Trader Joe's Haul

trader joe's hi-protein vegan veggie burgers

trader joe's hi-protein vegan veggie burgers macros

Hi-Protein Vegan Burgers /// The macros are fantastic on these, but the texture is just something I can't get into to. It's so different to any veggie burger I've ever had that I'm having a hard time comparing it to any existing ones out there. I've only made these in the microwave so that's probably my problem, but they are very mushy and fall apart easily even after letting them sit ~5 minutes after cooking. With that said, I'd still buy these again because they're perfect for when I need a lot of protein but don't have much carbs left.

trader joe's silver dollar pancakes

Frozen Silver Dollar Pancakes /// These have been a lifesaver on busy mornings! Grab a few out of the freezer, put them in the microwave, and breakfast is done in a minute. They taste great and my daughter loves them. She eats them plain because she doesn't like maple syrup on pancakes or waffles.. I don't get it either 😜trader joe's organic strawberry smoothie

Organic Strawberry Smoothies /// I'd never bought these before, but my mission on my last Trader Joe's visit was to get some new things that my daughter might like in the mornings because it's tough to get her to eat breakfast sometimes. I bought these strawberry smoothie bottles and she loves them! I figured she would because she's a big fan of kefir. I used to make her smoothies in the morning but our blender broke awhile back and I haven't gotten around to replacing that yet. These are a good substitute in the meantime. Sugar is high in these - 26g a serving - and sugar is the second ingredient after milk, so these are definitely not an every morning thing.

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups /// The perfect thing to have on hand for when I'm craving something sweet. I'm really good at limiting myself to 2 or 3 of these a day unlike if I bake cookies or something myself.. I will most likely end up eating half the batch myself so I stick to these. I keep these peanut butter cups in the fridge and they're delicious!

trader joe's cowboy caviar

Cowboy Caviar /// I love this stuff for when I make nachos with Beyond Meat crumbles. It's great alone on chips, but the perfect topper for nachos. It's not spicy, but slightly sweet and so good.

trader joe's red lentil sedanini

Red Lentil Pasta /// This pasta is awesome! Each serving is 190 calories / 13g protein / 0.5g fat / 32g carbs / 3g fiber so it has great macros as well. I pair this with a Tofurky Italian sausage and Newman's Own marinara to get a cool 45g of protein in one meal πŸ‘

trader joe's plantain chips

Plantain Chips /// If you haven't had these before, definitely try them! I snack on these all the time. I wouldn't compare them to chips or anything - especially macro wise, they're essential the same there - but they are a lot heartier and satisfying to me. Good stuff!

What are your favorite things to get at Trader Joe's? I'm already making a list so I can stock up next time we drive to Knoxville :]

3 Shoulder & Back Strengthening Exercises I Learned In Physical Therapy

A couple of years ago, my shoulder and back was a total mess from holding my daughter constantly and always reaching back to hand her things when she was in her car seat. The pain radiated from my shoulder all the way down to my elbow most days. It got so bad that I couldn't ignore it any longer and began my search for a physical therapist.

It took me almost an entire year to make a physical therapy appointment. If you're in pain, don't be like me.. make the appointment now! And if you're in the Chattanooga area and need a recommendation, e-mail me and I'll give you the info for the fantastic PT I went to.

After my initial appointment, I found out what was going on and also that my back was extremely weak. The plan was to do a set of exercises at home that would strengthen everything. The PT I went to filmed me on my phone doing all the exercises in her office with her instruction so that I would have something to reference when I was home. That was so awesome because it guaranteed my form was perfect so that the exercises would be effective.

I wanted to share some of my favorite exercises from my sessions - it only took 4 of them until my pain was manageable, btw. And if I ever feel any pain creeping back, I do my exercises and it's taken care of.

Now, obviously I'm not a doctor or PT myself and you should always consult a medical professional before you begin any exercise program.

