Tips from a Trainer

Today I’m talking about fitness. We all know how important it is to our overall physical and mental health. Now that I’m in my 40’s, I am also thinking about my bone health as much as I’m thinking about whether my jeans fit.

One thing I’ve realized is that whether I’m in a class or a small group environment, I’m most definitely a social exerciser. I prefer running with a buddy and working out with a group. So when a spot at my club opened up in a small group a few months ago, I was excited to join some friends for semi-private training sessions with our trainer, Joe.

We all love “Big Joe” at the club. He’s equal parts trainer and therapist, patiently listening to us whine about how unhappy we are with our legs in our skinny jeans or our arms in tank tops. He listens, gives us a great workout and we all leave feeling so much better for it.

I can already tell a difference in my body from the short time I’ve been working out with him. And surprisingly, we do mostly strength training with heavy weights. I’m working out in parts of the gym on equipment that I would never have ventured to otherwise (hello squat bar!) and am learning that lower reps and higher weights really do yield great results (and no bulk, contrary to popular belief.)

I asked Joe for some tips for all of you lovelies and he graciously offered to share a few words of wisdom. I hope to have more tips from him in the future but this week, he is talking about ab definition, which is a good indicator of your overall fitness:

From Joe:
Everyone is always asking me how to get rid of the belly. And the biggest truth about having visible abdominal muscles is that you need to have a lower body fat percentage. On average men need to be under 10% and women under 18%. You can’t spot reduce just your core or crunch away fat from the area.

Body fat reduction occurs over the body as a whole and is done through intense cardio, resistance training and diet. The best movements for fat burning are compound movements like barbell squats, deadlifts, rows and kettlebell swings. These are great since more muscle will be worked during each lift, major calories are burned and the muscles of the core are trained.

Performing compound movements is the best way to train the core. The job of this muscle group is to protect the lumbar spine, not just generating a crunching movement. The core does not require daily direct training (like crunches), it should be trained like other muscle groupings with proper rest and progressive resistance.

The ability to see your 6-pack (which we all have) will require a lifestyle change and discipline. There is no quick fix to 6-pack abs. Abdominal fat is usually the last fat to shed and the first to come back.

I’m sharing a few photos from the circuit we just did, which included everything from barbell squats to squat jumps, as well as isolated core movements. Joe also recommends we drink a gallon of water a day, which is harder than you think! His biggest tip is always “Do the work and get the results!”



What are your go to exercises these days?

Holiday Beauty Tip

So I have to ask – are you into lipsticks? I have some friends who are total lipstick junkies. They have entire drawers devoted to lipsticks, stains, glosses and liners – from bold to subtle and everything in between.  I, on the other hand, mostly stick with a nude pallete and rotate between a handful of trusted standbys. I think somewhere around the time that I had my twins, I started relying on a lipstick that didn’t need a mirror and could be put on in the preschool pick up line.

This fall, however, I’m just loving a bold lip. I think all of the fabulous wine colors inspired me to pull out the brighter lipsticks stuck in the back of my drawer. I have since added a few more and have been wearing them on repeat for the last few months and if you are feeling hesitant, a holiday party is the perfect excuse to pull out that red lipstick!

It’s true that I can no longer throw these bolder colors on without a mirror, and some require a steadier hand than others. But a bold lip makes a great statement. It instantly brightens your face. It can dress up an otherwise simple look and take a casual outfit up a notch with one simple swipe. I am a convert!

A good rule of thumb when wearing a strong lip color is to be sure and keep the rest of your makeup simple. You’ll avoid looking overly made up and draw attention to what should be the star of the show – your gorgeous lips! Also, with some highly pigmented lipsticks (MAC, I’m looking at you) it’s very helpful to use a moisturizing lip primer first. You can find these at all price points. Mine came from the drug store.

Below, I’m sharing a few of my favorites, both from the drugstore and department store.

Ruby Woo – One of MAC’s most popular lip colors, it is a gorgeous bold red (with blue undertones) designed to work with all skin tones. There is nothing orange about this red, and it looks particular good on fair skin.

Love that Red – This Revlon Red is another gorgeous option. It is actually pretty similar to Ruby Woo but with a slight hint of pink. My girls needed this color for their Nutcracker performance but I’m keeping it in my stash for sure!

Poppy – I love this red lip glace by Laura Mercier and use it when I want a strong color but maybe not so bold as a lipstick. The gloss is also a little easier to apply if I’m in a hurry.

