Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How to Track Food & Fitness



I started food journaling in 2007.  While I wasn't super overweight, I wasn't as healthy as I could have been.  I had a tendency to put crap in my mouth all day without really thinking about what I was ingesting.  Was I scarfing down Big Mac's? No.  But did I need to eat 3 servings worth of Wheat Thins and cheese?  Probably not.

My father was kind enough to give me my height and metabolism. Both of which allowed me to gain some lbs and not look insanely fat. I just became "thicker". I was active, loved to work out, but still wasn't feeling as good as I wanted. I knew I needed to really take a closer look at what I was putting in my body.

As 2007 was nearly ten years ago, The  Almighty Smartphone had yet to be in the hands of every person on Earth. Back then, I carried around a small notebook and a little book called, Calorie King. I remember spotting one when visiting my Geena's house one day and in her true nature when I asked her about it she told me, "Just take it"... One of the many things I love about her.

Needless to say, when my ignorance bubble was shattered with facts on how many calories were in my favorite meals...I. Died.
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My old non-tech friend
For years I toted around that little book, a small journal and mechanical pencil.  Along with my new and bigger purse, I was able to get out of my food fog and realized that in this case, ignorance is not bliss, rather excess weight gathering on my thighs.  I was able to scale it back, give my body what it needed and cut out excess calories that were nothing more than bored and mindless snacking.  I soon adopted a new motto, "Knowledge is power"... and in this case, 500-1,000 calories a day less!

Then there was the technological birth of the smart phone and app-a-palooza.  That food journal I had so depended on, calorie book and mechanical pencil were now all at my finger tips through my iPhone and of course, my new best friend... My Fitness Pal.

I created an account, entered my goal weight, and let it calculate what my daily calorie intake should be.  Furthermore, it stored all my regular foods, recalculated calories after workouts, monitored my water intake and best yet... broke down all my foods to provide data on where I am lacking (protein) and where I need to cut back (sugars). I mean, get outta here! She even syncs with my Fitbit which is even more amazing!

So, how do you start tracking food and fitness? Well, first get downloading. While I am a Fitness Pal Gal, I know a few family members that have fallen in love with Lose It.  No matter what you chose, just get it on your phone. I won't pretend that remembering to log everything you eat is easy, it isn't. Especially at first. But, once you get in the habit you will be off to the track..ing...!

The whole point is making sure that when you eat or drink something, enter it. Start slowly and leave yourself whatever reminders you need to to get the job done. A post-it here? A reminder on your phone there? Do whatever it takes.


While entering food takes some time, entering exercise should be the best part of your day. I love nothing more than watching those food calories take a huge hit by my workouts. This will also be a great way to decide if eating crap is really worth it. If you have to run 27 miles to eat an entire pint of ice cream...do you still want it?

If you are in search of answers to why you aren't losing weight, why you are eating all the time, or just want to see where your calories are going... download an app... today. You can link with friends, create groups to motivate each other and be amazed at what you learn about your eating habits.  Try it out!

Do you have a favorite tracking app?

{p.s. this is not a sponsored post, we just love sharing our favorite things!}

Strive to Thrive, 
Em

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Recipe - Mexican Corn on the Cob



Corn on the cob is one of my favorite warm weather treats. I love it on the BBQ, in the oven, buttery or spicy.  As long as I have my floss at the ready, I really could eat it all the time. When I found this super easy recipe for Mexican corn on the cob, I decided to try it for myself , thank you Damn Delicious, you've done it again!


To get started, keep preheat your oven to 350 degrees and throw your corn in, husks and all.  Cook for about 45 minutes or until tender.

Once cooked, take out your roasted corn and prepare to take off the hot husks.  I recommend doing this outside or over a paper bag...it is messy.

With the husks and weird stringy things husks leave behind all removed, it is time to get your assembly line ready: butter, chili powder, cilantro, cheese and lime juice.


