Sunday, November 30, 2014

Crafting: Yarn Wreaths

Now that Thanksgiving is over, I feel like I can full indulge myself into holiday mode! I'm so excited to get started on craft project, decorating and gifts. 

This year, we finally get to hang Christmas lights on our house, for the first time. Our last house didn't really have a great place to hang them, and we had a BEAST of an HOA to contend with, so we didn't even bother for the 2 years we were there. The Home Owners Association regulated color, size, time you could have them on, when they could be put up and when they had to be taken down. It was nutzo! Plus for both of those Christmases we lived there, I was pregnant and not exactly excited to deal with getting outside decor up and taken down! Anyway, this year I'm so excited to be putting lights up outside. Our house has a perfect place to hang them and lots of trees and other things to decorate as well. I'll definitely be posting pictures of how our first attempt comes out. 

To get my holiday season going, I decided to jump on some craft projects that I have been wanting to work on. This weekend I was so anxious to get started on some of my Christmas projects. The first was making some winter/holiday yarn wreaths for myself and for my family members. I have been Pinning ideas for the last few weeks about what I wanted to make and how to make the felt flowers to decorate them. I did one practice wreath about two months ago, with fall colors, just so I could see how it would go. I didn't want to spend the money to make a bunch of them for the holidays if it was going to be too difficult or if they were going to come out looking poopy, but I was happy with how the fall one looked so I went ahead and bought the stuff for my winter batch. I would post a picture of my first fall wreath, but after I gave it to my mom to hang at her house (I was like a proud little elementary school kid who wanted to bring home their art project for their mommy!), she accidentally dropped it, causing the styrofoam form to crack. Boo! I have some left over fall yarn and felt though, so I might make myself another one to use next year. 

I got a total of six wreath forms (by the way I got them at Dollar Tree! Who knew they had a craft section?! The same size ones at the craft store were $3.79!) and over the past couple of weeks, I have been wrapping them in yarn to get them ready to decorate. The wrapping process isn't hard, it is just really tedious and somewhat time consuming. After the girls get to bed, on nights when they actually get to bed at a decent time, I sit on the couch, watch some terrible TV and wrap some yarn wreaths. I wanted to get some all ready to go, so then I could just sit down and decorate them. 

In the process of wrapping the white yarn wreath. I've got my process down though! The first one took me 2.5 hours, and my last one took me just over an hour! Woot! 

Yesterday, after I had finished wrapping the forth of four forms (hello alliteration!), I went to my Wreath Board on Pinterest (by the way you can check out my inspiration board HERE) and tried to decide on color schemes and ideas. I had wrapped each of the wreath forms with a different color/pattern so that I could try a bunch of different stuff and see what I liked and what looked best. After I watched some tutorials and looked at some wreath ideas, I made some felt flowers, felt patterns, cut some branch things, grabbed my hot glue gun and went to town. I'm pretty excited with how they came out, take a look: 

I think my favorite one is the white and grey one, but I'm not sure, there are things I like about each of them, and things that I would change about each of them too. I think the argyle one came out cute, but next time I'd like to make the diamond felt shapes a little bit bigger. I think that would help it to look less busy. I also like how the striped wreath looks, but I'm nervous it looks a little life-saver-floating-device-ish. Hahaha. 

I will be more diligent next time about taking pictures throughout the process, so that I can make a step by step tutorial on how you can make one for yourself. Keep an eye out for that to come in the near future. I also might have a bit of wreath-fever right now, and may have already started planning some for other holidays (Valentines Day, St. Patty's Day, etc.) 

What holiday crafts are you guys working on? Send me some pictures of the things you have made, I'd love to see them (and perhaps steal some of your ideas! Hahaha) 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Clean Eating Challenge: Week 4

Finally! The last week of my 28 day, 4 week long challenge! I'm so sorry I'm posting this thing 5 days late. It has been a crazy busy week this week and I just haven't had a second to sit down and type out a post for you guys. Because of the short week next week, work has been really hectic, on top of that Rubes has been teething and not sleeping well, and we also have visitors coming next week, so we are trying to get our house in ship-shape. Bah!

This week was okay, I had one really terrible day and made some seriously poor decisions regarding my eating. I was so overwhelmed that I just decided that I didn't need to make healthy choices, and although it felt good in the moment, it made me feel pretty badly afterward. I'm trying hard to not dwell on the bad days, but instead look at the week as a whole. Overall it was a good week, even if that day wasn't my best.  

