An Uncomplicated Life Blog: June 2015

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fashion: When to Invest and When to Skimp

I do few and far between fashion posts here, largely because a) I'm not a fashionista after ditching my career to become a toddler-chaser and baby-maker b) I don't like to shop and c) I find the vast majority of fashion blogs annoying. Like, don't tell me you wore that tulle skirt and midriff top to the Farmer's Market over the weekend. BS! You snapped your pics there and quickly changed because you looked so foolish. That's the real truth behind fashion blogging, my friends, and I find is so absurd.

Believe it or not, I am into fashion. Even high-end stuff. In fact, I wear the high-end stuff daily.

So how does one wear high-end fashion and accessories around children without everything being destroyed? If you're on a budget, how does one get access to high end brands yet still have more than one outfit to choose from?

Easy(ish): You buy invest pieces. What's an "investment piece"? Something that won't go out of style for five, 10 or even 15 years and that will wear/hold up incredibly well.

My designer pieces consist mostly of handbags, sunglasses, jeans and a few pairs of shoes. Not everyday shoes, but specialty shoes that get worn a few times a year. Good-fitting, expensive jeans are ALWAYS a great investment. The fabric holds up to wear and the superior fit makes everything you wear with them look better (not to mention your rump!) A neutral handbag can be worn with everything, and most designers have a lifetime warranty on the bag to fix wear and tear at no additional cost to you.

Splurge on accessories

Not only do these things hold up well, they can be worn with multiple outfits. They blend with less expensive brands to create an outfit. And most importantly, they're not "trendy" and will still be beautiful in 10 or more years.

Sweaters? Tee shirts? Maternity clothes? All of those I buy at affordable stores, and on sale to boot. They get worn daily and washed frequently and thus will either fall apart sooner or be off-trend in a season or two. ONE TIME I dropped cash bills on a cashmere sweater. First it got snagged at the dry cleaners. I switched cleaners out of anger and do you know what happened? The next one LOST IT. They had a $200 cap on reimbursing items, and let me tell you, that sweater was far more than that.

Save on basics

Moral of the story? Don't buy a Louis Vuitton sweater; save that money for the handbag you'll carry for decades. That you'll wear with multiple outfits, even the cheap maternity dress from Old Navy. When you invest in high end accessories, you'll make your whole outfit look more expensive, without it actually being expensive.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Pregnancy Fitness: Heart Rate Monitoring

Most of us know, it is SO important to workout. Getting the heart pumping and the blood flowing has both physical and mental benefits. When you're pregnant, this is even more true! Women who workout while pregnant have been proven to have less painful pregnancies, shorter labors,  and the newest study even cited having SMARTER CHILDREN.

Not just slightly smarter children either; dramatically improved and advanced brain functionality in babies. Researchers think the increased oxygen and blood flow to the developing baby's brain helps it form and function at a faster rate compared to mother's who rarely to never worked out in their pregnancies. Awesome news for us fitness-fanatic mamas!

However, it's still important to stay safe while you're working out and not push yourself too hard. But what's "too hard" and how do you properly manage that? Heart rate monitors, to the rescue!

I got a heart rate monitor for Mother's Day so that I'm able to track where I'm at and ensure it's not getting too high. Make sure to wear your monitor and track where you are regularly until you start to learn how your body functions given the various exercise programs you chose to do. Consult with your doctor on what your max bpm should be given the parameters of your pregnancy.

My resting heart rate is while pregnant is only 50-55 bpm because I've been working out and training for so many years. Due to that, I feel comfortable getting up to about 150 bpm because I know I can get it back down in about five to 10 seconds with a quick rest. I know some doctors don't recommend anything above 140 or pregnant women, but mine knows I was (am?) an endurance athlete in great condition, so a quick spike given a quick recovery is A-OK with her. Again - check with your doctor on what's best for you!

I took my first trimester off from running, just like I did with Henry. Instead, I did Pilates, barre classes, yoga, circuit training, and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) classes with modifications. Now that I'm in my second trimester, I'm doing all those things, plus re-incorporating running. Very slow running... But running nonetheless.

With Pilates and yoga, my heart rate never gets above 130-135, so those are great options for all fitness levels and all pregnant women. Check out this post on how to pick out a studio that's best for you!

The barre classes I go to does cardio bursts in the workout, and I can get up into the high 140's. If you're looking into trying out some barre classes while pregnant, call the studio ahead of time to ask about the class format, and be sure to wear your heart rate monitor and/or listen to your body for signs of fatigue. Bring water and make sure to take "breathers" or moments where you rest.

I use the Garmin Vivofit

If you weren't a fitness guru before becoming pregnant, I wouldn't recommend starting with a circuit training or HIIT class. Even when I'm not going full-out, I get into the 150's-160's and I'm regularly the only one standing in the class, panting and watching my wrist for my heart rate to come down. I don't mind though, because I couldn't care less how foolish I do or don't look. That's been the glory of getting older; you simply stop caring what others think!

If you're pregnant or looking to get pregnant soon, I recommend investing in a good heart rate monitor. It has helped me stay far more active with this pregnancy than with my first! I can do all the fitness classes I love while still keeping myself and my baby in safe and healthy heart rate ranges.

