Emma Kate Does Disney: Part 5

Today is my last installment of our trip, check it out:

This was our last full day at Walt Disney World (see what we did in part 4 here), and we were headed to EPCOT. Emma Kate had been saying she wanted to meet Ana and Elsa for WEEKS, so our plan was to arrive early, do the standby line for the meet and greet, and then do our fastpass for the Frozen Ever After ride later that afternoon.

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Emma Kate just so happened to wake up REALLY early, so we played on the playground at Saratoga Springs for a bit and then just decided to go ahead and drive over to EPCOT. We had NO idea they were letting people in early, so we got lucky with a short standby line for Ana and Elsa.

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We got closer and closer in line, and I started to hype Emma Kate up and get her ready to meet her favorite princesses. She said she was going to give them big hugs and smile pretty. Aaaannnddd this is what we got:

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She was TERRIFIED of Elsa and would not hug her. EK’s face just cracks me up! We moved on to Ana, and she warmed up enough to hug her, but she made it clear she was NOT happy about it.

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Bless it. Look at the side eye poor Ana is getting.

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I die. Of course when we left she said she wanted to go hug Elsa…too late kid. We will try again when we go back in April and see if it’s any different. I think Emma Kate was just a bit overwhelmed.

After the princess photos, we headed over to ride the Nemo ride, and then check out the aquarium.

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EK was going through a hardcore Nemo phase so she loved this ride.

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After this, we rode Living with the Land. This is always a favorite of mine. I’m a total nerd and love seeing how they grow their fruit and veggies.

We walked around the world showcase and got some food and wine offerings. My dad tried sushi in Japan, and we all got food in Italy, and I had a glass of alcohol. Emma Kate was starting to get tired from her early wakeup, but it was time for our Frozen Ever After fastpasses. Our plan was to ride the ride, then let her nap in the stroller while we ate some more food and walked around.

We got in the fastpass line, and right as we got up to the front to get on a boat (we were literally the next ones to get on)…the ride broke down. I kid you not. We were in the loading area, so we just stood there for awhile, me holding Emma Kate. They turned all the lights on, evacuated people off the ride, and people began leaving. About this time, poor EK started to fall asleep in my arms. I decided to sit down against the wall with my dad and just let her sleep. We had nothing else to do, so may as well hold our front of the line spot and wait.

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Because we were right where you board and no longer in the actual que, we had plenty of space and started talking to a cast member from Norway who had been here for a few months. He was a super nice guy with zero accent, and he said he had worked very hard on his English. We talked about the differences in our countries, etc. all while waiting for the ride to come back up. Finally, about 45 minutes later, they started letting people board. Emma Kate woke up and was very confused, but she got to see the ride.

We were all pretty tired by this point, but we had to make one more stop for my favorite drink.

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I couldn’t hold my huge toddler and drink my drink, so I put her in the stroller and she was NOT happy about it. She cried the whole way to the parking lot, which was super fun for everyone. Poor thing needed a longer nap.

We watched some football, took Emma Kate to the playground, and got ready to have friends over. A few years ago when we were staying club level at the Grand Floridian, my parents struck up a conversation with a nice couple and they have kept in touch. When we stayed at Saratoga four years ago, they come over one night and we BBQ’ed out by the playground and had a great time, so we did it again this trip!

Saratoga has a really nice covered pavilion with fans and picnic tables right next to the playground, we we all hung out while my dad cooked and Emma Kate could play. After dinner, they went home and Emma Kate went to bed. my mom watched her while my dad and I walked to Disney Springs (have I mentioned I LOVE the proximity of this resort to Disney Springs?)

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We walked through some of the shops and watched a show up on the stage. Then we decided to get ice cream from Ghirardelli and not tell my mom. However, my dad made a huge mistake and paid with his credit card, and my mom saw the bill when it came in so we were busted! Anyway, it was delicious, and a nice relaxing way to end out trip.

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The next morning, I got up early and went for a quick run before we left.  I had not had the chance to run the whole trip since I was with Emma Kate 95% of the time, but I didn’t want to pass up a chance to run somewhere different. I went out while it was still dark, and it was so nice and peaceful.

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After I got back and showered, we loaded up the car and started our long (long long) drive home. With it being my first time to take a toddler to Disney, I learned a lot.

It was Halloween, and we decided to stop and spend the night in Destin to break up the trip. We went to the beach that afternoon and Emma Kate was not a fan of the sand.

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I found out that there was trick or treating at the outlet mall, so that’s exactly what we did!

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The next morning we went back to the beach and Emma Kate hated it even more than the day before and wouldn’t step foot on it and wanted to go “bye bye”.

