Is a Gym Membership Worth it?

A few months ago, we decided to join our local YMCA. And a week ago, I cancelled our membership. It was really nothing against the Y. In fact, I really enjoyed my time there. However, with recent life changes, we decided that the $75/month just wasn’t going to be worth it.

Here were my reasons for cancelling: 1. We’re buying a house and every penny counts. 2. I’m pregnant and would rather do my workouts in the privacy of my home when I’m a giant, sweaty, heavy-breathing balloon. And 3. We’re moving 10 more miles away, so it won’t be as easy to just bop over for a quick workout.

But, like I said, I did really enjoy having a membership. I think group exercise classes are a blast. And the Y offers free child watch while you workout, so it was great for Lily. And great to have a break as a SAHM. Being around other humans is always good for us too!

Anyway… here’s some questions you can answer yourself if you’re ever thinking about joining (or leaving) a gym.

1- Do you need the motivation?

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Some of us just need a little extra kick in the butt when it comes to working out. And gyms can be a great motivator to get it done. Whether it’s because you want to get your money’s worth. Or you sign up with a personal trainer to take advantage of the guidance, as well. Or group exercise classes are also an easy and fun way to get you moving.

But, if you’re more like me and my husband, you might not need that extra encouragement to exercise. Not to mention, there’s so many at-home workout programs out there these days. My personal favorite is my yoga app, Down Dog! But there’s YouTube videos, programs like BeachBody, or just good old fashioned books like my Yeah Baby! book by Jillian Michaels (obviously geared toward pregnant women).

So, just ask yourself how much motivation you need, and maybe the gym is the right answer for you!

2 – Do you need the equipment?

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You may not have room for the type of equipment you need for your workouts. Especially, if you are one who likes to use a variety of gear. And if you really like to switch it up, buying all of the equipment wouldn’t be worth the money compared to a $10/month membership to Planet Fitness. Like, if you want to be able to use a treadmill, row machine, stationary bike, bench press, pulley machine, and dumbbells… you might just want to pay the fee.

However, it is always possible to get a good workout in with very little equipment. Most workouts don’t require any equipment at all. But, if you do the math, a few simple pieces of exercise equipment are still going to be more worth your money than a gym membership. My husband and I have a bench, a set of Bowflex SelectTech Dumbbells, a yoga mat, an exercise ball, resistance bands, and a foam roller. These few things are all we need for a good workout. You could probably pay for these things with a year’s worth of gym membership fees.

3 – What is more convenient for you?

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Perhaps your gym is just a hop, skip, and jump away and it’s super easy to just bop over for a quick workout, or it’s on your way to/from work. Or maybe, you live somewhere that runs/walks are not exactly ideal. Going to a gym might just be the most convenient for you and your way of life.

But getting yourself to a gym might not be the easiest thing to do for you. If you’re like us, and it takes just as long to drive to the gym than it does to actually workout, maybe try an in-home gym or program.

4 – Are the extra amenities worth it to you?

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One of the biggest reasons that I got a membership to the YMCA was for the free child watch. I would just drop Lily off at the little daycare center a minute before my group exercise class started. It was great for her to socialize and great for me to get a break! A lot of gyms also have other great amenities like a pool, sauna, basketball court, jogging track, massage chairs, tanning beds, and snack bars. These might be really worth your money.

It’s really just a matter of if these amenities are important to you. When I was able to get to the Y two or more times a week, the membership was really worth it for the child watch. It’s not as worth it to me now that I can’t go as much, but you better believe I might be rejoining when there’s two little rascals driving me crazy and keeping me from getting my workout in!


Getting your workout in doesn’t have to be hard. You just have to decide what is easier for you… going to a gym or staying at home.


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Let’s Talk Sippy Cups

This probably seems like a really random subject to write about, but I feel like I’m practically a sippy cup expert after trying so many different ones with Lily. So, here’s all of the cups that we’ve personally tried and the pros and cons for each.

Tommee Tippee First Sips Soft Transition Cup

Tommee Tippee 4-7 Months Transition Cup (Just Believe - Green)

This Tommee Tippee transition cup was Lily’s first sippy cup. We actually had to buy it when we went on a trip and this rookie mom forgot a bottle. So, it was great because Lily was still on the bottle and it comes with a regular nipple. The handles are easy for the little ones to grip. And then later, I used the sippy spout to start practicing just with water. It’s also pretty easy to clean since it all comes apart.

A couple things I didn’t like about it… The spout has to line up perfectly with the star on the lid in order for it to line up with the handles, which is not the easiest thing. Then, when Lily went to formula, the measurements just show odd numbers; and if you’ve ever used formula, you know that it goes in increments of 2 ounces.

Nuk Learner Cup

These Nuk Learner Cups were by far our favorite sippy cups when Lily was first starting off. Lily caught on with them really fast since they have a soft spout and easy grip handles. The measurements on these are actually even numbers, so perfect for formula. And it all comes apart, so very easy to clean. No leaking! They also come in different sizes and styles.

The only downside with these was that as Lily got older, she kept chewing on the tips and eventually tore holes in them, which meant leaks… I’ve retired them now.

Nuby Grip N’ Sip

As Lily got older, I decided to try a variety of cups to see what would work best. I grabbed just one of these at Walmart for a pretty cheap price. You can get a two pack from Amazon for just $11. I liked that it was inexpensive, so if we lost it, no big deal. It was also an easy one for Lily to hold and pretty easy to clean.

