Progress Report

In November, I began a pursuit of fitness, which was rather rocky at the beginning. I missed workouts and struggled with my diet. I wanted to give up, but my body begged for results. After getting the hang of counting macros and exercising, I began seeing results. Although, the results were difficult to see since I was examining my body in the mirror on a daily basis. But a side by side by side photo opened my eyes. My body was undergoing drastic changes, and I was super excited!

I am now coming to the end of the “lean” phase of my diet as I now have 13.7% body fat. Now for the scary part – reverse dieting. Ah, it just sounds like a bad idea! However, after several encouraging conversations with my personal trainer, I am ready for the next step in this process. The best part is, I get to enjoy more carbs!

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When I started this transformation, my goal was to have abs. I didn’t care how I got them, I just knew it was my goal. Fast forward several months – I now want more than just abs. I want to continue to stay healthy and feel good about myself. I’ve always worried about my arms getting too big. I have since moved past this fear, and I am beginning the process of muscle development.

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Enough of me talking about my progress. Here are my measurements from the day I started compared to now. Results speak for themselves, and all my of hard work is finally paying off!

Nov 10th

May 14th

Waist

28”

23.5”

Hips:

34”

33.5”

Arms:

9.5”

8 3/4”

Thigh:

17 3/4”

16”

Weight:

124 lbs

115 lbs

Body Fat:

20%

13.7%

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I’ve lost all of this weight and never set foot in a gym? That’s right! You don’t need a gym membership or fancy equipment at home to see great results. Read more about when the gym isn’t an option on a previous post. To me, this proves the saying “losing weight is 80% diet and 20% working out”. Anyone can workout. It takes real dedication to stick to a diet.

If you’re looking to start or have started a life style change, my advice is to document everything. Start from day one. On the days you lack motivation, you can take a look at your progress and keep moving forward. Not everyone is going to get the same results I have at the same pace. It may not happen as quickly as you want, but don’t give up! Keep fighting for those changes you want to see. Anyone can get on track to a happy, healthier lifestyle if you’re willing to put the time and effort into it. I hope you’ll continue to follow along as I dive in to this next stage.

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Fallen, But Not Forgotten

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I know several men and women who have joined the armed forces, several of whom are family and friends. In their years of service, they have been to places I’ve heard only horrible things about. They put their lives on the line to protect mine, to protect this country. I could never say thank you enough to these strong and brave individuals. These soldiers are the real heroes.

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While in college, I met someone who always had the biggest smile on his face. He could light up any room and change your mood without saying a word. We worked at a restaurant together, and everyone loved him. He made work feel like it was my hobby. He never hesitated to extend a helping hand and lift your spirits. He didn’t have bad days. He didn’t sweat the small stuff, at least not on the outside. His name was Brian. I use the word “was” because he has since passed away.

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Brian was hurting, but he’d never show it. He was more concerned about making others happy while he was in pain on the inside. While on his tour in Afghanistan, he saw unforgettable things. I often think people, including myself, forget that when soldiers come home, their memories follow them. They might share with others some of the situations they experienced, but we can’t fully comprehend what these soldiers have been through while ensuring our country’s safety.

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This is the fourth year I will be running the Fallen Heroes 5K, a race I ran with Brian my first time. Today, I am running for him. I am running for awareness. I am running for every fallen soldier who bottled up the pain and didn’t get the help they needed.

Take the time to hug a soldier today. You never know what these heroes are going through.

In loving memory of Brian C. Elmore 

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Chocolate Lasagna

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Where are all of my chocolate lovers? This one is for you, my friends. It’s the perfect after-dinner treat, and the whole family can pitch in a helping hand. My husband is always asking for this family favorite, so I had to share it with you guys. Besides, it was a friend’s birthday, so that always calls for a special treat.

Like any good lasagna, this chocolate treat is made of layers. To start out the bottom layer, crush a full package of Oreos. This job is perfect for a toddler. They love an opportunity to be destructive! I let her press the button on the mixer, and she went to town! After a little help from mom, toss the crushed Oreos with the melted butter. Empty the mixture into the bottom of a 13 x 9 pan, and press it into the bottom of the pan. Ella assisted with this step as well. Then, place it the fridge.

