It’s a common question we get asked. “Why should I book with you” or “why should I use a travel agent”? Mostly, I think people ask that because they assume they can just do it themselves cheaper. In some instances, that may be true. But more often a good travel agent will save you money and time!
I’m going to try to go through a few reasons I suggest you use a travel agent. More specifically, one with experience. Some agents just sell one type of trip or they book travel just to be able to travel and there’s the multi-level marketing side as well. And then people like me have made a career of it. I’ve been a travel agent for 25 years. I have done leisure and corporate, but I prefer leisure. I prefer the connection to people over working at a call center.
Whoever you choose, just make sure they know what they are doing. The best advice is to get a referral. Ask your friends who they use.
Why should you use an experienced travel agent?
Experience. I have 25 years of it. My experience doesn’t usually cost extra. If you are talking a 3 week multi-city vacation through Europe you might pay a little more than if you did it yourself, but not too many people can book that type of a trip on their own.
We choose experienced professionals in just about everything we do. Why not a travel agent? An experienced agent is going to be able to offer suggestions and guide you through the process as well as making sure all components of your trip are booked correctly.
And your travel agent should love what they do!
We don’t charge extra.
Typically everything we do is included in the commission paid to us by the vendor. There are a few exceptions and those vary depending on your agent. I have always been upfront with clients if there are any fees associated with their trip. Normally, it’s rail tickets or event tickets that a client wants booked that we aren’t paid for. It’s like having a personal assistant.
Some agents do charge upfront deposits for more time intensive planning. I have considered it and it would be mostly for overseas trips that require a lot of hours and pieces to make it work. Pro tip: your travel agent doesn’t get paid until you travel.
We know about extras at hotels or on cruise ships that may not be public knowledge. Some agents even have access to specials other agents don’t. Sometimes it depends on volume and other times it’s just connections.
Relationships are key.
I have formed friendships with clients over the years and have even traveled with some of them. The clients might be my favorite part of my job. A good travel agent is like having a good banker, investor or real estate agent. They usually know what you want, how you like to travel (adventure, relaxation, with a group or on your own), and it just makes the whole process easier.
Time and money better spent.
Your time is worth a lot to you. Using a travel agent saves you time. I do all the work, you just have to make the final decision. And even then, I’m going to help you. When you ask me for a quote I’m going to ask you several questions before I start. Typical questions are budget, ages of kids traveling, what you like to do, where you don’t want to go (you’d be surprised), all of these questions help me start to narrow down your options.
I’m not going to recommend something to you I wouldn’t be willing to stay at myself. And then there’s always the risk of booking a hotel on your own that doesn’t meet your lifestyle. Adult only hotels have multiple categories, there are kid friendly hotels with water parks and teen clubs, hotels in Europe near a coffee shop we know about.
I will prove my worth to you.
I guess everyone in sales will go through this at some point – proving their worth to a client. When Covid-19 hit, we were the ones our clients counted on to make changes, cancel trips, get refunds, future travel credits or just answer their questions. Not everything went perfectly, it never does. (hello, 2020!) But, our clients weren’t alone. Some online agencies closed overnight leaving their clients stranded.
I can laugh at this now.
If you are interested in traveling, I’d love to earn your business. You can reach me at Lake Pointe Travel at email@example.com or 469-698-4071. This is my personal lifestyle blog but I’m a travel agent by day. Check out my travel page to see some of the places we’ve been!
Some days I spend all day pricing and booking vacations and some days I just dream of places to go!
I haven’t done a favorite things post in a while. Here are a few of my current favorite things. I’ll link to as many as I can!
My favorite things, in no particular order.
Call me crazy but I love my re-usable Target bags. Well, any re-usable bags. But I have this really big one from Target that holds quite a bit. You can’t overload it or it will be too heavy to carry. It’s that big. Right now it has paper goods for Ally’s dorm in it. (insert sad face)
It’s saving me during Covid lockdown. I have a few sets of weights, bands, yoga mat and recently added an aerobics step and someone gifted us a used stationary bike!
I’m seriously replacing my worn out Victoria Secret sports bras with the Queenieke brand from Amazon.
The garage gym is warm. If I closed the door I’d have my own personal sauna.
This holds all my inner thoughts. It probably should have a lock on it! Any old notebook will do. Just grab pens and markers and get to writing!
