Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday's List

How about a list for Friday? I had several small things to share that wouldn't otherwise make it into their very own post!

1. So my house looked like this when I got home last night. A hot mess. Did I mention that we're having a slumber party tonight to celebrate Ella's 8th birthday? Yeah, that. I had been trying to get everything clean and organized since the weekend, but with crazy meal prep, school and dance activities it never seemed to happen. On Tuesday, a friend even asked me why I wasn't stressed out about Ella's birthday yet. Well, there is nothing like burning the midnight oil and stress or no stress, I managed to pull it together about 1:30 this morning.

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2. A slumber party made for very little decoration and planning, since our main event is pizza and roller skating. We did make a pretty cute place for all of the girls to sleep and here is a sneak peek at the breakfast table for tomorrow morning.

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3. When I snapped this picture I STILL hadn't gotten my new Life Planner in the mail yet. As much as I love my planner, that shipping kills me every time. The sad part is my calendar from last year goes through the end of the month, so I'm not sure why I am being so impatient! I've been using an EC planner since 2011, but just this year do I feel like I finally get everything out of it that I can. After borrowing Jennifer's pen at Bible study last week I promptly ordered a pack for myself! Sorry to be a copycat, but they are that good. I had been color coding my month at a glance using the enclosed stickers for quite sometime, but with so many pens to choose from I decided to try color coding the weekly view and see how I liked it. I use the very bottom of each day for blog post planning and notes and I almost always have a sticky note with reminders somewhere on every page. One thing that I've been doing for about a month that I love, is re-purposing the Morning/Day/Evening parts of the planner. I've heard lots of complaints about how that is unnecessary and even though I don't mind it, I find that I don't really need three sections. I started using washi tape or making my own stickers (this month they say Whole30) to cover up the label on the top section for meal planning and tracking. I'm left with sections for Day and Evening which work perfectly for how I use these spaces!

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I even put Google and Etsy to good use with looking for pre-made stickers and y'all. Have you done that?! You would be amazed at the accessories people make and the YouTube "tours" of personalized planners that people are making and decorating. I didn't even know decorating your planner was a thing. I can barely remember to write down my appointments!!

4. You might have noticed that things look a little different around here this week. I made a few very minor blog tweaks, but I hope it's easier to read and that the category links in the sidebar help you find what you are looking for. You might also notice the ads, which I'm still getting used to. I never intended (and still don't) for this blog to be a business and my only real motivation has ever only been to share about life as we know it. I had been participating in BlogHer's influencer program for a very short time when they invited me to join the Publishing Network instead. I'm still working on the kinks after advertising was installed, so please don't hesitate to leave me feedback. I don't want anything to be intrusive or distracting, but I'm excited about the possibilities that this might bring.

5. I have a super fun blog to share with you in the coming weeks. It will have lots of beautiful photography, party ideas and styling tips. I just finished the logo for a couple of really sweet girls and the blog and website will be up and running soon.

6. Who wants Christmas cards? I'm hoping to restock the Etsy shop between now and mid-October with lots of fun holiday cards and I hope to have some other fun and free printables for you to download very soon. I'm hoping to have all orders taken and shipped by December 1st, so if you are interested in custom cards, please click the contact button in the sidebar as soon as you can!

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7. This girl right here is a handful.

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I wish I could walk around with a voice recorder all the time, because I can't remember half of the funny things she says every day. She has been so excited about Ella's birthday party and we're crossing our fingers that throwing a four year old into the mix won't be completely disastrous. On Sunday afternoon I asked her to get her socks and shoes on before we headed out the door to church. What I meant was white socks and tennis shoes, like she wears every day. What I got was this...

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8. It has been too long since Josh and I went to a concert, but we're about to remedy that. I took Ella to John Mayer for her birthday last year, but that is the last show I got to see! There is a week in October where we're getting to see The Head and the Heart AND Jamestown Revival in the span of four days. How fun does that sound?!

Well, I hate to leave you shy of ten things in a list, but that's all I've got. I'm off to show off my mad roller skating skills and try to avoid pizza and birthday cake at all costs. I'll be back next week with a party post and lots of birthday details. Here's to the weekend!!


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Happy Birthday, Belly.

I wrote most of this post last year on her birthday. But as I was reading it today, I couldn't think of anything better to say about my beautiful baby girl.

My Bells. Ella Bella. Ellsy. Bellsy. Ellie. Ellie Belly. Belly Button. Ella answers to them all.

