Life After PreTerm Delivery

To read about My Birth Journey visit my blog post here.

After delivering my daughter at only 32 weeks, I experienced a huge range of emotions. Of course after any birth experience there are bound to be feelings caused by not only the act of giving birth but all of the hormones surging through our bodies as well. Delivering preterm brings on an entirely different set of emotions as well – grief, guilt, pain, trauma. This isn’t to say that these emotions can’t also be experienced after a “normal” delivery, but this was what I’ve experienced after my own early and emergency delivery. Everything felt very traumatic for me. Nothing happened the way I thought it would, and I hadn’t even gone to the trouble of writing a birth plan. I knew things could happen unexpectedly, but I never expected what would actually happen.

Solitary Confinement

After delivery my emotions were only intensified by the solitary confinement I felt in the hospital for the next two days. My early delivery was caused by preeclampsia, HELPP syndrome and a premature rupture of the membranes (or placental abruption – hence all the bleeding I experienced). Because of these conditions my blood pressure was still very high and unsafe. I was still being pumped with magnesium and I was having my blood pressure taken every hour around the clock. These routine checks made it almost impossible to sleep along with the steroid that I was injected with before delivery. By day two, I felt like I was going insane. I was trapped in a labor and delivery room with no baby and constant reminders that I had failed (at least that’s what I felt at the time). All of this stress and emotion of course did not help my blood pressure, and so I was hospitalized for two days without being able to even see the baby I had given birth to. I started to feel like an imposter – had I really given birth? Did all of this really happen? Of course I knew it had happened because of the massive incision on my abdomen and had all the pain it rendered. I knew my daughter was here because of the video calls I had with my husband while he was visiting her. I had photos, I had videos, I was pumping breast milk (although only drops at this point), I was in the labor and delivery department of the hospital – but I didn’t have my baby. What made it worse were all of the different staff members who would come into the room – people who would draw blood for tests, or people who brought food, or people who cleaned the room. Many of them would ask, “where is the baby?” I specifically remember one of the phlebotomists coming in and asking this seemingly innocent question while one of my nurses was in the room with me. She knew I was not in a good place mentally. I think all the nurses did. They were mothers. Some of them mothers who had been through what I had just been through. When he asked the question – “where is the baby?” – her gaze lit him on fire and I burst into tears. There were many moments like this for me while I was in the hospital. Most of them happened while I was alone, waiting for my husband to return from visiting our baby. They happened while watching videos of him doing skin-to-skin with her for the first time. Many happened while seeing her on video calls, my heart aching wishing I could run as fast as I could all the way to the hospital she was in the next town over. But I was still healing physically myself, and not as rapidly as I would have hoped.

Finally Free (Sort Of)

My final day in the hospital was probably the toughest of all. I had been told I may be released the previous day, however with my blood pressure being as high as it was they decided to keep me another day for monitoring. I was still being monitored every hour, I was eating a bland diet of vegetarian hospital food which some days would be Boca burgers for lunch and dinner. I was also doing my best to pump breast milk every 2-3 hours around the clock. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I was more than ready to leave – I wanted to see my baby for the first time since she was born. The nurses and doctor agreed that I would be released that day. They had placed me on blood pressure medication to keep my blood pressure down and removed my IV in preparation for my release. All they needed for discharge was a last blood pressure check to make sure my levels were normal. They wrapped the monitor around my arm and told me to relax – this was it. When the results came back, the nurse looked at me with such a sadness – my levels were too high to be released. She apologized profusely, as if it were her fault at all and went to talk to the doctors. To my surprise, the doctor and nurses were adamant that I be released. I think they knew I was losing it. Or at least they felt some sympathy towards my situation. I would need my IV reinserted for intravenous blood pressure medication, then I would need to be re-monitored for the next few hours to see if the numbers would come down. These next few hours would be some of the hardest of my life. The nurse who came in to reinsert my IV was not a nurse I had before. She blew through two of my veins and poked me in four different places before giving up and letting another nurse try. I swear I almost screamed in her face. She didn’t know what was at stake for me, or how crazy I felt. Finally, my other nurse, the nurse who had been assisting me all day was able to get my IV in and she would be the one to monitor me. Each check was like waiting for a wave to crash in on me. I knew I had to relax as much as possible, but it was so difficult knowing that if my readings came in too high that I would be kept another day. I screwed up the next couple of readings with my stressed out, whacked out, crazy emotions, but thankfully the medication finally kicked in. The readings were low enough for discharge. Eventually, after being given all of my paperwork and talking to the doctor, I was released. I felt free, well sort of.

Onto the Next Hospital

After being released from the hospital my husband took me home to shower, change and get ready to go see our daughter. I would finally be seeing her for the first time since she left me two days prior. I was ecstatic, I was emotional, I was terrified, I was so looking forward to seeing her. We went to the hospital and another wave of emotion hit me as we went to sign in through security. My tiny precious baby was here in this hospital alone, much like I was only hours earlier. Luckily, I knew she wouldn’t remember what she was going through, but it didn’t make me feel all that much better about her situation. When we entered the NICU it was like something out of a daytime medical drama sitcom. We had to “scrub in” before entering the department, which was guarded by two locked entrances not including the hospitals main security. Apparently they had issues in the past with a woman dressing like a nurse and breaking in to steal babies. Once we were all cleaned up we walked down the long hallway back to the area where our precious baby was staying. We walked by a handful of other babies, all snug in their isolettes waiting for their families to come visit. There were beeping sounds going off all around us. The sights and sounds made everything feel so sterile. You could smell the hand sanitizer and feel the dryness in the air. We entered into her area and my husband showed me where she was. There was a giant incubator style bed, or isolette, a recliner chair and a white board that had all of our names and some of her medical information on it. It made me sad that her nursery was so beautiful and that she was here in this plain and stark place. I walked over to the bed and lifted the cover to see her inside. She was so tiny. My heart burst into pieces. Some of those pieces were burst by love, some by sadness, some by utter guilt. I’m so sorry you’re in here. I’m so sorry you’re alone. I’m so sorry it took me so long to get here.