My eye doctor suggested it since my eyes are really dry. I’ve been using it about 10 days and can definitely tell a difference. I had this one under my bathroom sink for at least 2 years in the package still. I think it was in a Fab, Fit, Fun box.
Here’s the link to one on Amazon that looks cute too!
My husband and I have actually stayed at the beautiful El Dorado Casitas twice, it’s probably our favorite hotel in the Riviera Maya! (The Valentin is a close second.)
The El Dorado Casitas Royale is an adults only, all inclusive hotel in the Riviera Maya (South of Cancun). If you stay in the Casitas section you have access to the Royale as well as the family friendly hotel, Generations. We ate breakfast there one morning to check it out and took a tour of the property.
Once you check-in at Casitas you can meet up with your concierge. There are several assigned to all the buildings. They will make dinner reservations, set up spa appointments if you want, you can choose your pillows and aromatherapy for the room as well and they are very helpful with any questions you have.
The Casitas section is part of the larger El Dorado Royale.
Since it’s a large property, they do offer golf cart shuttles around the property. There’s also a path that runs along the beach that is a beautiful walk at night. It’s good for walking or running in the morning as well.
The Royale section has larger pools, volleyball, water aerobics and more restaurants. It’s also louder, so depending on the type of vacation you like, you may prefer Casitas. If you like nightly shows or music you just walk down to the Royale after dinner.
During the day it’s quiet at the Casitas, and each building has it’s own pool and swim up bar. Your bar tender will get to know you pretty quick. Since the room we stay in is ground floor, several mornings when he first opens the bar he would walk over to our patio to bring us a drink. It’s lovely.
The room type we prefer is called “honeymoon private pool swim up casita suite.” It’s a large room, lots of storage in the bathroom area. The jacuzzi is in a separate area and there are two showers – one indoor and one outdoor. The outdoor shower is private, the roof is open but no one is above you to see in.
This particular room steps direct from the patio into a private pool. You can use the stairs to step out of the pool into the lazy river. The lazy river leads straight to the larger pool with the swim up bar. You never even have to get out of the water.
There are other ground floor swim up rooms as well, they just don’t have the private pool. There are upstairs rooms with private pools as well. We stayed in that room type at El Dorado Maroma (more on that in a different post.)
At Casitas, our favorite is Santa Fe. They have a sit down breakfast and the french toast is really good! Dinner is a lot of courses – maybe 6? I lose count. The food is delicious.
We also tried the dinner theater at the Royale on our last trip, there are wine pairings with dinner. It’s included but you can choose to pay to upgrade your wine pairings. I tried food I have never eaten before and may or may not eat again, but it was fun!
I don’t love buffets (food displays) but there is one at the Royale for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They also have an outdoor restaurant by the main pool. The Casitas has Santa Fe, an Italian restaurant and a sandwich and smoothie restaurant for lunch.
On our trip in 2017 we opted to celebrate our anniversary with dinner on the beach. The food and views are unbeatable!
It was multi course, with wine. It was a table for 2 under a cabana steps from the water. Very romantic and we had a great time!
If you are interested in the Casitas or any other Karisma properties, I’d love to earn your business. You can reach me at Lake Pointe Travel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 469-698-4071. This is my personal lifestyle blog but I’m a professional travel agent by day.
**This post was a year in the making. Apparently I started it then didn’t publish it. So, here it is July 2019. Our trip was actually April 2018.
We recently took a family trip to Washington D.C. to attend our niece’s wedding. John and I hadn’t visited there since we were kids so we made a vacation of it. We had always talked about taking Ally before she graduated so this was the perfect reason to go. Washington D.C. in the spring, while the Cherry Blossoms were blooming was so pretty. Unfortunately, it was also very cold and windy. We even saw a few snow flakes one afternoon.
We were there for 5 nights and we ended up staying in 2 different hotels, mostly for price. The first hotel we stayed in was the Kimpton Topaz in Dupont Circle. We fell in love with that area! So many great restaurants in walking distance. It was a great location.
The Topaz is a small, boutique hotel. It has a bar in the lobby area, but no restaurant. There are plenty in walking distance though.
