Nursery Sneak Peek!

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We have finally started putting together Noodle’s (what my 2 year old calls him – adorable) nursery! It’s true what they say about subsequent children….our first’s nursery was completely done well before 34 weeks. Oh well. As we have learned, we have PLENTY of time.

Just got finished painting and hanging some curtains. The tie backs are from leftover fabric used to make the book slings. The lamp I got for free from a friend and spray painted it and got a new shade.

I have a lot of odds and ends that I’ve either repurposed or made to decorate that will be going up in the next few weeks.

So. Much. Fun.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Okay, so full disclosure: having a toddler DOES take up a lot more time than a newborn.  The baby that used to sleep 20 hours a day now only sleeps like 12-14.  That’s a lot of hours I used to have to myself…

Anyway, just wanted to share this recipe for honey whole wheat bread.  I was looking for a good sandwich bread, that’s also toddler friendly.  Norah was having trouble chewing the English muffin bread I made because it’s super crunchy, and, well, chewy.  So, away to Pinterest I went, and it delivered.  This recipe is amazing and easy.  And full of fiber – of which everyone can use a little more.  (It’s not 100% whole wheat however.  If you’re looking for that, I suggest doing at least half white whole wheat.)  It took awhile to find a good recipe that didn’t have a million extra weird ingredients that I would have to buy.  Flaxseed meal is probably the only thing you don’t have, and it’s relatively (to wheat germ and 4 kinds of flour) cheap at the grocery store.  Since you don’t use a ton in this recipe it should last you a few months.  It’s also easy to throw into yogurt or other recipes for extra fiber.  The bread is freezable, too, of course.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread | Jersey Up!

Honey Whole Wheat Bread
Adapted from Summer Harms

Makes 2 loaves

5 cups warm water
4.5 teaspoons rapid rise yeast (or bread machine/instant yeast – same thing)
1/2 cup honey
3.5 cups whole wheat flour (you can also use half whole wheat and half white wheat)
5 cups all purpose or bread flour
1/2 cup ground/meal of flaxseed
3 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter

1. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl or in your stand mixer with the dough hook attachment.  Dough should be easy to handle and not too sticky.
2. Separate dough into two greased loaf pans.  Cover and let rise.  (I use plastic wrap, but a towel is fine too.)  It will probably take about an hour depending on the temperature of your kitchen.  To speed the process, place the pans on top of your preheating oven.
3. Bake at 375˚ for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.
4. Brush melted butter on top, and allow the loaves to cool completely on a rack.
5. To freeze, wrap in plastic wrap and then tin foil.  Defrost on the counter uncovered.

Monthly Meal Planning

Monthly Meal Planning | Jersey Up!

If you’re anything like me, you are a marketing major’s dream.  All the junk they design and put at the register – I buy.  The pretty packaging – I buy.  The orange clearance sticker – I buy.  The free online coupons for stuff I don’t need – I buy.  I don’t think I need to embarrass myself anymore; you get the idea.

When my daughter was born and I stopped working, I knew theoretically it would be a financial challenge.  I just figured we’d go out to eat less and we’d be fine.  Challenge accepted!  Who wants to go out to eat with a new baby anyway?  We’d be so fine!  I was so, so wrong.  I think I just completely underestimated how much my income meant to us, and as a result undervalued my contribution to our family.

I spent a lot of money the first few months my daughter was here.  What else is there to do with a newborn?  Go shopping for cute newborn clothes.  Go Pinterest crazy and try new and expensive recipes.  (Wait, what?  Just because you cook it at home, doesn’t mean it’s cheaper?!)  I mean, this was my new job now.  I should take it seriously, right?

It took us awhile to realize that we were struggling to make ends meet with all the spending I was doing.  I had to take a real hard look at where we could cut back – what actually was frivolous, and what was necessary.  Like, for real, necessary.

We started tracking all of our spending.  ALL OF OUR SPENDING.  Those random $1s really add up!  Recognized where we were overdoing it and cut back.  (I will do another post soon on family budgeting because although related to monthly meal planning, is a completely separate task.)  One area that needed major improvement was grocery.  I am so embarrassed to tell you that we spent sometimes $200 on groceries – PER WEEK.  Just us two adults.  I don’t know how it happened.  Don’t ask.

I went on a parade of coupons, sales, circulars, etc.  I still wasn’t spending less.  I couldn’t help myself when the baby clothes were “on sale” or I saw a delicious new recipe on Pinterest that required like 8 new spices.  I finally decided that if I went to the store less often, I would spend less.  (Sorry marketing majors.)