So, here are my top 3 shoulder and back strengthening exercises:

One of the things that was stressed to me was the importance of activating the scapula before beginning any of the exercises. It gets everything in the right position so you can perform all the moves safely and properly.

The Four Cardinal Planes /// I loved this one! You can do this while you're watching tv which is my favorite way to exercise :]

Stability Ball L's /// This one seems like it's not doing much, but believe me.. it is!

Ab Wheel Roll Outs with a Foam Roller /// This one is great at strengthening, plus the stretch feels soooo good! I bought a foam roller similar to this one (affiliate link) for this exercise and it works perfectly.

Again, don't wait on seeing a doctor or PT if you're in pain. They can make a plan tailored to your specific needs and get you healed quickly. But if you're looking for a few new shoulder and back exercises to add into your routine, give one of these a try!


WISHING // Friday the 13th wasn't so rough on me this year 😜 I seemed to have mishap after mishap while I was out doing coffee deliveries on Friday. Just totally weird stuff involving falling ceiling tiles 😳, no one answering doors for 15+ minutes, deserted warehouses.. very unusual stuff. And THEN.

I finish work, do school pick up, pick my husband up from work and when we open the front door we get hit with the smell of natural gas. I grab Waves and run across the street and call the gas company. They are asking questions like.. is there a school within a mile of you? Are you within a mile of a hospital? And then telling us to make sure that we don't go back into the house and that someone from the gas company will be there in 30 minutes to an hour. Thankfully, they got there in about 20 minutes.

They used their meter and confirmed a gas leak, turned things off and on, found the leak, and fixed everything, thank goodness. We had to hang out outside for a little over an hour and luckily the weather was great so I was able to keep Waves occupied easily. I'm glad everything was okay and fixed. I'm super anxious about it happening again. We are going to go out a pick up a carbon monoxide detector/alarm which is important and will hopefully ease my anxiety about it all.

EATING // I made these black bean enchiladas the other night and they are amazing! I actually had already made a batch of this cauliflower taco filling, so I added that in with the black beans which made it too thick to strain for the sauce.. so I added a can of Aldi brand enchilada sauce I had on hand instead. So good!
THINKING ABOUT // This is a bit of a downer and I apologize, but this has been on my mind ever since I read it. Stefan Karl Stefansson is an actor who was recently diagnosed with an inoperable cancer and tweeted the following before deleting all social media:
‘It’s not until they tell you you’re going to die soon that you realize how short life is. Time is the most valuable thing in life because it never comes back. And whether you spend it in the arms of a loved one or alone in a prison-cell, life is what you make of it. Dream big.’

It's just so sad. Life is so short and I know that's not something you should dwell on.. but it puts in perspective that holding onto to anger, silly arguments over nothing, thinking about the past too much, worrying about the future, etc. is just all such a waste of time. I could feel myself getting worked up during a traffic jam over the weekend and his post popped into my mind and I was just like.. chill out. This doesn't matter. 

CRUSHING ON // Of course the first thing I thought of was food 😜 I am loving Trader Joe's mini dark chocolate peanut butter cups! We went to Knoxville over the weekend so I was able to make a TJ's stop. I'll make a haul post soon!
WATCHING // I started watching the 808 documentary on Amazon Prime and made it about halfway before I couldn't hang any longer. I really enjoyed the first half so I'm looking forward to finishing it tonight. 

Have a great Monday!

Spring Break in Gatlinburg & a Trip to Dollywood!

smoky mountains - gatlinburg - park vista hotel

We decided very last minute - as in, the night before - that we would spend a couple of days in the Gatlinburg area and go to Dollywood. Waves is now tall enough to ride some of the bigger rides and rollercoasters so we knew that she would have blast!

I want to take a minute to talk about the fires that happened in Gatlinburg back in November and December of 2016. Watching all the videos - this one by Michael Luciano is insane - and seeing the images as it was happening was absolutely unreal. Here's a video from the same hotel we stayed in this trip. People were trapped in there because there's only one, very steep road going to and from the hotel. Firefighters worked for hours without breaks to keep the fire from taking over the hotel.

