The State of the Exterior: Summer 2015

I didn’t think I’d blog about our landscape progress because year one of any landscaping project isn’t that exciting in picture form. Plants take about 3 years to really establish their root system, so by the time Nell’s in Kindergarten, our yard is going to be awesome! But, in the interest of having pictures to look back on and documenting these projects we love, I thought I’d do an “in the beginning” post. I mentioned a few months ago that we hired someone to help us come up with some plans for the front landscaping – I don’t know plants. I know what I like when I see them full grown and in bloom, but in terms of just knowing plants, that is not my gift. The problem is that I did have a vision for outside, but I couldn’t articulate it well – so we decided to hire a landscape designer that our friends used to give them a long-range plan rather than piece it together little by little.  We didn’t want a complete overhaul in terms of the landscaping – I wanted to leave rock beds where they were, etc – but the landscaping at our house was pretty dire and short of just planting some stuff and seeing how it did, which B is okay with but I don’t have patience for, hiring an expert to just give us a cohesive plan seemed like the best use of our limited time.

front landscaping progress 2 The first summer we lived here, B pulled out a dead creeping juniper shrub to the right of our driveway and he planted a few plants that Home Depot had left over at the end of the season, and we called it good for awhile. The next year, I bought some Endless Summer hydrangeas at Costco and planted them in front of the garage, but it became clear quickly that the crab apple didn’t provide them with nearly enough shade from the hot afternoon sun.   Over the winter, two pitiful shrubs on the left side of our driveway that we never really loved finally gave up the ghost, so we decided that the blank slate we were left with was the perfect time to bring someone in to give us an overall plan. And now we’re putting it into place.

 

Working with the landscape designer was so easy. She came over, chatted with me about my style and preferences, and then came in for a cup of tea. I told her I’ve always called our style “Urban Cottage” but with a Colorado twist. She totally ran with it, giving us shrubs that produce hydrangea like flowers but that will do much better with our hot West facing Colorado exposure. She suggested great perennials that over the next few years will spread over our rock beds and create 3 season interest and help to soften all that rock in front of our house, and she gave us some great recommendations for compact conifers that will help block some of our neighbor views and add greenery year round without growing too big for our front yard.

We’ve planted all the perennials the designer called for, and are now waiting on trees and a couple of boulders. I fear we’ve missed our window of opportunity for the summer, but we’ll see what the weather forecast brings because I know that getting the trees in will make the biggest difference and I would rather not wait until Fall. The first year of any perennial is always unimpressive, but I can tell already that when everything matures we’re going to have a great, 3 season landscape.

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I’m most excited about the part of they yard in front of the garage (above). Those shrubs will get pretty tall and grow into each other. They have gorgeous bright green leaves and pretty white flowers and I am already in love with them, but I know that I’ll love them more as they grow. I’m excited for the smaller perennials  to get bigger and lend some color throughout the summer. There’s another portion of this rock bed that’s planted bordering our neighbor’s yard, but the plants are so small it’s not noticeable from the street yet.  We’ll have a smaller scale evergreen in the back corner next to the garage to help soften the view of our neighbor’s house from the front, and a great boulder or sitting rock in front of it. I can’t wait.

front landscaping Here’s a look at the entire front yard. To the left of the new shrubs will go that compact evergreen I mentioned and the sitting rock, and there are already some perennials planted even farther to the left, but, again, they’re not much to look at just yet.  To the right of the driveway is a small garden where that dead creeping juniper bush was. It was unpleasant to look at, and we’ve planted perennials in there as well that just need some time to grow, but will add an ornamental tree to add some height to that side of the yard just as soon as we can track down the one we want. We have grasses for year round interest, and I’m feeling a little bit impatient, but the planting process is so fun that I think that helps. Back next to our neighbors’ fence on the right side of our house we will add a small hedge of narrow trees – that height and greenery will be awesome.

Eventually, B and I would like to have the cement strip between our driveway and porch removed and add a garden in there to break up all the concrete (funny because the original homeowners took out a garden there to add the cement – not the best for curb appeal, but practical for backing out of our side garage), and when the kids are older we’d love to add a porch railing. We talked about doing that last year when we painted, but decided against it for this stage of our lives. Our kids are little and they need us frequently, and it’s so nice to be able to see the kids riding bikes on the sidewalk from the porch and get to them in a second if someone falls.