I know, I’m brilliant!  I have to say that monthly meal planning isn’t for the faint at heart.  It takes a lot of work and planning (hah, really?) but it is totally doable and will save your family hundreds of dollars a month.

STEP 1: PLAN
There are a lot of things to consider before you begin meal planning.  I will list a lot of questions for you to answer for yourself and your family.  I’ll share my answers to help you out and explain how I did things, but it’s important for you to be honest with yourself about these answers.  It won’t work until you are.  Promise.

How often do you go out to eat per week/month?  Be honest.  Can you cut it back?
We used to go out to eat 3x a week or more before Norah was born and we were both working.  Maybe a lunch or two at work and dinner at least twice.  Now, we go out to eat maybe 2-3 times per month.  You should factor those into your monthly plan – both in a financial and a scheduling sense.  And also recognize that just because you are eating at home, doesn’t mean you are automatically going to be spending less.  Just believe me; don’t test it.

How long does it take you to go through one dinner?  I mean, do you have leftovers for days, or is it eaten all in one sitting?
For us, it depends on the dish.  Of course the size of the dish, and what it is.  Really yummy food does not hang around that long.  😉  Generally speaking though, we have enough leftovers for 3 meals per week, in addition to several lunches per week.  So in planning meals – we make sure we buy items for 4 new meals, plus a handful of lunches.  If you have a larger family, you will probably have one leftover night, if any.  So you’ll of course spend more on your groceries than I will.  I’ll go more into detail about our meal schedule later on.

How often does your family eat meat?  Three meals a day, every day?  Once a week?  Never?
This question is important because meat is expensive.  Arguably the most expensive thing on your grocery receipt.  (Besides cheese, if you’re me.  Honest to God…)  I have tried since starting this meal planning adventure to have at least one dinner per week that is meatless.  (AKA the countless Meatless Monday challenges you see all over the internet.)  We also hardly eat meat for breakfast anymore.  (I miss you, bacon.)  We will occasionally buy lunch meat for sandwiches, but not always.  It’s more of a treat now, than a necessity.  (See what I mean about redefining what is necessary??)

What do you want to eat for lunch?  Leftovers?  Sandwiches?  Are you okay with having the same lunch every day for a week?
We typically have enough leftovers for lunch in addition to the 3 dinners per week.  Some weeks we run out or just get plain tired of the same casserole, so we have extra lunch items on hand.  Frozen lunch tacos are a big hit.  We also always have bread, peanut butter and jam.  Sometimes we have lunch meat.  We always have cheese (can’t help it).  And cans of soup.   We also usually have fresh fruit available for snack or as a side with lunch.

What do you want to eat for breakfast?  Are you okay with having the same breakfast every day in a week?
For breakfast we stock up on bread, eggs, peanut butter, jam, and yogurt.  We sometimes have breakfast burritos in the freezer for quick and easy.  We also have fresh fruit most mornings or as a snack.  You will spend less if you just eat the same thing for breakfast every morning, and buy in bulk, but we have not yet been willing to make that kind of sacrifice.

What are you willing to/can you make yourself and/or grow?  What can you reuse?
I have learned a lot this past year on what my limits are on making/growing.  I have now started to bake my own bread.  Not only is it delicious, but it’s a lot cheaper than buying bread at the store.  Same goes for buns, rolls, and other baked goods.  (Including dessert – yum.)  Want buff arms to boot?  Shred your own cheese.  You’ll save millions.  We also started our driveway garden experiment.  At this point in early August, we haven’t harvested enough to impact our monthly grocery budget, but I hope the day is coming soon!  I also made my own baby food for Norah which saved us a significant amount of money.  In the reuse category, we stopped completely using paper plates.  How wasteful – both from a financial and a planet perspective.  We still do use paper towels, but significantly dropped how often.  We cloth diaper and repurpose shirts and washcloths for cleaning rags instead of buying clorox wipes (oh, how I miss you!).

What groceries can you cut back or nix altogether?
This one is tough.  It’s hard to give up luxuries we didn’t even know were luxury.  Soda.  Mmm, craft beer.  Fancy shampoo and face wash.  Makeup.  Pre-packaged meals.  Pre-marinated meats.  Specialty bread.  Paper plates.  Ooooh, fancy coffee.  But as each month went by, I realized that it was less about deserving nice things, and more about being less wasteful.

