Elf for Health Catch-up: Days 24, 25, 26 & 27

Here it is Saturday afternoon, and I'm trying to think about everything since I last talked to you Tuesday night. It's been wild. . .not. But I don't think I've sat down except to sleep since then.

Wednesday's challenge was share your expertise. I participated in a blog swap and was paired with Laura. You can read what I shared with her readers here.


Thursday's challenge was to eat 3 food groups for every meal. Here's the honest truth: between helping out at school, making 60 creepy snowmen for 2 school parties, and a clingy grouchy baby girl that wasn't napping, I ate maybe 3 foods my entire day...nothing for breakfast. Raw cookie dough, Dr. Pepper, guacamole and tortilla chips for lunch. Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich for dinner. Top notch nutrition right there.

<said creepy snowman>


I started Friday helping out with Madison's party:

<Hot chocolate and cookies. Brilliant!>

Friday's challenge was "self-love" x6.

I love:

1. My faith. It's been there, even when I was absent.

2. My running. I sure didn't love it at first.

3. My determination. It got me through 2 years of college while I completed high school. It helped me finish college. It helped get me through c25k. It was with me during my half marathon.

4. My love. I don't have a whole army, but I love them all wholly.

5. My hair, all 5+ feet of it

6. My fingers, skinny, but not too skinny- I always heard I should have been a piano player


Today's challenge is to make a new fitness goal. Since I've started running, it was been a journey from being a couch potato to running to adding different workouts as I struggle to stay active during the winter.

I've talked about what I'm doing to meet these goals, but not really about the actual goals- so here they are:

1- be active 30 minutes, 5 days a week- run at least 3x

2- incorporate cross training, core/strength workouts in addition to running

3- try a new workout 2x per month

4- run a 1:59:59 half marathon

5- eat 75-90% clean


I hope that you all have a great few days spent with your families and loved ones. I'll see you on the for side :)



Guest Post: Laura @ Life of Laura on Budgeting & Finances

I'm so excited to have Laura here today as apart of our Elf for Health "share your expertise" challenge!

Be sure to click over and check out her blog :)


Hi, all! I'm Laura, and I blog over at Life of Laura, where I discuss fitness, baking, pop culture, and life's little adventures. Today's Elf 4 Health challenge is "share your expertise." And while I don't know I would go as far as to say I'm an expert, I do have some experience with budgeting and finances, so I thought I would share some of my knowledge with y'all. Financial health is an important piece of the overall health puzzle for me, primarily because it decreases my stress. And everyone could use less stress in their life. :) Budgeting is a great tool that can help you pay off debt, save up for a big purchase, build a nest egg, or just live within your means. The budgeting process can seem kind of daunting, but the peace of mind it's brought me has been worth the time investment for sure. Here are some tips for getting started:

- Make a monthly budget: Total up your sources of income. Then, observe your spending habits for a month (write a log, keep receipts, or pull your bank statements for what you would consider a typical month, spending-wise – e.g., not the month you bought a refrigerator AND a new work wardrobe). Categorize your spending (groceries, clothing, entertainment, etc.) and note how much you've spent in each category. The goal here is to make sure your income total is more than (or at least equal to) your spending total. In some categories, like your rent/mortgage or groceries, there's not going to be much wiggle room. But other categories, like going out to eat or buying clothes, are more discretionary. To save money, cut down your budget on any of flexible categories, but be realistic. For example, if you currently go out to eat five nights a week, don't plan to quit eating out entirely. Cut your budget by limiting yourself to 1-2 times a week, or opting for fast-casual places instead of fancier fare. You can also prioritize certain discretionary categories over others. I love going to the movies, so I will allow money for that each month by cutting back on my clothing allowance.

