Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Measuring Success - 1/31/17

January - the month of resolutions, diets, and everything health related. So what about if you're already on that journey? Well, you kick it up a notch!

My last "success" post looked back at the first year of this journey.  It's still crazy to think how far I have come in a year. In a way, I almost don't remember that girl that started out. Don't get me wrong, I still remember every feeling of those first few months and have even seen myself in some of the new girls in my classes. I smile and introduce myself because at that point, the hardest part is truly just walking in the front door and seeing a smiling face makes all the difference. But when I look in the mirror after taking a shower, I don't immediately look away in disgust, but keep staring because I'm actually starting to like what I see in the mirror. I don't wallow in self pity if I gain a pound or two, because I've learned my body is strange and it'll come back off. I've learned to give myself grace because by God I've earned it. And that, my friends, is worth more than anything else you'll read on this post. But alas, let's get to the other good stuff - numbers!

December was a rough month in the world of healthy Sarah. Parties, Christmas, New Years = all the really good food that you shouldn't eat but do. I gained a few pounds back so I finished my year long journey at 15.2 lbs. So January 2 Aaron and I started round two of the Whole 30.  You can read about what our modifications were for the Whole 30 here. To make a long story short, we totally failed at Whole 30. But it turned out to be a good failure because we learned that we could keep up a mostly Paleo lifestyle with a few "cheat" days here and there. We learned to make better choices when we did cheat, like Subway instead of Cookout, and learned that a few indulgences once in a while helps keep the sanity (like Halo Top icecream, hello happiness!). We're both super happy with how the whole month turned out. Aaron's even lost some weight! He's back in his skinnier jeans and he's out of loops on his belt, ha. It was a good start to 2017.

Heart Rate
This month has also been a weird month for me in that I've seen a lot of doctors, including a cardiologist! Turns out I have a heart murmur that I've apparently always had, but has just now been found. You're probably thinking why I'm telling you this. I say that to say that I have now seen my heart, how my heart valves work and have learned that I have a nice, super strong heart. So go me! My resting heart rate has been down in the 58-62 range for most of the month, which I'm pretty happy about.

This is one I'm pretty friggin excited about! I've said multiple times that I am not a runner. And I'm still not, but I can now run. One night last week, after my spin class, I went directly in to my TRX circuit class and, thanks to endorphins, did some awesome running for our warm-up. Not going to lie, it's always a race in my mind when we run laps, whether it really is or not! So I started wondering what my running endurance would be now. Back in October, I posted that I was able to run 2.4 miles. On Sunday, I made Aaron go run with me at the high school near our house because I wanted to know what I could do. 3.3 miles. I ran 3.3 freakin miles! If my legs weren't like jelly, I seriously would have done some jumping and whooping. This from the girl that used to swear she would die after a mile.

We're now getting to that point in weight loss that is awesome and yet also annoying. Half my clothes don't fit. My workout pants are too big, my tops are huge and now the tops are hitting like halfway down my chest. Sorry to the people in front of me in spin that get to look at my cleavage the whole time. Don't get me wrong, it's mostly awesome because I'm fitting back into clothes I haven't seen in years! Even my small 12s are now fitting. So if you're in the market for some used XL and size 14 workout clothes, let me know! I got ya covered!


Today's photos are comparing last month and this month. There's not much difference, but that's okay. It's only a month!
End of last month and Monday night. Yay new tops that fit!

My favorite thing about any time we do the Whole 30 diet is the jump start it gives my weight loss. Even with completely failing and modifying the diet, I still had some major changes in my measurements.

  • Arms - I gained a half inch on my arms, but I'm chalking that up to muscle
  • Bust - I've finally started losing some here. Not a lot (0.75"), but enough that I'm officially back fat free (TMI, sorry)
  • Waist - This one. This month alone I've lost 2" off my waist. Since September, I've lost 3.75". Sometimes I want to kick myself for not doing measurements in the beginning because I bet that would be kind of insane.
  • Hips - I lost 0.5" off my hips. I've lost 2" total off my hips. 
  • Thighs - I actually gained some during the middle of the month and then it went back down. 
Let's just get to it - I lost 7.6 pounds this month! Whoop! I know it's not all about weight, but man it feels good to see that number go down! This means I'm officially at 22.8 pounds lost since January 2016. 

But let's also talk weight for a minute. The last time I fit into the clothes I'm in right now, I was a good 20 lbs less than I currently weigh. My friend Chrissy talked about why she doesn't weigh herself in one of her blog posts, My Health Journey: Progress Report. She talks about how at one point she felt "thin," but she wasn't healthy. She started focusing more on eating good food, not just being low carb, and running and doing yoga. She gained weight, but she lost two dress sizes. It's important to not always be so focused on your weight and to focus on other successes, especially being healthy. At my current weight, I do still need to focus on losing weight because I'm definitely heavier than is healthy. I'm moving in the right direction and I'm healthier, and happier, than I have been in a long time. But I have a long ways to go. Your weight matters, but it can't be all that matters. The last time I was this size, I worked out twice a week and could run a mile. Now, I work out 5 days a week, do about 6 -7 classes a week, and can run over 3 miles. There is a lot more muscle to me than there used to be, probably about twenty pounds more of it. So weigh yourself, but don't lose your mind over it. 

So we started 2017 with a bang. I'm within 3 pounds (!!) of my next big goal - 25 pounds down. I thought about it long and hard as to what my goal gift will be. It can't be food. I'm learning to have a new relationship with food, so I can't reward myself with a plate of cow from Ruth's Chris. I've decided that my reward to myself at 25 lbs down will be a new shirt from Burn, my gym. They have super cute tops and I have yet to indulge. 

