Tag Archives: #friends

#Squadgoals

People.

People make the difference.

I know you’ve heard that before, and it’s completely true…especially when it comes to fitness.

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If you have been struggling with reaching your health goals, I recommend finding a fitness tribe to help you out. It doesn’t matter if you are rocking a Beachbody program or a Richard Simmons DVD or just enjoy jogging around the block. It’s easier to stick to goals when you have a tribe to back you up!

When I think back to my own fitness journey….the one I started nearly four years ago and the one I am still on today…..my fitness tribe is the #1 reason why I have been successful.

       Here are five reasons why I love my fitness tribe and why you need to find one:

1. Accountability.

Regardless of where you are in your fitness journey, there are going to be days you just aren’t going to want to workout….there are days where you want to eat a dozen donuts in one sitting and wash it down with a gallon of Sweet Tea from Chick Fil A. When you are paired up with others with similar goals and doing things like sending sweaty selfies via snapchat or sharing your weekly meal plans, you have more motivation to stick to those healthy activities. There are days where I will log into my challenge group and see that all 30 of my challengers have posted their workout for the day but I still haven’t….do I want to be the only one who didn’t log their workout for the day? Hell No! The accountability pushes me to get past my excuses. 

2. Breaks you out of your comfort zone.

I had so many reservations about joining a fitness support group online in the beginning…..when you are getting started it can be a little scary! I was so embarrassed I had gotten to such a low point with my health and didn’t want to be the loser in the group, plus I didn’t know ANYONE in the group…..not one person! I used that as an excuse for a little bit, and then I realized that good comes at the end of comfort zones…..so I jumped in. Fitness tribes make you get past the uncomfortable excuses so you get results. Sometimes we need that….I needed that….and I still do.

3. Resources.

None of us have all of the answers with what will help, and in the beginning it can be challenging when words like “meal plans” and “measurements” and “portions” are being thrown around. I love being connected with people who share their recipes, meal plans, and tips because it helps me come up with new ideas that I can apply to my own routine. So many of the recipes I love and use on a weekly basis have come to me through my fellow fitness tribe members….they are way better than Pinterest!

4. A Celebration Committee.

I love love love love LOVE when someone hits a goal and EVERYONE celebrates your success with you. I hate when I look around and see others cut down people who are achieving goals (trust me, it happens all the time) or when I see people giving up on their goals because they feel like a failure. In a fitness community, small victories are celebrated, as well as those monumental victories, too. Small victories add up to those big ones…..and it is nice to have people who are genuinely happy for your success! Plus, celebration and positive energy is contagious!

5. Hope.

There have been so many days when I wanted to give up. Last year as I struggled with the loss of my dad, I felt like there was no hope for me and that I was going to revert back to old ways. My fitness tribe didn’t give up on me then….they encouraged me and supported me and gave me the hope I needed to know I would be okay. Little things like that make such a difference. Sometimes we just need someone to tell us we CAN do something.

Your fitness tribe can be made up of whomever you want….family members, coworkers, neighbors……the important thing is you want people who have similar goals and will hold you accountable….and who aren’t afraid to dish out tough love if you need it.

If you don’t know who to turn to to help you on your journey, let me know. There’s always room in my tribe for you 🙂

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Sea-duced in a major way.

WHO: About 6000 Beachbody coaches and their guests

WHAT: 2016 Success Club Trip

WHEN: March 12th-17th

WHERE: Aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas

WHY: To celebrate the lives we have impacted throughout the past year

I have been WAITING for this trip for what seems like forever. We had registered back in January of 2015, and at that time this trip seemed like a lifetime away…..that’s a long time to wait! Since Kyle and I canceled our honeymoon (thanks Hurricane Joaquin), we were more than ready for some tropical fun.

I had scheduled an early Saturday morning flight so we could go right from the airport to the port in Fort Lauderdale, which meant we had to be at the airport around 3:30 Saturday morning. Most people who know me know that I am very much a nocturnal person….I usually go to bed around 4am and get up about 11am, so I wasn’t really worried about the early departure time. However, I failed to think about the lack of sleep I would have the day prior. We live very close to the Cleveland airport but had found much cheaper flights out of Pittsburgh, which is pretty close to my mother’s, so we had driven down to her house Friday so she and my aunt could drop us off. I tried to get a few hours of sleep by lying down at 9pm, but thanks to my weird schedule it was impossible, so no sleep for me!

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Wide awake for an early morning departure!

Day 1

We arrived in Fort Lauderdale and to the port with no issues…or so we thought. After checking in and getting our Sea Passes, we were escorted to a strange holding cell area on the second floor of the port. Being new to cruises, Kyle and I had no idea what was going on and thought this was just a temporary thing. After about an hour of waiting we found out that the hold up for boarding was actually a disgruntled crew member who was trying to commit suicide by jumping from the boat (you can read all about that here). Eventually police officials were able to get the man down safely and we were able to board…..when it was all said and done we had been waiting in the holding cell area for about three hours.

The boat Beachbody chartered for us was through Royal Caribbean and was called The Oasis of the Seas, one of the largest boats out there. I had no clue what to expect when I walked on board but quickly realized that everything I thought was wrong. There was a Michael Kors store right in front of me(yes, I did some damage there), a Starbucks in eyesight, a pizza parlor cranking out pizzas for all of the hungry people coming aboard, and a bar that actually moved up and down in the middle of the ship…..and that was only on the one floor!