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We stayed out all of 15 minutes and then I took her to the pool while my mom and dad stayed at the beach. Confession: I will admit I was a little frustrated. I had so been looking forward to spending the morning on the beautiful Destin beach, and here I was, finally there, and I got to see it for ten minutes. Then I was stuck at the freezing pool (the hotel building cast a shadow on the pool) by myself just me and Emma Kate, cold and pretty miserable for over an hour, just being frustrated I wasn’t in the sun on the sand and had no idea when I would be back. I had my little pity party then got over it and we played until my parents came. We stayed for a bit longer, then headed up to the room to pack up and drive home.

We made a bunch of mistakes, and will know better for next time. While Bobby and I have only taken her on day trips to Disney since we’ve moved to Tampa, we have made adjustments and Emma Kate has done a lot better overall than she did in October. We will be taking her back in April for a few nights and I know we will have a great time!

QOTD: Have you been to Destin? Have you ever trick or treated at a mall?

The Best Blogging Resource Tools To Make You Money

I have been blogging for a long time now, but am a perpetual student. I literally learn new things every day, and that is what I find so fun and fascinating about blogging and social media. I have been lucky enough to make money from my blog over the years, but have recently stepped up my game to make my blog even more profitable. I feel like there is plenty of space for everyone in the blogging world, and didn’t want to keep my methods to myself.

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So, I decided to create a Resources page for my blog, giving you the best blogging resource tools, and pin it up in my menu bar for easy access. When you click that link, you will be taken to a page that lists out (and links to) many of the tools, programs, and websites I use to keep my blog running smoothly. I will constantly be updating it I’m sure, but it’s a great start for someone not sure what they could do to take their blog or social media accounts to the next level.

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While I won’t go through every single one here as the descriptions on my resources page are pretty straightforward, I did want to gush a little about my new favorite. If you subscribe to my email list then you already heard about this (and are hopefully using it!)

I have recently been loving using Link in Profile for my Instagram account. (<—Affiliate link) For years, whenever I had a blog post I wanted my Instagram followers to know about, I would post a relevant photo, tell everyone to go to my profile and click the link to be taken to my blog post. That’s definitely a great thing to do and a way to boost traffic, but I got frustrated with having to go in and change that link every single time I wanted to redirect it to a new post. With Link in Profile, you don’t ever have to do that again (Halleluiah!)

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You have ONE link that is forever in your Insta profile, and when people click it, they are taken to a page with all of your photos that have links associated with them. From there they can choose what blog post to go to. (Below you will see my most recent Instagram photo that has a blog link attached to it. On this page you can scroll down and see more photos and click more links!)

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It’s awesome, super easy to use, and a great value for the price. During the free trial, I saw a huge uptick in traffic being referred from Instagram to my blog. (YES I said free trial! What are you waiting for?) It’s definitely been a game changer and time saver for me.

You will find links such as this on my resources page that can be a game changer for you, too. As always, feel free to email me at heather@heatherslookingglass.com if you have any questions. I love hearing from you!

 

PS- Can you take 10 seconds and fill out a poll for me? THANK YOU!

QOTD: What tools would you add to my resources page?

Emma Kate Does Disney: Part 4

We left off part 3 with the family heading to the Contemporary to eat brunch at Chef Mickeys. Since we had a little bit of a typical two year old behavioral issue at Crystal Palace, I was really hoping Chef Mickeys would be better, and not as new or overwhelming as her first character meal.

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Donald was the first to come around and she was pretty shy. She didn’t want to sit in a high chair or regular chair, so she was in our laps for most of the meal. She let Donald take a picture with her, but she wouldn’t hug him or stand by him.

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She did however get to watch the characters get closer and closer so I think that helped her to “warm up” a little bit. She LOVED Minnie mouse and got down on the floor to hug her. Minnie did a great job getting down to Emma Kate’s level which was appreciated.

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She really loved Pluto and his nose and “big tongue” the best though. She got antsy towards the end of the meal and wanted to run around, but overall she did way better than the Crystal Palace meal.

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After the meal, we walked around the back of the Contemporary out by the pool. I love that there is a little selfie station so everyone could get in the picture.

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When we got back to the resort, Emma Kate wanted to go to the pool (shocker), so my dad and I took her while my mom went shopping, since my mom had her the whole day before while I was house hunting with my dad. We may or may not have brought wine to the pool in Styrofoam cups. Hey, it’s 5:00 somewhere, right?

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I couldn’t believe the amazing weather we were having. It wasn’t hot at all for October in central Florida.

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We eventually moved over to the big pool.

