Friday, March 28, 2014

April's No Junk Challenge!

Rachel and I have really been enjoying the monthly challenges that we've been posting.  Well, that might be a bit of a lie.  If I have to do one more tricep dip I might cry.  Big girl tears.  However, despite the pain, they've all been worth it. 

For the most part we've been all about working different areas of the body or, like last month, getting your body moving in general.  And that's a great habit to stay in.  If the warm weather would ever actually stick around (and the rain would ever stop!) it would be a great time of year to head outside and get those bodies in motion.  Really, whatever motions you like will do. 

But for April we thought it might be good to focus on what we're eating and not just on how to work it off.  So we're going to give this little beauty a shot:

Now don't freak out on us.  We know this is not an easy one to tackle.  But, you will notice, it's only for 21 days.  That's just three weeks.  And we believe that you can do it for three weeks.  And we have to believe that because we are trying deperately to believe that we can do it for three weeks.   You feel me?

I'd also like to clarify a few of the rules.  So, here we go:

  • No Fast Food 
    • Look, we understand that fast food is part of life.  There is no way that many of you (or we) are going to be able to go three weeks without heading into a Chick-fil-a or a McDonald's.  If you're like me and my family a lot of that has to do with living on a fixed income and that dreaded B-word: Budget.  If we go out to eat, it ain't gonna be somewhere that they pour my tea and bring me complimentary rolls.  We're living on the cheap right now, so fast food happens. 
    • Instead of NO fast food, we are asking that you choose better fast food.  If you get a chicken sandwich, make sure it's grilled.  If salads or wraps are an option, go for those.  Oh, and hold up on the Ranch dressing.  Yes, I did just say that.  Please don't send hate emails. 
  • No Carbonated Beverages
    • Ok, the name of the game is Caffeine & Concealer.  If you get your buzz from a Diet Coke in the morning, don't let us stop you.  Sometimes coffee just won't do and we know that not all of you love it like, well, I do.  So try your best to limit the fizzy stuff to once a day during this challenge. 
I think we all know that a cheat may happen here or there.  For instance, my sister's baby shower is April 12th.  I'm just saying that there will be sweet treats.  And I'm also saying that I didn't plan this thing to not partake.  But do the best you can.  Really, really try this one on for size.  And see what comes of it. 

We're starting April 1st so you've got a few days to plan and adjust your grocery shopping if you need to.  We'll be checking in on Facebook as we go and would love to hear from you! 

And just think, this will finish up right after Easter.  Read: discount Easter candy at every store in the country.  Come Day 22, let the sugar rush begin!  Or maybe, you'll find yourself smack dab in the middle of a new healthy habit.  Let's see in 21 days...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Shape Up Downtown - Free group fitness classes from O2 Fitness!

Shape Up Downtown is FREE outdoor group fitness classes that are held "on the lawn" every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in April at 6pm on the turf in City Plaza in downtown Raleigh! They are covering everything from bootcamp, yoga, Insanity and ballet barre!

Bring your friends, your coworkers, your family - it's free for everyone!

Jessica and I are going to try to attend at least one together and we will give ya'll the scoop! However, in case we don't get to make it till later in the month we wanted to at least give ya'll a heads up!

Check out the schedule and learn more about Shape Up Downtown here.

<3 Rachel

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

It's beautiful, but it ain't Heaven.

I hate numbers.  We've just never really gotten along.  I try my best to avoid doing math in public for the fear that everyone will see me count on my fingers.  My mind simply does not work mathematically.  I mean think about it.  The scariest things in our lives revolve around numbers.  Gas prices. Credit card debt. Our weight. Terrifying stuff, right?

I leave the numbers to Steven.  He can read a tape measure without saying things like, "It's four and a half, plus two little tiny lines."  He can subtract large numbers in his head.  Correctly.  And I know that when Jack is old enough to have Math homework he will have at least one parent capable of not bursting into tears from frustration.  Seriously, folks, if history repeats itself, Fourth Grade math will not be kind to me the second time around, either.

