Rite of Passage

Today we passed a milestone.

Not the first word, or the first step.

The first dance recital.

We have struggled with listening in dance class.  And by "we" I mean Liv.  And by "struggled" I mean REALLY REALLY DID HORRIBLY with the listening.  But during the past two weeks, she was doing much better.  The occasional squarely actions, the occasional flit and twirl off to the side.  But she was listening.  She was staying on her dot.  She wasn't licking the mirror (yes this happened)

And now for the holiday party.  Three teachers, fourteen preschoolers, five dances.  Chairs were set up, party dresses were donned, parents and guests were invited into the studio - and we all broke out our respective video camera (or iPhone in my family's case) to capture this moment in time.

I'll spare you all from the 25 minutes of video that we captured, but she did a really good job.  There are times when the camera shakes because I'm giggling so hard.  And then I'm filled with pride and joy.  Thats my little girl out there.  I feel like we just brought her home and were celebrating our first Christmas with her, and now she's out there PERFORMING.  Or doing her version of it.

Sure.  We had glimpses of the "usual" Olivia and her listening.

But she did try.  And she was so proud.  And I couldn't be happier.


Two weeks, six pounds

We made it!  Two weeks, complete.

I did eat out on occasion, and Jimmy Johns for lunch on a Saturday is too hard to pass up.
I did have a few glasses of wine, but most nights were doused with ice water.
I did have some holiday treats, but only because I'm sure Santa would have been disappointed had I not.
I did use the walking stations at work, but not every day like I planned to.
I did make smarter food choices, and even with my occasional "slips" on the bad habits, I managed to stay within my allotted calorie target for the day.

And, most importantly (cue the fan fare) I did manage to cut six pounds off the scale.  Not the ten the book said was the tops to expect, but then again, I didn't follow things to a T.  What could I expect!

I have more to go to hit my target, but I know that I'm actually making progress.

On Wednesday, a co-worker said that my skinny jeans looked saggy on me.  I was thrilled.  Well, first I was embarrassed because I didn't want to go from having clothes that were too tight and "muffin-top making" to too loose and looking like a hobo.  But things were fitting better!  I'm noticing it myself, but it was nice to hear from an outsider.

Now today, we splurged.  Meeting J&J&R at Champps for lunch to exchange the LEAP PAD that Jacob had found for us on Amazon (at regular retail price, no less!) I did order the table the waffle fries and seasoned sour cream.  It's just something you have to do when you're there.  It's like going to visit Rome and NOT having any pasta while you're there.  Stupid not to.

But can I just go back to the Leap Pad for a second.  It's what Liv has been asking for since her birthday in September.  Now instead of buying one THEN and saving it, we figured we could get it when it was closer to Christmas.  How were we to know it was going to be the hottest toy out there.  Not wanting to spend $300 on one through Amazon or eBay, we put out and ABP to the family to help us find one.  Jacob came through!

We are going to be the best parents ever.

Or Santa will be.  But he's a good friend of ours so we'll take some credit.

The next seven days between now and Christmas will be the test.  And let's be honest, when we visit the Hattons in Geneva over New Years weekend, there's no way I'm not going to eat a Portillos hot dog, deep dish pizza of any variety and a whole lot of wine.  But I'll do my best to make smart choices ASIDE from those little treats.  And there's always January 1st to start again!

Merry Christmas to you all!


Dowel Wreath

Painted red, this is perfect for Christmas, but can easily be adapted for other holidays and seasons.  Being that this wreath cost me less than $10 total, I see more of these in my future!

First, get your supplies:

* 4, 36" long 1/4" square dowels - cut each into 3 18" pieces, so you'll have 12 pieces total - you could ask the people at Lowes/Home Depot to do this for you.  Nate has a table saw, so he did it - obviously exact measuring isn't critical to the project (see next photo!)
* wood glue
* pencil
* ruler or tape measure
* spray paint in color of your choosing
* t-square (if you have it)

Pretty maids all lined in a row (obviously, perfection is not super critical)

Divide each dowel into thirds (marked at 6 and 12 inches) - this is where the t-square came in handy.  One quick swipe down the line and they were all set!