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First stop….a Starbucks Cafe Americano!

Our room was a Superior Ocean View Stateroom with a balcony, and I have to admit….it was much more spacious than I had imagined. We had a comfortable Queen Size bed, sofa, vanity area (my makeup and I were happy), large closet, and a decent sized bathroom. My biggest concern about the room prior to arriving was that my 6’6″ husband would be very uncomfortable in it. Fortunately, he had plenty of space, especially in the shower, and had no complaints. Having a balcony was great, too….I loved being able to see the water…and I think a porthole room may have made me feel a bit claustrophobic.

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Our boat left the port about 5pm that Saturday, but we missed the Sail Away party….we had already met up with some of our friends and were busy exploring the ship! At this point I was pretty much driving the struggle bus….I still hadn’t slept at all, so I had been up since 11am Friday morning. Thank heavens for coffee…..as usual. We didn’t stay up too late that night….I had gotten really sick from some food at the one buffet and was feeling awful. Since we were arriving in the Bahamas early the next morning I wanted to make sure that I was feeling better and well rested.

Day 2

Waking up in the Bahamas was such a beautiful sight. We had ordered room service for breakfast and enjoyed a great meal on the balcony overlooking Nassau before getting ready to explore. We had the option for some excursions but had opted out of doing any because we weren’t sure a) what we wanted to do (so many options) and b) how the whole process worked. After breakfast we showered and decided to walk around the port and the city a bit.

After some shopping we hit up the pool to catch a little sun before formal night and the glow party. Our ship had 5 pools on it and so many hot tubs I lost count, and since most of the ship was out doing an excursion or two, it wasn’t crowded.

Formal night was so much fun! I love getting dressed up, and it was fun seeing everyone else all dolled up! I got lots of messages about the dress I wore….it was an adorable find from the clearance rack at David’s Bridal and very Kate-tastic!

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We spent most nights having dinner with my success squad and their husbands and trying different things. I love that we could order whatever and however much we wanted, so we found ourselves ordering way more than we typically would. For a big eater like Kyle, this worked out well for us…..he eats so much!

Here’s a look at my meal for formal night:

Appetizers: Cheesy garlic scallops and Banana Rum Soup
Entrees: Manhatten Filet and Spinach Shrimp Ravioli
Dessert: Banana Angel Food Cake

Something I fell in love with over the trip: cold soup. This banana soup was Ah-Mazzzzzz-ing! I felt like I could eat it, drink it, pour it over ice cream, mix it with Shakeo, etc. I am determined to remake it here at home. In addition to the banana soup I had mango soup, peach soup, and pineapple lychee soup over the course of the trip.

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We clean up well 🙂

After a very filling meal we all changed to head to the Glow party where we were encouraged to come wearing white. Apparently there would be glowsticks and who knows what else. After changing we found out that the party was changed to later in the trip and instead there would be a dance party at the front of the boat. Five minutes at the party, and I tapped out. It reminded me 100% of a sweaty rave that I would’ve loved during my drinking days. No thanks.

Day 3

Our next stop was Falmouth, Jamaica, so we spent Day 3 at sea. We opted for breakfast in our room once again before heading to the pool with our pals. I was stoked to get a non alcoholic pina colada in a pineapple….it was so good! We spent most of the day on the top deck catching rays before catching a nap and a run. The ship had a running track wrapped around the entire 5th floor deck which hooked me up with beautiful views and a peaceful breeze as I ran. I’m proud to say that I ran a 5k in the middle of the ocean!

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Later in the evening all of the Dynasty United coaches on the ship met in our leader Brittany’s suite to chat. After all, our business was the reason every one of us was on this cruise. For those of you who don’t know much about coaching, it’s all about helping people. Helping them make smarter nutrition choices, helping them find the right fitness programs to reach their goals, helping them find confidence and purpose…..it is a business that has changed my entire life, and I am so proud every day to be a part of it. Being on a cruise that Beachbody completely paid for because I did my job was great and all, but getting to spend quality time with others who believe in the same vision and goals as me: priceless.

Our team is made up of the most amazing men and women, so getting to hang with a few of them was so much fun. We laughed, we cried, and we just talked, mostly about how much this business has changed our lives and our family’s lives. It has allowed so many of us to retire from boring soul-sucking corporate jobs, it has allowed us to pay off debts, it’s given us confidence and the ability to overcome things like depression, post partum issues, and body issues, replacing those things with hope, purpose, and happiness.

We all come from different backgrounds. Some of us are in college, others are grandparents. Some have Doctorate degrees while others have GEDs. We have lots of parents who dreamed of being at home with their children and being present for all of the big moments in their lives, and we have people who just wanted a career that allowed them to work when they want and how they want. We have extreme introverts and extreme extroverts. Some of us went through major health transformations while others have always been physically fit. It doesn’t matter the background; the one thing we all have in common is simple. We just want to help as many people as possible and work to end the trend of obesity. I love that there isn’t a coaching stereotype, and I love surrounding myself with people who build each other up and share in the success instead of competing or tearing each other down. Iron sharpens Iron.