Rub on as much butter as your little heart desires. I like to rub it on and let it pool on my plate for good measure.


With the butter sinking in to each kernel, go ahead and sprinkle on the chili powder to your taste and sprinkle on some cilantro...


The grated cheese...


Then pour on the fresh lime juice...


Serve and eat immediately. The hot, tangy, cheesy flavors are too much, each bite leaves you wanting more!!! Serve as a side for your favorite Mexican meal or eat it as the main event. Either way, it is sure to please.


What are your favorite corn on the cob recipes? Have any that are worth trying this summer?

Strive to thrive, 
Em

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How to Makeover Your Mantle


Typically, as months pass, I get nest-antsy. I start to detest the way rooms are set up and decorated and need a change. Even something a simple as swapping out pillows, moving items from one room to another will do it. While I love to rearrange furniture, when you are limited on where things can go, the small changes go a long way. 

Enter Mantle Makeover.

I hated my mantle set up. Too much clutter and not enough cute. I decided that cleaning it up would have to make me feel better, so down it all came.

When reassessing a space, "use only what you love" (thanks TM!). I have so many things I love that it is hard to choose. However, this "problem" (if you can call it that) also works to my advantage as I can always move things around and re-fall in love with forgotten treasures. 



I decided to bring back my love of the hanky banner as my "focal piece". I then asked my Thriving Mommy to help me with a vintage hanky banner as she is a pro and I wanted to use the height of our fireplace area to my advantage. She, as always, dropped everything to assist in making my design dreams come true.

For a little "hanky banner" DIY party of your own, all you need is some of your favorite vintage handkerchiefs (we are always on the look out for the cheapest, prettiest ones we can find at garage/estate sales and consignment stores) and ribbon. Decide how you want them displayed, iron each one so it is nice and crisp, fold them in triangles over the ribbon and add a stitch to hold it in place (that part is optional but really makes a difference...especially if you want to hang your banner where there may be a breeze).


Once you have decided on a focal piece, start adding your favorite things so each time you eye the mantle, you smile. For me, I decided this time to scale it back. I wanted just a few things that meant a lot to our family and otherwise, good ole' "negative space" (Thank you Shell for making me love that term).


My Thriving Husband is an absolute dream when it comes to his desire to decorate. He has none. He lets me do whatever I want and even better, notices next to nothing. I love that he lets me have my "girlie" touches and only weighs in if I go off the deep end...like if I wanted a pink fuzzy couch or something. 

One thing we both treasure are the antique fire extinguishers his mother gave him. They are bronze, old and absolutely fabulous. To "man" up the mantle a bit, I made sure they made an appearance. I was already really liking what I saw...

As I am obsessed with making my own wood work, I decided to bust out a "Home Sweet Home" creation with an EST. date reflecting the year we bought our forever home. I loved that it was simple, had gold script to play off the extinguishers and personalized to our family. Throw a little pop of color behind it with some fresh flowers and BOOM, I was lovin' that side of the finished product!


On the other corner, I decided to use one of my favorite, smaller suitcases, keep it open and fill it with old books and a shimmery-shiny hurricane. As I am a frequent candle burner, I felt this particular treasure was perfect as it casts beautiful dancing gold glints of glitter when the candle is lit. I felt it would be a really brighten up and add some sparkle to the old case.


Now what to do about center stage? Hmmmmmm. Since I proudly display all my family pictures on a focus wall, I don't like to have them anywhere else...including the mantle. But, I do LOVE my scrabble-esque, handmade wooden letters spelling my last name. So, I decided they would be nestled below that hanky banner bringing it all together.


When I stood back to check it out, that nest-xiety was gone! I felt refreshed, the rest of the room no longer seemed to drag me down as this corner of new-ness added that much needed pep in my home lovin' step. I felt it was simple yet busy. Flashy yet classy and mixed just the right touch of masculinity to this girly girl's taste. I was very pleased with the end result!