Eight years ago today, I was laying in a hospital room about to get an epidural. I had been there for almost 24 hours and I was OVER labor. We checked in at 4 o'clock on Sunday afternoon and were scheduled for an induction the following morning. I wasn't thrilled about being induced on the fifth anniversary of a national tragedy, but I was already five days overdue and couldn't wait one more minute to see her face. We were restless in the hospital that night, not knowing how the day would play out or how our lives were about to change forever. The on-call doctor convinced me she would be born before morning, so I panicked and my parents and sister came to see us late that evening. I remember watching television in the middle of the night, alone in labor and delivery while Josh attempted to get some sleep. Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes had just released photos of Suri and the Vanity Fair magazine was going to hit bookshelves on September 11th. We made an early morning call to secure that very important piece of literary history and the magazine is in Ella's baby book (in other pop culture news, John Mayer's Continuum came out on 9/12/06 and my sister hand-delivered my CD to the hospital!).

Morning dawned and we were still there, no baby in sight. I spent the morning showing the nurses pictures of our nursery and complaining about my hair. My doctor had assured me I could take a shower before they induced me on Monday morning, but the on-call doctor the night before insisted that they start an IV in the middle of the night, so I was destined to meet my first child with greasy hair and a chip on my shoulder. We laugh now about how frequently I lamented my lack of a shower. And the chapstick. Oh, the chapstick. I must have reapplied it a hundred times that day.

After ten hours of labor, we decided a C-section was in order. My doctor was concerned I would continue to labor overnight, so she decided to deliver Ella before her shift ended that evening. It was quite the whirlwind of activity as they secured an operating room and I cried with my momma. I was so ready to meet Ella and not at all concerned with how they got her out, but overwhelmed at how anxious I was about the whole situation. Josh & I greeted our 7 pound 3 ounce, sweet baby girl at 6:03 in the evening on Patriot's Day. The first words out of the doctor's mouth were about how beautiful her lips were.

Watching her grow for the last eight years has been nothing short of extraordinary. She was such an easy baby and taught me so many things about being a mom. She was speaking conversationally by her first birthday and still astounds us with her vocabulary on a regular basis. She's smart and quick-witted and hilarious, thanks to her daddy's sense of humor. She has such a servant's heart and loves church and mission friends. She loves to sing and dance and is known for having an impromptu dance party at the drop of a hat. She loves our 90 pound dog and is terrified of kittens. She is inquisitive and asks tons of questions about why things exist and how things work. She loves to "teach" her imaginary students and play shop owner and waitress. Her imagination knows no bounds.

I'm not one of those mommies that lament the growing up... well, not too much. Each year and each phase has been wonderful and hard in its own way. Growing up is bittersweet, but with each passing moment Ella becomes an even more wonderful person and getting to know her as something other than a baby has been so much fun. I don't miss bottles and diapers and I don't have baby fever. I'm not sure I would even go back in time. I love this little person she is. We have things in common and she can carry on a conversation with the best of them. The last eight years have been so full of love and laughter and I know I'll look back on the next eight years and the eight after that and have nothing but wonderful memories of this spunky little girl.

Happy Birthday, Belly! YOU are my favorite.

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Just as I do every year, I struggle with how to fit a celebration of life and a post about the tragedy that occurred thirteen years ago in the same space on the same day. We are celebrating our sweet girl with abandon, but it is a bittersweet day. Today we are remembering those who lost their own lives and for those family and friends who were left behind. You can read about where I was on 9/11 here and see our visit to the memorial here. You can also watch this wonderful video a friend shared last year, if you dare. Arm yourselves with Kleenex, friends.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Trampoline Fun!

Ella has been asking for a trampoline for months. The girls had a pretty small one for quite some time, but they've outgrown it and it has been sitting unused in our backyard. She has been adamant that she wanted one for her birthday, but as with all big purchases we waited awhile to make sure she didn't change her mind. I really wanted to go ahead and get it at the beginning of summer, but Josh isn't a fan of early gifts and he thought they would enjoy it more in the fall anyway. He is probably right. 

If you follow me on Instagram (@tazandbelly), you might have seen this little gem on Saturday morning.

   

She already knew we were planning on picking it up over the weekend and was helping me put together a grocery list while I cleaned out the fridge. I couldn't help but laugh when she decided we should add it to the list. I can't help but think there was no way they would let me forget!

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While Ella was helping us lay out all the pieces and assemble it in the backyard, this is what Sophie was doing. Pretty typical. She found herself a soft place to lay, armed with a baby wipe, some bug spray and a tall glass of milk!

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Ella was actually a huge help. It took us right at two hours to get the thing put completely together and she carried parts, refilled water bottles and followed her dad as he connected springs, hitting them each with a hammer to make sure they were secure.

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They went in to cool off for a minute and Josh and I managed to finish the trampoline itself. We had told them that they could not jump until the screen was in place, but we decided to give it whirl while they were inside. Of course, we were in mid-air when the backdoor swung open and we were caught red-handed. Oh, how I wish I had a photo of their faces! We let them jump for a few minutes and then begin adding the screen and supports.

