Saturday, December 15, 2012

December 14th, 2012

I don't know whether I should write this post. I feel numb over the events of the week. I feel compelled to express myself but at the same time I doubt whether it is right to publicly discuss my thoughts and feelings over what has unfolded when the events are so fresh. I'm a bystander, watching from a distance. I feel deep sympathy for all involved and I feel heartbroken, but I also cannot fathom the pain they are experiencing. At the same time, these events touch so many of us (even if we are not personally experiencing loss) and no matter how far removed you feel from the actual situation our feelings and fears are still valid. I don't believe in shoving things under a rug -- conversation and sharing are important for healing. So, despite my reservation, here goes. Not that I know exactly where I'm going ... I'm just writing.

For me right now, today's shooting is Newtown feels like the most devastating news event of my lifetime. I'm on the other side of the country, I don't have family or friends in the town, I've never witnessed anything even remotely similar. But when innocent children are at the epicenter of such a horrific crime ... well, there are no words. At the same time, there are so many.

My adorable five-year-old niece is in kindergarten. She's spunky, hilarious and bright. She loves science and animals, and she adores learning. She goes to a really excellent school in an upscale suburb ... a town not unlike Newtown. It could have been her school. It could have happened anywhere. It could happen to any of us. We would be naive to think that it couldn't.

The shooting at the mall drives that point home for me. Clackamas Town Center is 35 miles from my house. I have a friend who works at the mall, and other friends who live in the vicinity.  The wife of one of my husband's co-workers almost went to the mall that day but decided against it at the last minute -- she and her young grandson could have easily been caught up in the mayhem. Thank God they stayed home. I never go to that mall, but it still feels close. What if the shooter had chosen Washington Square Mall instead? Then what? People I know and love might have died.

Right now, I don't want to take my baby girl anywhere. I want her safe at home, where I can best protect her from the dangers of the world. We had plans to go to the mall this week, but I just couldn't do it. And now I'm thinking about school. School is years away, but how can I send her away to a classroom day after day without thinking about December 14th, 2012? At the same time, we can't live in fear. We can't let fear control us. It isn't healthy.

I know that so many people want peace. I know I do. We hope and pray for a better world for our children. We want a world where children can go to school, where families can go to the mall, where everyone can go to a movie theater without the fear of a masked gunman opening fire. We want the violence to stop. But sadly, I do not think this is going to happen. I do not believe things are going to get better. I think they are going to get worse. I really do. We live in a broken world. Evil is real, and it is escalating.

I think the only thing we can do is to focus on what really matters. Our families and our children matter. God matters. We need to live with purpose, and we need to set aside our petty differences. And we need to be respectful of and compassionate toward those who are experiencing tragedy. We cannot stop living our lives, but we can take a step back from certain things. In time, I think it will be appropriate to get back to "normal" (whatever that is). But right now, for me anyway, it doesn't seem right to blog about what my baby girl is eating for breakfast or what my new workout goals are. And it definitely doesn't seem right to do the post I had planned for today (Friday). I have to admit that I got a little frustrated when I logged on to Twitter earlier ... how can anyone promote their products/services or complain about sore hamstrings on a day like this? Then again, some people cope by just ... going on. And I suppose that is OK. We are all different.

I haven't ever talked about my faith on this blog, but faith is a huge part of my life. I believe in Heaven and Hell and I believe that God is just. Years ago, my husband was very sick with a life-threatening illness and we had to have some very difficult conversations about the possibility of him not making it. Later on, people would ask him his thoughts on what to do if they ever found themselves in a similar situation. His advice? Get right with your maker. Because you just never know. You never know when you're going to be diagnosed with a terminal illness, and you never know when a routine trip to the mall or school is going to take a terrible turn. So take nothing for granted, especially eternity. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Five ways to feel pretty + a beauty-themed giveaway

I believe that every mom deserves to feel beautiful every day. And while I think that beauty can sometimes seem complicated and overwhelming, it doesn't have to be complicated and overwhelming. It doesn't even have to be expensive. In fact, it can really be quite simple once you incorporate it into your daily routine. Remember: you are worth it. Yes, your children are always the top priority -- but that doesn't mean you are low priority. They will benefit (in so many ways) when you take care of yourself. 

Here are a few easy things you can do every day to help yourself feel pretty ...

Wear mascara and lipstick. Even if you aren't planning to leave the house all day. This is an instant pick-me-up, and it takes no time at all.