A New Kind of Love

Once we were settled in the nurse on duty helped us remove her from her isolette so that I could hold her for the first time. I remember feeling somewhat unsettled because of how small she was, but I was also so excited to finally meet her and talk to her and smell her. Moving the wires and monitors around was a feat in itself. It felt odd to have to keep all of this out of the way while trying to keep her close. We had to wear masks at all times in the hospital. But I did break the rules a bit and gave my baby a big kiss on her head as I told her how much I loved her. I felt justified. She just came from my own body, and besides I had just been tested for COVID in the hospital I was in before. I sat and held her for a couple of hours. She was so warm and soft against my skin. It was the happiest and healthiest I had felt in days. Even in her tiny and frail state, she struggled to look up at me, and then settled back in, falling asleep so soundly on my chest. She was (and is) so beautiful, so perfect. I looked at her in amazement and couldn’t believe how precious she was, but I also couldn’t believe how strong she was. She had just been through everything I’d been through, if not worse, and she was only days old. She was so brave. She was so incredible. In those moments I felt so grateful to be her mama. I felt privileged and honored. I couldn’t believe that she had come from me. I held her so close and could feel a love that I had never felt before. The kind of love that parents tell you about but that you never truly understand until you experience it yourself. I held her so tight and I never wanted to leave. I was finally with my baby and she was with me. Everything felt the way it was meant to be, until it was time to leave.

The Waiting Game

At this point, baby needed to gain weight and learn how to eat before she could leave the hospital. Luckily, this was a typically short order for a baby born of her size. She was not on oxygen or any sort of breathing machines. She did not have any infections or problems. She was just so small and so early. She had a feeding tube and a pic line for other nutrients and fluids. It was difficult to see her with tubes and things in her face and body, but it was nothing compared to how bad it could have been if she needed more assistance. We would visit the hospital twice, sometimes three times a day. Fortunately we lived super close so we could come in the morning, go home for lunch and then come back in the evenings. As time went on and she grew stronger, we started to learn how to care for her as she learned how to care for herself. She learned to drink from a bottle, and we learned how to feed her. She learned how to regulate her temperature, and we learned how to remove her from her isolette. We learned so much from the nurses and staff at the hospital. It was like getting a crash course in baby care while waiting for our baby to come home. It wasn’t an ideal situation, obviously, but for what it was, it was a good way to keep our spirits high about being able to care for her once she came home. It was hard leaving her every time. And it was hard seeing her in the hospital. Every day I imagined myself grabbing her and running out of the hospital, but I knew that this care was what was best for her. Eventually she would come home – 24 days later. I couldn’t believe how slow and how fast it went by all at once. She would finally be coming home and we would be on our own to care for our baby.

The Adventure of a Lifetime

The day we took our daughter home was one of the best days of my life. I was so excited to be able to see her every second of every day. I would be able to give her all of her feedings, change all of her diapers, give her all of her baths and of course snuggle her whenever I wanted. There would be no wires in the way and no monitors beeping constantly in our heads. She would get to have all of her cozy swaddles and preemie pajamas. She was ours, finally ours. It felt surreal. To this day it sometimes still does. Having a premature baby has been rough. All of the ups and downs are unlike any emotional rollercoaster I’ve ever experienced. But I would do it all again in a heartbeat for her. We are embarking on the adventure of a lifetime, and I can’t wait to watch her grow into the strong, beautiful, brave little girl that she already has inside of her.

Plastic Free July: 5 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste

July is Plastic Free Month so I thought it would be a great idea to share some ideas on how to easily reduce how much plastic we’re using. It can be difficult in this day and age to avoid plastic. It seems that everywhere I turn everything is wrapped in plastic – even vegetables! Sometimes using plastic is unavoidable because of this but there are some easy ways that you can reduce your plastic usage that we can all do not only for Plastic Free July but every month of the year.

Swap Your Plastic Utensils

This is probably one of the easiest swaps you can make – instead of using the plastic utensils at work for your lunch (or anywhere when you’re eating out) carry your own reusable utensils. This can mean you have an extra set at work that you use, wash and reuse, or maybe you have a set you keep in your purse. Whatever method you prefer, this is a quick and easy way to reduce your use of plastic every day. And really, who really likes using plastic utensils anyway. You can find loads of silverware and utensils at your local thrift store, or if you’re looking for something new I suggest checking out Etsy for some of the cutest reusable sets you’ve ever seen. Both options are inexpensive and a great way to reduce your plastic usage all year long.

Reusable Bags

This is a no-brainer in California, since our free plastic bags are no longer allowed, but in other areas it may be an important switch you can make to reduce your plastic waste. Reusable bags can be anything from grocery bags, produce bags, zip-up bags to lunch bags. Whether you’re reusing your stockpile of plastic bags or purchasing washable replacements this can be a quick and easy way to lessen your plastic footprint. There are loads of options that can be purchased at local grocery stores for fairly cheap and of course Etsy always has cute and unique options that you can have shipped to you. Stock up on grocery bags, mesh produce bags and even reusable snack bags for lunches. Also, did you know you can wash zip-up bags and reuse them? I’ve been doing this for months now and have even been putting them in the dishwasher. Simply flip the bags inside out and place on the top rack of your dishwasher. Wedge them between a few cups to keep them in place and before you know it your zipper bags will be good as new!

Plastic-Free Produce

This tip can be a bit more difficult to follow depending on where you shop, but it’s also important to let our grocery stores know that we’re tired of all of our food being wrapped in plastic for no reason. I like to try and do my best to purchase only those produce items that come without any added plastic. For example, often times there are english cucumbers wrapped in plastic wrap at my local grocery store, instead of purchasing those, I’ll buy the regular cucumbers that are plastic free. Same goes for bagged salads, herbs, and things like broccoli, carrots or green beans. The easiest way to avoid plastic produce? Shopping at the farmers markets! This is also a great way to get organic produce locally while supporting your local farmers and community. Avoiding plastic wrapped produce can have a big impact per trip depending on what you normally buy and can be also be a great way to encourage us to support our local agricultural businesses.

Buy in Bulk

Buying in bulk means that you can use reusable containers or bags to purchase things like rice, pasta, flour, nuts and other dry items. This greatly reduces waste and is usually cheaper too! Most grocery stores have a bulk area and if you’re lucky you might even have a dedicated bulk store in your area. Simply weight the container or bag you are using before you fill it up and subtract that from the total weight of your purchase before you buy. Sometimes this can be tougher to figure out depending on where you shop, but if you speak to your local grocer they should be able to help. I’ve seen people use everything from cloth bags to mason jars to purchase items in bulk. Not only is it easy but they look better sitting in your pantry too!

