Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Little Splash of Purposefulness

I am slowly but surely working on our kitchen, trying to add in a little bit of black, turquoise and white here and there, subtly. It's always been a blue kitchen, but now I have been trying to step back and take a look at it...and try to pull it together to look a bit more cohesive.

I don't want to - can't actually - spend major renovation dollars, and I just want it to look a bit more pulled together and...planned. :) That's the rub! Our entire house looks as if I am just throwing things together because, well - I am! Now, I am looking at every room first, seeing if there are any small tweaks I can do to make it look more purposeful instead of accidental - and if that doesn't work to make it look better, I will look to change larger things up the ladder. That way, I may save myself a bunch of money in the long run - hopefully!

Today's post is about adding a super small accent to the kitchen to add some purposefulness. :)

I have this frame that I adore - but it's broken. The back has no hangy thingy - and the prop that used to reside on the back to set it on a table has long been broken off. I almost threw it out, sadly - but I decided to use it to put a Christmas picture of the kids in there and literally just rest it on the counter against the wall - I was happy for the season, but then really sad when it came time to put it back in the bin for another year.

Since it fits into the color scheme - it's black! - I decided a nice turquoise quote about food somehow would be a good fit to place inside and hang somewhere! It's a nice kind of moroccan design and pattern and it definitely adds some cool texture to the space against a smooth, subtly light blue-green bowl filled with punchy oranges.

I found a quote online that I liked by literally searching for "food quotes" on Google...and then I went into Photoshop and just placed the words in such a way that I thought would work in my kitchen and with my emerging style. And of course, in the colors I needed. Then, I just printed it out on matte photo paper, trimmed it to fit and stuck it into the frame.
The hanging was a bit tricky since there were no brackets to hang from - I had to Macgyver it a tad, with some twine and a twist-tie - but I got it up and now... I am in love with this tiny, little, simple addition to the new, planned - dare I call it - "design" for my blah kitchen. What do you think?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Project Status Update: Tupperware Cabinet

I have officially purged that dang cabinet and can now only call it a Tupperware cabinet by the skin of its teeth. I believe there is only ONE...yes, ONE!... Tupperware container left in there now. Oh, but it feels good!

Update on "Project: Purge the Plastic Avalanche" (I do like the new code name, say it out loud - it's kind of funny to say...ok, so maybe to just me) :)
  • I have removed all the contact paper my nails can officially handle without bloodshed.
  • I have sorted and sorted until all the containers without lids and the lids without containers were removed and escorted from the building (into the recycle bin they went, yay.)
sorting, sorting, sorting...
  • I have delegated all of our previous tenants, the should-be-but-never-really-is-tossable Gladware to a new home - namely both of my mothers' houses - Mom C and Mom E. I am fully aware that these containers may visit from time to time filled with delicious goodies from both houses (am I smart, or what? lol) But then they will be sent packing again. This was a promise. :)
the ones sent packing.
  • I kept my best containers, and only as much as would fit. This was hard, but the rest went to those lovely baking and cooking Moms again.
the keepers.
  • I kept the carousel free of obstacles, even though I had to fight my inner Dictator of Organization trying to fill up every.free.space.possible. Man, is she is tough to quell!
  • Lids are relegated to a bin, behind the carousel.
So, in summary.........................
Remember Me?

Well, now I'm THIS.

and THIS!
Better, I can breathe easier looking at this space and no more slammed fingers in the door trying to catch the fall. Ahhhhhh. Bliss.

"What's Next" you ask? I know, you are dying to know.

Ok, I'll spill it.
  • You know that container behind the carousel, holding the lids? Yep, that white one with the holes... Well, those holes are going to serve as a nice place to wedge a dowel or two so I can separate the lids into small, medium, large. No more searching for lids!
  • And the fact that the container is behind the carousel? Ahhh.... well, if we cannot budget for a slide out drawer to pull the whole bottom shelf contents out - never fear, dear readers, I have an idea. I hope I can pull it off - or get the Monk to shell out the mula for the real thing. Nevertheless (is that a word, really?), it's been deemed a necessity to have the lids be more accessible. :) So, it WILL happen.
  • And contact paper...yes! As soon as I get to Target (which I have been there several times since Project Start)...and I actually remember to pick it up. :(
  • One more thing - maybe a coated metal riser for the top shelf, to further separate the containers that just do not want to play nice and stack.
I feel good that its another Mission well on it's way! Has this inspired you to tackle a cabinet or two in your own house? If it has, then please let me know!!! Inspiration goes full circle, my friends...if I know I motivated you, then it motivates me, which motivates you...and on and on! So, by all means - BRAG away!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Project Start: "All-Purpose" Room De-clutter

So, we have this room.

