By Request: My Workout and Eating Habits. And a Few Insecurities.

When I launched this style-based blog at the start of the year, I surely did not envision that I would EVER be writing about fitness or food.  MAYBE athletic attire, but not the others. After many comments, messages and questions about my workout and eating habits (likely more than STYLE questions I get!), I will reluctantly share a bit about my current lifestyle and history (hell, even a few insecurities).  Reluctantly, because I’m A: Far from perfect and B: No expert here.

THE BACKSTORY: I struggled as a young girl with my weight.  I was the only one of our family of seven that seemed to.  Eating pasta almost nightly, followed by my mother’s homemade desserts, I simply didn’t understand how to manage myself.  This continued through college, making poor decision after poor decision.  It wasn’t until post-college that I started truly appreciating how proper nutrition and a consistent fitness routine positively impacted both my body and MIND.  As I began having children, my fitness “hour” was scheduled into my day.  I knew, with the craziness of baby years, that if I didn’t SCHEDULE it, it wouldn’t happen.  Then I hit a few tough years where my son (with a few minor special needs) hit a very challenging phase.  With two other babies at home, I HAD to exercise to mentally get through my day.  By the time I had the fourth baby, I knew what exactly I had to eat and do to shed those pounds fairly quickly.  HOWEVER, it’s not magic.  There’s no quick fix.  It’s hard work, and it takes a LOT of time and discipline.

FITNESS ROUTINE.

exerciseI spent years jogging alone, then pushing a single jog stroller, then a double.  When my back started giving me trouble (no surprise) I turned to more of a HIIT (High Impact Interval Training) / cross training routine.  Nothing else has been as effective in making my body look and feel as strong as a HIIT workout.  I put my workouts together myself using Pinterest tips and core-strengthening exercises I got from my YMCA personal trainer (Michele Cameron) a few years back.  I’ve never been a class person.  I consider this MY time.  Time by myself, in my “zone”, is sacred to me these days.  I am VERY disciplined and consistent.  It may be sleeting and I may have four children in tow, but I’m at the gym (five times a week).  I want to be in and out, so I’ve gotten my current routine down to about 30 minutes, with seven additional minutes for abs.  I started using an EMOM timer about a year ago to keep me moving during workouts (versus stopping for 5 minutes to chat).  Without boring you with every detail, the types of specific exercises include things like:

  • jumping rope
  • kettlebell (goblet squat, snatch, etc.)
  • burpees
  • dumbell exercises (renegade rows, overhead press, etc.)
  • weighted ball slams
  • workout ropes
  • box jumps

You get the gist.  When I’m travelling, I start my day with a workout.  If they don’t  have a gym, I go for a jog.  If the gym is very basic, I do speed intervals on a treadmill.  And if there are kids on the trip, I NEED TO DO IT to have the energy to get through my day.  If my kids are sick and home from school?  It’s a cob job of a sweat in the small space on my family room floor.  If my day is packed, I do it at 5 before the kids wake.  Whatever it takes, I try to get it in.  With me, it’s truly as mental as it is a physical need.

DIETARY HABITS.

food.jpgOver the years, I’ve learned what works for me and my body, and I’m fairly consistent in my eating habits.  I eat a lot of salads and lean meat, fish, good fats and limit my carbs and sugar intake.  I wouldn’t say I deprive myself of anything, but I AM realistic.  For example, while out, I may skip the bread because I know they have my favorite dessert.  Or pass on getting my own cone on our afternoon family Ben and Jerry’s run because I know we’re eating out later.  At home, we grill salmon at least two times a week.  The other nights are usually also a high protein lean meat or fish, tossed salad and veggie.  While out (we eat out quite a bit), I almost always order a salad and high protein appetizer. I don’t drink much wine anymore and generally choose a low-sugar cocktail (Stoli Orange and club is my “go-to”.)  I do snack, grab a cookie here or there, and eat the occasional fried chicken finger off the kids’ plates.  Not perfect, and no magic formula.  Just management and awareness.

