Things I Like

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I’m having a clothing swap with a few girlfriends this weekend, so I started this week by cleaning out my closet and drawers. When I looked at my newly pared down wardrobe, one thing was hard to deny: I have a LOT of white shirts.

When Vivi was first born, while I wouldn’t say I completely let my sense of style go, I definitely had to make quicker choices. I needed to be comfortable, and I needed to be able to whip out a boob at a moment’s notice. (Ah, the joys of breastfeeding.)

White T’s became my go-to, and the love affair has only grown — even though I now I like to think I put more effort into my look than in those early days.

The problem is, when you’re staring down a drawer full of white shirts, things start to look a little…bland.

But while I’ll never let my white shirts go, I’m not quite ready to resign myself to boring style. So I decided to challenge myself to create three completely different looks that each featured my favorite wardrobe staple.

Look #1: White V-neck with a skirt and heels

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One of my favorite things about white T-shirts is how easy they are to dress up despite their otherwise casual nature. A slightly flared skirt with a pair of heeled sandals is the perfect look for lunch with a friend, or I could throw on a statement necklace for an evening out.

Look #2: Boyfriend T-shirt with high-waisted skinny jeans, heels, and a pendant necklace

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Honestly, this is what you can likely find me in almost any given day. (Minus the heels — my day-to-day is more of a sneakers or wedges look.) I used to shy away from baggy tops because I felt like I needed to highlight the narrowest part of my body, but I love how versatile boyfriend T’s are, especially when you tuck them into high-waists. And that pendant? Perfect for Vivi to play with as I carry her to and fro.

Look #3: White button-down with belted shorts and sneakers

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Rompers were all the rage this year, but I found it hard to find one that was truly flattering on my body but still modest enough to wear in real life. My solution? Pairing a matching top and shorts. I love how summery this outfit feels without feeling like a costume (the belt helps break up all the white), and contrasting sneakers add just enough visual interest to still feel a little dressed up (even though they’re so comfortable).

What are your “mom uniform” staples?

Bébé de Luxe Coconut & Oat Milk Bath

One of my favorite parts of being Vivi’s mom is our bedtime routine. I’ve mentioned before the practical value of establishing a regular routine to wind-down a baby so they go to sleep more peacefully, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t get something out of it too.

I often say that, for me, the best part of sleep training (besides, you know, the sleep) is that I get to end every day madly in love with my baby. From the moment we start our routine, Vivi is typically calmer and cuddlier until the moment I lay her down in her crib. We end virtually every day with songs and snuggles and a peaceful parting.

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Granted, there are times this doesn’t happen. (I wrote this post last night, and, of course, that was actually one of the evenings we ended with an overtired baby and a lot of frustration.) But those times just serve to make me even more grateful for the fact that that is not our routine — it’s the exception.

Typically, our nights go like this:

5:00/5:30: Family dinner

6:00: Vivi gets a bath (usually Joey does the bath so I can have a few minutes to unwind to myself, but if he’s working late I sub in)

6:20-7:00: Joey and Vivi play and spend time together

7:00: Joey reads to Vivi while I nurse her, then he says her bedtime prayer and I’ll rock her and sing a couple of songs before putting my now very sleepy babe to bed

While I would say the last few moments are my favorite part of the routine, Joey would undoubtedly say the bath and playtime are his favorite moments. I also love sitting in the living room and listening to Vivi belly laugh as she plays with her bath toys and splashes with her Dada. It’s such a great way for us all to relax and for Vivi and Joey to bond before bedtime.

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A few months back, my friend Haley introduced me to a new kind of bath cleanser that has helped turn our evening routine into an even more relaxing — and, dare I say, spa-like? — experience for Vivi: Bébé de Luxe Coconut & Oat Milk Bath.

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When we started giving Vivi baths after she came home from the hospital, we noticed pretty quickly that she had extremely sensitive skin. She was prone to rashes if we used any non-organic soaps, and we had to make sure all lotions and creams were formulated for delicate skin. So when I visited Haley in Vancouver when Vivi was about six months old, I was fascinated when I watched her sprinkle this delicious-smelling powder into her daughter’s bath.

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“You have to try this,” she told me. “It smells like cookies.”

Um…a baby that looks AND smells good enough to eat? Sold.