Many people have said that we have a large house...and we have always said it just didn't feel like it. And I think it's because we have this large room in the front of the house... that we never really used. And it makes up about a quarter of our house size! But, NOW we use it quite a bit... and for many different reasons. It's not really a living room, or a dining room or a family room...it doesn't fit any description, really - an "all-purpose" room? - before we had the kids, we literally filled it with a modge-podge of furniture and just kind of... walked through it. Everyone has to walk through it to come into our house, so it had to look decent, but we never really "used" it.

So, enter kids. The dining room off the living room became their space - as babies, it housed the swings, the changing table and blankets and such. As toddlers, it is yet another play space for their overflowing collection of Fisher-Price's finest. :)

Our dining room table moved into this front room, and we also have a treadmill I am trying to use most days, 3 high chairs just about dominated the space...and a bookcase that served as a quick grabbing point for all those things you need for a newly eating baby or three. LOTS of burpcloths, bowls, plates, utensils, bubbles, washcloths, books, etc... but thanks to the ease of access, it ALL had to be on the top 2 shelves, so that those same hands wouldn't find it at an inappropriate, unsupervised time. :)

After the Monk bought me a laptop for some Mommy-Photographer time, my office quickly became the kitchen table... and after Christmas decorations started going up, the extra decor misplaced by said decorations (as well as the rest of the unused Christmas stuff) ended up in this room.

It is starting to bug me. :) Just now! After years. So now I just have to fix it!

We also still eat in front of the TV - the only down time we actually have to relax - the kids eat on the floor on their activity trays and we eat on the couch. I want to be teaching them better! We need to teach them to say Grace, to have family dinner focused on each other and not the TV...as hard as that will be for us to let go of our only time to watch what we want to watch!

The Mission:
  • Move my desk out there so I have a real place to set my laptop and other photography things I am collecting.
  • Move the table in such a way that we can actually use it as a family.
  • Try to hide the treadmill if at all possible.
  • We are done with high-chairs, so get them out of there and get back some space!
  • Make the bookcase "Preschool Central" devoted to their upcoming home-school supplies.
  • Organize the desk inside and out to make it photography business worthy.
Note: I started this post a while back, so I have actually already started on this - a few things are different, and a few significant changes have happened. We ARE all eating at the table (which means the high chairs are GONE! Woohoo!), and the kids now know how to do "Father, Son, Holy Spirit" and to say Grace! So, it has been a blessing to be able to accomplish even this in the last 2 months. But I have much more to go, and will be posting progress soon. I am looking for steals out there, and that is why it will take me so long to finish this!

Thankful that spring is coming...garage sales, garage sales, garage sales....

Friday, February 26, 2010


from BHG.com

The March issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine picked these guys as a "fresh find" for the month and probably caused the seller to run out almost immediately! The blue and green are on backorder until mid-April. :) But they have tons more colors to pick from, and even a larger size for houseplants. I think they are super pretty and love that they do two things for me...

1. I suck at growing indoor plants, so they are really made for people like me. (They have a reservoir that the plants draw water and nutrients from, taking the guesswork out of overwatering or preventing from baking dry.)

2. I have been really wanting my own stash of basil, since I love fresh basil in almost everything. Plus, the aroma of the leaves is lovely to me. Voila! This gives me a modern, fresh, clean and easy way to have my own sill of basil. Yum.

Naturally then, when I saw these I fell in love! I really like the green one the best, but since my kitchen is shaping up to be a turquoise/black/light gray kind of color scheme, I think I will save up for a blue and black...and maybe another turquoise? ...and place them right under my nose on the kitchen window sill.

They will be part of a larger kitchen window project I am working on that I am really excited about... I just need to save up some more funds or come across some more cheap finds over the next few weeks! We haven't had any window treatments in this window since we have moved in (11 years) and I finally think I know what I want to do...and it doesn't involve curtains... curious?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Project Start: Tupperware Cabinet

Need I say more?

A deep cabinet, and you can't tell, but there is actually a shelf in there! (lol)

Hoping to organize this in a way that we can't ever get back to this again. Ugh. We seem to clean it up, stack them all together, get it uncluttered again...and then a few weeks later, we are back to this. I think everyone here will agree that a Tupperware cabinet (funny how I call mine that, when most of it is actually toss-able Gladware...but I digress) is one cabinet that is just prone to avalanches, grabbing something and then closing the door real-quick-like so it contains the mess...leaving the slide for the next hapless victim...which is usually... still me.

I had the great fortune to come upon a Lock-n-Lock clearance sale at our local supermarket a few months ago, but those suckers are hard to organize, since I hate separating the lids from the containers. So they don't stack. Maybe that's a good thing? We also have one of those only-seen-on-TV carousels of stackable containers...which I actually really like, but it makes it tough to put stuff around it. Challenge!

