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More Champagne for the Engaged People, Please!

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Getting engaged will probably be one of the most exciting moments along the timeline of your life. Maybe you’re one of many who dreamed about this day your entire life. Maybe you’re like me & hadn’t really anticipated it until recently, when you knew your relationship was headed there. Maybe you’re a cool cat & it was really NBD. Either way, people are going to want to celebrate you! And I strongly encourage you to soak it all up.

One of the best pieces of advice we got right after our engagement was: drink as much champagne as you can before you start planning anything.

YES!!!!!!! We did not follow that piece of advice nearly as much as I wish we had. That being said, we definitely celebrated. But we struggled with the how/what/where/when/with who to celebrate at first. Luckily this girl right here is a party planner at heart, so we wound up rocking our engagement celebration(s) and here’s how we did it.

*Disclaimer: there are 1,348,234 RULES about engagement parties on the internet. This is not that. Throw those rules out. The only rule is to do what works for YOU.

Now that we got that out of the way, here’s what worked for US.

  • Splitting up the celebrations: My fiance has a huge family & the two of ours hadn’t met each other yet. We also had a lot of close friends we wanted to celebrate with, but didn’t really feel comfortable combining family + friends We wanted to have some intimate time with BOTH groups. So we had two! Again – throw out the rules. If you have 3 separate groups of people you want to celebrate with, have 3! If you prefer not to celebrate (though I doubt you’d be reading this post if that were the case) then have zero. All this to say, do what works for YOU.
  • Picking a date that worked for US: It’s easy to get caught up in trying to please & accommodate everyone, but it’s also impossible. Pick a time, date and place that works for you as a couple & whoever wants to be there will make it work. My dad flew in from South Carolina. My mom, stepdad & brother took a bus from PA. My friends traveled from multiple states. They all slept in our tiny NYC apartment. It wasn’t comfortable, but they made it work because they wanted to be there for us. And, of course, we would have understood if they couldn’t be.
  • Picking places that we loved & were practical: For our family celebration, we wanted to have a nice dinner together somewhere so we picked a spot that we LOVE & is good for groups: Good ol’ Carmine’s! If you’ve ever been there, you know the portions are huge and the food is delicious. Ideal for a group of 14 people who have never met before. We chose to pick up the tab for this, but my dad decided to contribute at the last minute, too. For our friends-celebration, renting out a NYC space was just not practical for our budget, so we classed up our apartment a bit & threw a bash at home! We wanted it to be different than our other house parties, so we went hard with the decorations, but it was fun and worth it because we still had just as much fun for a fraction of the cost. My best friends chipped in where they could and we covered the food & drinks for our guests.
  • Keeping it casual: We had our venue booked before our engagement celebrations (remember how I said we didn’t listen to that advice of drinking lots of champagne BEFORE starting the planning? yep). But it’s a good thing, because it was all booked up 2 years in advance! ANYWAY – stories for another post. We knew we would be getting married in the fall & decided to coordinate our engagement party to the theme of the wedding with some rustic, fall decor. The party was in our apartment, though, so it was obviously casual & we preferred it that way, especially since our wedding will be a little more on the casual side, too. Advice: don’t get too caught up in a theme. If you ask me, “fall” is a perfectly acceptable theme! Add little accents that compliment the two of you – photos, engagement decor, etc.
  • Living in the moment: This is something I’ve personally struggled with during every event I’ve ever thrown! It can be hard not to get wrapped up in making sure everything is going smoothly, everyone else is having a good time, and that the food/drinks get refilled. But we truly got to spend time talking to each of our guests & just being fully present and aware. We didn’t get to spend a substantial amount of time talking to each person, but we got just enough time with everyone and a little extra with our close friends who spent the night. Great practice for the big day! 😉

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When thinking about how to celebrate your engagement, try not to go overboard with the small details & keep the reason for the celebration at the core of it. Obviously every scenario is different and if someone else is throwing the party for you, different circumstances may apply, but this is a special time for the two of you & THAT should be the focus. And champagne. Lots of champagne.

I’d love to hear about YOUR engagement celebrations in the comments below! What worked? What didn’t work? What tips would you give a newly engaged couple? What questions do you have if you are one?

XOXO,

Jess

 

Crockpot Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps

This one is a real treat, you guys! Delicious, easy to make, and fiance approved. Not to mention it’s a much healthier alternative when you’re craving buffalo wings. Which, for us, is pretty much always. 🙂 So whip out that helpful crockpot and give this one a try! If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can also boil the chicken on a stovetop– it’s just as delicious that way.