So, you might think that with my lack of numeral love and Steven's more than proffecient mathematical brain, we would at least even out into a perfectly passable team when it came to finances.  Basically, you'd think he'd carry my weight and make it work, right?  I mean, not fair, but probably the reality.  Well...not so much. 

Money and numbers, though related, aren't the same.  He's good at math, not necessarily at money.  And I'm not good with numbers, but, well, yeah I still stink at money.  So we needed help.  And instead of just talking about it, like we had been doing for, you know, years, we decided to actually do something about it. 

We signed up for Financial Peace University offered at our church.  It is Dave Ramsey's 9-week course on how to stop letting your money control you and how to start using your money the way that God intended for you to use it.  Best.  Decision.  Ever.  I won't get into all the ins and outs right now.  I do hope to do a post after we've finished to sum up our experience for you.  However, last night, as we sat watching Week 5's video, surrounded by other couples and singles with struggles similar to our own, Dave said some words that I quickly scribbled down in our workbook. 

"Stop chasing Happiness with stuff.  You'll never catch him." 

Deep breath.  Take it in.  Read it again.  Stop chasing Happiness with stuff.  You'll never catch him. I know you've probably heard this before, in some form or another at least.  Shoot, there are movies and songs about it.  Can't Buy Me Love, anyone?   But when you're sitting in a class looking your debt square in the face, and finally being honest about how it got to be such an ugly, four-headed monster, you realize that that is exactly what you were doing. 

If I only had...
If I only did...
If I only bought...
If I only drove...
If only...

...then I would be happy.

And every time you got that thing that was supposed to be "the thing" to make you happy, you realized that it didn't.  Because the right clothes don't really make you happy.  They can make you feel good, but they don't make you truly happy.  They just make you want more clothes.  The "dream house" in the "right neighborhood" or the "perfect car" are just things.  And they aren't even the important things.  And when you live outside your means to have them, they can be dangerous things. 

We were no different than most people, trying to buy what we really couldn't afford while also convincing ourselves they were things we somehow deserved.  There was always something else we "needed" (read: wanted), always one more item on the list that seemed to grow longer, no matter how quickly we marked things off of it.  That's what happens, you know.  The more you have, the more you want.  So you chase Happiness with stuff until you've pushed it so far away you don't even know what it looks like anymore. 

And that doesn't mean that we aren't supposed to do things and get out there and enjoy life.  But maybe we could have enjoyed life at Chick-fil-a a little more instead of Chili's.   At least we should have as long as we had credit cards staring at us, two car payments, and things like Christmas coming. 

Hindsight is 20/20.  So...
And now we're going to do better.
Because we understand that what will make us happy aren't the things, or even being completely free of debt.  Yes, it will make life easier.  It will take some stress away.  We will be more prepared for life in general.  But what we've learned is that we could be happy eating cereal for dinner and without cable and even if our cell phones didn't link us to every other human via socal media.  We could be happy if we just had each other.  

On the video Dave said that someone may think that finally being able to take a trip somewhere like Hawaii may make them happy.  This person might say, "If I could just go there, I would be happy."  And then he gets there and it's beautiful.  But it ain't Heaven.

Nothing will ever be good enough, if the value of your life is directly related to the value of the things in it.  This life is just a blip, just a swift in and out of God's breath.  It is fleeting and it is beautiful.  But it ain't Heaven.  And all the things that you have will not get you there.  Enjoy this life.  Live it to the fullest.  Make God happy with the way that you choose to use your time, your energy and your money.   Then all the numbers will fall into place and will add up to some serious Happiness.                   


Sunday, March 23, 2014

BB Body Cream and Revlon Eyeshadow reviews

So last week, something really cool happened! I had 2 readers to recommend products! And I am not going to lie… this made my day!!!! (hint hint!!!!) And the best part was that they are both drugstore (read: inexpensive) finds!!!!