The Mission:
  • Remove all containers that have somehow lost their lid into the black hole of Tupperware lids.
  • Remove as much of that toss-able Gladware as I can handle and recycle-bin-it.
  • Find a way to organize lids into a clutter-proof system.
  • Find a way to organize containers into an easily retrieved and clutter-proof system.
  • Recover the floor and shelf of cabinet with new contact paper. :)
I am slightly modifying the instructions I hold myself to, since we are starting to get a little bit of spending money back in the bank to thriftily (is that a word?) spend on projects! Yay!

So, from now on...I add in, (from the smarty pants Bob the Builder show) Reduce, Re-use, Recycle!...and mine, do it with....very little money, very little time. :) I like that a bit better than none!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Vitamin D, the Miracle Drug

For the last few months, my energy level has been l-o-w, low. If I am going to keep this blog up to its name, I need to fix this! :)

After we had the triplets, as they were babies, we had a system that allowed us both to get 6 hours of sleep each night, so we wouldn't start dropping baby bottles, or Heaven-forbid - babies. :) And it worked - even though I am a girl who just simply needs 8 hours of sleep...like I believe it's written into my DNA. So, I was tired all the time. But hey - we had infant triplets! That was normal tired.

The last few months, as the kids are now nearing 3 years old, I have never felt this tired in my life. My life! :) WAY more tired than when they were babies...and that's not normal tired anymore. I get at least 8 hours every night, sometimes more...and I am always dragging my sorry behind out of bed when I hear the kids waking up and starting to make a ruckus (translation: gleefully crib jumping). I crave naps, I nod off when I am feeding them lunch and also singing them lullabies at night - last night they started yelling at me, and I realized I had nodded off during a weak rendition of Baby Mine in the rocking chair... so, it's a serious problem for me! I am having trouble functioning. And this is with my normal schedule! Add in any event, party, etc...and I can't even make it home without falling asleep in the car. Sad. :) Good thing the Monk drives us home!

Asking my doctor about it before Christmas, he took bloodwork and I was low in the B12 area, so a shot was administered. I said a silent hallelujah, since Christmas always took it out of me! He thought the shot would fix it, and he said, I quote, "the pep would be back in my step". But...no such luck. No pep in steps here! Unless it's the steps walking toward the bedroom and my heavenly micro fleece sheets. I think I tried to sleep an extra couple of days after Christmas this year.

Still dragging a month after the B12 shot, I went off a temporary mood medication I was taking that listed drowsiness as a side effect. And that did help considerably! But...it's still here. A month after that.

I remembered a few weeks ago that the doctor had also mentioned Vitamin D. He wanted me to start taking it, since I am a hermit - especially during the winter - no sun - no Vitamin D production - no energy - bad moods. I am a horrible pill taker (they get stuck in my throat), so I kind of circumvented this advice, and was taking a pill or two sporadically, whenever I remembered his advice and was brave enough to choke a few down. I thought there was almost enough in my chewable multivitamin. I must also mention here that I am not one to take pills to "fix" me - I would much rather eat the right foods, exercise or "do something" myself that a pill could do for me. I just don't like having to rely on medication or supplements to "fix me" unless I absolutely have to.

BUT.....Doing a bunch of research, I am starting to realize what a miracle pill this may just be for me, for everyone really! First doc recommended 3,000 IUs (3 pills) a day. I bought a bottle and looking at the back, it (the gov't) recommends 1,000 IUs....hmmm. I started worrying that I heard him wrong.

Talking to OB/GYN doc a few days ago, she recommended 6,000 IUs!!! Only on a temporary basis, say 3 months, to catch up and replenish my stores. Then back down to 2-4,000 IUs. Wow.

Never one wanting to blindly ingest a possible overdose, I consulted my friend, the Internet. She (yes, she - only a she could be that connected) confirmed to me many times that both my doctors were correct. She is smart. :)

From Dr. Lipman: "[T]aking the right amount is crucial; most doctors tend to underdose. The current recommendations from the Food and Nutrition Board of the US Institute of Medicine, from 200 to 600 IU a day depending on one’s age, are way too low." Interesting.

Surprising fact: Vitamin D is not actually a vitamin, it's a hormone (Woo-hoo! I smell answers here!). Your body cannot actually manufacture vitamins, but it can manufacture hormones. We can make Vit. D with exposure to the sun, so it's classified as a hormone. And it's a mood altering hormone. Hmm. I am deficient in a hormone? I wonder if that's relevant to my mild bi-polar? (*jumping up and down, doing the happy dance*)

According to this article on Tonic, a very handy Doctor-written Vitamin D FAQ, most of the world is now facing a deficiency epidemic. People can manufacture 20,000 IUs in their own body with about 20 minutes of sunshine exposure. 20,000! Crazy. And the important word there is exposure...with the advent of sunscreen, most people do not go out unprotected at all anymore. And sitting in front of a sun-filled window will not do it, since the necessary UV rays are filtered before they even reach you. Interesting, huh? And the 20 minutes will only be good enough if you are not deficient. You need more, obviously, if you are.

