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Saving time for reflection.

Saving time for reflection.

I wrote a post a while back about the busy boycott, about allowing ourselves to slow down and enjoy some space in our days and in our lives.  Some might think that being a stay at home mom with “only” one kid would leave me plenty of free time, but with the terrible twos in full swing, I assure you that is not the case!  I have, however, been trying to follow my own advice and leave some time in my day that is just for me.  Time that is not spent cooking, cleaning, planning, packing, or even socializing.  When I first started scheduling down time, I didn’t really know what to do with myself.  Normally, if I have a few spare minutes, I can find something to clean or some way to get ahead for tomorrow, like laying out clothes or packing snacks and lunches ahead of time.  But, when you let yourself totally off the hook for a couple of hours, what do you do?

Sometimes I watch too much TV.  I think that’s one of the reasons that I  like to stay busy.  When I’m not busy, I feel like I waste my free time zoned out in front of some mindless show.  Like Vikings.  I loved Vikings.  I want to be a Viking warrior like Lagertha.  If you haven’t seen the show, you probably shouldn’t start because there are five seasons of it and you will waste months of free time glued to your TV.  Plus you’ll start wandering around your house using various objects as weapons and fantasizing about charging into battle with your sword and shield.  I  don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with TV for those of you have self restraint, but moderation is not in my vocabulary, so when I get into a show, it takes over my life.  I become Lagertha!

Anyway, watching TV is fun in the moment but it does nothing to improve my overall quality of life.  In fact, I think it has a negative effect on me.  For one, it’s not really relaxing.  I don’t feel rested after watching TV.  But it’s not stimulating either.  I don’t feel fulfilled or challenged or satisfied after watching TV.  It’s just a way to pass time.  And time has become such a precious commodity that I don’t want it to pass any faster than it already is.  So then, what to do with my free time?

I’ve found that I have been spending a lot more time reflecting on myself and my life.  I like to think about, and sometimes even write down, my beliefs and ideas about who I am and how I should live my life.  Surprisingly, I really like doing it.  It’s like getting to know yourself.  What a strange concept!  I  think sometimes we get so busy doing things that we don’t take the time to figure out who we are.  And that’s an important thing to know.  There’s an old country song by Aaron Tippin that goes, “You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.”  What do you stand for?  Who are you?  Do you really like yourself?  Do you even know yourself?  These are the types of questions that I ask myself.  I don’t know, maybe I should just watch Vikings, but it seems like a worthwhile way  to spend a few minutes a day.

Sometimes I think we’ve lost the ability to truly relax and do nothing.  Think about it.  When you have a free moment in the evening or on the train or in the airport, do you ever just sit and think?  Or do you immediately grab your phone, open up your computer, or turn on the TV?  Maybe all three at once?  I find myself doing this all the time.  I will have five free minutes while my son is playing on the playground and instead of relaxing and enjoying the breeze, I automatically grab my phone and check my email, Facebook, and Instagram.  When did I become that girl?

So, in the interest of being less busy and slowing down my day, my goal is to use my phone only as a phone, texter, and camera.  I will sit down once or twice a day and send emails from my computer, but I’m not going to worry about them while I’m at the park with my son.  I can check out Facebook and Instagram for a few minutes in the evening after my son is asleep.  My days as a stay at home mom are numbered so I’m going to enjoy every minute we spend playing outside.  And when I  have a moment to relax, I’m going to do just that.

Packing Light.

Packing Light.

As promised, we took a little road trip over Spring Break.  We didn’t want to  take a big, expensive vacation but we wanted to get out of the city and enjoy some peace and quiet, or as close to peace as you can get when you’re hanging with a two year old.  So we took a little four day, three night, road trip.  The plan was really simple…

Day 1: Drive an hour up to Evergreen and stay at my sister’s house.

Day 2: Drive a little over 2 hours down to Buena Vista to stay at the Cottonwood Hot Springs Lodge

Day 3: Drive back to Evergreen and spend another night there.

Day 4: Hangout in Evergreen for the morning, and then head back home.

While the vacation was simple, traveling with a kid can still be complicated.  In the past when we’ve traveled with James, I brought everything but the kitchen sink.  I remember going up to Steamboat to visit my family for two nights when James was just a couple weeks old.  I  filled up my entire car!  No joking.  The ENTIRE car.  It was so much work to pack, and so stressful to keep track of all that stuff, that it really took a lot of the fun out of our trip.  If I could go back in time, I would have brought diapers, blankets, and a couple changes of clothes.  What else does a breast feeding newborn really need?  I wish I hadn’t made things so difficult!

