holiday gift guide: affordable workout gear

In between all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I have to remind myself to take some time out  just for me.  Keeping a regular exercise routine is important for my sanity - especially when life gets a little crazy.  My go-to workouts are pilates, walking and kettle bell exercises.  I find these workouts challenge me (and make me sore in places I never knew I could be) and vary enough to keep my body on its toes.  

If you're like me, splurging for pricey exercise equipment is just not in the budget.  But you really don't have to shell out big bucks to get quality items.  I put together a fun little gift guide for you that won't break the bank.  In fact, everything you see is just $60 or less!

Items going clockwise:
1. Active Mesh Top:  These Old Navy tops are perfect for working out - stylish, cute & cheap!
2. Puma Rio Speed tennis shoes: These Pumas are perfect for that cute, I-just-worked-out look.
3. GoFit contoured kettle bell: Kettle bells great for working your whole body and the contoured design doesn't hurt your arms.  They come in various weight amounts.  (I used this kind along with Bob Harper workout DVD's and LOVE it!)
4. Fitbit Zip: This is a super cute pedometer for the walker/calorie counter in your life that syncs to your phone (I really want this to make it into my stocking this year.  Hint hint.)
5. Gaiam Pilates MatThis mat from Yogaoutlet  is sooooo good for pilates.  I was doing pilates on my plain old carpet for years and this mat has changed my life.  It's thick and fabulous.  If you do pilates and don't have one - get one!)
6. Marika Kitcket Legging:  I wear these cute pants from Yogaoutlet for my pilates workouts.  They give the right amount of stretch and come at a great price - a perfect piece to add to your workout attire. Yogaoutlet.com has a fabulous selection of workout clothing and gear for all budgets.  Give them a look see!

**This post was done in collaboration with Yogaoutlet.com, however, all opinions are my own.


turning 37 (for real this time)

Yes, it's true.  As of Monday, I am officially 37 years old.   For real this time.  And here's how I figured out that I wasn't really turning 37 last year.....

On my birthday last year, I told the world on instagram that it was my birthday and that I was oh so happy to be 37.  A few weeks later, I mention during a conversation at the dinner table that I liked being 37.  No, loved being 37. My sweet husband looked at me and said, "You are not 37.  You're 36."  I looked at him and said, "No way.  I'm 37!"  He said, "No, you're 36.  I had to check church records last week for something and saw that you are 36.  So you're not 37.  You are 36."  I burst out laughing, thinking of the ridiculousness of going a whole year thinking I was a whole year older than I really was.  I tried to quickly do the math in my head, but I am really bad at math unless I have a paper and pencil in front of me, so I just had to trust him.

So this year I am telling people that I am 37 for real this time.  And Noah made me a birthday card that says, "Happy Birthday Mom!  You're actually 37!"  It was the sweetest.  So here's to being 37.



October was a good month.  We managed to get through it with zero sick days and lots of family time.  I got a new calling at church, teaching the 13 year old Sunday School class.  I'm pretty sure they are still trying to decide if I'm cool or not.  Ha!  Nana & Grandpa Vern squeezed in a visit to see the kiddos and the new-to-us house.  Granpda went to town on our overgrown trees, and pruned them to his heart's delight.  It was cool to watch a 94 year old be in his element.  I hope I am that passionate about things at that age.

We ventured out to a pumpkin farm for our Family Home Evening activity to pick out pumpkins for carving and decided to splurge and do our first-ever corn maze.  We paired up and went in different directions.  And somehow, we all made it back to the end at just about the same time.  We went at dusk it was all lit up with Christmas lights.  We've talked about putting up lights in the backyard for months now and this pretty much sold us on the idea.  We picked out 3 medium-size, squatty pumpkins after the sun had set and headed for home.  We set them out on the front porch and left them there, uncarved until November 1st.  With all the business of other things, we just didn't get around to carving them and I am secretly grateful we skipped the wet, seedy mess this year.  I painted them instead (which I'll share soon!).