Now, turn your memories to the class game of tic-tac-toe.  We're going to make 3 boards and layer them on top of each other.  Dab glue on your hash marks of 2 pieces, laying the other two across to make the "board."

Keep going on the remaining 2 "boards".  Let the glue set for 30 minutes.

Ding!  Assembly time.  This will take some trial and error and be based on your personal preference for how you want it to look.

 Second layer,
Third layer.

Now, make some marks at your intersection to make your glue dabs.  I used a permanent marker to show you all what I mean, but wouldn't recommend it because the paint didn't cover my mark.  Valspar - bah!

Don't worry if the glue runs over a bit, I didn't notice at all once it was all dried and painted!

Now spray, and spray and spray.  Lots of angled edges to make sure you cover.  And our front door has a glass pane, so I needed to make sure the backside looked just as good as the front.  But it looks good all on it's own, right?

But we need some glittery goobers to attach.

These babies cost me a whopping 70 cents each, plus 40% off (because everything is always on sales at Michaels)  I told you, this is a SPENDY craft we're talking about here!  I used the wire snips and trimmed them down and my ever-so-trusty glue gun to attach at just the right places.

(Our hall pantry as the backdrop as I'm only allowed to craft and blog at bedtime.  It's winter and is dark at like 2 PM, so the outside, front-door shots wouldn't be as cool right now!)

So fun and easy.  Putsy waiting for the glue to dry, the skies the limit with this project!!

***All of my work was carefully supervised by Norman, our elf (from on top of the cupboards) and Liv, our silly.


Day 3.

Yeah!  I turned 30!  I survived my birthday week of treats and dinners out and drinks.  Lots of drinks.
Sunday, December 4th came around and that was D Day.  Diet Day.  And I hate even saying that I'm "on a diet."  It's cliche and suggests that this is short-term and going to fail.  Isn't that what they say?  Diets fail.  It's about lifestyle.  Hell, I'm in the health and wellness industry, and I even know that!  I should support that mentality - it supports my bank account!
So in the 3 steps of the Mayo Clinic Diet, I am in Step One:  Lose It!  It involves setting a weight loss goal, setting a realistic time line and expectations, learning about appropriate portion sizes and such.  Those are the "technical" elements.
My focus is on the 5 habits that I’m supposed to learn in these two weeks and 5 habits I’m supposed to break.  There are even BONUS habits to learn, which are mostly just increasing the original five.  They’re not extra, just on steroids.

The goals are simple and very intuitive:
¨     Eat a healthy breakfast (in my case = EAT breakfast)
¨     Eat fruits and vegetables (no, wine does not count as a fruit)
¨     Eat whole grains (no, beer is not a whole grain)
¨     Eat healthy fats (oddly, these are not found in my fried treats at happy hours)
¨     MOVE! (minimum of 30 minutes a day; with Optum as my employer, the exercised is encouraged and part of our “goals” so this shouldn’t be too tricky)

Habits to break:
¨     No TV while eating (but Top Chef just isn’t the same without a cheese stick and Doritos!)
¨     No sugar (difficult around the holidays, but I think I can manage.  And no, Mayo Clinic, fruit does not substitute for chocolate.  I don’t care how fresh it is.
¨     No snacks (what the crap?  Aren’t you supposed to snack in between meals to keep up your metabolism?  Turns out, they’re talking about “snack foods” – here’s where they try to trick you into eating more fruits and veggies.  Again an apple DOES NOT EQUAL a Snickers bar.  Stay strong.)
¨     Moderate meat and low-fat dairy (I was raised with the mentality that your meal was:  meat, veggie and starch.  And a big glass of milk.  Hmmm…)
¨     No eating at restaurants (AHHH!)

I’m managing to track my eating, I'm drinking more water (what are my other options, if I can’t have WINE at night!?) and Nate and I are not eating out. 