STEP 2: WHAT YA GOT?
Before you do anything else, you need to go shopping in your own house.  Do this part before you plan your meals.  Trust me.  Remember those boxes of Hamburger Helper from college?  The 10 cans of soup?  The 5 salad dressings hidden behind each other?  Mystery meat in the freezer?  Use up all that stuff.  You’ll be SHOCKED at how much food you actually have.

1. Throw out what is bad.  What is actually bad, not just what looks weird or you don’t know what it is or you just don’t plain like it that much.  Just do it and don’t feel bad about yourself.  Sure, it’s wasted, but leaving it sitting in your fridge or cabinet isn’t making it un-wasteful, it’s just hiding what you actually CAN use.
2. Make a list of what is usable.  Do you have a bunch of meat in the freezer you can use?  How about some soups or some rice or pasta?  Marinades and dressings?  Write it all down; at least at first.  Once you get better at using what you actually have, you won’t need to write everything down; you’ll just know.
3. Decide if there are any meals in what you already have.  Marinade and meat – done!  Soup and sandwiches – done!  Rice and beans – done!

If you do it right, you probably have a few meals available to you that you didn’t know you had!  Try to avoid the “nahh, I don’t feel like having that” attitude.  Eat up what you have already.  By the end of each month, you should literally have nothing left to eat.  Not like “I have nothing in my closet to wear – wah” – literally nothing.  No more waste, friends!

STEP 3: SALES
Okay, take out the circulars.  What is on sale this week?  If you’re lucky, it’s meat!  Your goal is to buy only what is actually on sale.  And if you have a coupon to go on top of it – good for you!  But get the sale first.  It’s the better deal.  Did you hear me?  Coupons are not a good deal.  But what about extreme coupon ladies?  Say it with me again: coupons are not a good deal.  Buy on sale only.  Coupons are only a bonus AFTER things are on sale.  This is my mantra I chant when I am at the store, staring longingly at my coupons.

I know this is hard.  I know you need stuff that isn’t on sale this week.  That’s okay.  You’ll get better at it.  The longer you do this, the more you can anticipate your family’s needs when things are on sale.  For example, we only buy a certain kind of toilet paper.  (I have a sensitive bum, okay?)  When its on sale, I stock up!  I leave room in my budget to buy “stock up” items.  I don’t mean extreme coupon lady stock up – I just buy what we’ll use in a month or two, in case I don’t hit the sale next time.  For things that brand doesn’t matter – I get whichever is on sale.

Circulars and online prices don’t cover everything.  Sometimes you won’t know certain items are on sale until you get to the store.  You may have to change up a recipe to use a different type of meat.  Or you may choose to leave your side items open ended til you see what’s on sale.  Or you have to completely bag a recipe you wanted to try and pick something else that’s on sale.  I know this made me makes me stressed out while shopping, but it gets easier.

STEP 4: MEALS
Aha, yes!  Finally to the meal planning part!  Get out your calendar (I print plain ones from Word) and cute markers and get going!  Okay, color coding is not required, but it’s my favorite part.

1. Plan any outings for your month.  Do you have a wedding or a trip or friends visiting?  You’ll need to not only budget for that but also plan your meals around that.
2. How many leftover nights per week can you handle?  Factor those in.  We do 3 per week, so 12 per month.
3. How many meals do you already have in your house?  Plop those down on your calendar.  Be sure to spread out ingredients.  You don’t want variations of chicken and rice all week.
4. Now plan new meals.  How many do you have to do?  We normally range from 12-15 dinners and 30 lunches and breakfasts each.  You can go on Pinterest for new recipe ideas – though beware of the pricey ones!  They can sneak up on you.  Put down some family favorites – do you love pizza night?  Soup and sandwiches?  Pot roast?  Meatloaf?  Whatever you love/want to eat.

Things to Consider
-Use the same ingredients for multiple recipes so you can buy in bulk and/or take advantage of sale prices.
-The less ingredients per recipe, the better.
-Certain ingredients are always cheaper: rice, beans, some kinds of pasta, some freezer meal items, certain cuts of meat (like chicken thighs vs breasts).  Incorporate these things into your menu.  Certain ingredients are always more expensive; ahem, cheese.
-Not all meals are created equal.  Some are better for monthly planning than others.  Crockpot = golden.  I suggest planning non-freezer-friendly meals for earlier in the month.
-You can freeze a lot of things really well that you probably didn’t know.  Milk.  Bread.  Yogurt (though the consistency changes).  Cheese.  Some herbs.  Some fruit and most vegetables.
-Don’t be afraid to eat the same thing twice in one month.  It’s cheaper to buy in bulk and better to use the ingredients than let them rot.
-Plan any meals with fresh items earlier in the month to avoid them spoiling before you get to eat them.  This seems obvious, I know, but worth mentioning as I have made this mistake before.