So, that’s the state of our outdoors for now. I’ll be sure to post an update when the little tiny trees get planted. So that 3 years from now we can look back and see where we started :)

On Raising Best Friends

I was sitting at swim lessons on Tuesday between two moms of 2 and a half year olds. Now, that in and of itself should say enough. Those mamas are in the weeds. Two and a half is a freaking nightmare. I can say this through the rose colored glasses of someone who just made it through the 2 and a half year old crud, is enjoying a sweet period with my technically still two year old and is a week out from 3…which, if memory serves me correctly, is worse than two if at all possible. Anyway, parenting two year old girls is another story for another day. This is about raising best friends. So, I’m sitting between these two moms I’d never seen before waiting for Tom’s lesson to start, and they are dealing with the two and a half year old crud. One of the moms had her three week old with her, too. Her two and a half year old was sobbing and kicking and screaming and refusing to go into the pool.  I could tell that she was seconds from tears. I wanted to give her a hug and a margarita and babysit her kids for a few hours.  Instead I said, “Would it be helpful if I held your baby for a minute?” She looked at me – I’m sure sizing me up to make sure I wasn’t crazy – and then said, “Thank you. Thank you so much.” and handed that sweet newborn to me.

So, things settled down, the kids all got in the pool, and Nell and Peter were playing near me and scavenging for snacks in the pool bag. Meanwhile, across the room from us, two brothers were kicking the sh*t out of each other. The moms flanking me and I all turned to look – it was hard not to look. In the midst of this, Peter stood up to go scavenge for other people’s snacks and Nell followed him, kissed his blonde head and picked him up saying, “Oh Pete McGete. You are a sneaky snacker, ” then she toddled back to me with Peter in her arms and pulled out a toy for him to play with. And the mom that didn’t have a newborn said to me, “She’s so helpful! Is it because she’s a girl?” I thought and said, “No, my son is my oldest and he’s an amazing helper, too.” And the other mom, still wearily glancing in the direction of the brothers who were still fighting and then looking through the window at her son, she asked, “How did you teach your kids to be such nice friends?” I laughed and said something self-effacing like, “It has nothing to do with me, we just got lucky.”

But I think, in reality, it probably does have something to do with me and B. And telling this sweet mom that I did nothing to encourage the relationship my three kids have wasn’t helpful to her. At all. So as I drove away from swim lessons that morning, I was thinking about it. My kids are best friends. If you ask them who their best friends are, they name each other. My kids fight, of course. Nell knows how to pick at Tom, she knows just how to get him. Tom frequently doesn’t care about anything until Nell has it and then a battle can ensue. Peter can do no wrong in their eyes right now, but that day will come to an end soon. But here’s the thing about the fighting: We don’t tolerate it. There’s no “Siblings, what can you do?!” around here or “{shrug} Boys will be boys”. B and I treat each other and our children with respect, and we expect our kids to do the same.

I think that’s what it comes down to, respect. Not just respect of your elders, but respect of your peers. And as adults, respect of children. My kids inspire me every single day. They also make mistakes every single day, but so do I. An expectation of mutual respect is the key to how our family works. We share toys, but we also respect each person’s private rooms. We laugh and dance and cuddle and play, but we also allow kids to take time for themselves when they need it. Because sometimes kids just need to be left alone. We speak kindly around here and we speak with love. This starts with me and B. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t yell from time to time when I’ve just had it – there was a lot of yelling when Nell was 2 and a half – but every time I do, I regret it immediately. It’s not how we speak, and I would never tolerate my children yelling at me or each other, so it’s unacceptable for me to yell at them.  So during those rough patches when I catch myself yelling? I walk away. I slow count to ten, I say a Hail Mary, and then I come back and I apologize to my kids. Because they need to see how you apologize. They need to know that everyone makes mistakes and that everyone can redeem themselves with kindness. And they need to learn to forgive. And when they mess up? They need to apologize, they need to redeem themselves with kindness, and they need to see you forgive them, too.