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After our Dynasty United hangout we hit up the Disco party. Some people really took advantage of the opportunity to dress up, and part of me wished we had a little more. Truth is, I knew I would be super close to the weight limit on my luggage and felt that eliminating a wig and a huge 70’s costume was probably smart. Kyle and I went as early 70’s hippies, so we were comfortable and rocking the tie dye.

 

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This hippie chugs water #likeaboss.

Day 4

I fell head over heels in love on Day 4…..and I’m angry it took me a few days to discover the objection of my affection. Look at this french toast! I don’t know what it was made of….angel wings, cherubs, rainbows…..and I didn’t care. It was incredible. I continued this relationship the rest of the trip and am sad it came to an end.

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It reminded me of Disney World’s Tonga Toast! So good!

After I had my date with the French, it was time for Jamaica, Mon! I absolutely could not wait to get to Jamaica, but as excited as I was, I had trepidation as well. I knew that tourists were the livelihood of Jamaica and that locals were known to approach them, sometimes getting really aggressive. Since I was with Kyle and two other couples, I felt safe enough to venture out. We hit the market and then had one of the local (who I called a Stage Five Clinger because he truthfully was) walk us to a little place in an alley right next to Usain Bolt’s church. He claimed it had the best Jamaican Jerk Chicken in the country, and he did not disappoint. It was so delicious! I was happy we trusted his recommendation.

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After we got back on the boat the guys decided they wanted to do the zipline on the 15th floor. I really really really wanted to try it, but my fear of heights got the best of me. Everyone else did it but me, and that’s okay. Instead I gave the rock wall a try. It was super high and overlooking the Boardwalk, so again, the heights terrified me, but I tried. My goal was to get higher than three stones, which I did…..and I actually liked it!

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The face of a scaredy cat.

That evening was all you can eat lobster night, and our table took full advantage. Seventeen lobsters were owned by us……on top of prime rib and a whole gaggle of other foods……which led to our gang going to switch into comfier elastic waist clothing. Kyle was very happy about it….it was his second night with lobster. The night before he had gotten one and was very satisfied…I think he loved that it matched his lobster shirt. After dinner we went to a show on the boat that was great, eventually ending up with coffee on the top deck. It was a fantastic night.

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Day 5

Our final day on the water. About 99.9% of people on the boat hit the pool, but not I. Kyle got caught up on some sleep while I enjoyed the company of friends (and coffee) and got caught up on some reading. I very much believe in the power of personal development, so being able to read on our balcony listening to the ocean ways was good for my soul. We also made the decision to book our next cruise….next year we will visit Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta, and the Cayman Islands. I guess you can say we were sea-duced?!?!?!

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After yet another delicious dinner with friends, I met up with a new friend who I had been waiting to see all week. My man Tony Horton. I’m starting his new program, 22 Minute Hardcorps Monday, so this was the boost of excitement I needed. It as a great way to end the trip.

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Day 6

Our plane left early from Fort Lauderdale, so we took advantage of the early departure to get off the boat and through customs quickly. I was impressed how easy and well organized the process was. After a few hours and a short flight we were back at my mom’s for the night, and we both were exhausted. Early to bed for us!

 


I can’t begin to express what this trip meant to me and did for me.

Did I have an absolute blast with my husband and my friends? Absolutely. I am so glad I got to spend time with them and combine business with pleasure.

Did it refuel my passion for the business? Absolutely. I want every single person I know to be able to have this lifestyle, these friendships, and this feeling of complete purpose.

But this trip did so much more for me than what I’ve mentioned. It really helped me get my mind in a better place. Prior to going on the trip I had reservations, mostly because I felt guilty. One thing I have struggled with so much since I lost my dad is finding joy in things or looking forward to things….I think it is common. It’s just hard to find happiness when you feel like you have a little rain cloud following you around reminding you that something is missing from your life.

This trip allowed me to laugh,it allowed me to feel alive again, and it helped me to surround myself my lots of people who love and support me. I had so many good talks with my friends about the situation, and it was nice to talk about how I was doing openly with them. I hadn’t seen many of them since everything happened….their hugs and kind words were very comforting. Lisa, Julie, Payton, Jess….you all especially….thank you for taking time to remind me that this business is more like a sisterhood and that you always have my back.

I’m already looking forward to our next trip to Nashville in July and Punta Cana next year. Who wouldn’t want to go on all of these fun trips with their families and closest pals???!!!! I just need to figure out a way to bring Murphy with me….

If you want to know more about this business or these trips, or if you are someone who is reading this and just needs some support and encouragement to get healthier, lose weight, or build confidence, let’s talk. I have a three day sneak peek going on next week on Facebook, and I’d love to have you be a part of it. I also have upcoming support groups for my challengers and can create a one on one support system for you if that’s more your thing. Just cruise over to The Sparkle Fitness Babe, like the page, and shoot me a message! You can also contact me through this blog!

Going to bed tonight with a very grateful heart.

Grateful for finding a career that combines my passion with my purpose.
Grateful for the opportunity to travel the world.
Grateful for my husband, family, and friends for being the rocks in my life.
Grateful for the guardian angel who I know is with me every second every day.
Grateful for the experiences that have helped me grow.
Grateful to be living a life that I know makes my dad proud.

