Friday, March 31, 2017

Measuring Success - 3/31/17

March is over, March is over! I don't know why, but I felt like this month took for-ev-er! I've been over it for probably half of it. Maybe it was the weird weather, weird hormones (cause I'm a girl), who knows. Either way, I'm glad it's over.

March was also a weird month for me weight-wise. I've been losing/gaining the same two pounds pretty much the whole time. I'd lose them, then gain them, then lose them again. In that regard, I don't feel like I made much progress. But I've also had two different people ask me if I've lost more weight, so I'm going with that instead. Aaron told me those two pounds are muscle. I think he's trying to make me feel better, but we'll also go with that. My body is weird. Who knows.

Heart Rate
Fitbit replaced my broken Blaze! Yay for awesome customer service! My resting heart rate has been consistently in the low 60s this month. Early in the month I was high 50s, but the past two weeks I've been between 60-63. Not bad.

Endurance
I can't say that much about endurance this month. I didn't really make any leaps or bounds in this area, which is fine. Every month can't be swinging out of the park awesome. I did decide to switch up my classes some and have added in a boot camp class instead of my regular barre class on Wednesday nights. I felt like I wasn't doing enough high-intensity workouts, so I swapped one of my low-intensity ones for boot camp. In case you're curious, this is my usual week:
  • Sunday - rest day, unless I've been lazy, then I do something
  • Monday - yoga
  • Tuesday - spin and TRX boot camp
  • Wednesday - boot camp (was barre)
  • Thursday - mbala. If I have something on Tuesday night, then I'll do my two classes on Thurs instead
  • Friday - rest day
  • Saturday - barre and spin
So now I have two light classes, two high-cardio classes and two high-intensity/interval classes. Maybe this will jump start some more weight loss!

Clothing
March started my new spring capsule wardrobe. I've added a lot more skirts and dresses than I used to wear and I've noticed that I almost exclusively wear skinny leg pants now. I can honestly say that I am comfortable with how I look in everything in my closet. And if nothing else, that's one big win for me.

Pictures
I have this app on my phone called Timehop. It takes your social media accounts and pulls up your posts from that day throughout the past years. I have a love/hate relationship with Timehop. I love seeing blasts from the past, but I am also reminded how different 20s Sarah and 30s Sarah are. I was a little ridiculous, as are most 20-somethings. No offense, but once you hit 30, you'll get it. Anyway, Timehop popped up this image from my sister-in-law's wedding shower two years ago. And I did a comparison with a photo from a few weeks ago.

2 years ago vs. February
Holy moly. It's kind of crazy. I don't remember being that big, but the pictures show that. The photos from her wedding are even worse (only of me, the photos from Abbey's wedding are gorgeous!). I think that was when I really started trying to do something. That was two years ago.

March 2017
This is honestly why I do a monthly blog check in and why I do photos. It's a hard, long process. Sometimes, I just want to quit. Sometimes I just want to not spend all the time cooking and preparing my healthy food. But then I see this. And it's worth it. Every minute of prep, every time I grimace trying to get up my stairs after a good class (thanks Durre sisters!). Cause this doesn't just happen over night.

Measurements
I was pretty surprised when I did my measurements last night. I've gone done everywhere but my waist this month. It was a nice surprise!
  • Arms - I lost 0.5" on my arms. I gained 0.25" last month, so it's nice to see that come off and then some!
  • Bust - I lost 0.25" on my bust.  
  • Waist - My waist didn't change this month.  
  • Hips - I'm down another 0.25" off my hips.  
  • Thighs - I'm down 1.0" off my thighs. I gained 0.5" last month, so again, nice to see it come off and then some. But Aaron also reminded me how I've always said my thighs don't get any smaller but here I am losing an inch off of them. They're still thunder thighs though. They aren't going anywhere.  
Weight
This month, I'm actually two pounds heavier than I was at the end of last month. It's been a yo-yo month. It's okay, it happens. Honestly, I'm not surprised. Any time I have a good month or two, the next few are pretty stagnant. I've gotten used to the cycle and I really don't let it bother me. Not too much at least. It is frustrating, but it's part of this process. 

I'm glad March is over. Here's to hoping for an April where my weight moves again (in the right direction). Thanks for being here and reading up on my progress each month. Happy last day of March!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Whole 30: What Stuck and What Didn't

It's been a few months since we finished up the second (and failed) round of Whole 30. We've been slightly Paleo, mostly when convenient, ever since. I've seen that a few other people I know have recently started the Whole 30 diet, so I wanted to share what we've consistently kept up and what we haven't.

Interested in trying out the Whole 30 diet? Click on the picture for the affiliate link for the book!

What Stuck

Almond milk
Unless I'm baking, you pretty much won't find regular milk in my house anymore. We drink Silk Unsweetened Vanilla Almond milk. It's soy, carrageenan, and lactose free. I like the flavor better than real milk and the fact that one glass is only 30 calories. We also switched our iced coffee from Starbucks to Califia. The bottle is larger and I think they actually taste better. They can be found at Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, and Harris Teeter. My favorite flavors are the XX Espresso (found most places) and Salted Caramel (only at Target).


Paleo recipes for dinner
Most of what I cook during the week is still Paleo. Or a version of it. I might make a Paleo meal and then add rice to it. Mmmm rice.

No soda
This mostly applies to me. Aaron still drinks soda at work. I am about 95% off soda. I'll have one every once in a while. Mostly, though, it's water, tea, coffee and sparkling water. Those sparkling waters are the only things that keep me from soda, though. Sometimes you just don't want water!

Less snacking
I really don't snack as much as I used to. That's from Whole 30. I make sure my meals are enough that I don't need to snack. I do eat something before working out, but that's about it these days.

Reading all the labels
Once you start reading labels, you can't stop reading them.

What Didn't Stick

Gluten Free
Sometimes we do gluten free. I have all of the flours and such and I have some really good gluten free recipes I still make. But I've also added rice (basmati and brown) back into our diets and good whole wheat bread and English muffins. I haven't noticed that much of a difference, probably because it's still not as often as before Whole 30.

