Final Thoughts on the Whole30 Challenge

4 weeks ago, I embarked on a journey to better my health: The Whole30 Challenge. I committed to go 30 days without grains, dairy, legumes, soy, sugar, or alcohol. I assumed it would be difficult, but I was hoping it would change the way I thought about food, and break some of my bad habits. You might be surprised by what I learned about myself and food during this process!

I didn’t find the challenge nearly as challenging as I thought it would be! I was shocked that I didn’t go through serious sugar or alcohol withdrawal during the first week and feel all tired and crappy like most people claim they do. I actual felt pretty incredible the first two weeks. I had more energy and a lot of my bloat shrank down.

I didn’t even find prepping as difficult as I assumed it would be. I guess I was just so excited to be doing something so wonderful for my body, I was jacked up on endorphins or something! LOL!

After week 2, I started experiencing flare symptoms from my Crohn’s Disease. The bloat came back with a vengeance, bringing with it indigestion. My stomach was constantly grumbling, but not in hunger. I call it, “Angry Stomach Syndrome” or “ASS” for short.

So I decided to cut out some of the high FODMAP foods (apples, nuts, garlic, onions, etc.). I didn’t do as well with that as I should have, but I did manage to cut out garlic and onions for an entire week, which seemed to help.

Then the gas cramps started, and then the constant burning, and then the diarrhea. I got a cold during Week 4 as well, which seemed to exacerbate everything.

Today is Day 30. I decided to end my Whole30 journey two days ago, on Day 28. I was ready to throw in the towel on Day 27, and now I wish I would have so I could have enjoyed a cup of coffee (something I’m only going to allow myself to do on the weekend), but I decided I should just stick to my commitment and ride out the next 4 days.

The next day, I decided I didn’t care after all. I was in Dollar Tree getting plastic tiaras for my daughters for the upcoming Father-Daughter Dance (“Ties and Tiaras”) when I just decided, “I want cheese on my burger tonight…and I want a glass of wine…oh, and chocolate too!” I grabbed a 16 oz. Sprite, a little bag of fun sized York Peppermint Patties, and Reese’s Cups on my way to check out. I opened the Reese’s as soon as I got into the car and devoured them as slowly as I possibly could, savoring every sweet chocolate peanut-buttery bite. Then I washed it down with a couple gulps of Sprite. It. Was. Heavenly. I’ve given up soda for MONTHS before, and every time, they just don’t taste as good when I have them again. That was true this time too, but they never taste bad, just not as good. It’ll come back. And yes, I want it to.

The main thing I learned during this challenge is: I don’t want to give up the foods I love, not entirely at least. I know that I was eating far too much fast food before this challenge and that absolutely has to stop. I have fitness goals I want to reach and all that junk has definitely been holding me back. I want to continue drinking mostly water and eating mostly fruits, veggies, and lean meat or fish. So during the week, when I workout real hard, I’ll be eating super healthy. Then on the weekends, I’ll give myself a break. I don’t plan on going crazy on the weekends, but I plan on having that coffee (with cream and sugar/honey), some wine, some chocolate, maybe even a donut or some pizza and soda!

I didn’t make it to Day 30. I just didn’t care to. I have no intention of cutting out all grains, dairy, legumes, soy, sugar, or alcohol. I know I said before that I wanted to go Paleo after this challenge, but I changed my mind. I like cheese and I really don’t eat that much of it. I like lactose free milk in my coffee. I like Greek yogurt. I like the occasional grilled cheese, pb&j, or bagel with cream cheese. I like chili WITH beans. I like peanut butter (yes, even after all the horrible things I’ve read about it). I like ice cream, cake, brownies, and donuts. I like LOVE wine. I just can’t imagine a life where those things don’t exist. I’d honestly rather die sooner than later than give those things up. I never ever thought I would say something like that, but having gone through this challenge, I can say: that’s my truth.

Who really knows what’s healthy anyway? One article says coffee’s bad, another says it’ll make you live longer. Add in my health issues which pretty much says all food is going to bother me and I’m left with feeling like I’m f*$&ed no matter what I eat. I’ve always struggled with moderation. I’m either eating super healthy or like total crap. I really think this challenge has at least given me the confidence to eat a more balanced diet, at least what I think is balanced.

I woke up this morning only 7 lbs lighter than when I started the challenge (all that indulgence was totally worth gaining back a couple extra pounds temporarily…oh, did I mention I ate a cashew butter and fruit spread sandwich on organic grain bread for lunch when I got home on Sunday, had cheese on my burger bites, ketchup with my potato wedges, another soda, 2 fun sized York Peppermint Patties, and large glass of wine that night, and then ice cream, pizza, and another soda on Day 29? Yeaaaah. Hey, at least I’ve been good today!). Surprisingly, after all the junk I let myself have over the last two days, I don’t feel horrible today!

Overall, I’m happy that I did this challenge, even if I didn’t quite complete it like I was supposed to. I didn’t have some drastic change from Day 1 to Day 30, but I did lose 7 lbs, 2.5″ around my waist, an inch around my chest, and half an inch around my hips. You have to look pretty close at my before and after pics, but I can see a bit of a difference. Can you?

The Befores are on the left, in case you can’t tell, LOL!

Of course, I wouldn’t notice that my bottom was messed up until after I took these (in case you’re wondering why my right cheek is hanging out more). I think I can see the most difference in these pictures.

I also didn’t pay attention to the fact that my legs were spread apart in my before pics, so my legs actually look bigger in my afters! LOL! If my legs changed at all, that change didn’t show up on the measuring tape. Same for my arms. I feel like I may have toned up a tiny bit more, but I really don’t think much changed in my arms or legs at all.

Like I said, you can barely even tell I made any progress at all, but progress is progress, and as long as I’m improving, I’m getting closer to my goals.

Every time I post a picture of myself in a bikini, people are shocked that I refuse to wear one in public. Well, besides the fact that it looks like my children clawed their way out of me (and then slashed my butt and legs once they got out), my naval is all jacked up, and everything jiggles so much, not to mention how bad my skin spills out when I bend over. High fives to all the women who just don’t give a flying f$%& and let it all hang where it falls, but I’m just not there yet. I don’t know if I ever will be. I have plans to have a tummy tuck and a boob job by the time I’m 40. Call me vain or superficial, but I know exercise and diet are only going to get me so far. All these stretch marks, loose skin, and floppy breasts aren’t going to improve by anything I can do on my own.

Have you done the Whole30 Challenge? How’d you do?

 

Phoenix 2-001

My Whole30 Shopping Experience at Aldi and Walmart

Last week, I posted about my Whole30 Shopping Experience at Trader Joe’s. Well, this week I’m gonna share with you some of my finds (and disappointments) at Aldi, their sister store, and the store I need to avoid at all costs if I wanna get out of debt: Walmart.

Prosciutto

I recently tried prosciutto for the first time ever, and I am happy to report that it is DELICIOUS! I could totally swap it out for bacon in just about any meal. At $2.99 for about 6 strips, it’s about the same price as the uncured bacon I was buying anyway. I’m still on the hunt for decently priced bacon or pork belly though!

Here’s Walmart’s prosciutto options, for comparison.

Organic Grass Fed Beef

Even with 15% fat, you don’t have to drain the grease when you cook this meat! It is wonderfully priced as well! Thank you Aldi!

Fresh Chicken

Aldi has great prices on all of their fresh meats. Chicken is no exclusion. They even have an all natural, though not organic, option. All chicken is raised without hormones (due to Federal regulations), and most are raised without the use of antibiotics (unless they get sick), so I tend to just focus on the price tag and get whatever’s the best deal. Don’t be fooled by those “Never Any” labels. Do your research on what they mean! And if you check the weekly ads before you shop, you can make sure Aldi is offering the best price. They aren’t always the cheapest.

Organic Cage Free Brown Eggs

Remember when looking for the best eggs you want: pastured, Omega-3, organic, cage free, then conventional. The organic cage free eggs are a little cheaper than the ones you can find at Walmart, but I still think the Omega-3 cage free eggs at Trader Joe’s for $2.39 are a much better deal! I have seen pastured eggs at Kroger, but they are $5+ per dozen.

For comparison, here are Walmart’s egg options.

Frozen Salmon

Salmon is really healthy (and one of my most favorite foods). I personally prefer fresh(er) fish and watch for Sprouts or Kroger to mark their fresh salmon to $5.99/lb, but I have tried all of the frozen fish at Aldi, and they’re NOT BAD, especially for the price. They do all come from China though, so if you’re funny about that, steer clear. Most nutritionists agree that wild Alaskan salmon is the best fish to eat.

Yes, even the super cheap frozen salmon is doable! I have heard too many negative things about tilapia, so I haven’t bought any of it in a long time, but again, it tastes fine and is very affordable.

They have great prices on shrimp as well. Shrimp is another one of those things you should try to avoid if imported. Shrimp from the Gulf is best.

Just do a little research, check your labels, shop around, and decide what’s best for you! (Walmart has similar options at a higher price.)

Did I mention Aldi has cold smoked salmon?

Tuna

As mentioned, there were a few disappointing revelations made during my Aldi trip. I was surprised to find that some of the items I normally buy (and assumed I would be able to continue buying) have crazy stuff in them making them incompliant! The white albacore canned tuna has SOY in it! Boo! Same goes for the regular canned tuna.

However, they now have a new tuna that doesn’t have soy in it, although it does have vegetable broth made with yellow pea. I’m assuming that if I drain the liquid, I’m technically only left with tuna and salt. I’m still hoping to find an affordable canned tuna without anything on the no list.

Hot Dogs

My kids love hot dogs, but I’m not much of a fan. I was buying these uncured angus beef ones from Walmart, but they have DEXTROSE in them, which is sugar in case you didn’t know.

They do have another option for $1 more that does not have sugar in them! These are even from grass fed cows! You won’t see me eating them, but at least the kids can still enjoy one of their favorite foods!

Chicken Apple Smoked Sausage

It turns out that Aidell’s is not the only option for Whole30 sausage! Walmart’s is actually cheaper too!

Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Just look at that price! Need I say more?

The olive oil in a spray can has soy in it, so it’s no good. Wanna know a tip? Take a cooking brush and dip it in olive oil to coat pans or foods! Works just as well and you don’t have to buy another product!

Organic Coconut Oil

I buy a lot of this stuff! I like to use it in certain dishes were the coconut taste doesn’t come through, but my dog is addicted to it as well! She gets a spoonful with every meal, and she loves it! She won’t eat until I put her scoop of coconut oil on top of her food! It’s been great for her skin issues. You can even use it on your skin, or hair! I have a friend who puts it in her coffee too! Can’t beat Aldi’s price on it!

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

Aldi has a great price on organic apple cider vinegar! A bottle of Bragg’s (which is slightly larger) is almost $6!