The hardest part of the challenge for me this time was getting out and exercising as much as I should have. I really wish that I would have made some more time for me to get out and go running, or to do a workout at home. And while my eating was not perfect, it overall was good, and I felt better after eating mostly clean for these four weeks. I didn't have as much energy as last time, but I think that is less about the eating, but more about the fact that my girls are trying to kill me by not sleeping through the night anymore. 

I do want to reiterate that I'm just a normal, regular mom and wife that is trying to make the healthiest choices possible. I'm not a nutritionist, or trainer (clearly!) but I am a woman that is looking to make some improvements in her lifestyle and eating habits. If you expected to see perfection in my eating and exercising, you came to the wrong place. My overall goal of the challenge was to eat as cleanly as possible, and make the healthiest choices I could. While I made some not great choices along the way, I was far and away more healthy than I would have been if I hadn't been challenging myself. 

Below is my food for the last and final week. I also have some of the final results for the challenge too, which I will put at the bottom of this post.

Day 22: 
Breakfast: Chocolate peanut butter protein smoothie
Lunch: Salad with onion, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, cucumber and balsamic dressing
Dinner: (Not pictured) I made a tofu curry for us and my parents. They came over to watch the girls so that I Ace and I could go on our first date night in months. It was really nice. We went to trivia night withs some friends and I had a glass of wine (pictured) and some bread pudding! Whoops!
Water Intake: 88 oz

Day 23: 
Breakfast: 2 Eggs and 1 Egg white, leftover Quinoa enchilada bake (and a few dribbles of hot sauce)
Lunch: Chocolate peanut butter protein smoothie
Dinner: Meatloaf, roasted carrots and onions, and garlic mashed potatoes
Water Intake: 113.8 oz

Day 24: 
Breakfast: Whole wheat pancakes and real maple syrup
Lunch: Chocolate peanut butter protein smoothie
Snack: (not pictured) We went to an event for the American Heart Association, because we had helped to raise some money at their annual Heart Walk, in support of Rubes. I had some cheese, hummus, carrots, cucumbers and olives. Yum!
Dinner: The event ran later than we would have liked, so we grabbed In-N-Out on the way home. I got a protein-style burger with no sauce, and I didn't have any fries. I'll take that as a win.
Water Intake: 113.8 oz

Day 25: 
Breakfast: Chocolate peanut butter protein smoothie (what can I say? I love them!)
Lunch: Leftover coconut curry and brown rice
Dinner: Crispy Dijon Chicken, Roasted Asparagus and sliced tomatoes
Water Intake: 121.8 oz

Day 26: 
*This was my worst day, I think, during the whole challenge*
Breakfast: Coffee with cream and sugar
Lunch: Sees candy and a caramel macchiato
Dinner: Chicken stir-fry, green beans and quinoa
Water Intake: 36 oz
*Whomp Whomp*

Day 27: 
Breakfast: Chocolate protein smoothie, coffee with milk
Lunch: Salad with cucumbers, garbanzo beans, tomatoes and balsamic vinegar/oil for dressing, turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and mustard
Dinner: Black bean and fajita veggie quesadilla on whole wheat tortillas
Water Intake: 104.9 oz

Day 28: 
Breakfast: (not pictured) Fruit protein smoothie
Lunch: Hummus, quinoa chips, cucumbers and tomatoes
Dinner: (not pictured) I went to dinner at my parents' house and forgot to take my phone with me to snap a pic. We had sausage and Enchilada Quinoa bake (I taught my mom how to make it)
Water Intake: 112.9 oz

Here is my whole 28 days all laid out for you to see:

Overall I was happy with my results, they weren't as good as last time, but it was also summer, when Ace is home all day, so I was able to cook more and work out more. Here's my overall results though, again, not as good as the last time, but still pretty darn good! 

Have you done your own clean eating challenge? What does that mean to you? What were your results like? I would love to hear other people's experiences. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Clean Eating Challenge: Week 3

What I was super excited about this week, is that the group of women that I did my original clean eating challenge with started another one this past Monday. It falls in perfectly with the one that I was already doing! More motivation and accountability for me. Plus, the girl that runs it always has LOADS of new, clean and delicious recipes to try.

