Freckles in April

Monday, February 27, 2017

Year Round Skirt Style with Lark Skirts

I haven't taken pictures of myself like this in a while. But, as it turns out, style blogging is a bit like riding a bike. Which is good because somebody's gotta take pictures of my skirts and I happened to be available. And affordable.

Lark is releasing a new skirt each month in 2017 and this lovely green number went up in the shop this morning for the month of March. Some of my skirts are a bit more seasonal but I think this one works year round so here are some styling options for spring, summer, fall and winter!

Top from TJMaxx (similar)
Skirt from Lark
Shoes from Target (similar)

Those blue pinstripes!! So good.

Top from TJMaxx (similar)
Skirt from Lark
Necklace from CDavis Designs
Wedges from Payless, I think? (similar)

Shirt from TJMaxx (similar)
Skirt from Lark
Moccs from Payless (I also have Minnetonka ones, which I love and have held up a bit better than my Payless moccs. I've gone through about 4 pairs of those! Payless brings them back each fall and I grab a new pair every year)

That neckline though
Shirt from TJMaxx (similar)
Skirt from Lark
Shoes by Miss Mooz via Nordstrom Rack (similarish)

And YES all my shirts are from TJMaxx because that's where I went the other day to find styling options for this skirt. They're all recent and under $20, because that's how TJM rolls (bless them), so you might be able to find them if you go look! I tried to find the brands online and give links to the exact styles but my Google searches came up surprisingly empty. That's what happens with no-name brands, I guess. But TJM is really good right now! If you have one local, it might be worth your time to pop in.


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Friday, February 24, 2017

My Tips for Gym Success: Track Your Progress (OFF the Scale)

Booty check: still no booty :(

The scale says I weigh exactly one pound less than I did a year ago. My measurements and progress pictures show a much bigger difference.

Five years ago I took my bust, waist and hip measurements and wrote them on a piece of paper to keep by my computer for when I ordered clothes online. Eventually I transferred it to a note on my phone and periodically measured myself again to make sure it was still accurate. The result is that I have a running list of measurements for the past five years (minus pregnancy) on my phone and it hasn't changed much...until the past 8 months. Since July I've taken an inch off my bust and hips and an 1.5 inches off my waist.

The scale has limited usefulness. Take measurements. Take pictures. Weigh yourself from time to time if you want to, but don't worry too much about what it says. Evidence of change will likely show up in other ways (like arm muscles!) and that will keep you motivated.

(This is where I SHOULD show you my progress shots but I take pictures in my underwear and sports bra and I cannot bring myself to put pictures of myself in my underwear on my blog. Sorry/you're welcome?)


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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

My Tips for Gym Success: Have a Plan

A few years ago I told myself that I would get serious about exercise after my 3rd (and final) baby. Until then...meh. Do whatever.

Well. She's here.

And has been.

For kind of a while.

It took a looming swimsuit vacation to finally kick me into action. The Caboose was over 18 months old when Aaron's brother got engaged and we were suddenly looking at a fall trip to Hawaii for his wedding to a tiny, adorable Frenchwoman.

I got a gym membership in June and worked hard until our trip in October. There are certainly fitter people out there but I dropped some belly fat and got more toned and I felt comfortable in my swimsuits.

It wasn't until I got home that I changed up my routine and started seeing more solid results. If you've seen me in person in the past few months I've probably flexed for you or maybe shown you my calves.

I am so annoying.

But I have baby muscles!

I'm still figuring everything out (and my thyroid is complicating things and making it difficult to build muscle) but, judging by the questions on my Instagram stories, I'm not the only one who finds getting in shape confusing and a bit complicated.

So today is the first in a short series of posts breaking down everything I've done that's gotten me to the gym regularly for the past 9ish months.

I actually wrote a lot of this stuff down back in January but I made myself hold off on posting. I'm a big fan of setting goals for the new year but I don't think January 1 is a great time to start a new fitness plan. People seem to roll into January ready to go hard and then they burn out. I first ventured into the gym on a Wednesday afternoon in late May and it took me a while to build up the momentum and habits that I have now. I'm posting mid-week in February so the information is there but it's not tied to any artificial start date. If you're not that active but want to be, start slow when you feel ready, not when the calendar tells you to.

Here's my most important tip-

Have a Plan

(related: Joe Biden also thinks you should have a plan)

When I first started going to the gym I, with the help of Google, cobbled together an arm day for Monday and a leg day for Wednesday with a vague idea that I should maybe do some kind of full body workout on Friday. Three days at the gym seemed good, right? Three sets of ten reps for each exercise? Sure.

I'd do my Monday and Wednesday workouts but then Friday always ended up being sort of short and useless (if I even went) because I didn't know what to do when I got to the gym. I settled for doing Zumba once a week. For cardio? Yeah.

