Reviews

Beach Body’s Insanity

I know, I know. I’m the naturally small-framed girl who doesn’t get to complain about her weight gain. Except that I do.

 
Me, ten years ago, when I was a professional cake eater and didn’t have to worry about consequences.

No health resolutions this year. Nope. Why torture myself? But the fitness train smacked me square in the forehead the first week of January. The crisis? The shimmy and shake to slide my summer shorts up past my thighs and then the inability to button them, let alone, zip them up!

And then my husband signed me up for a ladies’ weekend at Hammock Beach in April. Let me tell you. Not fitting in most of your clothes that zip and button will speak to you! And the culprit isn’t even the baby weight. I’ve been fortunate enough to bounce back with my body after both of my babies. But the issue came when I stopped nursing but kept eating like I was…until eight pounds later and no zip-zip because of the hip-hips.

My burning bush moment.

I had to do something. And buying the next size up was not the answer. I got myself into this mess, I’m going to dig myself out. No easy outs.

Treadmill.

Done.

For three days, and then I realized that I really wanted something that would work my entire body.

And then I remembered I owned Insanity. No. We mustn’t. We can’t. We shouldn’t. Curse it and crush it, we hates it forever!

Except, my precious, I knew that was the answer.

I’ve started Insanity three times and have never finished it. And by “never finished it,” I mean I made it two weeks and missed several workouts during that time. It’s a 6 days a week commitment, but once you miss two days in a row, it’s time to say sayonara and sip on a milkshake.

Not this time. I have clothes that keep sending me love letters telling me that they miss me! And I miss them too!

But then there’s the second piece of the puzzle, and it’s a rather big one: nutrition. More like no-trition. The thought of giving up junk after years and years of being able to eat it and not gain an ounce was not appealing. But the problem is, your health is only 20% exercise and 80% nutrition. The mantra is “abs are made in the kitchen.” Why can’t French fries produce abs? They come from a whole food!

That’s where MyFitnessPal came into the picture. I started Insanity and keep a log of all the foods I eat throughout the day to help keep me within my calorie range. The cool thing is, the healthier you eat, the more you get to eat because most great foods for you aren’t astronomically high in calories. Plus, the app is educating me about what I’m putting into my body.

Insanity comes with a nutrition guide, but it’s not practical for my family. So I decided to simply try to eat as many whole foods as possible. Protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, and healthy fats. I’m not good at variety, so my days look a lot alike. Five meals:

Breakfast: Kashi go Lean, oatmeal, or eggs

After workout snack: mixed nuts, fruit, or plain Greek yogurt sweetened with some honey

Lunch: Leftovers from the night before

Afternoon snack: cottage cheese, veggies and dip, fruit, yogurt, or nuts (depending on what I had earlier), and unsweetened green tea over ice

Dinner: I subscribe to Dinner A’fare so my meals are planned for me three nights of the week. However, most of their meals are nutritious whole foods prepared different ways: chicken breast, steak, or pork tenderloin. I usually do a side of veggies, a salad, and a complex carb like brown rice.

I only drink coffee in the morning (with my ungodly amount of creamer because Satan hates me), and then it’s water all day long with a side of green tea in the afternoon.

But, I’m realistic. I’ll never be a tofu eating healthy super woman. Ditching every last piece of junk is what makes me crash and burn. I still have a glass of wine here and there, some sort of treat once a week (usually a serving of ice cream, which sadly, did you know, is only ½ cup?), and I eat pizza once a week.

I haven’t had a soda in over a month. A MONTH. I think that’s a new world record for me. I’ve eaten chips potato chips only once (thank you, Super Bowl), and the only fast food I’ve had is two different trips to Jersey Mike’s spread two weeks apart.

 
A rare picture of me, 18 years ago, praying and thanking God for the Mt. Dew I held in my hand. The varsity girls basketball team was not allowed to drink soda during the season. This was after our last game. And yes, I’m the one in the birkenstocks. I was raised in Asheville. What did you expect?

The cool thing is that now that I’ve been in a habit of eating like this for thirty days, it’s become just that…a habit. But it’s a good one! I don’t really crave all the bad stuff. The thought of drinking a soda now and wasting 150 calories of my daily allotment on something that has no nutritional value seems absurd to me. Will I ever have a cherry coke again? Absolutely. But it will be the exception, not the rule.