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I honestly can’t remember what we did for dinner that night it’s been so long now, but I know we didn’t go anywhere. Brunch was so late we were probably too full! It was early to bed again, because we were going to Epcot the next day to finally meet Ana and Elsa, the one thing Emma Kate had been talking about for weeks. Stay tuned to see how that went!

QOTD: Have you ever been to Chef Mickey’s? Do you usually do character meals in Disney?

February 2017 Goals

I was determined to be on time with this month’s goals, so I think publishing on February 2nd is a win! It’s hard to believe the first month of 2017 is already in the books. How are you doing with your monthly/yearly goals? Still dreaming big? Keeping track? Let’s take a look at my January goals first and see how I did:

1.) Organize my closet: A+ I’m super happy about this one. My goal was to figure out a system that worked well for us while we budget for me to turn an extra room into a big closet. Bobby generously offered to give me the whole master closet! His hanging clothes now live in the extra room closet. he doesn’t have many so they all fit, and now I have the master all to myself! I still need to buy a few more hangers, but I pretty much have everything how I want it, and now I can actually see all of my clothes and  not wear the same thing over and over.

2.) Fix my workout routine: B- This is still a work in progress, but getting better! The past two Saturdays I have been able to go on long runs. Also, in addition to my two Orangetheory workouts every week, I did a day of cross training. I still need to figure out how to fit one more workout in, but I am happy with my progress so far.

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3.) Eat better: C- If you will remember, I kind of wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted this to look like. Because of that, my goal wasn’t measurable, and I set myself up for failure. I had little “spurts” where I would pay more attention to what I ate, but I don’t feel like I got a handle on it. I need to be more specific with my plan. Learn from my mistake!

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February goals:

1.) Track my food intake 1-2 days a week: As a measurable goal, I feel like this will work better for me. I use the My Fitness Pal app to track food, and it is a good reality check for me. However, I hate being a slave to calorie counting, so I will not do it every day. I think if I check in on myself and my habits one or two times a week it will help me out.

2.) Take Emma Kate to Disney: She has been asking to go see the big castle again, and she hasn’t been since before Christmas. It’s time to take her back since we live so close.

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3.) Time Block My days: I have been having a hard time staying focused the past couple of weeks. I end up on rabbit trails on social media, or wandering from thing to thing in the house not really getting anywhere. I am going to start using my journal to (loosely) time block and see if that helps me stay on track this month.

QOTD: Did you meet your January goals? Have any February ones?

Tampa Tuesdays: SeaWorld with a Toddler

*As I mentioned before, my Tampa Tuesday blog posts won’t include just Tampa, but others places nearby/in Florida, so please don’t be confused and think SeaWorld is now in Tampa, it’s definitely still in Orlando.

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1.) Bring your own stroller: While SeaWorld Orlando does have stroller rentals, they are of the plastic variety. While this works just find for a little bit older kids, if you have a toddler that will nap in a stroller, plan to bring your own for more comfort. We tied a bright ribbon around the handle of our stroller so it was easy to find when exiting shows.

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2.) Save the Shamu Happy Harbor playground for the afternoon: There is a huge, fun play area just for kids at the back of the park called Shamu Happy Harbour. I knew I wanted Emma Kate to experience this, but I also knew if we did it first thing, I would NEVER get her out of there! This is a large area that was never very crowded when we were there, so I suggest doing some things first that may have long lines early in the day, then head over to the kids area right before or right after nap (we went after). Keep in mind they DO have a splash pad area which is great for hot summer days, but bring extra clothes if you want your child to be able to play in the water.

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3.) There are “sleeping baby” areas at the shows, use them!: I LOVED this idea and we ended up using it ourselves! When you walk to the top of the stadium up the path at most of the shows, you then get to a walkway that goes across the whole top row that overlooks all the seating. If you have a sleeping baby/toddler you don’t want to take out of your stroller, you can wheel them right up to the stadium and park them behind the back row and stand to watch the show while your child sleeps. Emma Kate fell asleep in her stroller at one point and we didn’t want to miss the last sea lion show of the day, so we used the sleeping baby area and it worked beautifully. It also made it easy for us to be the first ones out after the show was over and avoid the crowds of people exiting the theater.

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4.) Make a plan around show times, but space them out: Each show only happens a certain number of times a day, so pick the ones you want to see, and rank them in order of most important to least important. Keeping in mind as the day goes on your toddler will get more cranky and restless, you may end of having to skip one of two shows, and you don’t want it to be your favorite one! Also, try not to go straight from one show to another without giving your toddler a chance to run around and get out the wiggles. We tried to avoid the stroller when we knew she needed to get some energy out and it worked well for us.