After a few months I hit a plateau. My patchwork routine was a great starter situation for me but it had gotten me as far as it could.

When we got home from Hawaii I decided I was ready for something a little harder to keep me interested and motivated. Several people recommended but it was Elaine's recommendation (and, let's be honest, her booty) that finally pushed me to do it.

She recommended a couple programs and I decided to start Jim Stoppani's Shortcut to Size. She swore I would build muscle but I wouldn't get huge and that has definitely been the case. I recently (as in, yesterday) moved on to an Erin Stern program. You can also use the find a plan tool to find suggestions that work for your age, size, and goals.

My sad spaghetti arms are looking less like sad spaghetti

Four days a week I print off my workout and take it to the gym with me. I know exactly what I need to do and how many reps. There's a printable log to keep track of how much weight I lift (there's probably an app too but I have a 16gb iPhone and there's no room for anything beyond music, Google Maps and Instagram). I don't have to wander around the gym wondering if I should be using this machine or that free weight. The planning has been done for me by someone who knows what they're talking about.

(Their workout plans are free, by the way. You do have to give them your email and they'll send you ads for their supplements and stuff, along with your workouts. And this post isn't sponsored, I just really like the website and use it almost daily)

It's really hard to come up with a solid fitness plan on the fly. Plan your workout ahead of time. Watch instructional videos so you know proper form and how to avoid injury. When it's time to lace up your shoes, you'll be ready to work!


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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Anxiety + Retail Therapy

If you're anything like me you're mentally and emotionally exhausted right now. I've marched, I've called my reps, I've signed petitions. And you know what I need?

I need to look at swimsuits and think about ocean waves. My fight-or-flight response needs a break.

I probably won't buy any swimwear this year since I bought a few new ones (on clearance!) in October before we went to Hawaii but I find online window shopping soothing so here, have some swimsuits.

1. ModCloth generally has really great swimsuits but I'm not a huge fan of high-waisted bottoms on myself. They've got some good one-pieces this year though- my fav is this mesh number with that super interesting neckline and bikini-but-not vibe.

2. ASOS's swimsuit section has been a hot. freaking. mess. for the past year. Weird cutouts, crazy lacing situations, odd panels, ties (please go look at that one), and...chains? It's actually way better now than when I was looking last summer but you still have to dig. Their fuller bust stuff is generally really good (sadly, I can't wear any of it #IBTC) and you can always trust Seafolly to be adorable (and expensive). But really, the suit I love most at ASOS right now is this lace back detail maternity suit. It's so classy. If you have a baby bump this summer, please rock this.

3. Every time this Albion Fit Antigua suit pops up in my IG feed I die a little bit. See also: this striped top. So good (as are most of their suits. Just $$$).

4. I'm such a sucker for a good floral and L*Space earned me as a follower on social media based almost entirely on this suit. They had an online warehouse sale earlier this week and it was super affordable but they were sold out of my size. Sad face.

5. I had Triangl's website open in a browser tab for at least two months before we went to Hawaii last year and ultimately couldn't make myself spend the money on a bikini I wasn't sure I'd be brave enough to wear (turns out I was brave enough. I was just brave in a $5 clearance bikini from Dillards instead). I love their neoprene suits and gorgeous prints and details. I currently have 3 of them bookmarked. Someday!

6. Nani Swimwear is like 2-pieces for girls who aren't totally sure they're on board with 2-pieces. Longline tops and high-waisted bottoms with a hint of belly button. Plus it's a small business and the designer is a 17-year-old girl, which gives me total warm fuzzies. I'd like to try these tie-back bottoms.

7. Stripes + floral is probably my all-time fav pattern mixing combo and this suit from Rad Swim gets it just right. It's on sale right now too...I'd probably buy it buuut you need to be at least a B cup so it's too busty for me (I'm not joking about that #IBTC thing).

Are you even thinking about swimsuits yet? I know it's early but...escapism.


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Friday, January 13, 2017

Hiking in Arizona

If you follow me on IG you've probably seen a loooot of hiking pictures lately. Our weather isn't very comfortable for long so I try to get out a lot this time of year and enjoy it!

A few people asked about our favorite places to hike in Arizona. We live in the east valley so these hikes are all in our general direction but I know there's good stuff in the west valley too!

We took my brother-in-law and his new wife to Lost Dutchman when they were in town for Christmas

Lost Dutchman

This is our favorite place and the one we hit most often. It costs $7 per car to get into the state park.

The thing I like most about Lost Dutchman is the variety it offers. You can do a glorified nature walk OR you can climb a mountain and possibly die in the attempt. Both are options!