So yes. I made it through the first month of Insanity without missing a workout and without completely falling off the nutrition wagon, and I’m in love with my new lifestyle. I’m in recovery week (which is still a workout, but not quite as intense), until my second month hits next week. I’m scurrrrred.

So have I gotten closer to obtaining my goals? I say yes and no. I took a picture of myself in a bathing suit as well as the shorts I want to fit into when I started this journey. I also took one last week and compared. They look pretty much the same to me. However, I also took my measurements and I am, in fact, down 2.5 inches overall so far. That’s not a lot, but I’ve gradually been putting on pudge for ten years (that’s what happens, kids, when you get married), so I can’t expect to shed it in only a month’s time. Also, while the scale is not a big deal to me, I have dropped five pounds. Your body gets to decide where it wants to burn fat first. I assume my body decided to start with places I don’t care about like my forehead, wrists, and toes.

I feel stronger. I feel more energized. I feel healthier. I’m teaching my family what healthy eating choices look like, and I know I’ll be the better for it in the long run.

So, yay me!

 

Plus, when I reach my goal, I have a stack of gift cards to go shopping with. I’m hanging that over my head, and it’s definitely propelling me forward.

Reviews

Publix Chicken Cheddar Shells

As the school year starts, I’m trying to get back into the swing of cooking on a regular basis (Thank you, summer and pregnancy, for all the eating out experiences). I’ve particularly been on the lookout for new, tasty recipes to add into my rotation.

Last week while shopping in Publix, I tried a sample of their Aprons Simple Meals chicken cheddar shells and thought it was worthy (aka kid friendly) enough to pick up a recipe card and try it at home myself. The biggest plus was that it was a one-dish meal.

Cost: Because I already had at least half of the ingredients stocked in my fridge or pantry, my shopping trip cost less than $15.

Time: This recipe card boasts a 35-minute total preparation time, but I found that ambitious. Granted, I took some extra steps like cooking raw bacon and as well as mixing my own Alfredo instead of using a jarred sauce. My total prep time was 35 minutes with a bake time of 15, putting this meal on the table in 50 minutes.

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh broccoli florets (I used fresh ready-steam out of a bag in the produce section)

6 oz. sharp white cheddar cheese (blocks are sold in 8 oz., so I used the whole thing and didn’t find it too cheesy)

1 Deli rotisserie chicken (I used only the breast meat which gave me about 2 cups and then I had leftover meat for another meal)

6 slices precooked bacon (I cooked my own bacon and used only 4 slices)

8 oz. medium shells pasta

30 round buttery crackers, crushed (I used one sleeve of Ritz)

1 cup Alfredo sauce (I bought a Knorr packet and made my own)

½ cup ranch dressing (I used the fresh stuff- Marzetti’s Simply Fresh)

¼ teaspoon pepper

Aluminum foil

Steps:

  1. Boil water
  2. While water is boiling, shred cheese and chicken as well as prep bacon (crumble it when done)
  3. Preheat oven to 400F
  4. Cook pasta and dump in the chicken and broccoli the last minute of cook time
  5. Place crackers in a Ziploc bag and crush
  6. Line bottom of casserole dish with crackers
  7. Drain pasta mixture and return to pot
  8. Stir in all remaining ingredients and mix well 
  9. Spoon mixture on top of crackers 
  10. Cover casserole dish with foil
  11. Bake in oven for 15 minutes

I coupled our dinner with a tomato, cucumber, fresh mozzarella, balsamic glaze salad, and voila!

Taste test: If you’re someone whose taste buds need a flavor explosion, this recipe might not be for you (although there’s quite a few ways you could spice it up). It certainly wasn’t bland, but I’d definitely label it a “family-friendly recipe.”

Would I make it again? Both my husband and daughter liked it, and I’ve been given permission to add it into the monthly rotation.

Would I change anything next time? I’d probably add more than just 2 cups of Alfredo sauce. Also, if you’re in a hurry at night, the mixture could be prepped at an earlier time and refrigerated. You would just cook it longer to make sure it is thoroughly heated.