The day we arrived was mostly spent getting settled and checking out the hotel. We had plans that evening to eat at The Hamilton with our extended family, then meet up with the bride and more friends and family. I will admit I wasn’t sure the Hamilton was going to be worth the money, that it was just a touristy type restaurant.
I was so wrong.
It was amazing and the service was good! We had deviled eggs and cornbread grilled cheese for appetizers. I don’t eat deviled eggs but John, my brother and his wife swear they were delicious! I have never had cornbread grilled cheese or even thought to eat it, but that was life changing. They served it with apple butter, so very good. I can’t even explain it.
We ordered a pitcher of sangria, what can go wrong there?
For entrees, my brother and sister in law shared steak and potatoes. John ordered schnitzel and I ordered pasta. I haven’t had pasta since Christmas. I don’t eat it very often anymore but I do love it.
For some reason we were too stuffed to order dessert! I almost talked everyone in to going back a second time during our trip.
After dinner we walked to the White House and took a few pictures then headed to meet up with family.
On our second day, John and I went to breakfast at this amazing little restaurant in a bookstore in DuPont Circle. It’s called Kramer Books & Afterwords Cafe. I found them online and promptly started following (stalking) them on Instagram prior to our trip. We were looking forward to trying this place. It did not disappoint. We ended up eating there four times in six days.
It was walking distance from our hotel and right by the Dupont Circle metro stop.
We went to the Jefferson Memorial after breakfast while waiting on Ally’s flight to land. She needed to stay one more day in school so she flew in by herself. She loves to fly and has no problem flying alone.
You can probably tell by my hair how windy it was. It was miserably windy.
We walked around the memorial and I got some amazing shots of the cherry blossoms.
After we picked up Ally, we had to drop her luggage off at the hotel, then headed out for lunch. (She was soooo excited to see us!)
We walked over to another little restaurant I stalked on Instagram prior to our trip called Duke’s Grocery. I was there for the proper burger and mac n cheese. Ally and I split it, was definitely worth the trip!
We walked around Dupont for a little while and took some pictures. We were excited to find one of the Instagram photo spots we were looking for!
The rehearsal dinner was that night. Here we are with our niece and her husband to be.
After that we headed out to explore the monuments at night. That’s a somber experience but so awesome to see at night. I highly recommend it. The tours were crowded, I recommend just heading over there yourself. We used Uber/Lyft a lot!
The next day was wedding day! We did our best to squeeze in a few things on our list before the wedding. We rode the metro like we were locals, right until we got on the train going the wrong direction. We quickly figured it out!
The wedding was beautiful! I was so glad our family could make the trip. We ate good food, had some drinks, danced (i.e. embarrassed Ally) and had a good time!
And unfortunately, the next morning we had to be up really early for our White House tour. And we had to stand in the freezing cold one hour prior to said tour. I had never been in the White House, so it was pretty cool to be able to do that. Even if it was cold.
My brother, his wife and son.
I think the tulips were my favorite. I would have loved to be able to walk around the grounds and gardens. This photo was taken through a window.
After the White House tour we hit the National Mall and a few more museums. It snowed a little. Us Texans were not prepared for that. Luckily it was just a few flurries.
One of our favorite museums to visit was the Hirshhorn.
The last night we stayed in the Marriott Metro Center Station simply for the cost and the fact that we weren’t going to be in the room anyway. It was right next to the Metro Center station and walking distance to quite a few shops and restaurants.
Our last day we got up early and went to Georgetown. Ally wanted to visit Georgetown University and the city is a great place to walk around.
She’s so excited to have her photo taken. (again)
We climbed the “Exorcist stairs.”
The next day was our flight home. We have a wonderful trip and made lots of memories! We ate some really good food and I would definitely go back for it.
Have you been to Washington D.C? What’s your favorite thing to see there?
If you are interested in traveling to Washington DC, or any other options, I’d love to earn your business. You can reach me at Lake Pointe Travel at email@example.com or 469-698-4071. This is my personal lifestyle blog but I’m a travel agent by day.
My husband and I love the Riviera Maya, (the area south of Cancun). We go any chance we can. There are lots of towns south of Cancun, sometimes referred to as Playa or Playa del Carmen as well. Our most recent trip was to the Valentin Imperial Maya. It’s an all inclusive resort so basically everything is included with the exception of a few things like the spa, excursions, lobster at dinner and bottles of wine.
