, I'll officially be in my 30s, not just 30.  My mom would tell you that isn't so until 6:00 pm, but we're just going to go with tomorrow.

This was a big year for me. We closed on our house three days before my birthday and I finally feel like I love me for the first time in a really long time. I actually appreciate myself for who I am, not who I want to be or who I think I should be. Just me. So for my birthday toast here are the 30 things that I have learned over the course of my 30 years on this planet.

This kid gets it. No pants. No shame.
  1. Your faith is different from your parents's faith, but Jesus, and they, still love you the same.  I grew up in a church very different from the one I attend now. I grew up loving Jesus and while my Jesus and God haven't changed, my relationship with him certainly has and it's different from that of my parents. And that's okay.
  2. Material gain doesn't fix everything, but material gain at a discount does help take the sting out of life.
  3. No good deed goes unpunished.
  4. The golden rule in federal funding isn't really "do unto others as you'd have done unto you," but really "those that hold the gold, make the rules." Sadly, that also applies to life sometimes.
  5. I come from amazing women. One day, I hope I can be a fraction of what they are and what they mean to me.
  6. A good man that takes care of you, makes you laugh and loves you despite all of your weird idiosyncrasies is priceless. Who cares how much he makes. 
  7. Most of my best friends on this planet don't live anywhere near me. Some I don't talk to very often at all, but at the end of the day, I'm pretty sure they would be on my doorstep tonight if I needed them. Also priceless.
  8. Work is not your life. When it becomes your life, you need a new one.
  9. I actually like running. I used to hate it, but now it is strangely calming and I love how awesome I feel while running.  
  10. Nothing feels as good as something you've worked your butt off for (literally, ha!). 
  11. Don't be an English major unless you want to teach.
  12. Food is my love language.
  13. Make your own money, take care of yourself. But also know when to let someone else take care of you.
  14. Be unapologetic about who you are. No one will be a better you than you. And you won't always be the person you are right now, so claim it. If you don't like it, change it.
  15. Not all friends are meant to stay forever. Some are, some aren't.  Know who is and who isn't and be okay with it.
  16. God didn't make Sarah for nature, but there are some parts of nature I've grown to love. 
  17. I find that I love things that connect me to those I miss. I bake because it reminds me of my Grandma Ollie. I like to travel because it reminds me of Hollon and Dollie. I preserve foods because it reminds me of my Aunt Betty (also, grocery store canned beets are disgusting). I love to fly at night because its one of my favorite things I did with my dad growing up. I dance in grocery stores to the music because my mom does. Find ways to remember the ones that meant the most.
  18. Family isn't always blood. And blood isn't always family.
  19. Some of your best friends in life start out as your enemies. And maybe they start that way because you see in them parts of you that you haven't been honest about. 
  20. Roasted broccoli is the only good way to eat broccoli. 
  21. Diet really is 80% of losing weight. But that other 20% makes you feel amazing and not want to kill all the people when you're hungry. Or helps you kill them. Either way.
  22. I don't function well without coffee. Not that anyone needed me to tell them that.
  23. Music soothes the soul. 
  24. Strong is so much better than skinny. All day. Every day.
  25. Writing keeps me sane.
  26. Learn to find the good in our differences. Don't assume you know where someone comes from or why they think the way they do. Have a conversation. Ask them about their life. We are all people, created by God. And if you don't believe in God, that's okay too. I'll still love you. 
  27. Pants are overrated and should be optional. Keep the goods covered and move on. 
  28. Dunkin Hines golden recipe cake mix with chocolate frosting is the best cake ever. And I make an awesome homemade cake and buttercream. Sometimes, though, you just want the cake your mom always made you growing up.
  29. There is no such thing as free money. You'll pay for it somehow, usually with your sanity.
  30. Surround yourself with good people. They keep you sane, pick you up when you fall, push you when you stop and call your crazy out.
Bring it 31, You have a lot to live up to. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A House Story: Happy 1st Birthday to Our House!

Did you ever watch that show on TLC, "A Baby Story?" No? Well, it was a show that would tell the baby's story from beginning to end, especially if there were any complications. That's what this post is, but about my house. Our house turns one year old today!

