Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Measuring Success - 2/28/17

Ya'll. This month. So many good things!

January's post was about getting back on track after the holiday insanity. We did Whole 30, we did good. But February? Yeah man. Let's just get to it.

Heart Rate
So I really can't tell you anything about my heart rate because my Fitbit decided to be weird this month. It stopped tracking my heart rate, then it died, then it was resurrected, only to stop tracking my heart rate again.  Fitbit has some amazing customer service and sent me a replacement Blaze! So, yeah. No clue.

This month I made a big ol' leap in my yoga journey and did crow. To which every guy in my life ( including husband and his other half) both said "I can do that!" Well, whatever. Cause this was HUGE for me! I still have a lot to work on but this was the first arm balance I've been able to do and I hope it's a gate way for many more!

Crow pose!
I went through a lot of my clothes and sold them this month. I need some new stuff and with this budget we're on, I needed some extra cash to make that happen. So I went through and tried everything on and consigned or donated everything that was too big. It was very freeing and rewarding!

A couple of huge clothing milestones (which sounds super shallow, but whatever). Most of my bathing suit tops don't fit. They are either too big or the smaller sizes don't fit cup-wise. I went bathing suit shopping at Target and actually bought a bikini top. And I don't hate how I look in it. It's actually very flattering on me, more so than my tankini top. Crazy. I'm also back in one of my favorite skirts from before I gained all this weight back. While preparing for my spring capsule (Friday's blog post!), I went through all of my clothes and was trying on skirts. Most of them are pencil and didn't quite fit yet, but my favorite polk dot one did! I was truly surprised. I even posted a picture of it on Instagram!

Can I just say that it's nice to actually LIKE how you look when you see yourself in the mirror? For example - trying on bathing suits used to be the world's worst thing. I hated how everything fit, nothing was flattering on, etc. I tried on a bunch of tops and bottoms and there were many, many items that didn't fit this time either, but I didn't blame it on me. It wasn't my body that was the issue, but the way they fit me. Being able to make that distinction is huge!


This might be one of the most exciting photo posts I've done in a while. When getting ready for m'bala Thursday night, I put on this shirt and stopped when I looked in the mirror. "Wait, what?!" is what I said out loud. Let's discusss.

Left - July 2016, Right - February 2017
This is a comparison of when I finally started to see some change (July 2016) and this past Thursday. I can tell that my arms are more defined, my waist and midsection is tighter and heck, even my boobs look better!

Left - February 2016, Right - February 2017

But then, this. This is the comparison of my first side shot, where I started, and Thursday.

Holy crap. Ho-ly crap. That is me. That is me with no fat rolls, an almost flat stomach. I mean, I'm still kind of wide, but God only made me to be so small.

I've actually had some changes this month in my measurements. I could see some difference in clothing and fit, so I was excited to see it translated into some numbers:

  • Arms - I gained 0.25" on my arms. That is all muscle. I can actually see my muscles when I'm lifting now, which is pretty cool.
  • Bust - I'm down 0.25" on my bust. I'm always surprised at this because normally when you lose weight, your chest is the first to go. But since I'm building muscle, I really haven't lost that much here. 
  • Waist - I'm down 0.25" on my waist. It's not as dramatic as January's loss, but I also wasn't on a totally Whole 30 diet or even mostly Paleo. 
  • Hips - Also down 0.25" on my hips. I can really notice a difference here.  Even my pants that are 12s are starting to get loose around my butt and hips. 
  • Thighs - I gained 0.5" on my thighs. Thank you dad for my thunder thighs.  
This month I'm back to a normal weight loss amount - 0.8 lbs cumulative. That also includes a weekend where I ate all the bad things while in Fayetteville and then dress shopping in Wilmington. I probably gained (okay, did) about 5 pounds that week. Overall, I'm really happy with where I'm at. I'm 2.4 pounds away from 25 lbs lost and I'm really excited for that milestone!

This whole journey has taught me a lot about weight. I talk about it at the end of every progress post because I try so, so hard to not let it control me. That's about 95% of the reason why I do this post every month - I can't just focus on the weight. I've been using My Fitness Pal app for a long time. I went back and the last time I was this weight was May 31, 2014. It's been almost three years! So I went and found a photo of me at that weight then and a photo of me at the same weight now. The difference is pretty damn incredible.
Left - June 2014, Right - February 2017
My face is noticeably smaller/thinner, my arms are more toned, chest is smaller! That's the difference between fat and muscle, my friends. I'm the same weight in those two pictures, but on the right, I'm much more muscle. I thought it was a pretty cool comparison. 