The fires caused so much devastation and while you can still see some of that here and there in the form of burned down buildings and burnt trees, the town is back on its feet and thriving. If you're looking for a fun family vacation where you can visit one of the greatest national parks - that's completely free, by the way! - then definitely give Gatlinburg a thought and help support the town.

Okay, now onto our stay! We booked a two night stay at the Park Vista Hotel and arrived to a gorgeous view. The photo above was from the balcony in our room on the 13th floor! I didn't zoom in or edit it at all.. the mountains are just that beautiful.

smoky mountains - gatlinburg - park vista hotel

Here's a view from inside the Park Vista. They had a lounge area that opened at night that featured a fire pit on the patio outside and a fireplace inside which was really nice. We ended the day there both nights with a beer while talking for awhile. There is also a restaurant on site that serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and pizzas you can get to take to your room.

We ate lunch there the first day and dinner on the second day. For vegetarians, they had a black bean burger, fries, a really good house salad, and a hummus plate. The kid's menu had a cheeseburger, grilled cheese, and mac n' cheese served with fries and applesauce.

gatlinburg - arcadia - smoky mountains

After lunch on the first day, we headed the mile into downtown Gatlinburg. We initially booked the hotel because it was so close to downtown which meant we could walk. Upon arrival, we realized there is only one road to and from the hotel but it is very busy, curvy, and extremely steep with no sidewalk for walking. The lady at the front desk told me there used to be a trail that went downtown so you could walk, but that it hasn't been maintained since the fires. Just a tip in case you're wanting a room where you can walk to all the attractions.

Parking in downtown is incredibly reasonable though - $5-$8 for all day parking. The lot we parked at was cash only so make sure you have some on you!

Once we got downtown we went to Arcadia, a super fun arcade that shares space with a pizzeria. We stayed here for a couple of hours and Waves was in heaven with all the claw machines they had. We ended up winning 3 Beanie Boos so that was fun.

We ate dinner at the Five Guys across the street and then walked around.

gatlinburg - village shoppes - smoky mountains

We made a stop at the Village Shops that I love because it is just so cute. There's a huge fountain with beautiful flowers in the middle of the shops with seats to stop and take a break on while you drink coffee and eat doughnuts from one of the nearby shops.

gatlinburg - village shoppes - coffee & company

We stopped by Coffee & Company where we got a couple Americanos and I picked up a sample bag of coffee to try since they roast everything in Gatlinburg. Then Waves and I got a couple of doughnuts from The Donut Friar which were awesome.

pigeon forge - dollywood - whistle punk chaser

pigeon forge - gatlinburg - dollywood - whistle punk chaser

The next morning we were up around 9am to get ready for Dollywood! Dollywood is Dolly Parton's theme park and I grew up going here each summer. I'm always down for a return trip because it's always a good time. Waves was able to ride a a lot this year and she loved it! Whistle Punk Chaser was her favorite rollercoaster and she was also a fan of Blazing Fury which will always be my number one theme park ride EVER because it is so completely creepy and insane haha. Check out this video of the ride.. it's awesome.

If you go to Dollywood with small kids, there's a booth to left right when you walk in where they will measure your child and give them a wristband with their height on it. That way you're not stopping to get measured at every ride and you don't waste any time in lines for rides that they won't be able to get on.

This chocolate covered cheesecake on a stick was most definitely a highlight of Dollywood. Prices here aren't terribly outrageous.. the cheesecake was $4.50, coffee was $2.49 for 12oz, and the pad thai I had for lunch was $12.99. The Festival of Nations was going on while we were there so they had a lot of food that's not normally at the park. We ate at the Front Porch Cafe and they were able to make pad thai with tofu instead of chicken and it was pretty good! I was happy to have an option other than side items.