- Add your annual expenses: Make a list of non-monthly bills or expenses and their amounts. Examples of this could be: vehicle expenses (oil changes, registration, tires, and insurance), gym membership, Christmas/birthday gifts, vacations, home repairs, etc. Total these expenses and divide by 12, and tuck that amount into savings each month. For example, let’s say my car insurance is $500 twice a year, and I usually spend around $600 on gifts, and my gym membership is $300. That adds up to $1900, so I would need to save about $158 per month to cover these expenses. You may have to adjust your budgeting categories to make room for extra savings every month, but for me it’s absolutely worth it. The holidays are a lot less stressful when you get to December and find you've already saved enough money to buy gifts for everyone on your list. :)

- Make an emergency fund: Nothing will blow your budget like an unexpected expense. If your car breaks down or you have a medical issue, having extra money available to you can alleviate some of the stress in an unpleasant situation. The amount you should save can vary: Dave Ramsey (a personal finance author/radio host) recommends $1,000 for a family (or $500 for an individual) to start, then up to 3-6 months of expenses once you pay off debt (he’s a big proponent of living debt-free). I have a friend who has a $5000 deductible on her health insurance, so she keeps that amount in her emergency fund. Personally, I would start with $1000, then add to it as circumstances allow (and you settle in to budgeting). If you don’t have that kind of money stashed away, cut your discretionary expenses as much as possible until you’ve come up with it. Or sell some unneeded items or Craigslist. But make it a priority to have some cash saved up. And only use it for true emergencies! Your furnace breaking in December: emergency. A major sale at Lululemon: not an emergency.

- Keep it up, month after month: The easiest way for me to keep track of my budget is to use cash for most things. My wallet has small envelopes for groceries, eating out, clothing, entertainment, and discretionary (my husband and I each get a little bit of “mad money” to use for whatever we want each month). Other envelopes for things like haircuts, buying cosmetics, etc. are kept at home, since I don’t use them on a regular basis. It’s easier to stay on track with cash, because if you want to order a pizza but there’s no money in the envelope, you’re out of luck! To keep track of the various annual expenses, I use a spreadsheet. That way, I can keep it all on the same savings account, but I have a breakdown of how much is in each category at any given time.

These tips really just scratch the surface of budgeting, so feel free to ask me any questions you have. Again, I'm not a finance professional by any means and these ideas are just what works for me, but hopefully you'll find something you can apply to your own life. Thanks for reading, and a special thank you to Danielle for letting me share my thoughts with you all!



Elf for Health, Day 23: WALL SIT


Can I just take a minute and say ouch?

I struggled through 90 seconds of excruciating pain (dramatic much?) in between loads of laundry. This was actually only the second time I'd even done a wall sit. Ever. They are apart of the seven minute workout, that I've done all of once.

<not my best look, but it fully displays how I felt>


Barre, abs, and yoga after basketball practice.

A latte and chocolate chip cookie so I make sure not to burn too many calories :)


I'm excited about the weather for Thursday! High of 46! I'm hoping to fit in 3 miles at the bike trail in between helping at school and icing 4doz snowmen sugar cookies for the kids parties Friday. And maybe, just maybe, another 3 Friday if the rain isn't horrible. A break in winter? Yes, please!


Be sure to tune in tomorrow for an amazing guest post brought to you by Elf friend Laura over at Life of Laura. I'm super excited about what she's sharing with us!


Elf for Health, Day 22: Meditate

I'm feeling really sad that the Elf for Health challenges are over at the end of the week. It has been so.much.fun!

The challenge for Monday was to meditate. Typically, I like to do yoga for meditation and relaxation. My plan was to do the bedtime yoga I like after I got back from running at the gym. But, Miss Lydia had other plans- she actually went to bed early, but apparently thought it was nap time instead of bed time and was up ready to play the second I walked in from the gym. After a shower and a snack, I went to bed and layed there in the dark and quiet, clearing my mind of everything that needed to be done and everywhere I needed to go before we leave for PA Saturday. I slept better for sure. But maybe it was the 5 miles at the gym. . .




A new week, a new plan

Good morning, Monday :)

I hope you all had a great weekend!

I kicked off my Thursday with the workouts I mention at the bottom of this post.

I didn't love the short morning yoga, I like her full length one better.

I also didn't love the barre workout I tried, my kitchen chairs just aren't going to work.

The ab workout left me hoping no one made me laugh! And the cool down really brought it all together for a good finish. I will be using that video again.

And then donuts with this guy:


Because his teacher nominated him as student of the month for his classroom.


Here he is getting his certificate:

<PS: Mr. S was reading what Mrs. D wrote and said "he always makes the right choices, except at home..." And Noah didn't even flinch. I think he was scared to death to be in front of all those people (like 59 tops)


And here he is with his certificate:



Friday, Lydia and I spent the day running errands and sitting in traffic. Not awesome.