STEP 5: LIST
Yes, the list is required.  Write down ingredients you need for your recipes.  Household essentials you need for the month: paper goods, toiletries, baby items, etc.  The list will be long; it’s helpful if you organize it by aisle.  Don’t forget about freezer bags or containers.

STEP 6: SHOPPING
The number one rule of shopping is stick to your list.  I break this every time.  But do as I say, not as I do.  😉

The only exception with sticking to the list is if things are not on sale.  If they’re not on sale, you shouldn’t buy them, remember?  You may need to rearrange some meal ideas if that is the case, but hopefully you won’t have to do that too much if you checked the circulars before you planned.

If you have “helpers”, it may be wise to have a babysitter or your partner stay home while you do the shopping alone.  Otherwise you will end up with your 9-month old carrying your rotisserie chicken and bag o’ apples (see photo).

If you have a “stock up” budget, be careful.  Only stock up on items that are on a really good sale (for real, now), will not go bad, and are NECESSARY.  Sure, those frozen pizzas are a great deal, but do you even like those cardboard boxes?  Are they even cheaper than making your own pizza, even at the great deal?  Think about it really hard.  Items we routinely stock up on are toilet paper (because we only buy one brand), canned goods we eat several times monthly, cheese on really good super sale, and meats.  If you hit meat on a good sale, buy it.

Things to Consider
-Freezer vegetables are a smidge more expensive than canned vegetables but are healthier.  For us, the few cents per ounce more is worth the extra benefit.
-Check the “per ounce” price.  Sometimes the bigger package is cheaper, sometimes not.  Sometimes with sales, the name brand price is cheaper than the store brand.  Furthermore, when things are on sale you will have to do your own math to calculate the per ounce price.  At least at my store, the per ounce price listed is the non-sale price.  Tricky, tricky!
-Take a cold, hard look at what your “staples” are at the store.  Whether that be brands, or pre-packaged items, or whatever.  There are still times where I realize that I am buying something just because “we always buy it” instead of whether we actually needed it or not.
-A lot of freezer recipes call for stock (chicken, beef, vegetable).  Get the bouillon cubes instead and you will save a pile of money.
-Avoid snacks if you can.  This is a big budget buster.  And, ya know, potato chips aren’t healthy anyway.  I’m doing you a favor, see?

Where You Shop
This can make a huge impact on your budget.  Depending on where you live, you may have more options available to you.  Smaller towns with less competition (like where we live) have higher prices.  Certain cities have higher prices than suburbs.  The drive to a cheaper store may or may not be worth it.  Additionally, price club stores like Costco or Sam’s Club might not be worth the membership fee unless you have a large enough family to justify the bulk items.  With only one child who eats like a bird (toddler, anyone?), it’s not worth it for us.  But, only you can figure that out for your family; there isn’t one straight answer.  But, it’s just something to think about.

STEP 7: PREP
Meal prep is honestly the worst part of the whole thing.  It takes a lot of effort to prepare the meals ahead of time for the freezer.

1. Label all your bags/containers with your meals, instructions, and the date.  Any old sharpie will do.  Good time to practice your handwriting.
2. Add your raw meat to the bags or containers first.  This just makes the bags (what we use) easier to stand up to put in the other ingredients.  Then you can clean up the meat juice and start clean with the rest of your ingredients.  (If your recipe calls for the meat to be pre-cooked, then obviously do that first.)
3. Chop vegetables, fruit, etc. all at one time.  Henry Ford thought the assembly line was a good idea, and so do I!
4. Add marinades, oils, spices, etc.
5. Pop the bags into the freezer!  To save space, lay them down flat to freeze.  They’ll make a nice shape that is easy, once frozen, to stand up in a row.  Saves space and also makes it easy to pull out what you need when the time comes.

