5 Tips For Planning Your Wedding: Military Edition

I was never one of those girls that planned her wedding at an early age. I didn’t have any wedding scrap books and I didn’t daydream about my big day. I thought about it from time to time, but I had too many ideas to make a solid plan. But when Kyle proposed, I dove in head first, ready to plan our wedding for September of 2017, even though we had just gotten engaged at the end of December. We’ve been together for a long time, so I was more than ready to get the marriage part started. But things certainly didn’t go as planned..

By early March, I was already looking at wedding dresses with my mom. I even picked one out, but thank God, didn’t put any money down. I got to my parent’s house that night to find Kyle already there, sitting with my dad. And I just knew. I knew that all of our plans had flown out the window. Because that’s just one of the things you dread when you try to plan anything with the military involved. We found out that night that he had been accepted to further his training, and would leave at the end of the summer, returning a few months later.

All of our plans had to change, and they’re changing again as we speak (more on that later). But I’ve come to learn that what will be, will be. He’s being blessed with some amazing opportunities, and this one day, although it’s our wedding day, will never rival his whole career. So I’ve had to learn to adapt in this lifestyle, once again, and learn how to be accepting of the things I can’t control. And I know I’m not alone.

If you’re planning a wedding with someone in the military, here are some tips that are keeping me sane.

Decide on Your Deal-Breakers

I’m extremely organized (most days), so I had a wedding binder going by week 2. I researched all my vendors, and made a list of “deal breaker” questions for them. These were my top 2 questions when choosing my vendor:

Under what circumstances will you refund a deposit/are there special circumstances for military?

Can we move our date if we find out he’s required for training, deployment, etc.?

If the answer to either of these were “No”, we couldn’t logically spend our money on that vendor. Because God forbid something happen and we lose thousands of our wedding savings. Planning a wedding is scary and stressful, and a military wedding adds a few extra worries. Like any soon-to-be military spouse, I’m constantly terrified that he will get deployed and we’ll have to get married through Skype, or even worse, he’ll miss out because of our wedding. But I have some control over the situation by asking the right questions, and putting us in a position to get our money back if needed.

Ask The Right Questions

Don’t go to a viewing/meeting with a vendor unprepared. You should know exactly what you need to ask so that you can make the most out of the time. Make sure you have all their contact info as well in case you think of additional questions or concerns. Don’t waste their time, and don’t let them waste yours.

Change Is a Good Thing

Accept it and embrace it, because you’re in for a long haul if you can’t. Like any wedding, you’re probably not going to get everything perfect. We had to change our date once already, and we might even have to change it again even though our venue and DJ are booked. Such fun! All you can do sometimes is roll with the punches, and learn to adapt just like you always have.

Not Every Experience Is The Same

I’ve had to learn this lesson in many aspects of life, but it certainly applies here as well. Not everyone’s bad experience will be your bad experience, so try to ignore the wedding horror stories. There are some things that are completely out of your control, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the “worst” will happen. Take it day by day, and just do your part to cover all the bases.

Make Sure You’re Both on The Same Page

We all know who plans the majority of the wedding: the bride. And it’s no different in our case. I have made all of the phone calls, scheduled every viewing, budgeted each deposit, etc. But even though I’ve been doing most of the work, it’s still so important that I keep Kyle in the loop for many reasons. 1. It’s not just my wedding, duh. And 2. We can better avoid the scheduling conflicts if he knows exactly when everything is happening.

There are some obligations that he absolutely cannot get out of, but there are some that he can. His command is aware of when we’re getting married, so they’re trying their best to keep us updated with any news on deployment, training, etc. They still have him going to school at the end of the summer for a few months, and they’ve been really helpful and understanding of our situation. In order for things to go smoothly, everyone needs to be on the same page.

What are some tips you would give to a soon-to-be military spouse? What are some obstacles you faced with your own wedding?

On-The-Go And At Home: 10 Healthy Snacks For Every Routine

I’m sure we’ve all been there. That moment where you open your refrigerator or pantry door for the 10th time to stare at the shelves full of food. You sift through the drawers and shuffle things out of the way, but you can’t find anything you want. There’s tons of options, but nothing seems appealing. I go through this process far more often then I want to admit. I’m always looking for the 1 snack that I don’t have, which leads to a trip to the grocery store where I’m surround by unhealthy options. 