Quit Single Use Water Bottles

This tip is probably the easiest and most impactful of all – purchase a reusable water bottle to refill instead of using single use plastic water bottles. This tip is huge because it can reduce a crazy amount of plastic being thrown into landfills. It’s inexpensive to purchase a nice water bottle, whether you like stainless, glass or another plastic option. Most airports, gyms, public events etc. now offer water refill stations for your reusable bottle so it’s easier than ever. Don’t like the water from your tap? That’s easy. You can either buy a filtered pitcher or sink attachment, OR purchase your water in larger amounts to fill up your reusable bottle. There are over 50 billion water bottles purchased each day that end up in the garbage. Purchasing a reusable bottle can make a difference and help greatly reduce our plastic footprint.

So there you have it! 5 Tips to reducing your plastic footprint for Plastic Free July. All of these tips are so easy and don’t cost much if anything to implement. I hope you’ll be inspired to make small changes to help our environment not just for July but for every month of the year!

Las Vegas, NV

Traveling for work can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand your trip is pretty much paid for but on the other you do actually have to work for part if not most of it. This is how all except two of my trips to Las Vegas, Nevada have been. All in all I’ve been about 7 or 8 times. Basically, I’ve been to alot of different places in Las Vegas – some expensive (like that I could not afford and work was paying) and some not-so-expensive. In this post, I want to tell you about some of my favorite places and some of the best places for your money if you decide to visit Sin City.

Favorite Places to Stay

I’ve definitely been spoiled in the hotel department when it comes to staying in Las Vegas. Because most of my trips have been for work I’ve had the pleasure of staying in the hotel attached to the convention center on the strip – The Venetian. The Venetian is one of the pricier albeit nicest hotel on the strip. It’s connected to the convention center as well as the Palazzo which houses a wide variety of shopping and restaurants (some of which will come up in this post). The Venetian is styled after Venice Italy. It features large marble columns, ornately painted ceilings and a full on replica of the canals in Italy. It is one the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever seen which makes paying for it worth it in the end. The casino is huge and is one of the only casinos I’ve seen in Las Vegas that offers a non-smoking area. The pool area is beautiful as well with water features and a full bar that will serve you poolside. They also have two full size spas outdoors that have waterfalls and also poolside service. All of their guest rooms are suites that boast full size bathrooms with jetted tubs as well as showers and full living room areas to relax in. This is not your basic hotel and will run you anywhere from $169 to $610 for their more “basic” suites. If you have the money to splurge it’s definitely worth it.

Another great place to stay that is a bit more budget friendly, while still being beautiful, is Paris Las Vegas Hotel. Now don’t get me wrong, Paris can still be expensive depending on the time you go and what room you choose. But for our particular trip, which was a week before Thanksgiving, we found this to be the nicest and least pricey option. The hotel is styled after Paris, France and even features a large replica of the Eiffel Tower out front. You can even take an elevator ride up to the top of the tower for a bird’s eye view of the city, or enjoy a fancy dinner at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant. The casino is adorable with an outdoor feel. The ceilings are painted as blue skies and the bars are set up as if they are outdoor cafes. Even the waitresses wear Paris-style outfits as they serve cocktails on the casino floor. Paris’ hotel rooms are nice and will be even nicer once they complete renovations. They aren’t all suites like the Venetian but are still a decent size with a larger bathroom than your average hotel. I’ve also had their room service for breakfast which was super speedy and delicious. I would absolutely stay here again if given the chance.

Favorite Places to Play

Gambling is a huge part of the entertainment in Vegas. Pretty much every hotel features a casino and everywhere you go you can hear the bells and whistles of the slot machines. I’m not a huge fan of gambling, but sometimes it’s fun to play some of the slot machines and get free drinks while you’re doing it. The best places to play the slot machines are in the Venetian and Palazzo because, in my experience, they still bring you free drinks while you play. I’ve noticed many of the other casinos don’t have cocktail waitresses come around as often which makes it much less fun to lose money while gambling. Another fun place to play slot machines is in what they call Old Las Vegas. This Las Vegas is off the strip on Fremont Street. It is lined with neon signs and some rather different sites than what you will see on the new strip. Fremont Street is home to a giant zip-line ride where you can sail above the entire boulevard of lights, and at night is home to a variety of live music playing up and down the street. The slot machines are fun because the drinks are cheaper, the games are older, and you get much of the feel of what Las Vegas must have been like back in the old days. Visiting Old Las Vegas is like being thrown back in time. Someday, I’d like to stay here as well to get a different feel of the other side of Vegas.

For fun that doesn’t include gambling I usually like to go watch the fountain show at the Bellagio. It’s an engineering marvel of water and lights with fountains set to different music depending on when you’re able to watch it. My favorite song to see is Andre Bocelli’s time to say goodbye. The fountain show is spectacular and definitely something you won’t want to miss if you visit Vegas. The best part? It’s absolutely free. Another fun thing to do in Vegas is to check out all the other design and work put into the other ritzy hotels and casinos. A couple worth checking out are the Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace. Both feature amazing design features such as Bellagio’s glass flower ceiling and Caesar’s Romanesque interior. Bellagio also features a conservatory and botanical garden which is redesigned each season. The work that goes into the garden is breathtaking. It’s free to walk around and check out the hotels and their different attractions. You could also stop for a drink at Bellagio’s piano bar near the lobby or play a few slots in either casino. Another fun bar to check out is the dueling piano bar inside of Paris. You could also watch from outside the bar through the large windows if you don’t feel like paying for a drink. Picture two large grand pianos playing tunes requested by the audience. I couldn’t believe the talent of the guys playing and the engagement of the crowd is fun to watch while also being fairly inexpensive.

Favorite Places to Eat

Visiting new restaurants is hands down my favorite part about travelling. I love experiencing new food and trying new places and Las Vegas is one of the best places for that. They have so many different restaurants ranging from run-of-the-mill to Michelin star rated. Whether you’re looking for Italian food, a good burger or something exotic you’re sure to find it there.

For breakfast I love HEXX kitchen + bar located inside of Paris. Their interior is super modern and hip and I loved the variety in their menu. One of my favorite items was their fresh fruit plate, which I know, sounds basic, but is so over the top. It came with a bunch of mini banana muffins and a coconut whipped cream that was out of this world. Also, it’s huge! I’ve never seen a bigger fruit plate in my life! It went perfectly with my bottomless mimosas. I’ve recently learned that my favorite lunch spot in Las Vegas is no longer there after 6 years (super sad face!). So, the next time I go, I will try to update this post with a new lunch spot.