How'd your first month in 2017 go? Do you have any new goals you're setting or getting close to?!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Free Workout Apps to Help You Stay in Shape at Home

I will be the first to admit that I never work out at home. If I do, it's running or a short yoga flow. Otherwise, my best work is done in a class where an instructor yells at me (in a very encouraging way), I angrily grunt and grimace while pushing myself to do it and at the end, I feel super proud of myself for doing it. I come back for more and more every day. It's kind of ridiculous when I think about it. But that doesn't work for everyone. Some can't afford the gym in terms of their time, their money, child care, etc. So then your best bet is at home.

Just in case you ever wanted to know what apps are on my phone! Also, St. Lucia <3
I've rounded up some of my favorite apps that can help you work out at home without any extra equipment besides maybe a few weights, a mat and some music. Music makes everything better! Also, get ready for some awesome phone screen shots!

Emily Skye's Workouts

Emily Skye is my Facebook gym buddy crush. Thanks to the slightly scary algorithms on Facebook, when I started working out and getting healthy, Facebook started showing me all these workout videos. Emily Skye's were the ones that I was most drawn into. The videos were short, moves were easy and homegirl had a super enviable body and wardrobe. And she's Australian! She has workouts you can do at home without any equipment, in the gym on machines, with a friend, or a mix of all of the above.

What I like is that you can get a free daily workout.

And just in case you don't know what the moves are, it walks you through them!

She also has multiple programs you can do through the app that do require purchase. You can also just get most of her videos on her Facebook page!

FitStar came with my Fitbit.

I access it most through my FitBit Blaze, but it's also an app you can get on your phone or tablet. On my Blaze, I can automatically access a Warm-up, 7-Minute Workout and 10-Minute Abs.  On the app, you can get other free sessions such as Mountain Cross and FitStart 15 under Freestyle Sessions.

You can sign-up for Fitstar Basic for free which will get you 2 sessions per week or you can upgrade to Fitstart Premium which gets you unlimited sessions, all Freestyle sessions and premium programs. It's only $39.99/year, which is still less than I pay a month for my gym!

PopSugar Active
I don't quite remember how I found PopSugar, but it is one of my favorite blogs/email services. They have great short articles about foods to eat, new exercise moves, why you aren't losing weight and other health topics as well as general beauty and fashion tips. I get an email from them every day and I probably read at least one post from every email, sometimes multiple! And they have an app!

It's a free app (yay!) and there are carido, yoga, butt-toning, full-body, abs and core, etc. videos of all different lengths (10, 20 and 30 minute) as well as interval workouts to do on the treadmill and elliptical!

There are also customized workouts by strength training, running, yoga and cardio.

I haven't tried any of these out yet, but I've watch a few of the videos and while the instructors are peppier than I prefer, the moves are very similar to what I do in class and give you good tips about your form.

Map My Walk
Ah. My old standby. My old friend. We don't see each other as much now that I have a Fitbit, but we used to be BFF. When Aaron and I used to go running all the time, this is what we used to track our time and mileage.

Cool things you might not know about MapMyWalk. It gives you suggested routes near where you live. These are routes that others have done and they have logged their walking, running, cycling, etc. You can use these to help change up your routine. It also stores all of your routes. I think it's fun to sometimes look back at my old routes and times.

You can also do challenges. You can follow one of the apps challenges or you can set your own. You can also challenge any of your friends that you've connected with on the app.


Fitbit is probably my most used fitness app, but it's not really my favorite for workouts.  I do think it's a fabulous way to track your steps, heart rate, calorie intake, water, weight, etc. It's replace MyFitnessPal for me in that respect. But it doesn't really have anything to keep you active besides the neurosis that happens when you are in a Workweek Challenge with your best friend that's a teacher and has a baby and you work a desk job. That will make you try to at least get more steps in. But that's it. It doesn't really do anything else special. The Fitbit app is a great tracker app, not a fitness app.

I'm sure there are more, tons more, apps out there, but these are the ones that I use the most or am most impressed by. What about you? Are there any apps that you use when you can't get to the gym?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Anatomy of a Go-to Work Outfit

Mondays are hard in the Zinn house. Mostly on this Zinn. The other one pops up and is ready to go. Weirdo. Me? I slam the alarm a few times, roll (literally, I roll) out of bed, trudge to the bathroom and don't speak actual words until after my shower. Even then the words aren't great. I'm not a morning person. Never have been. I'm also not a "put my clothes together the night before" kind of girl either. And that's why I have spent so much time on my closet to make sure I can throw together easy outfits without much thought.

My goal in the morning is to somehow make a decision about what to wear and look great in it while only half of my brain is actually working. It's an adventure, to say the least. But when in doubt, I pick out my go-to outfit.

Everyone has a different go-to outfit. For some it's a dress. Others it's a suit.  For me? It's pants, neutral top, cardigan, flats and jewelry.

Boring, right? I sound like a librarian or dowdy teacher. But I'm not.

Top - Kohls last season (affiliate link for similar here)/ Cardigan - Stitch Fix/ Pants - Ann Taylor last season (similar here)/ Flats - Target (similar here)/ Earrings - Gift/ Necklace - Stitch Fix/ Ring - Premier Jewelry 
The trick is to get fun neutral pieces. Like this top, I found at Kohl's last fall. I like it because it's an easy cream color, which goes with everything, and has a higher neckline. I don't like to show cleavage at work. When you work in a boy's world, you don't want to be perceived as using anything but your brains. I also love the layers, which give the top some interesting detail. My cardigan is from Stitch Fix and is super light, great for cold offices, but has some fun detailing around the front.

Then I add some some fun pops. These red pants are from Ann Taylor and are hands down some of my favorite pants. I love the color - it's  beautiful wine color that is easy to wear and perfect for fall and winter. I pair these with my trusty leopard print flats. Flats are my thing. Once upon a time I wore heels and I still have tons of them, but most days I live in flats.