Reheat: The next day I heated leftovers up in the microwave, and they were just as tasty (if not more so) than the night before.

 

Not bad, Publix, not bad.

Reviews

DIY Patternless Maxi Dress

I saw this cute DIY patternless maxi dress tutorial, and she made it look so easy, I decided I HAD to try it.

Here’s a picture of my first go around from 10 months ago (and yes, I’m totally ashamed of the bathroom selfie I took, but here ya go!):

It was so easy, I decided to make a second new and improved one.

Materials needed:

  •     *  A tank top
  •     *  Enough fabric to wrap around your waist 2 times (I highly suggest working with a knit fabric, because if you use something that lacks stretch, you will walk like a penguin if you don’t build in a slit. If you absolutely are dying to have a hip, fun print that only comes in wovens, you’ll probably want more of it to help your stride).
  •     * Thread
  •     * Elastic thread
  •     * Scissors
  •     * Sewing machine
  •     * Serger (optional)
  •     * Rotary cutter (optional)

I used a 4-way stretch knit (I don’t suggest working with this unless you have a serger or a lot of patience because it’s slippery) I picked mine out from JoAnn’s when it was on sale for 40% off.

The tank top I picked up on sale at Target, but you can use any old form fitted top hanging in your closet or you can pick one up from Walmart for as cheap as $3.50.

Step 1:

Figure out where you want your skirt and tank to meet. You can either use scissors, or if you have a rotary cutter, you can sweep a swift, straight line at your desired cutting point. Don’t forget to cut approximately ¾” to 1” lower than your meeting point for your seam allowance. 

 

Step 2:

I bought 2 yards of knit fabric for the skirt. I knew I’d have enough fabric I had to cut off the hem that I didn’t need to leave any fabric on the side for the sash. If it doesn’t look like you’ll be getting rid of a lot of excess fabric off the bottom, you’ll want to go ahead and cut fabric off the side to create the sash later (if you even want the sash, because you can also use a high-waisted belt in place of a sash).

Fold the right sides of the fabric together and pin the raw edges (this will create the seam that runs down the back of your dress).

Step 3: Sew your raw edges together.

In this picture, I used a serger to give the seam a nice polished finish. If you don’t have a serger or you’ve never worked with knits before, here’s an informative little video.

When you get done, you should have one big fabric tube.

Step 4: You want to create the gathers around the top of your skirt. Using your desired colored thread, thread your machine. Using the elastic thread, thread your bobbin. I suggest hand-winding the elastic thread because you don’t want there to be any tension in it. In other words, wind it without stretching it out as you wind.

Make sure you are sewing with the pretty side on top so that your colored thread is shown and the elastic thread is on the ugly side.

Using a long stitch (I used a 3.5), sew around the raw edge of your skirt. As your fabric passes through the backside of your foot, you should see it start to ruffle.

Step 5:

Your skirt should be turned inside out and your tank should be right-side out. Place your tank, straps first, inside your skirt and pin raw edges together. Be mindful of where you want the seam of your skirt to run. I wanted mine dead center down the back, so I started pinning there first. It’s kind of awkward pinning because your skirt and shirt are not the same size at this point, but just spread it out and make it as even as possible (the gathers are very forgiving)

Step 6:

Repeat step 4, making sure that your stitching from step 4 is inside the seam allowance for your new seam. When you get done, you should end up with something that is really starting to look like a dress.

Step 7:

Measure where you want your hem to hit (you can make it as short as a mini-skirt, if desired), cut off excess fabric and sew up your hem. Since I was working with 4-way stretch, I used a twin needle on my machine to create a double stitch like you see on retail clothing.

There are multiple options for sewing knit hems. Here’s a resource I found helpful.

 

Step 8:

Accessorize!

If you have a high-waisted belt, you can always use that to cover up the meeting place of your tank and skirt. I made a sash with the excess fabric I cut off the bottom. Cut the length and width you think you want, fold right sides together, pin, and sew up the raw edges leaving an opening of somewhere between 3-5”. If you sew up ALL the raw edges, you can’t turn your sash right side out.