Happy last day of February friends! I hope your journeys are going well and that you're finding your non-scale successes every day!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Chipotle Barbacoa Two Ways: Against All Grain, Meals Made Simple Review

It's been a while since I've reviewed a cookbook and today I want to feature one of the recipes we recently made because it was so good! We've been on this mostly Paleo kick for a while, but sometimes I also like to stray. Because...carbs. So this recipe is totally Paleo, but can also be made not Paleo.  And I'll show you both!

First off, this recipe is courtesy of Danielle Walker's Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple. My siser- and brother-in-law bought me this book for Christmas and we have gotten so much use out of it! It's all about making dinner easy, so there are recipes for the crock pot, take less than 30 minutes or have make ahead options. I also love that there are plenty of tips to stretch a recipe.  Cooking healthy can be a lot of work, so an author that wants to make my cooking life easier is my best friend.

The coolest thing to me about this book is all the little icons that are there to help you out. Like most other Paleo books, there is a section about what foods to have on hand, meats to buy, kitchen tools to own, etc. But these icons are my favorite! You can instantly know if it's going to be a short recipe, use only one pan or make it in the crock pot.  It's also really helpful for people that have restricted diets and tells you if a recipe is egg free, tree nut free, nightshade (tomatoes, potatoes and peppers) free or if it is compliant with the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.  One of our family friends has to do a nightshade free diet and when I saw that icon, I immediately thought "how cool!" as those are some hard recipes to come by!

This past Tuesday night, on one of my double class nights, I made the recipe Chipotle Barbacoa.  The recipe will be at the end of the post. I used a 3-lb top round roast and added all of the ingredients in the crock pot. There was no browning involved (I hate browning in crock pot recipes, defeats the purpose). I woke up that morning about 20 minutes early and put everything together before I headed out the door.

I came home to this gloriousness. As I was shredding the beef, I may or may not have been doing a happy dance. It was seriously some of the most tender beef I have ever made!

That night, we did not eat Paleo. At all. We took the Chipotle Barbacoa and made some Pioneer Woman style quesadillas. They are super simple.

Heat up a frying pan. Put one tortilla down on the pan. Sprinkle some cheese on top and let it melt.

Then add the meat on top, add some more cheese and put a second tortilla on top. Flip it over and let it cook a few minutes.

You get this ooey-gooey goodness.

See all the gooey, non-compliant cheese?!
We made four more, two for each of us, for lunch the next day.

I still had some meat left over, so I saved it and took it to work with me on Thursday and made a taco salad with it! I used spinach and a little cheese (not Paleo) since I didn't have any extra diced tomatoes. I received a free Sabra On-the-Go Guacamole for free from Influenster in exchange for my opinion, so I added that to my lunch. I ate the rolled up Tostitos chips (also not Paleo, ha) with the guacamole and used what was left on my salad. It was a great easy way to use up the meat! It's also the way that the book recommends eating it, as a taco salad!

So far, this is one of my favorite books. Not just Paleo books, but cookbooks in general. The recipes are delicious and there are so many weeknight friendly options. I think almost every meal this week came out of this book.  Definitely check it out if you have a chance and are doing Clean Eating or Paleo.

Chipotle Barbacoa
Danielle Walker - Against All Grain: Meals Made Simples

1 3-lb center-cut beef shoulder roast (top-round works really well)
3 to 5 large dried chipotle peppers, seeds removed (I used chipotle peppers in adobo sauce)
1 small yellow onion, quartered
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground cloves
3/4 cup low sodium beef stock
3 bay leaves

For serving:
salsa of choice
chopped fresh cilantro

1. Cut the roast into 2 pieces and trim any fat.  Place in a slow cooker.
2. Combine the chipotle pepper, onion, lime juice, tomato paste, garlic, vinegar, cumin, salt, oregano and cloves in a food processor or blender.  Process until smooth.
3. Pour the pureed pepper mixture over the roast and add the stock and bay leaves.
4. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours.
5. Remove the beef and shred with 2 forks. Return the meat to the slow cooker and continue cooking for 1 to 2 hours, until very tender.
6. Serve over a bed of lettuce with salsa, guacamole and cilantro.