Anyway, this time we packed pretty light.  Here’s what I brought for myself…

In addition to the clothes I was wearing, I brought a Ziplock with my toiletries, a water bottle, running shoes, running tights, one sports bra, one workout tank, a jacket and hat, two swimsuits, two T shirts, one long sleeve shirt, one pair of pants, one bra, three pairs of underwear and two pairs of socks.  Everything fit into a small backpack with room to spare.

Here’s what I  brought for our son…

One sweatshirt, one rain jacket, two T shirts, two long sleeve shirts, two pairs of pants, two pairs of PJs, two swimsuits, two swim diapers, three pairs of socks, three pairs of undies, four overnight diapers, 10 regular diapers (he was sort of half potty trained when we left), wipes, sunscreen, changing pad, diaper rash cream, tooth brush, tooth paste and a comb.

I knew my sister had this little fold out pad that’s just the right size so James slept on this thing for the whole trip.  We even stuck it in the car and took it to Buena Vista with us….

Oh, and I brought his Thomas the Train blanket!

My husband also brought a small backpack with his stuff and we let James fill up his toddler backpack with toys.   Then we packed a cooler full of food and James’ Stryder bike.  I brought food to make while we were in Evergreen but we planned to eat most meals out while in Buena Vista.

Over all, it was a pretty great trip.  I pretty much wore one outfit the whole time and just changed my underwear daily.  I felt like we could have easily left for a full week with the few clothes we packed.

How to save money on beauty products.

How to save money on beauty products.

Want to know how to save money on beauty products?  Stop using them.  A lot of them are probably toxic, anyway.

That’s what I did.  I have VERY acne prone skin.  Even in my 30s, my skin has been more often than not, a mess.  I have spent a TON of money on beauty products, spa services, dermatologists, and acne treatments.  Do you know what worked the best?  Nothing.  Like, literally, nothing.  No soap, no lotion, no acne treatments, and just enough concealer to cover the acne scars.  For the past month I have been washing my face with a cool, wet wash cloth whenever I feel the need to, but not more than once a day.  If my skin feels dry, I rub a tiny bit of coconut oil on my skin.  That’s it!  I wish I could tell you that my skin magically transformed into a perfectly clear, supermodel caliber, complexion, but that would be a lie.  I still have some zits, but my skin is a little bit clearer, and my bank account is a lot fuller!

That’s not all.  Here’s the best part…

I also quit using shampoo and conditioner.  My hair is pretty long these days and it was starting to get dry so I switched out my $2 a bottle Tresemme shampoo and conditioner for a more expensive spa brand called Umberto.  After a few uses, my hair felt a little better but my entire back broke out into deep, painful, cystic acne.  Awesome!  Totally worth it, right?  My skin from the neck down was totally clear before this.  I tried switching back to the Tresemme but once your skin starts breaking out, it’s really hard to stop it.  I finally got fed up and decided not to put any chemicals on my body whatsoever (except deodorant because everyone has got to draw the line somewhere).

For the first couple of weeks, I just quit washing my hair all together.  I was afraid to use shampoo and conditioner because I didn’t want to make my back acne any worse.  The acne on my back got much better but, as you can imagine, my hair got really greasy!  I started googling natural shampoos and came up with the “no poo” method.  It turns out, you can wash your hair with water only and it actually works.  I followed the instructions on this blog and it really works!  The basic idea is that shampoo strips the oils from your hair, and conditioner replaces those natural oils with manufactured ones.  Doesn’t that sound kind of dumb?  Why not just leave the natural oils in your hair, right?  As it turns out, the oil that your body naturally produces is a great shampoo and conditioner in one.  You can check out the blog.  It takes a little time and effort to get used to it, but it works, it’s free, and it doesn’t cause painful, cystic acne on my back.  Here’s what my hair looks like now…

It’s soft, shiny and it never gets tangled.  When I used regular shampoo and conditioner, and then brushed my hair, a ton of hair came out in my brush.  I always thought that was normal and it would somehow grow back fast enough that my hair wouldn’t get thinner.  After using the water only method for a couple of months, no hair comes out in my brush.  None!  Maybe three or four strands, but nothing like the gobs of wet, gross hair that I used to have to pick out of my brush every couple of days.  And if my ends get a little dry, I just use a touch of coconut oil.  It works for everything!

