Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Year in Review

Happy New Years Eve!  What a year 2013 has been!  I have been working on a 2013 Yearbook for which has brought me to do some reminiscing over the past week.  (Hopefully I get the book done sometime soon!)  So, I just thought I would take a minute to recap our year.  After this post it is back to recipe and fitness posts now that the holidays are over!

In 2013, Jaxon has turned from a toddler to a little boy.  He turned 2 in April and went from speaking in short phrases in the beginning of the year to full blown sentences now.  The things that come out of his mouth crack me up.  I have been documenting some of the phrases because I never want to forget how fun this age is!  It is so interesting to see how he is changing and what interests him.  He loves to see how things work and figure things out.  He isn't into arts and crafts at all, his attention span is about 4 seconds...just long enough to draw a quick line, throw some crayons on the floor and say he is all done.  I have tried many different crafts and he just isn't interested.  He loves cars, trucks, trains and all types of electronics and gadgets (just like his Dad).  He is such a little athlete, running everywhere, diving frequently to the ground, throws a football and Frisbee better than me and he loves the outdoors!  He is the also the most thoughtful little boy I know, always hugging and kissing his sister, asks if she is ok if she is crying, gives her a toy (usually when he wants to take the one she has...but still), holds my face in his hands and kisses me so sweetly, tells me he loves me not only to the moon and back, but also to the sun and back and the stars and back, loves rocking with his Daddy before naptime and reading with him before bed.  His sweet disposition melts my heart.  On Christmas morning, after opening a 3 presents, he actually told us "I don't need anymore presents."  He would pick up gifts and give them to the rest of us.  I am so proud of his selflessness already and hope he keeps some of these amazing qualities forever! 

We also went from having a helpless 3 month old to an independent, goofy, strong willed, "it's my way or the highway" 15 month old.  She is the smartest 15 month old I know who can easily communicate, counts to 13, sings Twinkle Twinkle, Jesus Loves Me and Old MacDonald from beginning to end, says please, thank you and you're welcome, uses a fork to eat by herself, and says more words and makes more associations than I can keep track of.  She loves her big brother and if they are apart will walk around saying "Jaxon, Jaxon" looking for him.  She makes silly faces and cracks herself up.  She loves putting on my shoes, bracelets and pretending to talk on the phone with a purse over her shoulder.  She is such a girly girl yet will fall and hit her head and not even flinch.  My husband described her last night as being a fighter and I completely agree with him.  If she doesn't want something to happen, she fights until the end (such as changing clothes, changing diapers, brushing teeth as a few examples).  These situations tend to be battles yet the very second it is over she is happy and smiling again.  I hope she is always a fighter and fights for what she wants, or doesn't want. Although it can be a frustrating quality right now, it is a good quality to have.

An almost 3 year old and a 15 month old are so much fun, but, don't let me fool you.  It hasn't been all "flowers and butterflies" or "a walk in the park" or "a piece of cake," with the daily challenges like tantrums (which are now becoming more frequent time 2), sleepless nights, trying to balance working life, being a parent and finding time for your spouse plus time for yourself plus a social life.  It can definitely be exhausting and overwhelming, but nothing is more rewarding!  I enjoyed all of 2013 SO much and look forward to continuing the fun in 2014!

A Look Back at 2013

We did some fun things as a couple like a husband and wife trip to Puerto Rico...and much needed I might add!

We also did a few other little trips like to the casino for Nate's birthday, a trip to Newport, RI and an overnight in Boston with friends.

We went on a family trip to Maryland for my cousin's wedding in May and then drove onto Hershey, PA with my parents. 

Such a fun time and we can't wait to bring the kids back again in the future!

I brought the kids up to Maine for a day to see some family (and I can't wait for a whole week there in summer 2014)!

We went on tons of trips to zoos, parks, museums, train rides, play dates, pony rides, and countless hours playing outside on the swing set. 

We participated in all the fall time activities like pumpkin picking, pumpkin painting, hay mazes and apple picking . This holiday season we had lots of fun going to Bright Nights, making and decorating Gingerbread Cookies and Christmas Pretzel Treats, getting and decorating our tree, looking at Christmas lights when driving, watching Christmas Mickey and Polar Express, drinking hot chocolate, singing Christmas songs, shopping trips and the list goes on. 