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Ingredients:

For the chicken:

  • 24 oz boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 16 oz fat free low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup hot cayenne pepper sauce (I used Frank’s)

For the wraps:

  • 6 large lettuce leaves, Bibb or Iceberg
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
  • 2 large celery stalks, cut into 2 inch matchsticks

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Instructions:

In a slow cooker, combine chicken, onions, celery stalk, garlic and broth (enough to cover your chicken, use water if the can of broth isn’t enough). Cover and cook on high 4 hours.

Remove the chicken from pot, reserve 1/2 cup broth and discard the rest. Shred the chicken with two forks, return to the slow cooker with the 1/2 cup broth and the hot sauce and set to on high for an additional 30 minutes. Makes 3 cups chicken.

To prepare lettuce cups, place 1/2 cup buffalo chicken in each leaf, top with 1/4 cup shredded carrots, celery and dressing of your choice. Wrap up and start eating!

Source: www.skinnytaste.com (of course!)

21 Day Fix Extreme: Review & Results

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21 Day Fix Extreme is a fitness & nutrition program meant to get you results quickly. This is a more advanced version of the original ’21 Day Fix’ and is meant for more intermediate/advanced fitness levels. The workouts combine cardio with strength training for well-rounded results. They are 30 minutes each, with a different type of workout done on each day of the week for the entire 21 days.
Monday = Plyo, Tuesday = Arms, Wednesday = Pilates, Thursday = Legs, Friday = Cardio, Saturday = Total Body, and Sunday = Yoga.
*This review is for the fitness program only and is based solely on my personal experience. Your results and experience may vary & I am not an expert, so please read with those things in mind. 🙂
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Results:

-Weight: lost 3.5 pounds

-Inches: lost 3

-More definition in arm/back muscles
-Loss of bloat
Contributing factors:
-I did not skip a single day of the 21-day program
-I used 4 pound & 8 pound weights
-I completed T25 & Core De Force (two other, intense workout programs) prior to this
-I found myself getting lazy at times/not pushing myself as hard as I could have during the workouts
-I drank a superfood-packed protein shake for breakfast each day
-I did not drink any alcohol

-I did not follow the meal plan that comes with this program as strictly as I would’ve liked to though I did keep it in mind for guidance

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Pros:
-30 minutes flew by!
-I became noticeably stronger and more toned, particularly in my arms/shoulders/back
-It’s a short program designed to get results quickly, so while the workouts were only 30 minutes over the course of 21 days, they were also effective
-Pilates & yoga were incorporated in between some of the more intense workouts, so it allowed a chance to rest and stretch my body
-There were 7 different workouts and each one is only done 3 times, which was nice for purposes of variety and not getting sick of any particular workout
-Each workout started with a motivational quote! I am all about those
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Cons:
-The workouts and even the modified moves are pretty intense and may be a challenge for someone just starting out and/or even for somebody at an intermediate fitness level (I know they were for me at times!)
-The amount of equipment needed — this program required 2 sets of dumbbells and resistance bands; I loved using the resistance bands, but I had to buy some beforehand
-I prefer to workout barefoot, but a couple of the workouts required sneakers because of the resistance bands, which were wrapped around the feet for certain moves
-No rest days

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Overall, I think this is one of my favorite programs so far because of the quick results and I will definitely be re-visiting it in the future when I want to tone up fast! I would recommend this program to anyone that has been exercising consistently and wants a new challenge. It is best suited for intermediate/advanced fitness levels and even my fiance, who I would consider to be ‘advanced’ found this program challenging & effective and saw great results. I would encourage beginners and beginner-to-intermediate level exercisers to start out with the regular 21 Day Fix workouts before attempting these.
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**YOU CAN CURRENTLY TRY THIS PROGRAM IN IT’S ENTIRETY FOR FREE – No strings attached! Contact me at jesswellness247@gmail.com to learn more!
XOXO,
Jess

We’re Engaged! Now What? – 5 Tips for the New Bride-to-Be

So… I’ve never been engaged before. And naturally, when you do something you’ve never done, whether it be get married, have kids, take a vacation, etc. you resort to the internet for answers.