Make ahead tip: Prepare steps 1 through 3 and store in an airtight bag or container. Freeze for up to 3 months or refrigerate for up to 3 days before cooking.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Women Every Woman Needs

I originally wrote this post for Galentine's Day, but it's come and gone. Each day, though, I'm reminded just how blessed I am to have some awesome people in my life. Specifically, really awesome women. As women, we tend to tear each other down or try and compete with each other. Girl world is tough sometimes, people. So when you find good girlfriends, you celebrate them. So here's to the women every woman needs.

©  | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Here's to the woman that told me it was okay to have a baby, or not have a baby or adopt a really cute Asian kid. Because this is hard. It's hard to be 31 and in that "do we baby or not baby" stage. To not know if it's actually safe to have a baby, which was a question a couple of weeks ago. So many want you to have a baby, mostly because they do and it's the greatest part of their lives. So someone that gets it, that tells you it's okay to go which ever way you choose, is refreshing.

Here's to the woman that told me she would take down another girl if needed. Over a really ridiculous thing. Yes, women that have your back are awesome. But a friend that has your back no matter what ridiculous thing has happened, that is priceless. Because while we both know that neither one of us is actually going to take someone down, it's hilarious to think about it actually happening and immediately makes whatever situation that caused that comment not as hairy as it was. And no one ends up in jail or with assault charges.

Here's to the woman that prays for whatever crazy mess is going on in my life at any given moment. I can tell her whatever and know that she'll keep me in her prayers. Praying friends are good friends. You need them.

Here's to the women that have been around for forever and I don't have to talk to every single day to know that we're still friends. We've gone through boyfriends, husbands, babies, college, moving across states and countries and are still friends. Are still the ones we pick up the phone to call when life goes horribly wrong. Or amazingly right. Some I don't get to talk to as much as I would like, but each time we pick up where we left off, whether it was yesterday or a year ago.

And lastly, the women who get it. Who get that sometimes days are rough and you just need to let our a ridiculous string of curses. Heck, they might join in for solidarity's sake. But they get it and they let you and then they encourage you anyway. Even when you're angry and don't want to hear something good, they tell it to you anyway.

Surround yourself with good people, strong women. We need them. But mostly, be one. Are you the one that prays for your friend, the one that makes them laugh, the one that she can pick up the phone and call a year later and everything still be the same? I have those friends. I have no idea where I would be without them. And today, I hope you have these friends and that I'm one of these friends to someone.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Spring Must Haves!

I don’t know about your weekend, but mine was pretty awesome. It was so pretty the whole weekend! We went to the auto expo Friday night where we learned that Sarah likes the big and expensive SUVs, even though she doesn’t want to have to park them. We hung out with our friends Saturday night and on Sunday I hung out by myself because Aaron worked this weekend. It was glorious. If you ever want to know how to make me 100% happy, leave me alone for a day after two full days of people.

This weekend I did a lot of work on my closet because next week is MARCH! Also, it has been gorgous outside! March means spring capsule wardrobe time and I. Am. Pumped! Not that I don’t love winter clothes (I do – they hide all queso sins), but there is something about spring. I still get to stay mostly covered, but everything is more fun: the shoes, the colors, the prints. And even better, most of my spring clothes from last year don’t fit, so it’s kind of like having all new clothes again since I haven’t seen some of my older shirts in a couple years. This also means, though, having to replace some items. 

I went through all of my spring items and determined what a) didn't fit anymore or b) I didn't actually wear.  I was able to sell a few Stitch Fix shirts and consign other items to Clothes Mentor. Between the different sales, I made about $110 to help fund my new items! I've started to determine what items I'm keeping from the winter capsule, what I'm adding and what I need to replace. So, in preparation for next week, here's my list for my Spring capsule! Note that there are affiliate links in this post.

Magenta Cardigan

My beloved Target magenta cardigan has officially been retired. It got...crusty. That's the best term I could come up with. You know when you've washed something one too many times and it doesn't feel right anymore or lay right? That's what happened to mine. I'm hoping to replace it either with a LulaRoe Lindsay or with a Stitch Fix cardigan. It has to be magenta, though. I live in that color!

LulaRoe Lindsay.  I'm looking for this color, but in a solid fabric!


I have a pair of adorable little Peter Pan-esque booties but the fabric on the toes is just coming off like nobody's business and they need to be replaced. All these cute little perforated booties keep popping up in my emails and I've decided that I need a pair! Plus, I consigned two pairs of shoes this past weekend, which means I get to buy more! Score. I really like this pair and the heel height. I can wear them with jeans or with a dress.