So, here’s what my new beauty supply list looks like…

  1. coconut oil
  2. uh… that’s it

You really don’t need to wash your body with soap either, just warm water and wash cloth does the trick.  Okay, maybe I’m just a dirty hippy, but I haven’t noticed any bad smells.  If my skin is dry, I use, you guessed it, coconut oil!  For shaving… coconut oil.  Are there other oils out there that work better?  Quite possibly, but I use coconut oil a lot when I cook so I already have a ton of it.  Basically, I replaced soap, lotion, face soap, face lotion, shampoo and conditioner with coconut oil and water.  If we didn’t live in such a dry climate, I think I could even skip the oil.  Now I just need to figure out a replacement for deodorant and sunscreen, and I will have completed my dirty hippy transformation.  Do I get a badge or anything?

Road Trip.

Road Trip.

Living simple doesn’t haven’t mean living boring.  In fact, when you get used to needing less stuff, it makes travel a lot easier.  But, travel can also be expensive.  Airline tickets are pricey, especially when your kids grow out of the “lap baby” stage, and then there are hotel rooms, rental cars, food, entertainment, etc…  So, in the interest of having fun without spending a fortune, we planned a little mini-vacation for spring break next week.  My sister and brother-in-law just bought a house up  in the mountains above Evergreen and they are out of town for a couple of weeks so they offered up their house.  We graciously accepted.  We are going to spend one night in Evergreen, then drive south to the Cottonwood Hot Springs near Buena Vista, spend one night at the Cottonwood Lodge, and then head back to Evergreen for one last night before returning to Denver.  We’ll do some hiking and swimming; we’ll bring James’ Strider bike to keep him entertained (and wear him out so he’ll sleep); and we’ll bring a cooler full of snacks but also check out a few of the funky cafes and restaurants along the way.  To some, that might not sound exciting enough, but I can’t wait!

Our family loves exploring small towns.  Caleb loves to check out the rivers and find places where our son can throw rocks in the water and poke sticks in the mud.  I like to hike or just walk around and check out the shops and the people.  When James needs some play time, we’ll find a playground or a library with a kids area.  Libraries are AWESOME when you have a kid.  And when you go to a library in a new town, that means a whole new kids area to explore with different toys, different books, and different kids.  Anytime I need a break from entertaining my son, we head to the library.  And the best part?  It’s free!

We’ve done some international traveling with our son, and definitely will again, but right now we’re just trying to keep it simple.  And, we’re lucky enough to live in a beautiful state that has a lot to offer.  So why not enjoy it?  Every vacation doesn’t have to be complicated.  On this trip, I’m aiming for fun, low stress, relaxing, and simple.  Our longest car ride is two and a half hours.  We only have to pay for one night in a hotel.  Our room comes with free entrance to  the hot springs and a continental breakfast.  What more could we need?  I’ll let you know how it goes, and try to  take some cool pictures along the way.

A Masculist Movement

A Masculist Movement

If anyone has figured out a way to make motherhood simple, I’m all ears, because I haven’t.  Whether you stay at home with the kids or work eighty hours a week, it’s still a lot.  A lot of work.  A lot of time.  A lot of responsibility.  A lot of organization.  A lot of worrying.  A LOT!  The feminist movement was a huge step in the right direction.  Yes, women should be treated equally and they should have every opportunity that a man has.  I wholeheartedly agree!  But sometimes it seems that instead of creating a culture where women are allowed to do anything, we’ve created a culture where women are expected to do everything.  Yes, women have proven themselves in the workplace and still raised great kids.  But at what price?  By giving up things like sleep and exercise?  Are we all expected to be superwoman?

Yes, today’s men are much more willing to help out around the house and participate in child care and I commend them for that.  But it’s still viewed as “helping out.”  If a husband cooks dinner at night, he thinks to himself, “Wow!  I’m a great husband and father.  I’m helping out.”  But if he’s “helping out,” that means the ultimate responsibility is not his.  Who cooks dinner on the nights he doesn’t feel like helping out?  Who’s responsibility is it to make sure that there is food in the fridge to cook?  Who makes sure that the whole family gets nutritious, well rounded meals?  Who arranges the child care pick-ups and drop-offs?  If we are really going to be equals, we need to change this idea of “helping out.”  We don’t need “a little help around the house,” we need our husbands to take something completely off our plate.  We need a husband who says, “I’ve got food covered.  Budgeting, shopping, cooking, packing lunches, nutrition.  Covered.  Don’t even think about it, babe.  I’ve got it.”  That’s what it takes to truly live as equals.