Things to Consider
-I also make breakfast and lunch taco/burritos.  (The name is up for debate in our house.)  I wrap these up in tinfoil and can fit about 10 or so in a freezer bag.  A minute in the micro is all you need.
-If your recipe calls for canned items, such as tomatoes and green chiles, you may want to keep those in your pantry and add them to the meal/crockpot after you take it out of the freezer.  Canned items will stay good through the month obviously, and it will save you some space in your now crammed freezer.
-Meats will marinate as they thaw, so if you’re planning a marinated steak or pot roast, mix those up in freezer bags as well.

A note about freezer space
My husband swore to me up and down that all this food would not fit in the freezer. Would.  Not.  Fit.  It fits.  We have a 5 cu.ft. freezer.  When you cut out the junk in your life that you don’t need and don’t have a freezer full of mystery items you forgot about, it’s amazing how much space you have to store everything.

That said, if you want to be really crafty and stock up on meat sales, or buy a 1/4 steer like we are doing at the fair this year, or you have a large family – a chest freezer might be a good option for you.  They are affordable for what you get out of them, though they are an upfront cost you will need to consider for your budget.  We are currently shopping around for a scratch and dent or reconditioned model for the basement.  (I am refraining from sharing my nightmares with you.)

STEP 8: EAT!
Arguably, the best step.  You now have a freezer and pantry FULL of food for the month for your family.  Did you save money?  I sure hope so!  I know I get better at it every month.  It’s really satisfying to pull a meal out of the freezer that is already prepared in the morning, and have it ready by dinner time for you to enjoy.  Don’t be afraid to rearrange your meal plan.  Everything is frozen (or perhaps canned) and will last the month – if you’d rather have pot roast tonight instead of pizza, go for it!  Your meal planning should work for you, not against you.  The hard work truly pays off and I hope you are proud of yourself!!

Addendum: Return Trips to the Store
This one is so tricky.  We do sometimes have to go back.  We eat all our fresh fruit.  I forgot something (or 10 things).  We just really, really want ice cream.  It happens.  It’s okay.  Leave room in your grocery budget for return trips, or you’ll be up the creek without a paddle.

I hope my version of monthly meal planning is helpful to you.  It has taken a lot of work, a lot of mistakes, and sadly, a lot of wasted money to get here.  Hopefully with my help, it doesn’t take you quite as long!  I can now proudly say that some months I spend $250 in groceries!  If you remember (or read the whole post), that’s what I used to spend per week.  That’s a significant savings!!  You can totally save this much, I promise!  It just takes some effort, some sacrifice, and some time.

How do you plan your grocery budget?  I’m still new to this and would love additional tips and suggestions!!  Happy Planning!

Black Thumb, Your Days Are Numbered

I was recently hit with the notion that I wanted to start a vegetable garden.  I get this idea in January when it’s cold and snowy and I’m dreaming of summer and fresh tomatoes.  I started pinning stuff to a “Gardening” board on Pinterest, which is what every great farmer does, I’m sure.  Then in March, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle, which really sealed the deal.  It called out to the hippie in me that wanted to go back to the land and live off of it or something (glossing over the hard work and dirty parts, of course).  I also caught myself wondering what would we do if the zombie apocalypse happened?!  Shouldn’t I know how to grow tomatoes and make cheese??  Obviously when the world is ending, these will be my two primary concerns.  My husband tells me I would most assuredly not make it.

My husband grew up on a farm.  They raised cattle for awhile, but also had what they call a small vegetable garden.  The chores I was complaining about as a kid pale in comparison.  He is now nostalgic for this life, which I for one think he had his memory cleaned out somewhere around 18.  Now that we have a daughter I find myself wanting her to understand where her food comes from.  It’s important to me that she eats healthy, and moreover enjoys it.

Okay, so you have to understand something about me.  I’m a city girl.  I don’t do dirt.  Or bugs.  (I have Pinterest nightmares of tomato plant beetles and slugs.)  I think food comes from a store.  I’m that girl that kills cacti.  This was made for me:

someecard

Anyway, you get the picture.  But, I am committed to this goal, no matter how outside my comfort zone I am headed.  I’m going to do it, damnit, and it’s going to be successful!  (I say this now inside the air conditioning in front of a computer.)

My husband agrees to lend his expertise and after quite a bit of procrastination, more than a few panic attacks, and some borrowed horse shit/dirt (technical term), we are, sigh, moving forward.  There are now seven hideously orange buckets on my front lawn.  Why the front yard, you ask?  Vegetables need full sun, didn’t you know?  And apparently orange buckets are cheapest (?!) and this is a “temporary” container garden so as to not ruin the lawn, you know, in case you aren’t committed it doesn’t work out.