Friday, June 26, 2015

5 Refreshing Summer Drinks

Summer is officially here this week! When it heats up outside, I find myself craving lighter foods and beverages, filled with fresh fruits and veggies. A cream-based soup sounds great and cozy for winter, but in 103 degrees? No thanks!

In celebration of the summer season, I've rounded up some of the best recipes for light, fruity summer beverages. Some are boozy, some aren't. If you're still able to enjoy alcohol, aka NOT pregnant, poor a little out for your sober homie Paige, mmmmk?

1) Red Wine Berry Spritzer
There is NOTHING better than a wine spritzer by the pool! The mineral water helps to hydrate you and the bubbles add a refreshing element. Add some fresh berries to take it up a notch! You can do this with white wine too - both are delicious.

Recipe and image source

2) Coconut Water and Strawberry {Mocktail} Cocktail
This bevvie had me at coconut water, mint and basil! How refreshing is that? I'll be subbing out the champs for sparkling grape juice. The recipe used Vita Coco coconut water... I'm a bit of a coconut water connoisseur and I'll tell you that is the WORST tasting brand. It's not even drinkable, IMO. Use anything but that brand, unlike what the blogger suggests.

Recipe and image source

3) Fresh Squeezed Lemonade
Have you ever had real, fresh made lemonade? Ohmygersh, it's so good. I like mine on the more tart side so I usually take out some of the sugar recipes call for, but do as you will. Just give it a try and taste the difference from concentrate/pre-made stuff!

Recipe and image source

4) Brazilian Limeade
While I seriously enjoy lemonade, I have a deep love affair with limeade! It just tastes... Better. What makes this "Brazilian"? No, it's not hairless and there's no silicone breasts in the recipe. There's sweetened condensed milk in it. I feel like American's are forgetting the glory that is condensed milk (sweetened or not). This recipe will remind you.

Recipe and image source

5) Infused Water
Sometimes something sugary is just too much. When it's REALLY hot, I find I prefer nonsweet beverages, but when they're cold, that's hard to come by. Infusing water with fruit and herbs is a great way to bring some flavor without all the sugar! The link below has 20 different combinations, and you can get as creative as you want.

Recipe and image source

What kind of beverages do you enjoy during the summer months?

As always, linking up with Karli, Amanda and H54F!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Why I Moved to the South

When I was writing this post about what I love and don't remotely understand about becoming a Southerner, I thought, hey! I've never actually shared the amusing story on how I came to find myself down here.

Pour yourself a beverage and stay awhile as I regale you with the not-so-tall-tale of Why I Moved South!

I lived in Savannah, GA for graduate school, and frankly, didn't want to leave. But even IF I could find a decent job, it would pay me about half of what I could make in a larger city, and I now had graduate school loans on top of undergrad school loans to pay. I was hell-bent on moving to Washington DC, a mecca for nonprofit careers. Alas, I tried and tried to secure a position there before my lease in Savannah ended, to no avail. Rent in that city is atrocious, and without the promise of an income, my poor graduate school'd self couldn't swing it.

I found myself packing up my possessions to move back to Minnesota, where despite the terrible recession of 2009 I found a great position with even better pay in under three shorts months. I was thrilled about the job, but so incredibly bummed to be back in Minneapolis. I cried nearly the whole 26 hour drive back.

Two years later, that great job laid me off. It wasn't all bad; I took a temp role in finance where I re-met my now husband (hmmm... Future post idea!) and eventually got another job as a grant manager for a great medical research foundation.

Now, Minneapolis is fun. There's a ton of cultural events, some of the best restaurants in the US (surprising, no?!) and the summers are UNBEATABLE! You spend the whole three months outside, partying on boats on Lake Minnetonka, running around the chain of lakes in the city, having Sunday Funday on patios.

That is... IF you already have a group of friends. If you're a transplant, good luck. The social climate is as icy as it's physical climate, and even Minnesotans admit this. I wasn't a transplant per se, but I had spent a good amount of time away. I wasn't connected to many of my friends in high school anymore, because hey - life happens and we move on. I wasn't connected to any of my sorority sisters still living in town because I stupidly invested all my time in my college boyfriend, who was a TA at the university we went to, and refused to hang out with any of my friends "in case they became his future students." Or, because he was a self-adsorbed a-hole, it's hard to say.

Regardless, I found myself in my mid-late 20's and constantly lonely there. I made a few friends at work and a few friends at my gym and occasionally saw my two friends from high school I still talked to. But truthfully, that was it. I dated extensively so I wouldn't spend my weekends alone.

Fast forward to me being 28, and hubs and I were happily dating. He traveled extensively for work (I'm talking he was gone M-F four weeks a month) but we'd spend our weekends together. I'd do my own thing during the week, either hitting up a happy hour with one of all six or so friends I had or hit up classes at my gym. I was content! I had a cute little apartment in the trendiest part of town and a cute little dog and a good job and just enough social interaction to keep me happy.

Then winter of '12 hit. I would wake up at 4am to dig my car out of three feet of snow (work is never cancelled and you're expected to be on time regardless of what Mother Nature throws at you there). My dog would walk halfway down the block and shrivel into a little ball, he was so cold for those -24 degree morning walks. I'd carry him home, wrapping him in my coat as best I could. It was so, so cold, and so, so dark. One day at work, I got a text from then-boyfriend hubs: "My job just got eliminated."