Otherwise, we expect the women of our generation to be CEOs at work and at home.  Even if we snag one of the good husbands who “helps out,” everything is still our responsibility.  We still sit down every evening with our to-do lists and day planners and double check that the kids have rides, grocery shopping is done, there are diapers in the closet, everyone has clean clothes, and someone is going to vacuum before the guests arrive on Thursday.  Stay at home moms already have a full time job, a really tough one.  So if you go back to work, do you have two full time jobs?  I know you can delegate some of the tasks, but the responsibility still seems to rest on the woman, because we are the mom.  I guess it’s true now more than ever.  A woman’s work is never done!

I’m ranting about this because I’m facing the decision of going back to work full time, part time, or not at all.  My first fear about going back to work is, obviously, not being the one there with my son all day teaching him about the crazy world we live in.  But, another great fear about going back to work is that I am still going to have all the same responsibilities at home, and there simply are not enough hours in the day, or enough brain cells in my brain, to stay on top of everything.  Something has to give, and I don’t want my kid to suffer if I let go of some of those responsibilities.

Luckily, I did snag one of those modern men who are willing to “help out.”  My husband is perfectly willing to pick up the slack if I decide to work full time, but will he do as good a job as I do?  Will he take FULL responsibility?  This might sound really arrogant, but I treat being a stay at home mom like a job, like a 24 hour a day job.  I was raised by a great, stay-at-home mom who set the standard pretty high.  So I don’t feel like I’m doing my job unless the house is clean, the bills are paid on time, the kid is happy, there’s a home cooked meal on the table, and tomorrow’s day is planned.  Can men do that?  It seems to me that women have proven their role in the workplace but have men proven their role at home?  Maybe we need a masculist movement where men can fight for their right to do laundry!

Simple Cleaning

Simple Cleaning

I would love for our house to be clean, neat, and organize one hundred percent of the time.  I really, really would.  But I live with two boys and it just aint happenin.  I mean, I’ve tried.  I’ve followed the two year old around all day and made him pick up every toy as soon as he was done with it.  I’ve nagged, yelled, cried, screamed, pleaded, begged, and demanded that my husband help me keep the house clean and organized.  It hasn’t worked at all.  In the history of the universe no cavewoman ever changed her caveman from a messy one to a neat one.  Ever!  I’ll save you three years of your life right now, and just tell you that you are not going to change your husband’s habits.  Nope.  There, now you can relax and stop beating your head against the wall.  Your welcome.

But, that doesn’t mean your husband gets to be a slob and you have to walk around with resentment building upside of you until you finally decide to  murder him, slowly, by poisoning his protein shakes just a little each morning, meanwhile enjoying your last days and weeks together until his final yet inevitable demise.  I may have borrowed that from Knocked Up.  Anyway, there is a simple solution and it has worked quite well for us…

Lauren’s Super Awesome, In-Color, Laminated and Hung on the Refrigerator, Cleaning Chart…

Click here to view:  Cleaning Chart

This will change your life, I promise.  No, your house won’t look perfect all the time.  In fact, it will never look perfect.  But, it will never be disgusting either.  Here’s how it works…

Print out my handy dandy cleaning chart.  Take it to the nearest UPS Store or Post Net and get it laminated (only if you’re a super dork like me).  Then, start on Day 1.  Do the assigned cleaning.  None of the tasks, except laundry, should take longer than 15 minutes.  (If they do, buy a smaller house or get a neater husband.)  When you complete a task, put a fridge magnet over the box containing that task.  The next day, do the task in the box labeled Day 2, or delegate to another member of the family.  Each weekday do one cleaning chore.  There are 10 total so you will clean every part of your house every other week.  Not perfect but you only spend fifteen minutes per day cleaning and you get the weekends off.  You won’t have to spend every other Sunday buried in a mountain of cleaning chores, planning your husband’s slow and relatively painless but certainly deserved death.  I should be a marriage counselor.  Or maybe I’ll just charge $1,000 for my cleaning chart.  But the lucky 3 or so people who read my blog get to have it for free.  Lucky you.

Note…  You may have to adjust the chart if you have more/different rooms than I do.

Simple Swim Workout

Simple Swim Workout

Guest Post by Caleb Grinter.

Man requires water deeper than his arms are long to swim. Nothing more, nothing less.  However, most pool-goers have probably noticed a gadget savvy swimmer hogging the center lane with a bona fide yard sale of “pool toys” set up on deck.  Fins, paddles, pull buoys, fancy kickboard, front mount snorkel, waterproof MP3 player, water bottle, sport drink bottle, and a dry erase board with a seven part workout scrawled out on it.