However, I really do not recommend these particular Nuby cups. The silicone area around the spout twists as you twist the lid closed. Hard to explain, but it’s really weird and if I have to use this one, I can’t close it too tight or it makes a gap at the top. Basically, it leaks really bad. I do know that Nuby makes other cups that I’m sure are better, I just haven’t tried any yet.

Munchkin Click Lock Bite Proof Sippy Cup

Click Lock Bite Proof Sippy Cup - 9oz (Pink)

This was another Walmart grab. They’re also available on Amazon. This is another really inexpensive cup so I’m not worried if it gets lost or ruined. It actually is quite leak proof and it’s easy to clean. It’s probably one of my favorites for milk now that Lily is older and likes to carry it around the house.

However, since it doesn’t have handles, it took Lily a while to learn to grab it. That’s about my only gripe about it though.

Munchkin Click Lock Weighted Straw Cup

Munchkin 2pk Click Lock Weighted Straw Cup 7oz - image 8 of 8

This was an excellent cup for learning how to use a straw! It’s a weighted straw, so even if baby tips it like a sippy cup, they can still suck it through the straw. It has handles, which again is great for the little ones.

However, I am not a fan of how hard it is to clean, so I never put milk in it. Although, it does come with a straw cleaner, which is nice (I’m just lazy). And with ours, sometimes it would leak and sometimes it wouldn’t. I just learned not to trust it and we don’t use it as much anymore.

Munchkin Miracle 360

I love these 360 cups! They don’t leak and they’re very easy to clean because they come apart. I throw them in the dishwasher. And they are so great for learning to drink from a cup.

It does take a bit of practice for baby to get the hang of it. They have to tip it and suck a little, but it’s amazing how there’s no mess! It took Lily a few months to get the hang of it, but now she’s a pro. Another con… if it’s dropped on it’s top, it tends to spray out, so maybe not for kids who like to throw cups.

Chicco NaturalFit Insulated Flip Top Straw Cup

I recently grabbed these straw cups for on-the-go. I liked that they were inexpensive incase they were misplaced. They’re insulated which is nice for the summer time. I love them for just filling with some ice water and throwing into the diaper bag. They are leak-proof…

However, when you open the straw, it sometimes bubbles up and spills over the sides. It’s also not the easiest to clean with the straw, but it is dishwasher safe.

Contigo AutoSpout Straw Gizmo Flip Kids Water Bottle

I think this one was a TJ Maxx find… Lily’s has dinosaurs on it. There are lots of designs to choose from on Amazon. This is my favorite cup for water! It does not leak even a bit. I love that it closes and can be opened with the button (which Lily hasn’t quite figured out how to do yet). It’s really easy for her to drink out of. I also like how durable it is since she tends to drop it often. The straw and lid and such come apart so you can just throw it all in the dishwasher. Another great one for on-the-go.

However, these are a little bit more costly, so I worry about losing it. And I wouldn’t probably put milk or juice in it since it has so many parts to clean.

Silikids Silicone Straw Tumbler

Silikids 8oz Silicone Straw Tumbler Blue/Green - image 1 of 2

I just thought this cup was really neat. The silicone lid is super stretchy and can actually fit on most regular cups. I bought it thinking it might be nice for stuff like smoothies and shakes.

It’ll probably be great when Lily is a bit older, but it’s definitely not leak-proof. And I was actually surprised how little liquid it actually holds since the walls of the cup are so thick. I let her use it if we are having smoothies outside.


And there you have it! These are all of the sippy cups that we have personally tried. If you have any recommendations on cups that you like (or really dislike), please mention it in the comments! Lily is due for some new ones, and I’d love any feedback!


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Guess What!

Well, it’s happening… we’re expecting Baby Johnson #2! And he/she is due to arrive in February. Miss Lily Lynn is going to be a big sister! Which means two kids, a year and 9 months apart (help me!). But as crazy as this is going to be, we are so excited that Lily will have a sibling that she will get to grow up with!

She has absolutely no idea what we’re saying when we tell her she’s going to be a big sister. And we’re still working on “being nice” to our baby doll. But I know she’s going to be a great little helper when baby arrives.

She already loves to help Mom around house. You should see her come running when I say it’s time to put the dishes away. She’ll take silverware out of the dishwasher one by one and hand them to me. She even tries to tackle the heavy pots and pans, determined to help. She’s also getting quite good at throwing trash away, getting her shoes when it’s time to go, and even putting her toys away when I tell her (we’ll see how long that lasts).

However, as helpful as she might be, I know that raising a newborn and a toddler is not always going to be sunshine and lemonade. I mean, I watch moms do it all the time, but it’s still quite terrifying to imagine. And yes, I know that the lessons that I learned as a first-time mom are going to carry over. I know that I won’t be quite as paranoid with the second. And I know that my instincts will take over, just like they did with Lily.

But, for real, if any of you moms of two or more children want to lend me some advice, I will gladly take it! Leave a comment or send a message, if you’d like!

Let our new adventure begin!

Exercise (My In-the-Middle Approach)

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Let’s be real… most human beings are not exactly fond of working out. And I’m here to tell you that I’m not much different. I know what you’re thinking if you know me… Cassi, you have a degree in Exercise Science, you clearly like to workout.

Here’s the thing… it’s not that I really enjoy performing the exercises. I specialized in the subject because I know how important it is. I just appreciate the many benefits of exercise and want others to understand them as well.