The news wasn't all bad! They were offering him a choice: Transfer to Texas or take a decent severance package. Then-boyfriend hubs was leaning toward the severance package. "Are you crazy?! It's nearly impossible to find positions in your line of work these days. Take the job in Texas!" I said. So he did. He I got to chose between Dallas and Houston. So... Obviously that meant Dallas.

My plan was to stay in Minneapolis through the end of my lease on my cute little apartment. I'd job hunt from up there and join him in the summer of '13. Valentine's Day came, two weeks before he moved permanently to Texas, and he proposed! Then the real craziness set in.

One Sunday it was 36 degrees, practically summer for February in Minneapolis. I got an extra long walk in with my dog and wasn't miserable running weekend errands. It was a miracle! Overnight, it dropped to -40. Do you know what -40 feels like? You don't want to, trust me. That dramatic drop happened so fast, all the air depressurized from two of my tires. Did I notice before I took off for work? Hell no, I was too focused on getting out of the wind!

I drove to work (a whole mile and a half away) on two flat tires, which ruined them. Weird lights were flashing on the computer screen in my dashboard. I put air in my tires and made an appointment at my dealership. "Um yeah,  you need all new tires since you have all wheel drive and crushed the side walls driving on flats, and you also need a new oil line since there's water in yours that froze and nearly blocked oil getting to your engine. The good news is that your engine isn't destroyed, and we've had about 10 people come in with destroyed engines today! The bad news is that it's about $2500."

I called then-fiance hubs crying. I worked at a nonprofit, lived on my own and was repaying my school debt. I didn't have a spare $2500. I was so sick of the bullshit dark, dark winter. I was so sick of the bullshit social climate in Minneapolis. I was getting so sick of the culture of my job (everyone was "so busy!" all the time. NO. Just no. You make yourself busy by complaining about your work for half the day... If you'd knock that off, you'd have time to actually do your job!) and basically, I was just over everything, especially living in a city where the climate alone was responsible for $2500 of damage to my car! *sob, sniff, sob sob*

Then-fiance hubs not only gave me $2500 to fix my car, he told me to quit my job and sublet my place and join him in Dallas, ASAP. He didn't need to tell me twice. I put in my two weeks the next day at work and got permission from my landlord to sublet my place. I called my folks, begging them to help me move across the country one. more. time. "Only if you promise to never move back there again!" my mom joked.

We packed up the trailer and two cars. What wouldn't fit (which was most stuff) got donated. I gleefully threw out all my SmartWool socks, and tossed my dog's winter booties. We got done loading everything up around noon the day I needed to be out of my apartment. I threw my dog and then-fiance's do in the back seat of my little Audi (poor guys had to sit on boxes and bags of crap), threw it in drive, turned it south and pushed on the gas as hard as I could (you know, given the ice on the road).

It's an 18 hour drive south on I-35 from Minneapolis to Dallas. We started February 26, spent the night in southern Iowa, and got into Dallas during the evening rush hour on the 27th. Parts of the drive were icy and windy and scary. But I distinctly remember crossing the state line into Oklahoma and magically (seriously, oddly so!) it got 10 degrees warmer and there was green grass. GREEN grass! In February! I hadn't seen anything besides white and grey for months.

I breathed a deep sigh of relief. "Thank God I'm finally out of that frozen hellhole!" I rolled down the windows a little bit for the dogs, cranked up the tunes, and increased my speed. I was home again.

If you're still reading, congrats! Excellent attention span... Or my writing really grabbed you. I'mma go with the latter over the former, just to stroke my ego, mmmmmk?


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Summer Maternity Fashion: Pops of Neon!

Oh, hey heyyyyyyy! It's been a while since I've done a fashion post. Months, in fact. I suppose that's what happens when you're deep in the gallows of your first trimester of pregnancy: bloated, broken out and too tired for anything other than a greasy pony tail. And by "you" I mean me.

Alas, I'm busting up out of that dreadful first trimester about as much as my baby bump is busting up out of my non-maternity clothes! They weren't kidding when they said your second baby shows much faster than your first... Whoever "they" are. "They" know their stuff!

I have two pairs of maternity shorts from my pregnancy days with Henry that I pulled out last week, but am not quite bumpalicious enough for maternity shirts. I needed some more "small bump" options.

On a whim I ventured out to Old Navy, which I honestly haven't been in since I was in Jr. High school, and found their maternity section. Not the biggest selection, but I was able to find another pair of shorts and this sundress that wasn't too "loud" and attention-grabbing. Their prices are fantastic and I even picked up some items for Henry!

Dress: Old Navy // Sandals: Sperry // Necklace: J Crew

The dress is cotton and super comfy. The straps are adjustable and there's flattering rouching in the front for growing baby bumps. I paired it with a neon yellow accent color in my sandals and necklace to be colorful for the new summer season! It could also easily have a neutral cardigan and understated accessories as we transition to nope, still summer in Texas fall.

And per usual, you know I love me a good stripe!

If you're looking for affordable maternity options, I'd definitely check out Old Navy. Their online selection is much better than the store I was in. Buyer beware: their sizing is MASSIVE. I bought size XS, and am still swimming in it. Be sure to size down to accommodate their extremely inflated sizes!