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The Coconut & Oat Bath is made from 100 percent certified organic and food-grade ingredients (thus the whole “smells like cookies” thing). Besides providing rinse-free cleansing, the oatmeal also soothes and moisturizes dry or itchy skin. And the coconut milk has natural anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. Amanda, the owner of the company, recently posted on Instagram a photo of her son’s squirty bath toys — she had been using them in his bath (with the Coconut & Oat Milk) for over six months, and none of them had developed any kind of mold or mildew. That’s kind of amazing.

Using the milk bath is easy — just sprinkle three-ish tablespoons into warm running water, let your babe splash around for a while, and then dry off. No other soap or rinsing is required. And while I typically follow up Vivi’s bath by slicking her head to toe in baby lotion, I’ve noticed it’s less necessary when using the milk bath than it is with regular soap. Even better, mommas can get in on the action by using the powder as an exfoliating face mask — just mix the Coconut & Oat Milk Bath with a bit of water to make a paste and rub in circular motions on your face for instant glow. (Because, let’s be real: Mommas are in need of a spa experience too.)

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And while Joey might appreciate an upgrade to his bath time routine, I still think I come out the winner here. After all, I’m the one who gets to snuggle a baby who smells like cookies every night.

Great news! If you want to try Bébé de Luxe Coconut & Oat Milk Bath, Amanda is offering Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One readers a 10 percent off discount code! Just use JUSTINE10 when you check out — and just try not to give your baby a nibble.

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My family recently went on a trip to Virginia with some friends. I was excited about the trip, but, I’ll be honest, a little nervous for how Vivi would do in the car.

Joey and I tried to travel as much as we could before we had a baby, and most of our trips were out of the country. We both always felt like we should save the domestic trips for when we had kids. I think we both look forward to showing Vivi the Grand Canyon, national parks, and oceans and lakes throughout the United States — and it’s even better when we can drive there.

Vivi has done a major road trip before; we drove to Cleveland when she was about three months old. But a 10-month-old baby is different from a 3-month-old baby. For one, Vivi is a lot more mobile these days, meaning she expects to burn off some energy crawling and toddling around most of the day. For another, the older she gets, the more she expects out of entertainment. Meaning I can no longer expect her to be thrilled by what she sees out the window.

Fortunately, the trip went well — thanks to a little preparation. Here are the four things I’d recommend to any momma looking to hit the road:

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  1. Arguably the most important thing to help a road trip go smoother? A comfy outfit for the baby. These cute baby rompers from Lunaby Baby are the perfect choice for keeping little gals comfy and cool. Plus, they are pretty stinking cute. Vivi loved hers for lounging in her car seat and crawling around when we stopped to stretch our legs, and the breathable fabric is great since this summer has been so hot and muggy. This will definitely be one of our most-worn items this summer. (Psst…scroll to the end of this post for a discount code to get your own!)

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2. Vivi isn’t big into TV or movies yet, but she will watch short videos, especially if a song is involved. This extendable tablet holder made it easy to prop up Joey’s tablet and play her favorite music videos and a few Disney favorites. (Not going to lie; the adults in the car may have enjoyed this more than Vivi.)

3. One thing that really gets Vivi steamed in the car is when the sun is in her eyes. To prevent that (and keep the car cool), we use these retractable window shades. Plus, they’ll also tell you if the car is getting too hot!

4. The final thing that I never leave home without? Snacks, snacks, and more snacks. Vivi eats a lot of what I’m eating these days, but squeezy fruit and veggie puree packs are clutch when we’re on the go. Because a hungry baby is definitely not a happy baby.

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Now, let’s talk discounts! Whether you’re planning your own RTWAB (road trip with a baby…what? Is that not a thing?) or just love the look of a babe in a romper, I’m so excited to share a coupon code from Lunaby Baby with my readers! Use code JUSTINE10 when you check out for 10 percent off your entire order. The rompers, bibs, and colorful tights are all super reasonably priced, so you can walk away with a pretty great haul of seasonal basics for your baby. Happy shopping!

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Romper provided by Lunaby Baby; opinions 100% mine.

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I’ve never been a big fan of breakfast pastries. Or, really, pastry in general. It’s the way it basically melts away in your mouth. Did you even eat anything at all?

If I’m going to consume the calories, I better at least be sure I had a snack.

The only breakfast baked goods I tend to enjoy are scones. A scone is basically a cookie (which I love), and it’s got enough heft to it to leave me feeling full.

When I make them at home, I try to incorporate a few more nutritious ingredients as well. My homemade scones are usually made with almond flour (more protein and gluten-free for my pals that go that route), coconut oil (instead of butter, in case you’re watching your dairy intake), and agave nectar (instead of sugar). I like that they’re not super sweet. I’m not even sure you can technically still call it a scone, but, heck, I’m eating it for breakfast, so I will what I want.

