Getting Started- Tone It Up Bikini Series with K&K

Confession #1- I am very far from my goal of total health and wellness, please add me to the list of hundreds of thousands of other women who are in the same boat (sigh).

Confession #2- Body image is my least favorite thing to write about. I despise it so much that I have only ever written about it once and in that essay, I was able to steer mostly clear of my own opinion of my body.

I am prepared to just be honest about it. I am in this weird grey area of feeling unhappy with certain features of my body but, overall, the drive to love myself in my own skin and appreciate all my body does for me keeps me from speaking negatively about myself. Unless you are my boyfriend or my best friend, then you’d hear it all.

I feel this way because I hear and read so much body negativity from women about themselves. Conversations with the women in my life and within the honest articles I read are consumed with comments about poor body image. Maybe I hate how much I can relate to these comments and articles.

First off, I am extremely healthy. If you know me personally, you are probably annoyed by the ultra-healthy way I order a cheeseburger at a restaurant. “No bun please, no cheese also, can you wrap it in lettuce?” “Does that sauce have any dairy in it? Can I get broccoli instead of fries? Can you make sure there isn’t butter on the broccoli?” I am that customer.

I also workout often, between 3-4 times a week at 5am. I walk my dogs most evenings, I love learning about nutrition, I love buying fresh, local fruits and veggies, I love to cook healthy and I genuinely prefer a salad over fried chicken, much to my boyfriend’s horror.

Yet, I have always been slightly overweight. Not enough for the doctor to say something or for my pant size to increase over the years but enough for me to honestly feel uncomfortable most days.

This uncomfortable feeling has driven me to spend thousands over the years on personal trainers, nutritionists and gym memberships. I have cried countless tears of frustration and sincerely attempted to push myself to see past 10 extra pounds to the land of unconditional love for my body.

Long story short, nothing helps. I am one of those women who work out like crazy and eat well only to maintain weight, rarely shedding even one or two pounds. Some days I am sad over this, others I embrace a little extra curve and then some days I say what the hell and have tacos and wine.

Lately though, I have been having more bad days than good when it comes to my body image.  I am at the point where something has to change. I need to stop focusing on the negative and I need to be stronger, mentally and physically.

My goals aren’t to be a size zero or not have a roll when I bend over to put my shoes on. My goal is simple, I just want to feel good in my skin.

So, I am focusing on having fun and feeling great. I am not one for workout videos or beach bod programs but I decided to join my best friend and try one this spring, which is what I wrote this article to tell you.

I am following along with the Tone It Up girls, Karena and Katrina on their 8-week bikini program and it started Monday. I have always been skeptical of programs like this, feeling as though they are ineffective and expensive. I want to bring you along through this experience, because you might be like me, always curious to if these programs work and how realistic they are.

Here is the quick and dirty of the program so far-

I spent $192 for the program. This got me a little gift bag of random things (Shana is particularly excited about this part of the deal haha), hundreds and hundreds of pages of recipes, workouts, workout videos, tips, tricks and an 8-week specific meal plan and workout plan.

Meal prep was supposed to be done Sunday but I was very sick and unable to go shopping or cook so I started a day behind. I cooked a lot on Monday (I had a mental health holiday) and it was exhausting as hell. Egg white muffins, protein pancakes, quinoa up the ass, $150 bucks on veggies and fruits (did you know pine nuts are like 5 bucks a handful!?) and three grocery stores later, I was falling out.

But I did it, Tuesday night Shana helped chop everything in our fridge and we have been up at 5am working out. It has only been a few days of all this so I am going to check back in with you next week but so far, I am actually having fun. Mainly because Shana and I are in it together, I am not going to hate myself if it doesn’t drastically change me and I am comforted by my simple goal of feeling good in my skin.

So follow along with me! 8 full weeks of working out in some way every single day and eating food that is good for your mind and body.  Are you doing the program too? Tell me everything, keep me honest and help me stay sane with only 1-2 glasses of wine twice a week!

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DIY: How To Throw A Blessing Bag Party

My friends are great at a lot of things but one thing they are really spectacular at, is throwing a party. I might not be the best party planner but I am really great at giving back to my community and dragging everyone who knows me along. Well we decided to combine our God given talents and the result was the best blessing bag bash you could imagine.

A blessing bag is a ziplock sized bag full of items that the homeless need or use. For some, giving money to the homeless is uncomfortable or conflicts with their moral views. I am sure we have all heard someone say “I am not giving the homeless money, they will just use it to buy booze or drugs.” To the people that say that, you’d be surprised but I respect your hesitation and instead, offer this option. If you see someone in need give them a blessing bag.