Jewelry is the finisher. For the past two years, I have been all about gold. I'm not sure when the shift from silver to gold happened, but I mostly wear gold now. Dangly earrings, a long necklace to frame the open cardigan and a giant cocktail ring are all you need to finish the look.

I used to think that work clothes were boring. But I practically live in them these days and I've found that by spending some time thinking about your wardrobe as a whole, not just individual pieces, can help you come up with some great go-to outfits that you love and feel great in. Getting dressed isn't rocket science, but you do need some good choices to get a good look.  Life's to short to wear boring clothes (sorry, went a little LulaRoe there).

What's your favorite go-to outfit?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Facebook Recipe - Sausage Egg Roll in a Bowl

There are tons of recipes on Facebook. It's kind of ridiculous. I always used to wonder if they were any good, but I've tried a few of them and have always been pleasantly surprised.  Most of the ones I usually see, though, are for party food, comfort food and all the bad things that you want but know you shouldn't eat.  I found one, though, that looked easy, yummy and healthy! I've now made it, so I thought I'd share it in written form!

Perfect post workout meal!
The original recipe came from Buns in My Oven and can be found here. When you're a blogger yourself, you understand the importance of giving credit where credit is due! The funny thing is that my best friend told me about this recipe long before I ever saw the Facebook video, so when I did see it, I saved it because I knew I had to try it!

So I give to you Sausage Egg Roll in a Bowl! I've changed the ingredients a little to match what I had also to make it Paleo and Whole 30 compliant!

Sausage Egg Roll in a Bowl


  • 1 lb of sausage - we used chorizo because...chorizo. The original recipe calls for regular sausage.
  • Bag of tricolor slaw
  • Green onions (optional - I didn't have these, so I didn't use them)
  • Ginger - I am lazy and always have bottled ground ginger. You can also buy ginger and grate it yourself.
  • Soy sauce or coconut aminos if you want to be Paleo/Whole 30 compliant
  • Toasted sesame oil

The recipe also calls for garlic, but I didn't use it because I was being lazy and I really didn't feel like the dish was lacking. Also, chorizo has garlic in it which is probably why I didn't miss it. 

This recipe is super easy. I made it after gym class one night in about 10, maybe 15 minutes. 

  • Brown the chorizo or sausage

  • Add in the ginger, garlic, if not using chorizo, slaw mix and soy sauce or coconut aminos. I added a heaping teaspoon of ginger and just poured in some coconut aminos.  I didn't measure. 
Make sure to use a large pan! This is my 4 qt pan and I was still slingy slaw everywhere!
  • Stir to combine  while cooking down the slaw and sausage mixture. You want the slaw to soften some, about 3-5 minutes.
  • Add in the toasted sesame oil and stir some more.  I eyeballed, didn't measure it. I did some taste-testing before I pulled the pan off the heat to make sure I had the right taste.

  • Remove pan from heat and serve. You can add in green onions at this point if you are adding those.
This makes about 4 servings. We each had a large serving for dinner that night and had enough to make lunches for the next day. If you're looking for a super quick and tasty weeknight meal, add this to your rotation!  

Friday, January 20, 2017

January Whole 30 Half Way: Lessons from Failure

In case you didn't gather it from the title, we failed at the first two weeks of the Whole 30 diet in January.

But I still don't think of it as a failure! We made some good choices when failing (ha!) and I think we've found a healthy balance that we can keep up.

When we started Whole 30, we modified to allow regular almond milk (I do the Silk Unsweetened Vanilla), one glass of wine or beer a week, vanilla extract for baking/cooking and allowing baked goods that are Paleo for breakfast.  To read about the Whole 30 diet, you can check out my original blog posts (here and here).  You can also check out the Whole 30 book on Amazon!

Even with out modifications to the diet, we strayed big time. Between snow days, birthday parties, crazy four hour meetings at work, sometimes not wanting to cook after a full day of work followed by the gym and our love of Cookout, we failed. We cheated a lot. But I look back at the past two weeks and still see it as a gain.

In the past two weeks, I've:
  • Said no to bagels and cream cheese.
  • Said no to homemade sausage pinwheels (that was painful, but not overly so).
  • Have mostly drank water, almost exclusively, minus a Bojangles sweet tea.
  • When we've cheated, we've made smart choices. After a 4 hour meeting that lasted until 8:00 PM, we got Subway as our take out instead of Cookout or Taco Bell.
  • Found more recipes that we like!
  • Have actually gotten in our 5 servings of fruits and veggies every day.
We learned the first time around that meal prep is what makes or breaks this diet! I think I tried to do too much the first time and that's why I burned out in 2 weeks. This time, while we've cheated immensely, I've also learned a few more things.
  • Good snacks are key! You aren't supposed to snack. I get that. But I'm pretty sure the authors of the diet don't sit in back to back meetings the way I do. Or make dinner after working out, so dinner is around 7:30-8:00 PM. We need snacks.  Our favorites have been Jackson's Honest Sweet Potato Chips (amazing!!!), apples with almond butter, and carrots with homemade ranch. 
  • Backup meals are your friend! This past week, I made some backup meals based on a FB video recipe.  I did two sheet pans with veggies (broccoli, carrots, potatoes, cauliflower) and chicken breasts.  I roasted them and then split them up into 5 meals. The Facebook recipe called for rice with the chicken and veggies, which isn't Paleo or Whole 30 friendly, so I used white potatoes instead (Whole 30 friendly!). The backup meals took about an hour total - prep and cooking time. They've been a huge help to cover nights I don't want to cook and lunches for the next day.  I'll definitely be keeping this up!
  • Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan! We already knew this, but I really can't say this enough! I plan out my dinners, the lunches they will provide and snacks.  This helps me shop smarter and be prepared.  I always include one or two meals that take less than 30 minutes to make so there's less chance of cheating. 
  • Frozen and pre-cut veggies are your friend! When we did this the first time, I did all fresh produce. Which is awesome. And time consuming! This time I spent a little more on veggies that I didn't have to prep such as frozen riced cauliflower and pre-chopped butternut squash. 
  • Habits don't take as long as you think when you have a goal. This was a biggie for me. An eye opener of sorts. When we did Clean 14 back in September, we stuck to some of it (almond milk instead of dairy, no soda, mostly cooking Paleo), but a lot we didn't. I didn't gain any weight back, but I also didn't lose any.  This time, I was super specific about what I wanted out of this: weight loss and something we could stick with. I knew that we wouldn't stick with Whole 30 as a lifestyle, so I think that's why I've been okay with the cheating. Because we've found ways to make a lifestyle that works for us. Knowing these goals make it easier to start new habits, like drinking water almost exclusively. I don't miss soda and I almost (almost, not totally) can't drink a large sweet tea from Bojangles. I've had one sweet tea since we started the diet, one glass of wine and maybe one or two La Croixs.  Everything else has been nothing but water. 
Some of my new favorites!

