Friday, January 31, 2014

Gymuary: 30 Day Trial Expired

Fail.  Completely epic fail.  In the thirty-one days that January provided me, I only used five of them to visit the gym.  Fail.

My goal for this month's 30 Day Trial was to workout three days per week. A quick bit of math will tell you that I didn't succeed. I forgot how tiring life as a working mom can be and I greatly underestimated the difficultly level of getting back into a routine after living off the clock for three months.  When I get home from work, only two things occupy my thoughts - kids and sleep.

The days I did make it to the gym were wonderful.  Day one was a challenge so I took it slow.  Day two was literally an uphill battle.  The stairs kicked my butt.  By day three however, I could already feel my body building its tolerance to my workouts and it felt great.  If it weren't for my inability to muster up some post-work workout energy, I think I'd still be going strong.

Despite my failure, this month brought me a few fitness-related successes.  I ate far healthier than I have in the last couple months.  I dropped a few pounds (yay - bye bye baby weight!).  And my disappointment in myself served as a reminder that I need to try harder next month - especially since J and I have a bet going on whose body will look better by summertime.

If you'd like to read the introduction to this month's 30 Day Trial, click here.  To read the results of December's 30 Day Trial, click here.  If you're wondering what the heck my 30 Day Trials are all about, click here.

Don't forget to check back tomorrow for the start of a whole new 30 Day Trial!!  I have something pretty fun and educational planned.  As always, feel free to comment and join me in trying something new each month!

<3 n

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Very Thankful Thursday: TGI(almost)F

This week, I'm thankful for the weekend. Between various happenings at work and my mom's birthday, this week turned out to be a long one.  Not bad. Just long.  Aside from the extra sleep we may potentially gain, we have a few fun events to look forward to including a friend's birthday get together on Saturday and Super Bowl Sunday. I'm a Saints fan so I will have to choose a surrogate team come gametime.  The Seahawks QB and I do share a last name, but Peyton's just amazing.  Decisions, decisions. We're having a few friends and family members over so I'm sure we'll have a great time no matter who wins.  Other things I'd like to do this weekend include cleaning, printing and framing some photos and a wall art piece, washing my poor neglected car and whitening my teeth. Let's see how much of that I actually accomplish...

Any plans this weekend and who's your Super Bowl pick?!? Leave me a comment and let me know!

<3 n

Monday, January 27, 2014

What's on the Menu Monday: I've Run Out of Reindeer!!

Breakfast: Another Monday, another cup of Caribou’s Reindeer Blend Coffee.  I think that’s officially my last K-Cup of that variety.  I bought the pack a couple days before Christmas so it certainly lasted a while.

Lunch: For lunch, I ate a Trader Joe’s Southwest Salad. Today marks the beginning of my second week of salad-only lunches.  J has now made two Sunday Trader Joe’s trips in a row to help me stock up.  Thanks babe!

Snack: Snack time consisted of two Suzie’s Thin Cakes (courtesy of one of my co-workers once again) and more coffee.  The caffeine was so necessary today.

Dinner: 6-inch Veggie Delight sandwich on flatbread with oil, vinegar and southwest chipotle sauce from Subway

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Very Thankful Thursday: Inspiration Everywhere

The funny thing about inspiration is that it’s everywhere and yet it’s sometimes impossible to find.  If you look long enough, you’ll discover it all around you.  If you’re lucky, it seeks you out.  It presents itself in the form of a photograph, a friend, a sunset or even a bad day.  Inspiration is that crack beneath the door of a dark room that lets in the tiniest stream of light.  It’s what leads you to open the door so that everything can be illuminated.

Today I’m thankful for every inspiration, every muse and every small spark that sets a new idea ablaze.  Whether it’s found on a grand adventure or just a routine trip to the grocery store, I’m grateful for every bit of inspiration I encounter.

Leave me a comment and let me know what inspirational things you’re thankful for this week!!

<3 n

Monday, January 20, 2014

What's on the Menu Monday: Cardboard and Birdseed!!