So, when you feel the need for a mantle makeover, remember to always start and end with what you love. Keep it simple and showcase your favorite things. The best part is, you can always redo it in a few months when you start to need a room refresher!

What do you love to display around your home?

Strive to thrive, 
Em

Thursday, July 14, 2016

How to Start Clipping Coupons


Raise your hand if you love to shop, (my hand is up).  Raise your hand if you love to save money, (whoap, there it goes again).  Raise your hand if you are a bargain shopper and typically try to buy items only on sale or clearance (again, that arm flew up).  Well, then maybe you too should consider couponing.  I know for myself, I have always been very timid about this activity as it just seemed so overwhelming.  Despite my non-biological sister KK being a coupon queen, I just couldn't get on board.

As a mostly stay at home mom who loves to shop (I now count grocery shopping as an exciting opportunity to spend), I still wanted to make smart choices.  I am good at price comparing, have no problem going generic (on most things) and looking for deals, but I knew I could be doing more. I reached out to KK and she was THRILLED to share her wisdom with me!

Thank you A Very Vera World for the great pic of Happy Snails!
My personal coupon guru dove into the information I needed to help me get started.  First, decide where I was shopping.  She shops at three stores to maximize her dollar: Target, Safeway (Vons for me) and Costco.  I decided to stick with the same stores to really follow her guidelines and make it as easy as possible on myself.

Once you have narrowed down the stores, it is time to get organized.  If you don't already, start taking inventory what you need  for your weekly shopping list.  I typically just go to the store when I need a few things, often buy what I don't need and just shoot from my hip.  No more, no more. 

I needed to spend some time creating a list so I could cross check my three stores looking for the best deal.  Now,  if you are a meal planner, then this will be an easy addition to your planning activities.  If you are not a meal planner (like myself), but can whip up meals on demand, then you will continue to have all the items you need in your pantry (for much cheaper) to feed your family.

KK's deal searching starts with the weekly ads from each store (monthly for Costco) and the Sunday paper's coupon section.

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She then settles down with the coupon section of the paper, her scissors ready to clip and of course her favorite cup of coffee. First step, she suggests grabbing all the manufacturer coupons you will use, for example, Mission tortillas .  Clip 'em out and check the expiration dates, if it is not on sale at your three stores, save for next time; always strive to double dip! 

With the Sunday paper coupons clipped and ready for cross checking, grab your weekly ads.  Now it is time to see...

A) What's on sale 
B) What you have a coupon for 
C) Where you can double dip, giving the most savings.

With the list done, the coupons clipped, the list cross checked, now we get to shop! Well almost....KK's got some couponing advice for each store...


 
  • Sign up for Target Red Card (debit).  There are no fees attached (ever) and only requires a blank check and ID to open.  The card will link to your bank account and cash will be deducted when you shop at Target. Why do this you ask?  Well because you will earn 5% off of ALL purchases, even the ones that are already on sale or clearance. May not seem like a lot, but it will quickly add up if you are at Target as much as I am.
  • Download the Cartwheel App.  This app will have thousands of items on sale, anywhere from 5-50% off.  The coupons found here can be combined with any other Target and/or manufacturers coupons.  KK's Favorite Feature - Doing a weekly ad double dip - a list of all cartwheel coupons that are also on sale in the store. This app can always be used with no exceptions.
  • Download the Target App.  These mobile coupons change every two weeks and can offer savings from $10-$25.  KK's Favorite Feature: The App can check the availability of items in store based on your location. Just scan or search for an item and it will tell you which store is closest and has what you want.   
  • Check out Target.com.  The site will have printable coupons which are totally separate from the target app.  Choose what you'll use and print before your shopping trip. 
The Target ads can be found in the Sunday paper, emailed to you if you have a Red Card or found online.
  • Get a club card.  If you don't have one already, then sign up.
  • Always check your weekly ads.  Keep an eye on what is on sale and what coupons are featured (watch for clip it or click it).  If you clip it, just cut it out to bring it into the store.  If you choose to click it, go to Vons.com (or their family brands), create or log into your account and go to the coupons page.  Then, click the coupons you want to use and when you check out by entering your rewards number, the coupons will automatically upload.   Since it is so easy, you might as well just go to the site weekly and click all the coupons.  That way, you are ready for anything even if you don't use them.
  • Don't forget the manufacturer coupons from your Sunday paper.   If you have a manufacturer coupon and the item is featured on sale in the ads...buy it!  If the items isn't on sale at the store, save the coupon.  If you absolutely need an item to get through the week or for a recipe, of course break down and get it.  Otherwise, hold onto that coupon until it goes on sale
  • Buy on sale.  If you are like me and only buy what is on sale or boasts a deal, you are half way there.  Now, just use that coupon too and save even more!