This week, I really tried to focus on adding some good snacks to my day. I felt like I was getting really hungry at meals, and over-eating. Plus, eating smaller meals throughout the day really is so much better for you. I didn't do great everyday, but definitely did better and felt more full. I also somewhat failed at my eliminating caffeine all-together goal. Most days I had decaf coffee, but there were a few times where caffeine was the only thing keeping me going throughout the day. Ugh. I hate that I'm that dependent upon it, but when I'm working on 2-4 hours of sleep, I gotta do something. Oh hey, did I mention how much I hate teeth and teething... ugh. It can seriously suck it.

I am also going to put together a few clean recipes this week, I think they are really yummy and easy to make, and could be helpful to anyone looking to eat a bit cleaner or a bit better. I'm also planning to post some of the smoothie recipes, because that is what I get asked about the most, in non-blog life, when I'm telling people about what clean eating looks like for me. I think people like them because they are easy to make for a quick meal, and really do keep you feeling super full for a long time. Let me know if there are any recipes that you have seen that you would like me to post. I'm happy to share!

I have one more week of my individual challenge, and two weeks left of the challenge I'm doing with my friends, and I'm feeling pretty good. The scale hasn't moved a ton, but I'm feeling so much better and I have so much more energy. I also haven't taken my measurements again after taking them initially, but my clothes are fitting slightly looser and I'm feeling like progress is being made. I'm really looking forward to getting the final numbers at the end of Week 4!

Anyway, here's how I did this week:

Day 15:
Breakfast: Strawberry Protein Smoothie
Lunch: Salad with tomatoes, peppers, garbanzo beans, feta cheese, sunflower seeds with balsamic vinegar and olive oil for the dressing. So. Good.
Dinner: Tofu stir-fry with brown rice
Water Intake: 100 oz

Day 16:
Breakfast: 3 Egg Whites, Tomatoes, Brown rice, Cottage Cheese and a cup of DECAF Coffee (I just like how it warms me up on chilly mornings)
Lunch: Leftover Tofu Stir-fry and Brown Rice
Dinner: Pork Chop, Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Green Beans
Water Intake: 116.9 oz

Day 17:
Breakfast: Chocolate Protein Smoothie
Lunch: was a super busy day
Snacks: 2 Hard-boiled eggs and some cashews
Dinner: Crispy Dijon Chicken, Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Corn and Brown Rice
Water Intake: 113.8 oz

Day 18:
Breakfast: Chocolate Protein Smoothie
Lunch: Leftover Brown Rice, Corn and Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Dinner: We ate out with a friend, but I got a steak salad. It was almost entirely clean, except the dressing.
Water Intake: 110.7 oz

Day 19: 
Breakfast: Coffee with Milk. Real Coffee. Not Decaf. Scar wasn't feeling great and was up until midnight, then Rubes got up at 1am (teething) and didn't go back to sleep until 5am. Then Scar was up for the day at 6:30am.  I'll consider it a win that I didn't start a coffee IV drip.
Lunch: Nitrate-free turkey sandwich on sprouted whole wheat bread and a salad with garbanzo beans, tomatoes, feta cheese, sunflower seeds with balsamic vinegar and oil.
Snack: A Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks. Ace brought it home because I had such a rough night.
Dinner: Turkey sausage, Roasted Cauliflower and Roasted Sweet potatoes
Water Intake: 80 oz (meh)

Day 20:
Breakfast: Decaf Coffee with Cream (Should have put more together for myself)
Lunch: Nitrate-free turkey sandwich on sprouted whole wheat bread, sliced tomatoes and brown rice
Snack: 2 Hard boiled eggs and 3/4 of a Lindt Candy Bar (oops!)
Dinner: Quinoa Enchilada Bake, Turkey Fajita Soft Tacos on Corn Tortillas, and some sliced avocado and cherry tomatoes
Water Intake: 100 oz
(Plus you get a terrible, red-faced and sweaty picture of me and Ace on a run-walk with the girls)

Day 21:
Breakfast: Decaf Coffee with Milk, Chocolate Protein Smoothie
Lunch: Leftover quinoa enchilada bake and turkey soft tacos
Snack: 1 Hard-boiled egg and some cherry tomatoes
Dinner: Crispy Dijon Chickn and Greek-ish Salad (with feta, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, cucumber, onion, sunflower seeds and Greek Dressing)
Water Intake: 110.7 oz

Here's looking forward to next week!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Pinching Pennies

So lately, money has been really tight for our family. Earlier this year we were able to pay off all of our credit card debt and student loans, but we still have a pretty significant chunk of money owed to the hospital. Because of all of Rubes' medical expenses, our cash flow has been seriously reduced and it has been a big adjustment for us. Our grocery and general family needs budget has been cut in half, and it has required that we get a bit creative with our money, and really try to save where we can.  And although our income has been significantly reduced while we are paying the hospital, we still have things that we would like to do and save for, like taking the girls to Disney next year and running some races and fun-runs, which adds some additional pressure.