A few things that I would consider my “cupboard essentials” include:

Last but surely not least: my favorite indulgence.  Dark Chocolate Almond Coconut Bark Thins.  But be careful… you can’t stop.

INSECURITIES  IN THIS “PERFECT” WORLD.

I feel obligated to end on this note.  Yes, I’m obviously TYPE A, and do a lot to take care of myself.  Of course there are still imperfections and insecurities.  We all have them.  It used to just be my muscular, stocky legs.  Well… those have given me the ability to walk MILES and MILES with these babies.  Now my belly.  It can be in the best shape of my life and it’s still going to be a little droopy and poochy… but for FOUR darn good reasons.  The giant veins on my legs?  I consider them the tattoos I never got, symbolizing motherhood.  The bags under my eyes?  Late nights with great friends.  I’m blessed to be older, wiser, and able to embrace those imperfections more than ever.

My advice to you and these poor young girls growing up in this unrealistic world of Kardashians and social media filters: don’t strive for perfection because it doesn’t exist.  Try for your strongest physical and mental self, and I can assure you that much happiness will follow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Style Essentials

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There are a few items in my summer wardrobe that I just can’t live without.  You’ve likely seen many similar things on my Instagram feed.  I thought I’d share some of my personal essentials, along with some links to items available today.

  1. “Wear-anywhere” shirtdress.  I got this J.Crew one last spring and was thrilled to see several new colors and prints just released!  I love the long, wide tie that helps to cinch the waist.   J.Crew Striped Shirtdress
  2. A great, basic cover-up.  I love the adjustable shoulder ties and feminine details of this one by J.Crew.  J.Crew Tie Shoulder Dress with Embroidery
  3. A versatile pair of sunnies.  I’m currently loving big, round, retro designs and LeSpecs always offers cool options at reasonable prices.  LeSpecs “Last Dance” Sunglasses
  4. A large, woven bag.  I love the size and shape of this bag by Anthropologie.  Fill it for a day at the beach or accessorize a sweet sundress for a night event!  Anthropolgie “What a Catch” Tote Bag
  5. A white, cotton, off-the-shoulder top.  As you may have noticed from my IG feed, I am riding this off-the-shoulder trend as long as I possibly can.  And, I always love the look of crisp, white cotton in summertime.  Show me your MUMU (Bloomingdales) Off-the-Shoulder Top
  6. A classic navy pencil skirt.  I just love Boden’s pencil skirts.  They are well-made,  most have stretch and always include some interesting details, like this exposed zipper and grosgrain pull.  Boden Hampshire Navy Ponte Skirt
  7. A “feels like nothing” pair of pjs.  Check out these beautiful ones by LAKE Pajamas.  You’ll fall in love with the sweet stripes and feminine, classic designs.  LAKE Pajamas “Island Summer Dress”
  8. A neutral block heel that goes from sundress to cocktail dress.  I love these super-versatile suede Oatmeal “Yaro” heels by Sam Edelman.  Similar “Yaros” available locally at Violet’s of Saratoga.     Sam Edelman Perfect Neutral Block Heel
  9. A “go-to” summer scent.  I love Tom Ford’s perfumes, and Costa Azzurra is absolutely heavenly.  It will immediately transport you to white sands and blue waters.     Tom Ford (Sephora) Costa Azzurra
  10. A fabulous sun hat.  I can go days without doing my hair in the summer, thanks to this essential accessory.  I’m obsessed with this hat shown by Eric Javits.  A more practical, affordable option is linked here.    Eric Javits (Neiman Marcus) Giant Floppy Sun Hat in Peanut
  11. A lightweight, button-down casual dress.  I love the tie (helps to cinch your waist) and sleeve (able to wear a normal bra) on this dress by MANGO.  There are lots of button-down dresses out this summer, all which easily go from day to night.  MANGO Bow Cotton Dress
  12. The easiest AND comfiest of summer dresses: a soft, midi tee-shirt dress.  Pair with some slides, sunnies, and a small cross-body bag… and you’re ready to go!  Madewell Horizon Midi Tee Shirt Dress 