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  • Bulk isn't always better.   Many people feel bulk is better and in many cases it is.  But, just know what you are getting.  For example, Kirkland brand paper towels and toilet paper are unbeatable for their price and quality.  But that doesn't always apply.  
  • Pay attention to prices.  Research what your go-to buys are at Costco and buy more than you may need when they are featured in your  monthly coupon book. If you know you go through items quickly (cheese, bananas, organic bread), then Costco is the way to go (over Vons/Target).
  • Don't over-buy.  Shopping at Costco for groceries is a commitment.  You are going to need to eat that spinach every day or it will go bad.  There is nothing worse than having to throw away Costco purchased items; you might as well just throw away money. 
With KK's tips stored away, I am ready to create my list and get my hands on some ads and the Sunday paper this weekend.  Who wants to give couponing a try with me?  Let's start by following her advice and see where we are next week...where are all my money saving Thriving Wives?!

Strive to Thrive, 
Em

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Bad Days Breed Better Tomorrows



It starts:  I hear the alarm, but I don't really "hear" the alarm.  The song has weaved its way into my dreams and I wake up in a panic, now 10 minutes behind sched... DARN IT! 

I get up in a rush and accidentally knock over my water all over my phone. UUGGHHH.

I try to regain control on this day but so far, not so good. I am able to get ready and sneak out of the house without the boys waking up, so that is the only plus so far.

There is an accident on the freeway and I arrive at work running late and am frazzled putting the finishing touches on the day.  I power through the first half of the day only to realize that I have forgotten my lunch. Did I transport into Alexander's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day?! I think I just might have!


By the time I get home after meetings, I am beat. Nothing went my way today and while the bright side is getting home to my smiley/cuddly little boys, I know as soon as I walk in the door I am clocking in to my real job...motherhood.

I don't want to make dinner, I don't want to put in laundry. I don't want to clean up. I don't want to do anything by kiss my kids and go to bed.  Isn't that the best plan for a bad day? Just go to sleep and make it end already?  I think so. 


Why you ask?  Well, because bad days can only breed better tomorrows.

Despite my best efforts to find the positives in each moment of each day, sometimes the snowball of crap is just too much. But at least there is always a light at the end of the bad day tunnel. The next morning, that dark cloud will be replaced with sunshine, I choose it.  Everyone has days where all we want to do is crawl under our beds and cry. They suck. But never forget tomorrow is a new day.

When those days hit, do whatever you can to get through. Take some time to yourself, order take out, meditate, head to bed early, cry in the shower...whatever you need, do it.  As you drift to sleep at the end of the night find all the good in your life and reset your mind for a refreshing day ahead. Keep Thriving and Strive to keep those bad days to a minimum!

Strive to thrive, 
Em

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Potty Training Trial Run


Well, the time had come...potty training. Granted, my boys weren't quite yet two, but they were showing some of those "signs" everyone talks about and with baby number 3 on the way, I figured why not just give it a try...it was supposed to be fun right?!