I hope you are going to bed grateful, too.

sparkleon

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Dinosaurs, Diamonds, and Dancing, OH MY!

You know what’s crazy? Weddings take months and months…..sometimes years…to plan, and then they are over within a blink of an eye. Seriously. I cannot believe that it has been over a week since our wedding, and even though many of my married friends tried to warn me about how fast the actual day would go, I was convinced they were a bunch of liars (Sorry friends). They were right. I felt like it took forever from the time I woke up to get to the moment where Kyle and I did our First Look….then everything else flew by. Time really is so precious.

Our wedding day was nothing short of perfect, and I am so thankful for our family and friends for helping us celebrate. Since we had a smaller wedding, many of you followed our day online by using the hashtag #kramereverafter….that hashtag was great when it came to catching up on the moments we missed, plus it allowed us to share the day with my grandmother, who was unable to attend physically due to health reasons.

Planning my wedding was an absolute blast. I’ve known so many people who shared their terrible bridezilla-like stories with me and who complained about the crazy amount of stress associated with their big day, but I likely did not experience any of this. There was only one brief time period where I had a little bit of stress, and that was over a small insurance snafu with the museum that we had fixed within days. I’m sad the planning is over, so if you are overwhelmed with planning, let me know…I will gladly help. I actually found it really fun!

I had a lot of questions surface about different elements of the wedding because we did things so differently, so I thought I would share some of the common questions I had with all of you to share a little more about the greatest day of my life. Hopefully some of the tips and resources I share can help you with your big day, too!

What kind of dress did I wear and was it really pink?

Yes, it really was pink…..blush pink to be exact. The dress itself was Vera Wang, and as with anything Vera makes, it was beyond fabulous. I knew from the beginning that I wanted this dress and was so nervous when I went to try it on that it wouldn’t live up to the image I had in my mind. Fortunately, the minute I put it on I started to cry and knew it was “the one”. My advice to anyone wedding dress shopping? Don’t settle for a dress….get one you absolutely are in love with. Also, have someone in alterations insert padded cups so you can go without a bra. Trust me on this one, no bra is a good thing, especially on a day you are running around like mad!

The first time I got to try on my dress!

Where was the wedding held?

The ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception were all held at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History. We knew we didn’t want to do anything in a church or anything religious, so we opted for a venue that would be a lot of fun for our guests. To us, we didn’t want our wedding to be just another cookie cutter wedding. We truly wanted it to be a memorable experience that our guests would never forget. If you are local, visit it sometime! It really is a cool place!

Click here to learn more about this neat museum!

What an amazing shot our photographer Stacy captured....first dance photobomb with a dino!

Who designed our invitations?

I am a huge believer in supporting small businesses, so the bulk of our wedding utilized vendors from Etsy. Our invitations were custom made by a vendor called Riverkiss Weddings, and even though they were custom designed they were still exponentially cheaper than other places I looked from the mainstream sites. Plus, they were perfect for our theme. I got a lot of weird looks when I told people that I did so much through Etsy, but the truth is the quality is fabulous, and the vendors are very easy to work with. If you have an issue, the vendors I have dealt with were very quick to remedy the situation. I like that they were different and no one else had ever had these, and I found them incredibly whimsical and beautiful.

Our invitations!

Our invitations!

What were the wedding colors?

Since my dress was blush, I chose blush pink for the flowers and tablecloths at the reception hall. My bridesmaids all wore mint green, so the pink looked awesome with the mint. I also accented with a gray and white chevron. The guys rocked bow ties with the exception of my dad and grandpa; they wore the same ensemble as our groomsmen but sported regular bow ties in the wedding colors instead of a bow tie to show their distinction.

What a beautiful bunch!

Where did my girls get their dresses? 

David’s Bridal. I wanted each of my bridesmaids to get whatever dress they wanted and figured this would be the best store with the most options. My bridal party was made up of ladies from Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Youngstown, and Michigan, so all of the locations really helped us with our geographical needs.

Were your placecards expensive?

No! Again, I had these made through an Etsy designer named IvoryIsleDesigns. Each card was customized with the name of the guest, their table (which was a dinosaur name) and a small picture of their meal choice. Each placecard cost about $1.10. I highly recommend you be creative and spend some time looking for options for paper products. You don’t have to spend a ton, and if you have time, you can always make them, too. Here’s a look at my friend Heather and her fiancé Alex’s cards:

Sparkle Sparkle everywhere!

What kind of eyelashes did I have on?

One of my favorites….these were the Miami mink falsies from Lilly Lashes. These lashes are amazing and worth every penny! The mink lashes are a higher quality, but the other lashes are just as great!

My main squeeze Marenda who handled all of my makeup needs!

What were our favors?

We didn’t do actual favors…I’m not the biggest fan of knick knacks or things that don’t have a great purpose. Instead we decided to bring some local culture to our guests and rented the Swenson’s food truck. Swenson’s is a classic in Akron….if you have never tried it’s deliciousness, please make time to do so! It showed up the last hour of the reception, so as people hopped on the shuttle back to the hotel they could have a snack…and satisfy their greasy drunken needs. I am obsessed with galley boys and potato teasers, so I ended my night eating both in my dress. It was perfect! I think our guests liked it, too!