Linking up with the ladies over at The Creative Closet to hang out with other bloggers showing off their "pops of neon"!
The Creative Closet

Monday, June 22, 2015

Daddy's Second Father's Day

This weekend was hubs second Father's Day. Which, being the terrible wife I am, I completely forgot. Not the Father's Day part, I remembered that! But the part where Henry was already born by Father's Day last year, making this hubs' second daddy's day.  I'll chalk that up to pregnancy brain... Either pregnancy brain from last year or this. I have options with these back-to-back pregnancies. #perks

Anyway, I did NOT forget Father's Day. Henry and I teamed up and made daddy a cute print (thanks Pinterst!) with Henry's foot print on it, and got him a card. The card was for a daddy's first Father's Day, because, you know, pregnancy brain.

I asked hubs if he wanted me to make breakfast or dinner or anything special. You know what he wanted? Donuts. So he got up early with Lil' H and went to get fresh donuts. He tried to get Henry on board with the morning sugar rush, but I don't think he was successful.

Squiggly toddlers and nonstop Seattle-quality-weather make for grainy photos. He spit the donut out. That's my boy!

Any outdoor plans were rained out, just like for Mother's Day, so we kept the day simple and restful. After his sugar rush, he opened his present. Crafting tip: if you have a toddler as squirmy as mine, do this when they're sleeping! Blue paint was ev-er-y-where!

After daddy got a nap in, we went to yoga. Yes, I got my husband into yoga! He thought it was just a bunch of stretching, so I dragged him to a class a few years ago. He was hooked! The man works some 70-80 hours a week and can't make class during the workweek, but we've made it our tradition to go to a Sunday afternoon class every week together.

Daddy wanted tacos after yoga, so we hit up our favorite taco joint (literally, called Taco Joint. If you live in Dallas and haven't been, you're wasting your life away!) where daddy had a few cervezas and I over-indulged my pregnancy love for fountain root beer.

After we put our little man to sleep, we curled up on the couch and turned on one of the BEST SHOWS ON TV - True Detective. If you didn't watch last season, holyschmolly you're missing out! We hope this season can live up to Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson's greatness in season one.

Friday, June 19, 2015

5 Best "Me Time" Activities

If you read my last post, I talked about how important it is to have alone time. Being able to get out and run errands by yourself (if you have children, you know this struggle...) is a good start, but what I'm really talking about is time to focus on YOU and your needs.

Thirteen months after Henry entered the world, and I'm finally getting some time to get back to this.

If you're like me and haven't had this luxury in a good long while, or perhaps you've never taken the time to spend quality time with yourself (I'm not talking about Netflix binges or internet stalking sessions, I mean quality time!), here is a great list of activities to do... With YOU!

1) Read a book. I just stated Wild by Cheryl Strayed and highly recommend it, even if you've seen the movie (which was also great). Get an actual book, not a magazine, newspaper or other internet reads - these are all written at the 4th-8th grade level. When you pick up a book, you'll be amazed at how much more invigorated your brain becomes! You'll start to think more critically and use vocabulary you haven't even thought of since your college days.

2) Spend some time outside. Without headphones/ear buds! Go for a walk and listen to the birds, sit by a lake like I did and people watch, soak up some vitamin D in your back yard as you listen to the wind in the trees. Unplug from technology and replug into nature, even for 15 minutes. Think I'm a peace-pipe-smoking-hippie? Try it and watch your mood improve.

3) Take a bath. No, not a shower. A bath. That you can sit in. Sit back and relax all your muscles. Take deep breaths. Try to quiet your mind and focus on relaxing, letting all thoughts go. I love to add a good aromatherapy bath salt. When I'm not pregnant, I take a glass of red wine in with me (I recommend stem-less glasses). Light candles if it will help you to relax. This is a great way to end a day!

4) Get a hobby. I'm not talking learning to build model cars from scratch or inventing your own drone technology. Think something simple that you can pick up and put down at your own speed. Jaelan loves to paint. My sister loves to knit. I really enjoy cooking. Adult coloring books have made a massive splash in recent weeks. Find something you enjoy doing or experiment with different things until you find a passion!

An Uncomplicated Life Blog recipes

5) Journal. This one is huge! It can be a basic notebook or you can get something fancy that inspires you to write regularly. Don't know what to write? Talk about what happened that day and how it made you feel. Write about what makes you happy. Write about what makes you sad. Getting thoughts and emotions out on paper not only helps us to process them, but also helps in getting us to think about them less, so we can move on in life and enjoy the present!

 What do you do in your spare time? Do you MAKE time for yourself?

As always, linking up with Amanda, Karli, H54F!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Importance of Alone Time

Since Henry started preschool two days a week, one thing has become abundantly clear: How absolutely important alone time is, even for the most extreme of extroverts. I'm pretty high up on the extrovert scale, too. But the last two weeks have shown me the real value of "me time."

The other thing that has become painfully clear is how little alone time stay at home moms (SAHM) get. Yes; specifically SAHM's, not just all moms, although we're all lacking in sufficient alone time.

Let me paint the picture: I drop Henry off at school for his very first day. As soon as I'm alone, I head straight to my favorite coffee shop, get a latte (which I consider a treat - I never get fancy coffee!), and head over to my favorite spot in Dallas: White Rock Lake. I roll down all the windows, open the sun roof, and simply sit there in silence, enjoying my coffee, listening to birds and watching a rowing team practice on the lake.

