Monday, March 31, 2014

Three Ways I Lost 30 Pounds in 2013

I am incredibly proud to say that I worked my butt off super hard last year and not only reached my goal weight before the wedding, but completely destroyed it. In the course of seven months, I lost thirty pounds, and was able to sustain that weight from September (when I hit my goal) until January (my wedding!). Of course, slimming down and looking great in my wedding gown was awesome, but the reason why I worked so hard was for one reason: I wanted to feel better.

The more weight I put on, the harder it was to do a lot of things. I was out of breath way more often at dance class, my legs and hips ached constantly either from standing too long or from sitting too long, I had trouble finding clothes that I liked to wear, and I had bad self esteem. I am in no way saying that being larger means you aren't beautiful, but I felt pretty down on myself that I felt so unhealthy. I wanted to lose weight so I could be fit and healthy; slimming down was an added bonus.

There are no quick fixes. Dropping the pounds - and getting them to stay off - is definitely a lifestyle change, not just a quick diet you can try for a few weeks and get results. I was motivated by my own progress to continue on with my changes; the more weight I lost, the better I felt, and, in turn, the more I wanted to keep going!

What I did was this: I ate better, I ate less, and I exercised consistently.  It's simple, right? No crash diets, no smoothie supplements, no magic drugs to help. All natural, and I know that by doing it "the right way," I will continue to feel great and I won't bounce back up in a few weeks. Here are the three majorly helpful and free tools that I used last year (and still use now!) to help me lose thirty pounds.


There are so many reasons why I love Cassey's Blogilates & Pop Pilates YouTube videos. The first is, obviously, Cassey is super likeable. That really makes a difference when someone is kicking your ass via crunches and leg lifts. Blogilates videos are great because they're short enough to commit to. I had never really done pilates before these videos and, to me, saying "okay, I have the time to do one seven minute video" was a pretty easy sell. After that, you're already down on your mat and sweating, so you might as well do a few more to make it worth your time. I really like how her videos are targeted to specific body parts: there are upper ab videos, lower ab, obliques, squat challenges, tons of booty work outs, and more. Whatever you want to focus on, she has a video for it. When I do her videos for my daily work-out, I would try to do at least half hour to forty-five minutes.

Some of my favorite videos: Drive By Inner Thighs, ABC Abs!, Spring Fling 1: Toning Workout.


Now, I was no stranger to yoga before last year. We did a lot of yoga type stretches in dance class, and I loved going to drop-in classes at the studio in town when I had the chance. However, once I started doing yoga at home on a regular basis, I really fell in love. Setting time aside for yoga is perfect for your body and mind. My favorite time to practice was in the evening; I rolled out my mat up in my bedroom, lit a few candles, brewed a cup of tea (usually Yogi's Detox), and stretched until I was content in savasana. It helped calm me down, relax my body, and get ready for sleep.

Sarah Beth Yoga (all free videos on YouTube) was my absolute favorite teacher that I found online. She's originally from MN (points!) and her videos are super easy to understand and follow, targeted for specific body parts or times of day, and free of any cheese. Many yoga videos can be a liiitttleeee on the serious side, with a lot of time spent talking. I don't have that much free time, so I don't want to sit on the mat for too long listening to chit chat before the first sun salutation begins. Sarah Beth does take the videos seriously, though, and you can tell that she loves what she's doing and she loves to share with viewers.
While yoga is great for mental relaxation, that isn't to say that it can't be used to kick your butt. Yoga can get intense; there are quite a few videos specifically for weight loss and muscle toning. However, a steady stream of simple hatha routines on a daily basis also increases flexibility and stamina, which helps you with your more high-intensity training as well. When I do yoga, I try to be on my mat for at least an hour, if not more, from first down-dog to the last bow after savasana.

Some of my favorite videos: Yoga for a Beach Bod, Yoga for Detox & Digestion, Yoga for Hamstring Flexibility.