Stay cool in this August heat and remember… there’s ALWAYS air conditioning in retail shops. (wink wink).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Crush: The Slide (Not the Playground Kind)

Get those long overdue pedi appointments made ladies, because sandal season is here.  Slides, in particular, are my sandal of choice.  Not only are they the absolute easiest summer shoe to “throw on”, but did I mention THE MOST flattering of all summer sandals?  Any type of shoe without a back helps to add a few extra inches of leg for those of us vertically challenged.  Choose a skin-toned shade and you’ll maximize that effect.

There are SO many fun slides out this summer in a variety of prints, colors and materials.  You’ll find ones appropriate for your most casual of barbecues AND for your most formal of cocktail parties.  Below is a “slide show” (I had to) of my favorites this season.  As always, the choices reflect my wide range of personal “looks”, from ultra-preppy to bohemian.  Note that most of these designs come in a variety of colors, so be sure to click through the links below the photos for all the color options available!

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Tory Burch (Nordstrom) Brannan Studded Sandal

Frye Nadia Slide

Madewell Boardwalk Post Slide

Everlane Bridge Sandal

Ted Baker (Bloomingdales) Beauita Satin Bow Sandal

Seychelles (Zappos)  Total Relaxation Slide

JCrew Multistripe Cora Crisscross Sandal

GUCCI (Nordstrom) Querelle Sandal

Jack Rogers Diamond Monogrammed Sandal

SARTO Ginelle Slide Sandal

 

Happy summer and sliding… whatever kind you choose to do.

XOXO,

Ally

 

Strolling for Style in Saratoga Springs

Last week I took a quick stroll down the main street of our beautiful city, Saratoga Springs.  This is something I only wish I had more time to do.  With the four littlemonsters, it’s so hard to find time to shop (the old-fashioned way, like in a store), nevertheless “stroll”.  Whether it’s track season or the middle of a frigid winter, I ALWAYS find some gems in my downtown travels, even if I only have a few minutes to Continue reading “Strolling for Style in Saratoga Springs”

Summer Crush: The Woven Bag

Welcome to my SUMMER CRUSH series!  Throughout the summer, I will do the occasional super short piece on something I’m totally crushing on!  This could be a specific item, look or brand.  I’m kicking it off with the WOVEN BAG!

Wicker, rattan, straw, and other woven naturals are the tell-tale sign that summer is here!  From clutches to totes and embroidery to tassels… you’re sure to find something for either a day at the pool or for cocktails at night!

Below are my current CRUSHES, with direct links to follow.  (PS- Be sure to check the dimensions of the bags before ordering since it’s difficult to tell scale from the photos.)

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  1. Joules Modena Round Straw Bag
  2. Vineyard Vines Kentucky Derby Caning Clutch
  3. Francesca’s Julianna Woven Metallic Crossbody
  4. J.McLaughlin Victoria Circluar Wicker Bag
  5. J.Crew Envelope Clutch in Rainbow Stripes
  6. Madewell Folk Fortune Bali Rattan Round Bag
  7. Anthropologie Fanciful Florals Embroidered Clutch
  8. JADEtribe (Revolve) Square Basket
  9. Filippo Catarzi (Bloomingdales) Striped Bow Tote
  10. KAYU (Revolve) Jane Shell Bag
  11. Boho Bags Aria Rattan Bag

I hope you, too, find your summer crush, and that she’s a keeper!

The (Not So) Basic Black One-Piece Swimsuit

Years ago, as my mother and I sat on a beach during our annual family vacation and looked out into the sea of colorful, sometimes-too-small string bikinis, a woman walked by in a basic black tank suit.  My mother turned to me and said “Nothing looks better than a classic black one-piece”.  I whole-heartedly agree with my mamma.