I have a confession.  On day 2, I had a slip.  We hired two new people to my team, and there was a welcome lunch for them at Bacio.  I couldn’t say no.  I did, however, manage to avoid the bread bowl, dessert and got myself a salad with salmon.  Light protein and good fats, veggies and low on the carbs.   I’m not perfect at this – but I am TRYING to make good choices if I can’t make PERFECT ones.

I also managed to make myself a GREEN MONSTER smoothie for breakfast on my way out the door.  I know there are million options out there.  Mine had:
¨     Big handful of spinach (I promise, you can’t taste anything)
¨     Frozen berries, about ½ cup
¨     ½ banana
¨     1 spoonful of 0% fat Greek yogurt
¨     Splash of skim milk

Thank you Magic Bullet blender – love those info-mercials.  I even made it easier on myself by trying to portion out the spinach and fruit into baggies.  Sounds geeky and putsy, but it has helped eliminate that “no time” excuse that I often have.  One baggie, another baggie, scoop, splash, cut, blend for 5 seconds and you’re done.

Long story, short – I’m trying.  I’m resisting the urge to snack right now as I type this in front of the Gopher Basketball game.  I’m drinking water instead of wine.  I’ve walked a lot at work and once it gets above freezing, we may actually get one of those family walks in.

Small steps.  And I’m reminding myself that even if I do slip, I haven’t fallen off the cliff.  Just try again tomorrow.


It's all about lifestyle

If you've known me, you've known that I've always been 2 things:  tall and thin.  That is, until I had my babies.  For some reason, rebounding after a 2nd child in your LATE 20s isn't very easy.  Or it wasn't easy for me - the one who, embarrassingly, is very sedate in her exercise and lavish in her food choices.

NOTE:  The next 3 months are going to contain very personal and vulnerable posts.  I am going to document my challenges with losing weight AND changing my life, or at least the unhealthy part.  Otherwise, I'm pretty awesome and if it ain't broker...  More than anything, I'm writing here as another place to make myself accountable.  Something about strength in numbers and being responsible for things.  I've heard it helps.

And before you jump in to the "you look great" talk (which I love, so I guess I won't protest too hard) let me just say: STOP.  I'm pretty sure I only have female readers (other than the occasional husband over the shoulder) and you know as well as I do that you're only as happy as YOU feel.  Compliments are great, but the internal ones mean the most.  This is totally for me. 

It's reasonable to expect that after a baby your body would need some time to adjust.  I am, however, not always a reasonable person.  After Liv, my body had gained 21 lbs.  Not a ton, but a lot for a girl who was always the "skinny one."  Life moved on, body bounced back (and the bounced up again) and here comes Avery.  Again, not a HUGE weight gain, but for me, I wasn't an ideal starting point to begin with.  I had gained 17 lbs with her, and while that number in it of itself doesn't seem like enough weight for a pregnancy, it was enough to put me at my largest point in my life.  Again - really really hard to come to terms with.

Chalking it up to baby weight, loose skin, water.... and here I am, still not fitting into clothes that I want to.  And I know why.  We like to eat out, snack on chips, having cocktails and relax rather than go for that family run we're always talking about.

Nate has agreed, we need to make some changes.  We're not junk food junkies in front of the kids.  I mean, Liv asks for broccoli more than any other food, but still.  I want to put on clothes and feel GOOD, you know?

Last weekend we went and bought "The Mayo Clinic Diet."  I had first referred to it as the "Mayo Diet," but I'm sure that's a totally different thing.  It was also during this time that I discovered I wanted a Nook Tablet.  (Santa, are you listening???)  This is a diet that requires a lot of obvious lifestyle changes, but also a 2 week period of "habit" changing activities.

A few of the critical hurdles for us will be not going out and not drinking alcohol.  That being said, the diet will start on Sunday, December 4th:  the day AFTER my 30th birthday party.  Perhaps doing this around the holidays is a poor choice setting ourselves up for failure, but at the same time, if we can support one another and stick to it, the rest of the time should be cake.  Or carrot cake at least.