Container Vegetable Garden | Jersey Up!

Dear neighbors, don’t judge me.

And so, we wait.  Wait for death (more likely) or vegetables (hopefully).  At least the automatic lawn sprinklers will give me an edge.  And I’m not even going to talk about the manure issue/benefit.  I will be sure to keep you posted on all my gardening pitfalls.  Friends, there is nothing a little self-deprication can’t fix!

Balsamic Chicken Pasta Salad

It has been really hot here lately.  Like 80+ degrees and humid.  I love summer.  Love being outside in the sunshine with bare feet in the grass.  But this year the mosquitos have been so awful.  End times swarming awful.  Pretty sure it’s due to the massive flooding we had this spring.  Supposedly their life cycle is almost up, for which I am grateful.  Even though the doctor says its safe, I feel bad practically drowning my daughter in DEET!  And we just haven’t been able to enjoy the outdoors as much as we’d like to.  With that being said, we have still pretty much switched over to grilling.

MY STOVE HAS NEVER STAYED CLEAN THIS LONG!

It’s a summer miracle.  For this month’s meal planning, I pretty much have stuck with marinated meats for the grill and easy side dishes.  Its cheap and efficient.  And it also convinces my husband to do a lot more of the cooking!  😉  I do still spend quite a bit of time in the kitchen.  It’s not so bad though, since my company is cute.

Kitchen Helper | Jersey Up!

Mama, I found your secret stash!

I’m in love with pasta salads lately.  They’re so versatile, easy to whip up on a moment’s notice for a party or dinner off the grill, and you can sneak in a lot of veggies without too much notice.  My husband is obsessed with balsamic vinegar and so this pasta salad screamed at me off the Pinterest page.  You could easily switch up the veggies to whatever is on hand or coming up fresh from the garden.  Or change to whatever pasta is on hand.  But I love me some tortellini!

Balsamic Chicken Pasta Salad | Jersey Up!

Balsamic Chicken Pasta Salad
Adapted from: Newman’s Own

Ingredients:
1 pkg frozen tortellini (or pasta of your choice)
2 handfuls fresh spinach
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
4 chicken breasts
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup creamy balsamic salad dressing

Directions:
1. Marinate chicken breasts overnight with balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard.  You can just marinade while you thaw your chicken breasts, or have them prepped in the freezer beforehand.  Do whatever works best for you!
2. Prepare pasta according to package directions, and set aside.
3. Grill chicken breasts.  While they’re cooking, chop up your tomatoes and spinach.  Or whatever other veggies you decide to add.
4. Cut up grilled chicken and toss with pasta, veggies and salad dressing.
5. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour and serve.

The balsamic gives the salad a really nice bite.  I personally love meals that are all-in-one.  I don’t need a side salad or a side veggie.  It’s just all in one bowl.  Less dishes!  Less mess!  Simply the best.  Leftovers are even better, too.

My (short) Fitness History and First 10K Recap

If you asked my former self if I’d ever run a 10K she would have asked you, “What the hell is that??”  I’m not kidding.  I even talked to my childhood best friend the day before the race and I think she may have dropped the phone when I told her what I was doing on my first Mother’s Day weekend.  A few weeks ago when I was hanging out with some new friends, they referred to me as “the girl who runs 5 miles every day”.  I mean this is a gross exaggeration, but to be referred to as THAT in a group of people?!  You really had to have known me before to appreciate just how WEIRD that felt.  It’s honestly crazy!  Who am I???  I just don’t know anymore!

I watched my first real race in 2010 as my husband did the 5/3 Riverbank 10K in Grand Rapids.  We were living in Kalamazoo at the time and stayed with friends who were also running the 25K and 10K.  (The riverbank 25K has a long history and is one of the premier and largest 25K distance road races in the country.)  Watching the race was electrifying.  If you’ve been to a large race, you totally get it.  It also made me feel really, really lazy.  I realized then that I couldn’t rely on my trusty metabolism forever.  I needed to get into shape and become more healthy.  I just plain ran out of excuses.