What were the highlights of YOUR 2013?  Any New Years Resolutions?  I'm looking forward to working towards my 2014 goals!  More fitness and recipe posts plus Paleo progress coming soon! :)

Wishing you a safe, happy and healthy New Year to your family from ours! :)

~Erin Leigh












Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Pretzel Treats

I am loving this holiday season!  Although the kids don't get outside to play much, there are so many other new and different things to do to keep them busy.  My Dad had shoulder surgery (he is fine) on Wednesday so yesterday the kids and I wanted to make a little something to bring to him. :)  Our little project was Christmas Pretzel Treats.

Bite size waffle shaped pretzels
Hershey's kisses
Christmas colored M&M's

All you do is unwrap the kisses, place on the pretzel, when you have them finished put in the oven for 4-6 minutes on 170 degrees until the chocolate just starts to melt.  Then you place 1 M&M on each kiss and press down lightly.  Let cool.

That's it! The perfect combination of sweet and salty!  Not only are they delish but they only include three ingredients and I had two little helpers that did all the work (or most of it) for me!  They had so much fun.

Serious concentration while opening the kisses

Anya had to be closely monitored because the second the wrapper came off...she would immediately take a bite.  I came up with a system by the end to get it from her before she ate it...this was after she consumed about 5, and then was bouncing off the walls.  Oh what fun ;)

Jaxon did a great job with placement.  He was very focused. 
The finished product (Don't mind the hideous baking tray).
This was such a fun project.  Both kids loved it...but who wouldn't when getting to eat some mid-day chocolate?!  And Jaxon enjoyed giving the "present" to "Bigbee."  Jaxon is like me and loves making someone's day brighter. :)
~Erin Leigh




Wednesday, December 18, 2013

New Obsession

Ok...can we talk for a minute about my new obsession?? I am sure it is nothing you would ever imagine. I would never in a million years guess it myself!  Ready for it?!  Burnt broccoli.  Seriously...it's amazing.  I am pretty sure I have made broccoli less than 5 times in my life.  I have never been a broccoli fan.  Recently, I started to feel like I would see pin after pin on Pinterest and picture after picture on Instagram of burnt broccoli (usually from the paleo blogs I follow).  So, the other day I actually decided to look at a recipe to see what it was all about and realized it takes NO time to prepare.  That, as you know, is right up my alley!  So, I tested it out the other night, and not only was it the easiest thing I have ever made but it was SO good.  So...ready for my newest and easiest recipe to date?!
Burnt Broccoli:
Extra virgin olive oil
Garlic Powder
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Toss broccoli in extra virgin olive oil to lightly coat
Place on baking sheet
Sprinkle garlic powder on broccoli, spread broccoli around and sprinkle some more garlic powder.
Toss in oven for 20 minutes, flipping broccoli over after about 10 minutes.
TA-DA!  Pure amazingness, especially for a non-broccoli lover! 
Let me know if you try it and love it! Have a variation of the recipe? Do share! :)

~Erin Leigh 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Gingerbread Cookie Fun!

Yesterday was a snowy day around here.  It actually wasn't snowing too much during the day, but since it was slightly snowing I took it upon myself to stay in my pajamas all day long and do some fun indoor stuff with the kids!  So, what better activity than bake some gingerbread cookies!  And no, they are not paleo...just regular ingredients in this recipe!  They came out so good!  Jaxon had a lot of fun cutting out the shapes and both kids had fun decorating them after naps!  Gingerbread cookies are quite a process but it worked out well that we were home all day!  Here is the recipe!

Gingerbread Cookies
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
1 large egg

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices to combine.
In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Mix in the molasses and egg until combined.
Add in the dry ingredients in a few portions and mix until incorporated.
Cover the bowl and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. (You can also make the dough the night before and chill overnight).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface, approximately 1/4 inch thick.
Then cut desired shapes and place on cookie sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the sheet half way through.
Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to wire cooling rack.
Once cookies are cool...decorate!