I'm Blank Because...

I'm weird because...
I like ice in my milk.
I watch TV with the remote resting on my chin, over my lips.
I love to read, but would rather watch the movie.
I'm not a cuddler.  I love hugs, but I am a contact sleeper.  You have your side, I'll have mine, thank you.
My secret craving is sour cream and onion chips dipped in ketchup.
I could eat green olives like popcorn.
I love holiday decorations, and yet, I really really hate putting them up and taking them down.
I know every word to the movie Speed.  (A youthful obsession with Keanu Reeves.)

I'm a bad friend because...
I don't always return messages or texts right away (if at all)
I "might" use my kids to get out of social activities if I'm too tired.
I'm happy to bring a treat/food/drink to share, but expect that you'll feed me if you invite me to your home.

I'm a good friend because...
I'm a good listener.
I'm trustworthy.
I'll remember your birthday without Facebook (though it is sometimes a crutch)
My friends are my "chosen" family and I'll love you like no other.

I'm sad because...
My sister doesn't live closer to me.
I HAVE to work.  Not that I GET to.
The stress of life may be making me a bad, crabby mom and wife - though I do try.
My girls are growing up so fast and some days I feel like I'm missing it.
I feel selfish with my "honest" thoughts some days.

I'm happy because...
I have a lot of good things in my life.
I have a husband who supports my hobbies (ie Etsy and such)
I have parents who live close enough to watch my girls - they'll have memories that will last a lifetime.
I have DVR.  (Don't judge the shallow nature of that statement.)
I have had two healthy pregnancies and two healthy babies.

I'm excited for...
Hearing Avery's speaking voice (though I know once that can of worms is opened, it never stops!)
Going on a warm vacation with Nate - we've never done that.
Liv on Christmas morning this year - she's so excited and it's not even Thanksgiving yet.
Every Food Network magazine that comes to my door.
The next trip to Beaches - spring 2012! (Actual reservation TBD)

My favorite things

So I may not be Oprah, but I thought I should share some of my favorite finds out there.  Something fun to spark those shopping (or menu lists) for the holidays.  And while putting this together, I realized this was fun.  I may have to do one of my "wish" list too.  Skies the limit, right?!  Enjoy!!

For my teething baby, who is a mess of drool, boggers and pain, these have been a Godsend.  What baby doesn't love to put ANYTHING in their mouth, and what mom isn't always looking for the cleanest item to appease them.  Insert the teething bracelet.  Worn as a standard cute accessory, it's fantastic and look, with the flick of a hand, instant teething ring.

Five bucks.  Bam!

From TNTees on Etsy

After watching Top Chef and seeing Rick Bayless rock the house (or the kitchen for sure) I am obsessed with Frontera products.  I'm actually hoping the next trip we make to visit the Hattons in Chicago, that we can make it to his restaurant!

I discovered his salsa when I shopped from Coburns delivers, now, in your grocery aisle, there are various enchilada and taco sauces.  SO EASY.  Our favorite is the red enchilada sauce.  Simply roll shredded cheese in tortillas, dump this pack over, bake for 15 minutes and you're done.  Easy peasy!  These packets are only about 3 bucks - not bad for a tasty dinner that makes you look like a kitchen rock star!

This next item is completely selfish.  The price tag isn't terribly high for boots, and yet I still haven't been able to just go ahead and swipe the ole card at DSW.  Being that boots and leggings are all the rage (thus the diet that's coming up for me very soon to fit INTO those leggings and skinny jeans) these are so cute, I can't stand it.  I saw them once and have gone back a few several many times to look at them since.

I love them in black, but the chocolate brown is also very nice. 

And what's a pair of boots without a cute pair of leggings to go with them!?  Winter leggings from Ameican Apparel - so nice!  Comfy, warm, thicker so you don't freeze immediately upon leaving the house.  Got mine in charcoal (not burnt orange or evergreen.  Love the colors, just not on my legs!)  Now again, to start that diet (the day AFTER my birthday) so my ass can once again look like this.  I can promise you, this model is never had a baby come out of her body.  Or at least that is what I must tell myself.