Where were our photos taken?

The weather ended up being a really big jerk, but it worked to our benefit. Instead of taking pictures outside at the Cultural Gardens as planned, we went to Metropolitan on the 9. Our best man’s aunt and uncle own the hotel, so they hooked us up with some unique and fun photo spots. This is honestly the best hotel in the area…Kyle and I both had our bachelor/bachelorette parties here and loved the accommodations. Our photographer posted some sneak peeks on my Facebook page, and I am obsessed with how the pictures turned out. Sometimes rain isn’t a bad thing….in this case it really helped us have even better better photos than I had imagined.

This was taken in the main lobby!

Where did Kyle find his socks?

Kyle decided to get the bridal party (including my dad and grandpa) unique socks that matched the wedding colors. They looked awesome! We found the socks from a site called Sockbroker. If you love socks, check it out!

Stylin Feet!

Did you do programs?

Yes! This was the question I got more than any and was sparked after a friend posted one side of our program on Instagram. I purchased a digital download that a woman customized for me on etsy and had them printed for our guests. The programs had some fun random facts, and I was so pleased with the final product! Here’s a look!

Did you really do your center pieces for under $5 a table?

Yes! Let’s get real. No one cares about center pieces. No one remembers them. I wanted simple center pieces that didn’t break the bank. Since our table cloths were pink and the napkins were mint, I wanted to tie in the chevron and dinosaur theme. My mom made awesome chevron squares for the center of the table with fabric we found at Walmart, then we spray painted vases we found at The Dollar Tree and frames. Each vase held a realistic rose we purchased from Hobby Lobby when the silks were half off, and we printed the table name pictures at CVS for $0.17 each. I loved the final look….it was still “us”, but it was classic, simple, and didn’t clutter the heck out of the table.

I honestly would not change a single thing about our big day and felt like our wedding was a perfect representation of who we are as people and as a couple. My hope is that everyone can say that about their big day. Have fun with wedding planning….become friends with Pinterest….and don’t do anything you feel you “should” do. Your wedding day is all about you. As Janis Joplin once said, “Don’t compromise yourself; you’re all you’ve got.” I find this quote to be true about everything in life….right down to your big day.

Kyle and I are so thankful for all of the love and support, not just on our wedding day, but since we have been together. You guys are the best!

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My Bride Tribe!

Im really really really really really really really REALLY excited for tomorrow!

I’d like to emphasize the “really” part.

Just so freakin' excited! Thanks pop sugar for this pic!

It’s my bridal shower and bachelorette party day! It is so hard to fathom that Kyle and I are getting married in 50 days…..it seemed so far away, then suddenly BAM! Things are creeping up! We are both super excited and can’t wait to celebrate like crazy on October 3rd!

I’m just as excited for tomorrow and can proudly say Kyle and I haven’t peeked at the registry once (I swear) and somehow I have been left in the dark with the events of tomorrow. Those that know me know I don’t like secrets and am very investigative, so this is really a rare occurrence!

Knowing I will spend the day tomorrow surrounded by family and friends makes my heart so happy….I don’t think I ever have had all of these amazing people in one room, so that will be a really wonderful feeling getting to see them all meet each other and finally talk to people who they have heard me talk about or seen pictures of on Facebook.

There are many elements of my wedding day that I have kept private mostly so our guests will be blown away on the actual day and not know what’s going on in advance. I don’t like secrets, but I sure enjoy keeping them!  Kyle and I have worked really hard to ensure our wedding will be a fun experience for our guests and one that is truly reflective of our personalities. It will be neat to see the enjoyment of our guests!

One element that is by no means a secret would be our wedding party. I am extremely lucky to have an incredible group of friends, and while I have added many great friends in my adult life, my bridal party is made up of individuals who I have had in my life pretty much for all time….or at least it seems that way. I know many of my readers follow me on social media, so these faces are all people who you have seen countless times, but I wanted to introduce you to the ladies of my bride tribe!

Matron of Honor: Kelly

Kelly and I literally have been best friends our entire lives. We met in preschool, lived right down the road from each other, and have more memories together than I could ever even count. It is such a cool thing having someone in your life who has been present for EVERY stage of your life and EVERY big moment. Having someone in your life for 30+ years means they know the best and worst of you, and the fact that our friendship has lasted means one very simple thing: she is just my soulmate, and we will be the old ladies causing a ruckus together in a nursing home someday.

Matron of Honor: Whitney

There’s a saying I once read that stated that every female needed to have a blonde and brunette best friend. I am lucky to have both. Whitney and I became immediate friends about ten years ago after her husband started working with me, and I’m not 100% sure why it was facilitated, but Ryan, her husband, hooked us up on a  friend date at Wal-mart (random, I know). The rest has been history. Our birthdays are a week apart, we have the same sense of humor and love of coffee, and both quote Mean Girls more often that it should. It was a match made in heaven. I’m positive that Whit will be in the nursing home with Kel and I, and I am also positive she will still be able to show a spreadsheet what’s up even then.