I could go on and on about the never ending benefits of exercise, but there’s always one thing that I like to remind myself about when I’m not feeling all that up to it. Let me be one of those annoying people that talk about the cavemen for just a second here… human beings are not meant to be sedentary!

Take-out, Hy-Vee Aisles, and Hello Fresh have not always existed. Yeah, unfortunately, we used to have to work for our food. And water hasn’t always come out of a tap. And our homes have not always been maintained by someone we pay.

So, since we’re spoiled nowadays… we have to make up for it by doing our own physical activity. And yes, this would involve a mix of aerobic (cardio) and anaerobic (weight-lifting). Unless, you’d like to go hunt and gather for your food everyday… be my guest!

Because I’m also not the biggest fan of working out, here is my #1 way I get myself to do it at least 5 days a week…

Mixing it Up!

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When it comes to exercise, I love all different kinds of activities. And I like to do them all to mix it up and keep it interesting. Who wants to go to the gym everyday, run for 20 minutes, lift for 40, then go home? I mean maybe that’s what works for you… but I’d get pretty bored.

Every week is a little different for me lately, but I highly recommend at least setting a designated time each day to workout. Whether it’s before work (which is what my husband does), after work, during lunch, or a different time everyday (like me). Just try to set aside the time beforehand.

Then, just make sure you’re getting a good mix of both aerobic and anaerobic. You can do this by doing them every other day or incorporating both into one workout.

Aerobic/anaerobic Every other day

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This is typically the approach that I take, but it will take some planning ahead. So, for example, I might lift weights on Monday (usually half of the muscle groups)… then on Tuesday, I go for a walk/jog… Wednesday, I lift the other half of the muscle groups… Thursday, I go to the zoo or for a hike… and Friday, I do a yoga session.

You can do this however you want… you can lift 4 days and go for a run once or twice in between lifting. Or if you’re a fan of running, go for a run 3 days and lift twice in between.

And you don’t have to workout just on the weekdays… if it works better to workout on the weekends and take Wednesday and Friday off… then do it! Sometimes, I don’t feel like working out after a long week on Friday, so I workout Saturday morning instead. Whatever you need to do to get the job done.

Also, if you want to give yoga a try, or don’t want to pay for a membership, or if you’re like me and don’t like doing it in front of others… try this awesome yoga app!

Down Dog is great for any level yogi. You can choose all different options for your workouts and it’s all from the comfort of your home. And the free version is perfect for amateurs!

No photo description available.
Click this icon to download the Down Dog App!

aerobic/anaerobic in same workout

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Now and then, when I’m a slacker I have to incorporate both aerobic and anaerobic into one workout. I, personally, like to do this through circuit workouts. So, working quickly through bodyweight or lightweight exercises. Many of the classes at gyms like HIIT or Tabata are like this. They get your heart rate up while really working your muscles. These are great if you don’t have a ton of time.

But, if you do have plenty of time in your day, you can also get your cardio in and follow it up with weights. The key is to make sure you get enough of both when you do this.


make working out work for you!

My point to all of this is… working out does not have to be boring. It should be fun/interesting/exciting! Don’t be afraid to try something new. Try a new class at your gym, download a workout video you’ve never done before, find a new place to go for a walk/run, or get the Down Dog app and try yoga!

Just make a weekly plan… what time of the day will you workout? What activities on which days? Do you have some aerobic and some anaerobic? Are you staying active at least 5 days a week?

Here’s a couple of my sample weeks…

MondayLift – chest, back, legs, abs
TuesdayIt’s a beautiful day – Push Lily in stroller at Zoo.
WednesdayLift – biceps, triceps, shoulders, legs, abs
Thursday30 minutes full practice yoga
FridayI’m a slacker
SaturdayStill a slacker (but hey, we went shopping and I walked a lot)
SundayOkay, okay… I’ll go for a jog.

MondayCircuit Workout
Tuesday40 min full practice yoga
WednesdayLift – Full Body
ThursdayWalk with Lily
FridaySlacker
SaturdayGo for a Hike
Sunday30 minutes restorative yoga

So, as you can see… I am not perfect by any means! Everyday is different for me, especially since my schedule is never the same and I have a one-year-old that isn’t exactly easy to workout with. I honestly don’t even plan a week ahead since my days are so random. I literally plan out my next day during my shower the night before.

All I can do is TRY. Try to be active everyday and try to challenge myself in every workout.

And if you want any workout tips or even a personalized plan… I would be happy to put this Exercise Science knowledge to use and help you out! Give me a shout on social media or go to my Contact Me page.


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Tiny Nursery Problems – Solved!

Before we move to our bigger home, I thought I’d write a blog about how I survived the first 15 months with a very small room for Lily’s nursery. When I was first pregnant, I thought there was no way we would be able to fit everything a baby needs into this tiny 8 ft x 9 ft room.

Arranging the Furniture

But, luckily, a baby doesn’t really need floor space in their room. We were able to shove the furniture into the corners to make enough room for everything. And we didn’t even have to sacrifice the good quality furniture.

We found Lily’s crib and dresser at Nebraska Furniture Mart. It’s the Evolur Santa Fe set, and I love it! It looks really nice, it’s super well-made, and the drawers are nice and smooth (which is always important to me). It can also convert to a toddler bed or full-size bed if you buy the converters.