Here in the winter it is even harder to gain the 20 minutes-of-unprotected-skin-exposure-a-day, especially in a snow town in the Northeast, where the sun is a commodity sometimes not seen for weeks at a time. So, based on that, I can pretty much tell you without a doctor's help that I know I am Vitamin D deficient, the hermit that I am (we are). :) And this was an interesting tidbit along that vein, which surprised me! From Dr. Frank Lipman: "If you live north of 37 degrees latitude (approximately a line drawn horizontally connecting Norfolk, Va. to San Francisco, Calif.) sunlight is not sufficient to create vitamin D in your skin in the winter months, even if you are sitting in the sun in a bathing suit on a warm January day! The further you live from the equator, the longer exposure you need to the sun in order to generate vitamin D." Darn! I had that in the plan, to go out in the 20 deg. weather, sunbathing. Now you're telling me it won't even work?! lol

He also recommends a balance of sun, like everything in life: moderation is the key. "Too much sun exposure can cause melanoma and skin aging, while too little creates an inadequate production of vitamin D. The amount needed depends on the season, time of day, where you live, skin pigmentation and other factors. As a general rule, if you are not vitamin D deficient, about 20 minutes a day in the spring, summer and fall, on your face and arms or legs without sunscreen is adequate. It doesn’t matter which part of the body you expose to the sun. Many people want to protect their face, so just don’t put sunscreen on the other exposed parts for those 20 minutes. [Note: Remember to take antioxidants when you sit in the sun, as these can help prevent skin cells from sun damage.]"

From the Tonic article mentioned above, one of many that has turned me into a believer...:

"What does vitamin D do?
Like all steroid hormones, vitamin D is involved in making hundreds of enzymes and proteins, which are crucial for preserving health and preventing disease. It has the ability to interact and affect more than 2,000 genes in the body. It enhances muscle strength and builds bone. It has anti-inflammatory effects and bolsters the immune system. It helps the action of insulin and has anti-cancer activity. This is why vitamin D deficiency has been linked with so many of the diseases of modern society. Because of its vast array of benefits, maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D is essential for your health.

What are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?

There is no clear pattern of symptoms. In fact many people remain asymptomatic despite low levels. But here are some of the more common symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • General muscle pain and weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Joint pain
  • Chronic pain
  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Restless sleep
  • Poor concentration
  • Headaches
  • Bladder problems
  • Constipation or diarrhea"

I can check off a few on that list! Instead of making me sad about that, this inspired me. If a deficiency can cause all that, if I catch up, can/will they all go away? I'm willing to try!

Even better, there is a study that was presented to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists that reports Vitamin D is linked to better weight loss. They think the more D that is in your system before weight loss starts results in more abdominal fat lost...but also a weight loss endeavor that is done with the help of Vitamin D supplementation will result in more (faster) weight lost in the end. I think I will be adding this one to my arsenal and see what happens.

Funny, other articles mention that you can get Vitamin D from foods like eggs or milk or salmon...but then, you'd have to eat 150 egg yolks every day, 3 3/4 lbs of salmon or 20 cups of fortified milk. No thanks. I think I'll take the sun! And if that isn't available...I can choke down the miracle pills. :) I'll check in on this topic every month now to report how I feel with the new supplement - I have a "good feeling" about this! A corrected deficiency that can regulate my mood without medication, can prevent a myriad of diseases, can give me "pep in my step", can help me lose weight, can make me feel good and focused? I'd call that a miracle pill. :)

One more note, and then I am off to take my 13 pills today (a regimen started: 5 Vitamin D, 4 Fish Oil, 1 Multivitamin, 1 Vitamin C, 2 calcium chews (which have 500 IUs of D in them already, so that's 1 pill for me. Thankfully the mutivitamin, calcium and the C are chewable... I am on the lookout to make them all that way... :)) ......Vitamin D3 is the active form of Vitamin D and should be the one we take (not D2) since it is the most safe and effective form for our bodies. Just FYI!

Never thought I would say this... but, if it's all about fixing a Vitamin D deficiency.... happy pill taking!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Those Two Other Projects...

I mentioned in my last post that I am currently in love with a Target-found roll of green and white contact paper.

I also mentioned that I used and abused that roll until there was, sadly, nothing left. Target? If you're listening, can you please make more cheapo-beautiful paper for us junkies out here? I could really use a different pattern so my house doesn't get overloaded, because - dang, I have a lot of stuff I wanna cover. Please? Just a thought.

Anyway, here are the two other projects I used it for - just to emphasize that you can really use this stuff for any.thing.