This day last year, we closed on our first house.  And because we built it, I'm deeming this it's first birthday! So today, we're telling the story of our house.

The whole building a house thing was kinda nuts. I started my job in Durham in January 2015 and it took about two weeks of the nasty commute from Raleigh to Durham every morning and afternoon to convince me we needed to move. I just had to convince Aaron!

We started looking at houses in the eastern Durham area because the prices were so much better than anything we could find in Wake County and we both work in Durham. We started looking at houses in February/March 2015 and when we thought we had found the perfect house plan in a new build community, we called our family friend, Yvonne.  Aaron grew up with Yvonne's sons and she is a realtor, so we pretty much called and said "We found a house! Help us get it!"

Yvonne was awesome, but the house didn't work out.  We looked at a bunch of others and it never seemed to pan out, so we stopped looking. We decided we would hold out for a while, then start again.  Then we received a call from Yvonne saying "Hey, I have this house..."

In less than 24 hours, we went from not looking, to looking at a lot in Durham, driving to see the floor plan in Wake Forest, and signing a contract to build. It was nuts.

Our house plan - the Franklin.
 But it was also totally a God thing. We had looked in the neighborhood before and we couldn't afford it. But this lot was tiny and they were bringing in a house plan from a different community. It was the size we were looking for, the price and would be complete about the time our lease on our apartment ended. Totally a God thing! We signed the contract in April 2015.

About two weeks after we signed the contract, we went to the design center to pick everything out. We had $20,000 in upgrades and Yvonne negotiated an additional $5,000 in upgrades and we STILL went over budget. You have no idea how quickly you blow through the upgrades!

Our choices for the stone and my door (red!)

The choices for cabinets, hardwoods, granite, tile and carpet. We went with the darker wood, which was another level up. Of course!
Then I watched grass grow.

Literally, I documented the growth of grass. The City of Durham has this rule that they won't release the last 5% of houses in a development until all of the infrastructure is in place, including storm water ponds. We were in the last 5%. And our builder hadn't finished the storm water ponds in our development, so our permit was held hostage until grass grew.

Have you ever tried to grow grass in the summer in North Carolina? I don't recommend it. The builder finally gave in and started using sprinklers and even sodded the ponds.

We finally received our permit at the end of July. Four months. We waited four months.  There were some people that had been waiting since October 2014!

Construction began and it was so exciting!!

It went up so fast. We went from waiting, to a foundation and more waiting, to framing and then a house!

I literally stalked my house. This was one morning on the way to work.

Aaron sent me this photo that same day on his way home after work.

And this was maybe a day or two later.
It was so much fun to watch it all come together. Every Friday, I drove out to the house to walk around and see what had happened that week.

My favorite part was watching my kitchen come together.  I used to spend my lunch hours designing my kitchen. Don't judge.

Forgive the haziness of the photos. You can only take photos so well when you are relying on nothing but natural light in a house under construction! When those cabinets and that granite went in, I was a goner. 
Little by little, every time we went by, the house became more real.

The tile, shower and tub went in!

The banister and hand rails went in!
Aaron, chilling on our floor. You can see the light fixture at the top.
Then the outside was painted and landscaped. It was real!

We finally got to the end, but it took forever to get a closing date.  I might have had to go a little crazy on a few people. Crazy sometimes gets you what you need. A closing date.

On our final walk-through, I'm pretty sure I did multiple happy dances. The house was exactly what we wanted!

Did I say I love my kitchen? Pretty much all my house photos are of my kitchen!

On November 16, 2016, three days before my 30th birthday, we closed on our house.

Us with the keys to our home!
That day was beyond nutty.  Aaron was a truck driver at the time and when he took off work, we had to make it worth it.  So we closed, moved, had blinds and cable/internet installed all in the same day. It makes me tired just thinking about it all.

Even crazier, the next week, we held Thanksgiving in the house. Which we'll do again this year.

While we haven't done a lot to the house in our first year, we've done some pretty hefty (on the wallet) projects.

We bedazzled the garage. Actually, I think it's technically called sealing it but it includes using flakes as decoration, hence the "bedazzling." We also installed my closet system!