A huge part of leading a healthy lifestyle is realizing your areas of weakness. I love sweets. I could have sweets every day, 3 times a day, and be perfectly okay with it. But my body certainly would not be okay with that. So, I combat my weaknesses with preparation, and that means snacks too. Here are 10 snack ideas to keep you going!

Skinny Girl Popcorn

A lot of people swear by popcorn as a go-to healthy snack, but this isn’t true for all popcorn. Some snack brands are loaded with sodium, refined sugars, and oils, resulting in a bunch of empty calories that your body gets zero energy from. What I love about Skinny Girl brand popcorn (as well as their other options) is that they have tons of flavor, reduced salt, and set portions. Rather than giving you the option of 1 large bag all to yourself, you can by a box that contains 12 snack sized bags. Not to mention they have amazing flavors like Lime Sea Salt.

Seeds/Nuts

I tend to tread lightly with this one, because it doesn’t include all seeds and nuts. My go-to options for this category include almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds. Cashews are a favorite of many, but they’re the highest in fat and don’t pack the same energy as a handful of almonds. Try to steer clear of any seed/nut that has added flavors, because this often means a lot of sodium. If you really need that kick of flavor, try roasting your own seeds/nuts and adding some chili powder or onion powder. This gives you the control, and makes you fully aware of what you’re consuming.

Homemade Granola Energy Bites

I made these a few weeks ago and they’re amazing. There are tons of recipes out there, but I found my favorite on Pinterest (of course). They contain simple, whole ingredients, and they often work with any type of diet, including gluten free and paleo. It took me about 15 minutes to make mine, and I brought 2 to work each morning for a whole week. They leave you feeling full, and they’re a great option for a pre-gym snack.

Frozen Grapes

I discovered this about a year ago now, and I’ve been obsessed ever since. Take some red grapes off the vine, wash thoroughly, and then cut them in half. Divide them up into small baggies, and freeze for about 3 hours. When you feel like having something sweet, grab one of the little baggies. You would be amazed at how much they taste like dessert. Sometimes I leave them whole, but cutting them in half makes it a bit easier to chew when they’re frozen.

Sliced Grapefruit

The majority of people avoid grapefruit as a snack because 1. It’s really tangy/bitter sometimes. And 2. It’s really messy if you try to peel it at work. But if you take the time to peel grapefruit and throw it in your lunch box, it’s one of the healthiest snacks you can have. They provide the same benefits as oranges with the boost of Vitamin C, hydration, and nutrients, but has also been proven to aid weight loss. If you’re like me and crave sweets 24/7, then fruit snacks will help you keep it under control.

Homemade Veggie Chips

These can be made in the oven, and they do take some time, but they last quite a while. I usually chop up some thin slices of zucchini, carrots, sweet potato, beets, etc. and lay them out on multiple cookie sheets. I cover them in a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt, cracked pepper, and a little bit of balsamic vinegar if I feel like it. I then bake them at 375 degrees for about 2 hours, or until they’ve dried out and are mostly crisp. I usually divide them into little baggies so that we can grab some on the go for lunches and road trips. This is another great homemade option because you have control of exactly what goes into it, which helps you avoid any hidden ingredients. 

Mini Parfaits

I used to love having a yogurt parfaits in the morning, either from Starbucks or the grocery store. But they’re made in large containers, and the granola always tasted like a mouthful of sugar. Mini parfaits can be made in a mason jar (multiple size options) and you can choose the granola that fits your diet best. 

Carrots with Humus

I’m a big fan of humus on almost anything, and there are tons of flavors to choose from. But rather than pairing it with some chips, try vegetables. My favorite combo is humus with carrots, but peppers, cucumbers, celery are great options as well. 

Cucumber Sandwiches

I’ve seen some different variations of this snack, but I usually combine it with turkey and sharp cheddar. Slice up some cucumber, deli meat, and your favorite cheese to create these mini bread-free sandwiches. Hold it together with a toothpick, and your good to go!

Dole Pineapple Dippers

I can’t say enough about these. You can find them in the freezer sections with the other frozen fruits, and they also have strawberries and banana if you’re not a pineapple fan. They’re coated in dark chocolate, and they come in a portion size pack with about a handful in each. Clearly I’m a big fan of the frozen treats!