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Hudson and his mama came by for a few minutes before church and he was not sure what to think. It took him a while to warm up to the idea, but he was all smiles before the afternoon was over.

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And to be clear, I have no idea why Tazzie is wearing a swimsuit. For the record, the next afternoon she wore a t-shirt, sunhat and houndstooth rain boots. She has a fashion sense all her own!

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We took a break for a shower and potluck dinner at church, but the girls made me text their dad from the red-light and have him meet us back outside to play. We've spent several hours each night before bed, jumping and talking and watching animals in our backyard. We even saw Beemer chasing a massive groundhog under the fence! It has honestly been some of the sweetest moments we've had as a family in recent history and I know this trampoline will see many a sunsets with us outside. The girls have been so sweet to one another. They played together while we worked in the yard on Monday night and I don't think I ever heard a cross word between them.

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Some of my favorite shots of the night were these that I took in rapid succession. They were so funny trying to pose for the camera in mid-air!

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

My Whole30 Week One

WARNING: This post came out much longer than expected. Apparently, I had lots to say about week one! Read with caution :).

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I jumped right into Whole30 on Labor Day after being super inspired by Jennifer and AP in July. I wish I had joined them earlier and was already almost three months in to a much healthier lifestyle, but in just seven days I've made major strides. I'm still a little whiney about some things, but there are other changes that came easy and I'm starting to wonder who this weird girl is in my kitchen.

I'll be honest, the grocery bill was pretty high that first week. I bought a lot on my initial shopping trip, but I stopped by two different specialty stores and Publix later in the week and all three times spent $25 or more. This weekend's trip wasn't nearly as bad since I know better how we'll eat during the week. It was easier to estimate how much of everything we would really need after having a week under our belt. I think, on average, we can expect to spend about $50 more per week on groceries, but we're saving at least $100 a week since we're avoiding restaurants this month entirely. I'm embarrassed to say we've been spending that much on fast food pretty much all summer and it was time to get ourselves in check.

I've had a few people ask me what my motivation was for Whole30 and it was definitely two fold. There is a huge part of me that regrets gaining a little more than ten pounds since last fall and struggling to zip my favorite jeans. I was still wearing a size six and certainly don't consider myself "overweight", but I'm more comfortable in my skin at a size four and I know that is something I'm capable of maintaining with a little work. I also just really wanted to overhaul our eating, in general. We were never the cleanest of eaters, but we had made some changes to our diet and were trying to avoid the trap to eat out constantly. Unfortunately, summer brought with it some very bad habits. I knew that spending 30 days focused on real food and establishing a healthier relationship with everything in my refrigerator would really help me eliminate some things that I shouldn't be eating anyway. I know I can't say goodbye to cheese and breakfast casserole forever, but I want to be so much smarter when I start adding a few things back to my diet come October.

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After the first week, I cleaned out my fridge and reorganized everything. The way we were using it before just wasn't conducive to how we were eating and everything was hard to find. I threw away lots of things that we weren't eating and tried to put the girls food out of sight so I wouldn't be tempted. I put some fruits in the door where they were easy to access and then filled the other shelves with fresh meat, veggies and a few other fruits.

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We discovered that, for us, we are much more likely to eat well when all of the fruits and vegetables are pre-cut and ready to go in plastic containers. I washed grapes and put them into bowls, chopped cantaloupe and watermelon and made smaller containers of the veggies we use most often. I just rough chopped them for stir-fry and salads, but we leave the food processor out on the counter and can throw them in pretty quickly if we need them diced for any reason.

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I try not to over think our meals and keep things pretty simple most of the time. On Saturday for lunch, I had three compliant turkey slices, an orange and a huge pile of watermelon. I usually eat almonds, walnuts or pecans with these "variety plates" and they keep me pretty full until the next meal.

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We needed a crock-pot meal for Sunday evening, since we were working in the yard all afternoon and knew we wouldn't feel like cooking when we came in. I put a beef roast in with some potatoes, red onions and shredded carrots to cook while we worked. The seasoning was a little different than usual -- I added some beef broth, a bay leaf, Italian herbs and salt & pepper. I was surprised to find it tasted just as good as when I use salty canned soups!

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I made a huge batch of pico de gallo over the weekend to use as salad dressing and a topper for burgers on Monday night. I could eat it with a spoon and it's been great to have something ready to go in the fridge whenever we can't decide what we want to eat. Just throw it on top of some lettuce and whatever left over meat we have and voila!

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I pan fried some chicken in olive oil with homemade taco seasoning and some lime juice and chopped it up for salads and omelets for this week, too. I know I keep repeating myself, but the more prepared we are on Sundays, the better the week seems to go.