One of the best dinners I’ve ever had was my 30th birthday dinner at Sushi Samba inside of the Palazzo. Sushi Samba is one of my favorite restaurants in Las Vegas and I try to visit every time I am there. Their menu features items that are in a Japanese-South American fusion style. My favorite part is that they also offer an entire vegan menu which can be difficult to find in fine dining. The atmosphere inside is amazing as well with street-style art on the walls, crazy sculptures you walk through to get to your seat, and giant paper lanterns hanging from the walls. If vegan isn’t your thing, have no fear, because they offer a wide variety of meats and sushi items to suit everyone’s taste. Seriously, I went with my dad who is a hardcore meat eater and my friend who is a hardcore vegan and no one left disappointed. They also offer gluten-free items as well as a brunch and a kids menu which I have never tried but I’m sure is out of this world. Next on my list for them is to try their some of the Japanese Whiskey from their extensive drink list. It can get a little pricey to eat here for sure, but the food you are getting is second to none and is an unforgettable experience in and of itself.

Las Vegas can be a super fun place to visit without costing too much money if you plan it out properly. I’d say the most expensive and most dangerous part of the city is the casinos with their many slot machines, the trick is to learn when to walk away. This isn’t to say that you can’t win, though. My husband and I paid for almost our entire trip with winnings off of a single slot machine alone, so definitely don’t knock it til you’ve tried it. Overall, it’s a great city to visit for relaxing as well. There are endless things to do and see, but the hotels can also be so nice that you might not want to leave. I’ve been many times, like I said before, but I think I would go again for sure. It seems like there is always something new to experience in Sin City even if it’s not a show or another casino. If you get the chance to check it out I totally recommend checking out the places I’ve mentioned above.

Until next time,

MelissaRose

Half Way Through 2019 – Resolutions Check-In

We are half way through 2019 already – can you believe it? It seems like the years go by faster and faster every year and this one is no exception. It’s been fun though having real attainable goals and trying to achieve them, and stick to them, throughout the last 6 months. I wanted to do a post today to tell you all about how my resolutions are going, what I’ve been able to do to stay on target and what my plans are for the remaining half of the year. Let’s get into it! If you want more details and specifics about my resolutions go check out my other posts here.

Resolution #1 – Keep Blogging – so far so good! I’ve had a couple lapses where I didn’t post for a while, but overall I think I’ve stayed fairly dedicated. I’ve had to switch my focus from time to time in order to keep myself excited and into blogging, but I think that’s also kept the site more interesting. I mean, does anyone really want to just read about the same thing all the time? I know I don’t want to write like that. I plan on continuing to use this blog as sort of a personal journal to include my resolution accountability, culinary experiments, pop-up camping adventures and overall life lessons. Stay tuned for travel posts about Nashville, some awesome vegan recipes I tried out this weekend for my Mom’s 60th birthday and many more pop-up camping posts!

Resolution #2 – Two Week Detox, January 2019 – okay, so this one has been completed, but I’ve been having some thoughts on it. I think I want to do another detox here fairly soon and this time for 3 weeks. I’m just trying to figure out the optimal date to do it which during the summer and wedding season can be tough, because hello, champagne toasts, camping trips, bbqs and every other excuse for a cold one. However, I really enjoyed the way my body felt after the detox and think it may be time for another. This is something I think I’d like to do more regularly just in general, this way it will get easier every time and hopefully have lasting effects on how often I drink and smoke regularly. So more on that to come…

Resolution #3 – 2019, The Year of No New Things – I have been killing it at this one! I have mentioned this in previous posts but now that we are at the 6 month mark I think it’s an incredibly important check-in. I have been able to go 6 whole months without really buying anything new. Okay so, some exception – first, I bought a vacuum cleaner. Our vacuum died and with having 5 animals in the house it’s not really something I can live without, nor is it something I want to buy used. Our vacuum has to be beastly when it comes to animal hair and I just don’t think a thrifted vacuum would cut it, so I bought it new. Second, I rewarded myself a little early. I had decided in January when I made this resolution that I would allow myself two slips – one at 6 months and one at the end of the year. Well, I went to Nashville in May, and really wanted to buy a new hat – like a nice hat, a really nice hat. I did just that. I bumped my reward up a couple months and bought myself a hat in Nashville. It’s super awesome and I’m in love with it and it’s really the only fun thing I’ve purchased new (unless you think lotions and toothpaste and stuff like that is fun, which hey, you do you.) Every other items I’ve purchased this year has been from the thrift store or somehow secondhand. I’ve also gotten lucky enough to receive some pretty sweet hand-me-down items (hello, new overalls) and I think have been distracted enough by my other resolutions that this goal has not been difficult to accomplish so far. I definitely think it’s something I will continue to do for years to come.

Resolution #4 – Sustainability Through Food – this resolution has been a little tougher, but hey I’m still here and doing it! Mostly this resolution started as a ploy to get myself to garden, but it’s also about cooking at home, meal-prepping and saving money along the way. The gardening has been going great. My garden is finally producing and the harvest is not only delicious but fun and rewarding. If you want to see my recent post on my Garden Check-In you can read it here. The other facets to this resolution have been tougher for sure and have started to slip even more now that we’re in the middle of the year. I’m cooking less and eating out more it feels like, but still not eating out as much as before. I’ve continued to actually pick my groceries up at the store versus having them delivered – Except the occasional Costco delivery, because let’s face it that place can be hell. I’ve been trying a couple different subscription boxes lately to see if that helps with the urge to be lazy. I’m not super duper disappointed in myself, but I know I need to get better. This week I have some meals from HelloFresh that I need to try out. I think it’s just been so busy these past few months that sometimes it’s just easier to grab a pizza or tacos from somewhere else. I’m determined to get back into the swing of meal prepping and making my own food though, so I’ll check back in a few weeks and let you know how that’s going.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Resolution #5 – Take Better Care of Your Body – this one has been great, but of course with up and downs. The downs are more due to just being busy and either not having time to hit the gym or not having the energy. I have gotten better about doing exercises at home even if I can’t get to the gym though, and that’s something I was never good with before. Today is a new day, and the beginning of a new month, so I plan on hitting the gym after work for some cycling. The big bummer about this resolution is that the gym was super clean and empty in the beginning since it was brand new. As it’s been open longer it’s gotten more and more crowded which in turn makes it more annoying for me to go. I’ve thought about maybe cancelling the membership and working out more at home instead, but I do enjoy the stationary bike and just can’t see myself purchasing one right now. Overall, I can see a difference in my body since working out more often which is what the goal was. I have definitely lost some weight as well and I am back on the intermittent fasting regiment. Basically what this means is I’m allowing myself to eat between the hours of noon and 8pm and fasting for a full 16 hours in between. Sometimes this time range fluctuates a bit but is always a 16 hour fasting period. I’ve seen big differences in my body and in my mental capacity by fasting this way. The hardest part is the weekends which I do sometimes cheat for. I love a good breakfast and sometimes it’s more fun to do breakfast earlier in the day on a Saturday then to wait for a brunch. I’m also looking forward to more walks in the fall as it’s too hot to take the doggies right now. I know they miss walking but don’t want to risk burning their paws on the asphalt. Luckily, I’m more active in the summertime in general so I think I’m doing fairly well on this resolution so far.