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5.) Split up if necessary: Remember that sometimes it’s ok for the whole family to not stick together. Some space can even be good on a hot day. Bobby wanted to ride one of the roller coasters, so Emma Kate and I went for a walk to find some food while Bobby went on the ride. He later went on it again when Emma Kate was napping and I took the opportunity to sit down, check my phone, and do some people watching. Be sure to pick a spot to meet up afterwards though so no one gets lost!

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Disclosure: I was given two free one day tickets to visit SeaWorld, however all opinions are mine.

Top 10 runDisney Princess Half Marathon Tips

The runDisney princess half marathon is one of my favorite races. It’s a fun girls weekend where you get some new bling at the end. What could be better? That being said, being prepared can make or break your experience, so I am here to offer some of my best tips for running this race. Good luck!

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1. Know the course. If you plan properly, you will know where the hilly overpasses are, where you can use a “real” bathroom on the course, and where the aid stations and med tents are located. Knowing this information can help you plan your fueling and pace for the event, and make you feel more at ease on race morning. I always try to wait to use the bathroom in the Magic Kingdom, and time my fuel around the free gel station that is on the back half of the course. Know what flavors are offered (I always opt for the vanilla, it tastes like frosting!) and make sure ahead of time that it won’t upset your stomach. The overpasses that will hurt are on the back half, once being a big loop around that can be killer on your IT bands, so take it slow. There are also a couple of hills as you come into EPCOT so make sure you have enough steam left to get up them!

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2. Arrive early. Not only will you have to wait for a bus or wait in traffic in your own car, but you will have to walk a long ways to get to the starting line, and then wait some more to use the bathroom before the race. I know as it is you have to wake up at an ungodly hour just to be there on time, but plan for some extra cushion just in case. No one wants to be stressed out and rushing! Buses stop running at 4:00 am (ugh I know right?) But I always plan to be on a bus somewhere around 3:45. Sometimes there will be long lines depending on if one just left your resort or not, so don’t expect to just walk right on. When you are dropped off, you will have to walk a ways to get to the family reunion area, then you may have to stand in line to check your bag. Tip on the bathrooms: If there are long lines at the family reunions area, wait until you walk to your corral. There will be more of them outside of the corral area, and the lines usually aren’t as long. (Also better to go at the last minute instead of an hour before the start if you ask me!)

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3. Wear a costume, and wear it on a practice run. I have worn tutu’s and running skirts for all of the Princess weekend races I have participated in, and it was a BLAST. Other people recognizing your costume or cheering for your “character” is a lot of fun. However, I was careful to run around the house beforehand to see if there were any chafing issues, rubbing spots or uncomfortable things about my costume. (Fun mental picture eh?) You don’t want to be miserable for 13.1 miles in a costume that isn’t agreeing with you. TIP for tutus: Wear a running skirt underneath as opposed to shorts. that way, strands from the tutu won’t get caught in between your legs for 13.1 miles. TIP for tiaras: Get the kind with a comb attached and wear a running headband over the top of the comb to “secure” it to your head. Works like a charm!

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Tip: Did you know you can buy a runDisney magic band? I love this pink one!

 

4. Bring your camera or cell phone for pictures. There are a ton of photo opportunities before, during, and after the race, so don’t miss out! Some people put their phone in an armband or fuel belt, but I just carry mine the whole race so I can quickly snap a photo whenever I want. I have even been known to tweet and Instagram mid race! TIP: If you purchase Disney’s memory maker or are an annual passholder, you can get photos taken by photopass photographers for FREE when you download them from your My Disney experience app. Keep in mind not all characters have a professional photographer at them though, which is when your phone/camera can come in handy.

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5. Enter the correct proof of time. runDisney is cracking down on proof of time. You won’t be able to change it at the expo, and it will be checked against your race results to ensure you are in the correct corral. This is for everyone’s safety and enjoyment, and to help with overcrowding. If your time is found to be incorrect on your proof, you may be put in a back corral. Don’t risk it and lie about your time! Sign up fro a race in enough time before the cutoff for submission to get your time down to what you want. Also don’t think you will be able to just jump into another corral. Disney had volunteers at the front of every corral checking bibs and they will turn you away. I have seen people try to jump over the gates and injure themselves just to get into a better corral (For reals. Like blood and everything). Not worth it!