This happened this weekend! I finally, finally bought my purse. I've been purse hunting for a while and I hate it because I am so dang picky. I pick one and wear it until I've worn it out, which is what happened to my trusty Dooney. My normal requirements for purses are leather, or another durable material, and the strap has to go over my shoulder comfortably. This time, I also added a few more requirements such as holding my laptop.

Calvin Klein Saffiano Tote Rose Gold

I have been stalking this bag for a while. I had others that I was looking at, but I really liked all the features this purse had. It wasn't just a tote like the other bags I was considering. It had pockets on the side, so I can actually find my phone, a zip divider inside and four pockets and a zip pocket on the back wall. So it functions like an actual purse, but it can also handle carrying my laptop or my planner and files. I can look like an adult now when I travel!

New purse and sad old purse.

Fully loaded with the laptop and all my regular items!

Midi Skirt

I know I'm late on this trend, but I wasn't really sure how I was going to feel about midi skirts.  A short girl doesn't generally do well with skirts that hit below the knee, but I've really embraced the midi skirt! It started with LulaRoe's Lola skirt. I snagged one of the Elegant Collection Lola skirts and while it didn't end up working around Christmas, I've tried it out with some of my spring tops and it's going to be perfect! Now I want another one! One with big bright flowers.

I also really like the A-line of this midi. Once upon a time, pencils were my thing. Now, not so much. I'm definitely going to be getting one more midi skirt for this upcoming capsule.

I also need some more pants, but I don't have any particular requirements other than bright colors! I always try to have at least one pair of ridiculous color pants per season. Just makes life more fun.

So what are your must haves this spring? Also, I'm adding new yoga pants to this list. One always needs more yoga pants! 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Weekends are for...Meal Prep?!

At one point in my life, my weekends were spent shopping, eating out with friends, and doing other fun things that had nothing to do with productivity. And then, it changed. It all changed. Now my weekends are spent at the gym, at the grocery store, meal planning, meal prepping, doing laundry and washing dishes from all of the aforementioned meal prepping. And I kinda like it.

Eating healthy, whether it's clean eating, Weight Watchers, Paleo, Whole 30, low carb or whatever diet you are doing, is not easy. It's definitely not quick and, if you aren't smart about it, can be really expensive. Planning and prep are key for surviving the week.

Since I do most of my meal planning on the weekends, I thought I would share a typical meal planning/prep with you on Friday. This way, you can start this weekend too! Or just steal my recipes for a quick grocery list. Either works.

On Saturday, I sit down with my meal planning essentials: cookbooks, iPad, meal planning notebook and my iPhone. I use my iPad for my recipes on my recipe keeper app and for Pinterest recipes. I use my iPhone for my Wunderlist app, which is where I keep all my lists. I have a grocery list and running Thrive Market and BJs lists. If there are certain sales going on (ie - Harris Teeter has a sale on seafood), I put that next to items on my list. I also bought a spiral bound notebook just for meal planning. I have been known to go back through it and steal entire weeks that are already planned out.

What a typical week's plan looks like. 
It's a pretty simple process. I plan out the week on paper first. What nights I'm doing two classes and won't be home until late, nights that we have plans with friends or parties, etc. Then I plan out my week. A typical week looks like this:

Sunday - I do big meals on Sunday nights. I have plenty of time and can do more involved recipes that take multiple hours. These meals usually provide dinner and two days of lunches. Aaron can't leave work for lunch (and it's cheaper), so we always make sure to have some leftovers for lunches. These are some of my favorite Sunday meals:

Buffalo Chicken Casserole from Juli Bauer's Paleo Cookbook

I also like to make back-up meals on Sundays. I've gotten really, really good at them and they are life savers.  Here's the basic formula: meat (chicken or pork chops usually) and two vegetables.  I used to roast on a cookie sheet, but everything works so much better in my glass 11x15 pans. Three boneless skinless chicken breasts cut in half or 6 porkchops make about 5 meals. I have been using prechopped sweet potatoes because of the convenience and tossing them in olive oil, a little cinnamon and sugar and house seasoning (recipe here, you're welcome. Consider it like Frank's Red Hot and put it on everything). Then I like to do a green like green beans or broccoli. The meals look like this and take about an hour to prep and then cook (350 for 30 minutes).

Back up meal prep - two veggies and a meat. Sometimes I made two pans if I want lots of back-up meals!

The finished product!
Monday - I'm doing a class Monday, but I'm getting home at 7:15, so I go for a meal I can have done in about 30 minutes.