I'm not going to report how much weight I've lost (it's pretty sweet) or inches (also pretty sweet), but I will tell you that I have drank the Clean Eating kool-aid. I work out like a mad woman on a regular basis. I love it, it's part of me now. But nothing, and I mean nothing, has allowed me to lose weight like Whole30, Paleo and Clean Eating. I don't know if that means that I'm gluten intolerant (I hope not, cause cake), but now I know what my body needs and how to make it work for me. It's kinda cool. If you've been on the fence about trying this (Whole 30, Paleo or Clean Eating), try it out! I'm happy to answer any questions I can or tell you where to look for your answers. A healthy you is a happy you!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Shopaholic on a Budget: The Zinns Get a Budget

I didn't grow up talking about money. We're southern, that was seen as taboo. My husband, however, sees money as something you talk about to anyone and everyone. I'm getting better about it, but I still don't like to talk about my salary, how much I make, he makes, what we paid for our house, etc. It just doesn't feel right. But I'm going to alter that a little, because I want to talk about budgeting. I think its that one thing that everyone talks about, but don't actually do. And when you're married, it's even harder.

©  | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Shopaholic on a Budget is going to be a series of blog posts. I named it that because I'm the one with the budget problem, not Aaron. I'll totally be the first to admit that. There are few things that make me happier than material gain, especially material gain at a discount. You might be thinking, "Sarah, this is a blog about fashion, food, and fitness, not money." You would be right, but also wrong. Because those things cost money. And they are mostly the reason that I'm on a budget (thank you Stitch Fix, Fabletics and LulaRoe). I wanted to do this series to follow our budget plan this year. We've tried some of the budget apps, like Mint, but they really didn't give me the control that we wanted and needed. Our budget is pretty strict, but not crazily so. I want to show what two people, without kids, can do and accomplish in a year. The best part - it can totally be adapted to whatever your lifestyle is! Not going to lie, blogging also helps keep me a bit more accountable. It won't really be on a schedule like my Measuring Success posts, but will be posted when we hit some major milestones!

So how did this budget happen? We both work. We both make good money and we don't have kids. We should have a ridiculous amount of money saved and we don't. We've been having the "what if we have kids" talks lately and really want to accomplish a few things before that happens. Yes, we are well aware that you can't plan for kids and nothing really prepares you. We get that. But there are also things that we can control and, being the last of your friends to have kids, you learn a few things.

In 2015, we did an amazing job of saving. We saved about $15,000 in one year. We added that to savings we already had and some help from my parents for a down payment on our house. The leftover was used to buy some of the stuff we wanted for the house (blinds, ceiling fans, my closet, etc). It was amazing what we did! But that was a super rough year. We didn't do anything fun, we just saved for the house. I burned out really quickly after that.

In 2016, we did all the big things! We went to Alaska, I started going to a gym ($99/mo), we bought a new sectional and coffee table. It was a lot of expenses. And then in November, we bought me a laptop, then our neighborhood had a power surge that fried our TV, so we bought a new 65" TV. After Black Friday. Then we bought a new Christmas tree. That all happened in one year folks. Alaska we were prepared for. The rest? Not so much. The Zinns were broke. We did some good things, though! We paid off the Corolla and we made two extra house payments. At the last paycheck in December, though, we had $24 in our checking account before we both got paid. Ouch.

We needed a budget. We needed one that would allow us to do some big things: pay off all the debt except the house and my student loans while also saving to replace my car. But we also needed a budget that allowed us to have some fun. If 2016 taught me anything, it was moderation. We need a budget that allowed me to do some shopping, but on a more purposeful basis. Not just buying crap to buy it. And we needed a budget that allowed Aaron to do the things he likes such as going to the range, seeing movies, etc. We had a snowed in weekend, so I took a Saturday and came up with our budget.

I'm not going to give you specifics about our budget, because everyone's income is different. But I will give you how I came up with it and what we are doing. It can easily be applied to your budget.

1. I determined our monthly take home and what our bills and spending needed to be. Aaron and I both work for a City. I'm salaried and he's hourly. My pay doesn't change, but his does based on the overtime he works. We also get paid bi-weekly. I calculated our monthly take home by using my salary and Aaron's base. Anything over that is extra that we can apply to the bank account cushion. Then I gathered all of our bills. For utilities, I estimated what our usual amount was. Some vary greatly, others not so much. We've been making extra principal payments on our mortgage, so I included that entire amount for our mortgage payments.  Also included in our bills are the minimum payments on the furniture and TV. Then I added in the rest of our expenses: the monthly amount for tithes to our church, our agreed upon spending money, going out money, gas and groceries. That is the amount that I know is going to come out of our bank account every month.  What is leftover goes to "other stuff", savings and debt payoff.