Our day started with a very early flight
We flew on Sun Country again this trip. We really like them, have had no trouble at all. The service is really good. They have started charging for bags and seat assignments, so you definitely want to look into that ahead of time.
We have upgraded to first class on the last two trips to Cancun with them. If you check 24 hours in advance on their website, if it’s available it’s offered for about $149.00 per person one-way from DFW. It includes the bag fees as well as drinks and a meal. I did find out that if you pay in advance for your seats and bags and then upgrade to first class, they credit the amount you pay toward the upgrade so you don’t lose any money.
We arrived in Cancun about 9:45AM, made it through customs and immigration fairly quickly, got our bags and headed out to find our hotel transfer. I prefer to use Lomas Travel in Cancun and recommend it to my clients whenever I can. We paid for the private luxury transfer, so there was a Lincoln Navigator waiting for us! Wish I had gotten a picture. We love Lomas, the service is great, the drivers are friendly and they offer lots of tours in that area as well as the airport transfer service.
Mexico Immigration forms
Recently, we have been able to fill out and print the immigration forms online. This is amazing, trust me! I’ll include the link here for you as well. Just make sure you have access to a printer and your passports in hand. You get what looks like 2 forms per person, cut the forms apart. One is for your arrival and the other is for your departure from Mexico. You will need to have them both available to the immigration officer when you land in Mexico.
Back to the fun stuff! We arrived at the Valentin about 11:30AM, got checked in, our room was ready so we headed there first. The lobby at the Valentin is large and air conditioned, that’s always nice.
We decided to upgrade to the privilege amenities this trip, mainly so I could experience it and offer it to my clients with first hand knowledge. It’s a great service. You get several things included in this: reservations at all the restaurants in advance, concierge service, several bottles of alcohol and wine delivered to your room (you get to choose from a menu), reserved Bali bed cabana at the pool or beach. That was probably our favorite! It was nice not having to go to the pool early to try to find chairs together.
There is a pool and beach concierge as well. They will bring water and towels. There is also bar service at both locations, and they come around often! The main pool is large and there are lots of chairs and cabanas that you can’t reserve in advance, they are first come, first serve. And they were always full early.
The Valentin also has floats in the pool for all guests to use. You aren’t supposed to pull them out of the pool and save them, but of course people did.
The main pool
There are two swim up bars in that main pool, plus a volleyball net and plenty of activities at one end. The privilege section was far enough away to hear the music but it wasn’t loud at that end. It was a nice area. They offered two water exercise options in the morning, the aqua force and the bikes in the water. I tried aqua force which is basically pilates on a surf board. It was HARD, but so fun. I also fell in several times. There will be no photos shared of that.
They do serve lunch by the pool as well. It changes almost daily, usually hamburgers, hot dogs or tacos. We missed the tacos, because we didn’t realize they were serving them until it was too late. But everyone was talking about how good they were, so don’t miss taco day!
The beach was beautiful! Long stretches of sand with plenty of palm trees. There is however still lots of seaweed in this area. The hotels do all they can to clean up the beach, using tractors but they just can’t keep up with it all. It’s in the water as well. It was also in Grand Turk in 2015 when we were there, so it’s just something you might encounter anywhere. We changed our cabana to the beach for one day, it was so peaceful.
The waves were very rough, mostly red flags while we were there. It was August and that’s hurricane season. We didn’t see a drop of rain until our last day there and it was brief!
Food was plentiful and good! We do not have much to complain about. The French restaurant (L’Alsace) was our favorite, by far! We ate there twice. Our least favorite was the Mexican restaurant (La Hacienda). We tried the Hibachi (Ginger), this is the only place you have to make reservations for, if you want to eat the hibachi. You can walk up and request a table to order off the menu though. The hibachi reservations fill up usually by 9:30AM each day.
The Italian (L’Olivo) was very good as well. Some of our favorite appetizers were here. The service was excellent, everywhere.
Breakfast had two restaurants to choose from, both are buffet style. Plenty of choices such as omelettes, cooked to order eggs, meat, breads, fruit, I can’t even name it all. One is located by the beach and one is at the main lobby. We opted for the beach location since it was close to our room. Lunch had the same options as well as the pool side location. The wait staff was phenomenal, I honestly never encountered any bad service.