When it comes to any snack, my best advice is to take control and make it yourself. I know that’s not ideal, but if you’re dealing with a restricted diet due to a food allergy or you’re really trying to lose weight, it’s so important to know exactly what you’re consuming. Become familiar with what you have at home, and the many things you can create with those ingredients.

What are some homemade or store bought snacks that you rely on? Have you already tried some of these?

My Fitness Journey: Week 2-4

Hello lovelies! I hope you all had a productive weekend. I spent my weekend doing the usual wedding planning, and I’m more than happy to take a break at this point. It’s been a long few days of writing out guests lists, researching centerpiece ideas, and worst of all, budgeting. It may sound like fun to some, but it’s been a bit overwhelming lately. It’s hard to imagine our big day coming together when it’s still in pieces. So all the stress has made my fitness routine even more important to me.

At this point, I’m about 12 weeks into this process. But for now, I’ll be recapping weeks 2-4 of this lifestyle change. If you missed my week 1 recap, you can find it here. At this point, I was adjusting well to my routine, and I found myself loving the process again. I’ve been active my entire life, so I’ve gone through a lot of phases where I was just sick of it all. I was sick of having no time for anything fun because I was dedicating all my free time to working out. I didn’t know how to balance it all, and it usually resulted in a hiatus of some sort. Luckily, I’ve learn when I need to cut back and reevaluate things, and it has really helped me stay on track. Here’s how things have been going:

WEEKS 2-4

Goal: Lose 20lbs in 16 weeks

Weight In:

Week 2: -2 lbs

Week 3: -1 lbs

Week 4: -1 lbs

Total so far: -3 

The Workout:

 At this point, I was still very focused on the importance of cardio. I know that there needs to be a balance of weight training and cardio, but since the primary goal right now is still cutting weight, I wanted to have a good base to start building from. One adjustment that I made was that I stopped using the ankle weights. Naturally, I have very strong legs. I’ve been a runner and hockey player my entire life, so I’ll never rid myself of the muscle. But the last thing I need to do is overwork my legs, and cause damage. The benefit of using the ankle weights for the first week was that they got my body warmed up, and since I was used to the extra weight holding me back, I could go faster on each machine.

Cardio:

Arc Trainer: 60-70 Minutes, Monday-Thursday

Walking/Light Jog Intervals: 20 Minutes, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

Stair Master: 10 Minutes – Optional

Arms, Chest, and Shoulders:

Lateral Pull Downs: 3 sets of 12 at 30-35 lbs – Tuesday and Thursday

Free Weight Curls: 3 sets of 10 at 15 lbs – Tuesday and Thursday

Free Weight Chest Press: 3 sets of 10 at 20 lbs. – Tuesday and Thursday

Cable Fly: 3 sets of 12 at 25 lbs. – Tuesday and Thursday

Bench Dips: 3 sets of 20 – Optional 

Legs and Glutes:

Lunges: 1 set of 10 with 15-pound kettle bells for warmup, 2 sets of 10 without weight – Monday and Friday

Standard Squat: 3 sets of 20 with no weight – Monday, Wednesday, Friday

Sumo Squat: 2 sets of 20 with 15-pound medicine ball – Monday and Friday

Seated Leg Curl: 3 sets of 12 at 40 lbs. – Monday, Wednesday, Friday

Calf Press: 3 sets of 12 at 50 lbs. – Monday, Wednesday, Friday

Stretching

25 Minutes – 7 days a week

Weeks 2-4 were intense, but I wasn’t seeing huge changes yet. I felt better, and my stomach was flatter, but I wasn’t at a point where I truly saw the difference. As I’ve stated in previous posts regarding fitness, a huge part of the change comes from changing the routine. Our bodies are amazing; they can adjust to almost anything. But because of that, they get used to these routines, and we can plateau. So I had to constantly assess what I was doing, and figure out if it was really the “right” thing for me.

The Diet

We continued to follow the guidelines of my last post, with just some limitations. Working out frequently definitely influenced my appetite, so it was hard not to overeat at times. We didn’t follow the rule of having “cheat days/meals” because I don’t think that’s a healthy way to live. When we wanted something sweet or “unhealthy”, we let ourselves have a reasonable portion. If we lived our lives for “cheat meals”, I would go crazy!

