Thursday, April 13, 2017

Madeline's First Birthday Party

It is hard to believe it has been nearly two months since we celebrated Madeline's first birthday. It was such a special day for our girl with lots of friends and family in town visiting and celebrating the occasion. Aunt Kate and Uncle Chris even flew in from San Francisco to celebrate. 

I started planning Madeline's birthday party months and months before. You can see this post for my inspiration and I purchased a lot of the decor second-hand on our local mom's resale group. This let me go all-out on pink and gold decor without it breaking the bank.

Corey, my mother in law, sister in law, her fiancé, and I ordered a pizza and decorated that Thursday night before the party. We enjoyed some family time on Friday, Madeline's actual birthday, and took her to a fun breakfast out and to ride in her new Cozy Coupe. I had my house cleaner come on Saturday morning. In retrospect, I would probably have her come Sunday morning after the party next time.

I ordered Madeline's cake and cupcakes from Publix at the recommendation of several moms in our neighborhood. They did a perfect job with decorating it to match the photo I brought in from Pinterest and everyone thought the cupcakes were moist and delicious. They were also so reasonably priced. I will definitely use Publix again for cake orders.

I used my Cricut to make Madeline's cake topper and the little cupcake toppers. The ones of her in a party hat were my favorite project and they were such a big hit.

She, of course, loved the cake as well and had such a fun time digging in and clapping her hands at how delicious she thought it was.

For appetizers, I served homemade guacamole (recipe from the old school days of this blog), salsa, a veggie tray, pigs in a blanket, and my mom brought a cheese and relish tray. I also set out cheerios and puffs in these cute cups for Madeline's littlest guests. 

We decorated with framed pictures of Madeline's first year all around the house. We used the champagne frames from our wedding that have been sitting in storage ever since. We also set up a fun little photo booth. The props were hand me downs from another mom. 

I found Madeline's dress at Janie and Jack and loved the cute, pleated look. I didn't want to do something first birthday specific so she could wear it again. I did get her this tiny birthday hat and I loved it. $7 well spent, if you ask me. 

Probably my favorite decoration was the monthly photo banner. Getting those pictures was a labor of love after eight months but I am so glad I have them. I mean, just look at home much she changed! More first birthday photoshoot pictures here and newborn photos and birth story here

Corey cooked barbecue on the Big Green Egg all night and I made cole slaw and macaroni and cheese. Corey's mom brought baked beans and my mom brought her famous potato salad and deviled eggs so this provided a full meal for all our guests but wasn't too much work since it was well divided up.

Madeline had a great time playing with all of her friends and eating all the food. She and her little friends enjoyed playing in the water table and sliding on the toddler slide, which we set up inside for the party. 

The party lived up to all of my Pinterest dreams but I will definitely look forward to doing something smaller next year! Haha! Cleaning up was a little exhausting but I passed the decorations along to a fitness coaching client of mine to use for her daughter's birthday next month so I am happy they will continue to get use. 

For favors, we used these cute little bags from Target's dollar aisle with bubbles from Dollar Tree inside for her tiny friends to take home.

The celebrations continued on to Sunday when she opened her gifts and played with all her new toys. It was a great way to celebrate her first year and we sure are thankful for this precious girl. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Coffee + Conversation

Happy Monday morning. This is Spring Break for our local school district so we are looking forward to a slower-paced week around here since I have this week off of tutoring and Madeline's music class.   I'm definitely not hating that. 

Corey was out of town for a friend's bachelor party this weekend so I took advantage and went out for  girls' night on Friday. I wore my favorite lace top that for some reason Corey hates but I just love, love, love. I met a few girlfriends at Foxcroft Wine Company and we enjoyed a light dinner, a couple glasses of wine, and several hours of catching up.

Then, on Saturday, I got my workout in (22 Minute Hard Corps) and got showered and dressed to take Madeline to meet a friend for an Easter festival. She did not participate in the egg hunt because I was terrified she would be trampled but she enjoyed a nice picnic lunch outside, some strawberry ice cream, and friend time.