Then, pizza and Turbo.

But I did run my fastest mile :)

Pretty uneventful really.


Saturday, Noah played in his first basketball game:


And because I'm an awesome mom, I left my camera at home and the video camera died half way through his first quarter. Yep. But we did get sundaes from DQ after!


We had a low key Sunday: worshipping with our brothers and sisters. Madison went home with a friend, so we had lunch at Chipotle. We cleaned up a little. We got out the snowman dishes and put away the red Fiesta for a little while.

I went gym and ran. While running the last quarter mile of my 3 mile run at 6.9mph (whatever that means), I realized that while I liked all the new cross training I was/am doing, I did miss running. I'm hopefully going to run more this week. I'm going to pencil it in anyway.

And then we watched the Steelers beat up the Bengals. Literally. Poor Kevin Huber.


Here are my workout plans for the coming week:

Monday: yoga in the morning, 5 miles on the treadmill

Tuesday: Barre, abs and yoga

Wednesday: 3 miles outside if it's not too windy for Lydia, otherwise I'll try kickboxing in the evening

Thursday: 3 miles outside, abs and yoga in the evening

Friday: Barre in the morning, 3 miles outside in the afternoon or evening

Saturday: HIIT workout

Hopefully, this will all play out with the extremely busy week we have!



Elf for Health, Day 21: Meal Planning

Typically, Sunday night is my meal planning time. Chad watches football, I plan our week. Sounds fair :)

Meal planning takes the guesswork out of dinner time, that's obvious. But I personally think that breakfast and lunch, especially when packing lunches for kids, is just as challenging on the fly. When I quit working 2 years ago, I committed to stop pouring cereal for breakfast and sending pb&j for lunch everyday. Not that some days don't just need a bowl of cereal or a pb&j, but reality is, I think kids will (mostly) eat more variety if you just give it to them. In fact, in the last year, I have started eating things like avocados, guacamole, hummus, salmon, zucchini. . .the list really could go on and on. My point is, as I have added these yummy foods into my diet, turns out, my kids also love them. I think Madison could live on salmon and guac. True story.

Starting with this school year, breakfasts consist of homemade pancakes, muffins, oatmeal, sometimes eggs and toast or an egg sandwich. The pancakes and muffins I make in double or triple batches and freeze, and then take out the 4 that I need for the day, and either toast or microwave to heat.

The kids pack their lunch 98% of the time, in fact, I think they've each only bought lunch once this year. I do pack leftovers in their thermos sometimes, but typically the "main dish" is a sandwich, bagel sandwich or wrap. I also always include a fruit, veggie and a dairy item- either a cheese stick or yogurt, and a treat.

Now, since we will be out of town for a few days starting Saturday, for dinners, I'll be using random things we have already. For lunches, I'll be sending leftovers with the kids as well as eating them myself- more than a normal week anyway.

A little key for our meal plan:

Red: breakfast (for kids during the week)

Yellow: mom breakfast

Purple: packed lunches

Grey: mom lunches

Brown: dinner

Teal: all lunch

Now, on to coupon clipping and grocery listing :)

Elf for Health: Days 19 & 20

The challenge for Friday was to run your fastest mile. In true Danielle style, my phone died at mile .46 (ahem, a Garmin anyone?). When I headed out, it was just starting to snow (again) and I had big plans of an awesome pic of the snow falling in the light from the street light. I surely wasn't going back out after I was back in the warmth. I mean, come on! Anyway, my fastest mile: 8:34ish (I'm pretty sure). Had it not been for the snow already on the ground and my tentative steps because of it, I think I could have gone faster. I think. I mean it's not a sub-4:00, but it is mine.



Then Saturday, the challenge was to purge your closet. I pretty much have been doing this since February when I started losing weight. And again when I put my summer stuff away and got out the winter. I looked through my closet and while there were things I hadn't worn in awhile, I decided that I would host my own personal "old shirt" fashion show. I'll wear said shirt again, one more time and I still decide I won't wear it, it will go then. So, over the next few weeks, I'm going to be busting out the oldies. You know over winter break when no one will see me. Ha!


Since the challenge for today is to meal plan: do you usually plan your meals or just fly by seat of your pants?