I do have to say though, that I would have walked out of that hospital with $1 billion in debt, if it meant that I got to walk out with Rubes. So while it does make things somewhat difficult now, it is NOTHING compared to how I would have felt if she didn't come home. So I'll take the debt and my baby, thankyouverymuch. I don't want it to come off as though I'm complaining about our medical debt, I'm just writing about how we are having to adjust because of it.

Although I've always been a thrifty shopper, and pretty money-minded, we have definitely had to step it up a notch in the savings department. My husband, God bless him, is a spender by nature, but even he has gotten on board with pinching our pennies. We want to avoid putting anything on our cards, and increasing our overall debt, so we are doing all we can to reduce our monthly costs. 

The first thing that has really helped us, is clipping coupons. I have always used coupons in the past, when I would stumble upon them, or if they came from certain stores' rewards programs, but never did much more than that. Now I have been actively using couponing websites, the newspaper, and printable online coupons to save some money. A few of my girlfriends said that they don't see the value in clipping coupons, saving $0.50 here and $1.00 there isn't worth the time an energy to organize and clip them, which I couldn't disagree with more. On average per week, I spend about 60-90 minutes getting coupons clipped, printed, organized, loaded onto electronic cards, etc., which is time that typically comes late at night when I can't sleep or when the girls have finally gone to bed. And while that is a good chunk of time total, I typically don't sit down for 90 minutes straight. It's 10 minutes here and 15 minutes there over the course of the week. 

Over the course of the last month, I have saved $167 in coupons alone. That seems like a lot, but I have only been buying something if I have a coupon, and trying to stock up on necessity items when there are coupons available. I promise I'm not turning into one of those crazy extreme coupons with 1500 tubes of toothpaste in her basement, but I do have a small little stash building in our garage. It's mostly some body washes, laundry soap, toilet paper and bottled water. Things that we will need eventually, and that we will definitely use, and can save us a lot of money in the long run. 

Another thing that I have started to doing to save money is planning my meals. Not just planning them in my head as I buy stuff, which was what I used to do, but putting them down on pen and paper. Then I make a list of what I need, based on the meals that I have planned. I make the list as specific as possible, like "2 Russet Potatoes" instead of "Potatoes" and I'm sure to shop my pantry and fridge first. If I need cumin, peppers and cheese for a recipe, I double check to see if I have any already before I buy some more. This seems like something that could be easy to skip, but it SO IMPORTANT to do. When I was meal planning as I was shopping, I had so many ideas swirling around that I *thought* I was keeping track of. But every time I would wind up over purchasing, and not using veggies and meats fast enough, which would inevitably go bad, or go unused. Or I would have tons of repeat items, like canned tomatoes, pasta, rice, etc. that I thought I didn't have, when it turns out I did.

So after I make my shopping list (I like to divide it up, and make smaller lists specific to each store), I try to find coupons, deals or rewards for the things that I need. I also check the weekly ads to see if it would be cheaper to get it at Target or the grocery store. All in all, not too big of a deal and it doesn't take too much time, but it helps me not to over spend and to just buy what we need for that week. We try to go shopping once a week, and really avoid going shopping between our weekend trips. I find that if I go shopping to "just get 1 or 2 things" I end up with WAY more than I intended. So to eliminate that extraneous spending, I eliminate the extra trips.

These are just a couple of the small steps that we are taking to reduce our monthly expenses, so we can pay our bills a little faster, and save for some things that are important to us. We will have one of our hospital bills payed off in a few months, which will free up a good chunk of money per month for us after that, so we can use that money to be set aside for savings. We want to build up a nice "safety net" first, then start putting that money toward paying off the debt faster.

What are your money-saving tips? Let me know how you have been penny pinching and saving where you can! 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Clean Eating Challenge: Week 2

This week seemed to go better than last week, I was less scrambled trying to find stuff to eat, and better prepared, which is so unbelievably helpful. One of my biggest successes was staying away from the TONS of Halloween candy that we've had in our house. We bought a lot for Trick or Treaters, and then our Halloween got rained out, and we literally have four huge bags of candy that went undated. Ace is picking at it, and it is just staring at me. Stupid mini-Kit Kats have been calling my name, but I haven't had ANY! That is a huge win in my book!