The last thing that helped me stay on the right path was counting calories and tracking my exercise with the MyFitnessPal app on my iPhone. Counting calories sounds scary and sometime can have negative connotations, but it doesn't have to be bad. I used it to make sure I was eating the right portions and, to be honest, it helped me so I ate enough during the day to make up for my work-outs. Sure, you could be eating a 1200-calorie diet, but if you ran on the treadmill for an hour and burned a couple hundred cals and didn't eat enough to make up for that, you would be in trouble. Using this app helped me know how much I needed to eat during the day, made me mindful of portion sizes, and kept me honest. I started out eating 1400cal a day to get the hang of it, and once I started hitting goals, I dropped down to 1200 calories. This is a NET TOTAL - for example, I could plug in that I bellydanced for 45 minutes and MyFitnessPal would say that burned roughly 200 calories. So my total for the day would be 1200 (regular goal) + an extra 200 calories worth of delicious yummy treats.

Changing my eating habits, along with adding in exercise at least 45 minutes a day 5 days a week, was the key. I learned what foods would fill me up the longest and make me feel the best. I stuck to lean protein, piles and piles of veggies, learned to love cottage cheese (which is a great side replacement in big meals instead of carbs), and made sure to eat a decent sized breakfast. I also learned that if I had an extra 100 calories at the end of the day, I could sneak in a cookie. My goal numbers weren't strict - if I went over by a hundred or so every once in a while, I did not beat myself up. As long as I was active and the food I was putting into my body was something to be proud of, I had no reason to feel bad about the extra few bites I had throughout the day.


It definitely wasn't easy and there were many times I got discouraged. But this is the method that worked for me - I stuck it out and I saw results. It took commitment and a knowledge that it was a life style change, but once you get that mindset, you're gold. Here are a few last tips and things that I did that helped me to feel 100% better by the end of 2013.

  • Don't Lose Hope! There were times where weeks went by when the scale didn't move a single ounce. It happens. Just stick with it, maybe switch up your work-outs a little, and you'll see the numbers go down eventually. 
  • Cheat! At least twice a month I let myself have a major cheat day. Not just a cheat meal or a big dessert; a whole cheat day. Where you don't even worry about portions and you get the eat the yummiest food you've been dreaming of. Everything in moderation, even moderation. You'd go crazy if you don't get to indulge. Plus - the weight comes off slow, it's not going to all fly back on because you ate three bowls of spaghetti for dinner one night. 
  • Get Outside! I'm excited to do this again! I, MaDonna, ran this last year. I can't believe it. But I felt great afterwards. My runs usually only went less than an hour, and, truth be told, I didn't run the entire time straight, but it works! I used the Runtastic app on my iPhone to track my run - it tells you the estimated calories burned for the trip and automatically transfers it over to MyFitnessPal. I also used this when I went on long walks - every calorie counts, especially if that means you get to adjust your totals to eat more delicious treats.
  • Find the food that works for you. I'm an incredibly snacky person. The willpower is hard, so I found things that helped me. String cheese was a lifesaver - I got the 50 calorie a stick type and kept them in the fridge at work to eat between meals. Angie's Kettle Corn in the Boom Chicka Pop sea salt flavor only has 35 calories a cup. Veggies I went crazy on - sugar snap peas are great to mindlessly eat while watching TV or sitting at your desk. 
  • I did have one big workout a week - Wednesday nights are belly dance nights for my troupe. Between class and troupe practice, I was belly dancing at least 90 minutes, if not more. Find something that is exciting and different. I also fell in love with the treadmill this last summer; high-incline was literally a butt-kicking.
  • A little bit is better than nothing! Sometimes, I had to force myself to get on my mat and after goofing off online "finding a workout," I fiiiiinally got myself to  make it through, like, eight minutes of a pilates workout. And then sometimes that was enough. You're not always in the mood. But guess what? Usually once you start, you do more than you think you would. And the days where you stop sooner than you'd like? That's okay, too. Don't beat yourself up over it.

That's all I can think of for right now! Please email me or comment on this entry with any questions or any other tips or advice for readers that you might have! I definitely took a little break after my wedding and I'm ready to get back on it! However, I will say, that even though I have not been the best dieter or exerciser the past few months, the weight I gained back was minimal. I firmly believe its because I lost the weight "the right way" the first time around. Good luck! I will keep updating with more ideas, inspiration, recipes, and more this year.
Sunday, March 30, 2014

FINISHED PROJECT: Crochet Yoga Socks

crochet yoga socks

I love crochet (obviously), and I really honestly love it more than knitting. But, I can admit there are some things that are way better knitted than crocheted. One of those things is socks. I've tried some crochet socks and just can't get them to form up the way I like.