Breakfast: Today I had Caribou’s Reindeer Blend Coffee for breakfast yet again.  Surprised?  I’ve actually had protein shakes for breakfast lately but I ran out of time this morning.

Lunch: Trader Joe’s Classic Greek Salad

Snack: My co-worker offered me some “cardboard” around 4pm today.  The cardboard turned out to be Suzie’s Whole Grain Thin Cakes and they weren’t half bad!  When I got home, I snacked on cherry tomatoes and walnuts.

Dinner: For dinner, I made broccoli with cherry tomatoes and sliced ginger (for some reason I love big slices of cooked ginger).  I ate that with a big helping of birdseed aka quinoa.  I used Trader Joe’s Organic Tricolor Quinoa.  J was a little hesitant at first - especially since I introduced it as birdseed - but he ended up enjoying it.

Dessert: One banana

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Meet Sadie!!

Name: Sadie Delilah Dean

Birthday: October 10th

Likes: sleeping on family members, being bundled up, her brother's bouncer chair (thank you for the hand-me-down Hendrix!), being held by her big sister, interacting with everyone

Dislikes: anything cold (just like her mom!)

What makes Sadie special?
She was a mystery baby! When I was pregnant with Sadie, we decided not to find out what we were having. We were all a bit fickle when it came to our preferences of the new baby's sex. Even Ella said she wanted a baby sister in the beginning of my pregnancy and then changed her mind toward the end. Ultimately, we ended up with beautiful little Sadie and we couldn't be happier!  Aside from this, Sadie is a talker.  She started cooing early on and when she cries it’s often because she wants to start a conversation with us.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Very Thankful Thursday: Back to Reality

For three months, I lived in a fantasy world in which I was a stay-at-home mom who took her kids to the park and went to the gym and grocery shopped all while the sun was still visible.  She slept in when the kids allowed and stayed up late when she wanted.  Sometimes she worked on her blog and sometimes she cleaned.  Sometimes, she did nothing at all.  She didn’t wear much makeup.  She took baths.  She read books.  Today she went back to work, back to reality.

I’m thankful for so many conflicting things this week.  I’m thankful for what was and what is.  For my stay at home and for my trek to work.  For the freedom I’m leaving behind and the structure I’m stepping back into.  For the tears I shed before leaving my kids this morning.  For the laughter I shared with my co-workers today.  It was a tough, wonderful day.  I didn’t think I’d be so emotional, so hurt and so happy all at once.

I am a mom but I’m also an employee, a co-worker, a supervisor and a best friend to the person who, in my absence, performed her job and mine.  It was time to jump back into those roles and out of the fantasy.  I think if I were a real stay-at-home mom it would have been ok longterm, but I’m not.  While my kids are my number one priority, I have responsibilities at work as well.  These two things balance me.  They provide relief from one another and each helps me to appreciate the other even more.

To say today was bittersweet would be an understatement, but I’m thankful for it just the same.

What are you thankful for this week?  Can you think of an event that made you extremely grateful despite the mixed emotions it created in you?  Let me know!!

<3 n

Monday, January 13, 2014

What's on the Menu Monday: Tacos and Tea

Breakfast: Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal and Caribou’s Reindeer Blend Coffee

Lunch: When we got home from the gym, J’s mom had the babies fed and settled and she’d made a delicious soup.  Amazing!  The soup was the perfect complement to the windy weather today.

Dinner: For dinner, I made potato and broccoli tacos with a tomato, corn and cucumber salad.  Ella complained at first, but in the end she was asking for seconds.

Dessert: After the kids were in bed, I sat down with a cup of Bigelow’s Mint Medley Herbal Tea and watched How I Met Your Mother with J.  It was a great ending to the day!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Eating Well in L.A.

Whether we think about it too much or think about it too little, food has a huge impact on our lives.  Since I’m a Valley girl and I was born and raised in California, I decided to write a little post inspired by our local fare.  And since I’m growing evermore health-conscious as I age, I decided to make this the healthy edition.  Without further ado, here are four of my Lalaland resources for food-related goodness.