I started doing Google searches for:

  • How long of an engagement should I have?
  • Should I have an engagement party? Where? Who? When?
  • How many venues should I look at?
  • How do I pick a date?
  • How often should I get my ring cleaned?

…just to name A FEW!

I’ve been engaged for about 6 months & I still have awhile to go, but here are my top tips for what to do/not do when you first get engaged & are trying to figure it all out:

  1. Enjoy the Moment – First & foremost, don’t feel pressure to start planning right away (unless of course you want to!). Take a month or a dedicated amount of time to just enjoy being engaged and spreading the news. There will be plenty of time for planning and decision-making, but now you get to just drink champagne & enjoy one of the most exciting moments of your life!
  2. Get Yourself Organized – When you’re ready, get yourself a planner/organizer. You might not start using it yet, but there are some really helpful ones out there (I recommend this one from The Knot) that will help you figure out what to do and when to do it. This will serve as a guide for you to use along the way & will feel a little less overwhelming!
  3. Consult Your Crew – Bounce YOUR ideas off of your friends & family! Be careful with this, though, because people sometimes like to make things about them. If you find that people aren’t supportive of your ideas, aren’t being particularly helpful, or are making your engagement about what they would like/want, take a step back and re-consider consulting them in the future. Also keep in mind that sometimes people just need to be told what you need — whether it’s someone to listen, someone to help you brainstorm ideas, or someone to give you feedback or advice, make sure you make your needs & expectations known so that people can either meet you where you’re at or let it be known that they can’t.
  4. Use the Internet Wisely – The Internet can be helpful, but it can also be overwhelming. You will find tons of advice that contradicts other advice. You will find an endless amount of ideas that you love that conflict and make it near impossible to make a decision. You will come across people that have strong opinions and tell you why you should do something and/or why you should not. Use the Internet as a GUIDE, but if you find yourself feeling stressed out when looking at Pintrest or reading wedding planning forums, take a step back and lean on tip #5.
  5. Trust Your Instincts – Sometimes we have an idea that gets lost in the fear of what other people will think of it or ruled out because it’s unconventional. This event is about you & your significant other and every part of it should flow from that, regardless of what other people might think or say. Make sure that you are constantly checking in with yourself & your partner throughout this process and being true to yourselves as a couple. Advice and ideas can be incredibly helpful, especially when you feel stuck, but use them as a resource and not as a rule.

What do you think? Are there any I missed?! I’d love to hear about your experience as a newly engaged woman & learn what has been most helpful to you in the comment section below!

XO,

Jess

The Perfect Proposal (and a little seaweed, ew!)

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Before leaving for our cruise to the Caribbean, I was asked countless times: “Do you think you’ll get engaged?” –  my response was a bashful “Ohhh, I don’t know! We’ll see!”, but real talk: I had been thinking about the possibility of getting engaged at several points throughout the entire year prior to this trip. So of course it was on my mind and I was feeling hopeful, but I had no preconceived notions about when it would happen or how. I wanted to enjoy the trip & not put that pressure on it and that’s exactly what I did.

We enjoyed the heck out of our first 3 nights in Miama & at sea. I assumed at that point that if it was going to happen, it already would have. Regardless, I was just thrilled to be away from work and disconnected from the world and spending time with my love as we drifted off to a tropical paradise.

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We got to Jamaica – a place where we anticipated having a fun, drunken day at the beach. I’ll tell ya what… walking around in extreme heat, getting hustled every 30 seconds, having people on the street reach into your cab & touch you, and being charged $5 for a single hair-tye can really be a buzzkill. Jamaica was beautiful & I absolutely love experiencing new cultures, but we felt more bothered than relaxed. It didn’t really set the tone for a fun, drunken day. However we still had some fun & got a little buzzed.

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Next step: Grand Cayman. We were still determined to have that fun, drunken day. Day drunk on the beach is the best kind of drunk. And today we had an ALL-INCLUSIVE drink package, so what could get in the way of that?! We got dropped off at our private resort and I suggested heading to the bar for some drinks. “Let’s put our things down first”, he said. Okay. We went and put our things down, soooo DRINKS, right?! Let’s do this! “I’d like to walk down the beach first… before it gets too crowded”, he said. Cool, so like, drinks as we walk down the beach? Maybe? “We’ll get them when we get back”, he said. Now THIS DUDE was killing my buzz! Or so I thought…