There is nothing inherently wrong with a gear-enhanced approach to swimming.  Used correctly, training aids can shave some extra seconds off your time if you have the time, expertise, and resources.  But for me, the more complicated I make my workouts, the less I actually do them.  More importantly, the less I bring to the pool the more focused I feel once I dive in.

Speedos, swim goggles, swim cap, lens-cleaner, and disposable water bottle. That is everything in the cheap mesh “swim bag” I have had stashed in my car for most of the last four months.  This bag has served me well as I traveled and worked across the greater Denver area.  I belong to both the YMCA and 24 Hr Fitness chains on discount rate memberships that cost less than a combined $60 a month.  With this set-up, I can almost always find an open pool within a 15-20 minute drive.  Both gyms keep pull buoys and kickboards on deck so I have no need to lug around my own.  I use them sparingly anyway during my workouts.  I do have snorkels, fins, and paddles tucked away in storage but honestly feel like they cause more distraction than they are worth in technique benefit.

I swim five days a week.  Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday.  Some weeks I switch Thursday’s workout over to Friday.  As a rule, I don’t swim on Mondays so I can concentrate on getting work and family routines off to a good start.  I normally swim in the afternoons after work and in the mornings on the weekend but adjust accordingly as needed.  I do variations of the same five workouts every week as follows:

Tuesday-  TEMPO SWIM

200 WU, 400 drill, 600-1200 cruise at or just slower than 1500m/1650 race pace, 200 CD   1400-2000 yds


200 WU, 400 drill, 8-12 x 50 at/ or under 200 race pace, leave on the minute, 200 drill, 100-400 fast, pace varying by distance, 200 CD  1300-1800 yds


8-10 x 200 at 1500m/1650 race pace w/ 20 secs rest. No WU, No CD  1600-2000 yds


2000-3000 continuous swim at comfortable pace. No WU, No CD  2000-3000 yds


200 WU, 400 drill, 10-16×100 at 500y race pace with 20 sec recovery, 200 CD.  1400-2000 yds

WU = Warm-up. CD= Cool-down.

400 drill= 50 pull, 50 kick, 50 pull, 50 kick, 50 one-arm, 50 fist, 50 fingertip, 50 freestyle strong but relaxed. 15-20 secs rest between drills

This is a 7,500 to 10,000 yard a week  routine which is decent but certainly nothing special.  A lot of masters swimmers might try to squeeze a similar workload into 4 or even 3 workouts.  However, I like to feel like I have something left at the end of each workout rather than dead exhausted and dreary.

As far as my actual routine, I try to swim on a relatively empty stomach but often have an orange and maybe a granola bar when I get to the gym parking lot. Then I check-in, change, and go the deck area.  I apply lens-cleaner to my goggles about once a week, which takes about 15 seconds to apply and wipe clear.

Then I go through a rigorous warm-up of sitting in the hot tub for five minutes.  Does this help me swim faster? Probably not.  Does it make me swim slower? I don’t know and don’t care.  I do know that I look forward to the quick hot dip in the hot tub and the hot water settles me down after a bumpy day at work. However, I am pretty strict about getting out after five minutes and do actually go through some shoulder stretches and take in a decent amount of water while I soak.

Then I put on my swim cap and goggles, grab a pull buoy and kickboard, find an open lane and hop in. I do underwater bobs for 30 seconds to blow everything out, adjust my goggles and start swimming.  I swim my warm-up at an honest pace and go through the drills pretty efficiently.

I swim the last 50 of my drills as smoothly as possible, trying to balance rhythm with power. Then, I give myself a two-minute break to collect myself and focus before starting the main interval set. I swim all my intervals on fixed leave marks. For example on my CSS days, I hit my 200s anywhere between 2:45-2:48 but leave every 3:10 regardless. That makes the math pretty easy as I just have to add 10 seconds every interval for my leave mark.  After doing this workout cycle for several months, I am very diligent about sticking to my paces and number of reps. That said, I don’t blast the last interval and believe it is better to save that energy for time trials and races.

I don’t warm-up before my CSS swims to avoid going out too hard on the first interval.  For the long continual swim, a warm-up is simply unnecessary. Plus there is something nice about banging out a healthy workout in 30-45 minutes and going about your day without delay.

I keep the workouts the same for several reasons.  Most importantly, the familiar basic structure of each workout lets me focus on my form and effort rather than figuring out a new interval pattern every workout.  Secondly, repeating the same basic workout allows me to track my progression as my split times improve. Conversely, if I come down with a cold or am just exhausted from work I can dial the workout back, by cutting the number of intervals but keeping the pace the same.