Shop Well - The California Federation of Certified Farmers’ Markets Website
I don’t have many spare moments to research things extensively, but I would like to devote more time to expanding my knowledge on local and seasonal eating.  Luckily, visiting a farmers’ market can not only help people acquire information on both of these concepts, but also apply these concepts to produce selection with minimal effort on the part of the consumer.  Not to mention, there’s something really exciting about mingling with the people that nurture the things that nourish us.  There is a lot of great information on this site, including - but not limited to - the answer to the question, “What the heck is a certified farmers’ market?!”  The site also has shopping tips which are essential to a successful farmers’ market experience and it can aid you in finding your local Certified California Farmer’s Market via this link.  I was only looking for a list of local markets when I found this site and got far more than I bargained for - in a very wonderful way!

Dine Well - Follow Your Heart Market and Cafe
One sustenance-related subject that is near and dear to me is vegetarianism.  Don't worry - I’m not the protesty, preachy type.  In fact, I am the only vegetarian I know and I’m just fine with that.  I promise the only weird-getarian (as my boss would say) stuff in this post is my referral to this restaurant/market which is a great spot even if you’re not one of me.  I can’t say enough good things about this place.  As a vegetarian, I’m in heaven here because I know there are no off-limit foods within the walls of this establishment.  That said, I have many meat-eating friends and family members who enjoy this eatery as well.  My recommendations include their meatless meatball sandwich (even J likes this and he’s a meat-and-potatoes guy through and through), the greek salad (I get it with Cesar dressing - blasphemous, I know!) and the strawberry shake which is available in both dairy and non-dairy versions (both are equally delicious).

Grow Well - SproutRobot
I was lucky enough to grow up in an edible Eden as a child thanks to my dad who cultivated tomatoes, collard greens, chili peppers, lemons, oranges, tangerines, peaches, grapes, bell peppers and even strawberries in our backyard.  I think it’s safe to say that’s where my love of fresh produce comes from.  It was that love and my pursuit of healthiness that lead me to start my very own vegetable garden last year.  It failed miserably however and I’m currently sifting through its rubble in hopes to rebuild.  Moving on!  Now, admittedly, SproutRobot is not a “local” resource, but, magically very technically and electronically, if you enter your zip code - tada! - you get gardening advice based on your geographical location.  SproutRobot tells you exactly when to plant what depending on where you intend to set up farm.  It also sends you (at your request, of course) emailed reminders so you won’t forget to get sowing and provides basic planting information via cartoony visuals.  I will be using the site as I attempt to resurrect my garden this year.  Stay tuned for a post on that very topic in the near future.

Learn Well - KCRW’s Good Food Podcast
Unfortunately, I don’t think I have a very good palette.  I’ve never been very picky about food nor have I been one who can easily identify subtle hints of flavors in my meals.  I know what’s good from what’s crap, but I couldn’t tell you what’s absolutely top-of-the-shelf amazing and I certainly wouldn’t label myself a foodie.  Because of this, I like listening to people who can speak food far better than I can.  The Good Food podcast airs local restaurant reviews, announcements of upcoming food-related events in the L.A. area and in-depth interviews with food critics, cookbook authors, chefs and countless other food experts.  In addition to all those audible bites, each podcast episode includes their “Market Report”, during which interviews are conducted with farmers and patrons at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market.  See how that kinda came full circle with the farmers’ market thing and the localness?  Hehe.

If you reside and/or dine in the Los Angeles area and you’d like to add to my little local food resource list, please leave me a comment with your recommendations.  Thanks guys!

<3 n

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Very Thankful Thursday: Art for Art's Sake

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to write and sketch and create.  I’m not convinced that I’m especially good at any of it, but I love art just the same.  I think you can identify things you’re passionate about by the rush they give you.  It’s that feeling that you’re doing something that you’re meant to do.  It feels right.  One of the things I love about art is that while it can be extremely purposeful, it doesn’t have to be.  I have created countless meaningless drawings, unnecessary scripts and a small pile of paintings that have neither a name nor a home.  I’m thankful for the relaxing nature of art, for its lightness and for the delightfully superfluous role it plays in my life.  This week, I’m trying to focus on painting.  I have a few ideas I want to sketch out and my painting for Ella is still waiting patiently to be completed.  Wish me luck!!