My children are not perfect, fights happen. I am far from a perfect parent, but I do my best to be better everyday. When fights happen or things come up, B and I are consistent in our discipline. In our house, don’t tolerate physical violence – it’s an automatic time out. My kids are hitters as toddlers. I have a wise friend who swears that you get either a hitter or a biter – obviously to different degrees depending on the kid, but I think she’s on to something with that. Anyway, my kid are hitters. Starting at about 15 months, they try out hitting as communication. It’s exhausting. I can’t tell you how many flights of stairs I’ve climbed taking a hitting toddler to their crib. To that end, we don’t use physical touch to discipline, either. I can’t spank a child as punishment for hitting…the idea that I can hit but they can’t confuses me, so it stands to reason that it’s confusing to them, too. We speak with loving but firm voices when a child is in trouble, they have time outs in their rooms until they can be kind again, and then we move on. We don’t dwell on the negative. If the kids are having trouble getting along – pestering each other for a toy or not speaking kindly, I send them to their rooms to have some time apart. Not time outs, just time apart.

We do a lot together as a family. We are fiercely protective of our family time. We don’t pack our days with classes and outings and activities and play dates – those are special occurrences, not the norm. We spend a lot of time just playing at home or outside. We go for bike rides. We cheer for each other when someone does something for the first time. Or for the hundredth time. We read books and play games and have dance parties and play pretend. We eat dinner together at night and we talk about our days. And we enjoy it – all that time together, we look forward to it, we laugh, and we have fun. Simple as that.

I’m the youngest of 3, and I remember my mom saying to my sister, brother and me when we would start bickering, “You are each others’ best friends. You three will know each other longer than anyone else you will ever meet, so why on earth would you treat a stranger on the street better than you treat your brother and sisters?” That has always stuck with me. I cherish the relationships I had with my brother and sister growing up. They’re the ones who knew me as a bratty, tattle tale 8 year old and loved me anyway. Sisters let you sleep on their couches for two nights in college when you break up with your boyfriend and are heartbroken, and brothers tell you to get off your sister’s couch and go back to class and that everything will be okay. We all have grown-up lives of our own now, we’ve all had our great days and our terrible days, but I know that anyone of us would drop anything to be there for the other. We have, and we will continue to do so. Because we’re built-in best friends – we’ve seen each other at our best and at our worst, and we love each other anyway. Having grown up with that, I want that for my children. So we work hard to foster it.

So what would I have told that sweet mom at swimming lessons? I would have told her that she’s doing just fine. That two and a half is tough, and that moms who survive it with a newborn in tow deserve a medal. And then I would have told her that our kids are best friends because we respect how important their sibling relationship is, and kids follow their parents’ lead.

Purging and Organizing Books

This category was the one I was most looking forward to because I knew it would be the easiest. Contrary to Kondo’s findings in her reserach and day to day practice, I do not horde books. I have very little emotional attachment to books after I’ve read them, and I honestly don’t buy many books to begin with. I use the library or download an ebook if I have to buy a book. The few hard copies of books I do buy, I usually pass onto friends or my mom, and they do the same, so no book stays in our home for long. B is very similar – he mostly checks books out from the library or reads on his iPad, so we really didn’t have a book problem. What kind of English Lit major am I? For our garage sale last month, I went through our crawl space and pulled out the box of books we moved with us. We hadn’t touched them in two years, so they all went in the garage sale. I found all of my pregnancy and first year of a baby’s life books and boxed them up with some hand-me-downs for a friend. So when it came time to Kondo my books, I had about 10 to my name. I got rid of 7 of them. I have three books. So I moved onto paperwork.

 

But every time I walked by the kids’ rooms, I had a nagging feeling that I’d cheated. While I hope that my own tidying will spill over into the kids clothes, toys and books, my intention going into this was to simplify MY belongings. It’s hard for me to decide if a toy or book brings my kids joy. And if I have one criticism of Kondo’s book, it’s that it’s not totally applicable to moms. It’s perfect for single or married women with no kids. But I think there are just somet hings you save when you have kids. Does the bouncy seat in my crawl space bring me joy? I have great memories of all three of our kids bouncing in it, but it’s never brought me joy. But, I’m keeping it, because I have friends who are having babies, and when they come to visit, it’s nice to not have to bring a few things – so the booster and bouncer seats, the pack and play and a small box of baby toys will stay. Does the stack of Curious George books in Thomas’s room bring me joy? Goodness, no. I can’t stand that monkey and his irresponsible Man With The Yellow Hat. When is that man going to learn that you can’t leave that damn monkey alone? For the love. But the kids get a kick out of George. So I left their things alone.