The ice cream cart at the buffet lunch by the beach.
Dinner was sit down restaurant only and they all have a strict dress code. You will get turned away if you are not dressed appropriately. There is no buffet so your only other option is room service where you can eat in your robe if you want. Here are some of our favorite foods.
Here we are in the French Restaurant our first night.
The Valentin offers quite a few room categories in different price ranges. We booked the Golden junior swim-up suite. We fell in love with the swim-up at the El Dorado Casitas so it’s hard to not get a swim-up room now. (spoiled) The convenience is worth it to us. This room is large, it’s very pretty. My main complaint, if you will, is lack of storage in the bathroom. There’s not enough counter space or space under it to store anything. Most everything got stored around the tub in our room. Other than that, no complaints.
The closet space was plentiful, the safe was a good size, there’s an iron and ironing board and shelves and drawers in the closet.
There’s a bar area with a coffee maker and ice bucket. There’s a full length mirror with a small ledge to store things as well.
Our lawn area in front of the pool has two nice chaise lounges. We were in building 7, got full sun out there in the morning but it was shaded nicely by afternoon/early evening.
The Golden Section
The Golden section does have bar service and food service, in addition to room service. There is a small snack menu available until early evening and the waiters will walk around to take orders and deliver it pool side or on your patio if you are in a swim up room.
Here’s a photo of part of the Golden pool. Each building has a pool that is connected by the lazy river. There are lots of chaise lounges around and some are covered by cabanas. All are available for the Golden guests except the chairs on the lawns, as those are for swim up guests. (it’s on their patio).
The hotel is large, be prepared to walk or wait on a golf cart. You can call when you are leaving your room to go to dinner or anywhere else you need a lift and they will usually come really quick to pick you up!
We discovered this wedding chapel when we walked to breakfast the first morning.
Privilege lounge near the front lobby.
Coffee and Martini bar near the main lobby.
The French Restaurant.
The main plaza (La Plaza Espana) near the front lobby is outdoor, it does have a bar. At night there’s music, dancing and a DJ. They also have a market set up several nights a week. You can wait there for a table for dinner, as it’s close enough to most of the restaurants.
The Valentin has several options for nightly entertainment including shows and a sports bar. The Don Miguel bar was our favorite hang-out after dinner. The drinks were good and usually a good crowd in there. We did not make it to any of the shows. We wanted to see the fire show, but that night it did rain. No fire.
Overall, we loved this hotel. We really have no complaints at all. It’s good for groups, couples, single adults, young adults, older adults. There were some parent traveling with their 18-20 year olds as well. There are some adult only hotels that I think are geared more for couples, the Valentin was a good mix.
If you are interested in the Valentin, or any other options, I’d love to earn your business. You can reach me at Lake Pointe Travel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 469-698-4071. This is my personal lifestyle blog but I’m a travel agent by day.
I don’t love football, but I do love watching the Super Bowl and just hanging out with friends and eating yummy food. I read recently online that on a Keto diet you can’t even go to a party or enjoy a social night with your friends because you can’t eat anything. I strongly disagree with that! Here are my family’s favorite low carb snacks and dips you can make for a Super Bowl party or a Tuesday night at home.
1. Meat and cheese tray. So many choices here: nuts, cheese, cheese crisps, salami, summer sausage, bacon and pepperoni. Just to name a few.
2. Chicken thighs cut into bite size pieces, you can serve these on toothpicks with cheese if you’d like. Just use a dry rub and olive oil or your favorite low carb marinade.
3. Chicken wings, just steer clear of sugary sauces. Go with just seasoning and eat with ranch and veggie sticks.
4. Buffalo chicken dip with veggies, my personal favorite is celery. Kraft seems to be the lowest carb cream cheese I’ve found, just check your labels. This recipe is so easy!
7. Stuffed jalapeno peppers with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon.
8. The cheeseburger casserole in the photo above is very good. Served with guacamole or salsa, even better. It might be more of a meal depending on the serving size, but could be a snack as well. I made a few changes to the original. I use cheddar or something other than American cheese and added peppers and bacon.
10. A million and one things to do with Cut da Carb wraps…..quesadillas are the perfect finger food.
So, there you have it folks. An amazing list of just 10 snacks we can think of. Truth is, there are tons! You do not have to miss a party or dinner with friends because you are low-carb. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Unless it’s a pasta buffet, then you are on your own!