As we are walking down the beach, he starts to set the tone by drawing our attention to the absolutely beautiful views and scenery (and that’s an understatement – it really was picture perfect). Then he pauses us to ground us – he asks us to be still and present and to really take in the moment and sit in it for a bit. I’m glad he did that because I can still take myself back to that exact moment – the smells, the sounds, the feelings. Then we start walking a little more, he starts to get a little nervous-sounding and rambly… and in my head I’m piecing together why he might be nervous & getting all romantic on me and then I start to get nervous, too! Am I about to get engaged right now?! He continues with his sweet ramblings and then I jump in with some horrific ones of my own. I start to blurt out all the gross things I see in the water – “OMG, do you see that seaweed?! So gross. Ew – is that a FISH? Ugh. I hate the ocean”. Now I was the buzzkill!

Eventually, he stops me, shaky hands and opens his camera case where he had been hiding the ring all week so it was always by his side and ready for the perfect moment (genius!) and gets down on one knee. He opens the box and I see the EXACT ring I envisioned myself wearing (but never told him or dropped hints about – ever). I don’t say yes. I can’t say anything other than “omg! ah! omg! ah! omg! ah!” for a few solid minutes (there is video footage of this & it’s super embarrassing). I think it’s understood that YES is my answer & then I eventually do find my words and say it. Both of us shaking, he gets the ring on my finger successfully without dropping it into the sand/ocean of which he was kneeling on. Risky move! But we did it…

…WE’RE ENGAGED!

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Grilled Veggie Caprese Salad

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This is another Skinnytaste favorite of mine that works for either lunch or dinner. It’s surprisingly filling and takes under 30 minutes to make, which is a win in my book! I have the hardest time getting my veggies in, but this recipe makes it easy. Hope you enjoy it, too!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 bunch of asparagus (~10 stalks) with ends broken off, cut into thirds
  • 1 large zucchini cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 large red bell pepper cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of jarred pesto
  • Olive oil spray
  • 4 ounces of fresh mini mozzarella balls (bocconcini), halved
  • 2 tablespoons of balsamic glaze (I usually make mine without this & it’s still good)
  • 12 small fresh basil leaves (I usually skip these, too)

 

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Instructions

  • Combine vegetable pieces in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add pesto, toss well, and marinate for at least 15 mins or as long as overnight.
  • Preheat a grill to medium-high (I cook mine on a stove-top and it works well, too).
  • Place 1/2 the vegetables in a single layer on a large grill tray (or skillet) sprayed with oil and cook, flipping constantly for 6-8 minutes, until the vegetables are slightly charred.
  • Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining vegetables.
  • To serve, divide the veggies between 2 plates, add 2 ounces of mozzarella to each dish and drizzle with the balsamic glaze, topping each with 6 fresh basil leaves.

 

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Enjoy!!

Slow Cooker Chicken Santa Fe

This recipe is from Skinnytaste & is one of my all-time favorites. It takes about 10 minutes to just throw everything in a slow cooker and makes about 8 servings! It’s perfect for when you have limited time or just don’t feel like cooking (we’ve all been there!), but still want a healthy, delicious meal that will give you a few days worth of leftovers. To be honest, I skip the cilantro & scallions in my version, but I’m putting the recipe below as it is for those who might enjoy those ingredients.

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Ingredients:

  • -24 oz (1.5 lbs) chicken breast
  • -14.4 oz can diced tomatoes with mild green chilies
  • -15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • -8 oz frozen corn
  • -1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • -14.4 oz can fat-free chicken broth
  • -3 scallions, chopped
  • -1 tsp garlic powder
  • -1 tsp onion powder
  • -1 tsp cumin
  • -1 tsp cayenne pepper to taste
  • -salt to taste
  • -1/2 cup brown rice (optional)
  • -tortilla chips (optional) 

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Instructions:

  • Combine chicken broth, beans (drained), corn, tomatoes, cilantro, scallions, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, and salt in crock pot.
  • Season chicken breast with salt and lay on top.
  • Cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours. Half hour before serving, remove chicken and shred.
  • Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in. Adjust salt and seasoning to taste.
  • Serve over rice or tortillas and your favorite toppings.crock-pot-santa-fe-chicken

Healthy Turkey Chili

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My fiance & I make this recipe once a week – usually on Monday. Not only is it a quick, easy, healthy, and delicious dinner, but it also gives us leftovers to take for lunch for about half of the week! We have yet to get sick of it and I hope you’ll love it as much as we do!