It crossed my mind that I have not been alone, truly, absolutely alone, more than once or twice since Henry was born. Sure, I might get an hour to run to a crowded grocery store on the weekends, and a few times I've been able to coordinate schedules with my husband so I can get my hair done. But people are always around, talking to me, getting in my way, telling me how much things cost or asking me questions.

But true, quiet alone time is a rarity.

SAHM's are never alone. It's rarely appropriate to use the word never, but that's indeed the case here. I don't get to go to the bathroom by myself. Even though our bathrooms have a separate room for the toilet, that door stays open so Henry can see me. All moms know this is the easier way to do it! He's always in the car with me. He's at my feet when I write blog posts, sometimes behaving, sometimes not. My meals are not my own; because he's with me all day, he eats whatever I eat and usually prefers it right out of my hand or off my plate.  Even when Henry goes down for a nap, I have to keep an ear out for him and drop what I'm doing to get him when he wakes. I don't get a guaranteed one or two hours of non-baby time per day, no promised showers and definitely zero thinking time.

I love having Henry with me, but last week I was reminded on how important being alone is. Un-rushed. Without having to ask my husband to watch him while I scramble to get something done, checking my phone for any emergencies/questions that come up. I'm talking completely alone time, time to think, time to sit and just be, time to slowly sip your coffee/eat a meal un-rushed and without little hands getting into it.

My lake side treat: a 2% latte and breakfast sandwich. No little hands got into this sam'ich, I shared with no one!

After just 30 minutes by that lake in the car by myself, I noticed I was much calmer. I was happier. I didn't resent anything in my life. I had a more positive perspective on things. Alone time is important for the mental health of all of us, but even more so for the SAHM who rarely, if ever, gets it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Can's and Cannot's of a Northerner-Turned-Southerner

It's no secret. I hail from Minneapolis; I spent a total of 26 years of my life there. But I happily carted off to the Deep South for graduate school in Savannah, GA. Then when hubs was offered a job in Dallas, TX, I more or less screamed at him, "TAKE IT! I want OUT of this frozen hellhole!"

So alas, I find myself permanently placed below the Mason-Dixon. Overall, I'm quite happy with it. I'm all about these mild winters and hot summers; well-mannered people everywhere I go; soft accents; and the best tacos I've ever had.

There are some things I just can't get into, try as I might. So I thought I'd explain the can's and cannot's of a Northern woman transitioning into a Southerner.

I can get into sweet tea. Why anyone drinks iced tea unsweetened is beyond me. Cold, bitter tea does not taste good!

I cannot get into chicken fried steak. That stuff is nasty! Why on earth would you pound, batter and deep fry (read: cook to death) a piece of steak?! Steak should be marinated/well seasoned and cooked to medium/medium rare. Deep frying beef is plain disgusting, no matter how much gravy you put on it.

I can adapt to saying y'all. It's so much easier than "you guys"! After a long convo with a Minnesotan girlfriend, I reverted back to "you guys" and stopped dead in my sentence... And laughed. No no. It's y'all now.

I cannot get into Lily Pulitzer. Those loud prints are best left for girls under the age of 10, and smocks are flattering on no one.

I can drive as fast as y'all on the interstate! I would say this is a Texan thing, but I spent some time in Atlanta and it was the same way. 80-85mph is completely reasonable. In fact, it might just be a Minnesotan thing to only drive 45mph in a 55, ESPECIALLY in the left hand lane. Add that to the list of things I don't miss...

I cannot understand why schools are cancelled at the threat of snow. Get it together, South, an inch or two of white stuff isn't going to ruin your day.

I can get into all the diversity in the South. It makes for a far better, more interesting community that promotes well-rounded individuals. Minnesota is called the Great White North for more reasons than just snow, if you catch my drift (so many puns!)

I cannot get into Texas chili. It's just over-seasoned meat... No veggies, no beans, just beef. Like, can I have a tortilla or some sour cream to go with this? Texas, your tacos are ON POINT, but your chili sucks.

I can get behind how social everyone is. I've had no problem making friends, both in grad school and in Texas. Everyone wants to hang out! People call you to do things! There are invites galore! In Minnesota, if you didn't have your crew from high school or college, good luck. You might get some after work happy hour invites, if you work real hard at making friends. Super clique-ish, that place.

I cannot understand why farm-to-table restaurants aren't the norm here like they are in Minneapolis, or that I can't find a co-op/farm share for produce or meat. WTF, Dallas? Furthermore, if you go to a conventional grocery store, good luck finding organic/preservative free/actually healthy food. I mean damn, Big D. You are YEARS behind here.

If you've never left your hometown, even for just a year or two, do yourself a favor and do it. It shapes your prescriptive and opens your eyes to new cultures and ways of life! Moving South (twice) was the best thing I ever did for my happiness.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Big News!

Boom shaka-laka:

Yes dear readers, you're reading and seeing that right. My deep disdain for pregnancy has, somehow, led me to be pregnant again. Go figure. Here are some of the deets for family, friends and even the average blog reader who might simply be curious:

How far along are you? Right at the very end of the first trimester; 3 whole months!

How close will they be in age?! Depending on when the second baby actually arrives, they'll be around 19ish months apart.