The main reason I thought it might be "the right time" is because they are obsessed with the potty. They love to sit on it, they love to watch anyone go potty, they love to flush it, point to it, put things in it, I mean, they love it.  They also like to say, "Poooopp" and point to their tushies and watch me dump the poop from their cloth diapers into the potty while saying, "bye bye". 

They often would pull on their wet diapers and make that sweet uncomfortable, "get this damn thing off me" face; all which were supposed to be good indicators that it might be "time". The only thing I was concerned with was that their language wasn't quite there. They surely communicate, but they defs weren't running up to me and saying, "Mommy, I need to use the potty". We were still dealing with single words here.  Even potty was just a simple, "Pa" at this point. 


After doing some research to gather information on used approaches for twins and those in cloth diapers, I decided to go ahead and try the Potty Training in 3 Days that so many have used. My sister-in-law had great success with her boys so I figured we too should try it. I mean, it is all the rage right now...

This method is an "all-in" approach which basically puts you and your child(ren) on house arrest. For three (long) days you do NOTHING but drink fluids, go on the potty and hang out talking about going on the potty. It is a commitment to say the least. While the suggested approach is to go for both day and night training, I felt that was a bit much for my little guys. They sleep a solid 10-12 hours a night and I was not willing to wake them  up to go potty nor did I think there was chance in hell they would hold it all night as they wake up with a drenched diaper every morning. So, we modified and tried to attack day only training. 

The idea is to keep them naked from the waist down for the first day so they can see the potty and make the connection that it is coming out of their body and should go into the potty rather than on the floor. No pull-ups as that can make the chid think it is ok to go. Diapers and anything like diapers are forbidden! Needless to say, my little bandits were obsessed with the naked aspect and it was a dream come true for them to have unlimited access to their "potty parts".

I too put on my "big girl pants", tried to control my anxiety at the loss of control I was about to have and started preparations for Potty Training Twins - Trial Run.  



First up, turing my guest bathroom into Potty Central. Toilet paper went away (they LOVE to unroll it and use it as if they were ribbon dancers), towels away, shower curtain up and all non-potty training equipment out from under the sink.



We purchased an adapted seat for the "big potty" as I my hope was to not clean peeps and poops, out of anything, any longer.  I also grabbed a little step from Ikea, so they could get up there. They still needed some help turning around, but they enjoyed climbing up to sit down.  I loaded the bathroom with potty books and made charts using folders with stickers each of my little dudes could add to their sheet. 


My Thriving Husband and I perfected our potty dance, potty song and I prepared a jar of regular M&M's for the highly anticipated sugary treat to accompany each successful potty trip. I prepared a cup with "Magic Potty Juice" (really watered down lemonade) and two big boy straws so they could share in the fun of pounding it. 


With the bathroom set up and ready to go, we bought some "big boy chonies", aka mini boxer briefs, and awaited that fateful Monday when we would run around naked and go in that potty!


Within a few hours of Day 1, I cried a lot and was ready to run for the hills. I hated being cooped up in that damn stuffy bathroom, became frustrated when all they wanted to do was play in the shower, was easily overwhelmed as they ran around peeing on the floor, playing in it, scooping water out of the toilet and throwing it at each other...it was a lot. Especially since I am a ticking time bomb of emotions, thank you very much Baby #3! Even though my husband and I were working as a team, potty training two at once was NO easy task. 

My amazing Thriving Husband supported me, gave me time to regroup and we kept at it. The majority of the day was spent playing with toys in the hall near the bathroom or in the bathroom itself. We did decide to venture outside to play a little bit and sure enough, even though they both sat and sat and sat before we got some fresh air, they still ended up with wet shorts and peeps soaked tennis shoes. SHOOT!

Drinking that magic juice in their favorite place...the shower!
Back inside, back to the potty and more sitting.  When they were on the potty they seemed to get it. When they were playing/eating/doing anything else, they easily peed their pants without flinching....hmmmmmm, what to do.

It was clear the boys loved to take turns sitting on the potty,  but we soon started running into problems. While one was taking his time sitting and playing with his (ahem) "potty parts", the other would be waiting and would have an accident. 