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But, honestly, their books were out of control. And I knew that by not touching them, I was cheating. So Saturday morning, B and Tom were at the golf course, and Nell, Pete and I were playing in Nell’s room, when I decided to take a look at her book situation. I pulled every book off her shelf and then brought every book from the boys’ rooms into her room, resorted them according to whose room they belong in, and then made a pile of books we never read to donate. And I was surprised by how many I knew the kids had no attachment to without having to ask them. Many of them I’d considered parting with but didn’t out of fear of parting with something someone special had given the kids. But the gift was given, it was appreciated and acknowledged and loved, and now it’s time to move on. We can’t hold onto everything forever. There were plenty of books we just had duplicates of or that never clicked with our family, but we know they’ll click with another family. So, I trashed the trashed books and donated the rest, and now the kids shelves are manageable.

After my donate pile was made, I put the books back on the shelves in rainbow color order. Because I’m a little crazy. That lasted until rest time, but at least the books are more manageable, and I know that the books we have left are ones that the kids truly love. Plus, with birthdays two weeks away, I know those shelves will get filled right back up.

3 Year Old Girl Birthday Gifts…Help!

Alright everyone, I’ve got the boy stuff down for the most part for now, and because Thomas is the oldest, he usually gets all the “equipment” – bikes, etc – and they are passed down to Nell and Peter for his birthdays. Which is making coming up with gift ideas for my Nell for her 3rd birthday very tricky. Soooo, if you have any awesome suggestions for a 3 year old girl, I would love it if you leave them in the comments! And I’ll be sure to update you on what we go with after her birthday.  Thanks, friends!

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: Clothes

I’ve never been a naturally organized and tidy person. I don’t live in squalor by any means, but papers pile up, toys often sit out a few days, and don’t even get me started on the laundry situation. But here’s the thing: while this tidiness doesn’t come naturally to me, it’s something I crave. I want orderliness in my home. I don’t want my home to look un-lived in, by any means, but I don’t like the piles. I just, quite honestly, have been to lazy to handle them and lacked a system for putting things away. For awhile now I’ve been feeling compelled to completely pare down my closet – I’ve considered a 30 pieces for 30 days challenge and other similar methods. Last month as we were getting ready for our garage sale, I went through my closet and pulled out about 20 items that I haven’t worn in years. A few things sold, the rest ended up being donated after the fact. But when I saw this segment from The Today Show over the weekend about The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, something just clicked. I immediately tackled the kids’ drawers – Nell’s pajama and pants drawers didn’t close with the current “stuff them in the drawer as fast as I can” method of putting laundry away I was using. So I took a couple hours on Saturday morning and just put their things away nicely. I purge the kids clothes regularly and really don’t go overboard on their clothing amounts, but they needed to be tidied. After tackling B’s drawers on Sunday – just organizing, it’s up to him to purge when he’s ready, I felt compelled to learn more than the Today Show segment taught me, so I downloaded the ebook.

 

And can I just say? I’m inspired. The first step is clothing. I get that – it’s easy. I was ready to dive into linen closets and my file cabinet, but Kondo said clothes first, so I’m following the rules. The clothes I kept less than a month ago got drastically cut because they didn’t bring me joy. I would pick up an item and ask, “Does this spark joy?” And more often than not, the answer was no. I told myself I wasn’t allowed to feel guilty. I’ve held onto things just because of their JCrew or Boden labels when they were never perfect for me, or they aren’t current enough to look good anymore anyway. I have two decent piles – one of recent purchases to go to consignment, and the other to go straight to our local charity on Wednesday.  B saw the picture I posted to Instagram while he was out of town and called me and said, “Em, you wear a lot of the things in that pile.” I said, “I know, but they don’t bring me joy. I wear them, but I don’t feel good in them.” Pretty sure his mind is boggled.

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My favorite part was putting things back – in the past when I’ve decluttered my wardrobe, I’ve been great about getting rid of things, but lose steam at the putting things back phase. I’ve always hung everything that can possibly be hung because I hate folding, and things get lost in drawers. But Kondo’s stack clothing vertically method is brilliant, and I can see how I will love this and keep it up.