Sugar
Whole 30 doesn't want you doing any added sugar. For the most part, we stick to natural sugars, such as honey and maple syrup, but I also have some sugary snacks in my house like Milano cookies. Those are definitely not compliant.

Soy (really, soy sauce)
Legumes, including soy beans, are no nos on Whole 30. This one I really haven't stuck to that much. The big example is soy sauce. We make a lot of Asian dishes and when I run out of coconut aminos, I fill in with soy sauce. We don't drink soy milk or do much else with soy, so I don't feel that bad about it.

Whole 30, like any good diet, is a great way to teach you what does and does not work for your body. We've definitely kept some of the best parts of the diet. And at the end of the day, I still live by my favorite saying, "Everything in moderation." Have you tried Whole 30 or another diet recently? What parts did you keep?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Just Do It: Getting Started on Your Own Journey

I consider it a huge compliment when someone asks me for advice on starting their own journey. That means that all my work is paying off, that someone else can see it and not just me. Honestly, it's pretty awesome. Whenever I post a progress photo, it's inevitable that someone will ask me, "How do I get started?" or "Do you have any advice?" And I do.

I've lost weight twice. Not talking 5 or 10 pounds, but big-frickin-deal weight loss. The first time was in college and I lost about 40-50 pounds. I honestly don't remember exactly how much it was, but it was a lot. I would show you comparison photos, but I pretty much destroyed every "before" photo that I could find. The second is this time around. I've lost about half of that, but the change is just as significant. Why am I telling you this? To brag? No. No one should brag about having to lose weight twice. But more to say - I got this. I've done this. The first time I lost weight with Weight Watchers and followed an eating plan. I didn't work out that much and dropped weight quickly. Oh to be 20 again. This time? At 30-31? It's like an all out war on my body - diet and crazy gym rat and it's taken twice as long to lose half as much. But the main thing I did each time? I started.

We're going to have some tough love here.

Found at The Local Squirrel in Raleigh, NC
I found this water bottle at a blogger meetup hosted by The Local Squirrel in Cameron Village, located in Raleigh, NC. It was so perfect that I just had to take a photo of it. I knew I would be blogging about it because that's my advice: Bla, bla, bla. Go workout. Stop talking about it and just do it.

Getting started is the hardest thing you will have to do in your journey. It's half the battle - going to the gym, going on a walk or a run. I had to get disgusted with my body each time to do it. I hated, loathed even, how I looked and how I felt. I realized that no one could change that but me. You have to want this for you, no one else, and you need have to have a why. It's what keeps you going, that one reason you're on your journey. Because it is hard. There will be days you will hate it, hate yourself and feel like you're doing all this work to get nowhere. But you are. Every day you do something, even if it's just going on a walk with your kids, is one day closer to where you want to be.

Do. Something.

That's step one. Once you start doing something, here are some more tips to keep you going.

Set a time on your calendar to work out. Make it a meeting, something that has to happen. I look at my calendar on the weekend and go ahead and set my schedule for the week based on my meetings and appointments. I book my classes all at once. My gym charges me if I don't cancel four hours in advance. It's actually a great motivator to go to the gym because I'm cheap and don't want to pay $10. Yesterday I had a meeting run late. It was a long day and I left later than I wanted. I had 40 minutes to make it from Durham to Brier Creek in 5:30 traffic. I was tempted to call and cancel, but I also knew I really needed that yoga session. I decided to go and I made it in plenty of time. Totally worth it. It's true, the only workout you'll regret is the one you won't do (as cheesy as that sounds).

Find a workout buddy or someone to make you accountable. This one is big. Having someone go with you or to keep you accountable for working out is so important. My husband works out with his friend. I go to classes. Classes work best for me because I have friends that notice when I'm not there. The instructors know when I'm not there. When I leave class, they ask if I'm coming the next day. That accountability is priceless. My husband also asks me about my schedule and doesn't let me wimp out when I say I've had a bad day or I'm tired. If you need an accountabilibuddy, I'm your girl. I'm serious. Everyone needs one.

Do and go where you like. Find what you like to do. In the beginning, I ran with Aaron. I did it because my husband did, but I wouldn't really do it on my own. I didn't keep up with it as well. When I was looking at gyms, I chose one with classes. I know that left to my own devices, I would not do a darn thing at the gym. My gym has no free weights and no machines. Instead, I have amazing instructors that kick my butt every day while also yelling "Yes you can" and "You're so strong." Sometimes those words make me want to hurt one of them, but they inevitably keep me going. Even Aaron has made comments about the difference in my workouts and his. If you want classes, go to a studio. Find one that has classes you like. If you don't like yoga, don't join a yoga studio. If you like to lift weights, do that. If you like to workout at home, there are tons of videos online! Find out what you like and do that. You're so much more likely to keep up a routine if you like what you're doing and where you are doing it. Also, the gym is not where you go once in you're in shape. You go there to get in shape. Just go.

Let's talk about money here for a minute. I pay $119 a month for my gym. My husband pays $25 a month for his. Our gyms work for us. He gets machines and weights, I get classes. We both use our gyms multiple times a week. It works. What doesn't work is if you pay a gym membership and then don't use it. If what you like is more than what you want to pay, and instead sign up for a gym you never use, you're wasting money. It's along the same lines of price per wear for expensive, well-made clothing. While my gym membership is $119 a month, I average about 28 classes each month. That's $4.25 a class. If you pay $50 a month to go to a regular gym and only go three times a week, that's $4.17 a workout. What's it worth to you?

Treat Yo'self. It's going to be hard, some days more so than others. There is no way around it. So you might as well treat yourself some. For each of my goals, I gave myself a reward. I tried to make my rewards non-food related. When I finally dipped back into the 100's, I gave myself some pants that fit. My next goal is 25 pounds and I've decided on a shirt from my gym. It's money I normally wouldn't spend, so it's special. Start with easy goals and small rewards, like a pedicure (not the deluxe), and move to bigger goals and bigger rewards, like outfits or a day trip somewhere. You've worked hard, so treat yo'self.