Do you watch the Super Bowl game? Do you host or attend a party to watch the game?
Pasta used to be a staple in my diet and I cooked it almost weekly for my family. It was probably the one thing I didn’t think I was willing to go without. Turns out, I was wrong.
2-2.5 pounds of meat (I used sausage and pork this time)
1/4 cup Almond flour
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan cheese
Garlic, Salt, Pepper, Onion powder
Heavy cream (see note below)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Grab a large bowl and add your meat, almond flour, parmesan cheese, egg, onion and spices. You’re going to have to use your hands and mix it all together. You can also add grated mozzarella cheese to the meatballs if you want. Roll the meat into balls. This is where I just kind of wing it. You don’t want them too big, they take too long to cook as it is. Sometimes they all fit in one 9×13 dish, this week I needed a second smaller dish.
Bake the meatballs for 30 minutes to start. While the meatballs are baking get your sauce simmering on the stove. I buy the unseasoned tomatoes (Cento brand) and add fresh basil, garlic, salt, pepper, whatever seasoning you have on hand. I also add a dash of heavy cream to up the fat content. I know that’s not an actual measurement. It’s not 1/4 cup, it’s maybe 2-3 tablespoons. And a splash of red wine if I have a bottle opened.
I usually buy the whole tomatoes, it’s the lowest carb for some reason. Always check your labels!
Then I use my stick blender to puree them.
After 30 minutes in the oven, remove the meatballs, pour the sauce over them and place back in the oven for 25-30 minutes. This is not an exact science as the length of cooking depends on the size of the meatballs. Mine usually take 70 minutes. If the sauce is bubbling too much cover your dish with foil.
The last 10 minutes pile the fresh spinach on the top and mozzarella cheese to cover the whole casserole. Bake until cheese is melted and slightly crisp. So good.
Serve with something green to keep this low carb. Green beans and bacon are always a great choice! And that’s just how it sounds. I cooked the bacon in the pan then add a bag of frozen green beans that I have cooked a little in the microwave. Add butter, salt and pepper. Serve quick because we all know green beans don’t stay warm!
Here’s the final plate. Our family really likes this dish! If you have carb eaters in your family you can always add pasta on the side for them. I don’t think they will miss it though!
Hope you enjoy this as much as we do! It makes great lunch leftovers if you have any. You can also make meatball subs using the fathead dough if you want to change things up.
Meal prep is a weekly occurrence in our house. One of the easiest and my favorite is the breakfast egg muffins. It’s so much easier for me to come home from a 5AM workout and have breakfast done. I just have to throw one or two in the microwave.
This recipe is low carb and keto friendly (of course depending on what you add that can change).
This recipe is very easy and you can customize it any way you want. I will give you the basics and you can add what you want.
12 count Muffin tin
Heavy cream, about 1/4 cup at the most
Sausage or bacon or both
Muffin cups (I use the parchment ones)
I have a muffin pan that needs to be replaced so I use the parchment liners. They are perfect for this recipe. There’s just a little crispness to the outside of the eggs when I use these cups. They are optional though.
I asked Santa for a new pan, please don’t judge mine.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
I cook the breakfast sausage (1/2 a package) and beat the 8 eggs with heavy cream and a little water if you like, salt, pepper, whatever spices you like in your eggs. Once the sausage is done, spoon it into the muffin cups. If you are adding onion, spinach, peppers or anything else add them onto the sausage. Then pour just a little egg mixture into each cup and top with cheese. Sometimes I use cheddar, pepper jack, monterey jack, whatever I have on hand.
My favorite thing to add is the pureed poblano peppers if I have the time to do it. You can also use canned green chilies if you like.
Mine take about 27 minutes at 350. I typically set the timer for 25 minutes and check them. Let them cool off, store in the fridge and you have breakfast done for hopefully a few days. Most weeks I have to make a second batch.
Hot topic alert. As far back as I can remember, I have loved to eat. Love food. Love the social part of eating out. I even love to cook and bake. I am not necessarily the greatest at it. But I love to cook for people.
It’s the love to eat part that has been the struggle.