Dried Fruit

Almost all of Aldi’s dried fruit has sugar in it (with the exception of the apricots), but the freeze dried fruit is does not! This is another food that you aren’t going to just sit and eat, but you can add it to your grain free oatmeal, and other dishes. It would be great in trail mix as well, which would be a great on-the-go breakfast!

The prunes (dried plums) are [added] sugar free!

The raisins have no added sugar in them either!

Fruit Strips

While these fruit strips from Aldi are Whole30 compliant, they are another snacky food you really shouldn’t eat. They are however, a great alternative to fruit snacks if your kids are going Paleo like mine! They’re pretty easy to make on your own, but sometimes it’s nice to have something pre-packaged and ready to throw in their lunch box!

Medjool Dates

I don’t expect to find a better price on dates! These babies are used as a sweetener or thickening agent in a lot of Whole30/Paleo recipes! I don’t think they are a regular item at Aldi though, so you may wanna grab them while they have them!

In case you were wondering, these Aldi dates have rice flour in them.

Salsa

Salsa is not hard to make, but it is pretty convenient to be able to get a jar of it for less than $3! The organic one on the left (that I used to buy from Aldi) has sugar in it. The one on the right, which I started buying as soon as they started carrying it, does NOT!

Sweet Potato Chips

Technically, you’re supposed to stay away from things like chips, but I figure these sweet potato chips from Aldi will be good to have on hand in case of emergency. I also will be converting my children to a Paleo diet, and let’s be honest: a life without chips is just no life at all! We won’t be eating them all the time, but we won’t be giving them up altogether either.

Seeds and Nuts

Aldi has fantastic prices on nuts and seeds, but you have to be careful and read the labels!

Most of them are perfectly fine, although remember nuts are supposed to be used sparingly (no eating a whole bag in one sitting anymore!).

Do not get these though! I can’t remember what they have in them (I think it may be peanut oil), but like I said, READ THE INGREDIENTS. Don’t just assume to know what’s in a product!

Almost all of Aldi’s seasonings have filler ingredients making them incompliant. They do have organic options for $2 that are compliant! And check Walmart for spices as well! I just got a bottle of organic chili powder for $1.50!

Same goes for their flax and chia seeds. So disappointing!

I was excited to see bone broth for such a good price at Walmart…until I read the ingredients and saw dextrose, BOO!

Aldi’s organic broths have sugar in them too.

Image result for dirty dozen clean 15 2016

Aldi and Walmart both have great prices on produce as well! They even have a few organic selections! I typically try to stick to the Dirty Dozen/15 Clean rule, but again, it depends on what I can find and what’s most affordable.

I hope this helps in your shopping efforts! As you can see, I didn’t do too thorough of a job at Walmart because I really am going to try and stay out of there as much as possible (I have a slight problem leaving there without buying something I don’t need, mainly clothes). I know that I can get everything I need elsewhere, it’ll just take some getting used to. I’ll be sure to share what I find at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Kroger later this week! If you find a good deal on something, please share on the Facebook page!

Phoenix 2-001

Whole30 Challenge: Shopping Trip to Trader Joe’s

Ok, so as promised, here’s my shopping experience from Trader Joe’s! If you don’t have one close to you, I’m sorry [insert crying emoji]. It’s an incredible little store! The closest one to me is in Athens. It’s about 35 minutes from my house, so probably not too much closer than the one in Atlanta, but it’s less than 20 minutes from my church, which I’m at 4 days a week (although not any more after this week). That’s still round trip time of nearly an hour, so it obviously isn’t a regular stop for me. In fact, the last time I went was over the summer. I just wanted to share some of the things they had there that excited me or that I bought in preparation for our challenge. I wasn’t able to get any fresh food since we were still 3 weeks away from our kick off, so I’ll most likely be making another trip, unless I find better deals at Sprouts, Whole Foods, or Kroger.

Peas

Remember the ONLY peas you can eat during the challenge are snow peas or sugar snap peas! This was the selection at TJ’s.

Mushrooms

I love mushrooms! Look at all those glorious shrooms!

Herbs

Wanna know how to keep your food tasting interesting? Use fresh herbs! These are great prices, if you don’t grow your own!

Pre-cut Veggies

I actually enjoy chopping veggies when I cook, but sometimes it is quicker and easier if they’re already chopped, especially when it comes to potatoes since you have to peel them, and if you’ve never cut a butternut squash before, prepare to work.  Those suckers are tough! They have pre-cut butternut squash at Walmart for about $3, but it’s not nearly this big of a bag.

Pre-Cut Kale

Kale is super easy to cut, and you can get a BUNCH from Walmart for less than $1, but if cutting’s not your thang, here ya go! The pre-cut stuff at Aldi is almost $4, although it is a bigger bag, so it might work out to be cheaper, IDK.

Pre-Cut Cabbage and Slaw

Cabbage isn’t hard to cut, but it is a little more difficult to shred for things like coleslaw, so I will typically splurge a little and just get it pre-cut. I think bagged broccoli slaw is great because it has broccoli, cabbage, and carrots already shredded and mixed so you don’t have to buy and shred three different ingredients! Again, it’s up to you how much prep work you wanna do! I tend to take the help where I can since there’s plenty of prep work I either can’t get or don’t want help with (I’ll boil my own eggs, thank you very much).

They even have shredded Brussels sprouts! The only two ways I enjoy Brussels sprouts are roasted/sauteed with bacon or raw in salad.

Grass Fed Angus Beef Strip Loin Steak

I thought less than $10 was a pretty good price for a decent sized grass fed steak, but I don’t buy steak all that often. I’m not the greatest steak chef, so when I have steak, I like to leave it to the professionals ;). I will say that if you want to stretch your meat, and your dollars, don’t make meals with meat and sides. Try to make meals where the meat isn’t the star of the show. I actually prefer my food all mixed together, and I rarely cook anything separate so my kids have come to not be so picky about it as well. My 10 year old actually prefers her food mixed like her mama! Doing this allows me to cook 1 lb of beef or 3 chicken breasts and still fill all 7 of our tummies without even feeling like we’re being deprived! LOL! I love meat, I just don’t love buying so much of it!

Frozen Grass Fed Ground Angus Beef

I buy grass fed ground beef from Aldi for $5.99/lb. I love it! You don’t even have to drain the fat! I might give this one a try just to see what the difference, if any is, even though I don’t typically buy frozen meat (not that anything is wrong with that).

Ground Chicken

I thought this was a great price for ground chicken! I haven’t used it much before, but I plan on trying it in a couple recipes during the course of the challenge.

Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage

I know Adell’s Chicken and Apple Sausage is compliant, but I’m not sure about the price, so it’s good to know there’s another option!

Eggs

When looking for eggs, it’s best to buy pastured. If you can’t find or afford pastured, go for the Omega-3 eggs, or the organic, or the free range/cage free, in that order. If you just HAVE to get conventional eggs, they are still one of the healthiest foods you can eat. If you want more info on which eggs are the best and why, go here. $2.39 for a dozen cage-free large eggs with added Omega-3 is a deal, let me tell you!

Canned Mackerel

One of the things on my meal plan for Week 1 is mackerel lettuce wraps, so imagine my delight to find this!

Spices

Trader Joe’s has great prices on seasonings! I love their 21 Salute Seasoning, and I just ran out recently, so I restocked. I also got some garlic powder since the garlic salt I get from Aldi’s has SUGAR in it [insert angry red face emoji along with crying emoji here]. I will say that Walmart and Kroger have great prices on organic spices, so you may want to check there first!

Fruit Spread

I have no earthly idea what I’m gonna use these for yet, but I considered them rare finds! “Jelly” made from nothing but fruit and fruit juice has always come at a pretty price in my experience, so I went ahead and got 2 of these. I’m not a fan of raspberry (although I will eat it b/c I will eat just about anything), and the mango has sugar in it [more crying emojis here, mango is my favorite!]. I know I can use it with meatballs at least.

Hearts of Palm

Joe Daddy and I just went to Fogo de Chão and tried hearts of palm for the first time ever (at least we think we haven’t tried them before)! They reminded me of the taste of marinated artichoke hearts with the texture of a raw carrot. I had to look up what it was. They come from the inner core of certain palm trees! Neat, huh? Now, I don’t know if Trader Joe’s hearts of palm are as good as Fogo’s, but definitely worth a try, so I got some! They are great on salad!

Clarified Butter or Ghee

I don’t know how much ghee is elsewhere, but online it is astronomical! They have it on amazon.com for anywhere from$0.62/oz to $2.36/oz (maybe even higher, I didn’t price them all out! LOL)! Trader Joe’s option came out to $0.49/oz, which is obviously a much better deal. Remember that you can make your own clarified butter, but this is the only dairy you can have on Whole30! I might make my own someday, but I went ahead and got a jar to try.

Kerrygold Butter

If you do decide to make your own clarified butter, Kerrygold Butter is from grassfed cows and is pretty darn affordable! They even have it at Walmart!

Medjool Dates

These are the dates that are in a ton of the Whole30 recipes. They’re used as a binding agent in some and as a sweetener in others. I’ve seen them at Kroger, so I wanted to wait to get some til I checked prices, but then I found some at Aldi for $3.99 the day after I went to Trader Joe’s, so I ended up getting them there!

Almond Butter

Almond butter is one of those things you gotta watch for sugar with. These had two ingredients: almonds, sea salt. I was skeptical, but I bought both the crunchy and creamy on a whim, and I gotta say, I don’t really mind it without the sugar! Now, my kids, might be a harder sell. This is another item you can easily make yourself. Just grind up some roasted almonds in your food processor til creamy!

Cashew Butter

The cashew butter wasn’t much more, and I do intend on trying some eventually (I LOVE cashews, but I’ve never tried cashew butter), I just didn’t want to buy $20 worth of nut butters in one day! LOL!

Tahini

Tahini is ground up sesame seeds (again something you can totally make on your own). You can use it to make sauces and dressings, so it’s pretty versatile. I’ve never tried it, but I’m interested in trying it!

Red Boat Fish Sauce

I was equally surprised and excited to see this at TJ’s! Online it’s over $7 a bottle! I love fish sauce! I use it in a few of my Asian dishes so I had to have some!

Toasted Sesame Oil

This is another ingredient I use in a lot of my Asian dishes. Cold pressed oil is better for you. The one I bought from Sprouts was around $5, so I recommend getting it at TJ’s!

Rice Vinegar

This is yet another ingredient I use in a lot of my Asian dishes. The rice vinegar I had in my pantry had sugar in it. Luckily, the bottle was nearly empty! This one is sugar free and less than $2!

Coconut Cream

Coconut cream can be used to make whipped cream (although you’re really not supposed to make stuff like that during this challenge)! You can also use it to make sauces or for creamer in your coffee, although I will warn: it has a coconut taste. I am opting to give up coffee entirely during this challenge because even with some sort of creamer, I can’t do coffee without a sweetener, but I did try it in my coffee (which I still love even though I gave up the caffeinated stuff over a year ago) and it was doable, which is good news for me since I am planning on going Paleo after the challenge.