Diet is 80% of losing weight. So far, I've only talked about working out. That's because most of the questions I get are about how to get started on that. What I have learned, especially this time around, is that when it comes to losing weight, it is honestly 80% diet and 20% exercise. That doesn't mean don't exercise. That's how you get muscle and definition. But it also means you can't workout like a mad woman (or man) and eat nothing but processed and high-sugar foods and expect to see results. It's a balance. It's a really hard balance and something I struggle with.

Give yourself some grace. Grace is not to be your excuse for not starting, not doing something. That's not grace, that's an excuse. Grace is forgiving yourself when you miss a workout because life happened or when you didn't make the best option when you went out to dinner. Grace is not beating yourself up for the same two pounds you've been yo-yoing for the past month (that's preaching to the choir right there). I stopped calling my weight loss a diet and started calling it a journey for a reason. It's not linear. It's not quick. It's something that you will always work at and the mark will always change. Your definition of success will change as you grow and get better. You'll never be finished, you'll just be stronger.

But first, you've got to start. Where are you starting?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Surviving Wedding Season

Spring is offically here! Around here that means weddings! I honestly thought I was past this point in our lives, the part where everyone is getting engaged and your summer is packed full. I thought we were on to the babies portion of life, but we are not. Most of my husband's friends got married young, so they're on babies. But we have friends that are younger, friends that are our age, and family members that are getting married this year. Weddings are great because it's a huge party with your friends and family, but they're also expensive. Especially when you're on a crazy budget!

Phot Credit: Carolina Media Star
This year, we have four weddings. We've known two other couples to get engaged since. We have three weddings between April and May and one in October. Two are out of town. Aaron is in one. We love our friends and family and are so excited for them. I think once you've gotten married and have been blessed by others, you want to pay it forward. Our friends and family absolutely took care of us and we look forward to doing that for others. But we also have to be realistic about our budget.

Here are some ways that we are surving the wedding season this year!

1. Spread out buying gifts.

Don't buy all your gifts at once, try and spread them out. I started buying the wedding and shower gifts this month.  I can spend a little money each month between now and May on gifts rather than a ton of money at once.

2. Look out for store sales and collect coupons!

Macy's recently had a 50% off sale on much of their home items and I was able to get a really nice gift for less than $35! I also make sure to save every Bed Bath and Beyond coupon that I get. They send them like I used to buy Starbucks.  Aaron makes fun of me, but you never know when you're going to need 20 20% off coupons! Rule of thumb, I spend about $50 a gift if you're having a shower and a wedding and about $100 if you're just doing the wedding. That doesn't mean that I'm going to absolutely spend that much, but that's the value I'm aiming for. If I happen to get a super awesome deal on it, yay me.

3. Find a hotel group you like and stick to that one.

Most hotel chains have a reward or points program. This is a great way to profit off a bunch of out of town weddings. I have IHG and Hilton Rewards. That gives me about 20 different hotels to choose from and still get points. We're doing Hilton for one wedding and IHG for another wedding this year. I already have some points, so I'm hoping we are able to build up a good base for our own vacation later!

4. Use alternative lodging like Airbnb.

Staying in hotels is expensive! I do some traveling for work, so it's easy for us to gain a decent amount of hotel points, but we talked about using Airbnb after booking the first two hotels! If you don't travel regularly hotel points won't benefit you as much. Airbnb is a great alternative to hotels. You can rent apartments and houses for the same or cheaper than a hotel room.

5. Rent your dress, don't buy it.

I haven't actually bought a special occasion dress in a few years. I used to, now they don't fit and I have about 10 gorgeous dresses that don't fit and I can't sell because they're older. Enter Rent the Runway. Instead of spending at least $100 on a new dress that you'll wear once, rent one for less than $50. You might be thinking, "But Sarah, that's only one wear." I get that, I do. I felt the same way. But how many times have you actually worn those other dresses? More than twice? Okay then.

The best way to survive wedding season though, especially if you're happily married, is to remember your wedding. Remember how much you loved your day, seeing your favorite people all at once. And if you didn't love your whole day, remember the part you did. Even if the only part you like was the person you married. Remember the excitement of it all. Want that for your friends and family and want to be a part of that. It doesn't happen all the time, so make it special when it does. But don't break your bank over it!

This guy was my favorite part! Photo Credit: Carolina Media Star

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Kitchen Experiment: Homemade Vegetable Stock

I'm all for kitchen experiments. I love them. There is nothing better than destroying your kitchen trying out something new. Aaron doesn't always feel this way as he's usually the one doing the dishes after my experiment, but I think they are amazing. This past week, I tried out a Facebook recipe for vegetable stock.

In the beginning of the year, I saw a Facebook video for homemade vegetable stock using veggie scraps. With as much cooking as I do with fresh veggies, I thought it would be worth a try. So I kept all my veggie scraps until I filled a one-gallon ziploc bag. The video says they are good for six months, but it only took me three!  Here's what you can use:
  • Onions - Top, bottom and skins
  • Celery - Top and bottom
  • Carrots - Top, bottom and skins
I also threw in the bottom and inside skins of garlic. 

I didn't get a picture of my original bag, but this is my second one I'm starting!
Once that was ready, I dumped the frozen scraps in my oh so lovely Pioneer Woman dutch oven and covered them with water. 



I brought the mixture to a boil and then simmered for about 35 minutes. The video said at least 30 minutes and I think I had something else coming out the oven at 30, so it kept going until 35. 

I strained the mix through a mesh colander and then froze some into cubes and put the rest in a quart size mason jar. We have a ton of jars around, so I just grabbed one that was handy. If you freeze some, make sure to use silicone molds. They are so easy to just pop out!