BUT THEN! I decided to make some yoga socks and all was right in the world. I used the rest of my Unforgettable yarn in Parrot and searched "crochet yoga socks" on Ravelry. I modified my pattern from about two or three versions that I found in Ravelry. Some I found were too bulky and some I found had weird cuffs at the top - I didn't want that!

I was so happy with my end product. They are perfect for dance class - no slippy, but they keep my feet warm. They're also great for dance performances; an extra little rainbow decoration to complete my costume.

Have you made yoga socks? What patterns do you like? I want to make a million pairs. 
Friday, March 28, 2014

What I Wore: Horrorpops and Sweet Treats

Last weekend, Mark and I took a quick trip to Whole Foods in the cities to check it out. I wanted to buy everything, especially all of these cakes. I did end up buying six macarons. What a failure blogger I am, though - we ate them all before I could take a picture. I also bought a tofu curry cous cous lunch that I ate the next day. Delicious!

My skirt, hoodie, and purse are all heartbreaker. My boots are docs, shirt is an old Horrorpops tee from Hot Topic, and the scarf is handmade.

I wish we had a Whole Foods closer - I really like their premade deli items. I also wish we walked around to look more, but it was Sunday afternoon, so it was might busy in there. Do you shop at a fun grocery store? What is your favorite thing to get there?
Thursday, March 27, 2014

My Filofax - Weeks Nine, Ten, Eleven, and Twelve

Here is my Filofax for the last four weeks. I got some neeeew tape! I can't stop. Ever.

Lavender is one of my spring colors -- mix it with gold (and polka dots!) and you have a match made in heaven. I'm having fun mixing different shades of similar colors to add some interest to my weeks, rather than just strip after strip of tape.

My cute mini polka dot peachy orange washi from Anika is the cutest.

Unfortunately, this week is a little lack luster due to some pet emergencies. But, I did get my wedding pictures back! They are the best ever.

FLORAL WASHI is hitting the shelves!! I got a lot from Michaels. The reaaally cute style on the very bottom of the right page is fabric tape. Really cute, but not good to write on.

Piles of my new washi below - all three standing there with my Burt's Bees inside are all fabric. Doraemon is dreamily looking at my awesome Twinkie Chan mitts.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

10 Free Crochet Patterns for Spring

Since spring is here, we can finally stop bookmarking all the thick afghan patterns and all the chunky wool cowls we we wanted to make, and start creating a list of projects that are perfectly appropriate for the upcoming weather.

I like to crochet year round, so I decided to put together a list of ten of the patterns I've been eying to share with you. Enjoy!

This potholder pattern, available for free on Ravelry, is so deliciously 70s that I can't deny it. Even if you didn't want to use it as a potholder, you could still make it and hang it from the wall as a decoration or sew it on the back of your backpack as a patch.

Eeee! Pastel bunny pen covers. What else could be perfect for Easter time or, well, for all the times. Check out this sweet pattern on Annoo's Crochet World.

I think bobbles are the "it thing" for me so far this year. The popcorn still is adorable; I love the texture it adds to everything. These chunky bobble bows from Lulu Loves are very sweet and I want to make about a million.

Crochet cacti amigurumi! Even the dirt is crochet. Yeah, these are definitely so necessary.

Pizza is forever. Pizza is in season whatever time of year it is. Therefore, this pizza garland really needs to be displayed in every household, office, and cute little boutique in all the world like... yesterday. Thanks Twinkie!!

Before summer gets here, it's true - it still can get a little chilly. You don't need full mittens, but these pretty shell wrist warmers will keep you cosy when it's not quite hot out. I found these free fingerless gloves on Ravelry. (And hey! I made these once already!)

This free pattern is for the puff/bobble stitch that I love so much -- thes colors are so pretty to me. You could use this pattern to make a scarf, a bag, legwarmers, washcloth, potholder, etc. So useful! So cute!

Peacock feather appliques! I smell belly dance costume accessories... I could make a belt, maybe a headpiece. Hmmm. Let me start a list.