The few remaining hanging items in my closet:

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Just look at all the hangers that are empty now that I’ve folded my tops:

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So much organization and room in my workout and sports gear elfa drawers now:

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And all of my t-shirts. I’m still perfecting the folds on some of these items, but for the most part, they’re good to go:

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So, part 1 is done. I’ve purged every single article of my clothing in my house (again, B and the kids are a different story – I’ll help keep them organized, but B’s clothes are something he needs to make decisions on, and the kids clothes are already in pretty good shape from seasonal sorts and purges). I kept only the things that spark joy, and I can honestly see how I could keep this up. Firstly, I have a lot less clothes now, so laundry piles shouldn’t be as daunting. But with a system in place to handle the things that I do have, and a true love for those items, I think this just might work. I’ll keep you posted. Next up: Books.

 

 

Spring…Or Something Like That.

Colorado is a weird place in the Spring. We have beautiful January days – 70 degrees when we’re outside in barefeet and tank tops. And then there’s February, which is normally dreary, followed by March, which is drearier still. But by April, we usually start to warm up. And we did, a bit – we had some nice April days. But for the most part, I feel like we haven’t really had Spring here in Colorado this year.

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We worked with a landscape designer to get a front yard plan done in March with the intention of planting in April, but April didn’t let that happen, and now we’re half way through May and we’ve had chilly, wet days. I’m not complaining at all – we need the moisture and it will be hot soon enough.

spring flowers

But this morning, Nell and Pete and I planted flowers in the front porch planter. Last night, our new patio furniture was delivered. Because, it’s time. It’s time for some color. It’s time to eat outdoors.  It’s time to stop waiting. Hopefully Memorial Day weekend will give way to good planting weather for the rest of our front yard, but I’m thrilled to have taken the first few steps to Spring…although at this rate, we might have to skip straight toward summer.

Our Favorite Books

I recently posted about the books I’d read recently for book club, but the majority of my reading is in the picture book category…with some recent forays into chapter books with Tom and Nell, though those have not been the most successful and I need recommendations in the chapter books for young kids department. When I was pregnant with Thomas, one of B’s mom’s best friends (got that?) gave me a bunch of classic board books with a note that said “A read to baby is a loved baby.” I’ve never forgotten that. Since the moment we brought Thomas home from the hospital we read to him every night. I hate to admit that Nell and Peter didn’t fall into the bedtime book routine as early – partly because B would take bedtime books and tuck-ins with the older kid(s) while I fed and put the baby-of-the-moment to bed, but such is life after the first baby, eh? In the last six months, Nell has really started to love books as much as Thomas, though, and Peter is carrying board books around the house with him. I love it.

I tried to pick books that Tom and Nell love equally for this list – Nell enjoys her Angelina Ballerina books, Tom loves his football books, but our favorites are the ones the whole family loves.

favorite picture books

If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen. This is hands down my favorite book right now, and “If I Built a House” and a few other Chris Van Dusen books will be making their way to our house for Tom’s 5th birthday. It is clever, it is fun, and paired with the right building material (Magnatiles or Magformers with wheel bases), we’ve got hours of creativity.

The Day The Crayons Quit - This was the book we gave Tom as his “Something to Read” last year for Christmas and it was an instant favorite. It’s illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, who has been a longtime favorite author and illustrator of ours. Which leads me to:

Anything by Oliver Jeffers, but we are especially smitten with Lost and Found and its sweet story of friendship. Though truly, I’m not sure you can go wrong with one of his books.

Duck and Goose. We’ve had this one for years, but we read it multiple times a week. Especially when the book picker is trying to postpone bedtime because it’s a bit longer than many picture books – Duck and Goose, Charlie the Ranch Dog and the Day the Crayons Quit are top choices on nights when the kids are trying to stretch the bedtime routine out a bit.

Caps For Sale - This is an oldie, but a goodie. We love this one. We especially love stamping our feet and shaking our fists when the peddler yells at the monkeys. Books with the McKevitts, man. It’s a good time.

Pete the Cat – Any Pete the Cat, but I’m partial to I Love My White Shoes over the Buttons one – though we own both and the kids love them equally.

One Dog Canoe – This is a fun book – my mom has it at her house and we have a copy at the cabin, so I’ve refrained from buying a copy for our house, too, but Tom and Nell always have me read it to them over and over when we’re at a One Dog Canoe house.