The reason to have a blessing bag party is because it is a fun way to get all of your friends together for a good time all while doing something good for those in need. Here is how to plan a blessing bag party:

Step 1

Don’t invite people by word of mouth, this party needs to be organized and planned. I like to send out an email to all of my friends letting them know the date and time of the party along with instructions on what to bring. Every person coming will need to bring one small item that the homeless can use in bulk. You will need to give your invitees examples of what they can bring and you’ll need to track what is being brought to ensure everyone isn’t bringing toothpaste. A few things I like to mention are: travel sized shampoo/conditioner/deodorant, gum, water bottles, crackers, granola bars, tissues, band-aids, soap, wet wipes or hand sanitizer. You also should tell your guests where to buy these items. For example: Target, Dollar Tree, Walmart and Walgreens. People can also go to local hotels and explain what they are doing and see if the hotel would like to donate travel sized items, many places will.

Step 2

It is your job as the host to ensure that you aren’t getting too much of one item and to provide the ziplock bags that the goods will be going in. Your goal is to have each guest leave at the end of the night with 3-5 bags of their own, fully packed. Once you have a head count, you can buy the appropriate amount of bags.

Step 3

Set up assembly areas. The easiest way to do this is to collect all the products when people arrive and start putting them in big bowls or on large trays. Lay the trays out like an assembly line so when you start making bags each guest can start at one end, put each item in their bag and end on the opposite side of the room. Think of a buffet style line. This is a good time for manfriend (or whomever is helping you) to entertain everyone, make cocktails and tell everyone to grab some food.

Step 4

Make the bags. Make as many blessing bags as you can and leave them in one area of the house. Spend the rest of your night eating, drinking and enjoying your company but remind everyone to take a few bags with them to keep in their backseat of their cars until they need them.

OPTIONAL:

Two things I like to do with my blessing bags are pray over them before everyone takes them and put inspirational messages in them. You can set up a station at your house with small pieces of paper and pens so if someone wants to add an encouraging message to their bags they can.

And that is it, that is a great blessing bag party. Enjoy yourself and your friends while doing something great for those in need, doesn’t get much better than that!

My Maid Of Honor Speech

A couple weeks ago I had the privilege of being the maid of honor to my crazy, wonderful and oldest best friend. This was my first taste of MOH life and while I was preparing for my speech during the reception, I poked around online for some tips and tricks for writing a great speech.  Most articles I read listed the basics of don’t give your speech wasted and don’t tell any x-rated stories but couldn’t find anyone’s actual speech. Instead of reading pointers and tips, I wanted to read the real words that someone said and get a feel for how one delivers such a special and important message to the new bride and groom. I came up empty handed but figured I would share my own words so if there are any virgin MOH’s out there looking as I did, they can take a look at mine.

Hi everyone. Hope you are enjoying the evening so far, my name is Rachel and I am Christina’s maid of honor. Christina and I have been friends for many, many years. I first met Christina in 7th grade P.E. We both weren’t very girly (and let me just paint this picture for you real quick: Christina had the tightest pony tail in the world that was slicked back, hard as a rock with a pound of hair spray and perfectly circular, round glasses. I was equally gorgeous, I had horribly frizzy hair, it looked like I had been struck by a lightning bolt and had a huge gap in-between my front teeth), we didn’t care about much (clearly) besides being the best basketball duo hickory middle school PE had ever seen (and we were). We were competitive 11 year olds and we connected instantly. We both had (and still do) the same sense of humor and the same zest for life, love and a little bit of rebellion. We went from young girls to women together. We have spent the majority of the last 15 years laughing about absolutely nothing, getting in trouble and finding our way through life.

Now we are here, 26 years old. Christina has left the hair spray and the Harry Potter glasses in the past. I got braces and bought a curling iron, thank God. We have been through ups and downs; we have stayed friends over thousands of miles and many state lines. We have memories piled on memories. We have gone our separate ways in search of who we are when we aren’t a pair and all of those dips and curves have brought us here, together, on this beautiful night, celebrating love, celebrating Christina and Travis.

You know, looking back, Christina has made a lot of wild card decisions in her life. If you would have told a younger version of me that the girl I used to give hack job haircuts to with dollar tree scissors and who allowed me to permanently dye her hair red when I was only 11 would grow into being a great hairstylist and teacher, I would have called you crazy. It is also important to note that Christina’s mom was NOT happy with the red hair, at all. Many times over the past 15 years Christina has told me some plan or thought for her personal life or love life and I have actually told her she might be insane. But, when she told me that she was serious about Travis, when I saw Christina and Travis together, I knew Travis was a really, really good decision.