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6. Plan for the finish. If you have family waiting for you, tell them not to crowd the finish line area where runners exit, (it’s really hard for an exhausted runner to move through crowds of people. We just want to sit down, so please give us some space and we will love you for it!) but to meet you in the family reunion area at one of the signs with a letter on it. There are a LOT of people in a small area after the race and sometimes cell phones won’t work due to the hoards of people, so have a meeting spot planned ahead of time.

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7.) Be careful with your packing: I always pack my complete race outfit in my carry on bag, and organize things with labeled ziploc bags if needed. I never check my race day outfit on the plane, and just wear my running shoes so I know I at least have those. I also lay out everything the night before including breakfast, room key, gels, etc. so I am not fumbling around looking for a tiara or socks at 3 AM on race day. That wake up time is early, so every minute is precious! (TIP: download my FREE Princess packing list printable to make sure you don’t forget anything important!)

8.) Get some sleep: As mentioned before, that wake up time is brutal. Start preparing your body a few days in advance by trying to go to bed 15-30 minutes early every night for a few nights prior to race day. I try to be in bed by 7:00 the night before at least winding down, and asleep by 8. I know that’s tough because you want to do all the Disney things, but your body will thank you for it the next day! Not just for the early wake up, but for hanging out in the parks after the race. It’s so much fun to wear your medal around, and you don’t want to miss it because you had to take a four hour nap!

9.) Enjoy the Epxo: The expo can get a little wild and crazy, but it’s a lot of fun so be sure to stick around! Make sure you bring a copy of your signed waiver (yes they have printers there where you can get one printed out, but to save time just go ahead and bring it) and a photo ID so you can get your bib. REMINDER: you must pick up your own bib. Go get your bib first, then your shirt, then spend some time enjoying the expo. There are some great vendors, freebies, photo ops, and merchandise. runDisney merchandise will sell out, so if you have your heart set on something in particular, get there early. If you don’t care to buy anything, I suggest NOT going first thing in the morning. If you let the initial rush/crowds die down, you won’t have to fight through as many people.

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10: Have fun! I know this seems like a given, but be sure to not let the logistics of the race, any fear of the unknown, or stress about your time stop you from having fun. Remember that by even toeing the starting line, you are doing something the vast majority of the population will never do, so celebrate and enjoy! You deserve it! Congrats on getting to the runDisney Princess half weekend!

If you are interested in tracking your fitness or any health goals, be sure to get check out my free printable to help you achieve your goals!

QOTD: Did you or will you be signing up for the runDisney Princess half? What princess would you run as if you were to participate?

*More info on the runDisney Princess half on rundisney.com

10 Easy Ways to Save Money This Month

I recently moved from Mississippi to Florida. We quickly realized that it costs more in every sense of the word to live in our new state, so I have had to get creative with ways to save money every month while also decreasing our spending. Sometimes finding ways to save is just as important as finding ways to earn! Check out my 10 easy ways to save money this month and start saving today!

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1.) Don’t spend if you can’t pay: This seems like a no brainer, but a surprising amount of folks struggle with this one. In our house, we don’t make big purchases on our credit card unless we can pay them in full when the bill comes due. If we can’t, then we just do without. Sure I would love to buy new furniture for my house, but it’s currently not in the budget, so right now we have no bar stools. The month will come, but this month just isn’t it. So we just stand around in the kitchen when we eat. I kid, we have a table!

2.) Unplug/electricity: Did you know that even when your stuff isn’t on, but it’s still plugged in…it’s using electricity? I have tried to get in the habit of unplugging things like my phone charger and laptop when they aren’t being used. The two main lamps we use in the living room are on an extension cord we just unplug instead of turning on and off the lamps. It’s the little things that add up!

3.) Monthly subscriptions: How many of you get 27,000 magazine subscriptions every month? How many do you actually read? I have cut back and no longer get monthly magazines (I used to get about 4-5!) The magazines would stack up and mock me and I felt guilty for not opening them. A sad situation. Now I save money and don’t feel pressured.

4.) Stop being grocery brand loyal: Confession: I rarely used to check the prices of items against their competitors in the store, I just bought my favorite brands. I know right? Huge mistake. Not only because a lot of times a competitor may be on sale, but quite frankly for a lot (not all) grocery related items, you can’t really tell the difference in the store brand or name brand. I have saved a lot of money by price checking and using coupons before I throw something into my cart and buy.

5.) Buy consignment: People are constantly asking me where I get Emma Kate’s adorable clothes. Truth is, rarely do I buy her clothes new. If I do get something new, it’s from a pre sale Facebook group where I pay for things months in advance in order to get them super cheap. I can buy a second hand church dress for EK for a fraction of the cost at a consignment shop, and no one can tell it isn’t brand new. I started doing the same with furniture as well. I bought an old wooden dresser for $75 on Facebook, put a fresh coat of white paint on it and repurposed it as our new TV stand in our home. For under $100 we have a great piece of furniture that would have cost us hundreds at a store. I have totally gotten over the need to have everything “new”. You can find some great deals on second hand items if you take the time to research and are willing to put in a little elbow grease.