I plan, but that doesn't mean plans don't change! This week has been a bad one for sticking to the plan.



Elf for Health, day 18: You-Time

On Thursday, I started the day with a 45 minute work out. A little morning yoga, a little barre, some standing abs, and finally some cool down stretches. It felt good (as it always does) to start with quiet time to sweat and look silly.

Some one needs to make one of those funny comparisons about how I think I look when I do barre and how I actually look doing barre.

I wanted to go to the gym and run some miles. But Lydia was determined to stay up until midnight. For real. Ok, it was 10:30, but it ruined my chances of getting to the gym by 9.

After she did finally go down, I relaxed with a hot bath and pumpkin spice candle.

When I finally peeled myself out of the tub, my fingers and toes were all wrinkly- a sign of a good bath :)

Thank you Elf for Health, for reminding me to take a few minutes to just be.




New Habits and New Workouts

I wanted to check in inbetween Elf for Health challenges on how the new schedule has been going.

Really, I'm not sure why I even bother to make a schedule, I never stick to it.

Here's how my week has gone so far:

Monday: 3 treadmill miles and Pilates Abs Circuit video

PS: don't make me laugh, my abs still hurt


Tuesday: I tried out a barre video

I will be doing this again. Especially on a rest day. I pretty much loved it.


Wednesday: I tried out a cardio and core interval video in the morning:

This was a good workout, but I didn't love it. I think I'll move it to the "30 minute maybe" playlist.

I made some pumpkin oatmeal for breakfast. I added some brown sugar and it was perfect. Granola will make it perfect-er.

Miss Lydia and I spent the rest of the morning cuddling while she took a little nap.
She had her 15 month checkup, sweet smiles even after 2 shots:
She weighs 19lb, 11oz and is 31.75 inches tall. Happy, healthy, and curious :)
Lunch was gauc and chips, you will have to imagine the yumminess. Sorry.
I just would like to say that my chicken philly sub could compete head to head with a sub shop. Maybe not, but it was so good.
And dessert:
<I wasn't really angry at it>

My plan for this morning:

A short morning yoga:


I think, I'll do this 20 minute barre video:


Maybe some abs if I have time:


And a cool down from Fitness Blender:


I'll end up with a 45 minute workout this morning and then hopefully a 3 mile run at the gym later in the evening.


Friday, it should be warm enough and the sun will be out, to get out for a short run with Lydia in the BOB as long as it isn't windy. I'll play that by ear, and can always go to the gym after dinner, but it sure would be nice to get outside again :) or maybe I'll do both. . .


Tell me how your week of workouts are going.




Elf for Health, Day 17: Pack a Healthy Snack (and one for a friend)

When I saw what the challenge for today was, I knew exactly what I was going to make.

Enter homemade granola bars, recipe found here (obviously, I subbed raisins for the chocolate chips this time). They are always a hit with the kids and adults. And are relatively healthy. I mean it's no bunch of grapes or stalk of celery, but it's also no fried cheese stick. So, yes, it's on my healthy food list :)

I wanted to get these made for an after school snack, but after Lydia's doctors appointment, I spent the remainder of the afternoon trying to get some things done around the house chasing Lydia around, making sure she didn't pull the TV down on top of herself. 2 words. Wild. Person.

But we had them for dessert after dinner instead. I think this guy really liked them:


How do you plan to make time for yourself tomorrow?

How often do you make time for "me time"?

Do you feel refreshed when you come back to reality?


Elf for Health, Day 16: Pay It Forward

Yesterday, the kiddos were off school for another snow day. We took that as a reason to have a low key day. We all slept in. I warmed us up with oatmeal for breakfast. After we sent Chad off to work, I started in on our Tuesday pile 'o laundry, the kids helped out with some chores and worked on some homework before settling in for a day of coloring, Legos, Barbies, Cars, and playing with their little sister.

When I was putting dinner in the crockpot, I was reminded of the tag Madison got off of the giving tree at school. A little boy was in need of shirts.

Finally, as late afternoon approached and Lydia woke up from her nap, it occurred to me that I could (should) include the kids in my pay it forward challenge for Elf for Health. We loaded up and headed to Kohl's in search of suitable boys shirts.