Coconut Curry Shrimp - Pretty sure I help keep the curry business up and running. This is also easily made Paleo by using cauli rice instead of regular rice. I'm a big fan of the 90 second rice too!

Tuesday - Tuesdays and Thursdays are my double class nights. One night I cook, the other we eat back-up meals. On the nights I cook, I'm usually doing a crock pot recipe. I've found some really good ones and even made a few of my own!

Slow Cooker Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce by The Food Charlatan
Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff by Show Me the Yummy
PW Cheesy Sausage Rigatoni in the Crock Pot

Wednesday - This has become "teach Aaron how to cook" night. I get tired of cooking every single night, so I've been doing easy recipes that he can either do himself or I can talk him through. These are some of our favorites.

Sausage Egg Roll in a Bowl
Spaghetti and Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti are also in rotation.

Thursday - This is my off night. Back-up meals!

Friday - I try to make Friday a fun and easy dinner night. Weekend before last, we made ribeye steaks with garlic herb butter and parsnip fries. Parsnip fries, by the way, are the best thing ever. This is the only night that I don't try and get leftovers out of since we usually still have one or two left over from the week.

So that, folks, is a typical meal plan in the Zinn Life. We stick to meals that we can make in 30 minutes or less and I'm even teaching Aaron how to cook so it's not always me! What's your favorite way to meal plan?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Workouts That Don't Break the Bank

Since we've been on this budget, I've been trying to find ways to make life less expensive. I'm a high maintenance girl, I'll gladly admit it. Some of the high maintenance, like a gym, is required to maintain health, sanity and beauty (I'm also slightly vain). But that doesn't mean you have to spend all of your money on the necessary items!

Yoga at Burn Athletic in Brier Creek
I pay $99/month to go to my gym. It's about to go up $20/month. It's a wonderful investment. I love all the instructors, the workout I get and the people in classes with me. I also average about 25 classes a month, so I get my money's worth! But I'll be honest and say that our budget probably can't handle both Aaron and I going to Burn. He also isn't big on the class thing like I am. Not everyone wants to spend a lot of money on a gym each month and some just want weights and machines. I've recently noticed that Groupon has some amazing deals on gyms in the Triangle, so I thought I would share them.  I've gathered the deals from Groupon and Living Social, so if you aren't local to the Triangle make sure to check out what's offered in your area!  I've even thrown in one that we will be doing for Aaron soon.  PS - click the gym name for the link to the deals.

Brier Creek/North Raleigh
Downtown/Inner Beltline Raleigh
  • CORE Fitness - $50 for 5 classes or $100 for 10 classes
  • Barre Up - $35 for two weeks or $69 for one month unlimited classes 

The other great deal that we are taking advantage of for Aaron is Healthways through Blue Cross Blue Shield.  This deal is through their Blue 365 program and for $25/month, you can visit any of the gyms that are on their list. And right now, through February 28, 2017, they are waiving the $25 registration fee! Gyms that are participating include Anytime Fitness, Fitness Connection, Curves,Wake Med Fitness and Health Works on New Bern Avenue, Morrisville and Aquatics Fitness Center and others. For those that are looking for straight workouts and not necessarily classes, this is a great option for you!

What deals have you utilized lately? Are there any that I missed?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Random Things Including a Raunchy Romance Novel

Happy Wednesday friends. Yesterday was Valentine's Day. We made seafood alfredo for dinner with some wine, had cheesecake for dessert and exchanged some cards. When we were dating, we used to go all out for Valentine's Day, but now we keep it pretty simple.

I don't demand gifts, but I do demand a good card for Valentine's Day. Some people hate cards, but me, I love them. And this year I got one with a pop up cut out!

My pop-up Valentine's Day card!
I'll be honest. Sometimes blogging is hard. People don't want to hear that, but it is. Some days you have writer's block. Some weekends you spend driving around North Carolina getting spring rolls and dress shopping with your friend and have no time to blog. Some days you just have nothing to say. Today is one of those days. So, today I will share with you some of my favorite things from this week:

This bag:

Calvin Klein Saffiano Bag

I've been on the hunt for a new purse. One that fits my laptop and can still keep me semi-organized. I also really like color on my purses. No plain black purse for me! I think this one, or a version of it, might be my next purchase. After saving up of course. Stupid budget.