This is the recipe I make most often, but when I found myself without any dark chocolate this past weekend (quelle horreur), I decided to get a little creative.

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I had a giant box of organic strawberries that I had picked up at Trader Joe’s (after promising myself that I would finish them before they went bad and I had to throw all that money in the trash), so my immediate thought was to make strawberry scones.

Then I had a flash of inspiration: peanut butter and jelly scones.

I used my chocolate chip scone recipe as a sort of outline for this recipe and then subbed in the new ingredients, and the results…well, put it this way: Joey’s response to eating one was, “This is the best thing you’ve ever baked.”

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He’s a bit of a peanut butter addict, but I’m still taking those kudos to heart.

Here’s how to whip up your own gluten- and dairy-free scones for a little weekend treat:

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Almond Flour Peanut Butter and Jelly Scones

Scone Ingredients:
2 1/2 c almond meal or flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 c agave nectar
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 large eggs
1 c chopped fresh strawberries

Icing Ingredients:
1/4 c creamy peanut butter
1/4 c almond milk
1 T powdered sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare your baking pan by lining it with parchment paper.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine your scone dry ingredients.
3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk your scone wet ingredients, then pour into the medium bowl with the dry ingredients.
4. Fold in the strawberries.
5. Using an ice cream scoop (or a large spoon), scoop the batter into round lumps, about 3-4 T each, about 1 inch apart on the prepared pan. (They don’t spread, so don’t worry about fitting them all.)
6. Bake for 17-20 minutes, then set aside to cool.
7. While the scones are baking, whisk your icing ingredients in a small bowl. Add more milk if necessary to create a light, creamy consistency (sort of like toothpaste).
8. Spoon the icing into a piping bag (or a sandwich baggie with a corner cut out if you’re fancy like me). Once scones are cool, drizzle with the icing as desired.

One thing to note: The fresh berries carry a lot of water, so you may need to bake your scones a few minutes longer if you want the insides to be firmer. Mine were soft on the inside, which my family prefers. Alternately, you could dehydrate the strawberries in your oven prior to adding them to the batter to avoid excess moisture.

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For most of my life, I’ll admit I wasn’t that concerned about the ingredients of my skincare products or makeup. In general, I would swing through Walgreens and grab my bottle of Neutrogena face wash and a CoverGirl powder compact without thinking twice. As I got older, I started investing more in my makeup, but I was motivated more by a search for quality than a concern for safety.

As an adult, I starting being more aware of the ingredients in my food or how the animals I was eating had been treated and making better choices in that respect. But while I was paying a lot of attention to what was going in my body, I still hadn’t caught on that what went on it could be just as damaging.

Then I got pregnant.

Suddenly, my body wasn’t simply my own and what I exposed myself to I was also exposing my baby to. That’s a lot of pressure. It didn’t help that I was reading scores of disagreeing articles about the potential dangers of some of the most common beauty treatments. With the idea of “better safe than sorry,” I started looking for simple swaps I could make to safer products, for my baby as well as my own health.

I wasn’t alone in that goal. My friend Madison was experiencing a similar drive to make better choices about what she put on her skin, especially after experiencing two miscarriages before getting pregnant with her daughter, Ainsley. I remember reading Madison’s blog during her pregnancy (especially after I knew I was also pregnant but hadn’t announced it yet) and soaking up her advice and recommendations for safer or less chemical-laden products. Then, after her daughter was born, Madison was looking for more flexible work options and became a consultant for a brand called Beautycounter.

Beautycounter is a skincare and beauty company founded by a woman named Gregg Renfrew. She started the brand after realizing that so many personal care products are not as regulated as many people think — in fact, many use products linked to cancer, reproductive issues, and hormone disruption, all without ever informing consumers. Unlike the FDA, Beautycounter has banned more than 1,500 unsafe ingredients (many of which are banned by the European Union), creating one of the highest standards in the beauty industry.

They also rigorously screen all of their ingredients, working with scientists and industry leaders to reduce the exposure to toxic chemicals and develop safer alternatives. They also choose ingredients that are over 80 percent organic, natural, or plant-derived, and that are sourced responsibly. Oh, and they also don’t test on animals. And just in case you needed one more reason to trust the products, they don’t hide anything nasty under the guise of “fragrance,” “flavors,” or “preservatives” either.