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Would you have ever guessed we bought this dress at a consignment shop? Nope!

6.) Eat out of your freezer and pantry: Before we moved, we ate out of our freezer and pantry for a couple of weeks to clean them both out, and I was amazed at the meals I could come up with. I also felt a little ashamed that we had so much food but yet I bought more and more every week. I have decided to make it a new thing where for one week every couple of months we eat out of what we already have at home. Don’t let that food expire and go to waste!

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7.) Stick to your list: This is a big pitfall for me, especially when it comes to a little store called Target and a little girl named Emma Kate. The dollar spot in particular is a weakness of mine because “it’s just $1.00” or “it’s just $3.00” but if I buy 5 items that is easily and quickly between $10 and $15! I create a list before I shop now and don’t stray from it. My kid really doesn’t need more toys and I don’t need more junky things to clutter up the house. Stop the impulse buying!

8.) Close the curtains: We moved into a bigger house which means a bigger electric bill. Did you know that windows are where most of the cold and heat comes into your house? I have started to close the blinds/curtains for rooms I’m not in during the day to help save on electricity. If I change rooms for an extended period of time, I just open up blinds/curtains in the new room, and close in the old room. No biggie.

9.) Cheaper phone plan: Bobby and I recently were able to save around $40 a month on our cell phone bill by switching our plan. We had an unlimited plan, but after looking at the past few months of data history, we realized we never even came close to reaching what the data limit would be on a plan that would have been way cheaper. If you have unlimited data, call your phone company and have them tell you how much data you are averaging a month. If it’s below one of the cheaper plan limits, switch!

10.) Sell items online: Not only do I buy furniture, clothing, and the like online…but I sell it, too. I am a member of several local Facebook yard sale groups, and have made a good amount of money selling everything from baby clothes and toys to furniture and electronics. It’s great for spring cleaning! Just make sure you take well lit photos and give good descriptions. Remember people like to haggle, so start your item at a price you are ok negotiating with. If you choose to do this, always meet in a public place in the daytime, and ask for cash only.

QOTD: What is your best tip for saving money?

Affordable Home Gym

This post is sponsored by Kohl’s. I was paid for this post and received the included fitness equipment as compensation.

It’s January, the month of the year when people decide to get fit (which I love!) The thing I do not love however, its how packed a gym can get at the beginning of the year. I like my space, and sometimes that can be hard to find!

As a work from home mom who has a child only in daycare part time, I also struggle to find time to get to the gym, and always wanted to have my very own “home gym.” I knew it could come in handy for those times when my toddler is napping, or I need to stretch my legs from sitting at my laptop all day. After doing some searching, I realized that having a home gym was more affordable than I thought, and is incredibly convenient for someone with my schedule.

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When I began research, I knew I wanted a mix of cardio and strength equipment, and needed room to move around. Thankfully, our new house has a huge bonus room upstairs that fits the bill. I have plenty of room to move, and work up a sweat! Here is a list of what I have, followed by some explanations:

-Pro Form Easy Strider

-Resistance bands

-Free weights

-Workout DVD’s

-Pro Form Bike Desk

-Yoga Mat

-Foam Roller

The Pro Form Easy Strider was something I wanted because I had a similar one a few years ago but we got rid of it when we moved awhile back. It’s great for cross training days, and is situated in front of my TV so I can catch up on my favorite shows while I burn some calories. This model has EKG grip pulse that monitors your heart rate, an easy to read LED display, a built in fan (yes!) and it even has wheels to be easily moved around. It supports up to 250 pounds, and has big, oversized pedals that fit even my husbands big feet. Never did I think I would be able to have my own cardio equipment again, but I do!

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As someone who has IT band problems, resistance bands and a foam roller were a must. I have a lot of body weighted exercises I do with the bands to strengthen my glutes and hips which keeps that nagging pain away. I try to foam roll several times a week as well to help with tight muscles. I was able to get a set of bands and a foam roller all for under $20, and they are invaluable to me!

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I admit, I need to do more yoga. I have a mat, as well as some yoga and Cardio DVD’s, I just need to put them to good use. Maybe now that I have my own gym space at home I will follow through.