I do some sort of all-out time trial about every two to three weeks. Sometimes, its nothing more than a balls out 50 with a dive and other times it is a test 500.  After shorter time trials I proceed through a normal workout after a short break of easy swimming.  I count the longer time trials as a workout in themselves and just do a long cool down with some drills afterward.

Using this basic schedule for three months, I’ve hit significant PRs at every distance and developed a newfound sense of rhythm in the water.  Would I be better off doing more technique or off-stroke work?  Maybe.  But I feel like each workout is a technique drill for me as I am so comfortable with each work-set in terms of effort that I can think and concentrate on my extension, catch, kick, etc.  That is not to say that the workouts don’t push me physically anymore.  Quite the opposite actually. Its just that my body knows what is coming in terms of heart rate and muscle fatigue so my mind focuses on the finer details rather than worrying if I can make it to the wall.

This type of schedule might bore more advanced swimmers to tears. However, it might fit the bill for busy adult onset swimmers who just want to stay fit and achieve respectable marks in a summer triathlon or open-water event.  The minimal gear and streamlined workouts are also great for a business traveler who only has an hour to squeeze in some laps.

Give it a shot for a four-week cycle and I promise it will keep your gym bag light.  I’ll also bet it will clear out some space in your head, at least while you’re in the water.

Nothing New for a Year.

Nothing New for a Year.

There is  a popular trend weaving itself around the interwebs and I’m jump’n on the bandwagon.  I’m not buying anything but essentials during 2017.  I know, we’re already three months in, but I really already started.  When I started the food budget, it was supposed to be just a first step toward a simpler life.  But the effect has really snowballed.  When I made myself aware of how much I was spending each day, each week, and each month, my decision making process changed.  I started asking myself, “Do I need that?” instead of “Do I want that?”  And so far, the answer has been a resounding “NO.”  We buy food; we buy batteries when they run out; we went to dinner and movie for my husband’s birthday; but we haven’t bought ANYTHING in the last three months.  No clothes, no trinkets, no gadgets, no electronics.  And you know what?  It saves time as well as money.  If you cut out those little trips to the store to pick up this or that, you have that time to spend doing things that bring you joy, like cooking great meals for your family, or starting a blog; apparently 2017 is just going to be a really cool and trendy year for me.  (more about impulse buying here)

Well… there is one thing we bought.  We bought our son a $15 train track with some $5 dollar trains.  But that was already promised to him if he started using his potty every time he had to go.  And I’m not sure what the parenting books say about bribing your children, but it works!  When that train track showed up in the mail, my son was potty trained!  That little monster had been sandbagging for months.  I told him he wasn’t getting the track until he pooped in his potty, so he ran over to his little Paw Patrol potty, pulled his pants down all by himself, and pooped on demand.  That’s not even an exaggeration.  That’s how our son learned to poop in his potty.  So, I guess we cheated with the train set, but it was worth every penny!

In all honesty, we have the most fun as a family when it’s just us, in nature, with no distractions.  During the time we spent in Costa Rica, we went to the beach almost every day.  Sometimes we would bring surf boards or a pail and shovel for our son, but often times we just stopped at the beach on our way home, with no swimsuits, no toys, nothing but ourselves and maybe a water bottle.  Those are my fondest memories because we truly spent time together, jumping over waves, laughing and allowing ourselves to relax and take it all in.  Sometimes all the stuff we think we need to have fun, just gets in the way of a good time.



Meal plan 4.

Meal plan 4.

I apologize in advance if this is not the most entertaining post I’ve ever written, but budgeting groceries isn’t always sexy.  It is, however, really important if you don’t want to waste your hard earned cash.

I switched things up a bit this week and shopped at Sprouts instead of King Soopers.  Why?  Because it’s really close to home and I feel better about the food that I buy there.  Maybe I’m just being sucked in by their marketing campaign but it seems like they sell really high quality foods and even the items that are not organic are usually all natural.  They seem to take pride in the quality of food offered for sale in their establishment.  I don’t feel as bad about buying the ground beef that’s on sale for $3 per pound because all of their meat vendors are pretty good.  At King Soopers you can buy ground beef for $1.99 a pound, but I feel like I’m playing Russian roulette with my family’s health.  That being said, I definitely broke the  budget!  It wasn’t entirely because of the higher cost of the food, though.  It was because I ran out of some expensive items.  We were out of honey, maple syrup, and the three spice combinations that I use for everything.  I buy honey and maple syrup in bulk because I use it a lot for baking so those were expensive to replace.  Without those five items, my total would have been $175, which is still over budget but not terrible.  With the spices and the large syrup and honey, I came in at a whopping $220.  I guess if I’m really going to get our food budget to under $150 a week, I probably need to shoot for more like $140 a week so that I can go over every once in a while when we run out of the expensive stuff.  I just need to get a little more creative!