Wear clothes that fit. I know this is a hard one ... especially if you are still recovering from pregnancy. But motherhood is not an excuse to look frumpy. If the frumpy look is your thing, that's different -- go for it (although my guess is that it really isn't your thing). Otherwise, find clothes that flatter your figure and wear them no matter what you are doing. Grocery shopping, play date, pediatrician appointment, whatever. You do not need an "occasion" to get yourself put together.

Polish your nails. I get pedicures regularly, but I rarely get manicures -- I've kept my finger nails short and plain for years. A few nights ago, though, I felt compelled to put on a coat of polish. What a difference! I am now totally hooked. 

Wear perfume (or even just scented lotion). I spray perfume on my wrists every morning. It takes two seconds, and it makes me happy. Right now I'm really into Marc Jacobs Amber, but I also like Angel by Thierry Mugler and the Victoria's Secret Pear Glace lotion/body spray.

Look good for your man. This might hit a nerve with some women, but I feel pretty strongly about it. If you've had one of those days where you're still in pajamas or sweats at 5:30pm, no make-up, baby puke on your shirt, etc., no worries -- we all have days like that. But take a few minutes before your husband gets home to put on that lipstick we talked about and change into a decent outfit. He'll appreciate it, and you'll feel better about everything you accomplished (or didn't accomplish) that day.

In light of this list, I've decided to do a beauty-themed giveaway! One beautiful mom (or mom-to-be) is going to win three beauty treats: A bottle of Essie nail polish in Penny Talk, a Maybelline Shinesensational lip gloss in Crushed Candy and a Maybelline Great Lash Mascara in Blackest Black (my favorite mascara -- in my opinion it totally beats all the department store brands).

To enter, simply leave a comment telling me what you do every day to feel beautiful. You have until 9am Pacific Time Friday to enter, and I'll announce the winner on Facebook Friday afternoon. Also a quick reminder about the Love Struck giveaway -- I messed up on the dates, so I extended the giveaway. You can enter that one until 6pm today (Wednesday)! I'll announce the winner on Facebook tonight.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Introducing Love Struck. And a GIVEAWAY!!

I've always loved shopping. Cute shoes, trendy handbags and adorable dresses are totally my thing. The first year of motherhood, however, left me feeling uninspired. Nothing fit, and it seemed like every time I paid for alterations or bought something new I would drop another pound or two. And every time I tried to shop I came down with a headache. Not fun.

Thankfully, I started to come out of this annoying rut several weeks ago. Now my closet is starting to look a little a lot more appealing (the sales associates at one nearby store are starting to know me and my daughter by name now, oops). One key factor in all of this is the fact that I finally lost all the baby weight by participating in the meltdown at my gym (shopping is so much more enjoyable when you're actually happy with how your body looks and feels). But I also must give credit to my inspiring and fashion-savvy friend Erin Dunkle, who recently launched a brand-new virtual boutique called Love Struck.

From the moment I saw what she had to offer, I was excited about shopping again! Beautiful necklaces, stunning scarves. Earrings, bracelets, handbags, wallets, tablet covers, tops, dresses and more. Her products are so cute and so affordable ... perfect for busy moms who want to look good every day. And I am so love struck by Love Struck, that I just have to share it with all of you.

I'll start by telling you how it works. Love Struck is a virtual boutique on Facebook. Every Tuesday night, Erin holds an auction. She posts photos of the the items she is offering that week, and you (the customer) simply leave a comment that says 'sold!' when you see a product you want to buy. Pay via Paypal, and a few days later your purchase arrives in the mail (in a very elegant package!). Brilliant! We're all on Facebook all the time anyway, so it couldn't be more convenient. So far, I've scored these two adorable items ...

My new earrings and cocktail ring.

Another interesting part of the Love Struck story is the background on how it all got started. The idea came to Erin one Sunday evening after she heard about a similar business model. She got to work on her business plan the very next day.

"It was completely impulsive," Erin says. "And then boom, within six weeks it was up and running."

Wow! She had an idea, and she ran with it. I love that about her. And her concept is so creative, too. She spends much of her free time (when she's not working at her full-time digital marketing job or hanging out with her two cute kids) shopping for products at the Dallas Market Center and keeping up on all the latest trends. Her audience, she says, is the suburban mom who wants to be stylish without breaking the bank (that's me!). In other words, women just like her.

"I love love love to shop, but you will never see me spending $300 on a purse or a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes," she says.

Anyway, I could say lots more about Erin and Love Struck (she is truly so inspiring to me!) but I know you are all excited about the giveaway so I'll move on to that.