An Affair – Laura Mercier hit a home run with this gorgeous wine stained hue. I absolutely love it and have been wearing it as much as possible.

Cornelian – This is my most recent purchase from Revlon. It is from their Ultra HD Lip Lacquer line and I like it for the same reasons I like poppy. It is very bold but I love the glossy finish for a day look.


Above (from left to right:) Ruby Woo, Love that Red, Poppy



Cornelian, An Affair


(My youngest insisted he model Love That Red for you – – saving this for a future rehearsal dinner photo!)

I’m obviously partial to these particular hues and know that they work great with fair, skin, blonde hair and blue eyes ;). But if you find these shades aren’t just right for you, I can tell you that each line above had several shades and I bet you can find one you love.

So tell me. What are your go to colors for the holidays?





Cyber Monday Madness

I have a confession to make. I’m not a Black Friday girl. As much as I love to shop, you’d think I’d live for a day totally devoted to deals and sales and shopping mayhem, but it’s just not my thing. When it comes to the holidays and buying for all of my loved ones, I’m much more of a shop in my PJs with a cup of coffee on Monday kind of girl.

For the most part, I like to hunker down with my family over the long Thanksgiving  weekend and really focus on spending time together, getting the house decorated for Christmas and gearing up for the next month of holiday magic. I love Christmas and want to enjoy it for as long as possible so making sure the Miller house is decked out and full of merriment is priority number one.

This year, I did a little bit of online shopping on Friday because there were so many online deals to be had and I just wasn’t sure what Cyber Monday would look like – retailers are confusing me this year – is the better online deal on Black Friday or Cyber Monday? And will the items I most want for my family still be available online after the holiday weekend? So, I bought a few things that I felt comfortable were really good deals and I’m leaving the rest for today.

Here’s what’s on my radar and some of the sites I’m hitting up today:

J Crew Factory – I pretty much love everything they have these days for the entire family. I’m lucky to have a Factory outlet a few minutes from home but their online site is pretty great and I am just as likely to shop online as I am to head to the store. All of the plaid has giddy with excitement and they have some great stocking stuffer ideas for kids and adults. ANNND it’s 60% off everything online!

Hanna Andersson – I always let my children open one present on Christmas Eve and it’s always a new pair of Christmas PJs. They love getting an early start on present unwrapping and I love that they all match and look completely adorable on Christmas morning – it’s a win! You can find adorable Christmas PJs at any children’s retailer (Gymboree, Carter’s and GapKids are great options too) but Hanna PJs last forever and are on sale for $24 (regular $44) right now.

Amazon – I feel like this one goes without saying. Basically, I’ve put all of the small toys and goodies that I know my son wants in an online list here and I’ll use this price point for comparison. If I can’t find a better deal anywhere else online, I know Amazon is a great option for me.

Lands End – I try to be practical when it comes to gift giving and because we live in the Tundra, err, Maine, we can never have enough hats, mittens and scarves. The outerwear sales are always great this time of year (50% off!) and I already have my cart loaded with goodies for the kids.

Pottery Barn – This is the one time I year I allow a splurge gift for the children and Pottery Barn Kids and PBTeen are perfect for finding that special something you might not otherwise buy. Sleeping bags and Lap Desks are high on the Santa Wish List in my house this year!

Swim tails – Ok, so this one is pretty specific to little girls and their dreams of being a Mermaid. And since I have 3 and we have access to a pool year round, this is a perfect Santa splurge. A rare free shipping offer and discounted designs make this item a little more affordable than usual. Two of my girls got Mermaid Tails for their birthday this summer and they were such a hit at the pool. My oldest daughter is now “dying” for one and everyone wants a matching swim top. I know several other little friends who have this item at the top of their list. It will be mermaid mania at the pool!


And if you want to treat yourself, here are few other deals going on:

Loft – 50% off AND free shipping (so rare – I hate to pay shipping!)

J.Crew – a rare 40% off!

Gap – 50% off everything!

Banana Republic – 50% off everything!

Old Navy – 50% off everything!

I may pop in later and add a few more deals if I see something really special. Do you have any special deals you are hoping to take advantage of today? Leave a comment and fill the rest of us in!



What to wear for Thanksgiving

Living in New England presents a unique set of wardrobe challenges for a southern girl. I will try not to complain (too much!) on the blog about my feelings about the cold, but the fact that we’ve already had our first snow and my southern family is only JUST now getting legitimate sweater weather is not lost on me.