But, I  think I can figure out ways to buy high quality food without breaking the bank.  I  just need to focus on the items that are less expensive at Sprouts, like produce and anything sold in the bulk bins.  Also, now that I buy a whole weeks worth of groceries at once, I’m starting to realize that we eat A LOT of meat.  There are only two and a half of us, and this week we will eat a pound of ground beef, a pound of italian sausage, two packages of breakfast sausage (about a pound total), a pound of shrimp, and a pound of chicken.  That’s about five pounds of meat in one week. And that’s not our only source of protein.  We’ll eat 2 dozen eggs, 2 cups of peanut butter, and two cans of black beans.  Not to mention three half gallons of lactose free milk and two half gallons of almond milk, plus some protein shakes if we’re working out a lot.  That’s a TON of protein.  Do we really need to eat that much protein?  That’s a ton of food.  You’d think we were a huge family but we’re actually all pretty small people.  And it’s not like we’re throwing away leftovers, we just eat A LOT!  How much meat does your family eat each week?

Even though it’s a little over budget, here is the meal plan this week…

Meal Plan 4
Dinners Shopping List
Elbow pasta w/ sausage, tomato and fresh spinach whole wheat pasta
Joe’s Special w/ roasted new potatos 1 lb sweet italian  sausage
Cajun chicken w/ roasted potatos and veggies 1 28 oz can whole tomatoes
Gallo pinto w/ breakfast sausage baby spinach
Fried Rice w/ Shrimp 1 red onion
Leftovers 1 jalapeno
Leftovers 6 cloves garlic
1 lb ground beef
Lunches 2 dozen eggs
Ham & salami sandwiches w fruit 1 yellow onion
Paleo granola w/ yogurt and berries italian seasoning
Ham & salami sandwiches w fruit 3 sweet potatoes
Ants on a log w/ paleo granola and fruit 1 lb chicken breasts
Fried egg sandwich w/ fruit cajun seasoning
Dinner leftoveres 3 lbs new potatoes
Dinner leftoveres 1 green pepper
3 cups brown rice
Breakfasts 2 cans black beans
Oatmeal w/ berries 1 jar fresh salsa
Paleo granola and berries w yogurt or milk 1 red bell pepper
Eggs w/ breakfast sausage and spinach w/ toast 1 bunch fresh cilantro
Eggs w/ ham and spinach w/ morning rounds 1 package frozen peas
Whole wheat apple pancakes 1 lb carrots
Oatmeal w/ berries soy sauce
Morning Rounds w/ peanutbutter 1 bag shrimp
1 loaf wheat bread
Drinks 1 lb of ham
Coffee 1 package mixed greens
Milk mayonaise
Juice cheese
1 cup sliced almonds
Snacks 1 cup pumpkin seeds
Paleo Granola 1/2 cup pecans
Peanutbutter oat bars 1/2 cup shredded coconut
Pumpkin bread 1/2 cup coconut oil
Crackers & Cheese 1 jar honey
Ants on a log maple syrup
Apple sauce cinnamon
Squeaze packs (for the little one) whole milk yogurt
Morning Rounds w/ peanutbutter 3 mangos
8 bananas
1 package morning rounds
6 apples
2-3 containers berries
2 lbs grapes
1 cup dried cranberries
quick cook oats
brown sugar
2 packages breakfast sausage
whole wheat pancake mix
Lactose free milk X 3
almond milk X 2
apple sauce
squeaze packs
rolled oats

Okay, so I looked up the recommended protein intake for our family using the calculator on the USDA website, because I’m the biggest dork ever.  Personally, I’m not totally sold on the food pyramid but I was just looking for an approximation.  You put in your height, weight, sex, and activity level and it tells you how much protein you need.  According to the USDA, our family needs 120 grams of protein per day.  Then I googled all of the high protein foods that we bought and found out that, if we eat all of our protein, we will eat about 170 grams of protein per day, not including protein shakes, and not including the incidental protein you get in brown rice, oatmeal, etc…  So, probably closer to 200 grams a day.  No shortage of protein in this house! Don’t tell my husband, but maybe I can cut back a bit, we can eat a few more veggies, and save a little money.  I’ll let you know how it goes next week.  At the end of this experiment, I’m determined to have four weeks of good, healthy groceries plans that I can cycle through so that we can eat well for $150 a week.  I’m not quite there yet, but I’m very stubborn, you can ask anyone who has ever been married to me and they’ll tell you, so I’ll get this grocery thing figured out.