We are giving away a special treat from Love Struck to one reader of The Paleo Baby. Will it be a necklace? A scarf? Something else? Only Erin knows, but I promise it will be fabulous. All you have to do is leave a comment here and like Love Struck and The Paleo Baby on Facebook. The deadline to enter is Wednesday (December 12th) at 6pm Pacific Time, so don't delay.  I will announce the winner on Facebook on Wednesday night.

Also, be sure to check out this week's Love Struck auction, which starts at 6:30pm Central Time tomorrow night (did I mention she's in Texas?). It's a Secret Santa theme!!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Meltdown winner!

Hi! So, I just wanted to quickly share some fun news with you guys before I head out on some Sunday afternoon errands. Last week, I wrote about how I participated in the meltdown at my gym and managed to finally lose the last bit of baby weight that was hanging around. At the gym's holiday party last night, I found out that I was the winner of the competition! I'm feeling really proud right now of my accomplishment because from the moment I found out I was having a baby (before, actually) it was really important to me to stay in shape during and after my pregnancy. And I did it! Shopping for new clothes has never been so much fun!

I have lots more to say about my experience and the friends who helped me reach my goal, but I'll have to get to all of that a little later. For now, here are a couple of photos ...

Me and the other two winners, Karen and Dan, with
our coaches Robert and Kili.
No way! Kinda shocked that I was the winner.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Dinner doesn't have to be complicated

I don't know what it is about dinner, but to me it has always seemed like the one meal of the day that takes work. Before paleo, Carl and I usually ate cereal or toast for breakfast. No work. Lunch was (and still is) often leftovers or something just as easy (turkey slices, boiled eggs, a quick salad, etc.). Again, no work. But dinner? Dinner takes planning. Especially now that we have a tiny mouth to feed.

During the first, oh, nine months or so of motherhood this was a real struggle for me. Now, we have a routine down and the whole process is so much simpler. As long as I have meat and vegetables in the house, I can usually figure something out. Even at the last minute.

I think the one thing that has helped me the most in this department is the realization that dinner does not have to be complicated. I actually love cooking -- trying new recipes is so much fun for me. But Monday afternoon at 5:00pm is not the time to get crazy in the kitchen. The goal is not to make something spectacular that will go down in history as the best weeknight dinner ever. The goal instead is to prepare a healthy meal for our family and to get H fed before the busy evening begins.

Here's an example. If you keep a paleo kitchen like I do, there's a good chance you have a freezer stocked with beef (grass-fed, of course). Let's say you take out a couple of pounds of the ground variety in the morning. When it comes time to cook it up, you might be thinking "OK, we can do burgers. We can do spaghetti squash with meat sauce. We can do chili." All great choices, and fairly easy. But they still take time. Time you might not have.

Instead of stressing yourself out trying to put a recipe together, why not just grab a few of your favorite spices and brown the ground beef in a pan? Steam or roast some veggies, and you're set. You can serve it with various condiments (mustard/ketchup, mayo), you can serve it fiesta-style with salsa and avocado, you can serve it with a fried egg on top or, well, anything you like. Time commitment: 20 minutes max. I use this trick a lot, actually. Its kinda like the paleo version of pasta with herbs and olive oil -- one of our quick, go-to meals of the past -- only much healthier!

Another idea: canned tuna. Last night at 6pm, I realized that my flank steak was still frozen so I had to improvise. I quickly whipped up some paleo mayo and opened two cans of tuna plus a can of olives. Then, I roasted some bell peppers. The result: tuna salad served in cute little bell pepper boats. Yum! And it took no time at all. So easy. I guess what it all boils down to is changing your idea of what makes a meal. A meal doesn't always need to contain a main course, a side and a salad and it doesn't have to be sensational. All it really needs is some quality protein and fat plus a few veggies ... good fuel for your body.

How do you get dinner on the table quickly on busy nights?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Paleo Munchkin Meals (take three)!

Time for another installment of Munchkin Meals!

Munchkin Meals is s super-fun blog link-up hosted by Brittany over at A Healthy Slice of Life. It works like this: we (bloggers) post photos and descriptions of our kids' meals with the intent of sharing/swapping ideas with other parents. So far I haven't noticed any other paleo bloggers participating. Hint, hint.

OK, so here's the lowdown on everything my 13.5-month-old ate today ...

Breakfast was rushed. We had a photo shoot across town, and by the time I woke up at 7:20am I only had two hours to get us both ready and out the door (not much time).

We started with nursing, as usual. Then, it was time to head down to the kitchen for her real breakfast. Unfortunately we didn't have any leftovers and we were out of her favorite chicken sausage (bummer for both of us!), so H* was stuck eating half an avocado and an Ella's Organics fruit-and-veggie packet (I keep them on hand for such emergencies).