So there you have it – my half-way through the year check in. Overall, I’m pretty proud of myself and can’t wait to stick through it to the end of the year. I’ll continue to keep this blog updated. Let me know in the comments below how your resolutions are going. Are you still staying committed or have the months made you fall off the wagon?

Until next time,

MelissaRose

May 2, NY19 Resolutions Check-In

Hi all! I’m here today with another accountability check-in on my New Year’s resolutions. I’m happy to say that I’m still doing fairly well on all of my goals that I set forth. Let’s get into them in order…

My first New Year’s resolution was to keep up with my blog. I’ll have to admit, lately I haven’t been posting as much as when I first started, but I am still posting. So that’s good. I’m posting almost once a week which was my minimum goal when I started. Unfortunately, the toughest part now is thinking of content to write about. I’ve blogged most of my favorite go-to recipes already and a few posts about thrifting. I think I will have to step up my at home cooking a bit more in order to give myself things to write about. I also need to get better at photographing things I’m up to so that I can post about them. I have already moved my seedlings to the garden and laid down my soaker hose irrigation, but unfortunately did not take any photos so it makes it difficult to illustrate my process in my posts. In order to try and keep up with this resolution, I’m going to try and be better at documenting certain processes and recipes that I can post here.

My third resolution (skipping number two because it was only a two week goal at the beginning of the year) was to not buy anything new. I am doing great with this one despite the occasional urge to splurge. No, really, I went to Target yesterday to get an eyebrow pencil (can’t buy these used), and ended up with an entire basket full of goodies. I looked at the basket and realized that I was getting ready to buy a bunch of stuff I didn’t really need and that would really just end up being a waste of money. I’m proud to say that I put all the items back and left with the items I had intended to buy originally. We all know how difficult this can be at Target, so I’m pretty proud of myself to say the least. I have continued to purchase clothing and other items secondhand when I need to. The only new items I’ve purchased so far are a vacuum cleaner, mascara, an eyebrow pencil and of course other toiletries and cleaning supplies you really can’t buy secondhand. Overall, this is a huge win because I used to frivolously spend pretty often. I am excited to keep this going throughout the rest of the year. Oh! However, I should mention, I will be going to Nashville in May, and I am thinking about rewarding myself at the half way of the year mark (close enough) with a new hat. We will see how that goes…

New Year’s resolution number four is sustainability through food. This one is also going great. I have all of my vegetable seedlings now transferred to the garden and have been watering them regularly to keep them alive and well. Some seem like the recent heat wave may have hit them a bit hard, but I’m hoping they will bounce back. I’ve also been fairly good at not ordering out for food (although this has happened a few times – damn you DoorDash!!). I’ve curbed waste in our home by purchasing dinners in the evenings at the store instead of doing large grocery trips each week. I’m finding that this cuts down on the possibility of menu plans being forgotten or skipped and food being wasted. I’ve also found that it helps keep me more accountable to actually make dinner instead of ordering something that may be less healthy and typically more expensive.

My final resolution was to take better care of my physical form – working out mostly. I’m proud to say that my gym opened a few months ago, and I am now on my 7th (or maybe it’s my 8th? I can’t remember) week of going to the gym at least 3 days a week (I may have had one busy week where I only went once or twice, but did work out at home instead). I’m really enjoying going to the gym, and feel like I’m finally starting to see real results when I look in the mirror. It feels great to put in the work and I find that I’m sleeping better, wanting to eat better, and also waking up feeling more energized than I have in months. This also helps with my evening grocery store trips. My grocery store is right next door to my gym, so swinging by after a workout makes it super convenient and quick to grab stuff for dinner.

Overall, I am happy with my progress this year, and I really feel like this blog has been helping me to build good habits. Going to the gym and cooking every night may not seem like alot, but working a full time job plus managing several freelance opportunities and maintaining a home can be tough. Often it can be difficult to balance my time properly and encourage myself to do things other then sit and watch tv when the days feel so grueling. I’m happy to say that finding new things to keep me busy is not making me more tired but quite the opposite. I’m enjoying the fruits of my labor already and can’t wait to see what I can sow throughout the rest of the year. Thanks for reading!

MelissaRose

March 11, NY19 Resolutions Check-In

It’s been a while since I checked in with how my New Year’s resolutions are going, so I thought I’d write up a quick post to keep myself accountable. If you’re reading this, I hope it helps you to stick to your resolutions as well or maybe to pick back up on them if you’ve fallen off the wagon.

My first resolution is to keep up on my blog, which I am happy to say I think I’ve been doing a fairly good job doing. I’ve been posting almost once a week, and I feel like it’s really helped me to take more pride in the things I’m cooking, the plants I’m planting and the steps I’m taking towards living a more sustainable life. If you want to see what I’ve been up to, go to my home page to scroll through my most recent posts, or use the menu above to browse by category.