2. We figured out our expendable income. Part of the "bills" is our allowances and going out money. We each have $100 a month that we can use for shopping, lunch or dinner out on our own, etc. This is definitely more for me than for Aaron. It actually gives him some money to spend. His spending was normally drinks when he was on the road and other small purchases, but nothing big. This gives him spending money for lunches, games, the shooting range, etc. I proposed the amounts, but we both agreed on them. Our going out money is for us to use together. This is for dinners or lunches out, movies, etc. We set that at $150 per paycheck or every two weeks. We had been spending about $200-$300 a weekend eating out. Yikes! We're through the first two weekends and I can tell you that you can do it, but it's not easy. You really do have to think about where you go, what you order. Ordering water is your friend!

3. We determined how much we want to save and pay to our debt each month. Most of our financed stuff is on credit cards with 0% interest. My laptop in on my credit card, so we're paying that off first. Because of that and the need to save for a car, we determined to save $1,000 a month with half going to debt payoff and half going to savings. This still leaves us a cushion at the end of each paycheck for the "other stuff" like hair cuts, birthday parties/gifts, etc.  That might not be the amount you can save each month, so I recommend figuring out a steady amount each month that you can throw to your debt and savings. Don't let it depend on the amount of money you have left at the end of the month.

4. I set up a ledger in Excel to track our expenses and see how we do each month. I have it categorized into bills, spending money, going out, groceries, gas/auto, other, savings and debt payoff. I set it up to track how we spend the money (checking account, cash, credit cards) and the running total to match our checking account. I enter all the expenses, even those from the credit cards, but have it set up so that expenses on the credit cards don't tally into the running total.  The credit card expenses total on a separate sheet that tracks our spending in the categories each month. On the ledger, they are tracked in the "debt payoff" category. Not going to lie, setting up that spreadsheet was intense. But now I can easily reconcile our checking account and also see how we are spending against our budget for each category. We also sat down and determined what paycheck we wanted to pay which expenses with. Most of our bills hit on the last paycheck of the month, which has been painful. We moved paying a few bills to the first paycheck of the month and added in our soft expsenses such as the allowances, debt payoff, etc. It's pretty much equal spending per paycheck now. No more tears at the end of the month because there's no money!

5. Finally, we went to a cash system. Yeah, you read that right. Cash. Most people don't even know it exits anymore, but it does! Cash control what you can't. For us, that's my shopping and our eating out. Therefore, that's what where we use cash. When the cash is gone, it's gone.  This also makes using the ledger so much easier because gone are the hundred tiny transactions! The only transactions now are the bills, debt payoff, savings and the cash we take out. I can enter everything in about 5 to 10 minutes and most of that time is due to signing into accounts. Obviously, some spending happens online. I handle that by taking that money out of the cash and depositing it back into the account. I actually just had to do this with my Stitch Fix purchases! We take all of our spending money out in the beginning of the month and then split the going out money by paycheck. Dave Ramsey talks about the cash envelopes and does it for everything. Personally, that's way more cash than I feel comfortable carrying. I'm also confident in how much we spend on gas, groceries and household items. The control was needed for spending and eating out, so that's where we implemented cash.

That, my friends, is the Zinn budget. I have a massive spreadsheet that I set up to track everything and we both sit down and pay the bills together. I'm usually the bill payer, but we're doing this thing together. The biggest thing with cash is just doing it. We talked about going to cash for a year and never did it. After the $24 in our bank account scare, the next paycheck, we did it. The Friday we got paid, we went to the ATM and pulled out our cash. We divvied it up and have lived with it for two weeks now. My next post in this series is going to be about how we did our first month on the cash system. So far, it's working really well for us!

Do you have a budget? Have you ever sat down and talked about your financial goals with your spouse, analyzed your spending and put controls in place? Have you ever given yourself an allowance? I know I can't be the only shopaholic out there! I hope this series helps you think about your budget, even come up with your own!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

I Baked with Duck Eggs

There are points in your life when you look at where you are, what you are doing and think "where the heck did this come from?!" At least there are in mine.  It happened this past weekend when I baked with duck eggs.

If you follow my blog, you know we are doing the Whole 30 diet. And when I say "doing it" what I really mean is doing it about half the time, using it as a suggestive guide and still making good choices when we cheat.  Notice I didn't say if, at this point, it's just when. The cheating is inevitable. But we are still sticking to a predominantly Paleo diet. One of the main tenents of Paleo is eating the best foods, including local, cage free eggs. 

I can honestly say that before about a year ago, I thought the clean eaters were crazy. My best friend did it and I thought she was a little nutty (sorry, Katie) and then I'd read all these people that were going gluten free and thought, "ya'll are nuts." But here I am. That person. That person that has at least 6 types of flour in her pantry, buys out half the produce section when doing grocery shopping and now spends $5 on a dozen eggs because I really can tell a difference between the cage free organic and the cheap store eggs. And now I have friends that are crazy chicken ladies! And sometimes I get my eggs from them!

Last week, my co-worker brought in duck eggs and asked if I'd like to try them. We go through a ridiculous amount of eggs, so I said sure! Let's do it! I took a half dozen eggs from her. She told me that she mixes them in with her regular eggs when making scrambled eggs, because they do taste a little different, and that she loves to bake with them. So this past weekend, I used my duck eggs!

I made scrambled cheesy eggs with them Sunday morning. Cheese is not Paleo and not Whole 30, but, it's cheese, so I did it. I did half regular eggs and half duck eggs. I also used ghee, which I haven't quite determined if I like it or not. The eggs were good, but definitely tasted different.  I honestly couldn't tell, though, if it was the duck eggs or the ghee. I'm suspecting it was the ghee. 