Simply put, they are just a very good team together. I believe the love between them is strong, kind and gangster at the same time. It might be overwhelming one night and quiet the next but it seems to always be steady and constant. They are both funny and thoughtful. They have a foundation of a phenomenal friendship and it shows. You can tell these two are best friends. They truly love each other’s company and while life is full of tough decisions, deciding on each other, on life together was an easy choice for them both.

So, congratulations you two, may the coming years be fun, may you always have each other’s backs, may you forgive quickly and laugh daily. May the ups be higher than the downs are low and may you always turn inward, toward each other in the face of conflict. May the road ahead, however curvy, be long and beautiful. Congratulations and Cheers.

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8 Things To Do This Month: September Addition

I love roundups of different things to do that coincide with the month and season. Therefore, the first series of my site is born. September means fall is beginning and I am embracing it with open arms.  So, it is a few days late, but here are 8 things you should look into this month!

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Read: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: I can barely put into words how beautiful this book is. From the moment I read the first page I knew that the end would come far too soon. Set in France during WWII, The Nightingale tells the story of two sisters fighting to survive the war in their own ways. Kristin Hannah’s style of writing is descriptive and heart wrenching. This is the perfect book to take to the beach after a long day of work and curl up on the sand with before the weather gets too cold. (Am I the only one who does that? Where are my beach book nerds at?!)

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Listen To Serial: If you haven’t heard about the podcast Serial yet you need to come along and join us in 2015. This podcast was riveting and season 2 is starting soon. Although the exact date is unknown (stated as “sometime this fall”) you should get ready for a guaranteed mind-blowing season by listening to season 1. Each season is different and will follow one true story, week by week, as told by host Sarah Keoing.

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Go To A Beer/Wine Festival: I am not sure where you live but here in Virginia Beach, life revolves around craft beer and nothing says fall quite like the local breweries coming out with rich fall flavored beers. Personally, I am more of a wine-fest-type-gal but luckily, VB doesn’t discriminate.  Grab your friends, a cute pair of sunnies and head to one of September’s beer or wine festivals where you can sample and learn about local beers, wines, breweries and vineyards.

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Buy All The Candles: Maybe you aren’t ready to dive right into pumpkin flavored everything yet (read: you are so ready) and that is OK. Most of us are suffering a small case of the summer blues (read: bye summer, you hot B) and would prefer to ease into fall. Start with the absolutely amazing-smelling candles from Bath & Body Works. Y’all, these candles smell so good you won’t want to burn them for fear they will burn down too quickly. Luckily, they are currently on sale for only $12 and you need them all. Some of my personal favorites are: Leaves (clever name B&BW), Marshmellow Fireside and Pumpkin Pecan Waffles.

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Go See The Visit: This movie looks scary AF. I don’t particularly love scary movies but I am pretty excited about Halloween and with so many horrible scary movies out there, I kind of want to torture myself and see a really good one. This movie is about two sweet kids who travel alone to rural Pennsylvania to meet their creepy ass grandparents for the first time. You can see where this is going. Make sure you don’t see this one alone!

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Try This Bottle Of Chianti: Chianti is my very favorite wine. In Italy, it is their table wine and Italians serve it with each meal. I am in love with it. I picked up this bottle recently and the flavor is fantastic. The taste isn’t too powerful or bold. It has a woodsy-berry taste and pairs perfectly with a nice steak. Most people don’t drink Chianti so try something new this month and have a little taste of my homeland with your next meal.

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Try Bareminerals Moxie Lipstick: PSA: I have a new lipstick line addiction and it is bareMinerals Moxie Lipstick. Cooler temperatures mean drier skin for most of us and matte lipstick on chapped lips is not a pretty sight. I am always on the hunt for a creamy lipstick that won’t dry out my lips but that also doesn’t easily wipe off. This is it. These lipsticks are so pigmented, creamy and moist that I have already bought three. I suggest trying this line out in the perfect berry fall shade and then praising me later for directing you to it.

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Check Out ABC’s New Series- Quantico: Excuse me while I join all the other basic girls in the world and admit to loving crime dramas (Team Olivia Benson forever). I recently saw the trailer for this new series on ABC and it looks fantastic. The show follows a group of FBI recruits through training and the trailer alludes to there being a terrorist within the group, but who is it? Cozy up on the couch on Sunday, September 27th at 10pm and check out the premiere!

There you have it, 8 ideas for September. Do you have anything fun planned already? Comment below with your suggestions for me!