There is something about granny square projects with a white border that attract me every time. They are so clean and crisp and welcoming, I really need to go ahead and just finish one of these for once. This granny square pillow looks NOT that time consuming. (Especially compared to a whole blanket.)

And last but not least, this watermelon coin purse is adorable. I've never used a sharp crochet hook before, though, have you? It looks scary! But adding a zipper looks way easy with it.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Guest Post: Diet Tips for Healthy Skin

I received an email from a reader who was interested in sharing a post with Me! MaDonna! Here is Emma from Smile As It Happens with some info on what healthy foods can make your skin look beautiful. Thank you, Emma!

With warm weather on the horizon, you want your skin to look its best. It is tempting to get more aggressive with your cleansing, toning and moisturizing regimen and with good reason. Your daily skin care routine is an important part of keeping your skin healthy and clear. However, your diet is just if not more important. When it comes to skin, what is going on inside your body is just as important as what is going on the outside. There are certain foods that can help your skin look radiant every day of the year. Here are a few tips for curving your diet to give you silky spring skin!

Omega-3 Fatty Acids 

Omega-3s are "good fats," not like the kind you find in potato chips or ice cream. Good fats keep your skin hydrated and supple. They keep skin moist by holding in water and slow aging by reducing the presence of inflammatory compounds. Fortunately, it is easy to incorporate more Omega-3s into your diet. Start by consuming more fresh fish. Salmon, tuna and halibut are all great sources. Also add more healthy oils such as flax, canola and walnut. Beans are also a surprisingly great source for omega 3 and also omega 6 acids.

Nuts and Seeds 

There are certain nuts and seeds that have nutrition properties that can really boost the quality of your skin. For example, almonds contain Vitamin E, which helps protect skin from harmful UV rays. Pine nuts and pecans have zinc which keeps your skin from aging prematurely, helps scars and blemishes heal faster and can even help clear up acne. Nuts also are an easy and clean food to snack on. What I like to do is keep a Tupperware container of nuts in my TV room so instead of being tempted to run to the kitchen I have a healthy easy snack right next to me. The next time you want a snack, grab a handful of these skin-friendly nuts.


Fruits such as pineapple, mango, guava, papaya and kiwi are not only delicious, but they also contain loads of Vitamin C for helping your body fight free radicals. Free radicals are largely responsible for collagen loss and wrinkle formation - the number one signs of aging - so the less of them you have running around the better. My personal favorite fruit snack is cut up strawberries. Growing up I had a berry farm down the street from the house so I may have a little bit of a soft spot. Sometimes when I’m really feeling feisty I will even melt a little bit of chocolate and dip the strawberries into them. You can also try these colorful, tasty fruits in a delicious fruit smoothie or a tangy fruit salsa.

Indulge in a Little Chocolate 

Speaking of chocolate, chocolate is not only sinfully delicious but it is also good for us in moderation, especially dark chocolate. It is filled with flavonoids, which are a type of antioxidant that actually fight damaging UV rays. In addition, cocoa is a natural stress reliever, who else is a happy to hear that! When you are stressed, your body constricts preventing the flow of blood, which inhibits the production of collagen. Lack of collagen can have a direct effect on your skin. Going on crash diets and not allowing yourself any indulgences will never produce the results you want. So now and again have a little chocolate and it will do you a world of wonder. 

You deserve to have the beautiful, glowing complexion you have always dreamed of. With these diet tips you will be able to care for your precious skin from the inside out. Put your best face forward by focusing on foods that will keep your skin nourished and healthy. But also remember beauty is only skin deep, so be sure to wear a big smile this spring and that will make you glow better than any treatment ever could.

Emma Banks in a 20-something new wife living in upstate New York. When she isn't blogging you can find her spending time exercising, crafting or doing whatever brings a smile to her face. Give her blog a visit at
Monday, March 24, 2014

Russell+Hazel Three-Ring Binder Review

This weekend I got to visit my newest favorite store: Russell + Hazel. They recently opened a shop in the Galleria in Edina, MN, and for such a tiny store, I feel like I can spend hours in there. I've been in the market for a new organizer for Me! MaDonna! things (separate from my Filofax) and this mini three-ring binder that I found is perfect.