The first recommendation came from a classy and sassy business woman who hates wearing pantyhose! She emailed me about the new Jergens BB Body! The product promises 5 benefits when used for 5 days: Intense hydration (via Shea butter), a subtle sheen to illuminate the skin, it even out skin tone, firms the skin and corrects (using a blur technology)!


The verdict:  (After 5 days of continuous use) The light tropical-like scent took a little while to grow on me! It fades fast and I think I might even say now that I like it and think it’s perfect for summer. (Summer is still coming this year, right?) I really like this cream- it looks like a very thick cream when it comes out of the tube but it goes in super fast and provides plenty of hydration without being greasy! I was expecting glitter, however the “subtle sheen” is just that: very subtle- no glitter here!! There is a tad of DHA (read: self-tanner) in it but do not stress about this one- I never smelled like self-tanner! There isn’t enough DHA in it to even warrant you to wash your hands after application! This cream will help cover any "situations" and help you to go sans hose! I truly like it and can see myself purchasing more when this one runs out!

The second one came from a trendy boutique owner! I mean if anyone knows fashion….. Her recommendation was for Revlon Eye shadow in #505 Impressionist.

The verdict- I fell in love immediately!!! I have used it with a primer (Urban Decay's) for a more intense look and without for a sheer wash of color. The colors are very user friendly and the case is built to show you where they are supposed to go. I really liked that the neutral shades were easy to blend and were not too dark like some pallets. The two bottom colors are a primmer and a glitter. I have not tried the primer yet but I did play around with the glitter (it was a Friday and I think glitter is totally work appropriate on Fridays!).

Both of these products can be found at Wal-Mart, Target or Ulta! The lotion runs around $13 and the shadow will set you back about $10!

<3 Rachel


Thursday, March 20, 2014

What I have learned through grief….

I lost my father 10 years ago this coming April. It was a sudden/unexpected loss for our family. This post is not supposed to be a "downer,” I just wanted to share a few things that I have learned though my loss. Grief isn’t always just a product of death, it can be caused by numerous things- unraveling marriage, learning that Diet Coke is bad for you, loss of a job, gray hair, financial issues, expensive jeans that no longer fit, ect.  And grief can also be a chance to learn.  Who we are, what we can take and the best way to tackle this life.  These are the things that I have learned through my walk with grief. 

How to be a better friend

You know how when something bad happens to people others may avoid the situation completely with the excuse “I didn’t know what to say?" Let me help you; you don’t have to say anything! Show up and give an awkward smile (or even just make eye contact) and they will let you know what they need. Some people might like hugs, talking it out or not talking about it. A trip to the local ice-cream shop or a gift basket with a journal, chocolate and thank you notes are great options,  too! The main point is that they need to know that you care and are there for them! Another thing I think is important is to stay in touch…maybe not every week but grief doesn’t go away 2 weeks after the funeral and it is nice to know you are thought about…just might lift your day!!

I prefer to cry in private (in my car)
Sometimes I still get emotional and this tends to occur in my car. I guess I get lost in a song or good memories and before I know it, I’m in tears. This one took a long time for me to even tell Jason about.  I’ve learned that it’s ok to not be “ok” and it’s ok to tell people when you are hurting.  It still doesn’t mean I want to talk about it, I just want you to know that if I’m a little extra crazy, that I am going through a hard time and might need a little extra forgiveness or patience!

Having a “Death Folder” is a great idea

I have a folder with all of the information that my loved ones would need in the event of my passing. Yes, I know you're agreeing with Jason right now that I am a very morbid person but just give me a second to explain!!!!!!

"In the event" the last thing I would want anyone having to do is scavenge through all of my stuff to find the info they would need such as a copy of my driver’s license and social security card, insurance papers with the phone numbers and policy numbers and the list of Elton John songs I want played at my funeral! Think of how convenient it would be to have it all in one place!