Once, we had the dresser and crib picked out, we had a hard time deciding if we could fit a rocking chair or not. We did the measurements for the maximum dimensions the chair could be and that’s exactly what we ended up with.

We received the chair as a gift and it fit so perfectly. It came with a footrest and we just put that in the corner by the crib when it’s not being used. It’s not one of those big comfy gliders, but it got the job done when I was nursing. And we still use it to read to Lily before bed!

So, if you’re thinking about skipping a rocking chair in the nursery… I wouldn’t! Try to find room for it and make sure you take good measurements.

Dresser Organization

I absolutely love our Evolur dresser! You’ll notice that we didn’t bother with one of those expensive changing toppers. We simply bought a changing pad that had the straps that you just screw into the back of the dresser to prevent it from falling off.

Then, I put this basket off to the side with diapers, wipes, lotion, hand sanitizer, Aquaphor, and yes, air fresheners! One bad thing about a small nursery… the stink tends to linger. I have a couple of the Bath & Body Works Concentrated Room Sprays ready for those times when even taking the trash out doesn’t work. A tiny little spritz does the trick!

 Linen & Lavender Concentrated Room Spray - Bath And Body Works

One thing I love about Lily’s dresser is the different sizes of drawers. I love having a few smaller drawers to help with organization. Here’s how I currently have each drawer organized. But, I have changed it a few times as she’s grown since her clothes have gotten bigger.

First Aid Drawer

I bought the little organizers from Dollar Tree! We use them in the kitchen and bathroom as well. They’re $1 for a pack of 3. (And no, gripe water did not work for us.)

Diapers

In the center top drawer I just keep extra diapers that are ready to go. I used to be able to fit a lot more in here when she was smaller.

Socks & Swim Suits

I keep her socks in the other small drawer, with her swimsuits and swim diapers behind them.

Clothes

Like I said, this has changed a few times as her clothes have grown, but right now I keep all of her pants, shorts, and skirts on one side. Then, her onesies and some pajamas that are too big are behind that.

Towels, Changing Pads, Pajamas

This is usually more full… it’s laundry day.

Sheets and Muslin Blankets

Definitely the messiest drawer since Lily enjoys pulling everything out of here on a daily basis. But, this is her extra crib sheets and her muslin blankets.

Blankets

And then, we have one whole drawer stuffed with blankets. And there’s more in her closet. Oh, and she usually has 2 of them in her crib. Blankets are definitely the hardest thing to store in a small nursery.

The Closet

Lily’s closet is stacked to the brim, but I’m just grateful she has a decent sized closet at all.

On the top shelves are things she no longer uses, for example the Boppy is no longer needed. In the gray basket is all of the breastfeeding paraphernalia. In the pink crates are just random things, mostly things from her newborn days that I’ve just kept.

I have Shout at the ready for emergency stains since our laundry room is downstairs, and sometimes it’s just not convenient to run a poop-stained onesie all the way down the stairs.

Along side that is trash bags… which I actually started to use grocery sacks for since we take her trash out every time there’s a dirty diaper. Feel free to judge me for not getting a Diaper Genie but guess how much a plastic target sack costs?? BOOM!

And then, I have to just stuff the extra diapers wherever I have room. We buy the boxes of diapers at Costco as much as we can to keep them in stock.

I had Alex install another shelf at the bottom of her closet since her clothes won’t go down to the floor. On that shelf is extra wipes, which again we buy the big boxes at Costco.

In the blue basket is where I put clothes that she’s outgrown. And then I cheat… when the basket is full, I take it to my Mom’s and store them in Ziploc Space Bags in my childhood closet.

And in the white basket, (which came in a set with the other white basket on the dresser from Hobby Lobby for like $8) I keep more blankets.

Finally, there’s her laundry basket which is very convenient especially when I had to wash her laundry separately.

I also had Alex install a few hooks on the side of her closet to hang her bags and her coats.

And if you care about how I organize her hung clothes, it goes outwear, tanks/rompers, t-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, dresses, then clothes she’ll grow into in size order. And here’s a tip… keep the tags on the clothes they haven’t worn yet, because most places (like Carter’s) will take items back without a receipt.

Extra Storage

I added a few more items to her nursery to give me some extra storage for the smaller things.

On the closet door, I put an old shoe organizer I had, kind of like this one from Amazon. In here, I store her headbands and bows, hats, gloves, shoes, and other miscellaneous small items. I also shove the receipts from clothing purchases in one of the pockets just in case we don’t end up wearing them.

We hung these cute little baskets from Target above her dresser. It has changed a few times since she was born, but right now we have burp cloths in one (which we rarely use now), wash cloths and Boogie Wipes in the middle, and bandana bibs (which I bought way too many of since the drool stage only lasts a few months) in the last one.

Also, the adorable sign was made by one of the artists at The Makery for only like $20!

And lastly, the all-popular outward facing book shelves. I was so in love this this idea when I kept seeing it all over Pinterest. It is super cute and nice to have her books right in her room for bedtime.

However, we went the cheapest route and found the best deal on Amazon. I don’t recommend doing this. They were an absolute pain to install. You can see where we messed up on the middle shelf. And don’t get me started on the bottom shelf. I hid how awful it is in this picture. Lily kept pulling on this shelf and the whole thing, mollies and all, came down. We have temporarily fixed it, but I really just recommend getting better quality shelves.

And there you have it! A somewhat organized small nursery. For what I had to work with, I’d say I succeeded… but I really can’t wait for bigger bedrooms in a month!