Are you thinking about beginning your own fitness journey, or already in the process? How do you balance diet and exercise while staying sane?

 

My Fitness Journey: Week One

Hello and Happy Monday! I’ve always been a fan of Mondays for a lot of reasons. It’s the perfect day to start something new, and it’s almost always the most productive day of my week. I’m not at a point in my life where I dread Mondays, and I really hope I never get there.

As I’m typing this, I’m about 8 weeks in my “Fitness Journey”. It’s really hard to believe that it’s already been 8 weeks! But I want to bring you all back to week 1 where the struggle was real. It was just a couple weeks after Kyle proposed, and the holidays were winding down (thank God). I was feeling very sluggish and not myself. I was still doing my yoga 3 days a week, and following my New Year’s resolution of stretching more, but I needed a serious change. So we made a plan.

WEEK 1

Goal: Lose 20lbs in 16 weeks

MONDAY

The Workout

This was our first day back at the gym in a few weeks, and I was amped up and ready to go. Walking through the doors was a bit daunting because I didn’t know how I would do once I was on a machine. As anyone who works out regularly knows, there are good days and bad days. And you really don’t know what type of day it’s going to be until you’re trying to work out. But I found an Arc Trainer and fell back into the familiar motions. Here’s how the first session went:

Arc Trainer: 60 Minutes

Walking: 20 Minutes

Push Ups: 1 set of 10

Squats w/ 10lb ball: 3 sets of 10

Ballerina Squats: 3 sets of 10

Russian Twist: 25 on each side

Standard Sit-Ups: 30

Stretching: 25 Minutes

We went all out on the first day, and covered all of the basics. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I did my cardio for 60 minutes again, but with 5lb ankle weights instead. I definitely started to feel it in my legs, so I pulled back on the squats and just stuck with the cardio. The cardio and stretching remained consistent throughout the week, with some variation in the core and arm exercises. We finished up the week on Friday with just some cardio intervals on the Elliptical, ending with a 1 mile sprint on the treadmill.

The Diet: We really haven’t been on a “diet” per say, but we do watch what we eat carefully. When you’re working out consistently, it’s so important to give yourself enough fuel to complete those workouts, but it’s also important to avoid over eating. Here are some things that we did limit:

– Fruit Juice

– Ice Cream

– Artificial Sweeteners

– Alcohol: No more than 1-2 drinks per person on the weekend, depending on what it is.

– Less grain intake: bread, rice, granola, etc.

– No red meat

– Limited “heavy” dairy: Cheese, cream/coffee creamers, etc. 

We didn’t want to make ourselves feel extremely limited, because in my experience, that’s often where things take a turn for the worst. I’m still a firm believer that fitness is 95% conscientious nutrition, meaning you remain aware of what you’re giving your body, without being obsessive. Getting back into the routine is difficult, but we were so proud of ourselves for being disciplined and working hard. And despite the typical results of week 1, we kept going.

Pounds Lost: +1

That’s right. I actually gained a pound, which is extremely common when you don’t work out for a long period of time. My muscles were taking on water weight and struggling to recover from these difficult workouts. In weeks 2-4 I decided to reevaluate some things, which I’ll go over in next week’s post. Leading a healthy lifestyle involves constant reevaluation, because let’s be real, the same thing can’t possibly work forever. Stay tuned for next week’s results! 

Are you currently on your own fitness journey? What advice would you have for someone at the week 1-2 stage?

Ultimate Shopping Guide For Your Holiday Decor

One of my favorite things about the holidays are the decorations. I love driving through our neighborhood and seeing all the pretty lights, the giant blow-up snowmen, and the wreaths on every door. New England is a very Christmassy place this time of year (the massive amount of snow doesn’t hurt) and everyone gets in the spirit pretty quickly around here.

Growing up, my parents always went all out with decorations for the holidays. We always had an enormous tree, little handmade snowmen everywhere, and evergreen garland above all the doorways. And that was just the inside. We pulled out huge totes of decorations every year, and spent an entire day spreading them all over the house. Even as an adult, it’s still my favorite activity each holiday season.