Our little Peanut seemed to catch on pretty quick. He would get SO excited when he watched his peeps come out and would squeal with joy when we broke into song/dance and gave him a potty candy. But my heart broke leaving Puss-Man out of the fun just because he didn't go at the same time. Of course I would sneak him a potty candy and tell him he did a good job trying/supporting his brother. I mean, what was I to do? Break his little heart over a single M&M?! I couldn't bear it. Don't worry, I did the same thing for Peanut if Clarke ended up going too....After a few more accidents and potty fights, we made a team decision to go with individual chairs. 

On Day 2 we switched it up....enter, the most over-stimulating potty chair that ever was or will be. 



When the boys woke up and sprinted to the bathroom to sit on the potty they stopped dead in their tracks when they saw their very own Tesla of potty chairs. 

The things flushed, they lit up, they talked, they had a number of different parts and while they boys were obsessed...they were a little too obsessed. They flushed and flushed and flushed and flushed to watch it light up and talk. They took it apart, they put it together. I mean it was really my version of Hell. They spent SO much time playing with them they idea of actually using them to go potty was completely lost. We only had one successful potty all day and this mommy was going to LOSE HER MIND. Those chairs had to go. I needed basic, simple, no excitement/stimulation potty chairs. 

Here is Clarkey-Puss taking it apart while Peanut runs around with another part of this potty...GEEEEZ!
While waging war with those damn fancy chairs, I started to notice a shift by the afternoon of Day 2. Clarkey-Puss was starting to get very upset when he had to go in the bathroom. He didn't want to put on his big boy chonies and when he finally got them on, he would flip when we tried to pull them down to sit on the potty. Peanut was starting to get a little annoyed too. My mommy instincts started telling me maybe we needed to slow down a bit. The last thing I wanted was for them to be upset and start to hate the potty. I was not going to engage in a power struggle over using the big boy potty.  I wanted to support their feelings of independence and excitement for transitioning to a new stage in life. So, that was that.

While I was secretly thrilled this nightmare was over, I was also heartbroken that my angels were not enjoying the experience. I took back control (hallelujah!), and called The Trial over. We had made it two full days, saw great success and had learned a ton. Now I would shift my efforts/focus to a more "toddler led" approach for the time being. We could go "all in" again in a few months.

I returned those fancy-shmancy, can't concentrate potty chairs, for the most simple and plain potty chairs.



I used the potty step as a mini bookshelf for their reading material, kept the potty candy and stickers on hand for when they were ready. 

Since those two challenging days the boys have gone back to their love of the potty. Yes, they still wear diapers and go in them most of the time, but they also are signing when they want to go potty and are continuing to have success when sitting. They love to read on their chairs and are back to being thrilled to use them. 

While at first I felt that I was a total failure, I don't feel that way any longer. Now I am so happy we took the time to really try because we learned so much about better ways to approach the experience, especially with twins. For now, we will continue to go when they want to go, talking about it all the time, reading, singing and making it fun!  Of course the most important thing I learned was NEVER to potty train your kids when you are pregnant. Wine is also something you will need...lots.


What potty training tips do you have for this Thriving Mommy? Anything really work for you?

Strive to Thrive, 
Em

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Giveaway Final Days!!


We are in the home stretch here!! Only a few more days to enter our giveaway and score a little bundle of mommy joy as we countdown to MommyCon OC this August.



If you aren't sure how to enter, it is so easy you just may die! Go to our original giveaway page, log in and ENTER! Just think, you may be our thriving winner, so why wait?!



Sample some new products and even take home a few of my fave DIY products. The time is NOW!



The only thing you have to lose is....wait, NOTHING! It takes seconds to enter so get movin' mama!



Looking forward to choosing our big winner on July 8th, so get those entries in before the giveaway closes on the 7th. Good luck!

Strive to thrive, 
Em