$38 well spent.  A bit steep for my cheapo budget, but then again, I see these getting a lot of wear.  ESPECIALLY if I got those boots (hint hint husband)

 My Levenger Circa notebook - ah-maz-ing..  My boss bought one for me as a "thank you" for completing the various projects we had running right when I started my new job.  After using this, I'm not sure I'll ever go back to using a regular spiral bound notebook.  The pages are punched in such a way so that you can easily slip things in and out.  And being that I've been trekking between two office buildings lately (now to be moving BACK to my original Golden Valley home), the portability of documents for meetings has been great.

I'm tempted to get a smaller one to use at home for my According to L shop and blog planning, but then, that would also indicate that I have DO planning for that sort of stuff!  Mostly, I just jot stuff down on post-its when the ideas come to me.  Again.  Get your act together Liz.  You've got a whole Pinterest board dedicated to it!

Now, wouldn't this be great if I WERE Oprah and now the elves would come pouring out from back stage with boxes and bags for everyone.  Well, maybe someday.

Happy shopping all the same!!!

DIY Infinity scarf

This might be the easiest project out there.  Probably the hardest part is making time to get out of the house to get a t-shirt to use, that is if you don't already have an old one lying around.

I saw one at American Apparel and loved it.  Not so much the price tag.  $37 for cotton.  Yeah, no thanks.

The steps are simple:

Take a t-shirt, the bigger the better (XL or larger)  I used an XL woman's from Old Navy, but probably should have gone for the XXL.
Grab a pair of scissors.

Lay the t-shirt out flat and cut along the bottom seam, removing the entire length of the bottom.

 Next, line up your scissors under the armpit and cut straight across the chest of the shirt.  I'm sure I'll think of something for the extra shoulder and arm fabric.  A short sleeved shirt would have made more sense, but oddly enough - they don't sell many of those in November in winter!

Almost done.

Now STRETCH.....and stretch and stretch and stretch and stretch and stretch and stretch.  I would suggest using something stationary and leveraging as much strength as you can without ripping it.  Trust me, the stretchier the better when it comes to actually wearing the scarf (again, XXL would have helped too!)

The blury, constantly moving baby was ZERO help in the stretching task.

REMINDER:  Go to National Camera and get help with using your camera.  You spent too much to not get good photos.

Dear GOD, I have a dirty bathroom mirror.  Nate was napping when I did this, so I didn't have my normal photographer on hand.  Note to self, CLEAN UP.  Here, the iPhone photo isn't better but it at least isn't shameful in the cleanliness of my house.  Something about my kids making memories or something like that.

Now wrap and your fabulous.  Seriously, that's it.  The jersey fabric doesn't fray, so there's no need to hem.  Why didn't I buy more t-shirts when I was out!


Button t-shirt

I should just vocalize again how AWESOME Pinterest is.  So much inspiration and creativity, not to mention hilarious posts like this one:


This was one of the first crafting projects I found out there, but it's taken awhile to get there.  Mostly for lack of courage at using a needle and thread (I'm much better with a glue gun) but I think it turned out OK.

What you'll need:
* buttons
* t-shirt or onesie
* needle
* thread

I've been keeping a "stash" of those extra buttons that come on pants and sweaters in the same little plastic blue cup since freshman year of college.  I decided to rake through that pile first to see what I could find for my first venture.

Turns out, I have a lot of clear or black buttons (thanks Express pants).  Not exactly the sweetie little color pallet I was hoping for for Baby Belle.  So I improvised with what I had and will probably have to take ANOTHER trip to Jo Ann Fabrics.  Shucks.

So after picking through what I had and trying different options, I settled on this arrangement.  

 Channeling my home ec days from good ole Maple Grove Junior High, I tried to remember the best way to sew on a button.  Again - better with a glue gun.

Didn't turn out half bad.

Baby legs DIY coming soon - once I get better at my seams (notice the cropping of the photo!)

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