Growing up in the south, it was usually chilly on Thanksgiving but never a guarantee. Deciding what to wear for the big day was often a last minute decision, but never a casual one. My family definitely dresses up for the holidays. The silver is set out to be polished in the days leading up to Thanksgiving and all of the best china is put to use. Mom always has a beautiful centerpiece on the dining room table and so we dress up. Even as a little girl I remember always wearing a nice  outfit for the day. It feels totally appropriate and I’m a girl who loves every opportunity to dress up.

This year, we are staying in Maine and celebrating the holiday with my husband’s family. They do life much more casually than my family in Alabama and for years I’ve sort of straddled the fence on what to wear for family gatherings. Some years, we are literally staying in the woods, in a cabin, with snow on the ground and even if I wanted to, dressing up just would not work!

So I try to take a more polished, but relaxed approach to what I wear. I feel like this way I can stay true to who I am and also be appropriate for the day. It also goes without saying that when choosing outfits, whether dressy or casual, I try to pick something super comfy, so that when I go back for seconds (or thirds!) my expanding belly doesn’t make me miserable in something super fitted or constricting!

Below, I have two takes on Thanksgiving wear – both dressy and casual, for inspiration. How does your family dress for the holidays? I’d love to hear from you!












Giving back with your kids

Thanksgiving week feels like the kickoff of a whirlwind holiday season. I absolutely love everything about it! There will be Christmas concerts at school, parties for kids and adults, shopping for family and friends, travel to see loved ones and plenty of opportunities for fellowship.

It can also be a frantic time of year – the busyness of all that comes with the fun can leave you overwhelmed. So much so that it easy to lose focus on the true spirit of season.

I was thinking about this and how our family might be more intentional in our gratitude and giving this year. We have children ranging in age from 4-10 so we are definitely at a place where all of them can and should understand the importance of loving and serving others. But that looks very different to a child than to an adult. I know for years I did not allow myself to think creatively about this and how I might better involve them in service. We’ve always brought food to the local food pantry and donated coats or other clothes or food through our church. And we have volunteered our time occasionally. But I’m not sure my children always connected the dots and why giving and sharing mattered so much.

It truly is better to give than to receive, but it’s often hard to convince a child that that’s true. But by giving them some ownership in the process, they can experience how fulfilling it is to give and help when others cannot do for themselves. It’s a life lesson that even as an adults we need to be reminded of more often than we realize.

I feel like that message finally hit home when we took on a scarf making project* from start to finish that required time, creativity, and ownership of responsibilities. Once my children had hands on involvement, the importance of “other thinking” really made so much more sense to them. By having a hand in every detail, from buying the fleece, to measuring, cutting and tying the fringe to delivering the finished scarves, they felt a great sense of accomplishment and also excitement about the actual giving.

This project was easy, inexpensive and totally age appropriate. I have attached a YouTube video that gives step-by-step instructions if you would like to try this out with your little ones. I have also listed a few other age appropriate opportunities to give a little time and love to others this holiday season. Involve your children now and we can create a generation of givers and doers. What an amazing legacy that would be!

  • Scarves – (YouTube video) We did the first scarf in the tutorial (pictures below.) It was so quick and easy! One yard will get you about 4 scarves. Fleece is inexpensive and readily available at most craft stores.
  • Angel Tree – contact a local church to see if they are sponsoring children for the holidays. I know my children love to pick out a little girl from the tree to buy presents for and we do this every year.
  • Toys for Tots – Find a local drop off spot for Toys for Tots and donate a toy. The Toys for Tots Program collects new, unwrapped toys to distribute as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community.
  • Senior Center – Find a local senior center to visit. This is a fantastic way to bless others (and yourself) by simply sharing your time. Seniors love children and are so grateful for a visit. I know my grandmother, who will be 100 in a few months, absolutely loves visitors – the younger the better!
  • Ronald McDonald House  – This is a fantastic organization that helps families through difficult situations. My twin daughters recently spent an afternoon at the Ronald McDonald house with their Brownie troop. It was a great lesson in empathy for them, and they were so thrilled to be able to have hands on involvement. And I believe that their troop was such a blessing to the families staying there. Contact your local chapter to see how you might get involved both now and throughout the year.






*Thankfully, my daughters are in Brownie and Girl Scout Troops with awesome leaders who inspired this post based on some of their recent service projects. And none of us need to wait for the holidays to practice a little more selflessness and little more kindness.

What ways have you and your children given back. Leave a comment so the rest of us can be inspired!