Monday, though, I made my favorite Dirty Chocolate Chai Muffins with the duck eggs. 

Yes. Give me all the duck eggs!

Duck eggs are bigger than chicken eggs. I put one of my regular eggs beside the duck eggs for reference.

The egg on the bottom left is the chicken egg!
The recipe called for 4 chicken eggs, so I used 3 duck eggs. I was hungry and didn't get a picture of the egg yolks before I whisked them, but I wish I had because they were so big! I definitely didn't need 4 of them!

I made the recipe as usual, but with my duck eggs. I baked them for 25 minutes.  When I went to test them, I noticed that the toothpick was mostly coming out clean, but not all the way.  I suspect that was the chocolate chips in them! I put them back in for a minute before taking them out. 

So, the differences. I noticed that these muffins rose a bit more than usual. The picture below is from the first time I made them (read about it here). They were pretty flat on the top.

This picture is of the muffins from this batch. They definitely have more of a muffin top to them! I have noticed in gluten free baking that things don't rise like regular baking. They are still good, but gluten free muffins are usually denser and flatter.

The muffins are also super fluffy! They taste more like a normal muffin or cake does. I tried to take a picture to show the consistency of the muffin. It's slightly hard to see because they are so dark! You can definitely see the air bubbles though! 

I actually really like the duck eggs. I don't know that I would scramble them very often, but I do love them for baking! I have this one muffin recipe for Pumpkin Spiced Muffins. I love them, I do, but they are truly gluten free muffins. Our friend calls them the poop muffins because they look so ugly! I follow the recipe exactly and they never come out pretty, but they are so tasty! So I keep making them! I wonder what they would be like with duck eggs! I might have to save my last one for that recipe next week!

Have you ever tried duck eggs? Do you have a crazy chicken lady friend?! They are the best!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Eating and Cooking Like a Caveman! (Against All Grain Review)

It's been a while since I've done a cookbook review and since we're (mostly) doing Whole30, I thought it was a perfect time to do one!

After we did Clean 14 back in September, I went on this hunt to find good Paleo cookbooks.  I checked a bunch out from the library and tried out their recipes. One of the first cookbooks that came up when searching for Paleo was Against All Grain by Danielle Walker.

At first, I wasn't so sure that I was going to find much to make out of this book.  The food seemed a little fancier than I wanted and way too many vegetables.  I quickly learned that I liked the fancy food and got over all the vegetables!

We made a ton of recipes out of this book! I renewed it multiple times and only returned it to the library because someone else had requested it.  I loved it so much, I even put it and a newer version on my Christmas list!

Korean Beef Noodle Bowls
This was the first recipe I tried out of this book.  What originally drew me was its simplicity but also that it required spiralizing.  For some reason, Kitchenaid came out with a new mixer attachment last year that was a spiralizer.  I decided I needed one! I wanted to try a spiralizer recipe before spending all the money on the attachment.  So I went to Target and got a $15 spiralizer.  Never bought the attachment because the cheap one worked so well!

Anyway, this was the first of many recipes I made! The marinade for the meat was awesome. I wasn't a huge fan of the noodles, it took a few tries for me to get zucchini noodles to the right consistency when cooking them. It's a great, quick easy recipe though for weeknight meals.  

Indian Spiced Pork Roast with Cumi Curry Carrots and Asian Pear Chutney
This is actually two separate recipes (chutney is separate from the main recipe). I always liked pork tenderloin, but it's really become a staple around our house for weeknight meals.  I either buy them in bulk at BJs or stock up when I find them on sale.  

This is honestly one of my favorite recipes. When we hosted Friendsgiving for my birthday, we made this as the main meat! The pork tenderloin is so tender and is good by itself, really, but the chutney just makes it awesome! The carrots are good and I like that it's a recipe for a whole meal.  I always apprecite it when I don't have to use multiple cookbooks at once! 

Crispy Sweet Potato Fries with Wasabi Aioli
Originally, I made this recipe with the Chicken Tenders from Juli Bauer's Paleo cookbook (see post here). I liked the sweet potatoes and we LOVED the aioli, but doing the two recipes together was a nightmare for me.  There was just too much going on in both of them at the same time.  I think I also made the sweet potatoes a little too thin and some of them burned.  It's definitely worth a repeat though, with a simpler main dish!

 We also made Spiced Pumpkin Muffins, Seafood Paella, and Pan-Seared Salmon in Red Curry Sauce, I just either a) didn't take photos or b) they weren't very appetizing! Sadly, some crazy person wanted this book from the library and I had to return it, so I made photo copies of all my favorite recipes to hold me over until I could purchase my own copy! I loved this book that much!

If you are Paleo, Primal or trying out Whole 30, this is definitely a must read! If you like some healthy recipes, but don't feel the need to be gluten free, check it out from the library because there are still some amazingly good recipes (like the Indian Spiced Pork Tenderloin!).  Try it out and tell me what you think!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Stitch Fix Review - January 2017

Let me tell ya, this fix was rough.  Not because I didn't love everything, but because I did! It was a 4/5 box, but we're on a fairly strict budget this year and I have a monthly allowance. My stylist always sends me great items and I'm always amazed at how quickly the time goes between each box! This month was no different! Let's get to it!

If you're familiar with Stitch Fix, scroll right on past this to the items! 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.

Now that we're past all that, let's get to the fix itself.  I was super duper excited for this fix because I have gift certificates! My sister- and brother-in-law got me a gift certificate for my birthday and my mother- and father-in-law got me a certificate for Christmas! Score! I love getting fixes, but knowing that most of it will be paid for makes it that much sweeter.