Coconut Milk

I’m pretty sure this is the best price I’ve seen on organic coconut milk, but I’ll let you know if I find it cheaper elsewhere. Coconut milk is in tons of Whole30 recipes. I needed 3 cans for my first meal plan alone!

Avocado Oil

I haven’t ever tried it (I can get a bottle of olive oil that size for half the price!), but I have heard it has a milder flavor that’s good for making mayo and dressings. I’m going to try olive oil first since it’s cheaper and the mayo I buy is made with olive oil, but I have a feeling TJ’s is going to have the best price on this stuff.

Sun Dried Tomatoes

Last time I went looking for sun dried tomatoes, I quickly said, “To hell with that!” Kroger wanted over $5 for a little jar! I know I won’t use them a lot, but I know one of the most important things about this challenge is finding ways to add flavor to foods to keep things interesting, so I splurged for the $3 jar.

Snacky Foods

Somehow, I deleted the rest of my shopping pictures without realizing they hadn’t uploaded to my album from my phone :(. TJ’s has a great section of nuts and dried fruits (without sugar) for pretty good prices. While these foods aren’t ideal for the challenge, I have to have something I can take with me to the gym so I can eat in the car on the way to the grocery store one day a week without having to go all the way home to eat. Of course, I could decide to go to Snellville to do my shopping each week (since they have a Sprouts, Aldi, Walmart, and Kroger nearby) and eat at Chipotle’s for lunch that day! Regardless, I wanted to have some snacky foods on hand for those moments when I’m close to failure. The good thing about chips and dried fruit is they don’t go bad fast (if they’re not opened). (Note: I got the sweet potato chips at Aldi, I just didn’t think about it when I took the picture. I also got dried apricots from Aldi, not pictured, which are the only compliant dried fruits they have.)

We found lots more, but these were the things I was most excited to share. I am still on the hunt for dijon mustard made without wine, compliant lunch meat, bacon, and sausage, and the best prices on fresh meat, produce, and herbs. I already visited Aldi, so I’ll be sharing what I found there soon. I’ll be visiting Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Kroger next week. Please share any deals or finds you come across!

Phoenix 2-001

Whole30 Challenge: Meal Planning for Week 1

There are still 26 days until our Whole30 Challenge starts, but 1) I don’t like to procrastinate and 2) I’m getting excited to start! It’s pretty easy to be excited about giving up sugar and alcohol all while still getting to enjoy those things, but I really feel like this challenge is going to help me get back to the healthy lifestyle I was rocking before my Crohn’s went into remission and I went on a crazy binge eating and drinking endless amounts of sugar all summer. I am definitely one of those people who sugar affects tremendously. Once I have a little, I can’t get enough, and then I get mood swings, gain weight, and feel like complete crap, but can’t seem to stop ingesting it, ahhhhh! I know that I have to take extra good care of my body now while it’s still in good shape or I’ll be in really bad shape down the road, it’s just been hard cutting out all the bad stuff now that my digestive issues aren’t making me completely miserable (just slightly uncomfortable). Anyway, I hope that you are reading up on all the benefits of this challenge and telling yourself, “I can do this! I need to do this! I want to do this!” It’s a lot like giving up cigarettes (which some of you may have to do for the challenge), you have to really want this in order to find the willpower and motivation to go way out of your comfort zone for 30 whole days (haha! See what I did there? ;)).

So yesterday, I scoured Pinterest for every Whole30 compliant (or easily made compliant) recipe in existence. We had a super chillax weekend at home, so what better way to veg-out than a 4 hour rendezvous with my mistress? 😉 I managed to find way more than 30, 60, or even 90 recipes! I’m not sure how much compliant stuff I’ll be able to find yet. I plan on going to Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, Kroger, Aldi, my local butcher, and Walmart (and checking out what Amazon has) before the challenge starts, but even then, I’m starting to realize there’s a good chance I won’t be able to find (or afford) some of the ingredients needed to make some of the stuff I pinned! So, I’m going to make my meal plan for week 1 to give you guys an idea of how to make yours, and I’m going to try and only include recipes with ingredients I’m sure I’ll be able to find. I’ll have a better idea of where to get what after I go shopping.

Try to remember that I stay home and make dinner during the day while my kids are at school, so if you work, you might have to look for more crockpot options or dedicate a day over the weekend to prepping for your weekday meals (which I’ll still be doing even though I don’t work outside the home). I also like a large variety of foods (like all of them, seriously), so what I might be excited about cooking, you might turn your nose up to. Don’t let that discourage you! Where there’s a will, there’s a way! If you need any help coming up with a meal plan, please don’t hesitate to ask! I’m not an expert by any means, I’m just willing to look for solutions because I truly believe there always is one. It might not be what you want  to do, but it will be doable.

Day 1: Saturday January 7th, 2017

Breakfast: Zucchini and Sweet Potato Latkes with Fried Eggs

Ingredients: zucchini, sweet potato, coconut flour, eggs, ghee/clarified butter, cumin, garlic powder, parsley, salt, pepper

These are kinda like potato pancakes (with zucchini). I’ve had regular latkes made with white potatoes, so I’m excited to try this new take on them! Add a fried egg on top so when you cut into it, all that warm gooey yoke runs over it….OMG, I’m salivating just thinking about it! This is a breakfast I’m pretty sure my kids will enjoy! I wasn’t planning on having the entire family along for the ride, but after looking at all of the recipes, I think most of it is stuff my kids will eat. I still plan on keeping some Hot Pockets, Totino’s Pizzas, mac and cheese cups, and Eggo waffles on hand for the days when they give me hell about eating what Joe Daddy and I are eating, but a lot of these meals are similar to what we already eat. I’m hoping to be able to find some bacon for less than $.79/ounce, but just in case I can’t, I’m leaving off any recipes with bacon. If I can’t find any at the store, I’ll consider giving US Wellness Meats a try. They have Whole30 compliant meats, they’re just expensive (like double what I already pay for the all-natural uncured stuff I usually buy). I’ve heard it’s easier to find compliant prosciutto, so I may just have to stick with that and not have any bacon, sausage, or ham for a month (which I won’t be happy about, but I’ll survive).

I've got to make these nachos! Taco seasoning recipe included.:

Lunch: Beef Nachos With Bell Peppers

Ingredients: ground beef (I buy the grass-fed organic from Aldi for less than $6/lb), multi-colored bell peppers, avocado, lime, cilantro, jalapenos (optional), salsa (or tomatoes), green onions, cumin, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper

I plan on eating soup throughout the week and making kid-friendly lunches on the weekends. We aren’t the biggest fans of ground turkey, unless it’s in something real flavorful like spaghetti, so I’ll be sticking with ground beef for this one. If you haven’t made your own taco seasoning before, it’s stupid easy and there’s a link on this recipe. I love bell peppers, but I never thought to use them as chips! I’ll probably get some real chips for the kids to eat with since they aren’t nearly as crazy about bell peppers as I am ;). For guacamole, I just mash an avocado, add a little salt, squeeze half a lime, and sprinkle in some (a LOT) of cilantro. It’s super easy! Sometimes I make it chunky by adding red onions and tomatoes (and jalapeno to spice it up). If you don’t like bell peppers, you could always turn these nachos into a salad or lettuce wraps!

Grilled Salmon with Mango Salsa | Creme de la Crumb

Dinner: Grilled Salmon with Mango Salsa 

Ingredients: salmon, mango, red onion, red bell pepper, tomato, cilantro, lime, greens (spinach, arugula, romaine), chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, jalapenos (optional)

Salmon is one of my most favorite foods! Pair it with my other favorites (mango, red onion, red pepper, tomato, lime, and cilantro) and I’m sold! I might even make the mango salsa ahead of time to put on my nachos for lunch! While this alone would make a perfectly fine meal, I’m thinking I’ll add some greens and make it a salad!

Day 2: Sunday January 8th (my sister LuLu’s, and Elvis’, birthday!)

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Breakfast: Sweet Potato Apple Bake

Ingredients: sweet potato, apple, raisins (sugar-free), pecans, coconut oil, full fat coconut milk (check ingredients), cinnamon, nutmeg, eggs, salt

Since I’m making a savory breakfast for Saturday, I figured I’d try a sweet one for Sunday. I made banana bread this past weekend and it was very well received! I don’t do a lot of baking, but I had 4 bananas getting ready to go bad and just enough gluten-free flour left over from last year’s Thanksgiving (yeah, that’s how often I bake from scratch! LOL!). Since my goal after this challenge is to eat at least 80% Paleo, I better get used to making more food from scratch! I just hope I can find sugar-free raisins! You can omit them, but I think they’ll be great in this!

easy lunch; tuna salad with tomato, avocado + peppers

Lunch: Tuna Salad

Ingredients: canned tuna, celery, eggs, green olives, romaine hearts, homemade mayo

I already know I won’t have any salmon leftovers, so I’ll have to make lunch on Sunday as well. Keeping in mind that my kids’ll be home, I think tuna salad is the perfect lunch idea! I normally make my tuna salad with tuna (obviously), celery, eggs, mayo, and green olives and eat it on gluten-free crackers. I’ll have to make some homemade mayo, but that looks super easy, so the only other change I’ll have to make is the crackers. I’m thinking tuna salad lettuce wraps instead! Just get a head of romaine, tear off a leaf, and voila! Instant “tortilla” for the tuna salad! If you want other ideas for tuna salad, check out the recipe above!

Creamy Smoky Chipotle Pork Chops 2 copy Paleo Mac and Cheese Recipe herb parsnip fries

Dinner: Creamy Smoky Chipotle Pork Chops with Paleo Mac and Cheese and Parsnip Fries

Ingredients: Pork chops, olive oil, chili powder, paprika, cumin, smoked paprika, garlic, chipotle chili pepper spice, salt, coconut milk (check ingredients), cilantro, lime, parsnips, cauliflower, yellow squash or butternut squash, carrot, sweet onion, garlic powder, ground mustard, egg, pepper, homemade ketchup

Yes, that’s a lot of ingredients (at least compared to some of the other meals), but Sunday is the one day that I usually have nothing better to do than cook. It will probably be my meal prep day as well (I’ll probably change my shopping day from Tuesday to Friday to help with this). The only thing you have to omit is the liquid smoke. It has molasses in it. I looked up some substitutes and smoked paprika came up, which I already have on hand, yay! I am really interested in this Paleo Mac and Cheese! I can totally live without mac and cheese, but the way the lady goes on and on about how good it is has me intrigued! I love parsnips (they taste almost identical to carrots, only rootier), but I’ve never made them as fries! I’m also interested to see how my homemade ketchup turns out! It seems fairly simple! I’m most interested in what my kids will think! I’m fairly certain the pork chops will be a homerun, but it’ll be interesting to see what they think of the others!

Day 3: Monday January 9th (Back to School for the kids!!!)

Mini Egg Frittatas - these egg muffins are full of protein and veggies, and less than 80 calories each. They are great for Whole30, 21-Day Fix or Paleo diets. So easy and delicious!