We also installed blinds on all the windows, installed ceiling fans in all the bedrooms and the living room and we've replaced my beloved seafoam couch with a gigantic sectional. It's been an expensive year! Garage organization stuff and backsplashes are the next big things on the list. And I hear I'm getting a light fixture for Christmas. That's when you know you're truly adulting in life - you get super excited for a light fixture for Christmas!

It's been a year and we still love our house. It's the perfect size for us and other than the annoying plant shelf, it is pretty much perfect. So happy birthday my baby house. Here's to many, many more years and birthdays to come!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Stitch Fix Review - November 2016

I'm pretty excited about this post because I haven't actually had a Stitch Fix box to review since I started this blog! I've been getting Stitch Fix boxes for about two years, but because I still love to shop and I have expensive taste, I don't get a box every month.  And sometimes, I get a 5/5 box and have to take another month or two off for my bank account to recover.

Which is what happened last fix!

If you haven't ever heard of Stitch Fix, it's a personal styling service. You fill out a questionnaire that helps the stylists determine your style and how to size you.  My favorite thing about the questionnaire is that it allows you to specify not only the style of clothes you like (preppy, boho, casual, etc), but also the type of clothes you want (professional, casual, date night), how much and often you want each of those, and what you want to show off (cleavage, arms, back, legs, etc). Once you've filled that out, you determine your price points, how often you want a fix and then write your stylist a note. You can also do a Pinterest board to help your stylist get a better idea of your style. I have my fixes set for every other month and most of my price points are in the $50-$100 range.

Once you've scheduled your fix, your stylist will hand select 5 items for you.  A $20 styling fee is charged, but that is applied to any items you decide to purchase. You try the items on at home and mail back what you don't want in a pre-paid envelope.  Even better, you can now choose to exchange sizes! If you keep all five items, you get a 25% discount. If you are interested in trying Stitch Fix, you can use my referral link here.

This month, I tried something new.  I've been compiling a Pinterest board of photos of me in items that I've kept from my fixes.  This helps me keep up with what I've purchased, but I thought my stylist might also like to see how things actually look on me. I mentioned it in my stylist note and in her note back to me, Kelly referenced my new board! How cool is that?

For this fix, I mentioned that I had lost some weight since the last box and was eager to try some outfits that would show off my hard work. I've also been begging for a new bag for a while. So let's see what I got!

Skies are Blue Hyoni Lace Detail Blouse - $58
I really liked this top. The lace detail up top was pretty and while I'm not a huge floral fan, it was subtle enough to not be too girly for me.  I recently changed my sizes from XL to L. I think I'm somewhere in between the two for Stitch Fix.  This top didn't have any give and while it fit, I know that I would be messing with it and adjusting it every five minutes. Also, the arms were just a bit tight and I felt like I had to do some fancy maneuvering to get out of the shirt without busting the fabric. The other downside to this top is the lace up top.  I have quite a few tops like this. While I love them and think they are fun. I don't always feel comfortable wearing them to work and all my shirts have to do double duty since I do a capsule wardrobe. So back it went. Also, pardon the purple bra straps. Oops.

Papermoon Sebrine Woven Detail Knit Top - $54
Half of what I own from Stitch Fix is Papermoon. Apparently that brand and I just get each other. This top looks a lot like one I already own.

But I don't care. Because I love it.  The fit is perfect and the fabric is so super soft. It seriously is like something I could take a nap in.  The buttons and detail on the back and shoulders are really fun. I also have a huge obsession with buying purple. This one was a keeper!

Also, because I believe in calling out real life, I started experimenting with taking pictures not in my closet, but then I had to go to church and life happened and daylight does not exist after work anymore. So half my pictures are in my closet and the other half aren't. Blogger problems.

41Hawthorn Carla Crochet Detail Bouse - $58
I've been living in a capsule wardrobe the past two months and one thing I realized is that I desperately need some tops that go under all my cardigans. This one fits the bill perfectly.