So much about food and eating is wrapped up in our social life, our family life, even our athletics and church life. We eat with friends, with team mates, with co-workers. It’s a big part of our lives. Growing up I was thin, very thin. People used to actually make fun of me for being so thin. Can you believe it? Kids are torturous and will pick on anyone just to make themselves feel better. I was called names. And it didn’t matter what I ate or how much, never gained weight. Until, about age 21, 22. I was married, working full time and teaching dance class a few nights a week. My husband worked late nights so we rarely had dinner together. When we did, we ate out a lot. I mean a lot. We had no kids, no mortgage, rent was dirt cheap and we spent our money on food. Sad, I know.
Not sure what year this was. Hard to believe this was me. Don’t get me started on that brown velour jacket.
I can remember eating every meal like it was my last meal. I can’t remember when I realized I was gaining weight though. It was gradual, kept having to buy bigger pants, then suddenly it was double digit pants. That went on for several years. I worked out a little bit then gave that up. Then got pregnant at age 25, still overweight.
I gained 40 pounds when I was pregnant with Ally. I wish I had the actual number, I’m sure I can get that from my OB. (mental note made).
Post baby I lost some, I got back down to some pre-pregnancy clothes, but then that number climbed again. I told myself I was happy. I wasn’t going to be that girl that counted every calorie she ate. Life was too short, etc, etc. I worked with a lady who did count every calorie and also proceeded to count mine as well. Ugh.
I even joined a gym with a friend, it lasted a few months. She quit so then I quit. I actually cried, I felt like a failure at that point. But didn’t change anything.
This destructive behavior continued until age 34 ish. I was closer to 35. I honestly don’t even know why or what it was that finally clicked with me. I woke up one day and decided that was enough. I got together with a good friend and we started walking and using an app to track all of our food. We were both on a new journey to lose weight and start exercising. Our girls were about 9 and 10 at the time. The girls would ride their bikes and we would walk 4 miles, almost every day of the week. It was a time I will treasure always.
That was June 2011, I was just a few months shy of my 35th birthday and I had 40 pounds to lose. My first goal was 30, I got that by walking and changing my diet. I did hit my birthday goal that October. I walked my first 5k with my friend and another dear friend who is a breast cancer survivor. We walked the Komen 5k that year.
This is October 2011.
I had already been running a little bit just to try it on days when Paula and I couldn’t walk. Just a month later I RAN my first 5k on Thanksgiving Day with another friend. I still can’t believe she talked me into that!
Then I think I was pretty much hooked on running. I started running longer distance and signed up for the Cowtown 10k in February 2012. Then Alisha and I signed up for a half in May 2012.
During this time my relationship with food had changed drastically. I hadn’t eliminated any food groups, just cut down over all. I just made better choices most of the time and it worked for me.
Over the next few years my running progressed and my eating went up and down. Nothing too terrible and there was enough running to keep my weight in check. Then I trained for 3 marathons in a year (don’t ask) and once that was done I kept eating like I was marathon training. That’s when the trouble started again. I put on just a little here and there. But keep in mind, I’m still running and working out 5-6 days a week. You can’t out exercise a bad diet. You just can’t.
Those bad habits seem to creep back so easily. The cake you eat because you had a bad day. Or you don’t feel like cooking so we go have a burger and cheese fries. Food makes me feel good. It’s comforting. From late 2014-2016, I gained about 15-20 pounds. It went up and down over those 2 years. I hid it well, most people wouldn’t even notice.
This is July 2016, just before we started keto. Most people would say that’s not overweight. But my frame and my body says otherwise. This was working out 5-6 days a week but eating the “standard American diet”. This was also 15-20 pounds heavier than the previous pictures. Most of it being in my mid section.
November 2016 changed everything. I finally realized (after John said it and my doctor) that sugar and carbs might be the problem. I was seriously addicted. I went to the doctor in June 2016 hoping she would just put me on an appetite suppressor, or some pill. There had to be some reason I wasn’t losing weight. She said it might be carbs, that I might need to try lowering my intake. I left there thinking she was crazy. And kept going for a few months. I tried shakes (full of sugar), I counted calories (sort of) and just kept working out.