Project 1: An old built-in glassware cabinet

So let me preface with the fact that we have an overload of dark wood in the house - being from the mid-1800's, dark wood was in fashion back then, right? :) And don't forget, our house lived through the seventies too...so anything that wasn't already naturally dark, was painted dark. And then contrasted with mustard yellow walls and olive green appliances...and gothic lanterns... Ugh. I'm honestly amazed we even bought the house! :)

And us, being commitment-phobes to any type of paint color, we have attempted to lighten the house over.... but verrrry slowly. We have changed the obvious ridiculousness, (like the black fireplace and the black counter tops with a fake brick back splash - so much black!) but there are some parts of the house that a grander scale change is needed, and we just don't have that kind of foresight...nor do we play nice together in the field of decorating/design.

Usually it goes like this:

Me: Hmm... I think we need to paint the living room walls a moss green color. I think it would look nice with the dark beams and let some of the outside in. (We have a picture window with forest right outside)

Him: (Rolling on the floor, kicking and flailing arms)

Me: It wouldn't be that hard! And once it's done, we will be done for a while - and you won't hear a word from me for at least 10 years.

Him: White is FINE. I don't understand why you need to change the color every 10 years.

Ugh. Yep - he's the don't-put-anything-on-the-walls-and-ruin-my-drywall-work kind of guy. White, bare walls? Shouldn't he have been a monk, living in a monastery? Really? I've been fighting this for 11 years now, so I'll keep working...but for now - I just do a little here, little there - and hope he doesn't notice. The worst is that he doesn't have an opinion until I do something...and then he hates it. :)

This project was a great example. The cabinet is a very shallow built-in - pretty glass doors, even though the leaded glass is buckling a bit in some areas and it's a bear to keep clean. The built-in has a dark wood backing, and it's set in a wall that has dark wood paneling. We've discussed what to do with the walls for ages, and now I think I know what to do - upcoming post! So, we'll see if I can get it approved by the Monk. To start, I knew I wanted to isolate the built in, make it stand out a bit.

Enter fantabulous Target paper yet again. :)

Here's the before:
Dark, dark, dark.

After: I really like it! I like the light green and white and the dark wood together - even though white would be better... in someone else's house, but for our house...baby steps.

I think if we tackle the wall surrounding with some cool grass-textured wall paper, we can leave this as is! I would like to see lights installed in here to brighten up the glassware even more, and let the green really pop. I didn't like the leaded glass pattern when we moved in, but it has grown on me considerably - it just has so much character. Now I love it! And I am all about working the new around the old character if you can.




Plus, a different, more optimized shelf layout would be in order as well. Some space is wasted! And I just can't deal with that. :)

The point with this...it took about a week for him to notice, but the Monk casually mentioned one day..."It was a good idea, but did you have to use that awful green stuff?" *sigh* I have a lot of work to do.

Second project: Make a photography backdrop.

I'm still in the process of creating a pet (and people!) portrait photography business...I've been "practicing" for about a year and a half now...and one day, I had a maternity shoot with my sister's friend - my first one! The day she was coming over, I realized I wished I had some cool wallpaper on my walls for a neat backdrop. I looked over at the roll just recently used...and thought...hmmm - if only I could wallpaper my walls with that! Ok, so I'm not that smitten... but a little slice would be nice! I decided to snag a large piece of plywood from the Monk's garage stash and I recovered that. Voila! Instant, move-able and a very pretty backdrop. I've been using it quite a bit, and I love that it's portable. :)

Here it is in action:




Proof that it's one multitasking mother of a paper. :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Project Status Update: Pots and Pans Cabinet

Status: Complete! (For now) :)

While it was quite satisfying to remove that old contact paper out of my cabinet, they certainly don't make glue like that anymore! Unless the label on the the bottle says "Gorilla Glue". Ugh - what a nightmare. It started to come off easily, but then it decided to not play nice and leave all sorts of little scraps behind, nary an edge to pick at. So, I was left with a sort of polka-dotted seventies look, which was worse than the start. :) After some picking and some sore nails the next day, I was left with a nice, bare cabinet floor, tempting me to leave it that way; it looked so simple and clean...and I was thinking of the future too - mine or someone else's - having to rip out the new paper again someday when it went out of fashion and became itself, craptastic.

But, I decided that design always wins out over another day of inevitable nail ripping soreness far into the future - so worth it, right?... Mostly because I actually found a pretty, green contact paper with a modern print...at my faaaaavorite store, Target. They only had one kind, and it most likely resides in many homes now because of its awesomeness, but hey - I fell in love with it and threw it into my cart without even looking at the price tag -whoa, I know - but how expensive could contact paper be, for heaven's sake? :)

I liked it so much, I used it for two other projects and if I had a way to get back to Target right now, I would be going back for more to recover anything I can find. :) So maybe it's a good thing I am stuck here.