The Pro Form bike desk is something I have ALWAYS wanted. I sit at my laptop working all. day. long. I frequently have to get up to stretch my legs because I get so stiff. How awesome to multi task like this?!? I can get all of my work done while burning calories and keeping my blood circulating. I can pedal for hours! No more excuses for not having time to workout.

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As someone who loves boot camp classes, free weights were also a must. I don’t have many, but plan to build up a supply as my budget allows. My boot camp classes taught me so much, and I can do dozens of workouts and moves with just a few weights and get in an awesome burn.

With just a few pieces of equipment, I have been able to cover cardio, strength training, injury prevention, and stretching/maintenance in my home gym. It was definitely more affordable than I thought it would be, and is something I can enjoy for many years to come. After all, you can’t put a price tag on your health.

Be sure to check out all of the other fitness equipment Kohl’s has to offer at great prices. They also have a great Fitness page with workout gear, health products, as well as tips from top health and fitness experts.

QOTD: What is your favorite “must have” home gym equipment?

My blog may contain links to other websites. I am not responsible for the privacy policies of those other websites. When you click on a link, your information may be collected by those websites, so I encourage you to read their privacy policies. These affiliate links are not associated with Kohl’s.

Tampa Tuesdays: Orangetheory Fitness

Before we moved to Tampa, I went to an amazing gym. I took boot camp classes four days a week, and a HEAT class, which is very very similar to Orangetheory. Soon our town opened an Orangetheory studio, but because of my love for my current gym, I never tried it out.

Fast forward to the end of 2016, and a move to Tampa. After doing some online research and not really finding anything nearby that was similar to my gym “back home”, I decided to give Orangetheory a shot with Megan. You get to attend your first class for free, so why not? They asked me to show up thirty minutes before class was to begin in order to get me set up and explain the class flow with me.

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First a little background. Orangetheory is an interval based, sixty minute workout led by a “coach” who trains you and gives you tips throughout the class. On average people burn over 500 calories per class/hour.

“The physiology behind the Orangetheory Fitness workout involves heart-rate-monitored training designed to keep heart rates in a target zone that stimulates metabolism and increases energy. The result is the Orange Effect – more energy, visible toning and extra calorie burn for up to 36 hours postworkout. “ –(source)

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Upon arrival, they had me fill out some paperwork, and gave me a heart rate wrist band to borrow for the free class. I was shown around the studio, and as soon as the class before ours let out, I was brought into the fitness room and shown exactly how the treadmills and rowers worked. Then we went over to the weight area and he explained to me how they would put exercises up on the TV as well as have the instructors show us how to do each one to make sure we kept proper form.

I was told you either start in the weight room or on the treadmill (“treads” as they call them there). In most classes you stay on the treadmill for 25 or so minutes then switch to rowing and weights, but some days we switch back and forth doing ten minutes on each to mix it up. He asked if I had any questions, and told me since it was my first time I could choose if I wanted to start on a treadmill or in the weight room and they would reserve a spot for me. Everything was very low pressure and laid back which I appreciated because I was already nervous!

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Everyone stays out in the hallway/waiting area until time for class. At that time, the instructor comes out and explains what we are going to be doing that day. Then they go over any promotions or orders of business that need to be addressed, and then they head back into the studio room, get their headset on, and high five everyone into the room.

I like to start on the treadmill first, so I hopped over there and started warming up. Orangetheory has big TV’s up on the wall with everyone’s heart rate, calories burned, and splat points. Splat points are what you earn when you stay in the orange and red (two highest zones). You get one point for every minute. that you stay in said zones. The zone below orange is green, which is a fat burning zone. They encourage you to stay in orange and green the most, with just a few minutes in red.

Presentation is everything! Domino Arts does it for you.

(photo credit: Orangetheory fitness, used with permission)

I also learned that on the treadmill they would use three terms I needed to learn: base pace, push pace, and all out. The instructor calls out intervals such as “push pace for 90 seconds” and then “drop to base pace for 30 seconds” so it’s important to know what these mean for you.

Base pace is your steady pace whether it be power walking or jogging that you could just keep going at for a long time. I think of it as a warm up and recovery pace. Push pace would be closer to a race pace for a longer distance race in my mind. Something difficult but not absolutely killing you. All out is well….all out. Hard as you can sprint or power walk (power walkers typically use a high incline here.) The changing up of the speeds and inclines keeps me from getting bored, as does knowing I will only be there for 25-28 minutes each class.

Presentation is everything! Domino Arts does it for you.

