Thursday, February 16, 2017

Stitch Fix #20

I had the same stylist for my first 12+ Fixes, and she was amazing. She seemed to understand what I liked and what I didn't, and rarely sent me something I didn't keep. At the time, I was transitioning into regular clothes following my pregnancy with Aden and I owned very few pieces that made me feel beautiful. Stitch Fix definitely helped fill that void in my closet and my confidence level.
Then, one month my beloved girl suggested I try another stylist. I don't know if she was bored styling me or what (?!) but the next time I ordered I was assigned a new person. It was never really the same after that. My body size also continued to change, and the clothing fit seemed 'off' no matter how many times I updated my profile.

Eventually, I broke up with Stitch Fix.

Earlier this month, I got an email from Stitch Fix offering to waive the $20 styling fee if I'd schedule a shipment. Why not? I figured I'd give it a try again.

Now, I need opinions! What should I keep?

Here's what I received:

MIA Emerson Tassel Zip Bootie


While these booties were cute, they were way too big - obviously. The floor angle of this photo actually makes it look like I'm a kid wearing her mother's shoes! No question here - RETURN

41Hawthorn Shara Herringbone Vest

This vest is my favorite piece from this box, I think. I like wearing vests, especially in transitional seasons like fall and spring and this one is cute and comfortable. KEEP 

Just Black Judy Scissor Cut Skinny Jeans

I really like Stitch Fix jeans - like, they're the main reason I'm still interested in their company. All of the jeans I wear are from Stitch Fix; they fit me well and hold up between washings. Except ... for the one pair of Just Black maroon-colored skinny jeans I bought in my last box. Those colored jeans fit fine initially, but stretch out super quick and I find myself pulling up the waistband all day long.

This pair of skinny jeans are exactly like those - thinner material and very stretchy. No question on this item - RETURN

41Hawthorn Kassidy Faux Wrap Dress

I requested an Easter-appropriate dress in my style notes for this shipment, and here's what I received. I like this dress. It fits me well and modestly covers my bust, which is usually my issue with wrap dresses. I wouldn't say I'm in love with this dress, or would wear it often, but it would be nice to own a nice dress for church or special occasions. KEEP or RETURN - what do you think?

Skies are Blue Charlene Button Down Cotton Top

My initial reaction to this button-down shirt was NO. Honestly, it's not really my style. Then, I tried it on and looked at the photo I snapped on my camera and thought, "hmmmm." It definitely looked better than I thought it did. Cute, even! What do you think? Definitely everyday casual which fits my mom-life ... but does it look like I'm about ready to paint a bedroom? KEEP or RETURN - what do you think? 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Valentine's Day Chocolate Superfood Bites

I'm always on the hunt for healthy sweets and treats I can feel good about eating and with Valentine's Day around the corner, I thought I'd share one of my favorite indulgences -- chocolate superfood bites.


One of the first things new fitness challengers usually say to me is, "I have a sweet tooth, so I need to find a solution for that." The awesome thing about the 21 Day Fix / Portion Fix Eating Plan is that you can still have chocolate, cookies and muffins - you just have to plan for them! Also, it's important they're made with the cleanest ingredients possible and these chocolate superfood bites fit the bill.

These treats taste sinfully delicious and satisfy that craving for chocolate we all get sometimes. They're also easy to make and look so fancy! Here's how to make them:

Start by assembling your favorite nuts, seeds and dried fruits. You don’t need much in quantity for this recipe, so hit up the bulk food section of the grocery store or scour your pantry to gather ingredients. I used pistachios, cranberries, dried blueberries, slivered almonds and unsweetened coconut flakes. For the chocolate, I used a bar of Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate (look for chocolate with 70% cacao or higher).

Heat chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl on 50% power in 1 minute increments until melted. Then spoon melted chocolate onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and immediately top with chopped nuts and dried fruit. Pop the tray in the refrigerator when you’ve finished to let the chocolate harden. Store leftover chocolate superfood bites in the refrigerator.

How sweet would it be to receive these handmade chocolates for Valentine’s Day?

Recipe adapted from the Beachbody Blog

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Letters to Tory: Five Years!