Are you insane? Probably! But my sister and I are only 18mo apart, and it was the BEST growing up, and is still the BEST, and I honestly didn't want to wait until I figured out how great life can be without constant diaper changes. We wanted children close in age. We're deep in the "weeds" of babies; we plan on staying here until we emerge victorious with school-aged, self sufficient and potty trained mini-me's. Pray for us.

Is this pregnancy different than Henry? YES. I'm either not nearly as tired or I don't have time to feel tired because I'm always chasing after a toddler. I'm going with the latter, because I'm passed out by 9pm nightly. I'm also much more sick. Which I feel, but don't have time to pay attention to. In brighter news, I'm still working out six days a week, because working out through the fatigue and nausea is STILL less work than toddler-chasing. I'll spare you further details of first trimester pregnancy woes...

Weight gain? None yet! I lost weight for a while with all the sickness, but I'm back to ground zero. If memory serves me correctly, I didn't gain anything with Lil' H until around 16 weeks, so it'd be peachy if that were the case with #2, too.

Cravings? Fresh veggies are my JAM. Over-sized salads? Dish me up! All the fresh vegetables please. And any tomato-based sauces like marinara, salsa, etc. Root beer is pretty delish too.

Do you miss anything about not being pregnant? HAHAHAHAHA THIS IS THE DUMBEST QUESTION. Of course I do! Wine. Beer. HIIT workouts/training and getting my heart rate into training zones 4 and 5 (super high). Sushi. Ordering burgers medium rare. Wine. Before I appear ungrateful for this pregnancy, I will say that the return of the pregnancy boobs is pretty fantastic.

Do you know the gender? Not yet! I know there's a blood test that determines gender super early. Since I'm not over 35 or high-risk for a number of abnormalities, our insurance makes us pay for it. It's almost a grand. So, we'll be waiting for the 20 week anatomy scan to find out! All my friends say girl though. We'll find out shortly!

What are you most excited about? My mom got Henry this crawling doll shortly before he learned to crawl - you know, to encourage him to get to crawlin'. Well he treats that doll with so much love! He kisses it on it's head about 10 times a day. I'm so excited to watch him be a big brother. His demeanor is calm, patient, inquisitive and thoughtful so I think having a younger brother or sister around will be great for him - and the new baby!

Yeah, so... That's the biggest news around here. I've been dying to tell everyone since I'm no good at keeping secrets. All my local friends already know, because hello- I wasn't drinking wine when we'd hang out! Instant preggo giveaway. Now everyone is in on the secret. Yay!

Friday, June 12, 2015

5 Tips for Creating Business Partnerships with Your Blog

One of the best parts of being a blogger is creating business partnerships with other brands. Not only is it fun to learn about new companies and play with their products, but getting paid actual cash to blog is an awesome perk!

However, unless you have professional, office-level experience, it's easy to unintentionally offend potential business partnerships. You may even be turning away potential collaborations without realizing it!

So what are some great ways to create, build and maintain those partnerships? I've narrowed it down to 5 must-follow steps. Implement these in your blogging communications, and watch your site soar with great (and lucrative) business and brand partnerships!

1) Be professional in your email. Open with a salutation. Thank the business/brand manager for reaching out to you or thinking of your blog. Be clear about what you want and what you're willing to do for them. Do NOT use "text talk" such as "u" "ur" "srsly" and so on. Spell out your words and make sure you're using the right conjugation of your verb. Proper etiquette and grammar go miles with businesses!

2) Respond in a timely fashion, always. Don't wait two days to answer an email or return a phone call. Be available. Remember, blogs are a dime a dozen and if you keep a business waiting, they might find someone else who better meets their needs.

3) Know the quick stats on your blog. Be ready to answer how many social media followers you have in any given channel at the drop of a hat, as well as your monthly page views and unique monthly visitors. Know where to find more detailed information should they request it, such as your readers interests, or weekly engagement stats like comments and social media interaction numbers. It's YOUR site. You're the expert. Make sure you know and own your analytics, too.

4) Be assertive. I have a price for sponsored posts that includes details on what the sponsor "gets." I've had companies try to talk me down, or say they "don't have a budget for paid posts right now." Great, find another blogger! They don't work for free or a fraction of their salary - why should I? Respectfully ask for what you want out of the partnership.

5) Be flexible. If they want certain legal language in your post, insert it. If they want your post to go live on a certain day and time, try to honor that request. Be the kind of person YOU would want to work with.

Have you built any brand or business partnerships with your blog? Do you have any other tips for creating and maintaining the best relationship possible?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

When You're Just "Over" Blogging

When you read this, it will be sometime Wednesday, but currently it's Tuesday afternoon. And try as I might, I just can't muster up anything to write about.

I spent a solid 15 minutes on this site, which is an awesome blog post generator, and I even got some great blog post ideas to write about in the future! But not for today. No, today, I'm just over blogging.

Maybe it's because I just had a super challenging barre workout, then came home to scarf down three pieces of veggie pizza from last night. Maybe I'm sluggish.

Or maybe it's because I'm reading so many awesome recaps of other bloggers summer vacations, and we have nothing - zero, nada, zilch - for travel on the books. Perhaps I'm having a bit of travel FOMO/jealously and it's blocking my writing ability.

Then again, it could be that my child is currently cutting eight teeth, four of them molars, and has been whining nonstop for about 48 hours. Maybe Henry has whined the creativity out of my head.