Breakfast: Mini Frittatas

Ingredients: Eggs, onions, bell peppers, spinach, salt, pepper, bacon/sausage/ham or mushrooms

love a good frittata! I’m sure these mini versions won’t be as good without milk and cheese in them, but I need something quick and easy to eat before I hit the gym Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday (and something easy for Joe Daddy to grab before he leaves for work), so I’ll be making these Sunday for the week! This recipe calls for bell peppers, onions, spinach, and some sort of breakfast meat. I’m hoping to find some kind of compliant meat, but if I don’t, I’ll just add in some mushrooms. The best part of a frittata is you can put whatever you want in it! I’ve made a loaded baked potato one, a Greek one, a BLT version, a Southwestern version, and even others and they’ve all been delicious! I usually have a protein smoothie before I head to the gym in the morning, but these will be just as quick and easy, and hopefully not fill my stomach too much.

 This easy-to-make Paleo Chicken Soup recipe is gluten-free, grain-free, and dairy-free, and is so delicious, even kids gobble it up and ask for more! It's packed with nutrients and healing herbs that can help prevent and reduce the duration of cold and flu symptoms.

Lunch: Healing Chicken Soup

Ingredients: Chicken, celery, carrots, onion, chicken broth, turmeric, ginger, garlic, cauliflower, Red Boat fish sauce*, basil, parsley, coconut aminos**, thyme, rosemary, olive oil, salt, pepper

I’ve decided that since Joe Daddy needs something easy to take to work, and I need something easy to heat up once I get home from the gym, and we probably won’t have many leftovers cooking whole foods like this, I’m going to make a big pot of soup every Sunday! I love soup, especially in the winter! For this soup, I’m going to cook a whole chicken in the crockpot by following these directions. Then I’ll add in all the other ingredients and divide it up into separate containers so Joe Daddy and I can just grab and go each day!

*Fish sauce is one of the foulest smelling things on Earth, but it’s salty like soy sauce. Unfortunately, most fish sauces are made with sugar, so if you’re going to use it on the Whole30 Challenge, you gotta get Red Boat, the only brand that is sugar-free. Of course, it’s $7 for a 8.45oz bottle on Thrive (and $16 for a 17oz bottle on Amazon), but I’ve heard they have it at Whole Foods and possibly Trader Joe’s so there’s a chance I might find it cheaper. I haven’t even started this challenge yet, and I’m already seeing how much sugar is being snuck into my body without me even realizing it! I mean, I know when I eat a candy bar or a donut or even a piece (or loaf) of bread, but it’s in everything! And to find sugar-free options, you gotta be willing to sell your soul...ok, that’s a little dramatic…but they do expect you to pay double or more! Uggghhh! But as frustrating as it is, I refuse to give up before I even start! It is totally possible to do this challenge without things like bacon and fish sauce, but as long as I can fit them into the budget, I’m going to get them, even if they are much higher than I would normally spend on them. I’m betting I will still spend less money overall because I won’t be able to eat out as much and I won’t be eating just for taste (which is really the only reason I ever over eat).

**I’ll talk more about coconut aminos on the next recipe.

Stir Fry Zucchini Noodles | www.diethood.com | Delicious, low-carb, healthy Stir Fry made with spiralized zucchini and onions tossed with teriyaki sauce and toasted sesame seeds.

Dinner: Teriyaki Chicken with Zoodle Stir Fry

Ingredients: chicken, teriyaki sauce (either homemade or Coconut Secret’s), zucchini, onion, coconut/olive oil, sesame seeds, mushroom, carrot

love, love, love zoodles! I dare say I love them more than regular noodles! I don’t cook them very long because I like it when they crunch! I am super excited to be getting a new spiralizer for Christmas! I have had this one for a couple years now, and I have put it to good use, but it can’t spiralize things like sweet potatoes or onions, so when I saw this one on sale at Walmart on Black Friday for $5 cheaper than usual, I grabbed it to open on Christmas Day :). While this recipe sounds fantastical, I’m thinking it could use some mushrooms, carrots, and chicken to make it a complete meal! You can’t follow the recipe because it calls for soy sauce, which is a no-no, and teriyaki sauce, which almost always has sugar in it. The good news is you can make your own teriyaki sauce without any sugar, but you need coconut aminos, which is a Whole30 version of soy sauce. My friend swears it’s good, but again, it’s costly. Amazon has a 3 pack of Coconut Secret’s coconut aminos, teriyaki sauce, and garlic sauce for $25. I’m not sure how cheap you can find it in stores (or where it’s even sold), but online, they go for $10-$20 per bottle! I did see that Bragg’s makes coconut aminos as well, but with shipping it costs just as much. Maybe it’ll be cheaper at a store!

Day 4: Tuesday, January 10th

Breakfast: Mini Frittata (already made!)

Lunch: Healing Chicken Soup (already made!)

Garlic Margherita Chicken Zucchini Recipe http://cleanfoodcrush.com/garlic-margherita-chicken

Dinner: Garlic Margherita Chicken

Ingredients: chicken, zucchini, tomato, garlic, basil, olive/avocado/coconut oil, salt, pepper, greens (spinach, arugula, romaine)

I’ve made this before and it was good, but it needed something else…so this time, I’m making it into a hot salad!

Day 5: Wednesday, January 11th 

Seriously delicious grain free oatmeal. You'll want to try this healthy bowl whether your avoiding grains or not!

Breakfast: Grain-free Oatmeal

Ingredients: apple, dates (be sure to check for sugar), coconut flakes (unsweetened), almonds (plain), chia seeds, almond butter (without sugar or homemade), coconut milk (check ingredients)

I have to at least try this grain-free oatmeal once! I’ve heard it’s really good, and I like all of the ingredients, and I’m not too funny about textures, so even if it’s not like regular oatmeal, there’s a good chance I’ll enjoy it. This recipe calls for a splash of cashew milk, but I can’t find any cashew or almond milk that is Whole30 compliant (unless you make it yourself), so I’ll be using coconut milk.

Lunch: Mackerel Lettuce Wraps/Cups

Ingredients: canned mackerel, cucumber, red onion, cilantro, lime, Red Boat fish sauce, romaine hearts

Wednesday is my day at home, so I’ll be skipping soup this day to make one of my favorite childhood dishes: mackerel lettuce wraps!

When I was 12, my mom married a man from Thailand. Oddly enough, the memory from when he posted this picture on Facebook last year of us from over 20 years ago just popped up yesterday! LOL! If you ever feel like you had bad hair in the past, just look at mine and know: mine was worse! LOL! Anyway, his mother taught my mother how to make a few Thai dishes. This is one of them. It’s so simple, but so good! It’s pretty similar to tuna salad, just different flavors! You add chopped red onion, cucumber, cilantro, half a lime squeezed, and a teaspoon or so of fish sauce to a can of mackerel and wrap it in a romaine lettuce leaf. That’s it! 

Paleo Breakfast, whole30 breakfast

Dinner: Breakfast Hash

Ingredients: Aidell’s Chicken and Apple Sausages, sweet potato, white potato, onion, red bell pepper, olive oil, salt, pepper

I really love the taste of sweet potatoes with salty white potatoes! I haven’t had Aidell’s Chicken and Apple Sausages before, but they are a compliant sausage I know I can easily find!

Day 6: Thursday, January 12th

Breakfast: Mini Frittata (already made!)

Lunch: Healing Chicken Soup (already made!)

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Dinner: Lamb with Mint Chimichurri and Butternut Rice

Ingredients: boneless lamb loin, mint, parsley, garlic, red wine vinegar, butternut squash, ghee, beef broth 

I’m pretty excited to try this butternut rice! I love butternut squash! I’m also eager to be making condiments and sauces from scratch! I can’t believe how easy it looks! I started making my own dressings about a year ago, and I am amazed at how much more I like them than the store bought stuff! Hopefully, I can find some affordable boneless lamb loin, otherwise, I’ll probably just make steaks.

Day 7: Friday, January 13th

Breakfast: Mini Frittata (already made!)

Image result for almonds and cashews

Lunch: Salami, Almonds, Cashews, Berries, Sweet Potato or Plantain Chips

Ingredients: salami, almonds, cashews, fresh berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries), sweet potato chips, plantain chips

I plan on going shopping right after I leave the gym on Fridays, so I’ll have to pack a lunch to eat in my car on the way to the store. I don’t think a Larabar will cut it since I lift weights on Fridays, so I’m gonna bring some salami and nuts so I get plenty of protein. And so I get a little fruit and veggies, I’ll pack some sweet potato or plantain chips and some sort of berries (blue, black, or raspberry…or maybe a mixture!). Joe Daddy might be sick of soup by Friday, so maybe he’ll take something like this as well.

Paleo Slow Cooker Brisket

Dinner: Beef Brisket with Onions, Tomatoes, and Potatoes

Ingredients: beef brisket, onion, tomatoes, beef broth, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper

Since I don’t get home and finished unloading groceries until right before the kids get home, I plan on throwing some potatoes, a beef brisket, a sliced onion, some diced tomatoes, minced garlic, and beef broth (in that order) in the crockpot before I head to the gym. That way, dinner will still be ready by 4pm! I can’t let my kids come home to no dinner. They’ll snack til they’re stuffed and refuse to eat again!

Let me just go ahead and say, starting out, it has taken a lot of effort trying to plan 3 meals a day for 7 days, even though most of my breakfasts and lunches are the same! Hopefully, it’ll go quicker for the 2nd week! Do not wait until the last minute to start planning! It took me several hours to find recipes, research Whole30 approved options, and setting up a meal plan that is fairly simple but with plenty of variety that works with 7 people’s schedules! I hope that the extra hours I put in to share it with you helps shave some time off your efforts! If not, at least all of my planning is easily accessible (and won’t get misplaced like it would if I wrote it all down on a piece of paper, haha!) ;).

Once I get my shopping list made, I’ll share that as well, and then my shopping experience of course! If you have any tips, please feel free to share on the Facebook group page!

 

Phoenix 2-001

14 Things I Will Say to My 14 Year Old Today

Today is my first born’s fourteenth birthday! Each year, we are one year closer to the dreaded send off to college! Of course, he could always go somewhere local and stay home with his family 😉 😉 (He claims he’s moving to Germany for college. Not happening. I don’t care how good the school is. My hubby doesn’t call me “Dream Crusher” for nothing! LOL!)

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Here are 14 things I am going to say to him today (not in any particular order):

  1. It’s noon, time to get up.
  2. Fix your hair.
  3. No, not like that.
  4. Eat your noodles.
  5. Just kidding, it’s zucchini, your favorite! Bwahahaha!
  6. Can I pop that zit?
  7. Pleeeeeeeaaaaaaaazzzz???
  8. Are you sure you have deodorant on?
  9. Yes, you have to come with us, it’s Family Day, and you’re still technically part of the family.
  10. I don’t care if you have better things (like absolutely nothing) to do.
  11. I love you.
  12. Tell me you love me.
  13. Give your mother a hug!
  14. HAPPY BIRTHDAY Juli Bear!!!