I was also suprised to get a holiday box. This year during Christmas, Stitch Fix was putting golden tickets in their boxes. Each person got a ticket with each of their fixes (for those that get multiple a month!) that could be scratched off to see if you won free Stitch Fix! I didn't win, but it was still fun to get a ticket after the holidays!

I didn't have a lot to say in my note this month. Here's what I said:

Hi Kelly! I'd love some great layering pieces - vests, cardigans, neutral color tops that can be paired with everything. No jackets please, I don't tend to wear them as much. I really love the Rowen Faux Leather Quilted Vest that I have pinned or something like it. I'm also still on the hunt for a nice big tote! The one you sent last time wasn't quite as large as I would like and I'd like to be able to use it to carry my laptop.

Here's what I got!

Market and Spruce Sam Hi-Lo Short Sleeve Tee - L - $44
Overall, I really liked this top. I've been asking for neutral layering pieces pretty much every fix for a while because it's hard to find neutral layering tops.  Not camisoles, I have plenty of those. But actual shirts with sleeves or more substantial shirts. I was really happy to see this included in my fix. It's a great layering piece and will work under so many of my cardigans and jackets. The fabric was a little thin for my preference.  I always hate when you can see the belt loops and indentations of your pants through a shirt. I also thought that $44 was a little steep for a grey t-shirt, so I sent it back. I'll keep my eyes on the look out for a cheaper version in the stores!

41Hawthorn Abrianna Longsleeve Knit Cardigan - L - $48
I need another cardigan like I need another hole in my head. However, this one is pretty much made for me. It needs to be in my closet! The fabric is super soft and light, so I can wear it into spring. I also don't have a lot of this color in my wardrobe and definitely not in a cardigan! The price point is also a nice touch. Sometimes Stitch Fix can be a little high on my comfort scale, but at just under $50, this was perfect.

I styled the cardigan with the Sam Hi-Lo Tee and my Romolo Ellen Crescent Ladder Pendant that I received a few fixes ago.  Seriously, I wear that necklace with everything! I love this look together! While I'm not keeping the Sam Hi-Lo Tee, I think this cardigan will be a fabulous addition to my closet and will be worn non-stop, so I kept it!

Tart Skyros Quilted Wool Vest - L - $78
I've been asking for a vest for the past two fixes. I don't have one and I've seen so many cute ones on the Stitch Fix boards! I wanted to try one for myself. I didn't have this exact one pinned, but it is very similar and the same price point, so I'm happy with the substitution.  I see on the boards that so many people complain about their stylist not giving them the exact item that they pin, but I find that my stylist always gives me a really good alternative and one that probably looks better on me!

I was so, so torn on this! I was bummed because the vest is a little small. It looks good, but I can't zip it. We can now exchange on Stitch Fix (hooray!), but when I went to exchange it on my check out, I can only exchange it for an XXL, which will be way too big. This is a good problem to have, I suppose. I was torn as to whether I should keep it and just wear it open or send it back. It's such a well made item and I love the grey.  There are so many things that it will go with in my closet! Ah! Ultimately, I decided to keep it. It still looks super cute unzipped and maybe it'll help keep me motivated on my journey!

Fate Gradon Sheer Raglan Seam Sweater - L - $64
This box honestly could be the death of my bank account. I have a stylist that is really good at finding pieces that fit me well and are my style! 

The sweater fits really well.  I love a good black sweater as it will go with pretty much anything, but I don't know that I loved this sweater $64 worth. I also wasn't a fan of the sheer fabric up around my bra straps. It's a fun detail, but I hate when you can see your bras straps! And, I'm sorry, if I'm going to wear a strapless dress, it's not going to be for a sweater. Ultimately, I decided to send this one back.

Street Level Parvin Suede Detail Tote - $68
I've been asking for a new bag all year. Literally, every note has included "I want a new bag!" I received my favorite royal blue tote that I wore until it started falling apart from Stitch Fix two years ago and my favorite clutch, so I know they have good purse potential. But I am a picky, picky woman when it comes to a purse.  I want it to go over my shoulder comfortably, have substantial straps, leather, and (new addition) be able to carry my brand new Lenovo Yoga. It was already hard enough to find one that I liked and then I added that new requirement.

Kelly has tried really hard. She sent me a purse last time that was cute, but didn't meet the over the shoulder requirement.  This one, while meeting most of my other requirements, didn't meet the substantial strap requirement. I honestly think those straps will just dig into my shoulder with all the crap I put in my bag! I'm also not a change my purse out kind of girl. I'm a wear it everyday until it falls apart kind of girl.

So, I sent it back. I've decided to take my purse search outside of Stitch Fix and I've decided that it's probably going to hurt (financially) when I finally find the one I want. 

Honestly, this box could have easily been a 5/5. The tops all fit well, except the vest, and I could have kept the bag to get my 25% discount. But we are on a budget lock-down and I need to be smart about how I spend my money. I've bought all the things lately and need to calm.it.down! So I kept two items.  I call this a total success of a box and loved every minute of trying things on and hashing out with the hubs what I could keep.  What are your thoughts? Would you have kept the same items?

Friday, January 6, 2017

LulaRoe for Work

This past year, I was introduced to the world of LulaRoe by my dear cousin Brittany. I'd seen the leggings and the shirts and hadn't really been interested or understood the hype, if you want to know the truth, but when my cousin started selling it, I bought a piece to support her. And thus began my semi-addiction. I've had some frustration with LulaRoe in that the sizing doesn't make sense (at all) and that it's not always workplace friendly. So, if you work in a business professional setting and you've been on the fence about LulaRoe, what styles to buy, what size you might be, etc, then this is for you! Because I wish someone had written this for me.