What are you thankful for this week?  Leave a comment and let me know!

<3 n

Monday, January 6, 2014

What's on the Menu Monday: Our Day of Dining Out

Breakfast: After being sick since the day before Christmas, J and I finally made it back to the gym today and officially started Gymuary.  Afterwards, we headed to Jamba Juice where I got a Berry Lime Sublime with a Kale Boost.  It was delicious!!

Lunch: I had half of a Bleu Ribbon Burger (subbed the cow for a veggie patty) with fries and an iced tea from Red Robin.  It’s not the healthiest lunch, but that’s ok.

Dinner: For dinner, I finished off the other half of my veggie burger.

Dessert: Since I had quite a bit to do this evening and it was still relatively early, I decided to have a coffee.  Tonight’s choice was Starbucks Christmas Blend in K-Cup form (still enjoying my edible xmas gift - thanks Danny and Denyse!)

Hope everyone had a happy Monday!

<3 n

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Saturday at the Park

Shortly after the photo, Ella plucked this dandelion to make a wish.

Exploring the grass was fun until Hendrix decided the dirt would make a great snack.

I can't think of a fancy description for this photo, but I like it.

I just realized I didn't include a face-on photo of Ella because I was so in love with this one!

This is one of the many, many gopher holes we spotted along the way.

Here's silly Hendrix swinging upside-down with J's help.

After editing, this photo doesn't accurately depict the day (it was beautiful and sunny), but I think it's a neat shot so I decided to include it.

Sadie enjoyed the day snuggled in her carseat which sat atop the stroller.

It hasn't rained for weeks here, so I'm guessing this is a sprinkler-induced puddle.

This was our yesterday.  It was so nice out, it’s hard to believe we’re in the midst of winter.  Rather than take the kids to the playground, we opted for running through fields, picking flowers (or grass in Hendrix’s case) and climbing trees.  Ella also tried out her new scooter which was a Christmas gift from my parents.  We had a really nice time, so I thought I’d share our day.

<3 n

Friday, January 3, 2014

Why Parents Should Never Buy Toys and a Couple Other Life Lessons

When people see me toting my toddler or my two-month-old when Ella isn’t with me, they probably think to themselves, There’s another new mom with a lot to learn.  While I don’t disagree with the idea that I have much knowledge to acquire, I have been a parent for almost a decade now and I do know a thing or two.

Never Buy Toys
I don’t mean never, ever.  I just mean to say don’t go crazy buying toys for your little ones.  Reference the above photos if you don’t believe me.  We all have our ooh-and-ahh moments when walking through aisles of awesome toys, thinking of how much our tiny people will love playing with this or that.  The truth is however, they’ll be just as happy with a few toys to play with and an array of pots and pans on which to drum out their own beat.  Most days, toys are more conducive to mess than they are to merriness in our house.  Hendrix litters the living room rug by tossing toys over his shoulders, but he can sit for extended periods of time playing with remotes, makeup containers and kitchen utensils.

“Parents are people too.”
My mom drilled these words into me as a child.  Not because she wanted an excuse to do a plethora of things sans my presence (the woman is pretty much a saint), but because she wanted me to understand that alone time, adult time and even mistakes are all part of being a parent.  Now, as a mother myself, I realize how even the tiniest break from the kiddie chaos can award one a hearty dose of sanity and how caring for yourself helps you care for others.  I hate the way some people act like you have to sacrifice everything about yourself to be a good parent.  That’s a myth.  That’s what ruins marriages and drives people crazy.  In order to raise well-rounded children, I believe you must be a well-rounded person.  It is important to mix an undying willingness to give up everything for your children with a small sprinkle of selfish.