You see, my son enjoys staying up late, sleeping in, the bed-head look, eating anything microwavable but hardly anything that grows in the ground, spending all of his time in his room (watching TV and YouTube, playing video games, talking to his friends online or on the phone, reading comic books and science articles, and lifting weights), and pretending the rest of us don’t exist. He smells, even though I see him shower frequently and know he owns deodorant (I make sure I buy the 48-hour stuff, which must be a typo b/c it doesn’t even hold up 4-8 hours on him). He still hasn’t found a girl he likes because he’s “too busy with school to worry about girls” and “isn’t old enough to take one on a date by himself” anyway.

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Every night, I knock on his door (because it’s locked to keep the rest of us out), tell him good-night and make him wrap his arms around me and tell me he loves me. It’s much different than it was a few years ago when we’d read a story together and he’d give me more kisses than I could count without even asking.

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It’s hard to watch your kids grow up. It’s amazingly fulfilling to watch them become their own person, but with that comes a separation from you.When they’re little, they need you, they want you around all the time!

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I can still remember when he was my only baby.

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I can still remember when he dressed up like a super hero and played with Legos and Hot Wheels.

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And then overnight, he was taller than me!

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And now, he wants nothing to do with me anymore. 🙁 I can still remember what it was like being a teenager, so I know it’s perfectly normal, it’s just hard. I’m glad I have my girls to fill the gap, but what on earth am I going to do when all 4 of them are teenagers???

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I can’t even think about it.

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For his birthday, Jules requested cash, to go out to eat to his favorite restaurant (IHOP) so his “friend who’s a girl” Carolyn could come, along with one of his other best friends, who he wanted to come home with us to spend the night, and plenty of junk for them to gorge themselves on as they stayed up all night.

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Check!

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Check!

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Aaaannnnd check!

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IHOP was a nightmare. First of all, I think the only reason he requests to go there every year for his birthday dinner (at least for the last 3 years) is because I don’t like IHOP so we never eat there. The food is always meh and the service eh. Last night was no exception. It took an hour for the waitress to take our order, which might have been understandable for a party of 15 if they were even remotely busy. There were 3 tables of two when we arrived, and they had already been served. She just kept disappearing to bring the kids more crayons, menus, and condiments…for food we hadn’t even ordered yet! It took another hour to get our food. Mine and Joe’s bacon crusted chicken came with no bacon and pink chicken. Our side of steamed broccoli wasn’t cooked at all. Thankfully, the kids’ meals were free because between paying for my mom and Jules’ 2 friends, we still spent $70 on one of the most horrible food and service experiences I’ve ever had. It was also so cold in there, that all 15 of us were shivering the entire time, taking frequent trips to the bathroom, where it was warm, to defrost.

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They did sing ♫Happy Birthday♫ and bring free ice cream to the birthday boy and girl. That was kinda nice.

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I think Jules just enjoyed being with his friends…who hate pictures just as much as him.

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Unfortunately for them, I don’t care if they don’t like taking pictures. 😉 I told Jules after we left that I hope he enjoyed it, because the only way he’ll get IHOP for his birthday again is if we order just him something TO GO!

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He and Wesley maintain that he and Carolyn are just friends. All I know is, he’s been a much nicer person since she came around, so I’m fine with whatever they want to call themselves.

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Despite his fuddiness, Jules is a good kid. He gets straight A’s in all of his classes (which are all advanced), and pretty much has every year of his life.

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He watches the girls anytime I ask without complaining (and actually comes out of his room and watches them responsibly). I never have to ask him to bathe, clean his room, put up his laundry, or do his homework. Heck, I don’t even have to wake him up in the morning! He wakes up on his own at 5am and wakes me up at 6am!

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I’m so proud of how smart and responsible he is. He amazes me with the amount of information he can retain (we don’t call him “The Walking Encyclopedia” for nothing)! He makes my heart sing when he helps me with the groceries without me even asking. He drives me nuts by constantly changing the wallpaper on my computer and leaving his Ramen noodle trash on the counter until after he’s finished eating. Considering what some parents have to deal with from their kids, I think I’ve got a pretty good one.

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So today I celebrate all that he is, and all that I hope he will become (hopefully rich so he can take care of his ol’ ma and pa 😉 ). He will always be my baby, but I can see him turning into a man before my very eyes, and the view is spectacular!

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Happy birthday baby boy! Mama loves you!

 

Phoenix 2-001

Another Kitchen Makeover Complete!

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When we bought our house 8 years ago, THIS is what the kitchen looked like. Yeah, I wasn’t a fan either. Can you say BORRRRIIIINNNNGGGG?!

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Those honey colored cabinets! Those gold knobs! Those cream colored walls! Yuck, yuck, yuck!

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I clearly didn’t always take great pictures (haha!), but you can see that the kitchen needed a makeover.

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The first thing we did, before we even moved in, was paint all of the walls. We had lived in rentals for the previous 5 years, so we were oooover white walls. My mom gave us her old kitchen rugs, which had black, burgundy, olive green, and yellow in it, so we painted one living room a yellowish beige, the other (which also had the dining room in it) an olive green, and the kitchen a cranberry/burgundy. They weren’t my favorite colors, but they went with the hand-me-downs we had been given.

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I knew those honey colored cabinets and gold knobs had to go, but I put that task off for a bit.

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We originally used the eat-in-kitchen as just that, but quickly realized the closet for the laundry wasn’t gonna cut it.

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Because the rugs (and the counters) had black in them, I decided to paint the cabinets black (against the warnings from our parents that they wouldn’t look good).

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The kitchen was small, but I thought the cabinets looked way better black than that honey color. I really wanted white (especially since we had white appliances), but I didn’t think they’d go well with the rest of the house and decor.

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We took the table out of the kitchen and made this little space into a folding/hanging station for the laundry, which was much more useful.

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Eventually, I got sick of all those ugly colors and painted the whole house beige so I could decorate with more colorful stuff. Those black rugs were a pain to keep clean, so I bought some new ones. Again, this wasn’t really the style I wanted, it was just what went with what we had.

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We also bought new stainless steel appliances when our fridge stopped working. If I could go back, I’d keep the white ones we had and just buy a new side-by-side white fridge. I hate trying to keep these stainless ones clean, and I’m not a fan of the bottom freezer.

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The stainless appliances definitely looked better than the white with the black cabinets.

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Because there wasn’t much color I could add into the kitchen, I grew tired of the beige walls. I wanted to paint them a blue to match the blue in the rugs I bought, but I had a hard time matching it for some reason. After painting the kitchen three different colors, I settled on this one.

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I also hung some curtains to hide the laundry area! Man, I wish I would have thought of that sooner!

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I loved the idea of hanging colorful plates on the wall! Unfortunately, I hung them on a wall that no one ever sees!

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A few weeks ago, I happened upon this cute valence at Walmart. It was so cute and only $10 and went so well with the rest of the house…just not with the kitchen in its current state. I took the valence with me to the paint department and got a gallon of teal paint and a gallon of white paint. I decided I would finally paint the cabinets white!

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I also grabbed a green rug to match the valence. I knew the hardest part would be parting with my old rugs. Having rugs in the kitchen meant I didn’t have to sweep and mop every day, just vacuum.

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Oddly enough, since it took me three weeks to finish painting the cabinets, I got used to the kitchen being rug-free. I almost didn’t want to put the rugs in there!

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The teal came out much brighter than I expected, but it’s really grown on me!

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The white cabinets really make the kitchen feel bigger. I really wasn’t expecting that, even though I know that’s why you want to paint small spaces light colors. And I replaced all of the knobs from the antique-looking silver to a brushed nickel. I was surprised how much of a difference they made as well!

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The stainless appliances look great with the white too, but once they need to be replaced, white will look even better! 😉

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I was able to keep all of the old decor on the walls. I lowered the fork and spoon a bit (I centered it to the cabinets before and didn’t really like the way it looked, but never bothered to change it). I also spray painted the stools a turquoise (which is another color from the valence). They were the same color blue as the walls before.

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I took down my wine rack since I don’t drink anymore (45 days and counting!) and moved the clock to the other side of the kitchen with the chalk board so I could put my plates in a place where they’d get plenty of views! 🙂

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The plates are my favorite! 🙂 I also got a new utensil holder that’s bigger and prettier than my old black one ($12 at Walmart!).

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I also changed the red swirly curtains I had up before to these more neutral gray ones (which I have a picture of somewhere, I just didn’t feel like searching for one and I didn’t bother to take before pics of the kitchen right before I started painting).

As you can tell, the kitchen has changed quite a bit over the years! It took me a while to realize that it wouldn’t be that expensive to just buy the style stuff that I like instead of trying to match the crap that was given to me. I spent less than $200 to makeover the kitchen this time between the rugs, the curtains, the utensil holder, the valence, the new knobs, paint, and Command strips to rehang everything! Not bad at all!

I love my new kitchen all by itself, but I love it even more because now, it goes with the rest of the house, which I’ve spent years making over to reflect my personality and style. If I have to be at home so much, I may as well love the space I’m looking at all day! LOL!

And in case you’re wondering, YES, I will be doing another makeover in the future! Eventually, we want to tile the entire house with a hardwood looking tile, including the kitchen and bathrooms. When we do that, we also plan to redo the back splash, counter tops, get a new sink and faucet, and replace the light fixture. There’s always gonna be something that needs redoing! I can’t look at the same old stuff for too long! 😉

Phoenix 2-001

The Supplements That Changed My Life

I started working out consistently a couple months before my 5th child turned a year old (August 2013). I had joined the gym that January, but only lasted the month. It was exhausting trying to get my big kids to school, Scouts, church, and sports, clean the house with two toddlers at home, breast-feed an infant, and exercise every (or even every other) day. I remember the first time I hopped on the elliptical. I lasted two minutes before I had to stop because I couldn’t feel my legs. 

That was 3 years and 30 lbs ago. A lot has changed. Now, 4 of the kids are in school, we aren’t doing hardly any extra-curricular activities (I just have to drop one kid off at gymnastics for an hour and a half each week), the kids help me keep the house fairly clean, and I’m not breast-feeding or changing any diapers so I’m able to go to the gym every day (sometimes twice a day) during the week. I’ve lost 10 dress sizes and 30 lbs! I’ve been able to squeeze into clothes I hadn’t worn in 6 years!

But up until a year ago, I really struggled to work out without being in extreme pain. I started running a couple years ago and ended up with shin splints (after running half a mile all at once), which I didn’t know were shin splints at the time, so I just kept running until I literally couldn’t run anymore. It took an entire year for my legs to heal well enough for me to start running again, and my shins still get sore if I try to run more than a mile or two. I also started lifting weights in a couple of my fitness classes. I would burn out long before anyone else, and I’d end up so sore I could barely move, let alone make it to my other classes for sometimes as long as 5 days!