Overall, I really like this idea. It's easy and makes use of all the veggies that we go through. I've used the stock already in a recipe and it turned out just like normal. It will be interesting to see how it goes with the frozen cubes.  Apparently you can do the same thing with chicken, but having just recently butchered my first (and only) chicken, I think it's safe to say that I'll stick with Rachel Ray for the chicken and beef stocks. Has anyone else tried this? Have you tried it with meat bones?! 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Cardis, Booties and a Cheat Day: The First Three Weeks of the Spring Capsule

Yesterday was the first official day of spring and I don't know about you, but I was super excited to see it! February teased us with spring-like weather here in NC and then March came in like a lion and everything got frigid! This made the first couple of weeks of my spring capsule wardrobe very interesting.

One of the reasons I've heard that people are scared to do a capsule wardrobe is uncertain weather. By God, we have that in NC, so I thought I would share how I've handled the first three weeks of this capsule. February was in the 70s and I was oh so excited to swap out my fall and winter clothes for the pretty colors of my spring clothes. I swapped capsules the week that finished out February and started March. The weather was gorgeous and I was feeling confident in my spring choices - plus I had a new LulaRoe skirt that I was dying to wear!

Cardigan: Merona/ T-shirt: Limited/ Skirt: LulaRoe Cassie/ Shoes: Jessica Simpson
For this outfit, I paired my LulaRoe Cassie skirt with a white t-shirt and beloved blue Merona cardigan from Target. And because I had all these awesome colors going, I added my favorite magenta flats (can be found here). This was my first LulaRoe Cassie skirt and I was a little worried because I got a medium. But it fit perfectly and was wonderful for my ego! I'm also really excited for it to get warmer because I just got a new purple t-shirt that will also match this perfectly.

Then the weather started to go downhill. Most of this capsule is layering pieces, so I had to get creative. I started with dresses, thinking that I was mostly going to be in my office.

Dress: Stitch Fix Maeby Dress/ Belt: Ann Taylor/ Shoes: 
Side note - I haven't been able to wear that skinny red belt in years. No, really - years! And now I'm on the second notch in, woo! Anyway, this is my favorite dress. I throw a black cardigan on over it if I'm cold and call it a day. And if I'm feeling fat and lazy, I don't wear a belt. So many options! But then the weather got colder. And things got interesting.

I went through all the cardigans.

Cardigan: Merona/ Top: Banana Republic Outlet/Pants: Loft
Cardigan: Merona/ Camisole: Loft Outlet/ Pants: Ann Taylor Ponte Pants
And then, I cheated. I hadn't done laundry, both of my warm weather sweaters were in the dirty laundry, I'd worn a bunch of cardigans already that week and it was going to be a super cold day. So I cheated. Already. Less than a month in. I pulled out a sweater from my winter capsule and called it a day. Cause sometimes, you just need to be warm.

Sweater: Ann Taylor/ Necklace: Premier Designs Belize/ Pants: Loft Marissa/ Boots: DSW
Also, these booties are the best $30 I have ever spent. I've had them a full week now and I've already worn them three times.

Finally, it was a Friday and I was feeling like wearing my LulaRoe Randy tee. It's not the dressiest thing in the world, but Friday is dress down. It still didn't feel work-appropriate, though, so I popped on my vest from Stitch Fix.

Vest: Stitch Fix Tarte Skyros/ Top: LulaRoe Randy/ Bracelets: Premier Designs/Jeans: Loft/ Shoes: Toms
This post is also a really good example of how you don't have to buy new clothes when you do a capsule. Most of my clothes are from a few seasons (okay, years) ago. They are what fits now and I don't really have a huge budget to replace them. But adding in some new shoes (booties!) and other pieces like a vest, fun skirts or camisoles can really help update them.

The lesson is this: weather is weird. It's going to be weird, especially if you live in North Carolina or anywhere, really. I think I saw on the news that the last cold snap is normally some time in April, so I still have some weeks to go. Sometimes you might have to cheat and pull an item out that isn't in your capsule. I don't recommend it, but life goes on. But I still like my capsule. Mostly because it does make me think about different ways to wear my clothes and how to style them instead of wearing a cardigan, shirt and jeans every day of my life (cause that's what would happen). It also allows me to really think about what I'm buying and buy things that I will wear all the time, like my booties.

So, did you survive the cold? Have you swapped your clothes out for warm weather stuff yet? And am I the only one wanting to wear furry boots to work?

Friday, March 17, 2017

What We Ate This Week - Meal Planning and Skinnytaste Cookbook Review

This week. This week has been a week. I've been tired all week long and just didn't really feel like doing all that much. I did my classes and I worked all week, but my heart wasn't just in it. When I meal planned this past Saturday, I decided to go easy on the meals because Day Light Savings Time and I are not friends. This week is always a little rough on me, so I gave myself a break.

Since I talk about meal planning and cooking a lot on this blog, I thought I would combine our meal plan for this week and a review of a cookbook that I have been living out of the past few weeks.

My friend Jess has forever been the one that finds these fabulous food bloggers and then gets me hooked. She got me hooked on Chocolate Covered Katie, then PaleOMG and Skinnytaste. I've been using the Skinnytaste recipes online for a while, but when I saw her new cookbook in a store, I decided to try out her actual books. Because deep down, I'm a cookbook recipe kinda girl. I just got the new book from the library, but the recipes we did this week are from the original Skinnytaste cookbook.

Affiliate link: http://amzn.to/2n5wFaH

What I liked most about this book is that it's my kind of cooking. It's not Paleo, but it is good, healthy recipes. They aren't diet recipes or using diet ingredients, but good recipes revamped with healthier options. If I have learned anything, it's that diet isn't the way to go. Healthy is.