Bridesmaid: Erin

Erin and I met through Kelly back in junior high when we all decided to play in a summer basketball league together. While Kelly and I were Leetonia Bears, Erin played for one of our rivals, the Crestview Rebels. Once school resumed we started a friendly rivalry in volleyball, basketball, and track. Our friendship continued to grow once we graduated college and Erin chose to move to Pittsburgh. We got an apartment near the city and lived together until I made the decision to relocate back to Ohio. It was Erin’s encouragement that got me to sign up for an online dating profile, and without her support,I most definitely would not have met Kyle and this blog would definitely not be happening.

Bridesmaid: Krista

Krista and I met through Erin (funny how this all works, out, eh?) in the same summer league I mentioned earlier. She was also a Rebel and I immediately loved her sarcastic and witty sense of humor. Since our circle was very intertwined, we were able to see each other and hang out often once we hit the adult world. Once I moved back to Ohio, I moved nearby Krista, and we started having regular American Idol and chinese takeout dates…which led to Super Mario Brothers dates…and then puppy playdates, as my pug Simon and her puggle Harley were close friends. It is such a cool thing seeing her now as a mom to one of the cutest little guys I know, Wesley, yet still having the same spirit and zest for life that she had when I first met her.

Bridesmaid: Jodi

Jodi and I met through Erin and clicked absolutely immediately. I’m not sure if it was our love for running, the weird and random inside jokes we seemed to have right away, or our love for shopping, but our instant connection led to us signing up for the Pittsburgh Marathon together on a whim. This led to us running it together with no training, then taking on countless races and marathons together since. We even have shirts that are like the old school best friends necklace where my shirt says “Running” and hers says “partner”. Beyond our love for running, her house has always been my getaway spot and there have been many times I have felt like her couch was a therapist’s chair. I can always count on Jod to tell it to me straight, make me laugh, then hook me up with my favorite crab artichoke dip to feel better, and I can always count on both her and Krista to warn me about puddles.

Bridesmaid: Laura

Laura….well, Laura had no choice when it came to her involvement in my life. As my cousin, she has been there since I was a brat in diapers. Lucky for me, she decided I was okay and decided not to torture me as a little girl. Since our family is small, we have many fun memories at our Great Grandparents’ house (pretty sure most involve some kind of amazing Italian food), and since she is only a year older than me, we were able to be active in many sports and events in high school together. Some of my favorite memories during high school involve hanging out in the hot tub at her house and just chillin out. I’m so happy to have her as a partner in crime, especially in events that involve mud and obstacles.

Bridesmaid: Julie

Julie (aka AF)and I became friends when I decided to join a sorority in college. We ended up in the same pledge class and quickly realized we had the same ridiculous  personality and sense of humor, thus, an obnoxious and everlasting friendship was born. My days were always instantly better when we got to have lunch and the Thiel cappuccinos together, because I always knew I would leave with a side stitch from laughing so hard. Besides being one of the best pool players I know, I can always count on this chick for the best food recommendations, incredible musical suggestions, and really down to earth advice. She has stuck by my side through some pretty rough times, and I could not imagine my life without her.

Bridesmaid: Em

Emily (aka Em) is my sister from another mister. Somehow she ended up in my big family in our sorority, and I honestly believe that was on purpose so we could meet and have the bond we do.  Our first meeting involved a visit to Thiel with my pug, Simon, which led us to realize we both were obsessed with pugs. Now, as adults, we are still obsessed with pugs, only now we can have playdates with ours, and we both have our own cars so we don’t have to “borrow” them without permission. I’m so happy our friendship and shenanigans have not fizzled over time.

I’m so so so thankful to have such a Ride or Die group of friends in my life. When I think about all of the good and bad times of my life, these ladies have all been there to cheer me up, laugh with me, and support me. I truly would not be the person I am today without each and every one of them, and it is an honor to have them stand next to me on the most important day of my life! But can someone promise to make sure I cross my legs in pictures???? I don’t want a repeat of my preschool picture when Kelly is seated politely next to me, and I’m…..well…..you can see what I’m doing.

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Here’s some more fun memories I just had to share!

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Brooks Was Here; So Was Katie

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” -Andy Dufresne Isn’t that an amazing quote? I cannot think of a single human being that cannot connect to that quote in some way. Ahhhhh, The Shawshank Redemption. One of my absolute all time favorite movies. I literally will watch it every single chance I get like it’s the first time, and if you have cable and TNT, you know that’s pretty often. I’m okay with it, though. It is a classic with an amazing message, and it just makes me feel great when I watch it.

Take this as your instruction to watch it if you haven’t. 

Speaking of favorites, I have blogged many times about my love of running, so when I learned about an event several months back that combined running with Shawshank, I didn’t hesitate to sign up. That event, my friends, was The Shawshank Hustle, which took place last weekend in Mansfield, Ohio.

This building is just amazingly cool to look at it.

This building is just amazingly cool to look at it.

I am fortunate to live not far from the Mansfield Reformatory (it’s only about an hour from our house), and I frequently pass Mansfield as I go back and forth to Columbus….yet after all this time I have never visited. To be 100% honest, part of me has refrained from visiting because I have heard countless ghost stories about the prison, and I think we all know I am a little bit of a wuss with that stuff. My family has continually brought up doing the overnight ghost tour throughout the years, and while part of me is intrigued….the other part is terrified. I figured if I can handle the prison during the daytime, maybe I could consider the overnight thing.