I couldn't wait for naptime to be over to decorate!
Post naptime cookie decorating!
 He couldn't resist taking bites out of his cookies!  But that is part of the fun! :)
 She was loving every minute....
 ....until decorating was over....
 My favorites!

Seriously, this recipe was so good I couldn't help but eat at least 10! It was my cheat day FOR SURE!!
Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!  Perfect for a snowy day, or any day for that matter! :)

~Erin Leigh

Friday, December 13, 2013

New Year, New Goals!

With 2013 coming to a close in a few weeks, I have been doing some reflection on the past year and thinking about what I would like to achieve in 2014 in relation to fitness.  I never make new years resolutions because I feel like if I need or want to make a change during the year I do. (On Mondays! Haha!)  But, I like to evaluate the year and come up with new goals to work towards. Yes, I am very goal oriented (and competitive), but it works for me.

So, following my strategy of making a few short term goals and working up to a long term goal I have come up with my fitness goals for 2014. 

Short Term: 
I plan to run another organized 5K and my first organized 10K (possibly the St. Patty's Day race in Holyoke).   Those are within reach and something I can accomplish. 
I also would like to do 1 more workout series from January - March while it is still too cold for me to run outside with the kids.  I am thinking the Focus T25 by Beachbody which is all 25 minute workouts.
In addition, I would also like to run more 5K's to support good causes.  This is not a goal but something that I want to do and need to look into further.   

So, ready for my long term goal? 
In 2014 my main fitness goal is to run a half marathon!  I NEVER (I can't emphasize that enough) thought I would say that prior to 2013 (actually, prior to last week).  But, I think that it seems far enough out of reach to make it a long term goal and it is something I will really need to work towards.  I started out last spring running about 1 to 1 1/2 miles and worked up to 6 miles by the fall so why not improve on that next year?!  The half marathon is in the fall so it gives me the Spring and Summer to prepare myself.  I still need to find some training information and come up with a plan but the goal is made (I still am slightly in shock at my decision).  I will keep you posted!

Have you thought about 2014 and what you want to accomplish with relation to health and fitness? Now is a great time to start thinking about it!

A few tips:
Make a long term goal.  Something out of reach that you want to accomplish.
Make a short term goal that you can reach in the near future to give you some satisfaction.
Once you achieve your short term goal, make another one that will get you closer to that long term goal.
Be Specific:  Do not just say "I want to exercise more."  Make a specific goal and plan. 
Don't make excuses. 

The long term goal can seem so far and out of reach but if you are consistently achieving your short term goals, it gives you the accomplished feeling you need to keep pushing forward!

So, what are your fitness goals for 2014? I would love to hear!  If you follow my short term/long term strategy and have any questions I am happy to answer them!

~Erin Leigh

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Baked Tilapia

So Sunday evening I spent some time meal planning.  (I will admit I actually ordered take out while meal planning...how cliché)! Anyways,  one of the things I feel like we never eat is fish.  It has so many health benefits and is very lean so I want to eat it more frequently but prefer buying fresh fish rather than frozen.  So, I decided that grocery shopping day will be the day we have fish.  I found a super simple recipe on Pinterest and it was delish! Here is it!
Baked Tilapia:
4 Tilapia Filets
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Juice from 3/4 lemon
2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and brush onto filets
Bake 18-20 minutes at 400 degrees
BAM! Easiest meal ever!  I think I keep finding recipes that are easier and easier...it's great!
I served it with brussel sprouts and some lettuce, spinach and raw carrots.  My hubby and kids had sweet potatoes too.  Super simple and healthy meal!  I am loving this meal planning thing!  Any good fish recipes you can share with me?! I could use some! :)
~Erin Leigh

A Favorite Side

If you asked me 6 months ago what I thought about brussel sprouts I would tell you I hated them.  (This was based solely on the thought of them.  Sometimes when it comes to food I judge it before trying...something, with the help of my husband, I have almost overcome!)  I had never thought to make them, but then, I would see them on Pinterest ALL the time. So...I decided to give them a try...and who knew they are the easiest side dish, tasty and healthy too!  So, here is the simple recipe!