The big kids each picked one, and I picked one for the baby. I took the opportunity to talk to them about the importance of sharing what we have with others. I think they enjoyed the searching, but also they enjoyed knowing the shirts weren't going to someone we knew, but a stranger. My heart was warmed :)

I hope he likes what we picked:


What healthy snack are you going to have today?


Elf for Health, Day 15: Circuit Workout

Originally, I planned to run 6 miles today. It wasn't horribly cold out, and it wasn't really windy, but it was horribly dreary and I just wasn't feeling running outside today.

I started with this Pilates Abs Circuit workout:

And then after a trip to the grocery with Little Miss and some lunch, I joined a gym. There, I said it. I feel a little like a traitor. But really, I'm in the free 30 day trial period, so I haven't gone entirely to the dark side (ahem, Kris :). I had to talk the guy out of selling me a membership, because I can't commit to something for 3 years when I haven't even set foot inside. Besides that, on every single one the treadmills, the little arms that hold up your tablet were completely missing, true story. Even if i was going to commit to something for 3 years it wouldn't be that place! Yes, my decision is based soley on the broken tablet holders. I mean, I downloaded a new book and everything.

After all that, I only had time for 3 miles. Reality is, that's probably all I could have handled anyway- I think it will take me a few runs to get my groove.



How are you going to pay it forward tomorrow?


Elf for Health Day 14: Gratitude List

When I tried to put what I'm thankful for into words and list them out one-by-one, it was hard. I didn't want to bore you, or even list out the obvious things we're all thankful for. So, here goes nothing, in no particular order:
Sometimes it seems prayer takes a back seat in our lives as a Christian. Or it seems unimportant.
I value my alone time with God. Not just asking for his help and guidance in my relationships and my positions as wife and mother, but also thanking him for what He has given me and my family. He has truly been good to us.
1 Thessalonians 5:17, "pray without ceasing".
My hardworking hubby
<Photo credit: Happy Daisy Photography>
I love him.
He gets up Tuesday through Saturday (if I said early, I'd be lying!) and works so I can stay home with the kids. Lots of mornings, he gets up before he needs to and runs the kids to the bus, and then comes home to make me a latté. In the evenings, he often gets home from work and either helps distract Lydia so I can finish dinner, or lately quickly changes clothes and runs one of the kids to basketball practice. Nights and his days off often are spent at his computer, billing insurances, entering insurance payments, and whatever else he does to keep up with the business stuff.
My kids
Each morning, they wake up looking forward to the day. Ready to take on whatever comes their way, with a smile on their face. Every night, they go to bed, looking forward to tomorrow. They're learning how to live with each other as they each grow older, but no matter the fights and arguments during the day, they all hug and say "I love you" and mean it!
My parents

<Photo credit: Happy Daisy Photography>

For over 30 years, they have been an example to me. An example of a Christian marriage. An example of Christian parents. Truly, without their guidance and direction, I would not be who or where I am today.

My Rachel

For the past 16 or so years, she has been one of the only constants. Over half my life, ridiculous, I know.

We've spent many hours laughing at who knows what, crying about boys, studying physics, planning weddings, swapping mom notes, studying the Bible and just hanging out. In another 16 years, I imagine we'll still be doing the same- the boys we cry over will have changed to our sons, we'll be planning the weddings of our daughters, but let's be honest- I don't ever want to have to think about physics again.

This sums us up perfectly:


The Van

Had I been able to choose anything to fit our then soon to be family of 5, the van wouldn't have won. But as it turned out, money won out. As we are about to roll over 30,000 miles, it has been good to us- it has safely transported us almost 30,000 miles, including to (and back home from) Disney World, Missouri, Niagara Falls, several trips to Pennsylvania, and most recently North Carolina.

Our family vacations

These frames sit in our entryway, daily reminding us of our adventures. In 20 years, we'll have quite the collection :)


What are you thankful for?




Day 13: Elf for Health

Saturday, the challenge was to purge your fridge and pantry. Since I had a pretty empty fridge and pantry right before we left for Thanksgiving, this was a pretty easy task. But there was still something's that needed tossed. Old yogurt. Stale pretzels. Empty GoGo squeeZ box. Flat half drank 2 liter of Dr. Pepper. Moldy avocado.