Back to the Shawshank Hustle, the run itself began in front of the Reformatory and ended in front of the Reformatory with a lovely hilly 5 mile run through Mansfield in between (lies I was told….I thought it was only a 4 miler). This was the first year for the event, and being a seasoned racer, I had some trepidation knowing that often first time races are a hot mess, as there is typically a lack of organization and mass chaos. For those of you who love running, creepy places, and Shawshank, here is my review of the race.

-Running Course: I found the course to be really great. There were some crazy hills, but the run itself allowed me to see what a cute town Mansfield was. I found it challenging (the heat had a big part of it), but it was a good kind of challenge, and I loved seeing the Reformatory displayed in front of me as I ran the final half mile, known as Redemption Road (those of you on Periscope who tuned in saw me live broadcast as I ran into the finish).

Gary, Sharon, and I getting ready to start the race!

Gary, Sharon, and I getting ready to start the race!

-Water Stops: One area that could be improved next year. There were two within the same mile (mile 2), and for a hot July morning, I definitely feel like there should’ve been another and they should’ve been spaced out some.

-Race Swag: The swag was pretty cool. All runners received a Shawshank Hustle tech shirt that glows in the dark, a custom medal upon completion, and free entrance into the Carousel and the Reformatory.

We just love medals!

We just love medals!

-Post Race Food: There was a good selection of your typical race food for all runners (Nans, mixed nuts, corn thins, chips, apples, and water). The post race food also included vendors with a variety of fair like foods if you were interested in gyros or funnel cakes.

-Pre/Post Race Party: The atmosphere was awesome….the individuals pumping up the crowd did a great job, fun music, plenty of Port-a-johns, and some great vendors around with merchandise and giveaways, like Saucony, hooking people up with cool headbands and other items.

Got to run another race with one of my BFFS, Jodi!

Got to run another race with one of my BFFS, Jodi!

-Transportation to and from race: This was my biggest complaint. Nearly 3000 runners participated in the Hustle, however the Reformatory was only able to accommodate 300 cars in its parking lot. Due to this fact, all runners who did not arrive in time to park at the Reformatory had to park at the Speedway about a mile away. There were shuttles to take runners back and forth, however, there were only three school buses that were actually transporting. When Gary, Sharon, and I arrived, the line to get onto the buses was over a mile long (this is not an exaggeration), and by the time we got to the front of the line, it was definitely closer to 2 miles. The delay in transportation actually caused the race directors to push the start of the race back a half hour.

Selfie as we wait? Sure!

Selfie as we wait? Sure!

-Post race tour of the Reformatory: Due to the amount of runners, we all did self guided tours. I was a little concerned at first because I was interested in hearing some of the stories, but I figured if I enjoyed the tour I could always come back and take advantage of a guided tour in the future. We were able to check things out at our own pace, including the Warden’s office, the tunnel Andy Dufresne climbed to freedom using, the room where Red met with the parole board, and several other sites from the movie. In addition, we got to actually walk through the jail cell area, which was super creepy to me. Some may know that I have a little thing with heights, so the small catwalk I had to scale across past the cells was extremely uncomfortable for me. Not only did it feel like it took forever (the corridor is extremely long and narrow), but it gave me a chance to see the cells up close and personal. I must say, that is how a jail cell should be……very small and confined, gross, and uncomfortable.

This place is def not the Hilton.

This place is def not the Hilton.

Because you should take a selfie with Brooks......

Because you should take a selfie with Brooks……

-Creepiness Factor: Somehow I missed some of the creepiest locations in the reformatory, including the tuberculosis room, however, I still felt really strange in most parts of the building. Sharon and I experienced a weird feeling of extreme pressure on our chests as we passed by one of the strange closets, but it was gone once we were past the doorway. Honestly, some of the creepiest locations were allegedly after we got out of the jail cell area, but since I was still in half panic mode because of the heights, I missed them. Maybe that’s a good thing….

After I got home, I did some research on the Reformatory, which I wish I had done before. Even though it is creepy and I was uncomfortable, my level of intrigue greatly heightened after reading some of the tales and talking to some of my friends who have completed the overnight tour. I won’t say Im sold on doing it yet, but I am way more on board with the idea than I was a month ago. We’ll see.

Bottom line: If you are a runner, this race was absolutely worth the entry fee. The minor hiccups of the shuttle system will most likely be addressed next year, and the rest of the experience was so fantastic I would highly recommend it to others. If you aren’t a runner, but you like cool places, absolutely check it out. And if you are into ghosts and have experienced something crazy there, I would love to hear about it.

Learn more about the Reformatory by visiting http://www.mrps.org.

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Sunday Morning Brunch, Freezer Meal Addition.

My Facebook followers may have noticed I was a wee bit absent this morning/afternoon……..which is very much unlike me. Don’t worry….I had a good reason! No, I wasn’t brunching (though I do brunch well)…….I was getting down and dirty with some goodies for my freezer!

Sundays are typically the day I meal plan and prep like a banshee, and technically that’s what I did today……just in a different format. I guess you could say that I kicked it up a notch.