I decided to do the Couch to 5K program.  It’s a combination of running and walking in intervals to get your body used to the cardiovascular workout.  I don’t know about you, but any time I tried working out with any kind of seriousness before, I would quit.  It was just too hard.  I didn’t realize that I should have eased into it more to allow my body to build up endurance.  The first part of the program required you to walk for 5 minutes to start, and then run for 1 minute, and walk for 3 minutes.  Oh.  My.  Running for a whole minute was SO HARD.  (As I write this, I’m like, seriously?!?!)  But it truly was very daunting.

I ran my first 5K at the Shermanator Spring Triathlon near Kalamazoo that summer.  I came in last place.  No really.  Last.  Place.  I walked a lot.  I huffed and I puffed up hills and down hills.  The triathlon people were PASSING me, after they had swam and biked.  It was miserable.  But finishing the race was AWESOME!!!  Even though I came in last place, it felt like such an accomplishment.  It seriously did.  It also helped so much to have two super supportive friends Amy and Meagan there with me to encourage me.  My friend Meagan still to this day tries to convince me I wasn’t last….

When I got pregnant in the fall of 2011 I told myself I was going to run throughout my pregnancy.  HA.  HA.  HA.  I ran 3 times (including a 5K race) and then the vomiting started.  I think I was at a doctor’s office reading a Fit Pregnancy magazine about this woman who would pull off to the side of the road and puke and then continue running.  HELL NO, I said.  And I didn’t.  I could barely function – there was no way I was running (or walking) anywhere.  Winter set in after the morning sickness was well on its way out the door.  And you know what happens to working out in the winter, don’t you?  It hibernates.  By the time spring came around my large pregnant body was not up for the challenge.  I gained an appropriate amount of weight (33 pounds, thank you) but lost all of my fitness.  And my confidence.  It took me until my daughter was about 6 months old to really get back in the game.

My husband challenged me to do Insanity with him.  It was winter again and I just finally gave up and said, “I’ll do it.  What other option do I have?”  I was tired of my pants not fitting, and I certainly wasn’t going to wear maternity pants with a one year old.  So I committed myself to getting back into shape and losing the baby weight.  Our daughter hung out in the exersaucer and we sweated our butts off in the basement.  Insanity is a 60 day program, and workouts are usually 40-60 minutes long 6 days a week (1 of rest) and it’s HARD!  So freakin’ hard.

Mmm salmonella.

Mmm salmonella.

I lost NOTHING the first half of doing Insanity.  I know I gained fitness and strength and muscle.  I could do more of the workouts (and by more of the workouts I mean at least I didn’t look like a total joke anymore).  For the first time in my life, I had to actually diet AND exercise to lose weight.

Pause.  I know a lot of you are saying, WHAAAAAAAT.  What are you complaining about?!  You never had to worry about your weight before??  You never had to diet before?!  Who are you?!  Yes, I know.  I’m sorry.  It’s true, though!  And it knocked me off my feet.  It was hard and stressful and mentally exhausting to diet, weigh myself all the time and work out while my stomach was growling.  (Seriously – let’s not ever have to do THAT again!)  There were times that I was convinced I would never fit into my pants again and I was destined to have that “mom body” and it was just done.  But I persevered and continued trying hard.  Not going to lie, mostly because my husband made me.  (Not because he cared what I looked like, but because he knew I wanted it.)

At the end of Insanity in March (okay, we weren’t that religious), I had about 10 more pounds to go.  I decided to train for a 10K.  I thought a 5K wasn’t enough running to really finish up my weight loss.  It would be too easy to brush off.  So my friend Meagan made me a 10K training plan that was SPECTACULAR!  If you need a training plan, she’s your girl!  Without Shaun T yelling at regular intervals, I did not do a great job following the training plan.  Sorry Meagan!  But, I made sure to hit all my long runs and do a few short ones during the week.  I continued to diet and really felt like I was finally seeing results.  I kept pulling old pants out of boxes and trying them on.  They fit!  Is this possible?!  I haven’t felt this good in ages.

Skinny Jeans | Jersey Up!

MY SKINNY JEANS FIT! I can be a cool mom now.

Now, for the race recap….so we had been getting about 70 degree weather for a few weeks now.  Just gorgeous!  The weekend of the race: 40 and rainy.  It was a bummer, but blessing in disguise since we all know that running in 40 degrees is SO MUCH BETTER!!!  And it didn’t rain until after the race.  Honestly, perfect weather.  I was super nervous.  Was I going to be last again?  Was I going to get injured?  Was everyone going to laugh at my running form?  (Like anyone is paying attention to me…)  Was everyone going to be so mad waiting for me at the finish line forever and ever?