We stayed at Dollywood from 10:30am - 6pm and were exhausted when we left. We ate dinner at the hotel restaurant, had a beer in the lounge, and went to bed around 10.

gatlinburg - park vista hotel

This was the view from our bed the next morning. I still can't get over how beautiful it was!

gatlinburg - crockett's breakfast camp

gatlinburg - crockett's breakfast camp

For breakfast on the last day, we stopped by Crockett's Breakfast Camp. I noticed that they use Chattanooga's Aretha Frankensteins pancake mix which is amazing. I got two pancakes not knowing how massive they'd be! I'm so glad I didn't order 3 of them like I was going to do.

gatlinburg - park vista hotel

And here's one last shot of the mountains before heading home. We had such a great trip. We are planning to go back sometime during the summer and maybe do some hiking then too. If you have any questions about Gatlinburg I'd be happy to answer them or check out Visit My Smokies or Gatlinburg's website to help plan your trip.

10 Fun Indoor Activities for Kids

We have had a lot of sick days, school closings due to ice and snow, and rainy days this year. Sometimes we can get a little stir crazy so it is nice to have some ideas of new things to do indoors. My daughter is 5 years old and these are tried and true things we do that keep her engaged and that we have fun doing. Some might not work for a younger or older kids.. but it's worth a shot!

1. Cut potatoes into shapes, dip in paint, and stamp! She loved this when she was much younger and loves it now too!

2. Fishing sight words game. We love this game! I just used index cards we had lying around to write the words on and for the fishing pole.. I grabbed a spatula, tied a piece of string around it, and then I taped a magnet on the end 😜 It worked and she loved it. Plus, learning sight words at the same time is a plus for sure.

3. Sight words bingo. I made 2 boards myself - just made a grid and then wrote the words in. Then I wrote each word on a tiny slip of paper, put it into a box, and we took turns drawing a word, finding it on our board, and marking it, seeing who could get 5 in a row first. This is also really popular with her - and fun! Here's a sight word bingo board creator to make it much easier.

4. We throw a bunch of small toys on the floor (Shopkins are perfect for this), then set up two empty containers - one for me and one for her - and see who can pick up the most using only our feet and drop it in our box. Whoever has the most in their box at the end wins. Super silly.. but a lot of fun! 

5. Bring out the Mad Mattr! It's like kinetic sand, but I don't find it as messy and it's much more fun to play with. It molds easily, never dries out, and is really relaxing to play with! Check out the #madmattr hashtag on Instagram and see what I mean.. relaxing!

6. If you want to focus on learning, there are a ton of free or really cheap worksheets and games over at Teachers Pay Teachers. The cool thing about that site is that all the materials are made by educators. There are so many neat activities there! 

7. Get out the board games! Our favorite right now is Race to the Treasure. There's no winner or loser in this game.. instead, you work together to create a path to beat the ogre to the treasure. Each game takes 5-10 minutes to play, but we always end up playing at least 5 games in a row. I love that there's no competition and instead we work together.

8. Get in the kitchen. Waves loves when I let her make "experiments". A mixing bowl, spoon, and some random ingredients and she will pretend to be cooking/baking for a good half hour. She likes smelling the different spices and cutting vegetables with her kid-safe knife.

9. Make an obstacle course. We'll put out couch cushions, pillows, make a tunnel out of a blanket draped over the coffee table and couch, etc. and then see who can move through it the quickest. It gets some energy out and is fun! Although, I will admit.. this one doesn't hold her attention as long as the other things on the list. Another fun thing to do is pile up a bunch of blankets, couch cushions, and pillows and then pretend you're jumping into a pile of leaves 😜

10. Make magic paintings! You just need to have a white crayon, some paper, and watercolors. These are a lot of fun to make and kids love seeing what you drew for them as they paint on the paper. This keeps my daughter occupied for a surprisingly long time.

I hope you were able to get some new ideas from this post! Have a great day :]

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