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3 Ways to Cut Down on Added Sugars

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Okay, in my previous blog, “My (Mostly) Healthy Lifestyle,” I mentioned that one of our big lifestyle changes was cutting down on added sugars. Again, we didn’t totally stop eating added sugars like the Keto diet. We just started to realize how much we were really eating, and tried to eliminate as much as we could.

I mean kudos to you if you are on Keto or are able to quit added sugars cold-turkey… but you’re probably a vampire or something. I really liked our approach to removing as much sugar from our diet as we could without being miserable.

I could go into so much detail about why sugar is so terrible for us, but that’s what WebMD is for! Check out this article from WebMD called “How Does Too Much Sugar Affect Your Body?” It’s really quite appalling that we haven’t paid more attention to this delicious poison.

The American Heart Association recommended daily added sugar intake for men is no more than 150 calories (37.5 grams). And 100 calories (25 grams) for women. This really is not that much, unfortunately.

So, how can you cut it down? Here’s a few ways we did it…

1 – Pay Attention to Nutrition Facts

Image result for clif bar nutrition label

Recognize this nutrition label? It’s from a Clif Bar. One of the protein bars that I used to eat quite frequently for breakfast or a snack. 10 grams of protein is stamped really largely on the front of the package, which is all I used to pay attention to.

Oh, 10 grams of protein in a pretty delicious little granola bar? Let me go ahead and buy this overpriced stick of SYRUP!

Look at the first ingredient… syrup?? And look at the sugar content… 22 grams! Remember the recommendations? One of these Clif Bars is almost my whole daily sugar intake!

So, when we actually started to pay more attention to the labels on the normal foods we were eating everyday… it was time to reevaluation simple things like protein bars.

We found the best of both worlds in these FitCrunch Protein Bars at Costco. You can find them almost anywhere, though. Alex has even bought one while he was traveling at a gas station. They only have 3 grams of sugar per bar and are super delicious!

FITCRUNCH Snack Size Protein Bars | Designed by Robert Irvine | World's Only 6-Layer Baked Bar | Just 3g of Sugar & Soft Cake Core (18 Count)

I made fun of the packaging when we first got them, but I swear they are amazing! It might as well be a candy bar. Plus, 16 grams of protein and only 190 calories! Thank you, Robert Irvine, and your massive arms, for creating this delectable protein bar that I now eat daily.

Now, protein bars are just one example of foods that have a ton of hidden sugar in them. Almost everything you buy at the store has a bit of sugar added. And unfortunately, the products that have “less sugar” usually have artificial sweeteners in them… and don’t even get me started on those.

My point is… read the labels on the foods you’re eating and remember those daily recommendations! I fail almost every day to stay under 25 grams, but I always try, and I know I’m doing way better than I used to.

2 – Pop… just stop!

Image result for Sprite 12 pack

Pop (or soda if you ain’t from ’round here) is LOADED with sugar! It surprises me every single time I look at the nutrition label. In a can of Sprite (which I used to think had to be better than most pops) there is a whopping 38 grams of sugar!

As far as my adult years go, I have never really been a big pop drinker. I already knew it wasn’t good for me, but it wasn’t until I was pregnant with Lily that I realized just how bad it was.

Socially, I’ve always loved a good mixed drink… any type of alcohol mixed with some kind of pop. And when I was pregnant and couldn’t have the alcohol part, I just sipped on a can of Sprite or Ginger-ale.

I watched a lot of Ellen back then and she was always advertising for Bubly. It’s a brand of sparkling water with zero everything, so I thought I’d give it a try!

bubly Raspberry Sparkling Water - 8pk/12 fl oz Cans - image 1 of 4

I know most people really hate sparkling water, but I personally think it’s delicious for having 0 calories and 0 sugar and no artificial sweeteners. It quenches my craving for carbonation and still has some flavor.

I started drinking these while I was pregnant just to mix it up a bit. Then, after Lily was born, I started adding Vodka to make the perfect low calorie mixed drink!

Now that both my husband and I drink these on a daily basis, we get the Ice Mountain Sparkling Water variety packs at Costco.

1

I personally think they’re the best tasting that I’ve tried so far.

Sparkling water is an excellent way to replace to pop. I know, I know… it’s not the same. But, don’t you think it’s worth skipping the tons and tons of sugar???

3 – We still eat Desserts!

Photo by Teejay on Pexels.com

Yes, we still give in to our sweet tooth… just not with this much.

In fact, most nights, you will find my husband and I sitting on the couch with a cup of ice cream. And when I say cup, I mean a Pampered Chef 1-cup Prep Bowl. And we try not to completely fill it.

I mean, if you look at the nutritional facts on most ice creams… a serving size is a 1/2 cup. And in a 1/2 cup of Blue Bunny Vanilla Ice Cream, there’s 130 calories and 14 grams of sugar.

Now think about how much ice cream you partake in and do the math. Staying under that daily recommendation?

And this goes for all desserts. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having something sweet after a meal. Like I said, we do it on most nights.

The key is both portion control and keeping my “two-cheat rule” in mind. If you had that can of pop today, it’s probably a good idea to skip the ice cream. If you had a cliff bar and creamer in your coffee… maybe say no to the cookie.

But if you were good today, and you have an extra cheat to use… just don’t go overboard on your serving size. A small cup of ice cream, just one cookie, a sliver of cake… portion control. You can do it!