My second resolution was a two week detox, which ended a while ago, so I’ll be skipping to resolution #3: No New Things. Resolution #3 is basically a rule I set for myself to not buy anything new in 2019 unless absolutely necessary. So far, I am doing great, as the only things I’ve purchased new are a vacuum cleaner and some hair clips. Both of these items I feel are completely justified as I would never buy either of these things used, and the vacuum cleaner is a huge necessity in our house because of all of our fur babies. Also, I didn’t just go out and purchase a new vacuum for the heck of it, our old one took a crap and so it was necessary to find a replacement. I got an amazing pet-focused vacuum from Kohl’s which I’ve been thrilled with (major #adulting), and the Kohl’s cash program gave me $30 back which I was able to use to purchase new pads for my steam mop. To be honest, sometimes I miss buying new things, but it’s made me even more resourceful and more determined to find things used. I even found a Kitchenaid can opener at the thrift store!

Resolution #4 is sustainability through food. This is a multi-faceted goal including more cooking, less eating out, as well as starting a larger garden. So far, the cooking has been mostly on point with the exception of a few unplanned cheat days. It’s been fun to try new recipes like bagels and lobster tails in lieu of purchasing these items premade at the store or in a restaurant. I’m also finding that the more recipes I try, the more my confidence builds in the kitchen. The more confidence I have the more fun it is for me to try new things and see how many things I can make that I never thought I would before. The lobster tails and bagels (not at the same time LOL) are definitely the most daunting things I’ve tried, but both turned out wonderfully and make me excited to see what I can do next. The gardening has been going pretty great too. I will be getting ready to harden off my seedlings this week to get them ready for the great outdoors. I have one more bed to prep in the backyard before they can move in which I’m hoping to get done either this week or next weekend. The longer days should now help with having more time to get things done. Also, the weather is looking excellent (finally!) so I’m definitely looking forward to spending some time in the yard.

My fifth resolution is a pretty standard goal for most people around New Years, and that is to take better care of my physical form. It’s been a rough go the last couple of months since we’ve been getting a TON of rain. Each weekend that is hasn’t rained though, my husband and I have been taking river walks with our German shepherd Nixie. It’s about a 3.5 mile walk/hike round trip and it’s always a nice little escape and a joy to be out in nature. Also, my new gym finally opened up last week! I’ve been once so far, but I am so excited to continue to go. The place is so clean and new and I love how the machines are set up. It’s been a while since I visited a gym regularly, but I just know that if I can keep myself going for the first couple of weeks I won’t want to stop.

So that’s pretty much it on how I’m doing so far this year. Overall I’m pretty proud of my consistency and progress. I definitely think having this blog and having a place to document everything I’m working on is super helpful.

What about you? How are your resolutions going?

Until next time!

MelissaRose

Getting Better Sleep

bed with textures and orchid

One of my resolutions for this year is to take better care of my physical body. To me, this means a myriad of things – better diet, more exercise, less bad things like sweets, alcohol and cigarettes, but also, more sleep. Well, maybe more sleep isn’t the right way to say it, what I mean is better sleep. Falling asleep faster, staying asleep longer, waking up earlier. There are many, many articles on the internet about how to get better sleep. Some say to turn off your television or to make sure your room is completely dark and quiet, other say to listen to sound machines or charge your phone in another room. But I don’t think it’s a cookie cutter solve for everyone. In this post, I’m going to tell you what I do to get better sleep. And again, this may not work for you, but it works for me and so I thought I would share it, even if it doesn’t align with what you normally read.

Background Noise

I love background noise when I sleep. Whether it’s a movie, some music playing or a weird playlist of rain and whale sounds, I enjoy having noise droning in the background as I fall asleep. For me, this makes sense. I have three dogs and two cats, all of whom sleep in my room (as well as my husband, obviously). I am very sensitive to sound when I’m trying to fall asleep. Listening to breathing patterns, snoring, mouth noises, all of it can keep me awake at night. To make matters worse, I think everyone except for my german shepherd (who is quite a bit younger than all the other animals) snores. To drown this out, I enjoy having a movie playing in the background, but if not a movie than music. For the movie, I turn the brightness on our bedroom television pretty much all the way down and try to pick movies I’ve seen several times so that I’m not kept up by the fear of missing something important. Some of my main go to movies are The Lord of the Rings series, Star Wars and numerous animated family films such as Megamind, Shrek, or anything Pixar to name a few. I’m able to fall asleep to these quickly as I already know what’s going to happen and the dialogue and music drown out the sleepy snoring sounds of my beloveds. Most articles will tell you to turn off the TV before bed, but I say let it play.

Relaxing Drinks

I absolutely love tea before bed. The warm feeling I get while sipping tea in bed is so relaxing and comforting to me. Not only that, but I drink teas with herbs and mixtures in them that promote healthy sleep. My current favorite is from Yogi Teas and is their Honey Lavender Stress Relief Tea. The sweetness of the honey and lavender is delicious, but I also love the calming smell of the lavender before trying to fall asleep. They also have Bedtime Tea that I haven’t tried yet but need to. Another brand that I learned of from my mom years and years ago is Celestial Seasons Sleepytime Tea. It’s a delicious herbal blend that has been around for over 40 years, and I just love the cute little bear on the packaging. Lastly, a new drink I tried recently is the Mushroom Hot Cacao from Four Sigmatic. I received a sample from a recent Sephora order and was surprised to see mushroom and hot cocoa in the same label. I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor. The chocolate was rich with a hint of cinnamon and not a lick of mushroom could be detected. What intrigued me even more was upon reading their website I learned that the reishi mushroom used in the hot chocolate promotes restful sleep as well as stress release. I could feel my body relaxing almost instantly after trying this, and while I’m not big on hot chocolate or chocolate in general, I would consider subbing this into my routine once in a while for a sweet treat before bed.

Stretching

Sometimes when I lay in bed, I can feel my legs and arms becoming restless from the motion of the day. The blood pumping through my veins feels as if it’s trying to slow down and relax, but is having difficulty resting without some coercion. This is where stretching helps me tremendously. Sometimes I stretch outside of bed, doing a few light yoga moves such as downward dog or child’s pose. Other times, I forget and stretch in bed. This usually involves grabbing my feet and raising my legs over my body, or sitting up and doing a butterfly stretch under the covers. I’m no expert on this, so definitely do what’s right for your body. Youtube is a great reference for sleeping stretches that you can do before bed. I suggest you look into them and see what works best for you. (You can find some good out of bed stretches from Fitness Magazine here.) Ultimately, this helps relax my body a great deal before calling it for the night. I think it’s important to give your body a cool down period before just plopping into bed. I know for me it is helpful and can also help to calm my mind as well because of the overall relaxing nature of stretching out tired muscles.