Anyway you want to slice it, I'm currently "over" blogging. Better yet, I took a whole post to tell you that! I have great posts planned over the next week, but today there was a blank space in my planner where my blog post idea should have been.

And instead of busting a$$ to fix it, I'm just over here like meh.

So I'm just going to keep on humpin' through this Hump Day. Blog on, bloggers! I'm sitting this one out so I can digest all this pizza while I stalk your vacay pics and listen to a whiny, teething toddler.

Similar to the veggie pizza I just crushed. Image source.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Cleansing Your Face With Oil

It sounds counter-intuitive, right? "Wash" your oily/acne prone face for clearer skin? Isn't that stuff reserved for dry skin types only? 

Nope! Here's why: When you use harsh detergents, you strip your skin of it's natural oils. Your skin then gets "thirsty" and throws it's oil production into over-drive. That, in turn, makes your skin more oily, which you wash away with more harsh detergents that make your skin product more oil... And on and on.

I started washing my face with oil when I was pregnant with Henry. I was using a bunch of harsh chemicals to treat my combination skin and knew I had to stop when I found out I was expecting. I started slowly, and with each piece of skincare I transitioned out of my routine, I saw my skin get clearer and brighter.

Now, I'm 100% an all natural product and oil user to clean my face. It's a tough transition - the products don't lather and there are no "tingly" sensations to tell you "it's working" (or, that it's stripping your face of everything good...) but I assure you, it's worth it! Here's how it works:

Step one: Wash your face with Burt's Bees Orange Essence Facial Cleanser. This product won't lather; you just rub it into your wet skin and wash away. I like this product because it's taken oils and "gelled" them, so it's easier to use in the shower.

Step two: Tone your face with Burt's Bees Witch Hazel Toner.

Step three: Moisturize your whole face with a gentle, hypoallergenic moisturizer. I use Clinique as I've been using that since I was a teenager and it has absolutely no scent. I hate scents on my face! Feel free to omit this for a natural-based product; I'm sticking with it since it's worked for me for years.

Step four: Apply Burt's Bees Blemish Stick on your trouble spots. This is actually tea tree oil, which is a natural anti-bacterial. It will kill off any bacteria (where breakouts originate!) on your face without being too harsh!

Step four: Apply 2 or so drops of Frankensice Essential oil all over your face. This helps to keep your skin clear and calms any current redness you may have. It also helps to give you an overall healthy glow!

It takes time getting used to washing your face with oils. At first, I thought my skin just felt greasy and gross. But then, my skin stopped breaking out! Now, it's just super soft. It also helps to super-hydrate your skin - I have no wrinkles or crows feet, and I'm well over 30 years old!

Monday, June 8, 2015

3 Budget-Friendly Summmer Activities for Kids

I don't know about where you live, but the rain seems to have FINALLY cleared out of Texas, and the heat has finally rolled in: Summer is here!

I'm rounding up my favorite activities to do with a baby/toddler/kids that won't break the bank. Even if you don't necessarily need to be kept cool like we do here in Texas, you DO need to keep your sanity while the kids are home from school! Here are some great, affordable ways to get out of the house and mix up your summer routine.

3Budget-Friendly Summer Activities for Kids

1) Get a membership to a community pool or splash pad. Prices will range depending on where you live and what the facilities are like, but if you have a driver's license in that community to prove residency, you get a discounted rate! Season passes are always much cheaper than buying daily rates, provided you go often enough. Many places have a picnic area for you to bring a lunch too, keeping your choices much more healthy and affordable.

Also, look for free opportunities in your area. Dallas has Klyde Warren Park downtown, with splash pad fountains, a massive playground, picnic grounds and food trucks. Most Minneapolis public parks have kiddie pools that are free to access; check for their open days and times.

Splash pad at Klyde Warren Park... In the winter, because look at how cold those women look!

2) Check out the story time schedule at your local library. Nearly every public library has a program like this, ranging from several times a week to once a month. Larger libraries will have story time sessions further broken down by age group. Pull up the website or head to the closest library and see what's going on. It's "free" and a great way for your kids to interact with other kids over the summer months in a learning environment. (Free as in, your taxes already pay for it. At least you're not double paying for it, right?!)

Story time at public libraries

3) Head out to the country! Just a quick drive out of most cities, and you'll find animal/petting farms, berry picking and even educational/historic farms. Most have cheap admission prices of $5/adult, and most are picnic friendly so you can pack your own lunch. The educational/historic farms might be my favorite! Dallas has Nash Farm with a full schedule of special events through the fall ($3/adult, children are free), and Minneapolis has Gibbs Farm, which is actually in the city at the U of M campus. Check your local area to see what it offers and go explore the country - or the "country"!

Texas is known for it's black berry picking. Image source.

What are some of your other favorite activities to do over the summer? How do you keep those kiddos entertained and your sanity in check? I'd love to hear any more great ideas you have!

Friday, June 5, 2015

5 Best Curling Irons for Straight Hair

It was a sad day for my hair this week, y'all.

My beloved curling iron, the one I use every. single. day no longer turned on. No more heat came out of the barrel and no lights lit up to tell me she was ready for me. I've had this curling iron for nearly 10 years. It was a painful parting, dumping her in the trash.