This was our meal plan this week:
  • Monday - Chicken Enchilada Soup in the Crockpot
  • Tuesday - Buffalo Chicken Melts
  • Wednesday - Teriyaki Glazed Pork Chops with Pineapple Salsa and Long Grain Rice
  • Thursday - Chorizo and Apple Salsa Lettuce Wraps
I will be honest and say that Thursday's meal is actually a recipe from Papa Spud's and is not from this cookbook. It's amazing, easy and Paleo friendly, though! I tried to find a recipe online for you, but couldn't. Maybe I'll blog it soon!

This week I did a different meal prep than normal. I did all my chopping on Sunday. I chopped all my onion, garlic, jalapeno and anything that would stay fresh until I used it. It's been glorious for cooking after class, but my fridge smells like a giant onion. Apparently I need to change out that year old baking soda that it's in there (don't judge).

So much chopping!
I also did a crock pot shredded chicken. The cookbook recommends doing three chicken breasts in the crock pot, then shredding them for meals later in the week. We did this for the Buffalo Chicken Melt. I'll probably keep doing this because it's great to have on hand for quick chicken salads!

Chicken Enchilada Soup
I chose this recipe for Monday because I knew I was going to be a whiny person Monday night. I had yoga and knew that I wasn't going to want to be super productive after that. The recipe says to cook the soup for 4 to 5 hours on low, so I went home at lunch and put the meal together. It's a super simple recipe: stock, tomato sauce, black beans, corn, onion, garlic, diced tomatoes, cilantro, spices and chicken breasts. Dump everything into the crock pot, cook on low for 4 to 5 hours, pull out the chicken, shred and dump back in. 



We served it with cheese, sour cream and tostitos chips. It made 6 good size servings. 

Leftover tip: Always make your leftovers before serving the food. Then you have what you need and people can eat whatever is left. I had six servings out of this meal. If left up to Aaron, I would have had maybe 3.

Buffalo Chicken Melts
Tuesday is my double class night - spin followed by TRX. I get home at 7:45, so to avoid eating at 9 PM, I always choose something easy. These were perfect!


I took the shredded chicken, added in Frank's Red Hot, mayo, red onion and shredded carrots and mixed it all together. Frank's Red Hot is some magical stuff. 

The recipe called for tomatoes on the melt, but I didn't have any so I left them off. The melts were super easy to make - toast 4 pieces of bread, stack the buffalo chicken mixture on top and then put a slice of pepper jack cheese on top. Put under the broiler until the cheese gets all bubbly!

Teriyaki Glazed Pork Chops with Mango Salsa
This might be one of my new favorites! It was a little more complicated of a meal, but it still didn't take very long. I got home from class around 7 and dinner was ready at about 7:30. 

If you don't have a griddler, you need one. The plates pop off and go in the dishwasher!
The teriyaki glaze was really good! But the main reason that this was so good were the pork chops - they came out perfectly! I made them on my Cuisinart Griddler. Seriously, I'm in love with that thing. I cooked them for 6 minutes on each side, then moved them all down to the bottom and pulled the top down for another 1-2 minutes. They were cooked perfectly! Even in the microwave for lunch the next day they turned out perfect! We paired them with Uncle Ben's 90 second long grain brown rice. 





Those are the recipes that we made this week out of the cookbook, but we've made so many others! So Addicted Chicken Enchiladas (amazing!), Pear and Brie Grilled Cheese (which Aaron loved!), Sweet n Spicy Sriracha Glazed Salmon and Roasted Sesame Green Breans and Slow Cooker Santa Fe Chicken. Each recipe has been delicious, easy and, best of all, healthy! I like that the recipes aren't super involved and that they aren't all Paleo, although the book gives you gluten free options. 

I have so many cookbooks and I really don't need another, but I also really want to buy this one. I've made 8 amazing recipes out of it already! Maybe I'll wait and see how good the new book is before I make any purchases. What did you make for dinner this week? And please tell me I'm not the only one dying from Daylight Savings Time!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Cause You Had a Bad Day...

I've been reading a lot about "self care" on blogs lately. Apparently this is the new "it" thing. I thought it was kind of silly to say "oh hey, I'm practicing self care!" and to give it a name, but I've also realized that it's probably a good thing that we're now recognizing the need for it.

Today I told a co-worker that I was tired. And I am. I'm mentally tired from work, professional boards and from writing this blog. I'm physically tired from the time change, working out, and doing all the things that keep a house running - laundry, cooking, cleaning (kinda). I felt silly saying it because I know so many others that have more reasons to be tired than I - a coworker whose husband is battling cancer and she's been sick, friends that stay home with three kids and they all manage to survive the day, friends that work full time to come home to cook and spend time with their kids. And here I am tired.

But it's okay to be tired. It's okay to admit that you're not always okay. That doesn't make you less, just human. This week, I'm not okay. I'm not going to break down and lose my mind either, but I'm just not my usual chipper self. So here's what I've done so far to make life a little better.

Do yoga
Yoga is my favorite. I never thought I would say that, but it is. Every Monday night at 6 PM, I'm on my mat. It's my favorite way to start my week. Mondays are rough and ending it with 60 minutes on the mat where all I'm thinking about is not falling on my face is the best way for me to decompress.



Took time off work
Last week I requested some time off this month. A mental health day. Nothing major, but an extra day that is all mine and not related to anything else. Not going to lie, I'm super excited for it!

Read a book
I've been working really hard at not reading smut romance lately. If left to my own devices, I read smut romance, Jen Lancaster, Emily Giffin, Sarah Dessen and cookbooks. That's it. This year, though, I'm expanding my reading horizons so my former English major soul can die a little less with each book I read. I would say that it was so I could be less embarrassed, but I have no shame. Lately, though, I've given back into the smut romance. Cause, you know, it requires no brain cells. And that is a lovely thing.

Picked Easy Meals
This sounds silly, but it's been pretty awesome so far this week. I'm burnt out on cooking, so this week I picked super easy meals. So far, I've made something in the crock pot and I've made sandwich melts. They were super simple and awesome. I'm all for a good complicated recipe, but sometimes, simplicity is good too. Check out Friday's blog for this week's super simple meal plan!