On Saturday evening she enjoyed her last bottle. I am not sad to put the million Dr. Brown's pieces away for good but I am a little sad that she is growing up so fast. I have really loved giving her her bottle every night. We slowly switched to sippy cups starting around 10 months but I hung on to this bedtime bottle. This girl loves her ba-ba so I was really worried about the transition affecting her sleep or it breaking her heart when she didn't get her bottle last night. Well, it didn't phase her at all. It was absolutely harder on me.

After she went to bed on Saturday, I tested out these two products. I've never used the R+F tanner before but I had had my nails done with this polish several times. I loved them both. I've tested out a lot of new beauty products lately so I'll share a round-up soon.

Corey arrived home early Sunday morning. Then, we headed to a local nursery to pick out some flowers for our front porch. Madeline and I got the ferns at Lowe's on Friday. When we came home, he played with Madeline and put her down for her nap while Riley and I removed the dead mums from the planters (yep, they were still there) and replaced them with pretty spring plants. I am loving this little spring refresh to our porch. 

Anyone feel like this? Last month's free Crockpot + Clean Eating challenge was such a huge success. This month I am offering a 14 day free ab challenge - just in time for summer and swimsuit season. It will focus on nutrition and daily core exercises. Let me know in the comments if you are interested in joining - just make sure the reply feature is on or you leave an email address.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Last Week's Workouts (+ a recipe)

Corey and I have officially booked our vacation to St. John to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. I am super excited because we haven't been on a "big" trip since our honeymoon. We do weekend get aways and go to the beach and we've been back up north to visit family but nothing really elaborate.

Let's revisit that Hawaiian honeymoon for a moment in case you are new here.

We spent five days on Oahu, most of it on the North Shore and a day in Waikiki so we could see Pearl Harbor. Then, we spend five days in Maui. It was my absolute favorite vacation and I was in the best shape of my life.

We are going on this year's trip in May instead of August, when our actual anniversary occurs, because we want to catch the best weather. That gives me just six short weeks to finish re-defining my abs and lose my last five pounds. I've already bought some new swim suits so I am pretty determined to meet this goal. No mom suits allowed on this trip.

Similar tank here, here, and here

Here are last week's workouts:

Monday: Barre Legs + 10 minute hardcore from Beachbody on Demand
Tuesday: Cize for cardio
Wednesday: Upper Fix Extreme + 10 minute abs
Thursday: Dirty 30 (21 Day Fix)
Friday: Walk with Madeline. I missed my regular workout time due to my mammogram appointment. Fun times, there.
Saturday: PiYo upper and lower body
Sunday: Country Heat for cardio

21 Day Fix, 21 Day Fix ExtremeCize, Country Heat, or get them all bundled together (and on sale this month) with Beachbody on Demand

This is one of the recipes that I shared in my Clean Eating + Crockpot Cooking challenge and we all enjoyed it, even Madeline.

Zesty zucchini chicken

1.5-2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 small onion, chopped
1 large zucchini, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 T Italian seasoning
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 (14.5 oz) can tomato sauce (no sugar added)
½ cup whole wheat penne
1 cup shredded Cheddar Jack cheese

Place all ingredients in the slow cooker, except for the pasta and cheese. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours (or high for 3-4 hours) or until chicken is cooked through. In the last 20-30 minutes, add in pasta and cook until al dente. Plate your chicken and immediately top with 1/4 cup cheese. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

My Experience with Essential Oils

Nicole of the blog Two and Two is 4 recently sent over some Young Living Essential Oils for me to try. I have been hearing great things about YL for years but never got around to giving them a try so this was perfect. When she asked what I may be interested in trying, I told her that our struggles were relaxation and overall wellness. A couple days later, samples of Stress Away, Lavender, and Thieves Vitality arrived at my doorstep with the sweetest handwritten note. 