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Here are a few of our other favorite meals this week from the photo collage above:
  • Apple slices with almond butter, unsweetened coconut flakes, walnuts and 100% cacao shavings.
  • Monkey salad -- sliced bananas, almond butter, unsweetened coconut flakes & pecans.
  • Spicy chicken sausage stir fry with red peppers and onions.
  • Compliant bacon and eggs.
  • Oven cooked steak, with spicy steamed broccoli and smashed potatoes. Since we couldn't marinade the steaks the way we normally would, we cooked them with olive oil and salt and pepper in a cast iron skillet. When we removed them to rest, I added a little beef broth, onions and garlic to the steak drippings and made a yummy gravy. For the broccoli, saute some garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil on high heat, add 1/2 cup of chicken broth and a steamer basket full of broccoli and cook, covered on medium for 10 minutes. For the potatoes, we just boiled them and drained the water before adding a little olive oil, salt and Italian herbs. It was probably my favorite meal of the week!

I know you aren't supposed to weigh yourself during the month, but I couldn't resist stepping on the scales at the end of week one. I could tell my pants were already fitting a little better and I just wanted to see if I was imagining things. I couldn't believe I was already down almost five pounds. I made Josh move them to keep me from being tempted the rest of the month. I know it isn't all about the pounds lost, so I'm trying not to worry about what the ending number will be.

Although I feel pretty good now, with one week under my belt, I won't say the first week was without it's challenges. I spent the first few days pretty hungry until I got used to only eating three times a day. I knew I was eating enough food, but I was so used to eating 4-5 smaller meals a day. I'm sure it was more of a head game than anything, but it definitely got better as the week progressed. I'm still craving things. I regularly long for cheese on my salads and we all know how much I love a cold Dr. Pepper. The good news is, I've avoided them both and plan to continue for the foreseeable future. Probably the worst part of the process so far, was the soreness and muscle aches I experienced on days three and four. I honestly thought I was coming down with the flu until I read this. The lack of carbs was certainly getting to me and at one point in the middle of night five, I woke up in tears. I could not get comfortable no matter how I stood, sat or laid. I took some Aleve and turned my heating pad on high and was so thankful to wake up feeling much better. I've been awed by how much this time line has lined up with exactly how I'm feeling!

I'm not sure if I'll do a recap each week during my Whole30, but I will definitely be posting photos to Instagram (@tazandbelly) each day to document what we're eating. You can also search  #whole30bham and #whole30wholeseptember for even more inspiration!



Monday, September 8, 2014

Letters

Dear Blog, Again with the neglect. The sad thing is I had posts planned and everything organized on my planner, but between football season, school activities and birthday party planning, I sort of ignored all other responsibilities. I promise to be better this week. Seriously. I have lots to say.

Dear Football Season, I never thought I'd see the day where I was excited to welcome you back, but here it is. We had such a great time in Atlanta watching the first Bama game with our friends and I'm looking forward to taking the girls later this year. It will be Sophie's first time at Bryant-Denny and we're gonna start working on that fight song this week.

Ummmm, hot mess. Is it game time yet?! #rolltideyall ❤️ We are ready to roll!! #rtr #rolltideyall #itsgameday ❤️

Dear High-School Football, We'll take you, too. There is nothing quite like walking across the street on a Friday night for greasy concession stand food and a pretty good drum line. You are one of the things I'll miss most when we finally leave this house.

Dear Whole30, It's been an entire week and I'm still on the wagon. It's the closest thing to a miracle I've experienced in recent history. Usually, by the seventh day of any "diet" I'm crying about sweet tea and all the food I never even eat that I suddenly miss whole-heartedly. It helps that Josh is doing Whole30-ish and we're working really hard to hold one another accountable.

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Dear Ella, How are you going to be EIGHT YEARS OLD on Thursday?! I'm almost positive it hasn't actually been that long since you were born.

Dear EC Life Planner, Get in my hands. I still have a few months left on last year's planner, but as soon as I got that shipping notification, I started getting anxious for the new one. I've ordered pens, bought some cute new sticky notes and made some fun stickers to help keep me more organized. I've used a planner more this summer than ever before and I'm vowing to keep it up.

Dear Office, Aren't you glad I cleaned you up last week? I spent the better part of five days packing boxes, shredding paper and making you pretty and I think I'll be more productive because of it. All I need is a new desk lamp and some recent photos for my wall and all will be well.

Dear Mad Men, Why were we so late to your party? Josh & I have just started season two and we LOVE it. I'm kind of resenting NFL games for ruining our binge-watching after the girls are in bed every night. 

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Dear Bible Study Girls, I'm so thrilled that we are finally meeting again. I know it worked out best for everyone that we take the summer off, but I really missed my girls' nights. I love the book we picked out for this season and I can't wait to learn from each of you this year!

Dear Trampoline, I think Josh & I love you just as much (maybe more) than the girls do. We tested you out before they ever came outside and we acted a lot like little children last night after church. I'm guessing you were worth every penny we spent.