This book review on Forever Young Adult:

I love a good smut romance. I have no shame on this, whatsoever. I have decided lately that I should try to read more than just smut romance, but it's so hard! They requires zero brain cells! However, I have smut romance standards. Apparently this lovely book does NOT live up to those standards and is your typical 1990s attempt at a smut romance novel with Indians and innocent white girls that will make you want to shake them. Say what?! Anyway, this 100% sarcastic book review made my day when I read it, so you should read it as well. There were tears of hilarity. Long live the snarky bloggers at Forever Young Adult.

These breakfast frittatas:

I tried these at my mom's house this weekend and fell in love! When we were doing the Whole 30, we made some egg muffins, but the consistency was all wrong. These are the complete opposite and are perfection! I don't imagine we will be eating them all the time, but they'll be a good option for once in a while.

And finally - all of your Valentine's Day photos! It was so nice to see nothing but love on Facebook yesterday. It's been such an angry place lately and it was nice to see people loving each other, posting photos of their gifts and kids. It was so fun and made me so happy.

What are some of your favorites this week? Bonus if you can give me a new smut romance novel to read that isn't terrible!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Falling on Your Face: When Yoga Imitates Life

I had planned to do today's post on fun, local, non-traditional Valentine’s Day things to do with your significant other, friends or by yourself. But Monday night I successfully did crow pose in yoga and then immediately successfully face planted right into my water bottle. I felt like I should share that instead. And it’s my blog, so I do what I want. Sometimes yoga imitates life. Sometimes, it's not so pretty, but the result is amazing.

Finally able to hold crow pose! I still have a long ways to go with my legs.
Crow pose has been this illusive yoga unicorn for me because it's core and balance. Anyone that reads this blog or knows me on a semi-decent level knows that I have very little balance or grace. My dad lovingly called me Miss Grace as a kid because I had none. I've been working on this pose, practicing it in every class, for about 6 months. And I finally got it! But I also immediately face planted. And no one, absolutely no one, should be amazed that I face planted when doing a balance pose. In fact, when I got home, I eagerly told Aaron to come check out my awesome crow pose and face planted again. That time, though, I think I sprang out of crow like a frog and belly flopped so my chin bounced off the ground. It was slightly painful, yet hilarious.

Aaron really didn’t think my achievement was that great. In fact, he told me that he, too, could do crow and, honestly, in that moment if he had just popped into that pose, there is a good chance I might have stabbed him. Not fatally, just a flesh wound. But still, come on! I have worked for so, so long to be able to hold all my weight up on two hands. He thinks that other poses I do, like mermaid, are harder than that because crow’s just a balance pose. But those are the hardest for me!

Yoga makes you think. It challenges you mentally and physically. Crow, for me, has probably been 50% mental and 50% physical. The mental comes from the place that I’m not a small girl and constantly think “that’s a lot of friggin’ weight on two arms, I can't do that” and the physical comes from the fact that it is actually a lot of weight to balance, for anyone, and requires a lot of core to be able to stabilize yourself. I’ve been so timid about doing it instead of just going for the stupid pose. I’ve lifted one leg, then the other. I’ve rocked myself up and then immediately back down. But never actually held it because I was terrified of the face plant. Monday I did both. I held crow and then I spectacularly failed and face-planted. But I got up and did it again. And held it a little longer.

Aaron took today's blog pictures for me Tuesday night before class. I warmed up for a few minutes and then got back into the pose. I belly flopped again, and then magic! I held the pose twice, each time a little longer. I finally figured out that it's all core. I was finally able to hold the pose when I held my core super tight and focused just on that pose. Not on how I looked doing the pose, not on falling, but on making the pose happen.

Not going to lie. I kinda hate this photo because I look like a large ball. Yoga isn't always flattering. 
My yoga teacher likes to say that falling out is human and getting back in to the pose in yogi. But that’s not just yoga. That’s life.  It's strength and determination. We push for what we want and fall spectacularly. Like belly flop. And it’s okay because you’re never going to get anywhere without that. And then you get back up and the magic happens.  What if you stopped thinking about all the things that could go wrong and just went after something? 

So I ask you, what have you pushed for? What have you belly flopped on lately? How have you gotten back in your pose? Because this feels pretty dang awesome. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Paleo Frozen Meals - They Exist!

One of my biggest complaints about eating clean and healthy is the prep work. Dear Lord the prep! If you aren't smart about it, it can consume you! For many years, I relied on frozen meals for my lunches at work. They were easy, cost effective and didn't require a lot of work. But the sodium was really high and once I started clean eating, there were way too many ingredients.  As Paleo and clean eating have become more popular, there are more and more convenience foods that work with those plans, including frozen meals!