Halloween totally crept up on me.  Because we had only just moved into our house two months before, my mind was on other things - like what furniture we need in the dining room so we can actually start eating in there.  I have a solution for that, but no money.  It seems that is always the case......  Anyhow, the Mr. & I managed to slip away on  a hot date to Target and browsed the Halloween section for simple costume ideas.  Somehow, I had convinced everyone in our family that we were going to be lumberjacks about a week before.  Tatum, our super girly girl, was totally opposed. The boys were on board and Hailey seemed pretty indifferent.   When we found lumberjack beards velcroed  to plaid hats in the costume aisle and I knew it was meant to be.  I whipped up some axes with cardboard and duck tape.  Once Tatum had it in her hands, she was hooked.  No more princess costume for her.  No sir.

The boys were super funny with their beards, moving their mouths underneath to make them wiggle.  Carter is normally pretty quiet, but if you pay attention, he's pretty funny too.  It was pretty obvious from the start that the beards were a good idea.

I took all these pictures in 10 minutes flat because we had to rush to the church building for some trunk-or-treating.  The Mr. & I passed out candy while the kids walked around with friends and filled their bags with treats.  Then we went trick-or-treating with new friends around a block in our neighborhood. Carter scored a full size Snickers bar and made me promise I wouldn't eat it.  Because I did last year.  It's not my fault he left it on top of the fridge for two weeks.  He should have known better.  Chocolate does not last in our home.

On the way home, I told the kids I thought this year was our best Halloween ever.  It was the first year we all dressed up.  It was the first year no one cried about wanting or not wanting to dress up as a certain super hero or animal or whatever.  It was the first year everyone wore their entire costume the entire night.  It was the first year the kids were totally happy.  Which totally made my heart happy.

We finished the night off with our traditional watching of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  We kind of love that movie and watch it a handful of times during the year.

Oh October, I kinda liked you.   Too bad you couldn't stick around a little while longer.


Virginia wrap up

Virginia was good to us.  I remember we were just starting to discuss home buying options when we found out the Mr.'s work was relocating us.  It was a huge shock and we were really pretty bummed about it for several months.   We had finally starting feeling at home and had to get used to the idea of being uprooted once again.   We were especially heartbroken for the kids because it meant we had to drag them away from friends for the second time.  We waited a long time before we told them.  In fact, we didn't tell anyone for a whole year.  Not even our parents.  Because right up until about 3 months before the move, we had no idea where we were going.

Ok, so enough about that.......

Did I say that Virginia was good to us?  It was.  Just before we left, the Mr. and I made a mental list of all the fun things we had been able to do while we were there.  We made a lot of good memories, visited a lot of historic sites and enjoyed the outdoors often.  And for the first time, we lived somewhere where the deer sightings were common and the seasons were amazing.  I think I'll miss the seasons most.  So I am obviously a little sad when people tell us some seasons in this part of Texas don't really exist.  But I am sure we'll love it here anyway.

Our last month there was packed full of birthdays, packing, saying good-byes, and tying up loose ends. We quietly celebrated the Mr.'s 40th birthday and Tatum's 10th birthday in June.  The Mr. & I squeezed in an afternoon date of bowling and frozen yogurt for our 17th anniversary, too.  I was so stressed with the move and the end of school year activities that birthday planning  and big anniversary plans were put on the back burner.  I'm pretty sure that puts me first on the Bad Mom & Wife of the Year list, but I'm over it.  There's always next year, right?

The Mr. and I also managed to free up a Saturday during all the craziness to go to the Washington, DC Temple.  It was the only place we wanted to go to just one last time.  I had been feeling unsettled about the move and knew I needed to be in the temple to feel peace.  I felt it almost as soon as we were inside.  I love it when that happens.

I bought a cheap grill at Target & we spent the very last bits of our Virginia summer roasting marshmallows and stuffing our faces with yummy s'mores.