Just Breathe

Similar to stretching, finding an even and calm breathing routine before trying to sleep helps me to regulate my body and prepare it for relaxation mode. One routine that works well for me is this: inhale for 5 seconds, hold for 2 seconds, exhale for 7 seconds. I will do this cycle of breathing several times, or until I feel like my heart has stopped pounding with the stress of the day. It’s incredibly relaxing and when done after stretching and a cup of tea makes my body feel like it’s almost instantly ready for sleep.

Turn Down the Heat

This is more of a wintertime tip, but I think is important to mention. During the colder months, turn down your thermostat instead of cranking it up to keep you warm. This is because your body actually sleeps better when it’s cooler. It’s true! Did you know your body temperature actually starts dropping when it’s time for you to sleep? This is why it feels so energizing to exercise, because you are feeling warm. And don’t worry about getting cold in the middle of the night (I mean, sleep with blankets obviously) because your body is actually expelling heat while you sleep. If you’ve ever woken up because you’re too hot, you’ll know what I mean. I turn my thermostat to 64° and sleep with a down alternative comforter. I stay warm throughout the night and even wake up too warm sometimes in the mornings. The worst part about this tip is getting up in the morning, but I usually just run to the thermostat to turn it up a few degrees before jumping in a hot shower. You can read more about sleep and body temperature here.

I think that’s all the tips I have for you today. Let me know if you have any tips or tricks for getting better sleep. Until then, sweet dreams!

MelissaRose

January 14, NY19 Resolutions Check-In

Today is technically the end of my first New Year’s resolution – a 2 week detox from alcohol, cigarettes and sweets. I’ll admit I didn’t do as great as I wanted, at least with the smoking, but everything else I’ve been fairly solid. I smoked on Wednesday of last week, and while it felt like a small failure, I’m not beating myself up too bad since my goal wasn’t to quit smoking completely. My goal was and is to cut back on smoking and treat it more like drinking I guess. I don’t drink every day, I don’t drink during the day (except on special occasions or mimosas at brunch) and I think I’d like to treat smoking that way as well. So, while I did have a cigarette Wednesday evening, I did not smoke during the day at work or at home at any point and have decided to only smoke socially or when I’m drinking, which I’m good with and completely capable of. Furthermore, I feel that not smoking cigarettes for over a week after smoking for 10+ years is pretty good, especially since I did it cold turkey and without the aid of any sort of supplement such as the patch or gum. I proved to myself that I can quit long enough to get the toxins out of my system, and that’s exactly what I did.

Drinking went almost the full two weeks. I put in a previous post that I had a fairly important birthday party to attend on Saturday and that I was contemplating taking a hiatus from my detox for the occasion. I decided to have that hiatus and so ended up drinking at said party. It was fun, however, I did not anticipate the change in tolerance from not having drank for almost two weeks straight. I may have gone a little overboard, and while I hope I didn’t make a complete fool of myself, I felt it the next day. But I think it was a good lesson learned. I hate the day after drinking. Saturday was such a productive weekend day and it felt so nice to wake up early, get things done and then have time to relax before having more things to attend to. This made Sunday feel so much worse, as I sat on my couch for hours on end, regretting the decisions I made the previous night. Overall, it made me realize that moderation is key, and that I don’t have to drink at every occasion just because other people are drinking. I’m capable of saying no, and capable of sticking to it.

The one thing I’ve stuck to my guns to the entire two weeks is no sweets. This isn’t too difficult for me as I don’t have much of a sweet tooth to begin with. Not that I don’t like the occasional cookie or bowl of ice cream now and then, but I didn’t feel any terrible cravings over the past two weeks. I think I’ll keep this one going too. I’m already seeing good changes in my body from the lack of drinking and lack of sweets. I’ve also started drinking an apple cider vinegar drink in the mornings which I hope will help to propel my progress. Overall, I still feel better during the day with more energy and am sleeping better at night. My biological clock has changed as well. I’m waking up each morning before my alarm at around 5:50am. The best part is actually getting up and ready for work in the morning with time to spare. This spare time is used to walk my dogs if weather permits, and I love having the extra time outside before being confined to an office all day.

I’m also still sticking to my meal prepping and planning. I did my shopping for the week on Saturday morning. I once again purchased the majority of my product from the Farmer’s Market which is great because part of my resolution is to stop with convenience and start supporting more local causes. I have some rather tasty meals planned for the week, a couple of which are new that I’m excited to try and hopefully blog about. I haven’t purchased anything new as part of my no buying anything new resolution for the entire year. And, like I said, I’ve continued to walk in the mornings as part of my resolution to take better care of my body (my gym is still not open… need to check on the progress of that).

I’m proud of my progress and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I’m excited to get to tackling my other resolutions as well, mostly the gardening. I believe I’ll need to purchase my seeds soon for starting indoors. I’ve been pinning upcycled ideas for planters like crazy and can’t wait to see what other ones I can come up with. All in all, I’m excited and looking forward to the next steps.

How are your resolutions or goals going for the year? Is there anything you’ve learned about yourself so far?

MelissaRose

Gardening in January

Part of my fourth New Year’s Resolution for 2019 is to become more self-sustainable by increasing the size of my garden. As stated in a previous post, I already have two good sized raised garden beds I plan on using as well as an in-ground bed on the side of my house. Last year, I only used the two raised beds and was able to get a decent crop of tomatoes, squash and zucchini, but this year I want to ramp it up a bit by using my side yard bed to incorporate some other crops into my garden. Now you may be thinking, “Gardening in January? What in the world can you get done in January?” Well, that’s what this post is all about.

I’m the kind of person who loves planning ahead. Whether it be groceries, outings or gardening I find great satisfaction in having a plan in place. When it comes to gardening, January is a great time to lay out what I want to accomplish. This gives me plenty of time to figure out what I will need to buy, what will go where and if there are any larger projects I need to finish before being able to move forward. The first thing I like to do is outline my space. Where am I going to plant? Do I have enough room? Do the beds need to be prepared? And lastly, what am I going to plant? The last question is the most fun and can sometimes take the most time depending on how much space you have. I have pretty limited room if I’m sticking to good spatial requirements between plants, so I have to be a little picky about which plants I choose. I also look at planting calendars for my zone (I’m in 9b – northern-ish California) to determine if there are certain items I can cycle in and out of my garden beds. A good place to check for your zone is Garden.org. You can then use your zone to figure out what your planting  calendar is. I’m using this planting guide from Urban Farmer. Their entire site is filled with great tips and tricks.