Mindful workouts.

Mindful workouts.

Mindful is one of those trendy words used a lot in yoga studios and self-help books, and while I hate to be that trendy, all natural, yoga pants wearing, hippy chick, I just sort of am these days.  I’m even wearing yoga pants right now.  So… I’m going to go ahead and just bite the bullet and use the word “mindful” even if I sound lame.  I’m not really even sure how other people use the word mindful but I use to  mean “in the moment,” like, you’re thinking about the task at hand and not the seventy other things on your to do list.  Here’s what I’ve learned.  If you’re not mindful about your workouts, you’re probably wasting your time at the gym.

Have you ever gone to the gym with no real plan and you can’t decide exactly what you want to do?  You start out jogging on the treadmill but you get sick of that, because it’s a treadmill, and then you decide to lift some weights.  So, you do a few squats but you haven’t lifted in a while so it doesn’t feel that great, and then you decide to do some push-ups.  You do about three push-ups and three sit-ups and then you realize you’ve been wandering around the gym like a moron for half an hour doing nothing whatsoever for your fitness, so you give up and sit in the steam room for another half hour. Sound familiar?  No?  Maybe it’s just me.  But here’s the deal.  Unless you’re way ahead of me and well on the path to a slower and simpler life, you’re probably pretty busy, and it’s probably tough to find time to make it to the gym.  So don’t waste the time you have.  Otherwise you feel really lame afterward.  Trust me.

If you haven’t already made a workout plan, make one as soon as you arrive at the gym.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  It could be “jog on the treadmill for 30 minutes.”  But commit to it.  Don’t quit after 28 minutes and call it good because 28 will turn into 26 will turn into 10.  If you’re going to lift, you need a slightly more in depth plan but it doesn’t have to be rocket science.

Here’s an example of a workout I might do at the YMCA.

Warm-up/cardio – On the treadmill (because I’m not allowed to leave the building while my son is at Kid’s Club) – Jog one mile easy, one mile at a fairly hard pace, and one mile at a moderate pace.

Dynamic stretching if needed – Generally, I’m not a huge fan of stretching before a workout but as I’ve gotten older, my body seems to need a little more loosening up.  I still don’t believe in doing long, static stretches before a workout.  It makes me feel slow and sluggish and if you’re too loose, you may actually increase your chances of getting injured.  Here’s an example of a short, simple dynamic stretching routine…

10 inchworms w/ 2 push-ups at the bottom

10 air squats, stay at the bottom of your last squat for one minute

20 lunges (10 each side) w/ upper body rotation

arm swings forward and backward until it feels good

That’s pretty quick and simple but if I get too complicated, I just won’t do it.  If I’m going to run hard, I do the dynamic stretching after the first mile of the run, but if it’s an easy run, I like to do it afterward because my muscles feel all warm and bendy.

Simple Strength Training –  I generally have an hour to workout including getting dressed and undressed so I make this part quick.  Unless I’m going to commit to doing at least a month or two of lifting, I stick to mostly body weight training, with maybe some light kettlebells or dumbbells thrown in there.  Something like this…

10 rounds, no resting, of…

10 tricep push-ups (elbows against your rib cage)

10 reverse crunches on the bench (Lay on the bench with your butt hanging off the end and your feet lat on the ground.  Hold on next to your ears.  Bring your knees up to touch your nose.  Slowly bring your feet back to the floor but don’t touch it.  Repeat.)

2 slow pullups

15 supermans

No, this does not come close to working out all muscle groups but I workout several times a week so  I will get to them eventually.  Plus, if I’m running a lot, I don’t need to do a ton of lower body work because running makes your legs pretty strong, especially if you include some sprints.

So, that’s a typical YMCA workout for me.  It’s not perfect but it’s quick and it’s simple.  When you take care of an energetic two year old all day, the super high-intensity, leave you puking in the corner, workouts are just not appealing.  James does not feel sorry for me if I’m sore and tired.  I throw in some higher intensity workouts on the weekend when my husband is around to share the load but during the week, I keep it simple.  My main goal right is now is just being healthy and feeling good so there’s no reason to kill it every workout.  The most important things are: (1) having a plan so you don’t look like an idiot wandering around the gym; and (2) being mindful of what you’re doing so that you stay focused and actually finish the workout you planned.

That’s my advice, for what it’s worth.  I’m not in the best shape of my life, and I haven’t won any races lately but I do manage to workout regularly and stay healthy and active.