And, just like that - my big girl turned F-I-V-E this past August. Somehow time slipped away from me (hello, she's basically 5 1/2 years now!) and I have yet to write about her birthday celebration or her many milestones at this stage in life. There's so much to say, I fear I won't capture the awesomeness that is Age Five ... but here's goes nothin'.

Dear Tory,

You are FIVE, little girl! How in world did this happen? As you remind me whenever we discuss you growing older, you'll always be my baby girl -- even when you're 16. I know this to be true, but it doesn't make change any easier on this mama's heart.

Age Five is wonderful. Dare I say, the best? You are so fun to be around these days. Your knowledge and thirst for learning is inspiring; your humor, witty and your love for others, infectious.


No trace of baby is left in your appearance; these days, you're grown up as grown up can be (at least, it seems that way to me). Your long legs stretch on forever sticking out of your swimming suit this summer. You're now wearing 5T clothes, size 9 shoes and weigh about 34 pounds. Still a peanut in comparison to your peers, though. At your five-year check-up, you measured in the 14% for height and weight.

Developmentally, you've changed so much in the year. One of the most notable things about this age is the ability to reason with you. You might not always like the answer, but you understand why thing happen the way they do. You're also very responsible and understand/follow rules around you.


You're in Pre-Kindergarten this year, and absolutely thriving in the classroom. I wouldn't say school is challenging you academically (truthfully, you're super ready for kindergarten) but you love your classmates and idolize your teacher, Ms. Jessica. Every afternoon, in fact, you come home and draw dozens of pictures to take to your teacher the next day. You have your whole life ahead to focus on concentrated learning, so I'm pleased this year you're developing a love for the classroom. You're so excited for kindergarten to start that you remind me often you'll be just fine at school all day and that you'll "send me letters" so I won't miss you.


Drawing is one of your favorite activities. You mostly freestyle hearts, flowers, rainbows and portraits of our family. Without fail, every afternoon you come up to me and ask, "So, Mom, do you have a craft idea?" I'd better have one up my sleeve, too! One of our big kitchen drawers is plump full of stickers, paper, scissors, glue and markers. All of those items can keep you occupied for hours.


My favorite part of your drawings is the way you sign your name - "Tory Mom." In your eyes, we're like one person, like you couldn't possibly be you without me. I know it won't be like this forever, so I commit those little pieces of art to memory (and usually snap a photo of them) so I can remember this stage forever.

You still very much enjoy playing with your dollhouse and Barbies. When we're at the cabin, you're a tom-boy through and through. You have no problem touching worms and minnows, love to collect rocks, to fish, snowmobile and ride the ATV. I have no doubt you'll be driving the boat by the end of summer! Really, you thrive in nature. Wild Kratts is one of your favorite television shows and your knowledge about animals and other creatures is astounding.  

 

You've very compassionate, tenderhearted and a Mother Hen to Aden. When you're feelings are hurt, you'll often retreat to your bedroom to be alone for a while ... and almost always fall asleep in there which tells me you were tired and emotional to begin with. I often tell you you're "in charge" of Aden when I'm leaving the room for a minute, and you're very good at keeping things in order. When Dad and I have been away for a few overnights, I never worry because you know exactly how things function in our home.

Strangers often compliment you on your politeness and cooperation. This makes my mama heart happy, especially because your brother can be a little crazy! As grown-up as you appear, you quick to remind me you're still five-years-old. The baby talk stage has begun which can be a little annoying (sorry, it's true!) as well as when you refer to yourself in the third person. I know it's a stage, so I try to ignore it the best I can.    

Another funny thing you do recently is sneak into our bed at night (which is a no-no) and then roll out sneaky as a mouse before we realize you're there. Your feet hit the ground and then you pop up like you just arrived. We can't help but laugh, as deceitful as it might be.


You worship the ground Grandma walks on, and still have many "best friends" including Ryan from school, Ashley in Kentucky and Hannah at the cabin. You're also especially fond of our condo neighbor, Jenn, who lives on the floor above us. Life with you, Tory, is always joyful. Age Five is shaping up to be a great year!