Bought Shoes
If you know me, you should not be surprised by this. But it's also been a while since I've bought shoes. But I had some that needed replacing and, let's face it, I can't turn down a good deal, so Sunday night, I went to DSW and bought myself some new booties. They are fab. And they were only $30, so within my crazy budget. Shoes make everything better.


So what have you done for you lately? It doesn't have to be anything big, but something that you've done just for yourself. Even if that's a shower without your kids interrupting you, a five minute coffee break or retail therapy. It's only Wednesday, so if you haven't taken care of you this week, no worry, there's time!

Friday, March 10, 2017

House Updates and Southern Ideal Home Show Giveaway

I've worked in housing for almost ten years now. Crazy! But I never realized just how much fun, and work, owning your own home would be.

We've been in our house for over a year and we have so many projects planned! Actually, I do. Aaron just tends to look terrified anytime I begin a conversation with, "So, I was thinking we could..." or "Hey do you want to go walk through houses?!" There is so much construction going on around us and I love to see what others have done to their houses to determine what I want to do next to ours!


So far this year, we've changed out our dining room fixture and added above the garage door storage. These were our Christmas gifts from our parents. Sadly, that's what we get really excited about now. Light fixtures and garage storage! We also changed out our CFL lights in the kitchen to LED and holy crap - I can actually see in the morning. No more two minutes of darkness while the lights heat up. Our plans for this year are to work more on garage storage (we have no attic!) and a back splash.

Or the backyard. I could have this.
Lucky for us, the Southern Ideal Home Show is coming to Raleigh! The Southern Ideal Home Show, the Triangle’s largest home and garden event, is gearing up for its spring show in Raleigh. The three-day showcase will be held at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds and will feature more than 300 top area professionals in home and garden.





Headlining this year’s show are celebrity guests Dave and Kortney Wilson, co-hosts of HGTV’s Masters of Flip. In each episode of Masters of Flip, house-flipping experts Dave and Kortney breathe new life into an old, rundown Nashville home.  With limited timelines and tight budgets, they take on the challenge of transforming each real estate disaster into a stunning family dream home.

Dave and Kortney will share their house-flipping and renovation secrets at the show in a presentation sponsored by New Homes and Ideas on Saturday, April 8 at 1:30 p.m. Following the presentation, they will host a Meet and Greet session for fans to take pictures and get autographs. 

Make sure to come with your to do list as this year’s show will feature more ideas and solutions than ever before. The show will spotlight what’s trending in home improvement, building, kitchen and bath, outdoor living, interior decorating and more. 


Cause who doesn't want a closet like this?!
Don’t miss old favorites such as shopping the Partners in Design Sale and Ask TheHomeMag Aisle, as well as the highly anticipated return of the tiny house from Buck Stove and the Showcase of Local Artists, both of which made their debut at last fall’s show. The Home Show will also showcase the fifth edition of Brews & Bites, where guests will enjoy locally-crafted beers with savory foods created by top chefs and businesses in the Triangle. Get a head start on your spring projects by registering online at SouthernIdealHomeShow.com for a chance to win a $1,000 Shopping Spree Gift Certificate to shop at the show.

Tickets are available online for $9 and at the door for $10, and children under 15 are free with a paying adult. Advance tickets are available at Walgreen’s locations throughout the Triangle beginning March 7 for a discounted price of $7. Friday is 55+ Day (tickets are $7 for anyone 55 and older) and Hero Day (free admission for active and former military, police, fire or EMT with valid identification). Parking is free and plentiful. 

I've teamed up with the Southern Ideal Home Show to give away two complimentary tickets for April 7-9 at the State Fair Grounds in Raleigh! You just need to complete the activities below and you'll be entered into the drawing! Make sure to enter your information below and complete all activities to be entered! The contest goes from Friday, March 10, to Wednesday, March 15, 2017. The winner will be notified by email by Thursday, March 16, 2017. Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, March 9, 2017

My Favorite Gym Rat Accessories

One night during a yoga class, while getting all of our props, a girl said to me, "these are all of our accessories now" and I thought "this woman is a genius!" Cause it's true. Once you're a gym rat, you're accessories change. Yes, I still have a ton of shoes and jewelry, but now most of my money is spent on my gym accessories: shoes, mats, props, water bottles, things to keep my hair out of my face.

After a year of living at my gym (at least that's how I feel), I've come up with a list of my favorites, in no particular order.

Spin Shoes
I did spin for years at the YMCA. My spin life totally changed when I started going to Burn. At the YMCA, I used regular tennis shoes and spin shorts that I lovingly called my "adult diaper pants." They had the built in saddle support. Wonderfully comfy, but not so great for doing combination classes like spin and circuit. I haven't worn the adult diaper pants in years, but I swear by spin shoes.


Peal Izumi W X-Road Fuel IV Spin Shoe (affiliate link)
These are my spin shoes. I like that they are more like a regular shoe than a traditional spin shoe aka you can actually walk in them! Spin shoes are life changing. You can sprint so much easier in these with no fear of your foot falling out of the cage. I would recommend sizing up at least a half to a full size in these. I also wear thin socks with them. 

Yoga Mat
A good yoga mat is priceless. That seems silly, but if you spend a lot of time on the mat, you need to love it. I used my gym's mats for the longest time (I think they are Manduka mats) and while they are nice, I slid all over the place! I did lots of research and finally settled on Lululemon's The Mat. 

Lululemon The Mat 5mm and Yoga Mat Strap
I chose the more expensive mat because I wanted the thicker mat for my knees. I love how stable it is, even on the carpet in my house! My favorite part, though, is that I can sweat buckets and I don't slip and slide! I've done hot power flow and mbala on this mat and have yet to need a mat towel. Best $70 I have ever spent!

Hair Ties
My hair tie obsession is ridiculous. Aaron made the statement the other day "how to tell your wife is a gym rat" while collecting my hair ties throughout the house. They are everywhere and multiply like rabits! However, not all hair ties are made equal. 