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Moving on to the next layer – the cream cheese layer. It’s a mixture of cream cheese, milk, sugar, and cool whip. Mix these items well, and layer it on top of the crust. Ella starts to lose interest here because it’s more difficult to stir than the previous layer. She quickly gains it back when she sneaks a lick of the spoon.

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The next step is as easy as making boxed chocolate pudding. In fact, that is the next step. Once the pudding has formed, spread that over the first two layers. The more Cool Whip, the better the dessert, so go ahead and add the rest of the Cool Whip for the next layer. Grab your toddler and allow him or her to sprinkle mini chocolate chips over the top, completing your chocolate lasagna.

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Now, the hard part. Place the lasagna in the fridge for at least four hours, allowing everything to set. Although, I have found that taking it out a little early doesn’t hurt. 😉

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Chocolate Lasagna

What you’ll need:

  • 1 package of original oreos (not double stuffed)
  • 6 Tbs melted butter
  • 8 oz of cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 Tbs milk
  • 1 container of Cool Whip
  • 2 small packages of instant chocolate pudding
  • 3 1/4 cup of milk
  • 1 1/4 cup of mini chocolate chips

What you’ll do:

Crush the whole package of Oreos using a blender and mix together with 6 Tbs of melted butter. Press into the bottom of your pan and put in fridge. Mix cream cheese in mixer till fluffy then add in 2 Tbs of milk and 1/4 cup of sugar. Add in 1 1/4 cup of cool whip and spread this mixture over the Oreo layer. Combined the pudding packages with 3 1/4 cup of milk. Whisk until thickened then spread over cream cheese layer. Allow this to rest for five minutes before adding the remainder of cool whip for the next layer. Top with mini chocolate chips. Let set in the fridge for at least four hours, then enjoy!

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Want me to try out a recipe on the blog? Comment below with something you’d like to see featured. My family will thank you!

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An Affordable Happy Ever After

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Every girl grows up dreaming about how perfect her big day is going to be. At that age, we don’t have to worry about actually paying for it, so we set our standards high and dream big. Then the day comes when he pops the question. You’re in a state of euphoria, until the planning begins and the price tag starts to sink in. Don’t fret; I will share how I was able to have the wedding of my dreams on a budget.

My wedding was one of the happiest days of my life, and afterwards, I didn’t have to worry about how we were going to pay off the debt from it. Historically, the bride’s family pays for most of the wedding. Now, more and more couples are footing the bill or having both families pitch in equally.

Whatever the case may be, the average wedding costs $30,000, not including the honeymoon. Wow! Who has that kind of money sitting around? I love all things DIY, so I knew my wedding would be no different. However, be careful because DIY projects can add up if you don’t limit yourself.

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My Advice

First, I recommend creating a budget. If this is your first step, you won’t have the issue of making your budget work for your wedding – your wedding will work in your budget. While not always fun, every decision will need to fit within this financial plan. Don’t allow yourself to stray away from it. Know what is most important to you and allocate more money to those areas. For example, we decided that photographs were more important to us than flowers, so we allocated more money to the photography portion of the budget. By the way, there are tons of websites that will give you a breakdown of the average cost for each aspect of your big day.

Next, attend a bridal show. These are helpful for finding local vendors and brainstorming ideas for your big day. Not to mention, they’re a ton of fun. I found most of my vendors at the one I went to. We chose to work with a lot of local businesses that were still fairly new to the game but were highly recommended. This helped cut costs, and in my personal opinion, they did just as well as the high dollar, well-known companies. Before booking anyone, be sure to do your research. Even though some of our vendors hadn’t been around for decades, we were still able to do research by talking to prior clients and reading reviews online. We also looked at pictures of their previous weddings, or in the case of food vendors, tasted samples :), to make sure the vendor would be a good fit for us. Not every vendor you meet has to be the one for you. You are not in a contract until you sign on the dotted line. If you don’t get a good vibe after meeting with them, I would keep looking.