So, again, there’s no reason to completely cut out sugar. Unless you’re a crazy person, then by all means, go for it! Just look at your labels, pick the products that have less sugar, and watch your portion sizes!

Okay, I’m gonna go have a brownie now…


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Baby-Led Weaning… it’s worth it!

Lily eating a fajita at 9 months.

I always thought I would be a pretty old school mom and try not to follow what all of these modern moms are doing these days. But when it was time for Lily to start eating solid foods… Baby-Led Weaning really caught my attention and I decided to give it a try.

What is Baby-Led Weaning?

Basically, when it’s time for your baby to start eating solids – you skip the purees and go straight to finger food. No little jars or pouches of mush, no food processors, and no spoon feeding.

You start with soft, easy to grab foods and let your little one go after it. According to What to Expect, baby-led weaning “allows babies to learn how to chew (or more accurately, gum) first, then swallow. It also prevents parents from pushing food, since babies are in control of how much they put into their mouths.”

Why did we choose Baby-Led Weaning?

I think the biggest advantage that appealed to my husband and I was the fact that we didn’t have to spoon feed her. We could just let her eat at her own pace while we ate ourselves, which also developed her independence.

But when the doctor first gave the go-ahead at 6 months, we actually started with purees. We were buying the expensive baby food, making our own, and patiently (somewhat) trying to feed her by the spoon.

That’s when I found information about baby-led weaning while browsing through Pinterest. It intrigued me, so I read some more about it.

How we got Started

I started with something super easy. These Plum Organics Little Teethers were a great way for Lily to practice holding her food, bringing it to her mouth, and taking bites.

Not to mention, she loved them! They kept her busy while I got things done, like cooking. They were also great for traveling. We always had one in the diaper bag for her to munch on at the store or at a restaurant.

Still one of Lily’s favorites and a very easy food to start with – bananas! If you leave part of the peel on it (like a push pop) it makes it easier for them to hold and take a bite. Then you peel more of it away as she eats it (which I needed to do in this picture).

It didn’t take her long at all and she was getting the hang of it. At just 7 months, we started giving her what we were eating (or at least soft versions of it). Like here, she has a mouth full of steamed broccoli when we were eating fish and veggies.

Cooked veggies cut into strips, small pieces of meat, bread, soft fruits… most of it is pretty self explanatory, but there’s tons of websites with all of the rules and pointers. Just type in baby-led weaning into Google or Pinterest and you’ll find so much information. There’s also some fun recipes out there – like these Pea Fritters!

One of the biggest helps for me when we were getting started was a Facebook group. This Baby Led Weaning for Beginners & Beyond Facebook group was such a great resource. Plus, the pictures and videos of babies eating are adorable!

I’ll admit, Alex and I didn’t follow the baby-led weaning “rules” like they say you should. We still spoon-fed her when we wanted to and assisted her when we didn’t want her to make a huge mess. Remember… I’m the in-the-middle mom!

The Down-side of Baby-Led Weaning

Which brings me to the cons. I don’t regret doing baby-led weaning in any way, but I’ll admit that it wasn’t always easy.

Choking & Gagging

First of all, it’s pretty darn terrifying when you first start. You’re constantly afraid she’s going to choke. Alex and I would give up for a day or two at first because Lily gagged one too many times.

All I can say, is trust your best judgement. Follow the rules on how to prepare the food, know how to perform the Heimlich on a baby, and be prepared for lots of gagging.

You’ll freak out every time, but the gagging is normal and it’s good for them to get the hang of it all. Again, read up on it all before you try it!

Messy Messy

Another kicker… the mess! We use these Drip Catcher Bibs from Tommee Tippee. Lots of brands make them, and they are great for baby-led weaning!

Tommee Tippee Roll 'n' Go Baby Drip Catcher Bib 7+ months - 4pk - image 2 of 4

We also have a highchair with a removable tray top. Even at 14 months, I still just serve Lily’s food on the tray and wash the whole thing after every meal. Once I got into the habit of hand washing it every meal, it really wasn’t that bad. Our highchair is a Graco Table2Table, and I love it – it’s easy to keep clean, it folds up, and it reclines.

Graco® Table2Table™ 7-in-1 Convertible High Chair in Sterling™

Is Baby-Led Weaning right for you and your little one?

That is just something you have to answer for yourself. The most important thing is to do as much research as you can before you get started. Join the Facebook Group. Read articles on trusted websites like What to Expect. Maybe even talk to your pediatrician about it.

You can always do what we did – start with purees and work in the finger foods slowly.

I am 100 percent happy with the decision we made. Lily had 100 different foods by the time she was 10 months old! She is super independent at meal times. And she impresses complete strangers at restaurants with her neat eating skills.

Lily and her Christmas cookies at 8 months old.

At 14 months and only 6 teeth, Lily can eat everything that we eat (except the obvious crunchy/hard things). She’s even started to dip her food (she loves fries and ketchup)! I never have to worry about her when I put food on her tray.

I highly recommend giving it a try… and feel free to ask me any questions you might have!


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Super Easy (& Delicious) Iced Coffee

Raise your hand if you’re a coffee lover like myself! If I could, I’d drink coffee all day, everyday. And if I had the money, I’d go to Starbucks everyday. But, I can’t so… I make this really easy, delicious, and inexpensive iced coffee at home!

It’s only THREE ingredients – instant coffee, coffee creamer, almond milk (& water).