Riverbank Run | Jersey Up!

Love for Boston! (And pretty much everywhere else, too.)

Um, no.  First of all, I ran the whole entire thing!  At an 11:10 pace!  That is awesome for me!  I couldn’t believe when I crossed the finish line that I not only completed a distance I never ever thought I could – I did it well!  I was extremely proud of myself.  I’m setting a great example of fitness for my daughter and damnit, I can fit into my pants!  Time to celebrate!!

<halt record noise>

I came in 3705th?!?!  Now, I know that’s not last.  I know there were over 4000 people running this race.  I know I didn’t train well.  I know I did my very best.  But still.  It kinda burns a little, doesn’t it?!  Especially since my husband got 251st.  I’m not letting it get me down though.  I still am impressed with myself!  And so is everyone who used to know me!

Don’t worry old friends and family, there are (hacked) pictures to prove it!

Riverbank Run | Jersey Up!

Don’t you love pit stains in these pictures??

I am forever grateful to my friends and family for being so supportive and for listening to me whine all the time about how I will just never lose this weight.  It’s appreciated more than you know and I could not have made it without your help!

Furthermore, I have a lot larger goals in sight!  I am going to continue to train all summer for another 10K race.  Hopefully I can beat my time!  I also have a pretty significant personal goal to birth a second child via VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean).  Staying fit both now and during a hopeful future second pregnancy will be a huge advantage toward this important goal.

Dare I say I might become “that girl” that pukes on the side of the road and keeps running?  I can’t be too sure, but I don’t think I’ll be the same girl sitting on the couch watching ABC Family teen dramas while eating cheese fries.  For one thing, I’ll have a toddler to chase.

Sausage, Potato & Pepper Packet (Say it 10 times fast!)

So, my husband and I got into an argument yesterday.  Over meaningless things.  Which is how it always starts right?  I am, against my better judgment, going to share a snippet of our conversation.

Scene begins as my husband goes into freezer to eat delicious chocolate chip raspberry muffin for dessert.  (Side note: We have other more breakfasty and less desserty muffins in the fridge.  In my own mind, freezer stuff is for LATER.  I am also personally offended by the fact that he eats breakfast muffins for dessert.  After dinner.  When it’s dark.)

Me (apparently witchy): You are not supposed to eat those muffins yet.  Eat the ones in the fridge first.
Husband: The ones in the fridge are not desserty.  And you aren’t my mother.

Oh, no he didn’t!

I continue to rant about muffins, the freezer, salad dressing, menus, schedules, and sauteed mushrooms.  Apparently, throwing my water bottle at him escalated things.  Minor detail.  Anyway, the water bottle bounced off the couch (luckily, instead of his head) and landed in the kitchen.  I understand you probably don’t know the layout of my house, but take my word for it that it’s aerodynamically improbable.  The laughter that ensued did wonders for my overall attitude, but not so much for the victory I was planning.  People, the secret to marriage is putting your pride on the shelf.

Sausage Potato and Pepper Packets | Jersey Up!

I meant to take a cool photo on the grill, but flames are scary!

Now that it’s basically (though not officially) summer, we are doing a bunch of grilling this month.  I grocery shop, plan and prepare meals monthly to save our family money since we are on a single salary kinda budget.  Summer is my favorite time of year so far for the monthly meal planning.  It’s so easy!  Marinated chicken breasts, burgers and dogs, and these versatile packets.  It can be a fun tongue twister, too!

Sausage, Potato & Pepper Packet

Ingredients:
1 lb. smoked turkey sausage
3 bell peppers (whatever colors you like)
1 onion (white or red will do just fine)
4 medium potatoes
1/2 tsp Lawrys
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (adjust to your preferred level of spiciness)
1/2 tsp garlic salt
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Chop up sausage, veggies, and potatoes.  (Aren’t potatoes veggies?)
2. Sprinkle seasonings on top.
3. Fold up ingredients in a foil packet.
4. Place on your grill and heat for about 30 minutes.  You’ll hear everything sizzling.
Tip: Use oven mitts to transfer the tinfoil packet onto a tray or cookie sheet before serving or bringing inside.

This is perfect for camping.  You can of course vary the seasonings and veggies to whatever you like – really anything would work perfect.  You could also make several while you’re already chopping and freeze the packets to use later.  If you’re afraid of your gas grill like I am, you could also dump everything into the crockpot, or bake it in the oven.  Options are endless!