The goodies I got at Rusell+Hazel: the baby blue three-ring binder, month-on-two-pages insert with gold tabs (!!), two LePen markers (periwinkle and charcoal), and two rolls of MT washi tape. And look look look at how cute they wrapped it up for me!

Sorry this picture is so dark, but here is my planner all put together and opened to March. I tried out some of my tape, too.

Close up on the month layout. It's a Sunday through Saturday week (thank you!) and I love how thick the pages are. The inserts were $24 and they are definitely worth that price. The LePen markers don't even bleed through a tiny bit. Each month has the two-page layout, as well as a to-do list and page for notes. The pages feel incredibly sturdy.

Here is the NOTES page, followed by a photo of the TO-DO LIST page.

I'm happy for my new binder purchase! The only thing I regret is that I see on the Russell+Hazel website that I could have saved 20% at the Galleria. Too late now.. It's a very cute specialty store, and I'm really excited to use this organized to schedule out my blog posts and to keep all my ideas and plans in one place.

A little less fancy, but still very cute: I raided the Super Target dollar section up in the cities and found all these goods for only $1 each. Why doesn't my town carry these cute things? I'm pumped to use those push-pins on my corkboard at my desk at work. Not sure what I need the jumbo paperclips for, but I'll find a reason.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Things I Love

One of my newest favorite blogs is cafe et papier and her filofax posts are a major inspiration.

Avo's Life is another one of my new favorite blogs. Her art is absolutely to die for - I've been scanning her Etsy for prints that I want. And to be honest, I want all of them.

No matter the season, I'm always in the mood for pie. And anything vanilla and cinnamon is a-ok in my book. Here are a few pie recipes from the Modernist Cuisine.

Twinkie has done it again! Go to her blog for a video tutorial on how to make these cupcake dishcloths. The Lily Sugar 'N Cream yarn colors are adorable, too.

Have you seen this incredible fruit pom pom DIY yet?! This is mind-blowing to me. I can't even pick a favorite.
Saturday, March 22, 2014

What I Wore: Candy Flowers & Blog Update

First things first: I updated my blog design! Wow, it's been a while! I've been getting back into reading blogs on a daily basis and it really makes me want to take this thing seriously. I figured a new, clean design would help! I want to focus the topics I post about on this blog; it won't be too huge of a change, but it'll be something for me to keep in mind when I plan out posts. Crafts, style, health and food, my filofax, and my wedding. Some of these categories are very well established already, but a few of them I want to really expand on.

Next order of business: I'm trying to dress like it is spring! But, Minnesota spring still means thick leggings, scarves, and sweaters. It's a start. The past few days have been over 40, but today .. today is back down to the 20s. This outfit made me feel like a piece of yummy candy.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

My Filofax - Weeks Six, Seven, and Eight

Job transitions, blizzards, trip planning, and car troubles. A lot of things can happen in a few weeks that take all my free time away. My blog suffered, but - on the bright side - my filo did not! Check out my last few weeks.

This week Bravely Default came out AND the Olympics started. That was awesome. The Rilakkuma stickers came from a very sweet eBay seller who sent my arpakasso plush. I was also practicing my penmanship up there on the left side. Thanks to Coven, I've been in a very big Stevie Nicks phase, too.

Here's my work station while I was playing with the next week in my filo. The thing I like about the thin tape is that if plans change or something else is different from originally thought, I can just peel the washi up and redo it. Tidy!

The next week - one where the weather definitely affected life. I couldn't make it into town that Saturday because of snow. I loooove that strawberry washi - it's very heavy duty, I bought it in a really cute shop in Koenji, Tokyo.

Yet another week where the snow was a jerk. Thursday I didn't get to go to lunch and Friday I didn't even go to town at all. BUT - Saturday still happened. This was a busy week. Especially that I finished watching AHS: Coven. I'm sorry, but I loved it - a lot of it had to do with the fashion, though. Spot on.

When we were coming back home from the cities on Sunday, Mark and I stopped at the Galleria in Edina quick since we ate lunch next door at Byerly's. Walking through the halls, we spotted a new store that wasn't there on Valentine's Day: Russell + Hazel. Pretty much a dream. Full of MT washi, adorable notepads, binders, pen sets, office goods, stickers and tabs. I was a bit overwhelmed, but made it out with these tree tapes. My new favorites.
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