Scunci Everyday and Active Hair Ties (affiliate link)
These are my favorite hair ties. I actually got them for free from a Hip 2 Save Facebook post. I love them. They survive circuit classes (lots of jumping and running) and yoga (lots of moving the back of your head on a mat) without my hair falling out.

Water Bottle
I own a ridiculous amount of water bottles. I have my super expensive Bobble bottle from Burn that I inevitably dump water on me every time I use it. I have my cheap bottle from Cycle Bar that holds a lot, but doesn't keep it cold. And then I found this one. 
Contigo Autospout Ashland Scuba Glass Water Bottle (affiliate link)
It's glass, so it keeps the water cold. It's pretty (cause that's what you worry about while at the gym). You can lock it, so it doesn't open in your gym bag and dump water everywhere. It's pretty much my favorite. Also, in case you can't tell, I like blue.

Mat Strap
I spent months looking for a gym bag that would also handle my yoga mat. That proved difficult because I bought the cadillac of yoga mats and it's too thick to fit into most of the yoga mat spaces in gym bags. Then I gave up and got a yoga mat strap for like $5. Score. (see mat photo above)

Yoga Mat Cleaner
This. If you sweat buckets like I do, you need a mat cleaner. The Lulu mat smells when you first get it, so the cleaner also helps with that.  Mostly, though, it just helps your mat last longer and not be disgusting.
Asutra Yoga Mat Cleaner (affiliate link)
This is the one that I use and I love that it comes with a towel! I have the lavender and it smells so good!

Yoga Blocks
My blocks actually came with an intro to yoga kit I got at Target. I think any blocks are good, but if you are practicing yoga at home or working on any poses, blocks are necessary. They really help you work your way through poses and tight muscles. 

The funny thing is that I really don't think I have as many accessories as I thought I would. I was looking for a gym bag, but ended up using some of the totes I already have. I do have a ridiculous amount of shoes, but that's nothing new for me. What about you, what are some of your favorite gym rat accessories?!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Capsule Wardrobe - Spring 2017 Update

Back in September 2016, I did a post series on capsule wardrobes - what it is (read here), how I set mine up (read here), and how to do one yourself (read here). I didn't do an update post on my winter capsule because it really wasn't that much different than my fall capsule. But spring is here (in capsule land) and I am so, so ready to change over!

Spring 2017 capsule!
I think this capsule is so much fun for me because I've lost weight and I'm bringing out some spring clothes I haven't seen in a few years. With the budget cutting my spending significantly, this helps me feel like I have some "new" items. This is what I tell myself at least. 

You might be thinking that spring doesn't actually start until April. You would be right. But here in North Carolina, it felt like spring in the middle of February! I set up my capsules based on when the climates start changing where I live, so for me spring is March - May.

Items
For the Spring Capsule, I have a total of 45 pieces.  I have a skirt on the way and I have plans to replace one of my cardigans, so I'm essentially sitting at 47.  This still gives me room to buy a few more pieces throughout the three months. This time, my breakdown is:
  • 24 tops
  • 2 sweaters
  • 4 cardigans
  • 1 vest
  • 2 skirts (one on the way)
  • 5 pairs work pants
  • 3 pairs of jeans
  • 4 dresses
I decided to not count leggings anymore. I don't really wear them out that much and if I do, it's on a weekend when I'm running errands. I'm still not counting shoes, purses, or jewelry.

Layers
The big theme for this capsule is layering! North Carolina weather is notoritously weird, but this year seems to take the take. I have lots of cardigans and tops and dresses that work with them. I also tried to vary my pants lengths. I have capris and regular pant lengths. You pretty much have to be ready to have all four seasons in one week in NC and I've tried hard to take that into account.

Mix and Match
I also tried to do better with mixing and matching this time. I didn't do as well with my winter capsule and I could tell by the end. Making outfits became a chore and the need to laundry was strong! I still don't subscribe to the idea of all neutrals with a pop or all the same shade of one color when designing my capsules. I love color and I feel a little lost without it. It's probably why I get so excited about spring! This time, I worked really hard to make sure I had at least 25 different outfits with my various tops and bottoms and that I could make at least 3 outfits with each piece.  Here are some variations.

J Crew Polka Dot Skirt

Skirt: J Crew; Sweater - Stitch Fix; Cardigan - Target; Tee - Limited; Turquoise top - Stitch Fix; Cream top - Kohls
I can't even begin to explain to you my excitement over this skirt. It hasn't fit in at least 2 years, maybe even 3, and now it DOES! It's a pretty big deal for a J Crew 12 to fit me now. Anyway, I have four easy outfits with this skirt, probably more.  The 41Hawthorn sweater will be great for cooler days as will the Merona cardigan with the white t-shirt. The Daniel Rainn turquoise top and the Lauren Conrad top will be great for warmer days.

Merona Blue Cardigan

Cardigan - Target; Striped Blouse - Stitch Fix, Flower Top - Stitch Fix; Black and White Tank - Stitch Fix; Green Top - Banana Republic
I have owned, and loved, this cardigan from Target for years. I don't know what it is, but Target makes great cardigans! They are some of my absolute favorites. Most of these tops are from Stitch Fix, but all four of these tops will combine nicely with this cardigan and any of my work pants, making getting ready in the morning a breeze!

LulaRoe White and Gold Lola Skirt

Blue cardigan - Target; Black Cardigan - Stitch Fix; Skirt - LulaRoe; Turquoise top - Stitch Fix; Blue top - Stitch Fix
I bought the skirt from the LulaRoe Elegant Collection back in December. I loved it and had to have it, so much so that I bought a medium. It's tight. It might cause some fat rolls where I don't have them. I don't care. I never actually had the chance to wear it around Christmas, but I am very excited for it in my spring capsule! I have three different options here: my blue Merona cardigan with a black tee, my turquoise Daniel Rainn top, or my blue Brixon Ivy lace Jarred top. The Brixon Ivy top is another one that hasn't fit in a couple years, or at least not how I wanted it to, and now it does.  I might tell Aaron and show him every. single. time. something fits and didn't before.