We do the Siphon Draw trail most often just because that's where we usually park and it has a very gradual elevation gain, which makes it a good one for kids. We've done the other trails and they're great too.

The kiddos in 2011
Siphon Draw is fairly easy and well marked. It takes you up to Flatiron, which is NOT easy and NOT well marked.

A few weeks ago I had a weekend morning to myself and decided I'd like to go for a hike. I ended up at Lost Dutchman and quickly found myself at the end of Siphon Draw contemplating the final mile to Flatiron and decided to go for it. It was a gorgeous overcast day and we've had a rainy winter so everything was all green and there were little waterfalls all over the place.

The hike was hard (borderline rock climbing in some places) but SO PRETTY. I couldn't get over how magical it was.

I told this story on Instagram but the weather closed in and I couldn't see 10 feet in front of me. I lost the trail AND my phone died (at 43% battery) right after I texted my husband "It's getting wetter and the hiking has gotten really hard." I was only 15 minutes from the top but a freezing rain had started and I kept thinking, "this is a 6 o'clock news story waiting to happen" so I turned around and painstakingly picked my way back down the soggy mountain. I walked in the door an hour and a half later just as my husband was getting ready to call the park service and ask if they could go find me.

So, you could do that, or you could go for an easy and flat walk through the desert at the foot of the Superstition Mountains. Either way you'll have gorgeous views- I have a million pretty pictures of the park from over the years! Lost Dutchman is just a really good "something for everyone" type place.

Spook Hill

I did this one a couple times in high school and remember thinking it was SO HARD and SO TALL. It is quite steep and rocky BUT it's short! If I do this one I usually do it 2 or 3 times. It's a great hike for when you just need to get outside and get your heart pumping.

I'd say it's semi kid friendly. I actually did it this morning with a couple friends. I had to carry my toddler up but my friend's energetic four-year-old hiked it just fine on his own.

That mountain in the background is The Superstition Mountains and Lost Dutchman State Park. 

The views from the top are SO PRETTY. Visibility today was only so-so but we could still see downtown Phoenix from the top. When it's clear you can see for ever. It makes for a good sunrise, sunset, or night hike. It's also quite popular- there are almost always people on this hill during the not-hot months. I drove by at almost midnight a couple weeks ago and saw flashlights up there.

The hill is located on the north side of Brown Road just west of Ellsworth in Mesa. Look for the cars.

Hieroglyphics Trail

This is way out in Gold Canyon. If you put it into Google Maps it'll pull up directions. You go through a neighborhood and you'll feel like it isn't the right way, but it is! Also, the navigation doesn't take you quiiite to the trail head. Just keep going straight until you hit the parking lot.

We took our kids here a few years ago and the 2.9 mile hike was a bit much for my then 4-year-old. Older kids could handle it no problem though. The elevation gain is very slight and the payoff at the end is SO GOOD.

The trail ends at a small stream with some waterfalls. I've heard of people getting in the water but I never have. There are hieroglyphs on some of the rocks- it's really fun to poke around and see how many you can find.

This is another popular one. I did it at sunrise last week and there was only one other group on the trail but by the time we headed back there were tons of people working their way up. We've been when it was crazy crowded though and it was fine. It's just hard to get good pictures, if that's your thing.

Piestewa Peak

Another "something for everyone" area. The summit trail is pretty brutal- basically like climbing stairs for 45-60 minutes for a 1200 foot elevation gain. I did it in December and kicked myself for not wearing a tank top under my long sleeved thermal (for the record, it was 37 degrees when I started out). The summit trail is work. It's also really popular so there are plenty of people around to commiserate with.

But there are a bunch of other really great (easier!) trails in the area. If you visit the website you can check and see how difficult each trail is before picking. One annoying thing to know: the trailheads don't necessarily share the same name as their parking areas/ramadas. Like the Freedom Trail originates from the Apache ramada. That frustrated the heck out of me when I went in search of a specific trail once so just make sure you check before you go so you know where to park.

Tonto Natural Bridge

This one is a little further afield (it's close to Payson, about an hour and a half from us) so it's not one we do all the time but we end up going every couple years. There are a few different options for viewing the bridge- you can take the easy, paved trail OR there's a hike that comes in the back way. There are also a couple other trails within the park. The Waterfall Trail (pictured below) feels like a random piece of tropical rainforest hidden in the desert.

From a trip in 2012. It was too warm to hike so we stuck to the paved trails that time. 

I have plans to try a couple new-to-me trails over the next few weeks and I can't wait! Locals- where are your favorite places to hike in Arizona?

(related: my friend has this book of 60 hikes in the Phoenix area and says it's fantastic. Birthday present for myself?)

Happy hiking!


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