I know I have three garden beds I want to use for vegetables. From there, I can pretty much determine how many plants per bed I will be able to fit, of course depending on what the plant is. I am probably going to follow a similar structure to what I did last year, since the plants seemed to have enough room to provide a decent crop. The only difference is that I will not do as many tomato plants as I did last year – I had two normal size varieties and two cherry varieties. This year, I’d like to cut back and maybe do one of each in order to make more room for a different vegetable. The larger plants can only fit a couple per bed, so I will be doing a squash and a zucchini plant in one bed together. I’d also like to have a cucumber plant, which I believe is fairly large also, so I’m planning on leaving room in the side yard bed for that. So far that makes for the following plant list: 1 tomato plant, 1 cherry tomato plant, 1 zucchini plant, 1 summer squash plant and 1 cucumber. The other items I’d like to plant, and may have to cycle, are spinach, carrots, green beans and broccoli. A couple of these are colder weather plants (spinach, carrots, broccoli), so I am going to try and cycle these out of the beds as the warmer crops seeds become ready for transplanting.

The next step I’ve been working on is collecting my items for growing my own seeds. This year I want to grow my own seeds because it will cut down on costs but will also ensure that I’m harvesting fully organic produce. I also love the idea of having extra plants that I can give away to family and friends. Originally, I strayed away from wanting to do seeds because I thought it would cost more than just buying the plants, but I have learned that there are several items that I can repurpose to get started. I am going to use old egg cartons to start my seeds, old food trays (like from vegetable party and cheese trays) to hold them together and catch excess water, and I’ve already starting purchasing small terra cotta pots from the thrift store at a fraction of the cost of the home supply stores. This is already saving me a ton of money and makes me feel better about being able to reuse things that otherwise may have just been thrown away. I’ll be sure to document these steps as I go.

Soon, it will be time to start some seeds. In my zone, I can start planting some of my seeds as early as the end of this month, so that’s what I plan on doing. I haven’t purchased any of my seeds yet since I’m still just in the planning phase, but according to my planting calendar, I can get started on my tomatoes, spinach and broccoli seeds this month. I am going to buy all of my seeds at one time once I’m ready (and figure out where I want to buy them), and then start planting them indoors according to my zone’s calendar. I cannot wait to start this process and see how well I’m able to do. This will be my first time starting a garden from seeds and I’m hoping that with enough determination and research that I will have a flourishing garden that I can feed myself and my husband with all year long.

Do you enjoy gardening at home? What are some of your favorite vegetables to grow? And what are some of your favorite vegetables to eat?

MelissaRose

January 8, NY19 Resolutions Check-In

Today marks the eighth day of the New Year and so the eighth day of working on my 2019 resolutions. So far, so good. I have reached the half-way point in my two week detox. I have not had a cigarette, a drink or a sweet since December 31, 2018. I can’t say that it’s been incredibly easy, although it hasn’t been terribly challenging either. Like I said in my previous check-in on January 3rd, the most difficult time was Wednesday night during band practice. This will come around again tomorrow. I do not think it will be as tough as the first week. Having other people over drinking and smoking does present temptation, however. The other part that was difficult at first was coming back to work. Smoke breaks at work were a good little stop in the day to sit on my phone and not think about anything. Without smoking, I don’t find myself taking the same breaks. Also, as I said in my previous check-in, I think that smoking is more of a habit for me than a physical addiction, and so not being able to follow through on that habit was a bit difficult the first couple of days back at work even though I had already gone six days without a cigarette.

My other resolutions have been going well also. I’m continuing to follow my meal prep plan with prepared lunches and planned out dinners. I am not stick to my original meal schedule so to speak, but I’m not going out to eat or grabbing fast food for lunch. I’ve been cooking dinner every night and preparing lunches and breakfasts in the morning for my husband and I. It’s been nice actually. I always feel better when I eat food from home. Fast food just makes me feel so sluggish. I really don’t know why I ever go back when cooking can be so easy. Speaking of, I don’t want to do a full post highlighting this since it isn’t really a recipe, but the easiest and most delicious cheap lunch idea came to me last week – homemade frozen bean burritos. Seriously, it sounds crazy, but I made some frozen burritos at home this weekend. I used one can of vegetarian refried beans, a can of Rotel, some shredded Mexican cheese and tortillas. I wrapped it all up together into a burrito (all together it made four decent sized burritos) then wrapped the burrito in parchment paper and placed in a ziploc bag for freezing. The next day, I put the burritos in little containers for us to take to work. It only took about a minute and a half to heat them up and they were delicious! This was a great discovery for me because it’s so cheap and easy to prep. I will be saving this idea and using it in the future.

My last resolution is to take better care of my physical form. I’m happy to report that I’ve been successful with this also. I’ve been waking up at 6am every morning with enough time to have a cup of coffee, get ready for work and take our dogs on a walk. The pups really love the extra attention and I’m finding that I really enjoy the extra jump-start to my morning. I haven’t officially started working out yet since the gym I joined hasn’t opened yet, but I’m hoping they will soon so that I can get back into some light weightlifting as well. All in all, the lack of toxins, the light exercise and the healthy sleep pattern have made me feel amazing! I have more energy throughout the day, I fall asleep faster and sleep better and I find myself looking forward to getting home and making dinner.

This weekend may be more tough than the last, however, to stick to my resolution guns. My husband and I are supposed to attend a pirate themed 30th birthday party on Saturday. This is only three days away from the end of my two week detox. I’m struggling with the thought of cheating for the one day so I can enjoy myself versus sucking it up and finishing out the detox. A part of me thinks it would be fine to do it for one day, and then to maybe extend the detox afterwards to the following weekend, thus giving myself almost another entire week of detox. But another part of me says I need to stick it out. It’s a difficult decision too because it’s a family member’s birthday party, and I don’t want them to think I’m not having fun or being a party pooper. Decisions, decisions. I guess I will have to get through the week to see what I end up wanting to do. I’m still so torn at this point. Gah – what would you do?

Anyway, I hope everyone is having a great start to their year. It feels like it’s flying by already doesn’t it? Until next time…

MelissaRose