I also kind of chuckled (with glee) when I saw it in one of my favorite design blogs, tart house, recovering the back of a white bookcase - I thought I recognized the pattern! And it made me happy because I really want parts of my house to look like parts of hers - and I so want her talent for pulling rooms together. :) Plus she has a TON of cool ideas and inspiration for makeovers or just using what you have on hand to spruce up a room. Like that big, clear vase for rolls of paper.... So, if she picks it, I feel validated. No, I'm not a stalker at all!

image via: tart house

Anyway, here's the before again: Ugliness:

And the after: Cool paper installed:

I added in some cheapo organizers: one for the lids (which has helped a TON), and one to raise up the back baking tins to fit something under. It's not perfect yet...but much better and cleaner than where we started. And it doesn't turn me into a raving lunatic when I go in to find the one pan I need and it's buried under a thousand ugly others... I say, success!

Someday, if we take a bigger step before building new cabinets, I would like to see a slider drawer on the bottom of each side like these, to reach the back more easily:

image via kitchensource.com

Then go even one step further to utilize that space with something like this (top left of image, the pot rack organizer) to organize the pans into their own separate space on that slider, since this is one part I am still not in love with - inevitably I need the very bottom (biggest) pan and I have to pull out all the smaller ones to get it - every. single. day.

image via Good Housekeeping

So, this would save my sanity a whole bunch. At one time, I considered a pot rack (if we had the space for it - which we don't), but I have never really liked the cluttered look of most designs out there anyway. I say, hide the clutter, bring out the organized. Like a pretty and clean-lined display of similar bowls or spices...for me, I want to keep the chaotic pans behind the doors. And maybe that's just me. :)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Project Start: Pots and Pans Cabinet

We are currently residing in a house that sports an 1857ish kitchen...well, to be honest, the house is that old, so the kitchen is probably a *little* newer. It's boxed in between the basement stairs and the second floor stairs...so, unfortunately, there's not much we can do in this ancient kitchen without some serious renovation and mucho, mondo dinero.

Knowing this, there are some good things about it - I love the picture window that spans the backbone of the C-shape the kitchen creates - and the beautiful views I can look at while washing dishes. And....hmmm. Well, I think that may be about it. That and the Keurig that currently resides by said window, so it can share the view with me.

We have dealt with the kitchen and its awful layout (ignored it) for the last 10+ years (almost 11!). And the top star of that awful layout list is the cabinets - they are a disaster...weird spaces and pockets to shove things - ugly inside, not square and honestly, really hard to use. Aside from replacing the cabinets with custom ones, I would love to see some sliders in there to utilize the back spaces - the hard to reach spaces - a little better. I am hoping that little addition can come this year, since they are more expensive than we can afford right now...but for now, I am content with organizing the cabinets we have, just cleaning them up, making them organized for better use and freshening up the interior.

Here is my first tackle:
The pots and pans. We just got a new set for Christmas, so the old, mismatched "set" that really needs to go (read: Teflon flaking off into our food - bad, I know!) There are a few pieces I would like to save, so I need to make it so that it doesn't sound like Blue Man Group lives in our cabinets every time I need to retrieve a pan. Take enough out, but leave enough in.

The before: Ugliness at its best. Why they invented cabinet doors. Just LOOK at the contact paper. Really? Was that ever a good choice?! Looking forward to ripping that craptastic stuff out.

  • Keep only the pots we use, recycle the rest.
  • Organize them into easily accessed, neat piles.
  • Take off craptastic contact paper, replace with new.
  • Find a way to organize lids.
No money. Very little time. Get Creative.
Here's to a more organized, simple and prettier kitchen...one cabinet at a time. Yay!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Project Start Again: Lose 50 Pounds

Ok, so here we go again... Wheeeeee!

I tried to hit this really hard last year, and many obstacles fell into my path to trip me up...my kids getting older and mouthier, the photography business practice, Mike's work schedule among things...but honestly it was most notably - me! I do have an insane habit of being overly ambitious at times...and starting this blog, I really had high hopes to change many parts of my life all in the course of a year. Silly rabbit.

A year seems like so much time at the start of it...and then all of a sudden, it's gone! And you wonder, "what the heck did I do with all that time?" :)

I do have a teeny confession to make that seems appropriate right about now...my wonderful, friendly hometown doc seems to think I have a case of the bi-polars. Just a mild, minor case, he assures me - and even though it's not an official diagnosis, the symptoms do kinda fit. In a normal full blown bi-polar patient, there are two phases - two "poles" - depression and mania. Depending on the person, they spend their time cycling between the two, and may spend some time in the middle, feeling healthy and good. For someone with a severe case, that "middle" is usually only accomplished with the help of medication.