The top is a bit tighter than I prefer. I could probably size up to an XL, but then I worry that I'd be in the same boat I'm in with the rest of my XLs where they are too big. Again, the fabric in this top doesn't have any give and I'm between a L and XL. But the cut is so flattering! I paired it with some of my cardigans to see if I could still wear it until I lose just a bit more weight (cause I'm not going to wear it by itself right now anyway) and I can! So I kept it!

Kut from the Kloth Distressed Straight Leg Jean - $88
I wanted to love these jeans. I did. But they are too tight and my mom and I just went jean shopping for my birthday and I got about 3 pairs. So I'm not really all that bummed that they didn't work out. Back they went!

You get the photo from my app since I couldn't breathe in the jeans.

Octavia Rosemary Satchel - $64
I have been begging for a new bag.  My last bag from Stitch Fix was one of my favorites and I wore it until it started falling apart. I've yet to find one to replace it, so I went back to my old Dooney, which is also falling apart. The purse struggle is real!

I really, really wanted to love this. I loved it in my sneak peek (you're really not supposed to peek, but I do). I loved the mustard color - it's one of my favorites this season! I didn't love the handles, they didn't seem substantial enough for me.  The size was also a bit smaller than I prefer. I know I'm getting a new 10" laptop for the birthday/Christmas and I really want my next purse to be able to handle it. Overall, this just didn't meet my ridiculously long list of requirements for a new bag. Back it went!

This fix was only a 2/5, which was actually good. I went shopping with all my birthday deals this past weekend (which I'll be blogging about next week!) and didn't want to buy more than two items out of this fix.  So only two working out of five was just right for me! I really love my stylist Kelly. She reads my notes, looks at my Pinterest board (and now the new one!) and always finds pieces for me that fit my life. I'm super happy with this box and look forward to my next fix, which will be in January! Which is kinda crazy!

What are your thoughts? Would you have kept anything I sent back?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Affordable Athleisure: Fabletics Review

Two reviews in one week, what?! It just so happens I got both my shipments at one time, so lucky you! Today I'm writing about one of my most favorite guilty pleasures: Fabletics. Also, this is your escape from angry post-election posts. You're welcome.

The world of athletic wear/ workout clothes has grown considerably in the last few years. So much so that it now has it's own genre called "athleisure." Being strong and healthy has become a huge focus and women want to look cute while doing it. Fabletics, if you don't know, is a subscription service for athleisure clothing. They get you by giving you the first outfit for a ridiculously low price (I got mine for $25). Every month after that, you have to sign in to your account by the 5th of the month and choose to purchase an outfit or skip the month. If you don't do one of those options, then your credit card gets charged $49.95. This is made very, very clear when you become a "VIP." I've been using the service for about six months now. I've made lots of purchases, but I've also skipped a lot of months. It's a great way to get the really trendy pieces at affordable prices.

I love Fabletics. I live in workout clothes (I still call them that) as I'm at the gym five days a week. When I first started back at the gym, I was using my Old Navy and Target yoga pants and tops. I was also using my really old, worn out Target sports bras. Thankfully, I replaced those. There is nothing wrong with Old Navy and Target workout clothes - I still buy them and mix them in with my other pieces. But what I was seeing in store from Old Navy and Target wasn't as cute as some of the outfits I saw on the other girls in the gym. They were buying their clothes from Lululemon and Athletica, which was more than I wanted to pay, but oh so cute! When I found Fabletics and their outfits, I was so excited. Finally, I got to be cute too, but for cheaper.

This month, I chose the outfit, Avena. The VIP price was $80 for a hoodie, a bra and leggings.

Their model photo and me.
This is my birthday month, so I spent a little more than I normally do.  I love the pattern on the bra and the leggings. The blue camo print is really flattering and fun! The pants are probably my favorite piece of this outfit. These are the Salar pants. I love Fabletics Salar capris and crops, so I'm not surprised I love their pants too. I will be honest and say I was hesitant to buy actual pants. I love yoga capris and I sweat like a pig (think dripping the entire time) during workouts, so I was worried that pants would be too hot.  These pants are made of a really light fabric, though, and didn't bother me during my class.