But living in a condo makes decorating on this scale a little bit more difficult. Don’t get me wrong, I still go all out! But I try to spread it out a bit more to make it feel less cluttered. Right now we have a small tree that sits on top of our side table, and we’ve put garland and little signs throughout the house. We also have a big wreath on the door, and lights that wrap around our walkway railing. It took a while to find the right decorations for our home, because I’m pretty picky about those details. But after looking at various places at the beginning of the month, I found some great stores for all of our holiday décor needs!

Home Goods

I’ve always loved Home Goods for so many reasons. 1. They have very reasonable prices for what you’re getting. 2. They get a wide array of items. And 3. It’s hard not to buy everything in sight. Right now they have beautiful wreaths (fake) for $24-$45, and they’re excellent quality. I recently bought holiday bath towels for $6.99 each, and they look and feel like they came from Pottery Barn. I easily spend $50+ during each visit, and I always end up with some great designer finds.

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Hobby Lobby

This is the ultimate place for inexpensive glassware and unique signs. If you’re a regular follower, you know my love for signs of all sizes and sayings. Hobby Lobby has atleast 4 aisles dedicated to these. It’s my heaven. And this makes them one of the many great places to find holiday decorations as well. This year I found 4 gold-striped mason jars (great for tea-lights and centerpieces), all for $2 each, as well as tons of unique ornaments that make great gifts. They also have craft items if you prefer customizing some gifts.

Christmas Tree Shop

I know these stores can’t be found everywhere, but I had to include it anyways. I could spend days in one of these stores. They have everything from holiday décor, to snacks and stocking stuffers. It’s a great one-stop-shop for those last minute items, and I usually go in a few times a year. Last year I actually made 3 big care packages to be sent off to different deployed units, and I only spent $45. These care packages contained a lot of $1 items, but I made sure to include the necessities as well as some fun items. If you’re looking to make your own care package or fill some stockings, find one of these stores nearby!

Pier1Imports

Similar to Pottery Barn, Pier 1 has some higher end décor items that make me wish I had more money to shop with. They have beautifully detailed ornaments, dining sets, winter throws, graphic pillows, etc. I honestly love just going there to look, as hard as that is sometimes. If you’re searching for some very unique and detailed items, they have great options.

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R.E.D. Friday: What It’s Really All About

Among all Americans, there are certain days that we hold very close. Some are in celebration, while others are in mourning. We celebrate the many milestones and achievements, as well as the obstacles that once stood in our way. We celebrate the birth of our nation, and we also mourn for the days in history where a piece of that nation was destroyed. Continue reading

Leading A Healthier Lifestyle: What You Can Change Today

My least favorite part of the holidays is coming soon: Resolution Season. I call it a season because unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to last. We’ve all struggled with making the big changes, and more importantly, keeping them.

But why do we wait until January to change? Why not do it now, during the busiest and most challenging time of year, so that we know we can truly take on anything? Here are some things you can change today!

1. Drink more water

This is always my number one, because I’m always trying to improve my water intake. I can’t stress enough how important this is. The rule is that you divide your body weight in half, and you drink that much in ounces. But if you’re exercising more frequently or you find yourself overly tired, you should increase accordingly.

2. Stretch!

Stretching does a lot for your body and mind. I stretch before, during, and after excoriate, as well as before bed. It’s helped relieve my lower back aches, and it actually releases the build up of acid from hard workouts.

3. Get rid of 1 unhealthy habit each month 

Sometimes when you look at things on a smaller scale, it’s less overwhelming. Rather than tackling everything at once, start with baby steps. Whether it’s biting your nails or stopping at McDonald’s after work, remove 1 bad habit each month. Keep working at it even if you cave in a few times. My unhealthy habit of the month: stop snacking before bed.

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4. Re-evaluate your goals

Do you know what you want anymore? What exactly are you working towards? Sometimes we get off track and we forget about the lists we made and the plans we swore we would stick to. And that’s okay! But don’t forget to go back and reevaluate those goals and dreams. You can’t reach them if you don’t know what they are anymore. My big goal: Lose some muscle mass/water weight around my legs/hips and tone up. This means less exercise and better diet!

5. Find some peace with yourself 

Our bodies aren’t perfect. But they’re pretty amazing when you really think about it. When I was younger, I was at war with my body constantly, or for no good reason. I didn’t realize how healthy and strong I was until one day, I wasn’t. Find some peace with what is. Accept it, and move on with a different approach to those goals.

What are you changing this month to better your health?