When I’d ask my friends at the gym for their advice, they’d tell me to stretch really good, make sure I was eating enough protein, and drink plenty of water. Those were all things I made sure to do before they even told me, so I was at a loss.

One day, my husband brought home a giant box of supplements that his workout buddy had given him. Some of the stuff was to make protein shakes. I looked at the ingredients. They were full of artificial sugars and flavors, which I not only have a sensitivity to, but don’t believe are healthy. Some of the other stuff I hadn’t heard of, so I did a little research and discovered there are natural supplements out there that actually help with things like muscle repair and endurance, which was exactly what I needed!

Since I started taking these supplements, I have been able to work out longer and harder than ever without being in excruciating pain! Sure, I still get sore, but it’s a dull sore that tells me I worked hard, not the kind of sore that leaves me unable to sit on the toilet without assistance.

I also have more energy all around! I gave up caffeine 9 months ago, which had been my primary source of energy for nearly 20 years! Just cutting out the caffeine helped boost my energy levels (which is crazy sounding, I know, but it’s true!), but I also cut way back on added sugar around the same time, which I believe is imperative if you’re gonna give up caffeine. Sugar and caffeine both make you feel incredible when they hit your blood stream, but they don’t last long and you end up crashing and craving more, which produces a roller coaster effect on your mood and energy levels. After I got through the withdrawal stage (which lasted 5 long miserable days for me), I felt amazing. The cravings were gone and I felt stable, not too energetic, but not sluggish either.

Of course, life can drain you. I do pretty well getting enough sleep, but having to wake up early every morning at 6am to get my middle schooler on the bus, followed by my elementary kids, then working out for 1-2 hours, cleaning or running errands, cooking dinner, doing homework, giving baths, and tucking kids in bed just exhausts me. Taking these supplements has really made a difference though!

So here they are, the supplements that have changed my life!

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Probiotics

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Most of us have heard of probiotics. Yogurt companies put great emphasis on them, but the truth is, you’re probably not getting any of the benefits of them if you only eat yogurt. Most yogurt is processed in a way that actually kills the live cultures so that they can’t thrive in your body. Kefir is a better option than yogurt, but taking a probiotic supplement is the best way to go. To find a good probiotic, look for the number of strains (you want at least 7) and the number of live cultures (you want at least 15 billion). I found these on sale at Kroger, buy one get one half off, making them $30 for a two month supply.

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I tried a different probiotic that didn’t have the specific strains listed, and I noticed a big difference when I switched to one that did. If you have digestive issues (or Crohn’s like me), you really need to give probiotics a try! Your stomach will thank you!

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I’m almost out of the probiotics I’ve been taking, so I went searching on Amazon and found this one! 16 strains and 50 billion cultures!

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I hope they are amazing because they were $20 for a one month supply on Amazon (which isn’t as good as the deal I got at Kroger).

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They are the same brand as the chewables I buy for my kids, which I think have helped reduce Tristyn’s herpes outbreaks and keep them from getting as sick as often. I found these on Amazon for $20 for a month’s supply as well.

Multivitamin/multimineral

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I think this Armor-V multivitamin/mineral supplement from Muscle Pharm might be the best one out there!

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Not only does it have all of the typical vitamins and minerals you would find in a multivitamin/mineral, but a lot of other great stuff too! It’s got Omega-3, 6, and 9, greens, veggies, and fruits, antioxidants, 3 billion active cultures of 10 different strains, turmeric, and a bunch of other stuff too! You can find it on Amazon for $22 for 120 capsules, which would be a 60 day supply if you only take 2 like me. I read that if your pee neon green you’re taking too much and it’s getting flushed out of your system, so I went from taking 3 to 2. 6 is ridiculous. They either want you to over buy or there are extreme athletes that need that much.

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I bought a double pack of Vitamin B12 after I gave up caffeine to help boost my energy levels for working out. I didn’t really do any research on it. Since starting the Armor-V, which only has 130mcg (and states that is 2167% of the daily value needed), I decided to read up on it a bit. Apparently, anyone over the ago of 14 only needs a very small amount of Vitamin B12, but since I don’t like to waste things and I also read that there is no maximum limit on the amount of B12 you can safely take, I’m still taking these every morning, until they’re gone. I guess we’ll see how much of an effect they’ve had on me once I quit taking them!

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This nighttime vitamin/mineral combination is supposed to promote sleep, muscle repair and growth, and hormone production (which is supposed to help with libido). I haven’t been good about taking this one consistently, so I haven’t really noticed any of the benefits it claims to give. I’m gonna try putting it next to my alarm clock so I can remember to take it! A 2 month supply is $14 on Amazon.

Amino Acids

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Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) are a combination of 3 amino acids (L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, and L-Valine) that help with endurance and recovery.

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The first BCAA I took were by Muscle Pharm. The recommended dosage was eight capsules one to three times daily. Um, hellll noooo! So I found these “On” brand on Amazon. Later, I did the math and realized that the Muscle Pharm ones had more of each amino acid per capsule, they just like to tell you to take a lot more than you probably need. Once I did the math, the Muscle Pharm ones end up being a much better deal at $15 for 240 rather than $24 for 400 (see here). They come out to be the same price per capsule, but you get a good bit more of the amino acids in each capsule. I still have an entire unopened bottle of the Muscle Pharm ones to go through (glad I didn’t throw them out!). There’s also a powder that has a BUNCH more amino acids per serving that I may try in the future so I don’t have to take as many pills every morning (at least on the days I drink a protein shake). It’s $18 for a 2 month supply on Amazon.

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L-Glutamine is another amino acid that plays a role in muscle protein development. Glutamine levels can deplete faster than the body can replenish them during intense exercise and can cause muscle breakdown. These On caps come out to be the same price per serving (if you get the 240 count) compared to the powder that Muscle Pharm sells, but the powder has 1.7 grams per serving, whereas the capsules have 1 gram. I will probably go for the powder when I run out of the capsules. Amazon has it for $14 for a 6 month supply!

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On the days that I work out in the morning, I make a protein smoothie out of frozen fruit (one banana and a handful of another frozen fruit like strawberries, mangoes, blueberries, or a combination), fresh spinach, 3 Tbsp flax seeds, 2 Tbsp chia seeds, 4 Tbsp brown rice protein powder, 1 cup of 100% pineapple juice (not from concentrate; sometimes I use Simply Orange juice too), and a cup of plain fat free Fage Greek yogurt (although I’m going to try switching it out for kefir soon). I mix it in my Ninja, and split it with Joe Daddy (yeah, that’s not all just for me! LOL!).  On the days where I use weights (Tuesday and Friday), I add a scoop of Muscle Pharm’s creatine to my smoothie.

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Creatine is an amino acid that increases energy and stamina, but apparently, it can cause weight gain (I haven’t found that to be true, but then again, I’m only taking it twice a week). Go here for more info. From what I understand, it’s good for lifting and does little for aerobic exercise (which is why I don’t take it before Zumba or Yoga). I have noticed a difference in how much I can lift and how hard I can train, but who’s to say if it’s from the creatine or one of the other things I’m taking? LOL! You can find this powder on Amazon for $12 for 60 servings (which lasts me 7-8 months).

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These are the newest set of amino acids I’ve added to my collection!

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This Nitric Oxide Fuel contains L-Arganine HCL, L-Arganine AKG, L-Citrulline Malate, and Pine Bark Extract (which is considered one of nature’s super antioxidants! Read more about it’s amazingness here). For 6 vein popping reasons to use this supplement, go here! I found it on Amazon for $29 for 60 servings (since I only take 2). I have only started using it this week and I can tell you, it’s amazing! I can’t wait to see my muscles grow!

Conjugated Linoleic Acid

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CLA is a fatty acid found in meat and dairy products (apparently, more so in grass-fed cows, according to this interesting article here). Among the benefits of this fatty acid is the reduction of body fat while increasing lean muscle mass!

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The recommended dosage is 1-2 capsules with every meal. I only take 1 with breakfast and 1 with dinner, so this $21 bottle (on Amazon) lasts me a month.

Allergy Meds

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No, these aren’t supplements, but I do want to mention them, because they too have changed my life! This year was definitely the worst for me as far as allergy symptoms go. My allergies caused a bunch of fluid to get stuck behind my ears causing really bad ear infections and major vertigo. I couldn’t even walk without feeling like I was going to fall over for two days! The doc hooked me up with antibiotics and told me to take an expectorant as well as some seasonal allergy meds. Well, we already keep Flonase and generic Zyrtec (Cetirizine) at the house for Jules, so I started taking his stuff. The difference has been night and day. It reminds me of when I got glasses when I was 12 and discovered I hadn’t been able to see clearly in God knows how long. I had no idea everything was so blurry until I put those frames on and saw clearly for the first time! I had no idea my allergy symptoms were so bad until I started living without them!

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So yeah, I’m up to 12-13 pills a day now! Thankfully, I can take a pill like a champ, but I am interested in getting some of the amino acids in powder form so I can just drink them down in my smoothie (which will reduce that number to 8-9 once I’m done with the B12). I’m no expert, so don’t just take my advice and go load up on all of this stuff, especially if you don’t eat healthy, drink plenty of water, or exercise regularly. Do your research and try adding one thing at a time even if you do all of that! That’s what I did and I’m so thankful for the difference these supplements and meds have made in my life! I’m no body builder, but compared to how I felt a year ago to now is vastly different. I have a feeling this is going to be the year I see the most changes in my muscle tone!

*Please note that the prices I’ve mentioned may change over time. It’s Amazon after all!

Phoenix 2-001

Our Amazing Anniversary Weekend!

This past Saturday marked mine and Joe Daddy’s 15th anniversary! We aren’t big celebrators, but we do enjoy taking a little time each year (on our birthdays and anniversary) to spend a few hours alone.

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At 9:45am on Saturday morning, we woke up to a surprise breakfast of ham, egg, and cheese sandwiches, made by Taylor.

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Bleu wanting in on the action! LOL!

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Taylor also helped The Littles make us some sweet cards! #HaveAGoodHappyLUCKEYAntiversy #DaddyWorksAndMommyWorksOut

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Joe Daddy brought in some red roses, like we had at our wedding, and the flutes from our wedding and filled them with apple juice since I don’t drink anymore. #39DaysAndCounting.

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He even sprinkled little drops of water on them to make them even prettier (knowing I would be taking a picture of them)! #HeGetsMe

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We spent the first part of our day just hanging with the kids at the house. Then at 4pm, we picked up my mom and dropped her and the girls off at my sister’s, even though she was headed out for the night as well (to a wedding). Our mom and her dad and step-mom were gracious enough to agree to add our crew to the bunch they were already keeping tabs on for the night! I don’t normally trust just anyone with my kids, but Nana, Opa, and Cherie are on the very short list! It’s kinda crazy seeing my mom and ex-step-dad get along so well, but I’m super thankful since we all end up having to be around each other so much.