This is the order that I do it in, but my husband has done it differently and it still turns out delicious. You can experiment for yourself.

1 – Fill about 1/3 of the glass w/ Water

You can do more or less water than this if you want it to be more or less creamy.

2 – Add Instant Coffee

I’ve tried multiple brands of instant coffee, but this one has definitely been my favorite so far. The Nescafe Taster’s Choice French Roast has a great strong flavor if you like dark coffee or espresso. Otherwise, their House Blend is also good. This brand is also the best for decaf! (I try to drink less caffeine while pregnant/nursing).

Nescafe Taster's Choice French Roast Instant Coffee

So, just add as much instant coffee as you want to the water and stir. In a glass like this, I do about 1.5 teaspoons.

3 – Add the Coffee Creamer

I’ve tried almost every creamer under the sun – they are all delicious! Again, add as much creamer as you want.

4 – Add Almond Milk

Sweetened, unsweetened… they’re both good. Or add any type of milk you might have on hand… I’m sure it’ll do! I usually pour until the glass is almost full to leave room for the ice.

5 – Ice it Up!

Just add the ice (carefully) to fill up the glass.

And that’s it! It’s no Caramel Macchiato, but it does the trick to save a buck. And it’s really not bad on the ol’ waistline if you stick to unsweetened almond milk.


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My (mostly) Healthy Lifestyle

Recently, my husband and I have gotten many compliments on our weight loss. And most of the time, people ask us what we did. It’s true, since our 14 month old was born, we’ve both lost several pounds. I, myself, lost all of my baby weight plus dropped another 20. Alex lost about 30 pounds.

I wish I could tell you we just made one simple change and it did the trick. However, we had to make many lifestyle changes to get where we are now. There’s no one secret diet, workout plan, or supplement that worked for us. Instead, we took several small steps that seemed to add up to the perfect solution for us.

Just remember that every person and every body is different, and our small changes might not work for you, but I hope this might guide you to making your own steps towards a healthier life.

So, here’s a list of our mostly healthy lifestyle changes.

1 – Having a Child

Okay, so I don’t recommend having a child just to meet your weight loss goals. However, for my husband and I, this humongous lifestyle change definitely helped us step in the right direction.

For me, it all started with breastfeeding, which basically sucks the life right out of you. But seriously, breastfeeding can burn up to 500 extra calories a day. That’s the same as jogging for 45 minutes!

For my husband, he lost 10 pounds in just the first 3 days of being a father. I mean, most of it was lack of sleep and food, but also the constant getting up and down to tend to our every needs.

Overall, having a baby can be a pretty good calorie burner. Carrying a 6 plus pound sack of flour will tone the arms. Not to mention the picking up, setting down, bending over, squatting, and chasing you do as they grow.

2 – Reducing those Bad Carbs

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s everywhere these days. Keto, Whole 30, Paleo. Cutting out starchy carbohydrates is the way to go. Well, they aren’t exactly wrong. At least, it worked pretty well for me and my husband.

So, did we go crazy Keto and cut it all out? Nope. We were just inspired by all of these diet fads, and took our own approach.

When it comes to our home cooked meals, we do our best to stick to meats and veggies. We eat a lot of rice and potatoes still, but we no longer make pasta or make meals with bread. We even try to stay away from tortillas.

But we are far from perfect, we still give in to our cravings at least weekly, if not more. I’ll talk more about our low-carb meals and such in another future blog.

3 – Cutting Down on Added Sugars

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Now, did I say stop eating sugar altogether? Absolutely NOT! Why would we want to be completely miserable? The key is to cut out as much of the unnecessary sugar as possible.

By simply looking at the nutrition facts on the foods you buy, you’ll find that a lot (I mean a LOT) of foods have more sugar than you think in them. Just be more conscious of it.

But, Alex and I definitely have a sweet tooth. And most nights, you will probably find us on the couch having some kind of dessert. The key is PORTION CONTROL. Look at serving sizes. Look at the sugar content.

Find your perfect balance by indulging your cravings with a taste, but don’t go overboard.

I go into detail about cutting down on added sugars in my blog 3 Ways to Cut Down on Added Sugars.

4 – My Two-Cheat Rule

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

My two-cheat rule goes along with the last two points. Because, again, we’re not perfect. I have cravings. I can be lazy when it comes to cooking. I really love sugar and bread and pasta.

I would probably die if I didn’t cheat. So, that’s why I give myself a two-cheat rule.

Everyday, I give myself TWO serving limit of the foods I probably shouldn’t eat. This could be anything from a piece of toast, a cup of ice cream, a super-sugar-loaded-latte, French fries, pasta… you get the idea.

So, if I have a waffle for breakfast and a cheeseburger for lunch… that means meat and veggies for dinner and no dessert. The key is to limit the bad stuff without going completely crazy.

5 – Exercise (Of Course)

Photo by Lee Catherine Collins on Pexels.com

Working out has always been part of our routine. There’s been many times when I’ve slacked… especially when I was pregnant. So, after Lily was born and it was time to get back to it, it was not exactly easy. It’s never easy to get back to an exercise routine. But, all I can say is keep pushing yourself.

Start light and easy to get yourself into a groove, then keep challenging yourself. Try a variety of workouts.

That’s one way that I’ve managed to workout at least 5 days a week… mixing it up. Depending on the time I have, the weather, and if I can make it to the gym, almost every day is a different workout.