Brussel Sprouts

First, preheat the oven to 350.  Wash the brussel sprouts really well and cut in half or in quarters depending on the size, and pat dry.
I drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on a pan, place the brussel sprouts on it and move them around with a spatula to get them lightly covered in the olive oil.

Then, I sprinkle some sea salt, fresh black pepper and a little garlic powder on them. 

Toss into the oven for 20-25 minutes.

I flip and mix them around at about 10 minutes and then around 18 minutes and then let them cook for another 5 minutes or so until lightly browned on all sides.

And....just like that you have a side dish that is totally delish! 
I know it sounds like a lot of steps when it's is typed out, but prep time is literally about 4 minutes.  (I actually timed it and that 4 minutes included me taking the picture and me being distracted by my 10 month old going into the kitchen cabinets).

Anyways, if you want to take it a step further, make the garlic aioli sauce to go with it it's also super simple!

I decreased the original recipe size if it is just my husband and I because I end up throwing out what we don't use. The first time I followed a recipe I found and it made a ton. So, my decreased recipe size is as follows:

Garlic Aioli Sauce
3 Tablespoons Mayo (Light)
3/4 Tablespoon minced garlic
Fresh lemon juice - 1 wedge (1/8 of the lemon)

Mix together after you throw the sprouts in the oven and put in the fridge to stay cool.

There you have it!  My super simple and tasty go to brussel sprout recipe with garlic aioli sauce! Hope you like it! :)
~Erin Leigh

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Half Way There

Well...I am officially half way through Insanity!  I can honestly say a few things. 

1.  I love intense workouts but they are definitely exhausting.
2.  I have missed a few workouts. I am only human and people get sick in the winter.
3.  I don't feel much different but I am glad I took my Proof of Progress photos.
4.  Did I mention that the workout is insane?? 
5.  I am always looking to improve myself! Bring it on round 2! 

When I first took the Week 4 picture I texted my husband and said, "seriously...4 weeks of that and there are no results except that my legs look bigger?"  Haha!  But when I really look at the picture, I can tell that I lost some belly fat and I think my legs actually look bigger because of the way I am standing (I hope).  My jeans are looser and my upper body is more defined (it better be after the amount of push ups I have done this past month)...so I know my body has changed...but not drastically.

What better time to do these intense high calorie burning workouts than during the holiday season?!  I am looking forward to taking the final picture and comparing to week 1!  The final day just happens to be the day we leave for Mexico! (Still trying to figure out what time I will have to get up to get that workout in with a flight that leaves at 6:30am)! Now I need to plug away for another month!  Fit Test again tomorrow! Hoping to see more improvements!  Here are my first month photos:

Week 1                  Week 5

Week 1                 Week 5
What have YOU been doing for workouts?? Any suggestions for me for when I finish Insanity and return from Mexico? I am sure I will be ready for another workout plan after indulging in food and drinks beachside!

Relaxation awaits!
I encourage you to make a fitness goal and stick to it!  If nothing else, accomplishment is a good feeling! :)

~Erin Leigh

Friday, December 6, 2013

Say "Cheese"

Does anyone else love pictures as much as me?  My kids sometimes will pick up my phone and instead of saying "hello" and pretend to talk to someone, they put it in front of their face and say "cheese" because they are so used to me taking their picture.  I can't help it.  I love documenting their little lives and love looking back at the progression of them changing from newborns to the little toddlers they are now.  Same thing with my husband...it's nice to look back at pictures of when we were first together and see how our relationship has evolved. So many memories made. I love reminiscing! (Although, when looking back, I also am reminded how much older we look now! I blame it on the kids)!  No but really, pictures tell a story and I love them!

This fall I decided it is necessary for us to have family pictures done yearly.  Our last family picture was when Anya was born, so it seemed to make sense to do them in the fall, 1 year later. I have always wanted to do the fall family pictures with the fall foliage and matching outfits! So...we did it!