------

On your fifth birthday, I asked you the same set of questions I do every year on your special day. Here's how you responded (8/30/2016):

1. How old are you today? Five

2. Where do you live? Minnesota

3. What is your favorite thing to do with Daddy? Go on adventures with him

4. What is your favorite thing to do with Mommy? Do crafts and play games

5. What is your favorite thing to do with Aden? Play with him

6. What is your favorite color? Pink and purple and yellow and turquiose

7. Who is your best friend? Ashley (from Kentucky), Deanna (our cabin neighbor), Mom, Dad and Aden

8. What is your favorite book? Cinderella

9. What is your favorite food to eat? Cheese

10. What is your favorite thing to play? With my favorite baby

11. Where is your favorite place to go? The pool

12. What is your favorite song? I made up this song called Mary Sista and it goes like this ...

13. If you could buy anything at the store, what would it be? Cupcakes

14. What is your favorite animal? Giraffes and piglets

15. What would you like to be when you grow up? A ballerina teacher

16. What do you want to do on your birthday? Go to the State Fair

Love you, Tory Bean!

Monday, January 30, 2017

5 Yoga Poses To Do With Kids

One of the greatest benefits to working out at home is setting a positive example for my kids. I love that they're watching me live this healthy LIFEstyle, and I hope they grow to care, nourish and appreciate their own bodies.

I don't always love it when they're rolling balls and trucks across my feet while I'm working out (and that's exactly why I try to wake up super early and exercise before they're awake for the day), but we do enjoy practicing yoga together - especially on the weekends.

There's a wonderful (and free!) kids yoga program on YouTube called Cosmic Kids Yoga that Tory, Aden and I like to do together. The instructor uses imaginative stories to get kids doing yoga without even realizing it. They love it!



Here's a few other simple yoga poses to do with the kids in your life:

Invisible Chair
Instruct chair pose by saying something like, "Pretend to sit down in an imaginary chair." Then, reach the arms up overhead and SMILE big!

Happy Baby
Get down on the floor with your kids and have everyone (yourself included!) lay on their back. Instruct kids to bend their knees and hold onto their feet with their hands, with the bottoms of their feet facing the sky. This pose is especially wonderful at the end of the day or after a long car ride because it opens up the hips and feels awesome after sitting. Oh, and it pretty much guarantees a breakout of giggles. This pose just feels good.

Downward Dog
Even the youngest of kids can participate in yoga by practicing downward dog. Place both feet and hands on the ground and point your tush toward the sky. Encourage kids to keep their arms close to their ears and to straighten their back and legs.



Cat / Cow
This is an awesome stretch for the spine and feels good for kids and adults alike. Have kids get on their hands and knees. For cow pose, drop the belly and lift the chin. For cat, bring the chin to the chest and lift your upper back to the ceiling. Move between cat and cow poses. You can even make "moo" or "meow" noises while you do these stretches for extra fun.

Table Top
This move might be a little challenging for kids under the age of three, but that doesn't mean you can't try! Have kids place their hands and feet on the floor, then lift up their tummy toward the sky. The goal is to make yourself into the shape of a table - just like the one you sit at for breakfast!

Give these poses a try and let me know what you think!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

My Latest Obession: Maple Granola

My latest carb obsession is maple granola. O-M-G, I am in love with this stuff!

For the past few months, I've been in the habit of making homemade granola to sprinkle on top of Greek yogurt parfaits. It adds the perfect amount of sweet and crunch to breakfast in the morning, or my afternoon snack. The other day, I added a sprinkle of granola to the top of my peanut butter Greek yogurt dip, and WOW. So good!



Here's the recipe:

Clean Eating Maple Granola
4 Tbsp. granola = 1 yellow container on 21 Day Fix Eating Plan

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup coconut oil (I used virgin, unrefined)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Directions:
1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees
2. In a large bowl, mix together granola ingredients and stir to coat.
3. Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until dry and crisp, stirring once, 3-35 minutes.
4. Let cool. Store in an air-tight container.

Tip: For fast yogurt parfaits, assemble the yogurt and fruit of your choice in a resusable food storage container or mason jar with lid and store in the refrigerator. Top with granola just before eating.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Florida Getaway: Days 3 + 4

The five of us (Andi, Tory, Aden, Janie and I) woke up Sunday on a mission. A severe storm was forecasted in the area later that day, so we planned to capitalize on every minute of sunshine the day had to offer.