I was skeptical at first, but I'm a sucker for something that means I can cook less. So I picked up two different meals from different brands from Wal-mart. And I documented. You're welcome.

Paleo Braised Beef

This meal was my favorite of the two that I tried. The braised beef was paired with a mole sauce. Oh man, that flavor was amazing.  The broccoli, which I usually detest all frozen dinner broccoli, had a nice taste and texture to it. Frozen dinner broccoli usually comes out not cooked enough or super mushy, never the right consistency. This one was as close to the right consistency as I have found.  The sweet potatoes were my least favorite part of this meal. I am a huge, huge texture eater and the texture was disgusting. It was a weird puree sweet potato, but also had random large chunks. It could just be that I was in a hurry and didn't stir it as well as I could have. Who knows. Overall, though, I would try this one again.

The broccoli and meat were yes, lots of yes. Those potatoes? Lots of no!
Beetnik Paleo Shepherd's Pie

This was not my favorite. By a long shot. There was some weird mixture with the beef that gave it a weird tangy and spicy flavor. The texture was also off. Surprisingly, it was not the mashed cauliflower that bothered me, but the meat! I don't know what they did to it, but I only ate about half of it. I won't be buying that one again.

Both meals were around $5 each.  Most frozen meals are around $2.50 - $3.00, making these on the much higher end of the scale.  Now, I can easily identify most of the ingredients.  It's still a really long ingredient list, but you can pronouce and identify each item. That's always a win!

I don't know that these will be a regular part of my grocery shopping. I might keep one on hand for back-up, but honestly I think I can do better with my back-up meals that we've been making. They are much cheaper and don't contain any weird texture issues. Convenience is not always your friend! Have you tried any of the Paleo meals? What did you think of them?

Friday, February 3, 2017

My Top 5 Stitch Fix Items

I’ve been receiving fixes from Stitch Fix for over two years now. If you aren't familiar with Stitch Fix, it's a styling service where a personl stylist uses your notes, Pinterest boards and answers from a questionnaire to send you five items picked specifically for you! I don’t get a fix every month and not always every other month depending on how our finances are looking.  In fact, I just moved my next Fix out another month due to our current budget. As I was writing my January Stitch Fix review and doing my laundry, I thought about how there are some pieces I’ve received from Stitch Fix that pretty much changed my life. Okay, that was dramatic.  Maybe not changed my life, but were pieces that I use all the time, sometimes even wore out!

Here are my top 5 life-changing items from Stitch Fix, in no particular order.

Market and Spruce Maeby Dress
I received this dress in my Alaska fix.  I asked for some dresses that I could wear on our Alaskan cruise.  I’ll admit I was thinking more along the lines of fancy cocktail dress that I could wear on a cruise, but my stylist sent me this one to pair with an anorak jacket that I requested.  When I tried it on, it was cute, but not my favorite.  But it was super comfortable, so I decided to keep it.

I was playing around one day and belted it. Holy moly. It was like a whole new dress!

Maeby Dress, Belted. Necklace - Premier Designs Jewelry, Belize/ Shoes - similar affiliate link here
This dress has been in constant rotation ever since! I’ve paired it with belts, long cardigans, heels, flats, booties. You name it. I almost didn’t buy it and it’s been one of my all-time favorite pieces!

Romolo Ellen Crescent Ladder Pendant
This necklace came in one of my 5/5 boxes.  I immediately knew that I would get a lot of wear out of it because it’s long and gold.  At one point in my life, I was a silver girl. I’m now firmly in the gold camp!

This necklace is perfect. It’s light and long so I can dress up t-shirts with it. I really like to pair it with a top and cardigan or with sweaters. I swear I wear it at least once a week, normally multiple times!

Skies are Blue Kamaria Patterned Drape Front Cardigan
It should be no surprise that at least one cardigan is on here (just kidding, there’s two!). I received this in a fix a year ago. This type of cardigan was in style and I thought it would be fun to try. A year later, I still love it!

 It’s so warm and I love the draping in the front.  This is one of my favorite Friday outfits!

Market and Spruce Alan French Terry Asymmetrical Zip Cardigan
My second cardigan on the list! This was one of the first items I received from Stitch Fix and it’s still one of my favorites! When I bought it, it didn’t zip up all the way.  Now it does, but it’s not very flattering.  I’ve always worn it open and it was fine.  I think it actually looks better that way!