I didn’t want my sash to have a “boxy” feel on both ends, so I cut each end on an angle so they came to a “point.”

Once you’ve sewn up your raw edges (excluding the 3-5” opening), you can stick your hand through the opening and turn your sash right side out.

I highly, highly, HIGHLY, suggest using a slip-stitch to close up your opening. Closing up your seam with a top-stitch will scream “homemade.” A slip-stitch is invisible.

If you’ve never done a slipstitch, here’s a resource for you.

Step 9:

Congratulations! You’re done and can enjoy your newly-made, personalized maxi-dress.

 

Oh yeah, and the thing I love about these dresses, is that I can wear them at 6 months pregnant!

Reviews

DIY Burp Cloths

A little backstory:

It’s been 6 years since I’ve had an infant in my home, and quite frankly, after trying for number 2 for the last (almost) 3 years, I thought we were done with one! But God has a sense of humor and decided to bless us with number 2 a week after we donated our crib (a precious mother-friend of mine warned me this would happen).

The crib wasn’t the only thing to go. When we found out we are having a boy this go around, we donated approximately 6 large storage tubs of girl clothing/accessories (boppy covers, burp cloths, anything pink). Also, car seats expire. Who knew?

Most of our practical items, we had donated before we found out. I just couldn’t stand to hold onto something that another mom might be able to use in the dying hopes that we would have another one. It seemed wasteful to me. After all, we had received a ton of hand-me-downs our first time around and it was a huge blessing.

When we surveyed what we had left, we had tons of books and toys, and a few small necessities.

Brent and I headed over to Babies ‘R’ Us to walk around and get an idea of what it was we would need this time and realized there are quite a few things we lack. One of the small items was burp cloths.

Now, I don’t know how many moms out there are burp cloth picky, but I am. I didn’t have to buy any for my daughter thanks to all the generous showers thrown for me, but I received loads of cloths in a variety of brands and materials. And I used them (gratefully). But there were none that I loved. They were either too thin, too short, or too thick without being absorbent. I was reminded of this as I faced the boy-print selection at the store. That’s when I turned to Brent and said, “I bet I can make my own,” with which he replied, “I bet you could, too.”

So that’s what I did.

The Process:

Now, I wish I was creative enough and patient enough to create my own sewing patterns/templates, but I lack in both of those areas. So off to the internet I went. There are a ton of tutorials, but this is the one I found most appealing.

DIY Burp Cloth Tutorial

I didn’t follow all of her instructions. Changes are noted after the pictures.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures during the process because I hadn’t planned on posting anything about it, but here are some of my finished product (Please excuse the wrinkles. They’ve been rolled up for a week)

Materials used:

  • Nursery flannel for the top and terry for the bottom.
  • I wanted something super absorbent (I want to clean up huge messes/spills if necessary), and going with a calico cotton print for the top didn’t seem absorbent at all to me. I will always carry a few of these along in my diaper bag.
  • I bought 2/3 yard of three different flannel prints and 2 yards of terry at JoAnn’s. The flannel was on sale and I used a 40% off for the terry, totaling a bill less than $20.

Prep:

  • I laundered all materials and used my rotary cutter to cut strips of fabric (22” x 10”). However, I found myself trying to be too precise when measuring and it felt like it took me FOREVER to cut out each piece! Next time I will definitely make a template out of poster board and just use my fabric scissors.

Technical issues:

  • Because sewing flannel and terry together can be a lot for a machine to handle, I found I needed to move my stitch length up from a “2” to a “3.” The bobbin kept ruffling underneath the fabric when the stitch was too short. After the adjustment, it was clear sailing.
  • Terry is a messy fabric to work with. Be prepared to find small balls of fuzz all over yourself and your workspace by the time you are done.

Yielding:

  • With the materials I bought, I was able to make 12, 21”x9” burp cloths with some leftover flannel that I will most likely use to make a few bibs.

Level of difficulty:

  • Super easy, beginner level.

Would I do this again?

 

  • I’m not going to lie, I got bored of sewing squares together, and the fabric was messy. However, I LOVE the finish product, so I’ll say it was worth it. I would make these again as a shower gift, maybe in a set of 4, but I doubt I would do 12 at one time.