One thing that I love about Young Living is their Seed to Seal promise, which is a meticulous process that ensures that the most natural and pure essential oils are delivered to customers. Ever since having Madeline, I am so much more aware of the products that I use so this made me feel really good about having them in my home.

The package arrived on one of my husband's most stressful work days this year. He was in his office, with a phone in each hand going back and forth while somehow also typing an email as I cut the envelope open. When he finally emerged for dinner, I had him immediately rub some Stress Away on his temples. He reluctantly admitted he did feel more relaxed after only about 15 minutes.


Nicole also sent along lavender, which is one of my absolute favorite scents. To test out this one, I added a couple drops to a bath. This was super relaxing and really helped me unwind for bed. It was also recommended to spray a little on your pillow before bed for restful sleep so I will definitely be giving that a try in the future and I can also see myself diffusing it while winding down for the night.

I also added one drop to this sweet little doll Madeline got for her birthday. When it arrived it smelled like lavender but that has faded since she is obsessed with this little baby and plays with her nonstop. She's been snuggling her extra close now that the sweet, relaxing smell has been restored.

My last sample was Thieves Vitality, which I knew nothing about at all. This oil is supposed to aid in overall wellness. I gave this one a try after finding out some friends we had just seen for play group all came down with a bug and weren't feeling well. I followed Nicole's recommendation exactly of having it with honey and tea to take it internally. I did feel really good overall after drinking my tea that afternoon and we did not catch the bug! I don't know if that was because of luck or the essential oils, but I will certainly take it!

Tell me what your experience is with essential oils. Are there certain oils or blends you have tried? 


Want to test some out for yourself? Nicole is a #mamaboss like me and was so easy to work with. Here's a note from her about how to order. 

To order your kit, you create your own account with Young Living. Here's how:

1) Go to 
CLICK "become a member"

2) Enter my member number in BOTH sponsor and enroller section: 3884612

3) Choose Wholesale, not Retail. Please make sure you choose wholesale, because only wholesale members are eligible to buy the kit. If you sign up Retail you cannot purchase a kit. As a wholesale member, you also earn a 24% discount if you ever want to order oils again. Occasionally, people are hesitant to create a wholesale account because they think it means they are signing up to sell something, but please rest assured that is NOT the case. As a wholesale member you are never, ever required to buy or sell a single thing. If you don't like your oils, you never have to place another order after you receive your starter kit. I have a slight feeling you will fall in love and that won't be the case though! (Think of it like a Costco membership. The majority of the people I have introduced to oils only use them, but don’t sell them.) You are in no way ever expected or required to share anything about oils the way I do. 

4) You will also get to choose between 4 different diffusers during check out. It comes standard with the Dew Drop or Home Diffuser, which most people love! Let me know if you need help choosing one!

After entering all your info, make sure you write down your login information. Log out and log back in for practice! You'll need to remember your info for future purchases! If you ever forget it, let me know and I'll help you get that information!

5) Upon ordering a kit, I’ll send you an oily tool kit in the mail so you will have some tools to help you use your kit once it arrives. 

6) I am also part of the YL Essential Families group and Mid-Atlantic Essentials group. Both pages are very active with a wealth of oily info. I will submit the request to have you added to the group. We also have a great website. I also have a smaller group for my oily friends that I'll add you to. 

7) I will send you a welcome email that contains some helpful links and info on when you should expect to receive your kit. I will also send you a 3 part welcome email series, covering topics such as diffuser recipes, using oils in place of toxic cleaning products, and the Essential Rewards program. I typically send you one email a week for the first month.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Real Talk: Fitness after Baby

I'm just going to dig right in and be totally honest and say there were many days after Madeline was born that I didn't recognize myself. I know many of you, who are mamas, know this feeling yourselves. I looked in the mirror eight weeks later to see pale skin, cellulite, fifteen extra pounds, and dark circles under my eyes. Who is this person??