What has also been painful is looking at my stick-straight hair since good ol' Conair departed! Thus, I'm in the market for a new curling iron. I know some of you readers are REALLY savvy with this stuff, so I thought I'd ask you: What should I get? Wand or traditional barrel with a clip? What size?

Here's what the internet recommended:

1) Sultra "The Bombshell" wand, $130

2) Conair Infinity Pro "You Curl" wand, $24.99

3) T3 BodyWaver traditional curling iron, $149

4) Sephora Collection "Sculpt" wand, $40

5) Conair Instant Heat traditional curling iron, $12.79

There's obviously a wide range of product types and prices here! I had a Conair, but didn't think it was amazing by any means. I'd prefer to not spend $130-$150, but if it's truly worth it, I'd consider! The Sultra Bombshell got rave reviews from multiple sites... But I'm not sure I want a wand.

Weigh in and help a girl out, will you?! My high end straightener (which I use for flat iron curls, oddly enough) was TOTALLY worth the investment. Should I buck up and invest in a proper curling iron/wand, too?

Linking up with Amanda, Karli, and H54F!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Thoughts on Body Shaming

By now, we all know Bruce Jenner has dominated the headlines since Monday. So you may have missed this piece of celebrity news:

Did you read Lauren Conrad's notice to ban body-shaming words from her site? Let's take a step back. Remember her? I fell in love with her way back in her Laguna Beach days, stayed in love through The Hills and now occasionally check out her massively successful clothing and blog empire. Just because we're old friends like that. I'm the secret BFF she doesn't know she has!

Anyway, the quick synopsis is this: She's spending June writing a lot of fitness material for her blog. As such, she and her editorial team decided to ban/omit the words "skinny" "thin" "slim" etc. from her articles. Instead, she's using terms like "healthy" "fit" and "toned." So, as opposed to seeing a headline that says, "3 Moves to the Perfect Skinny Arm!" you'll see "3 Moves to Tone Your Triceps This Summer" and so on and so forth.

I'm all in favor of this plan, since I'm SO SICK of reading BS headlines in magazines like Cosmo, Allure, Elle, etc. about how to "Make Those Skinny Jeans Fit!" and "How to Appear Slimmer in Selfies" and on and on...

What I was NOT prepared for was the nasty responses she got! The comments under the blog post I linked above are insane. Readers are asking why she's not banning words like plus-size, curvy and fat. People are actually body shaming HER in her comment section with remarks like "Must be nice to be skinny and rich and just ban those terms!" Are you freaking kidding me?

Guys. GUYS. Listen up here: She's writing fitness articles and workout plans for her blog. She decided to focus on health over America's obsession with looking more slim for those posts. What about this is hard to understand? Why in the name of Christmas would you take that opportunity to body shame HER?

It's an interesting reaction to note, though. How people automatically assumed SHE didn't want to be body shamed for being thin (and beautiful, wealthy, successful, etc), and assumed that was the reason behind her decision to not use those terms. They thought it was all about her, and in so rudely commenting, made it about themselves. Their own insecurities came through loud and clear in their snarky and ignorant statements.

I was embarrassed for what they said, and their blind ignorance to what she's trying to achieve with her site and brand. I've been body shamed for being thin more times than I care to count. I've been misunderstood, too. Put the two together and it's a recipe for a full out war against a thin woman trying to create solutions to a nasty cultural problem we have.

To Lauren, I say bravo! Way to take a stand and DO something about America's thin obsession. To her critics, I say get a clue. Their negative reactions, misinterpretations and their very own body shaming of Lauren ARE the problem she's attempting to address.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Hearty Wild Rice Pilaf

Hubs and I ate cheeseburgers and cupcakes all weekend long, so when Sunday night rolled around, it was time for some healthy vegetarian to help bring down our cholesterol and spiked blood sugar!

The great thing about this pilaf is that it's hearty enough for a main dish. Or you could add steak to it. It's flexible, which is what I strive for in all my recipes!

Hearty Wild Rice Pilaf

- 1.5 C wild rice (get the REAL wild rice - not the wild/white rice blend. Look for all dark, long grains like what's pictured below.)
- 1 package portabella mushrooms, sliced
- 1 leek
- 1 bunch kale
- 2 C dry red wine (I used Pinot Noir)
- 3 T butter
- 1 small package chevre/goat cheese
- 1 t salt
- 1 T rosemarry
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, bring several cups of water to boil. Strip kale away from inner stem, coarsely chop leafy sections and place in boiling water for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the kale and set aside. Use water from the boiled kale to cook the wild rice, per instructions on the package. Add 1 t of salt.

Slice the leek and put slices in a cool bowl of water. This will pull the sand out of the layers of leek, as they're gown in sand and are quite dirty. Let soak for a few minutes, then skim the leeks off the top of the water. The sand will settle to the bottom. Discard remaining water.

In large skillet, melt butter on low heat and add the leeks. After about five minutes, add the mushrooms. Once the mushrooms are brown, salt and pepper the mixture. Add the rosemarry and boiled kale and combine on low heat. Add the wine and turn up the heat to medium, stirring constantly.

Once the sauce has reduced by 2/3, leaving a thick chunky sauce behind, turn off the heat. Add the wild rice and mix well. Serve immediately and top each portion with desired amount of goat cheese. Enjoy!