As a side note, I don’t recommend picking an actual date until you have your venue, unless the date you have in mind is more important than the venue. We ended up having to change our date as the venue was already booked for that day, and we booked our venue over a year in advance. So having a flexible date will give you more venue options. Pick a month and try to work with that. We chose to get married on a Friday, which helped save our wallet! Almost every vendor offers discounts for Friday weddings. Also, they’re becoming more and more popular, and our guests didn’t seem to mind at all. After you have a venue, the real fun begins. All of your fun ideas get to come alive.

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Nowadays, every girl has a Pinterest board for her future wedding, so I don’t think I need to put a lot of stress on getting one started. Once you’re engaged, take the time to sort through the thousands of pins to get a general idea of what your vision is. Focus on picking your color and theme as this will be the cornerstone for most of your decisions going forward.

I highly suggest making a must-have list before jumping on board with every fad going on. Do you really need that fancy wooden arch that will cost you an extra $800? Probably not. Be cost sensitive here. I know all of the extra flowers look nice, but find alternatives that cost less. If you have to stretch the budget to fit that in, perhaps use centerpieces that you could turn around and sell. While making our must-have list, we decided that we wanted to devote more of our budget to the the actual wedding ceremony, so we decided to not have a big honeymoon like most people. We went to Florida for a few days and had an amazing time without forking over big bucks. You have the rest of your lives for an extravagant vacation!

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Be realistic and don’t compare your wedding to everyone else’s. Just because your girlfriend spends $50,000 on her wedding, doesn’t mean you need to break the bank to keep up with her.

I also recommend making purchases a little at a time. We made purchases for our wedding over the course of the year we were engaged. This prevented us from taking a large hit to our bank account all at once. Vendors will require deposits to hold your date, so be ready! Most vendors required a 50% deposit, with the remaining amount due 2 weeks before the wedding. Be sure to keep track of all of your spending. This will help you decide if you need to cut back on flowers or if you can splurge on a bigger cake.

The best advice I can give is to remember that this is supposed to be a fun time. From planning to actually saying I do, this time should bring joy, not stress. Not everything is going to go your way. You’re going to hit bumps in the road, but don’t lose sight on the bigger picture – you’re marrying your best friend! Enjoy the process 🙂

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Right Where You Are

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I started taking a weekly class at my church called, “How to build disciples.” During the class, we focused on our testimony and why it is so important. While taking the class, I began to pray that God would give me the opportunity to share my testimony, and he answered that prayer.

It was in this same class that I met one of the sweetest people I know, Sarah. She told me about a ministry she started with a friend that focused on outreach to seniors and foster home youth. She expressed to me that she wanted to be able to relate to foster home youth, and it was like God was tapping on my shoulder. I then asked if I could share my testimony with her, and before you knew it, we were both in tears. This was the first time I shared my testimony with someone.

She then invited me to an outing they were having for the kids and asked, if I was comfortable, would I share my testimony with them? I couldn’t say no; this is exactly what I asked God for – an opportunity to tell my story. He provided on his end, and it was my turn to do the same.

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These kids touched my heart, more than they’ll ever know. They were just like me when I was 13 in a foster home: lost, scared, and alone. I can only hope by sharing my testimony with them that they begin to have hope for their own lives. I’ve had the opportunity to go back and visit with these kids. They are simply amazing, and they’re extremely grateful for everything this ministry has done for them.

Right Where You Are Ministries, Inc. is a local, nonprofit, ministry started by Sherri Iacobelli and Sarah Todd, two of the kindest people I’ve ever met. They have hearts bigger than a giant and are fantastic role models for me and my walk with Christ. This ministry focuses on helping people right here in South Carolina. RWYA ministries has paired up with a local hospital to provide Baskets of Hope to pediatric patients receiving a diagnosis of cancer and children in shelters. They plan many outings for these same children to try to bring back something normal to their lives. They also made baskets for flood victims during the flood here in Columbia. They outreach to the elderly in many ways. This past Valentine’s day weekend, we got together to help take baskets to widows and homebound seniors. We had such a great time spending our afternoon with such sweet souls.

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“But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.” 1 Samuel 12:24

To get more information or to see how you can get involved please go to

http://www.rwyaministries.com/

Or visit them on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/RWYAMinistries/?fref=ts

 

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