The hoodie had to grow on me. I thought I was getting an actual hoodie, like a sweatshirt.  The top, officially called the Cashel Hoodie, is more like a top with a hoodie than what I think of as a hoodie. It's a very light weight fabric and more fitted than I thought I would like. I was going to send it back because I didn't think I would wear it a lot, but I tried it on one more time before I sent it back. Surprisingly, it fit really well. It's a great top to wear during warm-ups or even for running outside. It covers you while still letting your skin breathe.  It also felt pretty good to put on my nasty, sweaty body after working out last night.  My other favorite part are the bungees on the side. They're super fun!

Now for the last piece - the bra. The Lenni Sports Bra and I are not friends. It's so, so cute and I wanted it to work oh so bad. At some point in my life, I'm going to learn that the super cute and fun bras are not made for girls with my cup size. No, girls like me get the bras that lock and load and can be worn as hats. At some point, I will learn.

This bra on me looks more like something out of a Victoria's Secret magazine than an actual sports bra. This is the closest to a photo of me with the bra that you will get. I usually size down in Fabletics bras to get a little more support. That worked against me this time. The cups are low cut, which means the girls were pushed up and out into the criss-cross straps up top. There is also no support. Needless to say, this one is going back.

This is how I styled the pants for my classes last night. I combined the pants with my Mosa tank (also Fabletics) and threw the Cashel Hoodie on top.

I truly love Fabletics. I love that they give me some fun options at affordable prices. There are some things that I don't like (ie - you can't stack offers), but it's a great product for what you're paying. At some point, I might treat myself to some more expensive pieces from Lululemon or Athletica, but until them, I'll stick to my mix of Old Navy, Target and Fabletics! If you decide you want to try it, you can use my referral link here.

What are your favorite affordable places to buy your workout clothes?!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Thrive Market: Avoiding a Whole Pay Check for Clean Eating

When we first started Clean 14, my biggest complaint was that it was expensive. And it is. Eating clean, eating healthy, isn't cheap. But your health, ultimately, is priceless. Ultimately, though, I still have to pay bills. So we (and by we, I mean me since I buy the groceries) have been searching for ways to make grocery shopping for the Paleo Diet. Enter the Thrive Market.

Some of the specialty products I've bought since we did Clean 14 and started cooking Paleo are coconut oil, coconut aminos, coconut flour, almond flour, tapioca flour, coconut sugar, massive amounts of fruits and veggies, grass fed meat and cage free eggs. That stuff adds up. My grocery bill pretty much doubled.

We started buying many things at Whole Foods as there were a few things we couldn't get anywhere else. After spending on a salad bar lunch what we would spend on a good sushi dinner, my dear husband deemed that we shall never go back. It was fine, I had most of what I needed. Fast forward a few months and we're running out of all the Paleo things!

Thrive Market is a site that I had heard about from a couple of Paleo blogs that I follow. It's an online marketplace for clean, organic food. My hesitation with Thrive Market was that it seemed the best way to make it worth my while was to place a large order (free shipping over $50). It's also a $60 subscription a year. I really wasn't sure if it was going to be worth it for us to spend $60 to save money on these items.

We finally ran out of enough items that I thought it would be worth it to try out the Thrive Market. I had a 20% off my order and I got free shipping, which made the deal particularly sweet!

I order the things we were out of and added a few fun things to my order: Pamona's Pectin and Annie's macaroni and cheese. I've been wanting to try out canning with Pamona's Pectin (allows you to can with less sugar) and I thought this was the perfect time to try it out! I placed my order and waited.

The box arrived within a few days of the order, which impressed me. The packaging was great and protective and recyclable!

My entire order cost about $20 and I saved $19. I don't know that we will continue to use Thrive Market, but I did really like the service. I'm not entirely sure that our savings will be worth $60 a year, but so far I'm happy with them. I have thirty days for free and my next three orders get free shipping. They are definitely trying to keep us!

What tricks have you tried to save some money, especially if you are gluten free or Paleo?

Friday, November 4, 2016

I Ain't Afraid of No Turkey! 5 Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving

Ya'll. It is exactly 20 days until the greatest day of the year: Thanksgiving!

That seems like a lot of time, but it's not. I've already started planning!