I decided to kick-off swimsuit season with an homage to my wise mother and the black one-piece… something I feel that all women should have in their summer wardrobes. In taking a look at this season’s designs, I noticed that there are SO MANY beautiful black suits, designed for ALL shapes and sizes.   I haven’t even scratched the surface here.

First you’ll need to ask yourself… are you more conservative and want something more classic and fully-covering?  Or a risk-taker who’s comfortable in a two piece and cut-outs?  Or maybe someone in between, who likes to liven things up with a little mesh?  Next, you’ll have to consider what type of neckline and top work for you.  Ugh, the whole “boob debacle” is MY biggest struggle by far (those damn kids who sucked the life out of me)!  If you’re anything like me (a.k.a. flat-chested) you’ll want to choose something with gathering, underwire and padding on the top (the twist-bandeau is my “go-to”).  A larger busted woman may want to minimize by choosing a V or scoop neckline.  (Chances are, you already have a “gut feeling” of what neckline looks best on you.)  Lastly and absolutely not the least… the BELLY!  For those of you blessed with that post-partum pooch, you’re not alone!  Diagonal seaming or ruching helps to break things up and hide a belly, and heavier-weight swimsuits (Miraclesuit or Magicsuit) take the support up a notch. I’m happy to see that they now include a wide variety of designs, and have surely upped their style factor.  Note: These suits are often quite heavy and can feel restricting, so try going up one or two sizes.

Below I’ve shown ten of my favorite black one-piece swimsuits, for a variety of body types and at a wide range of price points.  I always recommend paying a little more for a great classic swimsuit since you’ll wear it often and likely for many years.  Click on a thumbnail to open the slideshow and details, with links below.

Black is your friend ladies, and swimwear is no exception.

PS … you are responsible for your tan lines.  I am not.

 

A “Short” Story: Top Spring Picks

Okay ladies, shorts season has arrived.  While some women are celebrating its arrival, others downright dread it.  Speaking from first-hand experience, shorts can be very difficult to fit for us vertically-challenged, not-so-long-and-lean-legged ladies.  But don’t get discouraged!  This season is full of shorts in various lengths, cuts and rise options… making it much easier than in years past to find the right fit for you.

Looking for a basic chino short?  I usually point women immediately to J.Crew since their chino shorts not only come in four different length and lots of great colors, but also have a bit of stretch.  Order a few different lengths and keep the one that works best.

One trend I am loving this season is the “easy fit”, pull-on short.  Offered in a variety of fun prints and flowing fabrics, these shorts are usually a bit roomier in the leg, flattering both skinnys and curvys alike.  I’m also loving the belted-waist short trend.  You’ll find these in varying lengths and fabrics.  If they’re pleated, be sure the pleats lie fairly flat at the belly and pair them with a fitted tee or top to avoid too much overall volume.

Here are some of my favorites this spring!  Details with links are below the photo.

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  1. J.Crew Stretch Chino Shorts in Four Lengths
  2. MANGO Floral Print Shorts
  3. J.Crew Point Sur Seaside Short
  4. ZARA Palm Printed Shorts
  5. Madewell High-Rise Denim Shorts
  6. H&M Soft Drawstring Patterned Shorts
  7. H&M Long Floral Patterned Shorts
  8. Alice & Olivia (Bergdorf Goodman) High Waist Sailor Short 
  9. ZARA Retro Print Bermuda Shorts
  10. 1901 (Nordstrom) Pleated Twill Bow Shorts
  11. ZARA Contrasting Velvet Bermuda Shorts

 

Want a few more inches of leg in those shorts?  Pair them with a beige slip-in sandal like this.  Tried all these styles, lengths and tricks and still not thrilled with how you look in shorts?  You’re not alone.  I’ll share a secret, but keep it between you and me. It’s been well over two decades since I’ve worn a pair of shorts.  Perhaps this summer will be different?  Probably not.