<3 Rachel


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A List of Happy

It's been one hell of a Monday.  And it's Tuesday, folks.  So what does that tell ya?  And it started right from the beginning.  Seriously, I hit the ground running...into what felt like a wall. 

I woke up to yet another day of nasty rain and bitter cold.  I mean really, where am I?! This is not the North Carolina March that I'm used to. And Mother Nature is having the most stellar mood swings ever.  It was 77* less than a week ago.  This morning?  I couldn't take my child to daycare on time because of icy road conditions.  Wait, what?  Yeah, annoying. 

Then, once I finally got to work, it just seemed like one thing after another.  One problem, one aggravation, one if-you-don't-get-away-from-me-type co-worker away from complete breakdown.  I beat a door today.  Literally.  Slammed my hand against a heavy wood door to make a point. Repeatedly. The level of maturity is astounding.

I told a man over the phone at my Headquarters that I felt as if I was living in a "perpetual Monday" right before I almost broke down and cried.  He said he understood and helped me through the issue i called about before rushing off the phone with a sympathetic "take care now, ok?"  I am pretty sure he jotted my name down for future reference.  You know, in case I end up in the news or on a Missing List of some kind. 

But here's the deal.  When days are this craptastic, this stupendously awful, it's sometimes nice to sit down and make a little list.  A List of Happy.  Things that make you smile. Because even in the midst of all that is stupidly terrible, there is still so much that is right.  So here is my list. 

  • I got extra sleep this morning due to our icy delay.  And a little extra sleep goes a long way.
  • I have a new favorite "salad."  Yes, food will always make me happy. Recipe below:
    • Quinoa
    • Avocado
    • Grilled chicken  
    • Corn
    • Black beans
    • Small amount of barbecue sauce (either toss the chicken in it or drizzle on top)
  • Typing this blog post has put Pharrell's song "Happy" in my head.  And I'm ok with that. Here's the video...
  • I have an awesome new book that I'm reading.  (Chasing God by Angie Smith)
  • Steven & Jack  (that's the name of my happy place)
  • Yes, ma'am, my fingernails are HOT pink.  boom.
  • The bills are (mostly) paid. 
  • The Family comes to town this weekend!  So much happy when the Cerame/Thomas/Ezzelle crew is together.
  • Got the first RSVP's to my sister's baby shower. Celebrating that little life makes me almost too happy.
  • My God is the same on bad days and good days. He's there for the sad and the happy--thank goodness!
  • Pinterest is still in existence (and I got a great pin from a wonderful old friend today. Love her!)
  • Pancakes for dinner tonight! And, we're back to food. Happy, happy, happy! 
What's on your happy list?

Friday, March 7, 2014

CRAK (Christian Random Acts of Kindness)

Ok, so we are a little late posting this as Ash Wednesday was 2 days ago but, to be 100% honest, I just ran across this today on Pinterest and instantly fell in love with the idea! CRAK (Christian Random Acts of Kindness) is a 40 day challenge to be a better person and I guess "do unto others!" The goal is to check off a task everyday during the 40 days of Lent but I think these are great ideas for us to keep in our minds at all times! I am just going to go ahead and put this out there that you will NEVER catch me giving out free car washes (I barely wash my own car so I cannot promise that one to anyone - my pants would instantly catch on fire)!

This came from another blog that you can find here! I didn't have very much time to look at her blog but from what I saw I think it would be a great one to check up on every now and again!
<3 Rachel

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Healthy-ish Pancakes

You could seriously call my home The House that Carbs Built.  If you can find it in a bakery, there's a good chance we love to eat it.  We've got a thing for muffins and rolls and cakes and bagels and pasta and, well, you get the picture.  The problem with being a carb junkie is that you end up the shape of your favorite Krispy Kreme.  Round.  Then again, maybe it's a small price to pay for the sugary goodness of one of those bad boys just after they click on the "Hot" sign.  Did you know they have an app that tells you when your local store's light is on?  It's better than the Bat Signal.  True story. 