H's photo shoot with Emily G Photography was at 10:30am, but I wanted to get out the door by 9:30am in case of traffic, parking issues, etc. I'm glad we did, because we wound up walking into her studio right on time. If I would have listened to Waze, we would have been late.

The photo shoot was super fun (Emily is the best ... so talented and so great with little ones), despite H having a bad hair day (seriously!) and being in uncharacteristically serious mood. I can't wait to see the photos.

After the photo shoot, we dropped in to Water Avenue Coffee where I ordered the Americano I've been craving ever since the meltdown ended last weekend. I'm always apprehensive when it comes to new-to-me coffee shops because so many baristas get it wrong. I was not disappointed, though! My Americano was a work of art. Beautiful. And delicious. I wish I had photographic evidence, but I was too busy admiring its gorgeousness to get out my iPhone. Water Avenue Coffee is not in an area of town I frequent, but I'll totally go out of my way to go there again. It's my new coffee crush.

After coffee, H was ready for lunch. I decided to take her to Dick's Kitchen since we were in the area. Plus, the weather was super nice so heading home just didn't seem like the thing to do. This was my first real lunch date with my little sweet pea (unless you count grabbing a salad at Whole Foods) and we had so much fun. I love having a lunch buddy! H ordered the kids' slider, sans bun, with a side of yam not-fries. She ate the entire slider, but only about four fries.

Paleo Baby's lunch at Dick's Kitchen.

I ordered what Dick's calls their signature paleo dish, the Thai Burger Bowl. The thing is, it isn't really paleo at all because the spicy Thai dressing contains soybeans!!! Ick! I asked them to hold the dressing, so it was basically just a regular salad.

After lunch we got kinda crazy and ordered dessert. The flourless chocolate torte looked really decadent, so we I went for it. I gave H a couple of tiny bites, but she was far more interested in polishing off her pickles (yay!). I thought the dessert was really, really good ... but I'm pretty much done with dessert for now. Back on the wagon. I truly believe it is OK to indulge now and then. Just not all the time. This was my indulgence, and it will have to last a while lest it becomes a habit.

Oh, and just for fun ... I had to snap this picture. Dick's current special is the Dork Burger.

Dork Burger. I can't stop laughing.

Awesome. Pork + duck = dork. I don't eat pork, but if did I would totally order this just for the name.

By this time, I was pressing my luck in terms of naptime so we jetted home. H snoozed while I wrote today's earlier post and buzzed around the house doing chores. She woke up at 4:30, famished. Avocado and banana time!

Oops, the plate is sideways!

While she polished off her snack, I prepped dinner. Ground beef seasoned with cumin and chili powder plus roasted cauliflower. When we went to lunch, I didn't think about the fact that ground beef was on the dinner menu. Oh, well. We all like it. And now I have leftovers for Thursday's breakfast.

Tastes better than it looks!
After feeding H, I dashed off to the gym for a TRX/kettlebell workout. She had fun hanging out with Carl, but by the time I got home just after 7pm she was frantic for milk so I got her into her PJs and nursed her. She is now sound asleep. She may or may not wake up around midnight for a snack. We shall see!

What did your munchkin eat today?

*I'm going to refer to my little one as H (her first initial) from now on. The nickname Pebbles isn't really working for me anymore.

Mission accomplished ... now what?

I've reached my goal. I'm back to my pre-baby weight, I fit into all of my old clothes and I feel great. This didn't come easy, though. I've worked hard for almost a year to get to this point. I spent the summer working out with my trainer Kili. I did the fall meltdown at my gym. I exercised consistently and watched my diet carefully. I'm proud of my accomplishment, but that doesn't mean the work is over. In fact, it is really just beginning.

After the meltdown two years ago, I felt like I had finally figured it all out. I had found my happy place in terms of weight and body fat. Then I got pregnant, so long-term maintenance never came into play. This time, however, things are different. I'm not having another baby, so I want (and need) to figure out how to maintain. Permanently. I don't want to have to do the meltdown again (and again and again). I want to be consistent with diet and exercise so that I can remain as healthy as possible, forever. But how?