So thank you Virginia, for showing us a good time.  A little piece of our hearts will always be with you.


visiting the Virginia State Capitol

Summer is almost over for us and A LOT has happened to our little family (which I will blog about soon).  I was thinking about all the fun things the kids have been able to do this past school year and realized I never blogged about Noah's field trip to the state capitol building earlier this year ("this year" meaning "the school year".  Because my life's calendar is based on the school calendar year, not a traditional calendar.  After almost 16 years of being a mother, my mind has turned to mush and I can't think in terms of both.)

The Mr. & I tagged along with Noah's class, who ended up with an amazing tour guide.  He was entertaining and so full of knowledge.  We took our time in each room (just wee bit longer than his 1st grade class) and another worker pointed out tidbits of knowledge about the building and its history.

Fun facts for you (name that movie).......
1.  The Richmond State Capitol Building is the oldest government building in United States.
2.  The large pillars on the outside of the building were originally supported by large evergreen trees (pine trees, I think).  The trees are inside the pillars, providing support when they were built.  I'm pretty sure they are still there.
3.  There is a full size statue of George Washington in the original lobby (the building has since been added on to).  It is the only full size statue of him ever made and the only one that he posed for.  It's grand and amazing and kind of inspiring.

I am in love with the architecture you can find in Richmond. There are so many lovely buildings. The State Capitol building has such great stories to go along with it. It was somewhat of an honor to be in a building that helped shape our modern government and is still used today.


Metro Richmond Zoo

At the end of a short Spring Break week, we piled into the van and headed to the Metro Richmond Zoo.  It had been recommended to us by a few friends as a great place take the kids.  We put it on our list of places to go before we move to Texas.  The Mr. took the day off and we headed in the direction of the zoo after running some errands that morning.  We treated the kids to lunch at Panda Express on the way.  We're kind of in love with their orange chicken and it had been ages since our last Panda fix.  It was so worth the stop.  My mouth is starting to water just thinking about it....

The zoo itself is small enough that we made it through the whole thing in four hours.   I like small zoos.  By the time we arrive, the kids are pumped to be there.  By the time hour four rolls around, they are all done and ready to go home.  Our time there included a couple trips to the bathroom (there are only two) and really taking our time to enjoy each animal exhibit.  We paid a couple extra bucks for two cups of  animal feed.  There are several animals around the zoo to feed so we started with the giraffes (while Tatum and I took a bathroom break) and fed a little to the goats and camels toward the end of the day.  A little girl in front of us did a pretty spectacular face plant on the pavement just after we had entered the park.  Her cup of animal feed went flying everywhere.  Poor thing.  I had Hailey give the little girl her cup of animal feed while her mom was checking her knees for scrapes.  The cups were large and had plenty of feed for all four of our kids to give the animals, so we really just needed one anyway.  Hand sanitation stations speckle the park - just enough to keep the kid's hands clean.  I'm pretty sure they were sick of me telling them not to touch their faces until we found another sanitizer station.  I'm kind of a germ cop with my kids when we're in public.

We spent a good deal of time in the bird exhibit.  For a dollar, you can buy a popsicle stick with sticky bird feed on one end.  If you are patient enough, eventually a bird will cautiously land on your stick and peck at the feed.  We had to stay in the exhibit until each of the kids had a bird land on their stick.  One mama bird was super protective of one of the birdhouses.  I'm guessing her eggs inside were not yet hatched and she was just doing what any mama would do - protecting her young.

The penguin exhibit was my favorite.  I crouched down as one of them was waddling by.  It stopped and we had a little staring contest.  It's like it knew that I wanted to reach through the fencing and touch it.  But soaking in our little 20 second encounter would have to suffice.  And then a worker opened a door and a little herd of penguins waddled out to the pool's edge.  My heart skipped a beat.  Seriously.  I love penguins.  Like a lot.  You know how Kristen Bell loves sloths?  That's pretty much me with penguins.

It was fun to mark off another fun outing off our list of things to do in Virginia.  It's a cute zoo with a good variety of animals.  It was a huge plus that we could feed the animals too, allowing us more interaction with them than other zoos we've been to.