I wore it to meet my favorite person ever - The Pioneer Woman! Also, the blue bag is the next item!
My favorite part of this cardi is that it feels like a sweatshirt. It’s so cozy!

Street level Morris Braided Handle Tote
This is actually the blue bag in the photo above! I had to search to find the title of this one! I don’t usually keep the style cards for the accessories that I receive and it was one of the first items I received, so it took some time on Pinterest to find it! But I did!

This purse ruined me for other Stitch Fix purses.  I received a clutch from Stitch Fix and love it equally, but haven’t had as many chances to wear it.  I used this purse every day for at least a year, maybe more.  I only stopped wearing it because some of the blue started coming off and the handles were starting to separate from the bag.  Pretty much, I wore it out. I’ve yet to find a bag from Stitch Fix that I love as much.  The color is gorgeous and the inside is luxurious.  Worth every penny that I paid (however much that was!). I wonder if they can just send me another one?

If you're interested in trying Stitch Fix, you can use my referral link. It's a $20 styling fee that can be applied to whichever items you decide to purchase, the others you send back in a prepaid shipping envelope! My thoughts on these items are my own opinions. I don't get paid by Stitch Fix, I just really love them and get a credit if you use my referral link.  What are some of your favorite Stitch Fix items?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Shopaholic on a Budget: One Month on Cash

As of Tuesday, January 31, 2017, the Zinns have made it an entire month on a cash budget for eating/going out and spending money. It's been rough, but also super effective.

©  | Dreamstime Stock Photos
You can read my original post,Shopaholic on a Budget - The Zinns Get a Budget, to get a better idea of why we ended up on a semi-cash budget and how the rest of our budget functions.  To put it succinctly, we ended up here because Sarah likes to shop. LulaRoe, Stitch Fix, Fabletics, and Amazon are my downfalls in life. That and the ridiculous amounts of emails that I get every day telling me to "act now!" and that the greatest deal of my life is inside this email! It's a lot for a girl that admittedly loves material gain at a discount. So we went to cash. I like to say control what you can and cash control what you can't. 

Here is how our cash works. We each have $100 for the month and we get $150/paycheck for going out to eat or other activities like the movies. Our spending money covers meals on our own, Starbucks, shopping, etc. The going out money covers activities we do together. We decided to start taking out our leftover money from our bi-weekly going out allotment to save for some nice date nights.

It's been a whole month. I can say that it worked like a charm but wasn't the easiest at times. I'm going to give you both mine and Aaron's perspectives.

Money started with: $100
Money at the end of the month: $7

For me, this was hard! Right off the bat, I had $35 come out for Stitch Fix. That's actually cheap for Stitch Fix because I had two gift cards. This made me realize that I'm going to have to probably space out my fixes even more so that I can save up for them. Right after buying my items from my fix, we had crazy snow and I bought furry boots on clearance from Target for $20. Best $20 ever. I ate out a few times with some friends and about two weeks in was down to $30. This experiment so far has really made me stop and think. I wanted to save $10 this month to go toward buying a new purse, so when I hit $11, I stopped going out to eat.  This means I ate my leftover lunches more and went to Cookout less. Then my co-worker went out for knee surgery and they took up money to send her flowers. That was love people! It's been a couple days, I'm back to $100 and I'm being super stingy with it. I want a new purse and those aren't cheap, my friend is having a LulaRoe party in March (actually, I've been invited to like 8 lately. Stop it people!!) and I need to replenish my Starbucks account. So, basically, I can't spend money in February. Who wants to adopt me?! No? Fine.   

Money started with: $100
Money at the end of the month: $29 

I felt that it was good because it cut down on the crazy amount of transactions in our account. It made me think about my purchases a little harder. This month wasn't really that hard for me. There are things I would like to buy, but I don't need, so the waiting isn't fun. My favorite part is not having $24 at the end of the month and being able to put money in savings and paying off debt. It's good, it's going to be tough, but it's going to be worth it. It's also funny that some of my friends have mocked me for having a budget.

Going Out Money
Money started with: $300 (total)
Money ended with: $19

This by far has been our biggest success! We used to eat out so much on the weekends and had multiple $50+ bills when you included tip. We're now eating more Subway, Moe's and smaller chains and saving our leftover money for a fancy date night. I'm hoping for sushi this month!

So, month 1 on cash is down. We have an extra $500 in the bank account and life is good. Now, Sarah just needs to keep calm and not spend the money! Have you started a new budget for this year? How's it going? Please tell me I'm not the only one going through shopping withdrawals!