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Our typical date of choice is dinner and a movie. For dinner, we decided to try a place on a neighboring town square that has a little rooftop you can eat on. It was super cute and had a great view of the cute little town square, but because we got there at 5pm, it was pretty sunny out, so it was a little hot.

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Joe Daddy ordered the ahi tuna BLT on focaccia bread and I ordered the Santa Fe chicken sandwich with avocado and pico de gallo. We both chose fries as our side, even though I was kinda interested in the kale slaw. We split our sandwiches and traded halfsies (which we typically do when we eat out). My sandwich was sooo good. Joe Daddy’s was disappointing. The ahi tuna was pretty flavorless and the bread was like styrofoam (the bacon, lettuce, and tomato were the best part of the sandwich 🙁  ). Over all, we enjoyed our experience, but I doubt we’ll go back. It wasn’t anything to brag about.

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We had about an hour to kill between dinner and the movie, so of course, we ended up at Walmart (our favorite store). #NoShame

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Taylor was really unhappy about having to spend the night at her cousins’ house, so we bought her a poop emoji pillow to cheer her up. Right about the time we were walking out to the car with it, she texted me with, “I hate you.” So I replied, “I guess I’ll take this back then,” and sent her a picture of the pillow. After that she was much nicer and actually helped Cherie take care of the little kids. I don’t always bribe my kids, but hey, whatever works! #TeensAndTweensWillNOTBeTheDeathOfMe

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After we got bored in Walmart, we headed to the movie theater, but still had some time to kill, so we made a pit stop at Ross. I actually found something I’d been looking for: mats to cover the messed up floors in the living room where the girls’ play kitchen is! I was even more impressed that I only found one thing! LOL! #Shopaholic

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We love scary movies, so I was stoked there was one out that we both wanted to see! It was sooo good y’all!!! I was jumping and screaming and squeezing my man for dear life! I love a good scary movie! My heart was racing for a good half hour afterwards! That might have also been in part to all the sugar I ingested between the M&Ms and cherry Sprite 😉 . #DontBreathe

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We got home close to 11pm, watched some TV, played a little dress up 😉 , and cleaned the house til 2am. We couldn’t resist this Ted suit when we found it in Walmart! The kids love it too! LOL! #ISleptNextToMyVeryOwnRealLiveTeddyBear #HeSeriouslyFellAsleepInIt

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We woke up around 9:30am the next morning so we could pick up the kids by 10am. We scooped up the girls first. Cherie said they didn’t give her any problems and that Taylor was a big help (success!). Then we grabbed Jules from his friend’s house and got everyone a biscuit from Hardee’s so we could finish picking up the house before Pa came over to watch the kids while we went to the tattoo parlor. We took one last picture(s) of ourselves without our new tattoos.

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A couple years ago, we decided to start getting tattooed for our anniversary. We were 31 and 32 when we got our first tattoos! I went ahead and got two, since I couldn’t decide between one for me (the peacock feather) or one for the kids (the 5 bird silhouettes). Joe Daddy knew he wanted a hunting sleeve eventually, but the artist he got just copied one of the pictures he brought in instead of coming up with any original ideas. I remember it hurting like hell, during and after, so I was pretty darn anxious, especially when my artist said it would probably take two hours from start to finish!

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Well, it took three. It was the most God-awful pain, but it was totally worth it! It’s not what I envisioned or asked for, but it came out beautifully. I got the same guy who did my first two tattoos, which is kinda cool, only now that he’s given me two tattoos that aren’t what I asked for, I think I’ll go with someone different next time 😉 .

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I think next time, I’ll ask for Joe Daddy’s artist! He did such an amazing job, and gave Joe the deal of a lifetime! #Jelly

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Joe Daddy’s half sleeve took six hours to complete, but it looks amazing!!! The guy drew it on his arm with a sharpie, which took about 3 hours, then…

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…he outlined it in ink, taking another 3 hours. Look at those clean lines and all that detail! He stayed an hour after they closed to finish it and charged the same price as they charged for mine! #WhatADeal

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Of course, we got home too late to take our “after” picture (it was after 8pm, so the sun had already gone down 🙁 ), but Joe Daddy got home in time tonight! Yep! We totally hopped back into our dirty clothes from yesterday to take these! I think we look so much cooler with our tattoos! #CouplesThatGetTattooedTogetherStayTogether

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My shoulder feels like someone punched me in it twenty times and then viciously rubbed it with sandpaper. I knew it was gonna hurt, but that really doesn’t make it any easier. I still made it to Zumba this morning. I even wore my new red snakeskin pants that I also found at Walmart on Saturday (which I’ve been wanting for a while, but they didn’t have my size at any of the Walmarts I’ve been to over the past couple of months). I was in excruciating pain for most of my class, but it’s Zumba. You can’t not enjoy it!

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I also got to try my new amino acids this morning, and I gotta say: they are AWESOME! My cousin encouraged me to try them. I’m so glad I took his advice! I had more energy than ever…and I only took half the recommended dose! I can’t wait to see how awesome they make me feel when I’m not in so much pain! LOL!

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For those of you keeping count: I’m up to 12 pills every morning. Shew!

And that was our amazing anniversary weekend! I can’t wait for next year! I’ve already got a bunch of tattoo ideas ready to go! #NotStoppingTilImCovered

Phoenix 2-001

15 Reasons My Marriage is Amazing

15 years ago, I chose Joe Daddy to be my husband and he chose me to be his wife. We swore an oath, for better or for worse, to stay faithfully committed to one another until we die. Of course, when you’re madly in love, it’s easy to make that promise. Honestly, staying faithful to my husband hasn’t been hard at all, it’s staying committed to making the marriage the best it can be that has taken all the effort.

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Here are 15 reasons my marriage is ahhhmazing:

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We love each other unconditionally. Marriage is a commitment. It’s choosing to love someone despite their faults each and every day. Most of the time, I’m pretty lovable. Sometimes, I can be a real pain in the ass. Same goes for my husband. We choose to remember that we’re not perfect and don’t let the bad days outnumber the good. That takes intention. Loving someone at their best is easy. Loving someone at their worst takes commitment.

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We put each other first. I love to be right (mostly b/c I always am), but over the years I’ve learned that I care more about the happiness of my husband and the health of my marriage than being right. There are times when I just have to hand over my pride and let my husband figure out how wrong he is all on his own 😉 (there are even times when I don’t mention, “I told you so!”).

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We don’t sweat the small stuff. Nitpicking and nagging are exhausting (whether you’re on the giving or receiving end) and rarely solve anything. I’ve learned that while I can certainly influence my husband, I can’t change who he is as a person, nor should I want to. I have embraced his quirks and accepted his faults. I’m sure there are plenty of things I do that my husband doesn’t like, but he doesn’t complain (like ever, which could just mean that I’m perfect 😉 ). Just like with the kids, we pick our battles wisely.

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We try to “air grievances” and “discuss possible solutions” rather than fight. I know a lot of people say you should never go to bed angry, and that’s a nice idea, but sometimes, that’s exactly what we’ve needed. We’ve had a few instances where we’ve come to an impasse, called it a night, and woke up feeling much more like compromising.

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We tell each other everything. Communication is sooo important. My husband tells me so much about what goes on at his work and the things he and his friends talk about (more than I really even care to know), and I do the same. I’m sure we bore each other at times since we’re not really interested in all of the same stuff, but I enjoy the fact that he is so open and honest with me, and I’m grateful to have someone to vent to that just listens and offers moral support.

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We choose to trust each other. Could my husband be cheating on me every time he says he has to work late? Yes! Could I be having an affair with the postman while he’s at work? Yes! (Well, actually no…he’s a woman 😉 ). But instead of questioning each other and looking through each other’s phones or email accounts (or even worse: sharing them), we choose to believe that we’re doing exactly what we say we’re doing…until we have a reason not to.

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We respect each other’s beliefs and opinions. I think at our core, my husband and I agree on a lot, but we have somewhat different religious beliefs, political views, and ideals on how our children should be raised. Thankfully, we respect each other enough to agree to disagree and realize that neither of us are right or wrong, just different. We choose to enlighten our children in both of our beliefs and opinions and let them choose for themselves what they want to believe. There are times when we butt heads because we honestly can’t understand how the other person can think a certain way, but we’ve come to realize that those things don’t change who we are to each other.

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We know it won’t always be this hard. Our kids are our world and they have certainly enriched our lives, but they make everything more complicated. As if living with and loving another person unconditionally wasn’t hard enough, we had to add five more people to the mix who we have to feed, clothe, bathe, transport, provide for, and love with every fiber of our being, independently and as a unit. Kids make financial decisions more complicated, dinner decisions more taxing, and making time for our relationship as husband and wife nearly impossible. I’m glad that as they get older, it gets easier to find that time.

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We make time for each other. We know that one day, we’ll have nothing but time for each other because our children will have their own children making their marriages more complicated, but we also know we can’t just put our marriage on the back burner for 30 years, so we just keep squeezing out drops of time from our busy schedules to dedicate to each other. Every night after we put the kids to bed, we sit on the couch, vent to each other about our days, and watch a little TV. It doesn’t seem like much, but just being in the same room as my husband without the kids makes me feel grounded. My husband works long hours, so on his days off, we spend as much time together as a family as we can. The only time we ever really go off together is on our birthdays and our anniversary. Somehow, it’s enough for us, for now.

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We make time for ourselves. We are not one person. We don’t have the same likes, hobbies, friends, or interests. I love that my husband loves to hunt, I just don’t want to go with him. My husband loves my photography, but he doesn’t want to sit and watch me edit a bunch of pictures for hours on end. His friends are old high school buddies who like to go beer tasting at breweries. I don’t drink beer. My friends are my sister, my neighbors, and anyone with kids that my kids want to play with. My husband doesn’t like other people’s kids. There are a lot of things we do have in common, but those aren’t the only things we ever want to do. So just as we make time for each other, we let each other make time for ourselves.

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We have mastered the art of compromise. I think one of the reasons our marriage works as well as it does is we both know when to sacrifice our own desires for the happiness of the other. I’m sure I get my way more than my husband does, but there are times when he makes it known that he feels strongly about something and I’ll give in and let him have his way. It doesn’t feel like giving something up though, because I enjoy seeing him happy. I think our biggest compromise over the last 15 years has been how often we have sex. There is one of us who still has the hormones of a teenager and is ready to go all. the. time, and there is one of us who would be happy just to sleep next to each other in the bed every night, except maybe once a month (I’ll let you decide you is who 😉 ). We’ve managed to meet in the middle so that the horn-ball feels somewhat satisfied and the old geezer doesn’t have to wear their self out, haha!

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We know each other’s love language. Mine is vastly different from my husband’s. He craves physical attention. He likes to cuddle and kiss and…well, you know. I, on the other hand, enjoy my space, rarely like to be touched, and would rather he show me he loves me by helping out around the house and with the kids. Of course, my love language was a lot more like his 15 years ago before we had kids, so it’s taken a bit of adjusting on both of our parts to come to understand how different we are and respond appropriately.