(photo credit: Orangetheory, used with permission)

In the weight room, everyone got a station that has a bench, bosu ball, ab roller device, TRX straps, and free weights. The instructor showed us each exercise we would be doing (they were also on the TV), as well as how many reps we would be doing them for, or how many rounds. A lot of times in between rounds we would row 300 meters, etc. to change things up. I also like that they tells us how heavy or light we should go on weights depending on what we are doing that day. Everyone goes at their own pace with their own weights, so people of all fitness levels can be doing the same workout which is awesome. My instructors have always been good to correct my form or tell me I should be using a heavier weight. They truly seem to care about us working out properly and not just saying cues they are told to say.

At the end of the class, our trainer led us through a quick stretching session, and then the TV’s showed us our calorie burn, splat points, and how many minutes we were in each zone. We were also immediately emailed a copy of that information which I love having!

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After my first class was over, the guy that showed me around beforehand came in and asked me how I did, and if I had any questions. He then went on to explain the pricing structure to me, packages, and purchasing a heart rate monitor. There were three levels of class packages at my studio:

-4 classes for month

-8 classes per month

-unlimited classes per month

You can also purchase a “pack” of classes to use within a certain amount of time, and there were drop in rates as well. Another cost that you need to factor in is the heart rate monitor. I bought the wrist strap kind and it was $99. A lot of times they run specials, and I was able to take advantage of a mid month special where I purchased my package of classes and heart rate monitor in a bundle with a free hoodie as well as some extra classes to use that first month.

A couple of things to note:

-There is no childcare at OTF, which would be an awesome addition!

-I would not recommend doing OTF 5 days a week, but that is solely my opinion. I go twice a week, and push myself REALLY hard. There is no way I could go for that many days without completely tearing my body down. I would say 2-3 days max if you are giving it your all out effort. (also going on consecutive days is super hard!)

-Be sure to bring a water bottle and towel. You will sweat a ton! My studio had a place to refill your water bottle which was helpful as well.

-My studio had lockers where you could put your keys, jacket, phone, etc. while you workout. There  also was a shower and bathrooms.

-If you want to start on the treadmill, get there early. At my studio everyone crowded around the door to get to the treadmills first (very annoying, I wish they would just hand out numbers as you walk in)

-Classes can fill up fast depending on location. There is an app you can download to sign up for classes, and if one is full you will be put on a waitlist. At my studio, if you don’t cancel at least 8 hours before your class time, you will lose the use of one of your sessions that month, unless it’s an emergency. Good motivation if you ask me!

-You can go to an OTF anywhere in the country once you sign up! This is great for those that travel a lot, or if you have a studio near your office and also one by your house. I love this idea!

I also love that there is no time commitment when you sign up, it just goes month to month. If you ever want to quit for awhile then pick it back up later, you can. I have been going to OTF for a month now and I am really enjoying it! I still miss my boot camp class like crazy, but this has been a pretty good substitute for me. I still feel like I need to do one heavy lifting strength training session a week and one run, but this class is great for intervals, endurance, and to work up a great sweat!

QOTD: Have you ever tried Orangetheory? What are your thoughts?

Add Color with SUBWAY

This post is sponsored by FitFluential on behalf of SUBWAY. All opinions are my own.

I’m a pretty busy person. I juggle my job and my blog as well as my house and my family. Cooking isn’t my absolute favorite, nor do I have a ton of time to do it. I know I need to get my fruit and vegetables in, especially to set a good example for my daughter. We have long relied on green smoothies, quick meals, and places like SUBWAY® to feed our family in a healthy way, and the new +color initiative makes us love it even more!

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Last September, the American Heart Association (AHA) along with SUBWAY launched an initiative called +color, focusing on the positive health impact of fruits and vegetables. Did you know that approximately 39,000 deaths could be prevented from stroke, diabetes and the like, AND $7.6 BILLION dollars in medical costs would be saved if Americans ate the appropriate amount of daily fruits and vegetables? Wow! Not to mention, certain cancers can be prevented by eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

If you don’t eat the amount you are supposed to eat, it’s ok! There is no time like the present, so why not start now? I always talk about taking baby steps and making small changes to live a healthier lifestyle, and this would be a great one to start with. The AHA and Subway also want you to make this change, and add an extra cup of color to your diet.

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For someone busy like me, a fresh sandwich from SUBWAY makes it easy. There are so many different combinations of  yummy sandwiches to create, you can bet everyone in your family can find something they will like. SUBWAY offers 10 varieties of vegetables to its guests, and creating your own flavorful custom meal can add at least two extra servings of vegetables to your diet. Also, I don’t want to hear any excuses. With over 44,000 franchised locations, there is bound to be a SUBWAY near you!

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QOTD: What is your favorite sandwich to order from SUBWAY? What other ways do you sneak in vegetables during the day?