Like I said, they really take this whole “safe skincare thing” seriously.

As I’ve watched Madison climb the ranks from a consultant to a director within the company, I was always curious to know more about the products. Madison obviously couldn’t say enough good things about them, so when she put out a post on Facebook asking if any of her friends would be interested in hosting a Beautycounter social, I reached out and told her I was interested.

So, what is a Beautycounter social? It’s a little bit of education, a little bit of shopping, and a little bit of having snacks and drinks with your girlfriends. Basically, a trifecta of my favorite things. I told Madison I wanted to host a physical social, but also that I wanted to have a blog component to share with anyone who couldn’t attend. After getting to try out more of the products, I’m really pleased with not only the way the products are made but also how they perform.

So! What do you need to know if you want to host your own social? Here’s a peek at what I did:

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What We Ate
Is it just me, or is a party really only as good as the snacks? (I’m kidding.)(Kind of.) Because Beautycounter is all about making healthier choices for your body, I decided to put together a menu that featured a lot of fresh, healthy ingredients…along with a few more decadent treats.

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Rather than an official main course, I opted to create a few heavier appetizers. I put together cucumber bites with a cream cheese-dill sauce (recipe here) and crisps with goat cheese, blackberries, and honey (recipe here).

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I also made a bruschetta and turkey meatballs.

SIMPLE HOMEMADE BRUSCHETTA
Ingredients:
1 container grape tomatoes, quartered
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
3-4 T fresh basil, chopped
3 T olive oil or avocado oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Combine all ingredients and let sit for 1 hour to overnight to let flavors mingle. Serve with crusty or toasted slices of French bread.

CROCKPOT TURKEY MEATBALLS
Ingredients:
1 jar marinara sauce (I used the bottled kind, but feel free to get fancy with something homemade. You’ll need about 4-6 cups.)
2 lbs 98% lean ground turkey meat
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
1 egg
4 T fresh basil, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 T oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Pour the sauce into the crock pot.
2. Combine all of the meatball ingredients with a big spoon or your fingers.
3. Using your hands, roll the meatballs using about 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture. Don’t pack too tightly.
4. Place the rolled meatballs into the sauce in the crockpot in a single layer.
5. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours. Serve with bread for dipping in the sauce.

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I also made mini fruit pizzas for dessert, but like a dummy completely forgot to take photos. Or, rather, like an animal who couldn’t wait to wolf down her mini fruit pizza. Whoops. I used this recipe to make them and topped each pizza with strawberries, raspberries, and a few pomegranate seeds.

For drinks, we had my summer drink of choices, rosé.

What We Did
The social started out with everyone having something to eat and drink and generally getting comfortable. My friends were good sports about letting me take pictures of them. (Thank you again, lovely ladies!)

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Once everyone was settled, I played a video message from Madison explaining how we knew each other, how she got involved with the brand, and just what she loved about many of Beautycounter’s most popular items. It was so helpful hearing from someone who actually uses so many of them on a regular basis, and we pretty much spent the whole video saying, “Ooh, I want that!” and “Man, Madison is seriously adorable.” (We also agreed you have the best hair and skin, M! But I digress…)

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Then, it was time for the fun part: playing with the products! Madison had sent me several sample packs and full-sized products for my guests to test, and it was so helpful to be able to actually feel, smell, and see what we were looking at.

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I also loved being able to send each guest home with a little something from the line. Each person got one of the sampler packs I mentioned, and I also divided up a Charcoal Cleansing Bar so everyone could take a piece home to try out. (I’ve been using mine once a day since the social!)

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All in all, it was a super simple event to plan. Madison was extremely helpful in answering any questions I had and even offered to answer any questions online in real time if necessary.

Now for the fun part! You don’t have to have been at the physical party to shop the brand. Click my social host link here to see everything that Beautycounter has to offer, from naturally beautiful cosmetics to super safe skin care. I’ve been really loving the Protect All Over Sunscreen (it’s safe to use on Vivi and blends in way better than the other baby sunscreens I’ve tried without any chalky residue), the Rejuvenating Eye Cream (because thirty is right on the horizon, yo), the Charcoal Cleansing Bar (it sells out quickly whenever it’s in stock, so jump on that!) and the Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer (the perfect lightweight coverage). I’m planning to get one of the Lip Sheers and the new Purifying Charcoal Mask as well, and I can’t wait to try them out. Just be sure to use my link so Madison gets credit for the sales :)

Have any other questions about the brand or want to host your own social? Let me know or reach out to Madison directly — she’s seriously the best to work with.