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We’ve accepted that, like life (and our bodies…and our hair), love changes. My husband and I started our family when we were 18 and 19 years old. We fell hard and fast. We were living with each other within the first month of meeting each other, engaged a month after that, and expecting our son 3 months after that. Just a year after we met, we were parents to a baby boy (who is getting ready to turn fourteen next week…oh, my gosh, make it stop!). A lot of the people we know who started out the same way are no longer together. We got lucky. Instead of growing apart year after year, we’ve grown closer together. Sure, it’s taken some trial and error, lots of “sanding and repainting,” but we’ve remained committed and now, we’re stronger than ever! We both feel like we’re more in love now than we were 15 years ago because we realize: that love was easy. That love was full of hormonal passion and desire and didn’t have any baggage or complication. The love we have now is despite the baggage and complication, and full of intentional passion and desire. It’s a love we’ve nurtured like a fire. Love grows and changes, and that’s a good thing!

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My husband is the yin to my yang. Just as yin and yang are seemingly opposing forces that interact to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts, my husband complements me. Where I am weak, he is strong, and vice versa. I know it’s cliche to say “we complete each other,” because we firmly believe that we are complete people all on our own, but without him, I don’t feel as whole (and I’m only speaking from the few experiences where he is away on business or out hunting for short periods of time).

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My marriage doesn’t look like everyone else’s. What works for us, doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, and that’s OK! Comparison is the thief of joy. My marriage isn’t perfect, but it’s amazing, and it’s mine, and I love it!

And in case you didn’t get enough of our adorableness, here’s some more for ya! 😉

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Happy Anniversary to the one I love! I look forward to many more years of growing in love together!

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“If you’re a bird, I’m a bird.”

Phoenix 2-001

The Best Labor Day Weekend EVER!!!

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I was so excited when my sister Lauren called last week and told me she was coming to visit over the long weekend, like sooo excited! My sister lives 7 hours away in the rural hills of Kentucky, so we can’t exactly visit her (there’s literally no where to stay), and since she works full-time and has 2 small children, visiting us isn’t possible but once or twice a year. I was really surprised when she called to say they were coming this weekend because they had just come to visit at the end of May and this weekend just so happened to also be my youngest niece Madison’s first birthday!

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I was thrilled to hear that she wanted to stay at our house the entire time! Usually, she splits her time between my house and my other sister’s house, which is only 5 minutes away. I like when she stays with me because I feel like I get more time with her than when she stays at my sister’s and I just go to visit with her for a few hours. My girls really like getting to spend the night with their cousin Bailey (who is Trini’s age), too. I know she doesn’t like having to pack up and move houses, even though they aren’t far apart, but I really hate when she doesn’t stay at our house any of the nights that she comes. I guess I’ll just have to get over it because she’s decided to take turns from now on. I told my other sister I’ll just have to send all of my girls to spend the night at her house when they come to visit next time! Haha!

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Anyway, they started their journey here after Bailey got home from school and my sister got home from work, so they didn’t get here until 11pm. We set the baby up in the living room with my sister and put my brother-in-law and Bailey in the bottom bunk with Taylor, who was asleep like the rest of the girls (Trini passed out at 4:30pm! #KindergartenIsExhausting). The next morning, everyone woke up super early, except me. They were kind enough to let me sleep til 10am. I needed it after staying up late all week painting my kitchen (which still isn’t finished). My sister had some returns to make at Children’s Place and Carter’s and we needed to find a birthday cake for the birthday girl’s party!

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I love that no matter how much time they’ve spent apart, they just mesh together when they see each other again! #CousinsMakeTheBestFriends

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After we finished returning her items, we made a pit stop at Chick-fil-A (since my sister and I both were so excited to go shopping we forgot to eat…and the kids are always hungry for chicken nuggets ;)), then we went to Kroger and found cupcakes, an ice cream cake, a smash “cupcake,” and some other stuff for the birthday party.

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When we got back to the house, I set up a back drop and got a couple outfits and accessories ready so we could take Maddie’s first birthday pictures! I haven’t been able to take all of my nieces’ birthday pictures, but I’m glad I’ve been able to do some!

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We dressed that baby up all purdy and began hooting and hollering our best to try and get a smile out of her. This was the best we could do. Sad, I know. She was smiling up a storm afterwards! The little stinker!

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I don’t go gaga for babies anymore (I’ve had my fill I guess! LOL!), but I couldn’t get enough of this little doll!

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Isn’t she precious???

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Soooo stinking precious!!!

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Of course, she wanted nothing to do with her smash cake. Nothing. She kept staring at us like, “How long must I sit here avoiding this thing???”

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We did get her to touch it once on her own…

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…then we helped her of course 🙂

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And she did end up sticking her foot in it after a while, haha!

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She ended up getting more cake on her dress than in her mouth, but that’s OK! It was still cute as can be!

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As the birthday girl, she was entitled to do what she pleased 😉

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This one would  have been my favorite had it not come out blurry 🙁

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I wanted to capture her “smashing” her cake during the photo shoot on video, so I gave Taylor my phone. She ended up taking a couple of cute pictures! This is one of them.

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This was another one.

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Which I thought also looked nice in black and white 🙂

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After the photo shoot, we loaded the van up with kids, drinks, mac and cheese, and chips and headed to my sister Monika’s house. The kids swam (in the freezing cold pool…glad I decided to drain mine instead of trying to keep it clean another week!) and played while the rest of us watched MoMo cook.

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Maddie enjoyed chewing on my necklace 🙂

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One of the most exciting things about that day was getting to celebrate Maddie’s first birthday with my PawPaw (my mom’s dad). Up until a couple years ago, he wasn’t really apart of our lives. He and my mom had a falling out when I was 8 or so and because they’re both stubborn as mules, we didn’t see him again until I was 19. Over the past 15 years, he’s spent a lot of his time working and caring for his wife who died last year, so in that time, I’ve only seen him 4-5 times, and 3 of those times have been in the past year. I’m thankful for his presence in our lives now. The kids couldn’t be more excited to have another PawPaw! And now he’s finally met all 11 of them!

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Once the burgers and hot dogs had been grilled, we ate! Then we sang ♫Happy Birthday♪ and ate some more!

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Joe Daddy got off work just in time to eat dinner with us, but he had to get home to load up his trailer to bring a bunch of stuff down to the hunting land he leases for his company picnic the next day. All 3 of the guys decided to make it a camping trip. They loaded up tents, air mattresses, guns, food, and beer and headed out.

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They all said they had a super fun time together and can’t wait to do it again next time!14258178_10207142445895079_1140452971196038519_o

After we got home from the party, we bathed the kids and made them a pallet so Maddie could have the girls’ room to herself. They started a movie and passed right out! It’s funny. We have enough beds in the girls’ room to sleep 8-10 people and yet all of them slept in the living room so one baby could sleep in the room, in her pack and play! LOL! Taylor ended up sleeping with me since her daddy wasn’t there and she wanted to read before bed.

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The next day, I went out to grab breakfast at Chick-fil-A so my sister (who doesn’t have a CFA where she lives) could try the new Egg White Grill (which is delicious if you haven’t tried it yet), and realized halfway there that it was Sunday (not the first time I’ve made that mistake). So I took a detour and got us some Bo-Berry and country ham and egg biscuits from Bojangles instead. I popped a Stouffer’s mac and cheese in the oven (yes, another one), along with a frozen apple pie, and got myself and the rest of our crew (minus Bene and Maddie, who stayed home) ready and loaded up to head to the land for Joe Daddy’s company picnic. This is the second year they’ve had one out at the land, only this year they had it near Labor Day and not on Memorial Day when it’s miserable outside. The weather was nice and there was plenty for the kids to do: fly a foam airplane their Pa brought, take rides in the fishing boat on the lake, fish, and take rides on the trailer behind the 4-wheeler. There was a whole pig cooking, and everyone brought side dishes to share (we brought mac and cheese and pie).

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Unfortunately, my poor sweet sister’s allergies went haywire and started flaring up her asthma. She was weak and had chills and couldn’t even eat. We tried to hold out til the pig was done cooking, but she started having difficulty breathing, so we left a little early. Pa offered to take Joe Daddy home so he could stay and enjoy some time outside of work with his coworkers.

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Taylor really wanted to introduce LuLu and BayBay to snoballs, and since I thought they might actually help her feel a little better, we stopped (I made sure she wasn’t going to stop breathing on me if we did). They really enjoyed them (DUH!)!

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When we got home, I dosed my sister up with Flonase, Mucinex D, prednisone, and albuterol and sent her to sleep in my bed so the baby could nap in the girls’ room. Monie came over with her kids for one last visit. Unfortunately, Lu slept the whole time they were here 🙁

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After my sister and her kids left, we ate a simple dinner of pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans (which I always get compliments for, LOL!). Lu actually got up and felt well enough to put some food in her belly! Then she laid back down when we put the kids to sleep.

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They really loved getting to spend the weekend together!

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They left the next morning at 6am. My sister wasn’t 100%, but she said she felt much better (YAY for my medicine cabinet!). All of us girls got up to give them one last squeeze (the boys were content having said their good-byes the night before). I’m especially gonna miss that sweet baby because I have a feeling my sister’s not gonna make that difficult journey again any time soon. They had an awful car ride down (Maddie gets car sick so she cries and throws up and has to take breaks), my poor sister gets sick every time she comes (that Kentucky air is just so much cleaner!), and Maddie’s just in a difficult stage of life right now (she eats, sleeps, poops, and plays on a schedule which isn’t easy to keep when you’re not at home). The next time I see her, she probably won’t be a baby anymore! I’ll miss my BayBay and my sister too, but at least we can FaceTime.

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I’m so grateful for all the precious memories my sister and nieces gave me this weekend! I truly treasure them! I just wish they lived closer!!!

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We spent the rest of our Labor Day not laboring. That was our only rule.

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I went back to bed after my sister left and slept in til 11am. When I woke up, I made everyone bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches for lunch. I had mine on an Ezekiel sprouted grain English muffin, which are sooo good, and sooo expensive, but still cheaper than McDonald’s! Then I spent a couple hours blogging before I cooked dinner.

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Since we had already eaten a bunch of junk over the weekend, I decided to make a healthy dinner: Bruschetta stuffed balsamic chicken with sweet potato and Brussels sprouts hash.

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Mine ended up like this, ready to mix! The chicken was great, the veggies weren’t spectacular. I don’t care for them roasted. I prefer them sautéed…in bacon 🙂 After dinner, I helped the girls pick out their clothes for the week (best idea ever!), pack their bags, bathe, and tucked them in bed. Then Joe Daddy and I enjoyed a little TV on the couch before bed, our usual. It was a very relaxing day at home with just the 7 of us, exactly what we needed after a long weekend with our extended family!

It really was the BEST Labor Day weekend EVER!!!

 

 

 

Phoenix 2-001