In my case, what we think is happening is a mild version of the mood disorder. Researchers are starting to find out that similar to autism, bipolar has a spectrum. It's not just black and white anymore. Bipolar I, II, III and IV - with differing symptoms and different expressions of mania. I have been depressed on and off since I was an adolescent - my whole family has a history of hormone imbalances - so this should come as no shock to me! :) Depression was always there, even though last year it came to a pinnacle. Open, blue skies seemed so empty and gaping to me - so hopeless and awful. I just wanted to curl up into bed and stare at the wall. Nothing held any true and deep happiness for me - and my emotions were always at the surface. Just telling the doc my symptoms, I was choking back tears the entire visit...yeah, embarrassing! Awkward! And I was always like that - with Mike, my parents, the grocery store clerk...sad. I mean the situation. A sad state of affairs. :) It honestly felt like the post-partum depression I had 2 years earlier, exactly the same - and that had me wondering. Why did it hit me one morning when I woke up? Why wasn't it gradual. The post partum actually woke me out of a sound sleep three days after the kids were born...and stuck with me for three freaking months. This arrived as I woke up one morning, not as severe...but it stayed for months and months.

But that was just one side of it for me. When I felt good - it was this need to finish a project, to feel productive...I wanted nothing else but to work on whatever the project was, and it frustrated me not to be able to do so. Mania? Hmm. In any case, it looks like my mania (or hypomania), if it is truly that, may manifest in bursts of either anger (which is awful) or ambitious streaks...and then cycles with depression. The depression lasts longer for me, and is affected by outside influences..such as the death of our dog.

But also, by exercise. Surprisingly, last year, the three times I tried to go gung-ho and exercise every day, after a week, I would feel this sapping of energy - I always described it as feeling like I got hit by a truck - a little melodramatic, but hey! I'm hormonal. But it really felt like I had the whole body aches. I couldn't get out of bed. Didn't want to! And it inevitably derailed my progress. I'm guessing it has something to do with the exercise messing with my hormone levels, and my body was trying to compensate and level it out. I just need to get past that slump by exercising less, but pulling through it when the hormone crash happens.

I thought you were talking about losing weight here? Why all the melodrama-mama-crazy-woman-bipolar talk? :)

The reason I put this all in here is because it is a crucial piece of info to my hopeful success. I need to take everything I am learning into account and roll with it. With this new little gold nugget, my plan of attack has changed - to be more aware of the mania. Even though I knew it seemed ridiculous to accomplish all of my projects in one year, I still honestly thought I could get it all done! C'est la vie. No more obsessions or a crazed need to finish now (even though I have to repress that every.single.day.), just a slow and steady progression to fix what is broken in my life. Which on days like today it seems like everything is broken. :( I have to realize that I have no consistent help with Mike working cah-ray-zee hours, so anything I do has to come from me, with occasional leaning on him or my dad, or even his dad maybe... but these are my projects, and everyone else has lives to live too! They aren't just sitting there, waiting for me to utilize their crazy talented selves for a design project - we'll see what the year(s) bring! Again, we'll see. I'm gonna stop rambling now. :)

And even though some days I feel like I can do it all over again, finishing things in a year, I am practicing some restraint and taking it easy, in stride. It will all take time if I am to stay the course and not fizzle out like I did last year. Learn from mistakes, move on. Thus the renaming of the blog! I am giving myself as much time as I need to do what I want - no more time frames, just a start...and hopefully an eventual finish.

But the start - the start is what is most important. :)

So, I am restarting this one - on my way to losing 50 pounds...but I will start with 1...then 5...then 10...and so on! Exercise when I can fit it in, eating right when I am able to do so...healthy choices, but not feeling restricted. Comfort food sometimes, laziness whenever I can get it! haha! But always on the lookout to sneak in some exercise into my day. More water! More healthy tea! More healthy additives and nutritionally dense foods - hopefully this whole picture look and hopefully easy and forgiving and flexible approach will be the key for me to make it stick. I so want to be svelte again. That's my new word. Svelte. Love it. It sounds Swedish.

Monday, February 1, 2010

New Look Under Construction

Hi everyone! If you notice things looking a little wonky around here for a while, don't worry - it IS just for a little while! I am trying to simplify the blog, make it fresh and clean - so I am going through it and trying to do just that. But, for a bit, the old posts may not be readable (not that I'm thinking many people are reading them anyway!) But, just wanted to let you know, it's temporary - and hopefully the new look will help me keep it simple. :)

Working on many new projects - my little camera is just full of new recipes, organizing starts and finishes...will be up soon!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Smoothie Madness!

Smoothies are one of life's understated pleasures, aren't they? I really love how versatile they are - and that just because you are having one, doesn't make it indulgent - it just feels that way. Sure, you can go all in and make an over-the-top caloric nightmare...but most of the time, you can have what you want, sneak in some veggies and never notice how good it is for you!

They are great for kids too, for so many reasons...

First is - FUN!
Second - Sneak those veggies in!
Third - Eaaaaasy.
Fourth - they think they are being spoiled!
Fifth - versatility! they never get boring!

I had my kids sitting on the counter, "helping" me make them (they are not even 3 yet). By help, I mean copying the blender noise and then taste-testing them, complete with smoothie-staches! Sorry, cell-phone cam here...
If you don't own an immersion blender, go out and buy one right now. I mean it! It has been one of the best gifts I have ever received. It makes things so easy - I haven't touched my blender in years. Easy to puree, wherever you need to (in the pan? sure!), easy to clean - pop it apart and rinse. Easy to make anything, honestly.