Since I just had a few things, I took it one step further: turned on the self-cleaning function on my stove and cleaned the kitchen top to bottom.

And then, hubby took us out for pizza, so it stayed that way!

How did your purging go?



Baby, it's cold outside!

Look at those lows this week. Burrzeee.

That alone makes me want to stay inside. Add wind and ice patches, I'm definitely not going outside to run. Even during the day in full sun, it's going to be too cold to take Lydia in the BOB. It could be a long winter if I don't come up with a better plan. And a better back up plan.

So let me know what you think:

Mornings, I will start with Morning Yoga, either the 20 minute or 10 minute version, depending on time and running plans.

Before I run, I will warm up with this:

I can tell a huge huge difference especially in the cold.

Of course, after I run, I will stretch with this Yoga for Runners:


Monday: 6 miles (I want to ease into more miles during the deep freeze)

Tuesday: 30 minute cardio video + abs

Wednesday: 3 miles in between dropping the kids and when Chad needs to get ready for work

Thursday: 30 minute cardio video + strength/core

Friday: 30 minute cardio video + yoga

Saturday: 3 miles after Chad gets home from work

That gives me 12 miles, which is better than the 6 I ran this week (slacker!), but also a plan for cardio everyday except Sunday.

Are you wondering what my 30 minute cardio video will be? Me too! I have created a new playlist on YouTube "30 minutes to try", which obviously is full of 30 minute cardio videos that I thought I might like to try- I like the FitnessBlender channel, their videos are well done and to the point, I have a few more of those to try out. I have a few Jillian Micheals videos, because well, she's Jillian Michaels! I found an at home barre video I'd like to try, Skinny Runner loves it, maybe I can too. Kickboxing. Cardio yoga. I'm sure I'll end up with a rotation of the above so I don't get bored. . . I'll keep you posted on how they go.

At least I won't feel guilty about my nightly latté.


Day 12: Elf for Health


The challenge for Friday was Operation Beautiful. A quick google search brought me to operationbeautiful.com. What a beautiful site, built around reminding other beautiful women that they too are beautiful. You should all take a minute to look at the notes left for strangers.

My favorite:

<source: the original poster saw at a 5 mile race she was running. I'm so doing this for my next race!>

As soon as I can get out of this snow, I'm totally leaving a note. I love this.

We had a beautiful snow day, full of:

snowball fights

Snow angels


Sugar cookies

<she was more interested in eating it!>


It is fridge and pantry purge day! Don't be afraid, get rid of the junk :)



Day 11: Elf for Health


The challenge for Thursday was workout with a buddy.

<she's thrilled>

<she zonked out!>

Need to find a buddy? Check out this page. Kinda fun.

Yesterday's run should have been a good one, it was 50*, I was well rested, but it turns out it was the worst run in awhile. My legs felt like lead and I had trouble catching my breath.


Have a great Friday!

It's a snow day for us, I'm off to Pinterest find us some fun snow day activities!



Day 10: Elf for Health



A makeup free Wednesday:

Lydia loves the turn around camera feature on my iPhone, she thinks it's great fun to see herself or "baby", as she calls herself. Makes me laugh.


Who are you going to workout with today?



Day 9: Elf for Health


The challenge for Tuesday was to "eat the rainbow". All day, I had that Rainbow song by Wunmi in my head. "Rainbow, rainbow. Red, yellow, orange, green, blue, indigo and vi-o-let. Rainbow"

As I thought ahead what I would eat to fulfill this challenge, I realized that except for blue, indigo, and violet- I eat the other colors daily. I also found that it was difficult to find a different food for blue, indigo, and violet (that I already had on hand of course).

Red: tomatoes

<leftovers from this yummy recipe>

Yellow: banana

<while trying to get Lydia down for a nap>

Orange: carrots

<for a snack>

Green: guacamole

<I may have eaten the whole container. . .that spicy Wholly Guacamole is just too good>

Blue: blueberries

<more snack>

Indigo: blackberries

<with Liberté blackberry greek yogurt and a little Kashi granola for crunch for a bedtime snack>

Violet: raisins

<not my favorite typically, but tasted pretty good yesterday- I had grapes in the fridge, but the rumor was they did not taste good. At all.>


It's no make-up day! Does it count if you're still wearing some from your daughters musical the night before??