Lame Now, Legendary Later
Photograph everything!  This is yet another thing I learned from my mother.  Even the smallest of moments make the best memories.  I have treasured pictures of my niece and I modeling in the backyard, my cousin from Florida and I applying makeup in my bathroom, and even all our family pets from over the years.  That’s just to name a very, very few.  My mom’s eagerness to grab her camera was always met with sighs and rolling eyes on my part, but looking back I’m thankful for every snapshot.

I hope you enjoyed this and found it to be more practical than preachy.  I was going for practical.  If you’re a parent, feel free to drop a dollop of advice in the comments section!

<3 n

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Very Thankful Thursday: The Sparkling Brand New Year

Ok, ok - I admit it.  I’m thankful for the New Year.  Although I don’t detect a drastic difference between my current self and the me from forty-eight hours ago and I highly suspect the result of my creating any resolutions will be disappointment, I am thankful for the opportunity to toss out an obsolete calendar in favor of a fresh start.  In lieu of going into detail about that which makes me so grateful for the New Year in this post, I thought I’d be better served by forcing myself to jot down a few goals for 2014.  Here goes…

1. Be positive - I have been extremely cynical and pessimistic lately and I’ve grown tired of it.  I want to be one of those people who acts as a conductor of happiness and can light up a room with good energy.  I may have to consult J on this one, however, since he usually finds those types to be highly annoying.

2. Keep on bloggin’ - My blog is in its infancy, nay its zygotic stage currently.  I’m still figuring out where to place my focus and how to integrate quick quirky posts with posts containing serious writing.  Not to mention, I’ve been incapable of writing seriously as of late.  Overly tired Nicky = writer, blocked.

3. Take a trip - We desperately need to go somewhere!  I don’t know if it will be a family trip or just J and I, but we need a little vacation from the Valley.

4. Paint - I love to paint, but I can rarely find the perfect blend of time and energy to sit down and do it.  The painting I sketched out for Ella is sulking between my desk and the wall and I’ve yet to even conceptualize the type of piece I’d like to create for Sadie (Hendrix’s painting is actually complete as it was a smaller, quicker project than Ella’s).

5. Do more outdoors - With being tired and pregnant for the bulk of 2013, I didn’t have as many outdoor adventures as I did in previous years.  I plan on taking the kids for many more hikes, teaching Ella to ride a bike and re-planting and maintaining my garden.

6. Keep in touch - I wrote these in no particular order, but this should really be number one.  I am a hermit.  For everyone who thinks I’ve neglected them by not writing back or returning phone calls or sending a Christmas card, you’re not alone.  I have been unforgivably neglectful of my loved ones.  I have been trapped on a self-created hamster wheel of getting up, going to work, taking care of the kids, going to sleep and then waking to do it all again.  All of these things are great, productive actions, but the absence of other activities has made me a very dull girl.  Please accept this as my informal apology and expect a formal one along with more communication in the near future.

7. Get in shape - Producing two babies in two years combined with too many horrible diet decisions has left me a little gooey.  It’s time to hit the gym and get my nutrition in check.

As always, I’d love to hear from you all.  I wish everyone the best in the New Year.

<3 n

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

30 Day Trial: Join Me for Gymuary!!

The Urban Dictionary description of “gymuary” is as follows:

“The month at the beginning of the year (usually lasting no more than two weeks) that sees a rush to get in shape by people making resolutions they can't keep”

Now, I’m not a big New Year’s resolution kind of girl, so the timing for me is less about new beginnings and more about getting back to the gym after the overwhelmingly busy holiday season.  I’m also entering the second month of my 30 Day Trial posts (during which I try something new for an entire month), so implementing gymuary this month makes sense for me.  For many, however, January serves as the starting gate of their journey to get in shape and I completely respect that also.  We all have our reasons.

My personal goal, for this month’s 30 Day Trial, is to hit the gym three days per week.  I’m not asking you to stick to that same regimen, but I would love it if you would join me for this next part.  Instagram a photo every time you go to the gym this month and use the hashtag #GymuaryWithNickyAsh so we can do this together and give gymuary a good name.  Hopefully, by making this a group thing, we can all be a little more motivated.  I am really excited about this so help me out guys!

<3 n