I lost a big chunk of my pregnancy weight super fast but then the weight stopped falling off and my pants and shorts still didn't button and legging season was dangerously close to an end. 

This was a big struggle for me for so many reasons. For most of my life I have been fit. But this is not something that comes easy for me. It is something I have worked hard for every day for years and years. I gained almost ten pounds while I was in graduate school and I exercised and meal-planned my way to the best shape of my life for our wedding and honeymoon. I vowed I would never put my health on the back burner again. It was hard work and lots of time and sweat and I was pretty devastated that that body I'd worked so hard for had disappeared after pregnancy. 

What was even harder was that I didn't really know where to start. I have a strong background in nutrition and fitness so I know how to lose weight in a healthy way and build strong, lean muscle. I just didn't know how to find the time to do it with an infant in tow. Madeline was still sleeping no more than two hours at a time. There were more 3:00 pm lunches in the Chick-fil-A drive through than I care to admit during her 6-8 week old fussy period where she cried most of the day and was only content in the car or in my arms. Especially since my husband travels so I was doing the whole exhausted new mom thing all by myself 90% of the time. 

Being a mom is hard. Finding time for yourself when you are responsible for a tiny human's life is even harder. It seems everyone needs you. You baby needs you to do literally everything. Your husband needs your attention. He needs your help finding his lost car key amongst the mountain of teeny tiny laundry. Your dog wonders why all of the sudden he's not the center of attention.

I was feeling very isolated. Our support system was spread out and my husband was in the middle of a busy travel season for work. I had to find a way to do this with no help. Dropping Madeline off for an hour with my mom or mother-in-law so I could get a class in at my favorite barre studio wasn't an option. I also found myself getting so frustrated when I'd see other new moms posting on our local mom group about trying to lose weight and so many people's response was how easy it was when you are nursing. Just breastfeed and it will fall right off. For me, I actually gained weight during my first four months of nursing. Honestly, I think I was in better shape two weeks after giving birth than I was three months later. 

Due to a postpartum hemorrhage, I was not cleared to exercise until 10 weeks post-baby but with the combination of purchasing a new house, listing our old one, moving, and going back to work all at the same time that didn't happen. And I wasn't eating clean, either. I was eating whatever was quick and little effort.

I really hesitated to share this photo and went back and forth between including it or not, but wanted to show that you can make big progress in a short time if you set your mind to it. The picture on the right was taken after only six weeks of being back into my routine. It took longer than I ever anticipated it would to get started back into a routine but when I finally did, I made some great progress and am still going.  I've actually lost another six pounds from that photo on the right. I carve out just thirty short minutes for a great at-home workout every day. I feel challenged and I am pushing myself daily. I feel leaner and stronger. I really dialed-in my nutrition using a meal plan where I was satisfied and energized. Adjusting my diet back to healthy foods and healthy portions made me feel so much better and I don't feel like I have to deny myself of things that I enjoy.

Fitness is a journey not a destination and I still have a few more pounds and some toning left to do. My abs don't look quite like they did on my honeymoon in Hawaii just yet but my clothes fit again. I have more energy. I feel healthier. I look leaner. I don't have unhealthy cravings. I can say no to Chick-fil-A. I feel calmer and more confident. Some of the victories aren't just noticeable on the scale. Most importantly, I don't have to choose between taking care of Madeline and taking care of myself. I even have time to do laundry and make dinner for our family in addition to my workouts, taking care of our home, a few hours of work a week, and being with Madeline.

Fitness after baby didn't look the way I thought it would. I thought I would have the energy to get right to the gym and bounce back quickly. I had to change my mindset to change my body. Its amazing what the female body can do. And its amazing how much progress you can make when you first give yourself a little grace and then tackle your goals with a lot of determination.