What I like about LulaRoe is that it's comfortable and modest. I don't have to worry about a shirt being too low cut on me, skirts being too short, etc. I also like the fun prints. I think it's cool that each consultant gets different inventory and they aren't able to choose their prints, so you aren't married to one consultant. Having done direct sales before, I totally see the value in that. You don't have to feel like you're cheating on one consultant with another. I have found, however, that it's best to have a handful you buy from. Otherwise, you end up with a pile of punch cards and Lula bucks like mine.

We'll start with my favorite styles. I'll let you know what size I'm wearing, what size I normally wear and how I style it.

The Julia style is hands down my favorite style. I own two Julia dresses, one regular and one from the Elegant Collection that I affectionately refer to as "the glitter bomb." This style is similar to a sheath, but with more give than normal. I normally wear a L and I size up to an XL in the Julia.  It's pretty clingy. My Elegant Collection Julia (photo below on the right) is even more clingy than usual because of the fabric.

I was originally scared of the Julia. I thought she would show all the bad parts of my body. I won't lie, she will tell you when you are having a fat day. But she is also very versatile and I'll even show you the trick one consultant showed me about how to create some ruching!

I've worn my Julia multiple ways! I've worn it by itself, with the Lindsay kimono, and I've even pulled it up to wear it as a shirt with dress pants! I've seen others wear it with leggings or a Cassie, but I think it's a little too clingy, in my opinion, to wear with leggings underneath and I haven't tried the Cassie.

As you can see in some of my photos, I ruche the dress once in a while on the side.  This helps cover some of those problem areas.  The way to do it is to grab some fabric on the inside where you want the ruching to occur and then tie it with a hair tie. Pull the dress back down and, magic!, you've got some ruching. You don't need a lot of fabric to achieve the look!

The Lindsay is my next favorite style for work.  I only own one because they are more expensive ($54), but it is in heavy rotation! I also get a ton of compliments when I wear it. In the Lindsay, I wear a Small and I normally wear a Large in cardigans.  I tried on the Medium and found that it swallowed me. The draping on the Small is exactly what I wanted.  If you're a smaller size (like 6 or below), try the Bianka, which is the kids version of the Lindsay.

Lindsay Kimono with the Azure skirt
I mostly wear my Lindsay with my Julia, but I also will pair with dress pants or the Azure skirt. It's a really nice compliment to the Julia dress, especially if you're not feeling your skinniest that day!

I love, love, love the Lola skirt. I'd been hesitant to try it because most consultants local to me don't have them and I hate buying a new style where I have to pay shipping because the sizing is so off! Seriously, I'll try a size thinking it's the right one and then it won't work. So, in these photos I'm wearing a size Medium because I fell in love with this skirt and I could only find it in a Medium. and XL. I can make it work, but I definitely recommend a Large or ordering true to size.

The Lola is a pseudo midi in that it hits mid-calf, but the lining is four inches higher than the outer skirt.  I appreciate this because I have short legs and midis are usually pretty terrible on me. They hit in the fattest part of my calf and then it looks like my legs are tree trunks, but with the sheer fabric, you see more of my legs!

Here I have it paired with a wrap top tucked in.
I like the Azure. I have two and I might buy some more as it's a good spring and summer look. The skirt has a yoga waist band and then is nice and flowy. You can wear it as a skirt or pull it up to wear it as a top. For the Azure, you really need to know the type of fabric to determine the size you need. I have one that is a slinky fabric. It's a Large and I can't really keep it up. I have one that is a more cotton fabric and the Large is perfect. So if you're shopping for them on an album sale or multi-consultant sale, always ask the type of fabric.

Paired here with a Stitch Fix top
The Julia, Lindsay and Lola are my favorites for work. I'll definitely be buying more of those styles and mostly sticking to them. My other favorite style is the Perfect T.  It's not really work appropriate, but I sometimes will wear them on Friday with a long cardigan over it.

Now, for the styles I have tried and that have failed me.

I wanted to love the Amelia. So, so much. It's adorable on other people and is considered one of the dressier styles. It, however, did not love me back.

The dress that made me look preggo.
First off, I am not pregnant. But this dress made me look pregnant. The pleats hit in the absolute wrong spot and added at least 10 pounds to me.  Then I jokingly cupped the fabric like I see everyone do in belly shots and voila, Sarah is pregnant! I shipped that sucker back! I am wearing a size Large in it. I could probably wear a Medium, but I'm not sure because my boobs and arms sometimes cause me to go up a size (that happened in the Nicole too).

Everyone loves the Carly. But me. In fact, most of the super popular styles I don't love. The Irma and I aren't friends and I don't really love the leggings (it's a sin, I know) because I'm between the One Size and Tall & Curvy. My problem with the Carly is that I'm short. It's a high-low hem with a boxy cut. I tried on a Medium and it fit in the arms and bust, but was way too long in the back. The hem in the back hit the middle of my calf. It looked like the world's longest nightgown. I could probably do a small, but the style isn't really me so I haven't tried to find out.

This is the dress that I thought I would love and it would be my go-to. Nope. I didn't love the fabrics in the Nicole. They were stiffer and thicker. Because of that, the sizing was off. The Large was too tight on my arms and boobs and I had to go up to an XL, which then was too long.

There are so many more styles that LulaRoe has that I haven't tried that could work in an office setting such as the Ana (the maxi version of the Nicole), Cassie (pencil skirt), Jill skirt, Lucy skirt, Madison skirt,  and the Maxi skirt.  My best advice for those that haven't tried LulaRoe and are interested is to find a local consultant and literally try on every style to determine your size. I have styles in size Small through XL and they all fit. Once you know your sizes, write them down and then you can stalk the album and multi-consultant sales.

What about you? Have you tried LulaRoe? What are your favorite styles?