After breakfast in our beach villa (yogurt parfaits for the grown-ups and frozen waffles for the kiddos), we hopped in the golf cart and set off to explore the southern part of Palm Island. We cruised along the quiet roads and looked at old-style Florida beach villas lining the streets. I loved this sign near the entrance of the island - if this doesn't sum up island life, I don't know what does?

 
Andi parked our golf cart near the docks, and we wandered out to the water to look at the boats. The tree-lined walkway was so peaceful and serene; we had the whole pier to ourselves.


 
Tory was itching to get to the beach, so we drove back to Stump Pass - the same place we'd gone the morning before. The weather was sunny but windy, and we hoped to find a protected spot along the trees. First though, we stopped by our condo to grab ice cream cones. Who says you can't have ice cream at 10:00am on vacation? Aden threw a little tantrum when he realized I'd thrown away the last drippy bite of his cone before he had the chance to finish it. Oh, life's rough when you're three.



A pod of dolphins swimming by were enough to change his attitude. As we walked onto the beach, we saw a dozen dolphins swimming past us about 30 yards away from shore. It was an amazing sight! The kids weren't as impressed, but Janie, Andi and I were in awe of their beauty.


The five of us spent the rest of the morning hours playing at the beach. A girl could get used to this! It was quiet, calm and absolutely perfect.





Aden began to fuss around Noon because he was hungry, so we packed up our beach spot and drove our golf cart to Coconuts Restaurant on the property. We sat outside and enjoyed a big lunch of coconut shrimp, ribs, shrimp tacos and grilled mahi mahi. The kids had chicken strips and french fries, so naturally they were in heaven.

After lunch, we headed to the pool for our afternoon swim session. There were two other couples there - busy, ha! We swam, read books on our Kindles and laid in the sun. We could tell the storm was moving into the area around 4:00pm when the skies clouded over and the air around us grew increasingly windy. I washed up the kids from the pool and Janie made them dinner. Then, Andi and I went to the property's fitness center for a quick workout. Janie, Andi and I made turkey burgers for dinner with grilled zucchini and brussels sprouts. It was the perfect end to another great day at the beach.

Monday, the weather was super windy and cool. We packed up our beach villa and headed into Fort Myers to spend our last few hours of vacation. Our weekend trip was a short one, but a perfect getaway to relax and enjoy time together as a family. I'd definitely recommend this piece of Florida paradise: Palm Island was quiet, secluded and absolutely beautifiul. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Florida Getaway: Day 2

Saturday was our first full morning on Palm Island in Cape Haze, Florida. I felt a little better than I did the day before, so I kicked myself in the booty to get up and moving. The weather forecasted rain for Sunday, and I didn't want to miss the sunniest day of our weekend vacation.

I got dressed and whipped together some warm maple granola to top yogurt parfaits for breakfast. This granola is like crack to me lately! So clean, so crunchy, so delicious.

Aden liked breakfast so much, he licked his plate clean. 


After the five of us ate breakfast, we headed out for a golf cart ride around Palm Island to see what we could find in our new home away from home. The two-mile stretch of island beachfront is pristine with hardly another person in sight. We followed the road to the end and stopped to play at the beach on Stump Pass. The kids played in the sand and Janie, Andi and I sat beside them. It was relaxing and beautiful.





It's amazing how content the kids can be with a few sand toys, the beach and the sun. We could've stayed out there for hours. And, I suppose we did until it was time for lunch.





Andi grilled steak and tuna for lunch, and I made a kale salad with mango-lime dressing to go with it. We ate al fresco on the patio, and it was just fantastic. How wonderful would it be to eat outdoors in the sunshine everyday?

After lunch, we headed to the resort pool. Once again, we had the pool to ourselves and played there all afternoon.



By 4:00pm, the kids were exhausted. We left the pool and showered off the sand and sunscreen. Tory and Aden ate an early dinner, and Aden passed out on the sofa shortly after. Janie encouraged Andi and I to go for a sunset beach stroll, so we did just that.




Andi grilled fresh shrimp for dinner, and we roasted zucchini and asparagus alongside it. We ended our night with a candlelight dinner on the screen porch. It was a perfectly relaxing day.