Thursday, January 12, 2017

Celebrating Ten Years and Two Years

January 12th.  A day that means quite a bit in my life.  Today will be a little trip down memory lane, but I think spending this time to reflect can help me appreciate the blessings of today.

Ten years ago, I went to a birthday party of a family friend.  (See the very brown picture below, haha.)  It was at this party that my future husband, Andrew, noticed me.  Admittedly, I had noticed him for quite awhile, but never made a move.  Well, Andrew - being the "sly" guy that he is - approached our mutual family friend and asked who I was.  As fate would have it, my mom happened to be standing right there.  Long story short, a business card was given, an email sent, phone calls made, dates happened...the rest, as they say, is history.  January 12th will always go down as the day I "met" the love of my life.

This was taken a few weeks after we started dating.  We look so young.  And rested. 

Fast forward 8 years and in 2015, I went in for my second open-heart surgery to replace my aortic valve.  If you've followed me for awhile, you know this story and you know how much has changed these last two years. 

Within a week of my surgery, I was walking outside.  I carried my heart pillow as comfort and because it hurt like crazy to cough.  I could walk from my house, past about two houses, turned around and came back.  Then I needed a nap.

I kept at it.  I ordered this shirt and took this picture soon after surgery.  I changed my outlook on health, food and fitness.  I looked at my family and knew I wanted to do better.  To BE better.  It was the ultimate motivation.

Two years later...

I write a lot about my progress.  Maybe you're annoyed, inspired, motivated or just happy for me.  Maybe a little of each :).  But I need to do this for me.  I need to see where I started and remind myself why I am doing it.  This all has new meaning now since my mom is now on her own recovery journey - much more difficult than mine was.  She is one of my biggest supporters and I plan on doing the same for her.

So happy 10th anniversary, Andrew.  Ten years ago you changed my life and you've been by my side.  I love you.

And happy 2nd anniversary to my made it possible to change my path and feel what living really is.  

January 12th...a day to celebrate. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

New Year, New Workout

One of my goals when I set out to change my lifestyle was to allow myself options.  By options, I mean shopping in any store I choose, not worrying about the weight limit on a water ride and having the ability to attempt most any physical challenge.  Basically, I didn't want my body to keep me from doing something.  I've mentioned before that I felt like a physical/active person, trapped in a body that didn't allow it.  Well, that's no longer the case.

For the past two years, I've been pretty consistent with the types of workouts I've been doing.  They are mostly at the gym and involve pre-set circuits, with strength and cardio mixed together.  I also take a "dance" class from time to time and attempt running, but my knee isn't a fan.  I love my routine, and the people who are a part of it, but with the new year I wanted to try something different.  I also wanted to push myself.  Enter ELMNTL Fitness!

My friend Kathryn (A TWO-TIME Ironman!) has been telling me about ELMNTL for awhile now, but I was honestly too nervous to try it.  I mean, she has completed the hardest physical challenge possible, so I assumed the others involved were of the same caliber.  Here's the thing I've realized - and this is for those of you who are nervous to try something new - those leading and participating in these workouts want you there.  They want to include you, inspire you and challenge you - and they will make it work for YOU.  I've learned this lesson at my gym and I learned it at ELMNTL.

Of course I chose the coldest day EVER (felt like -1) to try this out, but the temperature really wasn't a factor.  Now the layers were a bit restricting and the monkey bars were icy, but besides that, it was fun working out in the snow!  The group was super friendly and welcoming and the owner, Kevin, made sure I felt comfortable (yet challenged).  The setting was beautiful and despite the sore muscles, I truly enjoyed myself.  The workout included a lot of what I do in the gym, but outside and using elements of nature - hence the name :).  

Losing 97 pounds has been life-changing.  But possibly the biggest change has been my attitude.  My confidence.  It's something I've never fully embraced, but now feel ready to take on so much more than before.  Maybe it's not trying a challenging outdoor workout (although, I highly recommend it!), maybe it's just walking into a gym.  Or maybe it's asking for a raise, standing up to a bully, or reaching out to a long-lost friend.  Whatever your hurdle is, run straight for it and jump.  You may stumble, you may even fall flat on your face.  But what if you don't?  What if you realize that trying is half the battle, and it'll only get you closer to your goal? 

Happy Monday, friends :). 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Friday Favorites - A Few Go-To "Recipes"

Happy Friday everyone! Is it just me, or has this felt like the longest week ever?  The kids went back to school on Wednesday (but they only go Mon/Wed), we've all been sick in some way and it just feels like a struggle to get out of this funk.  But, we press on...