We had them done by Leah Martin from Leah Martin Photography. She actually did our wedding photos 4 1/2 years ago when she worked for another company and since then, has started her own business.  We loved her as our wedding photographer so I wanted to use her again!  I loved everything about our wedding day and she captured our day so perfectly!  Here are some images from our photobook...

Not only did she get the look everyone wants to see...his face when I walked down the aisle...(And yes, those were tears of joy) ;)

...but she also captured my complete happiness when I saw him :)

Love this...especially my Dad kissing my cheek :)

Love these two with my girls...


Some of my favorite humans all together.

Shakin it

One of the funniest moments captured!  The guys were cheering and the girls were shocked because the DJ said, "I think this is the best looking bridal party I have ever seen...and the girls aren't that bad either!" Haha!

Love the reflection photo!
So that was a little walk down memory lane, and another reminder of how much older I look!  Anyways, like I mentioned, this fall we had Leah do our family pictures!  Once again, we were very happy with how they came out! We met at Forest Park on an overcast Sunday.  I was slightly nervous about the weather when I woke up in the morning, but the pictures came out great. It even started to rain at the end (thankfully at the end) so we got a few cute shots in the rain.  Talk about creative! :)
Here are a few...

Yes, Anya is already posing in pictures.

Love candid photos! :)

Love this :)

My little loves!

Another reflection photo :)
Then it started to rain!

Just playing in some wet leaves...

Jaxon is actually crying in this picture...but it's so sweet.

There you have it...a peek at our fall photo shoot!  I love how our outfits came out too.  Leah had given me color scheme recommendations knowing the colors of the foliage at Forest Park.  Sometimes, although you capture every day moments at home or on the go, it's nice to have someone that has fresh ideas and some experience who can come up with creative shots and give you good quality pictures to have forever. :)  If you like these pictures you should check out her Facebook page to view some of her work. You can also view more of our family photos from the shoot here.  In addition to weddings and family photos she does maternity and newborn pictures and photos for other events as well!    Surprise! She is offering a 20% discount for anyone that uses the code FITFUN2013 now through January 1!  Gift certificates make great Christmas gifts or pictures make great gifts for yourselves!  :)  I am working on a canvas spread for our living room now!

If you are thinking about having photos done or you know someone that is you will NOT be disappointed! It's a great local small businesses to support! :) 

~Erin Leigh

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Mom's Running Group

It's already December!  It came quick but before we know it, it will be Spring again!  (Ok, it may not come that quickly, but I am thinking ahead)!  You know what Spring means? Well, for me it means time to hit the pavement running again! I am enjoying the Insanity workout but I am missing running a lot. I didn't realize it until I went for a run on Sunday afternoon.  It felt great! (Although it's much better when it's nice out)! 

So, in planning ahead (I am a planner), I thought I would mention that my friend and I have talked about starting a Mom's Running Group.  I am in the beginning of the planning phases but we have a few routes in mind in the local area.  I'm going to run them and get the exact distance beforehand. Then after our run, the kids can play at a playground together while us Moms do what Moms do....chase our kids around the park! Haha, but no really, we can chat and hang out and let our kids get some exercise after we finish our workout!  It's great having other people help to keep you motivated! I know it helps for me!

And for other people who aren't local, I was thinking of finding a way for you to be involved too if interested!

But, first things first Moms, you need a jogger!  If you don't have one already and are planning ahead, maybe Christmas is a good time to get one!

These are the ones I have:

Single Jogger:  Baby Trend Expedition
Double Jogger:  Baby Trend Navigator

Since I had a Baby Trend first and I liked it I stuck with the brand for the double jogger.  I have used them both a lot and I have never had any problems!  A few key selling points for me for the double was that it is one of the smaller double jogging strollers you can find and comes with a snack tray and canopy separate for each seat.  It's a solid stroller, turns easily and is about 25 pounds. 

So, let me know if the Mom's Running Group is something you are interested in and share with other Moms you think may be interested too!  I will plan some dates/times/locations when the nice weather gets closer but wanted anyone interested to have time to think about the jogging stroller.  I think it will be a great time for Moms to exercise, motivate each other and help keep other accountable to live a healthy lifestyle...while giving the kids some time to play!  What do you think??

~Erin Leigh