I would never have believed that sugar and my carb intake was the culprit until I actually broke the addiction and stopped eating it so much. I went cold turkey. Goal was 20 carbs a day. I wrote down everything, measured it all, and within a month I could tell it was working. Made it through the holidays without gaining any weight. I can confidently say I am thankful my husband took that first step and then I followed. I feel better, look better, sleep better and I don’t crave the sugar anymore. Now, on occasion I do eat pasta or a dessert. But when I do, I feel it. My whole body feels sluggish and hungover. It has to be worth it for me to eat it. I make a conscious choice to eat something.
No more eating like it’s my last meal.
No more eating just because it’s in front of me.
No more eating because I feel sad, tired or bored.
My hope is that I’ve made enough changes over the years that Ally will see healthy habits and not go through her early adult years overweight and out of shape like I did.
I love this time of year! Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are my favorite! The food (oh so much of it), the parties, the decorations, the music, family, friends, all of it. Shopping has evolved for me a little over the years. I now much prefer to shop online and I’m more careful about what I spend our money on. I’d rather buy someone something they really want than 5 things that they maybe want. So, I’m going to do a 2 part series on a few Christmas ideas that I would love and maybe someone you know would love as well.
This post contains affiliate links.
First up, are the low carb / keto people. Do you or someone you know eat low carb? I’ve made a list of a few things my husband and I use and have tried, they would make great gifts for someone watching their carbs and sugar.
I LOVE Mexican food. Specifically, tortillas. Imagine my dismay when I realized tortillas aren’t exactly keto friendly. I was beyond ecstatic to come across these wraps that are only 9 net carbs for a 12 inch wrap. We have used them for quesadillas (both for dinner and breakfast), chicken salad wraps and I really love them fried as chips. I just cut them into strips or triangles if you are fancy and very quickly fry them in coconut oil. I’ve also seen some people bake them. There are tons of ways to use these wraps from Cut da Carb. There’s usually a buy 1 get 1 free coupon on Instagram too!
Here’s a photo of fajitas and the chips. So good!
Next would have to be Good Dee’s Baking mixes. SO GOOD. I think I tried her Blondie’s first, I’m not even sure what my favorite is anymore. I currently have Blondie’s, yellow cake mix and pancake mix at home. The Yellow cake mix is amazing with lemon extract, and I added a powdered sugar glaze made with Swerve. The pancakes were a game changer for us. I really, really miss pancakes. These are a good substitute though. The muffins are unflavored, you can customize with your own ingredients and extracts or eat them plain with butter!
I have a 15% off code for any of Good Dee’s mixes, use HMWR15.
Here’s the Yellow Cake Mix with the Swerve Confectioner’s drizzle.
And my half eaten pancakes!
Next on my list is a book called Keto Clarity, by Jimmy Moore. I read this book while on our cruise this summer. I learned a lot! And there’s so much research being done on how the keto diet can help. I found it very interesting and helpful. Not just for newbies either!
Next favorite is MCT oil and MCT Powder. John prefers the oil for his coffee, but since I don’t drink coffee I prefer the powder. The kind we buy is unflavored from Perfect Keto. I actually mix it with my Crystal Light. I’m actually on auto-ship every 30 days for the MCT oil powder.
The MCT oil is Bulletproof. John did some research and found this company on Amazon. They do not use palm oil. Some companies that use palm oil are cutting down rain forests which in turn destroys orangutan habitat. The bottle says “100% orangutan friendly oil”.
MCT oil has many benefits, including healthy fats (Medium chain triglycerides), and eating healthy fat can help you lose fat (hence the Keto diet). Also claims to aid in digestion, helps clear your mind, keep you focused, improve mood as well as a few other benefits.
The next one is Swerve Sweetener. I tried a few others to bake with and nothing has tasted as good as Swerve. I’ve seen several bakers that mix their own, I have not tried that yet. There is a “cooling” effect with Swerve, it’s less than others I’ve tried. Stevia is awful to bake with, in my opinion. They have a granulated version and confectioners version. I have made cream cheese frosting and a drizzle with the confectioners. See below muffin with frosting. So good! They sell them each individually or as a 2 pack.
That’s my list of favorites! These would make great gifts for yourself or someone else. We have really adapted to this life and normally I don’t even think twice about skipping the sugar or carb-laden foods. These items can make that easier and hopefully you don’t feel deprived.
Contact me if you have any questions about any of the products here. Keep in mind there are affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing you help keep this little blog up and running. Thanks for stopping by!