Those of you who know me know that I am one busy bee. I’m always coming or going or doing two things at once. Heck, that’s the fun of being an entrepreneur. Because of that, I love how meal planning cuts out time and even thinking and hooks me up with a healthy meal that I can heat up in seconds. I’ve talked about it before, but meal planning and prepping seriously has been a HHHUUUGGGGGGEEEEEE help in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, plus it saves me a ton of money. I’m sure most of you can relate…..life is busy!

Awhile back I noticed my cousin Kirsten, a Pampered Chef consultant, posting about some freezer meal workshops she was hosting at her house. I thought they sounded really neat, but couldn’t make it because she lives in the Chesapeake/Virginia Beach area….not exactly an afternoon drive. My mom and aunt also liked the idea of them, but since they were in the same boat as me (aka 8 hours away), we sadly did not partake.

About a month ago my mom was hard at work getting things organized for the upcoming Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk. Many of you may remember that my Grandma Bubu suffers from the disease and has for about 15 years, so this is a cause we all are very passionate about. My mother has handed the silent auction portion of the Youngstown walk for years and is always working tirelessly to raise funds for Bubu’s Bunch, the team we have that walks in honor of my Grandma. Kirsten, a cousin on my mother’s side, approached my mom about doing a Pampered Chef fundraiser. Not only would she donate a portion of the profits, but she would hold a freezer meal workshop for us. YYYYEEESSSSSSS! My mom and Kirsten coordinated it to fall during a weekend trip that Kirsten had planned to Ohio for a wedding.

Today, my friends, was the highly anticipated workshop!

Kirsten emailed us a list of all of the possible meal choices to choose. There were so many…..one for vegetarians, one for grillmasters, soups and stews, kid friendly, gluten friendly, etc. I chose Paleo since I know meat and veggies is what this household prefers. Once you chose the menu you wanted, you purchased your spices and received a grocery list and brought everything, along with a cooler and freezer bags to the workshop.

Bright and early this morning I loaded my car with seriously about 500 pounds of meat (my entire fridge was packed with it) and a cooler and was off! On the way I swung by my BFF Whitney’s house to pick her up since she was joining me for the event, grabbed a coffee from DD (duh) and hightailed it to good ol’ Leetonia! (SIDENOTE: Today was Whitney’s birthday, so if you haven’t make sure you send her some birthday wishes!)

One thing I learned upon arrival: people in my life like to meal prep and have delicious healthy meals they can pull from their freezer and make in a crock pot. Joining in on the fun: my aunt, cousin, other BFF Kelly, my mom’s BFF Bobbie, two of my mother’s coworkers, and a few family friends. It was an awesome turnout!

Here’s how a workshop like this goes, and let me tell you….it seriously is a meal prepper’s heaven.

Each workshop attendee has a small station with cutting board and all of the awesome tools you need to cut, zest, juice, measure, or grate the items in your recipe collection. Apron on, fun begins! You follow each recipe by dumping all of the ingredients into a nicely labeled gallon ziploc freezer bag, then move onto the next recipe, and so on.

Each menu provides 10 freezer meals that will feed between 4-6 people. Do the math…that’s a lot of prepping! Whitney and I decided to split the meals between us, but still…..there was a ton of food.  Here’s a look at the meals we made from the PALEO menu:

-Chicken Lettuce Wraps

-Apple Pie Porkchops

-Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

-Balsamic Braised Short Ribs

-Lemon Herb Chicken

-Chipotle Shredded Pork

-Savory Jerk Chicken

-Moroccan Beef and Butternut Squash

-Dill Chicken

-Mongolian Flank Steak

When I was shopping for everything, there was a time I did think to myself….man, this is expensive, especially when I was carting around enough meat to feed a small army.  When looking at that menu, I’m guessing you may think that, too. However, all of those servings and all of that food break down to about $4.50 a person per meal. Pretty Darn Cheap. That’s what I love about meal prep, my friends….I know I am eating good quality healthy food AND sticking to a budget.

Once everyone had their meals prepped and in their baggies, the coolers were loaded and that was that! Several hours of prep for 10 meals???!!!!!! That means 10 nights you can spend more time with your family. 10 nights you can do something you love rather than slaving away in a kitchen. 10 nights you can feel good about the food you serve your family.

My favorite part? I got to hang out with incredibly fun cousin who I haven’t seen in years AND her husband AND my loved ones, all while getting things ready for the week. It was a great day! As soon as I got home Kyle requested I heat up the Mongolian Flank Steak, and based on his snap chats and my taste test, it was freaking the bomb.com.

Some of our crew had already left by picture time. Thanks so much to everyone for attending!

Some of our crew had already left by picture time. Thanks so much to everyone for attending!

If you live in the Chesapeake/Virginia Beach, VA area, you definitely should have one of these fun workshops, especially if you are newer to the meal prepping world and not sure how to make it work. This is an awesome way to get the ball rolling. If you are interested, email my cousin at mcginn_pampered_chef@yahoo.com, or message me and I can connect you with her!

Kirsten, thanks so much for helping us raise funding for Alzheimer’s AND stocking our freezers. I can’t wait to come visit you and Mike soon (and whoop his butt at Cards Against Humanity)!

 

 

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