Walks. Jogs. Weight Lifting. Circuits. Yoga. Aerobics Classes. Barre Classes. None of these workouts take more than an hour. They can all be done in a variety of difficulty levels. There’s really no excuse to not stay active.

You can read more about how to keep exercise interesting by mixing it up in my blog, Exercise (My In-The-Middle Approach).

6 – Some Supplements

Image result for protein powder

The few supplements that we take really don’t have much effect on our weight necessarily. However, they do help us maintain our healthy lifestyle.

For starters, we use a typical whey protein powder for protein shakes after workouts or for a meal replacement. We either simply mix it with almond milk, or blend it with almond milk and other ingredients to make a delicious smoothie. Stay tuned for posts about protein smoothie recipes!

We also recently started taking beet root powder. There’s several different brands that make it, but we really like the Nu-Therapy Power Beets.

Nu-Therapy Power Beets Super Concentrated Circulation Superfood Dietary Supplement - Delicious Acai Berry Pomegranate Flavor - Non-GMO Beet Root Powder, 60 Servings

It tastes pretty good just mixed with water. We take it as sort of a pre-workout, because it improves “muscle oxygenation during exercise.” And there’s a ton of other great health benefits. Read all about it in this Medical News Today article.

And last, but not least, my husband and I both became much better about taking vitamins, especially once I had to start taking a pre-natal.

These are just the few added measures we take to maintain our health, but there are lots of great products out there that may work for you and your body.

Finding your Perfect Balance

These are six lifestyle changes that my husband and I made after our daughter was born. Somehow, it really worked for us. Could we make even better changes? Of course. We’re always trying to improve our health.

The point is… there really isn’t a secret. If you want to improve your diet, fitness, health, and over-all life, make small changes here and there. Stick with those that work and keep trying new things. Don’t make yourself miserable by never eating a potato again (ugh, that’d be terrible).

And stay tuned for more posts about our perfect balance.

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Water Play with a One-Year-Old

Oh, hello Summer! Is it just me or did it come out of nowhere? I’m pretty sure it’s 100 degrees out there today. No, thank you.

I’ve never been a fan of the heat. As a 100% ginger, the sun does not like me, and I really just hate being hot. I’d love to just stay in the A/C all day, but being stuck in the house with a 1-year-old will literally make me go crazy!

So, what better way to beat the heat and entertain a toddler than with some water play?

Water play is an easy way to keep cool and entertain your little one on a hot day. Lily absolutely loves to play in the water. We knew she would be a water baby since she was brand new. She was always a huge fan of the bath.

So, as summer approached, and her first birthday came around, I was eager to get her a kiddy pool. And we did. We got this $8 blow-up pool from Menards.

Polygroup® 65" x 14.5" Frosted 3-Ring Pool - Assorted Colors

Super fancy, right? No… but we figured it would get the job done for a cheap price. So, the first warm spring day came, and I was so excited to get this kid in the water. This particular warm day, I was without husband. And let’s just say, my inflating skills were lacking. Therefore, I ditched the pink kiddy pool and found this Banzai Sprinkle ‘N Splash Play Mat that Lily had gotten as a birthday present from a fellow brilliant mom.

Image result for banzai play mat

And it worked like a dream! There’s no inflating what-so-ever. You just hook up the hose and let it do it’s thing! The ring fills with water and squirts out of the tiny holes which then fills the pool. It holds about 2 inches of water, which is really all a 1-year-old needs.

We put some of her toys in it and she splashes away. I put the hose on the lowest pressure it goes, then when it’s about to overflow, I just turn the water off and the water actually sits in it pretty well. Best of all… it’s only $10!

As the spring went on and Lily was walking like a champ, we went ahead and got out the good old water table! Another gift she received for her birthday. Tons of brands make them, but we have the Step2 Rain Showers Splash Pond Table.

It was fairly easy to assemble (with the help of my husband, I’ll admit). And it’s great because it has all of the little toys that come with it. Lily can easily reach the bottom deck, but not the top. And the there’s nowhere to attach the hose or anything, so we just set the hose on the top deck so it can rain down. Otherwise, a kid would have to be tall enough to dump the water into the top deck. Besides that, it works so great for us!

To add some entertainment value to all of these water features, we also have this beach toy set that we purchased from Costco. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be at Costco anymore, but I did find it on Amazon. And there’s several other similar sets at various retailers.

On most warm days, at about 4:00 PM, when our patio is in the shade, you will find Lily playing with all of these water products. She is probably wearing one of her many adorable swimsuits from Target along with her I Play Pull-Up Reusable Swim Diaper.

i play Baby Girls' Fruit Pull-up Reusable Swim Diaper - White - image 1 of 1

These are the most cost effective swim diapers that I could find, especially if your child will be needing them often. However, I don’t even want to think about if she ever went #2 in this thing. Luckily, my child is kind of poop-shy and seems to only go when she’s really relaxed, so I don’t worry about it much. If you have a fear for cleaning poo from a reusable diaper, you might want to go with your standard Huggies or Pampers.

Image result for huggies swim

And when it’s time for a little snack break, Lily loves to sit in her little baby Adirondack chair and eat something like a popsicle, Harvest Snaps, fruit, or crackers. I found her chair at T.J. Maxx, but it looks like the same type of chair is even cheaper at Walmart.

All of this stuff combined keeps my toddler busy for at least 45 minutes at a time. Which, in my book, is a win!

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