My Father’s Dragon – This was our first chapter book, and it was a good one. I read it just to Tom, and then we moved onto Mr. Popper’s Penguins…which we have yet to finish because I’m not in love and the kids don’t seem to be, either. But My Father’s Dragon was a quick, fun first chapter book.

(*As always, I don’t use affiliate links, so these Amazon links are just for your convenience.)

 

I have a ton of books saved on a wish list for Tom’s and Nell’s birthdays, so hopefully by the end of June we’ll have even more favorites to add to our list. I will say that I tend to feel a little “Womp womp” about some of the “girl” books we order for Nell recently – so I’d love recommendations for truly charming and adorable illustrations and stories. And chapter books – we need some more chapter books over here.

Styling an Entryway Bench

We’ve been in our home for almost two years now, which is almost impossible to believe! Our living room is the first room you see when you walk through the door, and we’ve played around with a lot of different arrangements for it, but I think we’ve finally found a system that works for us. The room is part entryway – that’s just inevitable – but that doesn’t mean that it has to look like a dumping ground! I added a sweet, cottage bench from Sauder furniture to the living room, styled it, and have an awesome entryway that doubles as extra seating at a party. Sauder invited me to be a part of their “Put Together” Design Challenge and Lookbook, and I jumped at the chance to style a piece of furniture to make it uniquely me!

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21 Day Fix – Midpoint

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I was following up my February/March Whole30 with the 21 Day Fix – paleo style. After my disappointing scale experience with P90x3, I ditched workouts during my Whole30. I KNOW that you’re not supposed to focus on the scale, but…yeah. I still do. So anyway, after the holiday gain, I just focused on the Whole30 so that I could get back to my “happy weight” – which I did – and figured I’d add in workouts later. The problem with the Whole30 (for me) is that even though there are guidelines for portions, I tended to approach it from an EAT ALL THE BACON standpoint. And actually, at my physical the day I finished the Whole30, my cholesterol was down 19 points from two years ago, but my LDL(bad) was up 1 point, and my HDL (good) was down 20 points — so even though my overall cholesterol is about 50 points below the max recommendation of 180, my PCP wanted me to raise my HDL before my next appointment.  To be honest, I was pretty discouraged because everything I’d read about Whole30 success stories was that despite all the meat and fat you’re consuming, cholesterol usually goes down. And mine did, but it went down in the wrong way!

 

So, with that backstory, it was time for me to focus on portions. I weighed what I wanted to weigh, but I am happiest when I’m working out, and I also wanted to focus on that HDL thing – and I was pretty sure my bacon consumption wasn’t helping that number. Bacon is not bad, but it’s probably not recommended daily. Even on the Whole30. And I probably wasn’t eating enough greens, choosing to sub sweet potatoes for my “veggie” most meals. I needed some stricter rules. So I turned to my friend and Beachbody coach Jessica and she pretty much said, “Eating clean is great Em, but chances are you might be eating too much.” Enter, 21 Day Fix. I ordered and I’m in a challenge group.

There are a two components to the 21 Day Fix. First, is nutrition. Man, those containers are small. The appeal to me of this program was that it allows you some treats, some grains, etc. Coming off Whole30s in the past, I’ve just dived right back into eating what I want, so I liked that this would be an approach to reintroducing some of those foods without going overboard. For the most part, I’m avoiding grains, but I do have a serving or two of grains a week to see how my body reacts to the correct amount of grains. The first week? I was a drama queen. “I am so hungry I could eat my own foot!” type drama. And I was truly hungry – with permission from Jessica (because I am a rule follower), I added an extra veggie and fat when I was hungry, but by the end of the first week I didn’t need it. I remember in college one semester I had a class over my lunch hour every day of the week and I had to wait until 3 to eat lunch. I thought I would die that first week. And by the second week, I was fine with waiting until 3 to eat my lunch if I took a small snack in my bookbag. The same thing happened with the 21 day fix. By 6 days in, my stomach had adjusted to the portions. I played around with the containers a bit and realized that if I eat my fat (blue container) in the morning, I tend to stay full longer. I am loving this nutrition plan. I love that it allows a treat or a glass of wine a couple days a week – I have never eaten a teaspoon of chocolate chips SO mindfully. Nope, usually it’s shove a handful in my mouth and then grab another handful. So, it took me awhile, but I’m loving the portion control this plan forces on you now that I’m used to it.