Feel free to play around with the ingredients – sometimes we’ll add some extras (jalapeno, corn, different amounts of the seasoning, etc) depending on what we’re in the mood for. It’s hard to mess this one up, so have fun with it & do whatever tastes right to you!

If you try it, please share your thoughts in the comments section!

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Ingredients

  • Lean ground turkey
  • 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 8 ounce can of tomato sauce (no salt added)
  • 1 can of low sodium black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 can of low sodium kidney beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 5-6 tsp of chili powder
  • 3 tsp of cumin
  • 2 tsp of garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth or water
  • Pink Himalyan sea salt to taste

Instructions

  • Brown the turkey using medium heat
  • Stir in diced onion and cook for 2-3 minutes
  • Add beans, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and all seasonings & mix thoroughly
  • Add 1/2 cup of low sodium chicken broth or water to prevent dryness
  • Cover & cook on low for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes
  • Add more liquid if dryness starts to occur

*Optional: Mix in shredded cheese & serve with non-GMO tortilla chips

*Serving Size: 1 cup; Makes about 6 servings

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Core De Force – My Review & Results

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Core De Force is a MMA-inspired workout program that mixes cardio with strength training using Boxing, Kickboxing, and Muy Thai combinations. It requires no equipment. Workouts times vary, ranging from 27 – 47 minutes. Some days include an additional 5 or 16 minute core workout. Each workout is broken into 6, 9, or 12 three-minute rounds with a 30 second break in between each one. It is a 30-day program with Sundays reserved for “Active Recovery” – a workout that involves 10 minutes of MMA moves and 10 minutes of stretching.

Below is my personal experience with this program! Your results and experience may vary & I am not an expert, so please read with those things in mind. 🙂
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Results:

-Weight: maintained

-Waist: lost 1 inch

-Chest: lost 1 inch
-Hips/Thigh/Arms: stayed the same
-Stronger core/starting to gain some ab definition
-Major improvement in upper body strength/ability to do unmodified push-ups
Contributing factors:

-I did not skip a single day of the 30-day program
-I sometimes made up the 5 or 16 minute bonus core workouts on a different day
-I had a few unhealthy foods throughout (In-N-Out, pizza, wine, bagels, and tiramisu), but otherwise stuck to a healthy, clean diet at least 80% of the time
-I did not follow the meal plan that comes with this program as strictly as I would’ve liked to though I did keep it in mind for guidance
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Pros:

-The workouts were fun, went quickly, and were effective
-Fast results; I saw some serious changes to my body in only 30 days & even within the first week
-I loved the moves & they made me feel fierce and strong!
-I appreciated the breaks in between rounds; it helped me to work harder knowing I’d get a 30-second rest
-There were modifications and progressions for all moves, so it was adjustable to any fitness level
-The moves and techniques were thoroughly explained & there were extra videos that allowed you to practice them before starting the workout
-The workouts were unique & versatile and allowed for some serious arm/ab muscle-building with no equipment or crunches needed
-There’s a cool down & warm up built into each workout and a day dedicated to stretching
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Cons:
-My biggest complaint was the length of the workouts– the longest days consisted of a 47-minute MMA workout + a 16 minute core workout, equaling 63 minutes; however if you remove the time for warm-ups, breaks, instruction, and cool-down these workouts are technically only 18-36 minutes, so it helped to remind myself of this on tougher days
-Sometimes the instructions were a little lengthier than they needed to be
-Knee pain! I’ve never had a problem with my knees- EVER- but my right knee started to feel a bit wonky during the 2nd week. It eventually went away for me, but I know of a few people who had to stop the program because of this. Worth consideration if you already have knee issues.
-There was a workout every single day; I usually prefer at least one or two rest days!
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Overall, I loved this program & would definitely do it again (and probably will when prepping for bathing suit season!). I would recommend this program for anyone that is looking to tone up vs. lose weight and encourage those with knee issues to use caution & modifications for some of the moves that put pressure there. I also found the program to be helpful both mentally & emotionally, as many of the workouts require great focus and the kicks and punches often provided a release and were cathartic for me in their own way. I noticed a decrease in my anxiety levels this month and am confident that there was at least some correlation.
Have questions? Want to try this program out? Want to join me for my next round? Don’t hesitate to contact me & I’ll get you set up with everything you need for the best possible price!
XOXO,
Jess