While I mostly stuck to healthy choices over the holidays, I definitely indulged a little more than normal.  I started January just feeling FULL.  So I've been cleansing my meal rotation a bit, in hopes of feeling better and more energetic.  I am a firm believer in using food as fuel and I enjoy the challenge of finding healthy options that I truly want to eat.  Maybe you'll enjoy these too!

I try to eat more food in the morning and taper throughout the day.  It helps my metabolism and I'm even used to going to bed a little hungry, which is okay! This combo is a common breakfast or lunch for me.  I love Dave's Killer Bread - I toast it, spread avocado on top with salt & pepper, sometimes I'll add an egg.  The smoothie is frozen strawberries and bananas, 1 scoop vanilla protein powder, splash of juice, chia seeds, spinach and water.  I usually add plain greek yogurt, but I was out :). 

Another common breakfast - scrambled eggs with spinach (an easy way to sneak veggies into breakfast), yogurt with granola and blueberries.  I love Chobani strawberry and KIND granola.  By keeping it in the yogurt container, it helps with portion control - and no dirty dishes! 

This is on of my favorite snacks and it comes from my friend Ashley from NaturallyNati.  These "Almost Cookie Dough Bites" are the perfect cure for a sweet tooth.  I even got my kids to try them!

I save this breakfast for days when I have a big workout.  It's more carbs than I typically eat in one meal, but that's a good thing to fuel up for a workout.  The same yogurt combo as before, plus a waffle with peanut butter. 

I made this soup for the first time yesterday and I think it'll be a once a month recipe for me.  It's called a "Cleansing Soup" and it is FILLED with good stuff for your body.  And it tastes pretty good, too!  It has an asian flair with ginger and cinnamon.  It was a little labor intensive, but it makes a ton and I'll have it for several meals the next few days. 

My favorite healthy indulgence - Banana Chocolate Chip Bread.  Made with greek yogurt and dark chocolate chips, it is very filling and yummy.  I used coconut sugar instead of brown this time and I always use whole wheat flour.  Turned out great!

And one last sweet treat.  Skinny Pop popcorn with a piece of peppermint white chocolate bark (thanks, Alicia!).  Because I obviously can't quit Christmas...

Hopefully this gives you some inspiration for eating healthy in the new year, without feeling deprived!  Have a wonderful weekend :). 

Monday, January 2, 2017

A word...and a few thoughts... for 2017

A new year, a new start.  Even when you want to just treat January 1st as any old day, there's always a part of you that feels the need to start fresh and look ahead to the possibilities of a new year.  I usually make some sort of resolutions (read my post from last year here), but this year I am trying something a little different.  A friend (thanks, Whitney!) posted an idea that I fell in love with...choose a word for the year.  A word that you can always come back to and strive to achieve.  While it's not an easy task, now that I've chosen it, I already feel more focused.  So this is what I've come up with...


Life can be stressful, hectic, frustrating and crazy.  That is not going to change.  But the way I handle it CAN change.  I want to do less yelling, put less pressure on myself and spend less time doing five things at once.  For the record, it's okay to just do one thing at a time.  The other day I realized I was switching laundry, checking my email and talking to the same time. That's not okay and it's not necessary.  

I love that this word can truly apply to every aspect of my life.  It does not imply that bad things won't happen, but it describes how I wish to deal with them.  It also reflects my wish for our country and our world.  

Beyond this word of 2017, a few other thoughts I've had...

Play more.  With my kids, with my husband, with my friends.  Laugh, smile and feel joy.

Build strength.  In many ways...physically, emotionally and mentally.

Be flexible.  Let go of "perfect" and see how wonderful things can truly be.

Appreciate time.  Life is short, we know this.  Today could be it...look at this as a gift, not a threat.

I am no where near perfect.  My life is no where near perfect.  When I write these thoughts, they are from my heart and are what I wish to achieve, but that doesn't mean I know how to live life any better than anyone else.  I simply hope that by sharing this, I may touch your heart as well.

Happy New Year...wishing you peace in 2017.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday Favorites - Merry Christmas

Well, hello there.  Ironically, in my last post I gushed how I was excited to get back into a regular blogging routine.  Well, then life happened.  In the biggest way possible.  I'm determined to stay positive in this post, but I would love to ask for your prayers for my mom.  She's in the ICU after suffering from sepsis, a stroke and now some serious breathing issues.  It's been the hardest month of my life and we are constantly praying and thinking ahead to the recovery she WILL make.  My mom has always been my biggest supporter and loves to read what I write, so when she reads this one day...I LOVE YOU, MOM.

So why do a blog post?  I enjoy it and there is no reason to not celebrate the favorite moments that have happened the past few weeks.  Because amidst the sadness, there has been magic - especially in two very special little ones.  

Is there anything better than kisses in front of the Christmas tree?  Aiden has been very affectionate recently - he knows what Mommy's heart needs.