What's New?
Every capsule, I buy a few new items. Not a lot, but some new ones. In the winter, I bought a few new t-shirts and a beautiful flutter sleeve top from Banana Republic that I'm keeping in this capsule. For this one, I'm adding more skirts and tops. Two skirts were featured above and I've purchased another pencil-type skirt from LulaRoe. I've added another work top that I actually purchased a few years ago but just now fits me like I want. My work wardrobe was lacking during the winter, so I tried to focus more on it this time and make sure I had plenty of professional items I could work with. I don't know that I didn't have enough for winter, I think I was just burnt out from fall. I also added a new t-shirt in a beautiful royal blue.


I'll be adding another cardigan, replacing my beloved magenta cardigan and I have a few new shoes I would like to buy.

I'm really excited for this capsule. I thought I would be over this whole capsule wardrobe thing by now, but I think it actually helps me enjoy my clothes more. I spend an entire afternoon playing in my closet, trying different outfits together and determining what I want to keep and what to move out. Some items I move out of the capsule unwillingly, like my gold LulaRoe Lindsay. I love it, it's so pretty and I get so many compliments when I wear it, but I feel like I'm going to wear it out if I'm not careful. I like to think that the capsule keeps me from being a shopaholic, but I really don't think that's possible.

Are you doing a capsule wardrobe? If not, what are some spring items you're dying to switch over to?

Now to go put my closet back together.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Infuenster Resolution VoxBox Review

When I started back blogging and determined I was going to make it a thing, a regular thing, not a whenever thing, I never really thought about doing affiliates and product testing. I started the blog back up because I love to write and I wanted to write about my latest obsessions - food, fitness, fashion. Then I got linked up with other bloggers and learned about this whole crazy blogging world, including product testing. Enter Influenster!

I found Influenster through another blogger that I was in grad school with. She posted a few item reviews on Instagram and I was curious, so I checked them out. Influenster is an app that gauges your interaction with social media and then sends you free products in exchange for your opinions. I was pretty surprised when I got my first vox box, the Resolution Vox Box.  Over the past month or so, I've tested out the products, completed activities and posted on social media.  And today, I'm going to review the items on my blog!

My very first VoxBox!

Burt's Bees Protein + Healthy Radiance Powder
This was the first product that I tried out of my VoxBox! I loved that they sent me a smoothie recipe to test it out with. The recipe was an Orange Berry Protein Shake.  I'm not a huge protein shake fan - I don't like their chalky taste. I'd much rather eat than drink my protein! But this shake was actually really good. Simple ingredients, nothing I had to go to Whole Foods to find, and it made two shakes. If I was more of a shake/smoothie person, I would definitely purchase this protein powder!


Burt's Bees Protein Powder and the ingredients for the Orange Berry Protein Shake

The recipe made two shakes, so the hubby and I each had one!
Popchips Ridges Cheddar and Sour Cream
Chips aren't something that I crave. I enjoy them every now and then, but rarely do I say, "Man, I need some chips!" I enjoyed the Popchips. They're baked and have a good flavor! I wasn't a huge fan of the texture, but I enjoyed them for a snack.



Orgain Protein Bar - Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip
Protein bars are my jam! I eat these before my classes to get me through until dinner. I will begin this by stating that I normally hate peanut butter and chocolate in a protein bar. I like it in real life, but the texture in a protein bar is just plain nasty.  This bar actually had a good flavor. It wasn't a grainy peanut butter and the chocolate chips were the right amount of chocolate. But it was hard! Like eating taffy hard and I wasn't a huge fan of that. So, huge congrats on an actual good-tasting peanut butter and chocolate protein bar. I'm just not a huge fan of how hard it was to chew!

Saturday morning post workout breakfast - Skinny Cinnamon Dolce and Orgain Protein Bar

Crispy Greens - Crispy Fruit Mano
Dried fruit. This is one of those things that if I was on Whole 30 I would have loved! Again, me and my weird texture issues. It's the theme of these products! The fruit was good, but it was a little fuzzy tasting. I did like that the only ingredient was the fruit itself. So if you're on Whole 30 or doing Paleo or clean-eating, this is a great snack product for you!



Sabra On the Go Guacamole with Tostitos Rollups
This was my favorite! That is super surprising because I am not a guacamole fan (you guessed it...texture).  However, I love this! It's not something I would do every day, but it's a great "hey I need to grab something from the grocery store for lunch" item. I paired it with leftover chipotle barbacoa taco salad and it was a perfect meal! The Tostitos are just enough to whet your carb appetite without leaving you in a carb coma. Definitely try these out for a snack if you get a chance!

Lunch time!

Febreeze One Fabric and Air Mist
This is my other favorite item out of this box. I am usually not a fan of sprays - the perfume is so strong and they give me headaches. This one, though, has a nice, light orchid scent. It's just a hint, not overpowering and I like that we can use it on fabric and as an air freshener. Now I can sit on my couch after my classes and not worry that it's going to smell like me when I leave!



Dentek Orabrush
Before I give any opinion, I'm going to start by saying I have a gag reflex. Therefore, I kind of hate this thing. At first, it was okay. Kind of fun even. But then I got to the edge of my tongue and nope. All kinds of nope. Apparently, bad breath comes from a dirty tongue and this is supposed to clean it. If I'm only supposed to clean the top middle of my tongue, I'm great. Past that? Nope.



I really enjoyed my first VoxBox! It was fun to get a bunch of different items, try them out over the course of a few weeks and post on social media and my blog.  I found two good products that I will probably buy again (Sabra Guacamole and Febreeze One) and hopefully others (that don't have my texture issues) see some they want to try.  Which of these products would you most want to try?