Anyway, in an attempt to get a bit healthier in my home we've been trying to remove the overabundance of carbs that we tend to eat.  Everything in moderation, right?  This has put a pretty severe damper on our breakfast routine.  Yes, yes, I know that there are tons of non-carb breakfast ideas out there.  But really, do any of them compare to a stack of fresh pancakes hot off the griddle?  Didn't really think so.

I wanted to try and find a way to make pancakes that were better for us, but still tasted like pancakes.  Leave it to Pinterest and my favorite food blog Damn Delicious to come to the rescue.  Right there in my feed was a link to this recipe:  Blueberry Yogurt Oatmeal Pancakes.   I mean, how amazing do
they look?! 

I've never attempted homemade pancakes before but I figured it was time to give it a go. And with the promise of a healthier pancake, I didn't feel so guilty about straying from my usual breakfast of yogurt and Belvita breakfast biscuits. 

Here's the recipe, taken directly from Damn Delicious.  To her goes all the credit.  The picture belongs to her as well. 
Blueberry Yogurt Oatmeal Pancakes
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • Maple syrup, for serving
  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees F and a nonstick griddle to 350 degrees F.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk together yogurt, milk, butter and eggs. Pour mixture over dry ingredients and stir using a rubber spatula just until moist. Add blueberries and gently toss to combine.
  • Lightly coat a griddle or nonstick skillet with nonstick spray. Scoop 1/3 cup batter for each pancake and cook until bubbles appear on top and underside is nicely browned, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook pancakes on the other side, about 1-2 minutes longer; keep warm in oven.
  • Serve immediately with maple syrup.

The Final Result:

I loved them.  My two year old loved them.  When your husband says, "well, they weren't terrible," that means he loved them, too, right? 

I had originally asked Steven if he wanted me to put the blueberries in and he had told me no, that the syrup should be enough.  He has since changed his mind and believes that the blueberries are, indeed, the key ingredient to this recipe.  I don't necessarily believe so, but I'm also not a big blueberry person.  Plus, I liked them just as they were.  In fact, I didn't even use syrup and thought they were good.  However, adding the blueberries would have been good as well.    It's all a matter of taste (mine, good; his, well...) it seems. 

These suckers are dense.  I ate two and was very full.  You don't need much to fill your belly.  Steven only ate three and I'm going to say it's because they were filling, not because he didn't like them.  So there.  He says he'll eat them again, so this one lives to see another day. 

Now to find a healthy(ish) doughnut...

- Jessica

Monday, March 3, 2014

March Challenge = 3 Miles or 30 Minutes Every Day!

Let me just tell you how thankful I am that the February Challenge is over… I mean, I cannot do one more dip or push-up!!!! I’ve put them in the same mental bucket as squats- pinkeye and PMS are also in this bucket! However, I will say I do feel stronger and have a little more definition in my arms! This was an effective challenge and was worth the effort put in!

For March, Jessica and I think that we are going to spice it up a bit. The challenge is to do 3 miles or 30 minutes of activity every day. This challenge has no rest days but makes it so that you have a wide variety of options so you can squeeze 3 miles or 30 minutes into your day! This challenge gives you the flexibility to do something different everyday or do the same thing everyday!

I think this will be our easiest challenge so far! So if you haven’t done one with us, this would be a great one to jump into!

The options are endless but here are a few:

·        Jessica loves the Shape It Up videos. You can find them here!

·        You can walk 30 minutes or 3 miles on your lunch break. We know not everyone is a morning person and you might feel like you don’t have time after work- why not get it over at lunch!

·        Search for Zumba videos on YouTube!

·        Try some of the workouts you have pinned off Pinterest (I know I have about 40!!!)! I'm thinking about doing a different one every night!

·        Hula-hoop!

·        Jump rope!

·        On pretty days- break out the stroller and/or leash and take your babies and dogs for a walk! They will enjoy the fresh air too!

<3 Rachel