I'm honestly nervous about this next phase! I don't want to lose any more weight, but if I keep doing exactly what I've been doing for the past several weeks I probably will lose more weight. At the same time, I don't want to gain weight either. During the meltdown, I didn't feel like I was limiting calories or depriving myself ... I just felt like I was eating a balanced and nutrient-dense diet. Do I need to add calories in order to maintain without losing? If so, how much? And what if I don't feel like eating more food (because like I said, I've definitely been getting enough to eat)? I suppose I start to include some of the things I eliminated, like nuts and fruit, but I'm not sure those things are the best choices for me. I'm not opposed to using them in limited amounts (nuts as garnish or fruit in a recipe, for example), but I've come to the conclusion that I feel best when they aren't a big part of my diet. What else could I add, though? A girl can only eat so much meat, and I'm already at my max in that department. Of course, I could be wrong about all of this. Maybe I won't lose any more weight if I keep doing what I'm doing? I just don't know (yet). I hope I'm not making this more complicated than necessary, but I feel like there is a delicate balance here that I need to figure out. I know some people keep food journals to help with situations like this, but I find food journals to be a nuisance. I've tried numerous times to keep one, but I never stick with it. A journal is not even an option for me.

Anyway, I suppose I'm going to be working on figuring this out over the next several weeks. When (if??) I do, I'll let you know. Meanwhile, I am even more committed than ever to staying on track with paleo (even though I did enjoy a flourless chocolate torte and an Americano this afternoon). Not only because it allows me to fit into my skinny jeans (yes, this is a factor for me and I am not ashamed to admit it), but also because it helps keep me healthy and strong.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mission accomplished!

Six weeks ago, I joined my gym's annual fall meltdown with a bit of hesitancy. Not because I didn't want to participate, but because I wondered whether I would see a decent return on my investment: $100 plus six weeks of focus and strict paleo (i.e. no coffee, no sugar, no treats, no wine). I'm still breastfeeding (currently three times a day), and I had this idea stuck in my head that I was going to hold on to excess body fat and the last few pregnancy pounds until my daughter is weaned. What if I worked really hard for minimal results? How would that make me feel? Disappointed? Discouraged? Annoyed? I seriously considered just resigning myself to staying where I was at until later (staying where I was permanently has never been an option; I just questioned the timing). Also, I couldn't help but consider the meltdown I participated in two years ago. It was a life-defining experience for me, in so many ways. Would this experience have the same significance to me?  I assumed not, and therefore wondered whether it was worth my time from a mental, emotional and psychological standpoint.

Despite all of this, I wound up just saying "what the heck??!" and set two goals -- to fit back into my smallest pre-pregnancy jeans, and to reduce my dependency on coffee and chocolate. I'm so glad I did, because a month-and-a-half later I have achieved far more than I thought I could achieve in this brief time period.

Within days, coffee and chocolate were no longer at the forefront of my mind. After four weeks, I was wearing the jeans I bought at the end of Meltdown 2010. And as for my numbers (weight, body fat, lean mass), I was blown away. I didn't expect to see such a big improvement. I just knew that I did my best, so no matter what the results were I had to be satisfied. As it turns out, I am more than satisfied!

In six weeks, I lost six pounds and five percent body fat (from 28.1 to 23.1), and my lean mass went from 76.9 pounds to 85.6 (we're measured in the Bod Pod)!! This is almost exactly where I was two  years ago (right after my first meltdown experience). I'm super happy that at 40-years-old and just 13 months after having a baby, I have returned to the healthiest, lightest and leanest version of me I have ever known.

More importantly, I feel strong and confident and ... grateful. Grateful that I discovered the paleo lifestyle two-and-a-half years ago. Grateful for my wonderful pregnancy experience and my beautiful, sweet and healthy paleo baby. Grateful for the people in my life who support me on this journey (like my husband Carl, my BFF Lorrie and my trainers/coaches Kili and Robert). Grateful that, after years and years of following mainstream advice and getting nowhere, I now know how to best take care of my body. Grateful that, despite my reservations, I signed up for the meltdown and gave it my all. My concern that it wouldn't be a significant experience for me? Totally unfounded. Just like last time, it was significant. Not in the same way, but perhaps in even better ways. I'm excited about it, and I am determined to make my 40s my best decade yet. Bring it on!

Before I go, I'll just write a few quick details on how I did this in case anyone is interested. I'm going to assume you know the paleo basics, though. Most importantly, I eliminated all sugar. No fruit, no honey, no maple syrup, no paleo baked goods or treats. I also cut out all nuts and seeds. Coffee, as I mentioned, was out. My diet basically consisted of meat, eggs, veggies and fat (lots of butter and coconut oil). I did not count calories, and I did not feel deprived. In terms of workouts, I couldn't push as hard as I would have liked because I've been dealing with a pesky shoulder injury. I did, however, increase my workouts from three of four days a week to four or five per week. And that's it. Super easy, reasonable and do-able!