Happy shopping!

I like to work out.

I know, you might like me a little bit less now. I know that the main struggle most people have with working out is that they simply dread it, but honestly, that hasn’t been me for many, many moons.

But don’t despair, dear reader; I still have my own struggles. For me, the challenge to working out is lack of time and, more recently, a redistribution of funds. That is to say, I’m working part-time now and because the money I make goes toward, you know, food and pants and junk, there’s not a lot left for fancy-shmance gyms and such.

Don’t get me wrong. I love those fancy-shmance gyms. I love spin. I love pilates. I love bootcamps. I just love affording food and car payments and trying to save money all while staying home with le bebe more.

But because I’m me, it was never an option to completely cut fitness out of my life. I love working out, remember? And not just because I like fitting into my clothes (although I do), but also because working out makes me feel more like me. Which is important when you change virtually everything about your life by doing something like, oh, I don’t know…having a baby. But you already knew all this. What I want to talk about today is how I manage to get in challenging, effective workouts without spending a dime — and often without leaving my living room.

To be totally honest, for much of my life I’ve thrown a mean side-eye at home workouts. I had a hard time believing that I could ever get the same results that I could at a gym or a studio because, well, I never felt like I worked out as hard at home. Or I always felt like the workout videos I would try would leave something to be desired. (And there’s nothing worse than working out enough to need to wash your hair but not enough to feel like you made any kind of impact in your overall strength or fitness.)

Fortunately, in the last few months I’ve found several online options that are not only totally free but also leave me feeling sore the next day. So, to save you the struggle of the lame at-home workout, I’m sharing my favorite free options here. Happy sweating!

Side note: I’m not even going to mention running because I feel like it’s too obvious, but running is obviously a big one for me. Totally free and I can bring the Viv in the jogging stroller. We go 2-3 times per week, and it’s awesome. (But you can’t do it in your living room, so maybe not as awesome as these other options.)

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1. Jillian Michaels (literally anything she does)

I first fell in love with Jillian when pretty much everyone did — when she was a coach/trainer on The Biggest Loser. I always admired the tough-yet-fair way she worked with her team, and, as a sort of exercise masochist, I secretly dreamed that one day she would scream at me to keep going unless I fainted, puked, or died. (I know, I’m sick.) The point is, when Jillian left the show (and especially when she explained that she left due to the less-than-healthy practices that often went on behind the scenes), I was sad to say good-bye to my favorite celebrity trainer.

And then I found out she had workout videos. And her videos were actually the first at-home workouts EVER to give me legitimately sore muscles the next day. I was an instant convert.

I actually own a couple of her DVDs, but it’s super convenient for me to pull up her YouTube videos on our Roku. And, let me tell you, no trainer’s workouts get me more sore the next day than Jillian’s. She’s a beast. Bonus: I love her affirmations at the end of each video. Because I did work hard, and I should be proud of myself, Jillian!

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2. Tone it Up

Speaking of girl crushes, I’m a little bit in love with Karena and Katrina. Not only do they have sick bodies, but they are both sweet, bubbly, encouraging, and incredibly fun to work out “with.”

Also, as the mom of an increasingly mobile little girl, I really appreciate that the videos are mostly less than ten minutes long. I typically do 2-3 videos at a time, but if Vivi is having a bad day, it’s easy to squeeze in an 8-minute workout while she plays in the morning and another 15-minute session when she naps in the afternoon. And since the gals are so entertaining, I’m usually actually enjoying the workout too much to realize how hard I’m working. (That is, until I can barely lower myself to sit down the next day.)
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3. Christine Khuri of GymRa

Oh, Christine. You could most definitely snap me over your knee like a twig. And I love you for it.

Christine Khuri’s workouts are probably the most old-school of the bunch, but you know what? Squats, curls, and lunges are staples for a reason. And when I have the time to fit in a solid strength workout, this woman knows what she’s talking about.

I was a little apprehensive when Christine’s videos first popped up in my recommended list, but I figured there is no way she could be so jacked without knowing a thing or two. And given the fact that I could barely raise my arms to wash my hair the next day (from an at-home workout, folks), I would have to say my suspicions were correct. And don’t feel like you have to be a fitness pro to do her workouts — you can always modify your weights, and everything she does is super accessible.

 

For all you work-out-at-home warriors, I want to know: What are your favorite free workouts?