My sweet friend Courtney has a new book out - The Snowmen Did It!  The kids love reading it and searching for our own Hippo book :). 

I was in desperate need of a new 'do, so I headed to a wonderful little salon after a recommendation from a friend.  Well, not only do I LOVE the cut, but my incredible friend surprised me by paying for the it.  How amazing is that?!  She hasn't owned up to it yet, but that's just another testament to her giving heart. 

We've been doing a lot of baking over here.  Sprinkles are a favorite!

This wall in our new home is my favorite.  The previous owners already had a hook on the window - perfect for a wreath.  

Aiden loves taking pictures of my phone and got this one of four little feet.  I can't be the only one obsessed with their children's feet :). 

This picture makes me smile.  Ollie not so patiently waiting for dropped goodies and my two babies eating a festive lunch. (Festive = snowman cookie cutter PB sandwiches ;) )

We get some pretty incredible sunset views out our back window.

We went to a drive-thru light display the other night and waited TWO hours.  Yikes.  Thankfully, this guy was content as long as he could "drive."  He is so his father :).

And this one was thrilled to stick her little pig-tailed head out the window and make people smile. 

This has been my view for much of the past few weeks.  Aiden loves to draw and I now feel obligated to plant a few trees to make up for the paper he's used.  But these simple moments are my favorite.

And a favorite quote to leave you with today.  I read it yesterday in an Instagram post and I'm sorry, but I don't know what book it came from.  But it speaks to my heart and maybe it will speak to yours too.  Merry Christmas, friends.  Much love from my heart to yours. 

"It is the assurance that God's promises are true even while we wait for their fulfillment.  Because our hope is certain, we wait patiently, not fretfully, trusting that God is already at work to provide the light we seek, the help we need, and the deliverance we long for."

Friday, November 25, 2016

Friday Favorites - Thanksgiving Edition

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I've been a little MIA around here recently, but for good reason.  Something had to give these past few weeks, and unfortunately, this is the first thing to fall to the bottom of the list.  BUT...things are (sort of) calming down, so I hope to be back to regular posts soon!  I very much enjoy keeping up with this site and hope to be even more organized and on top of it as we head into 2017.

Since my last post, we've had a BIG change around here...we moved!  In the middle of October, we randomly found a house in a neighborhood we love, on a lot we love even more, and jumped on it.  A little over a week later, we listed our house and it thankfully sold in 24 hours.  After the roller coaster ride that is moving and buying a house - we are starting to feel settled.

A quick recap of some of my favorite moments from the past week.  As I get myself back into a routine, I'll definitely have more to share in the upcoming weeks!

Aiden celebrated at school with a Thanksgiving feast! He told me he only ate mac & cheese :).

One of the reasons we fell in love with this's on a caldesac!  Aiden loved riding his bike around the circle. 

We had a fun night out on Tuesday and got a sneak peek of Scuba Santa at our local aquarium.  Audrey danced her way through - I'm sure the fish loved it ;).

Wednesday morning I had an amazing opportunity to lead a story time with my book at a local Hanna Andersson store (my FAVORITE!).  Any excuse to break out my hippo dress and make it festive...loved it!  

Some of my very favorite people came to support me - so incredibly blessed!

My little helper, prepping for Thanksgiving.  He wiped off the celery!

Our first Thanksgiving in our new home :). 

Our first nephew was born last week!  We can't wait to meet him and the kids made him a first Thanksgiving turkey. 

I make them once a year for good reason.  So bad, but SO good. 

Our first kids table!

Because after you eat Thanksgiving food, you need to put your feet on the table, haha. 

Our littlest turkey. 

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving and still have more fun planned this weekend.  So incredibly thankful... thank you for stopping by :). 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Nope, that's not a typo!  The past week has been filled with Halloween fun, as well as birthday festivities for Andrew!  We've also had a big dose of real life going on, filled with stress, but it's starting to settle down and things are looking good :).  More on that next week!

We spent Andrew's birthday last Sunday at Kings Island.  Both Andrew and I spent a lot of time there as kids/teens, but I haven't been there in at least 15 years.  We were lucky enough to go with some of our family and introduce the kids for the first time.  I wasn't sure how they'd like it, or what they even had for our two 36 inch-ers, but they were able to do a lot!  And we could do it with them, which was even better.  The highlight was probably the log flume ride as a family.  Both kids loved it and Audrey kept saying, "Audrey all wet!"  

The kids had school on Halloween, so after their parties we headed to my parents' house for trick-or-treating.  Andrew's parents came as well and we had a great time - Aiden's costume was the hit of the night!  After birthday cake and pajamas, we took our tired selves home for bed.  Holidays are a blast...and exhausting!

A few pictures from our "Halloweek"...

I hope you had a Happy Halloween!