I love Thanksgiving like other people love Christmas. In my family, Thanksgiving has always been a huge deal. Growing up, we would go to my Cousin Alice's house, pack 30 or so people into a 1,500 square foot house and chow down on some of the best food I have ever eaten. Family members would come all the way from Virginia and Alabama to North Carolina. We'd have shrimp cocktail, turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, seven-up salad, yams, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole and at least five different pies. And deviled eggs. Lord, the deviled eggs! I'm having a moment here, sorry.

When my Cousin Alice passed away, we started driving down to Georgia to have Thanksgiving with my mom's sister's family. She had an amazing kitchen and we would have five women in there all prepping food at one time.

Everyone in the kitchen!

Now, Thanksgiving is at our house. We started hosting it when we lived in our two-bedroom apartment. My parents, Aaron's parents, his sister and her husband all come over and we have Thanksgiving together. It's truly my favorite day of the year. All the food, all the family, all of the love and none of the drama of Christmas!
Our first Thanksgiving with both of our families! We used two card tables and had to use candle holders to even the height of the tables!

First Thanksgiving in our new house! With my beautiful table!

This will be our third year hosting Thanksgiving with both families. We're fortunate that there aren't a ton of us and that our families live close and like each other! I love that we don't have to do two Thanksgivings, but that everyone is together at one time. But this isn't something that just happens over night! Here's what I have learned from my years of being an avid Thanksgiving participant and, now, host!

1. Plan!

You have got to start planning for this junk at least a month in advance. I'm not talking all day, every day planning, but you do have to think about it. I send out a Paperless Post invite about a month in advance of the day. I send it out to our families to let them know that we're hosting it again, just in case someone thinks they are going to dethrone me. Ha! About two weeks out, I send an email to the families letting everyone know they have a week to let me know the side and dessert they are going to make. This way, no one does duplicate meals. It also gives me a chance to do my grocery shopping and grab anything necessary that might not have been claimed, like cranberry sauce. I buy my bird about two weeks out. You don't want to get caught trying to find the bird you want two days before Thanksgiving!

I use Paperless Post for our evites!

2. Share the love!

For a couple of years, my family did small Thanksgivings. I'm an only child, so it would just be the three of us or it might include one of my grandparents when they were still with us. My mom would make everyone's favorite and we would end up with food for at least two weeks! It was also a ton of work on her. When I started hosting, I had a tiny kitchen in my apartment. There was no way I could do everything! So I decided to do the bird, mashed potatoes and gravy, deviled eggs and a dessert. Each family brings a side and dessert and one family gets to count the cranberry, stuffing and rolls as either a side or dessert. This way, everyone brings their favorite dish, everyone is involved and none of are exhausted that day.

Some of the food spread from last year!

3. Be the Thanksgiving Nazi.

Do not say "bring what you want." A well planned party and menu means a good party and menu. With my family, everyone pretty much brings about the same thing each year. Thanksgiving is not the time to start trying out new foods, people! But I've known others that just let people bring what they want to Thanksgiving and then you end up with duplicates and missing favorites. While you might seem like a Nazi, if you tell people what to bring or what is expected, everyone is happier.

4. Have a timeline.

Even if you are doing a potluck, like we do, you need a timeline. This keeps you from losing your mind. Since I'm the host, my timeline starts the minute I send out the invite. Up until the day of, it's a daily timeline. No need to be crazy yet. The day of? That's by the hour.

The night before Thanksgiving, I do what I can. I peel the potatoes for the mashed potatoes and make pies. I also look at my menu and make my detailed timeline for the next day. This includes when to start heating the oven, when the bird goes in, when it's supposed to come out, when the rolls go in, and the temps and cooking time for each item. This means I don't have to hunt a cookbook for every little thing. When Thanksgiving Day hits, I'm a woman on a mission!

5. Enjoy the day.

I'm a hostess and a cook. I love for things to be just right. But Thanksgiving isn't about everything being just right. It's about being together! Doing whatever it is that makes your family happy. Don't get freaked out if things don't go right. You can be a Nazi and plan everything and something will still go wrong (ie - my turkey never takes the amount of time it's supposed to!). Enjoy your family and whoever else is spending the day with you. Love them. That's what makes this day so special!

Happy planning!