Baby or not, if you're feeling lost in your own health journey, email me. I'd love to help.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Coffee + Conversation

We had a nice little Spring weekend this weekend. After being cold again on and off last week, it really felt like spring at home in Charlotte. We had a laid back Friday evening then headed to the Botanical Gardens on Saturday.
Madeline got to wear some of her new spring clothes and had so much fun looking at all the different trees, plants, and flowers.

They had a special spring event taking place with so many fun children's activities. Madeline was too young for most of them  but she loved meeting Peter Rabbit. She smiled right at him when she saw him, such a completely different reaction from the skepticism she felt towards Santa back in December.

We came home and prepared to host friends for dinner. The weather was great so we ate outside on the porch and let the littles play on the slide, ride in the Cozy Coupe, and go for a walk in the wagon. 

If you are looking for an easy way to entertain your toddler, may I suggest pom poms from the Dollar Tree and empty take-out containers. Madeline has so much fun transferring the pom poms from container to container. I also kept the lid for one and cut a hole in the middle. She also enjoys poking the pom poms through the hole. No need for expensive toys and this is definitely one compact enough you can toss it in your bag and take with you when you're going to need to entertain the babe at a restaurant.

The great weather continued on to Sunday so we enjoyed a family walk on the greenway and playing in the backyard. I just cannot get enough of Madeline's spring clothes. I only picked up a few little short sleeve tops to wear with leggings she already had but I think she just looks precious.

We enjoyed these chicken burrito bowls for dinner. This is one of the recipes I am sharing in my Crockpot + Clean Eating totally-free group this week and is one we eat on the regular in our house. It is so super easy and healthy, too. Its even 21 Day Fix approved. If you missed out on this group but want in on the next free one, make sure you're following here to stay up to date. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

5 Ways to Live Healthier...Starting Today

I would argue that most of the population wants to be healthy. Yet, many, many of us don't make healthy choices on the day-to-day. I think healthy living can sometimes seem unattainable, like it might require too much work for us to be successful. But, that is simply not true. There are little changes we can make in our day-to-day habits that will add up to significant results in the long run.

1. Drink more water. We all know hydration is important yet it can be hard to get the water we need daily. I have definitely been guilty of having days where I would drink only coffee and wine. Drinking enough water helps curb cravings, boost metabolism, aids in skin and hair health, and so much more. Did you know you should be drinking half of your body weight in ounces every day at a minimum?

2. Go to be earlier. Again, this is something that has been difficult for me! Especially before becoming a mom. Now, I can't seem to get to bed fast enough at the end of the day. I personally got really "good" at functioning on six or so hours of sleep. But this is a dangerous practice in the long term. Determine a bedtime that is at least seven, preferably eight, hours before you need to get up to start your day. Then, plan to start winding down 30-45 minutes before that time. Check your email and social media for the last time, then log off. Finish your nighttime skincare and beauty rituals then try to read or listen to relaxing music for a few minutes to help your mind slow down and prepare for restful sleep.

3. Get moving! Remember the theory that a body in motion stays in motion and a body at rest stays at rest? For your health now and in the future, exercise really needs to be a part of your daily life. 30 minutes of exercise 3-5 a weeks will improve your overall health in so many ways. This can be as simple as using the stairs instead of the elevator and then taking a nice walk every evening. One thing I love about my current workouts is that they take just 30 minutes (2% of my day) and I really feel like I have strengthened my body and heart when I am finished. 

4. Eat reasonable portions. It isn't necessary to cut all of your favorite foods in order to eat healthy. While it is true that some foods are undeniably better than others, you can make a huge difference in your health simply by making sure your portions are reasonable. If you need help with this, email me and I will make sure you are on my list for my next meal prep group. I even have one starting on Monday. 
5. Find a way to destress. Whether it be yoga, a long walk with your favorite podcast, a lavender bubble bath, a standing mani/pedi date with a great girlfriend, find a way to relax on the regular. 
Want more healthy living tips? Make sure you are following me on Facebook.