I did have some not so great meal choices, but tried not to focus on those overall. Those meals could have definitely been better, but overall my choices have been healthier and that is my focus. Making more healthy choices than non-healthy ones. I really think that is going to be the only way that I will be able to sustain a healthier lifestyle. I have had no success in the past when I cut out entire food groups or really limited myself.

This coming week, I really want to focus more on adding in some more exercise and trying to completely wean myself from caffeine. I only had a few glasses of full-caf coffee, but I want to try to drop it all together. It's hard because the girls haven't been sleeping that well, and I'm struggling with sleep because of it. With no sleep, it's hard to drop my cup-o-Joe in the mornings as my pick me up.

Anyway, below you will find some pictures and an explanation of what I ate this week, and how my water consumption was going. I'm looking forward to Week 3, and really feel like I'm hitting my stride with the food. I am the most prepped and prepared for this week, and I'm hoping it translates in my choices. I also want to try to get some more food in. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but eating smaller meals and snack throughout the day, really does help keep your metabolism up and running, which is better overall. I have a hard time finding time to sit down and eat meals, so I'm not sure where I'll find the time to grab a snack, but I'm going to try. I have some nuts, berries, veggies, etc. that I'm hoping I can grab on the go.

Day 8:
Breakfast: Coffee with Cream (skipped real food accidentally, because it was such a busy morning!) 
Lunch: Chocolate Protein Smoothie 
Dinner: Veggie Stew and some French Bread (the bread isn't pictured, it was impulsive and not planned) 
Water Intake: 101.8 oz

Day 9:
Breakfast: DECAF Coffee with Cream and a Fruit Protein Smoothie
Lunch: Brown Rice, Peas and Cottage Cheese
Dinner: Chili! I made this one with lean ground beef, but I would have preferred it with ground turkey.
Water Intake: 100.0 oz

Day 10:
Breakfast: 1 egg and 2 egg whites and Brown Rice (I added some hot sauce after the picture was taken)
Lunch: Leftover Chili from the night before
Dinner: Spaghetti Squash with Ground Turkey Bolognese and Green Beans
Water Intake: 128.0 oz

Day 11:
Breakfast: Chocolate Protein Smoothie and DECAF Coffee with Cream
Lunch: Southwest Rice and Beans
Dinner: In-N-Out (Clearly not the healthiest choice of places to eat, but I made the best choice I could when I was there and got my burgers protein style, which means they wrap it in lettuce instead of a bun. And I managed to avoid eating fries!! I'll call that a win!)
Water Intake: 88.0 oz

Day 12:
Breakfast: Chocolate Protein Smoothie
Lunch: Quinoa Pasta (which tastes just like regular pasta!) and leftover Turkey Bolognese
Dinner: Pizza. This was my worst meal of the week. It was Halloween and we had family over, and I indulged. I limited myself to just a few pieces though.
Water Intake: 104.9 oz

Day 13:
Breakfast: I forgot to snap a picture, but we went to brunch with some friends, and I had Huevos Rancheros and Potatoes. The place uses mostly whole, organic ingredients. Still not the cleanest item,  because I didn't cook it, but overall this restaurant is probably as close to clean as a restaurant will get.
Lunch: Skipped because we had a late brunch and I was super full.
Dinner: Thai Peanut Beef and Brown Rice. I added some Tomatoes and Cottage Cheese too, just to get some extra veggies and protein.
Water Intake: 109.4

Day 14:
Breakfast: DECAF (but God, did I wish it was Full-Caf) and Cream, Eggs, Brown Rice, Tomatoes and Cottage Cheese
Lunch: Pizza. Stupid leftovers screaming at me from the fridge.
Dinner: Chocolate Protein Smoothie
Water Intake: 110 oz

Like I said before, I'm not trying to be perfect, I'm just trying to be better. I'm a real person doing this on my own, not endorse or paid to do it, and facing real challenges that people might face (like Halloween Candy and going out to eat with friends!). If you are expecting the perfect example of clean eating, I won't be it. But if you are looking for a normal, regular woman that is trying to gain health and fitness, then I'm your gal.

Here's on to Week 3! Wish me luck and success.