79C2EC1C-FD01-40F2-A65F-D15AFCA4134F My Go-To lunch: Chicken Apple Sausage (1 red), Sweet Potato “Chips” (1 yellow), mixed green salad (1 – 1.5 greens) and a 21 day fix dressing (1 orange).

Shakeology. I really didn’t want to partake in Shakeology, but for the sake of the 21 day fix I agreed to try it. I’ve found the way I like it – the first couple days were like drinking grass clippings. I like the Vegan Chocolate with half a banana and a teaspoon of almond butter, 8 oz of water and LOTS of ice. I do enjoy having the shake mid-afternoon – it powers me through to dinner without hunger. But, I don’t think I’ll keep drinking Shakeology after this bag is gone. It’s pricey – my grocery budget for the month is about $450 – and that feeds 5 people a mostly organic diet. I can’t justify spending 29% of my monthly grocery budget on one meal a day for just me. So, I’ll try some other similar options to Shakeology and see how it all pans out, but I will also happily just eat a real food afternoon snack if needed.

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The second piece, and the reason I started this program in the first place, is exercise. And I am loving the workouts. They’re challenging but not so challenging that I dread them, if that makes sense? I love that there’s a different workout every day of the week, so the ones I don’t love (yoga is my least favorite – I much preferred P90x3s yoga) aren’t overdone, and the ones I do like I have something to look forward to every week.  I feel strong already, and am looking forward to seeing what my final measurements are in a little over a week. I’ve been waking up at 5:30 to get my workouts in – in the past I’ve been a naptime or late night workout kinda girl, but when I have my workout hanging over my head, I kind of dread it. So just getting it done has been so freeing.  Being totally honest, I was prepared to hate Autumn based on the program’s uber sexy and smoldering marketing photos – but she’s actually bubbly and likeable and comes across as down to earth in the workouts. So, there’s that. C5E396B1-EF70-4C41-BE36-20164CE36DB7

 

Crazy hair, don’t care. Actually doing burpees (rather than modifying them because I didn’t want to try) for the first time in my life.

4D7A5FDB-0971-468B-95F0-A62528C0C40B Nell is a really good workout buddy.

So, that’s my mid-point 21 Day Fix update. I’ll be sure to post my end results in a week and a half – and I’m prepared to keep going.

Books I’ve Read Recently

I haven’t done a book post in awhile, so here are some books I’ve read and enjoyed recently.

 

 

Where’d You Go Bernadette – I enjoyed this book and I read it quickly. I did not love this book, but I am glad I read it and it was a perfect vacation read. I think my issue with the book was that I presume the author wants you to connect with the main character, but I didn’t. I could totally appreciate Maria Semple’s satirical style, but again, not a love. But definitely one I would encourage others to read, because you might connect with Bernadette…and even if you don’t, it’s fun.

 

Wild – This was our last book club book, and it was a good read. I’ll admit to loving the first half and then getting a bit bored. Half of our book club was on the same page as me, and half loved every single page. The difference between our halves? The half that liked it but got a little bored were the types who would never pack up their lives and hit a trail for 4 months. The half that loved every word said that they would love to do the trail, and have awesome stories of adventure trips in their pasts. I’d like to see the movie, too – I’m glad I read this, even if I’m more a glamping kinda girl.

the school of essential ingredients

The School of Essential Ingredients – Calling this “recent” on my read list is a stretch, but I loved it and I’m pretty sure I didn’t mention it here. Such a fun story of a cooking class and the lives that come together as a result of it. A wonderful book that makes you want to cook and bake…a lot!

Other books we’ve read (or re-read) recently in book club: Gone Girl (a re-read for me – love the book, and just saw the movie), Little Women (another re-read, but fun to dive into a classic again), The Interestings (I didn’t love it), Carry On, Warrior – fun and thought provoking, but if you read her blog you’ve already read the book.

Currently, I’m about half way through The Boys In the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I’m enjoying it, but not speeding through it. Next I’m going to need something light and fast, and my book club is always looking for good reads, too. Any suggestions? You can always check out my Goodreads profile to see what I’ve read recently (when I remember to update it…).