We made smoothies on vacation to try and use up the leftovers in the fridge on the last day...I make smoothies for a quick breakfast some days...(a good way to get rid of egg nog before it expires)...sometimes a nutritious snack for the kids to prime them for a healthy lunch. Really, the sky's the limit here.

Use whatever you have on hand and experiment - some you may hate, but some you may really like...and that's all part of the fun too. I'm really excited about trying some of the super health food adds listed down below from other sites...like brown rice, or avocado (you know me!), or even green tea in some. So many great ideas and ways to boost your levels easily. I am about to start a super vitamin regimen from my doctor - Vitamin B, D, C, Fish Oil, blah blah blah - all because of the serious gaps in my nutrition. Once I get back up there, I really wanted to find a way to fit the nutrients and vitamins in from my diet, and this is an actual, feasible...pretty darn easy way to accomplish that. Time was always my problem...Variety the second...and a husband that wants nothing to do with healthy foods as a third! lol So...this is a great alternative to sneak more in for myself, any time of day.... and to give the kids that same benefit in a power packed food. I'm all for as nutritionally dense as humanly possible. :)

To start easily! Combine any of the following to your liking, listed here for idea spurring!

Always use whole fresh (or just frozen by yourself) if possible, skin on is best. As whole as you can get. Frozen is next best, canned is last resort.

  • Fruits - fresh (skin on, if possible for whole nutrition), frozen, canned
  • Veggies - steamed and cooled, frozen, canned
  • peanut butter (natural)
  • milk, cream, eggnog, yogurt, frozen yogurt, silken tofu, splash of orange juice to thin (any juice)
  • healthy add-ins - wheat germ, ground flax seed, oat bran, green tea (see below)
  • flavor add-ins - pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, cocoa powder, coconut (creamed is awesome), coffee, lemon, lime, mint syrup, nutmeg, vanilla extract (any extract, really), fresh herbs (just bruised - mint, lemon balm, bee balm, lavender, basil, cilantro, etc...)

Interesting herb-enhanced smoothie list here.

First one we made (yes, oh-so-technical directions here...):
Cherry Berry
- handful of frozen cherries
- handful of strawberries (leave the tops on! ...as long as they don't look moldy or wilted)
- 1/2 large banana
- 2-3 large spoonfuls of silken tofu or plain yogurt
- splash of milk (tofu will make it much thicker, so you may want to add more milk accordingly)
- 3 shakes of cinnamon
- opt. drizzle of agave nectar (can use honey or maple syrup)

blend and enjoy!

Second one:
Eggnog Smoothie
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup eggnog (depending on how thin you want it, use more)
- 1/2 large banana
- 2 ice cubes
- 3 large spoonfuls of plain yogurt (the tofu and the egg flavors together did not work for me)
- 1 shake pumpkin pie spice or nutmeg

I tried adding a handful of frozen raspberries to this one and it was also good - but then again, I love eggnog. The second one is not the healthiest, but hey...that eggnog wasn't gonna drink itself before it expired! :)

I have a bunch more I will share as time goes on - we made a really good melon one on vacation..I just have to remember how we did it! Also a peanut butter and banana... yum.

If making a veggie smoothie, here are some sweetener suggestions- dates or raisins (soak in warm water first), fruit juice concentrate, honey, maple syrup, molasses, agave nectar (low GI)

Green smoothies sound gross, but if you go slow and get used to the added veggies before you add more, it may be the next best way to getting in your 5 a day. :) Ideas the following article recommends: Avocado (1/4 to 1/2 for some good, healthy and satisfying fats)...Leafy greens such as spinach or collard greens are the most neutral in flavor - meaning they are less likely to gag you. :)

got this searching, in a cool article from ecoki : "Greening Your Smoothie"

Here are a few cool tips from them to get some veggies in there:
  • Add the green to taste – start with a handful, and work your way up, as you get used to the new ingredient in your mix
  • Lemon juice is a pungent over-powering ingredient to mask odd tastes, but also gives a fresh spin in your traditional smoothie. Add a few squirts to your next one.
  • Always use the whole fruit in your smoothie, as opposed to fruit juice or peeling it. If you’re going to make it good for you, then take the time to use whole, fresh foods
  • A lot of people like bananas in their smoothies – it makes it creamy and thick
  • Frozen fruits make it thick, cold and refreshing. Try freezing your favourites in chunks so they are ready to go
  • Silken tofu doesn’t add any taste but a great creamy consistency with a load of protein
  • Keep it simple: choose two fruits that compliment each other, some greens, and added protein (tofu, yogurt, cashews (really))
  • If you want, add high-quality protein powder, like hemp protein
  • Don’t try to make it gross. Putting 5 handfuls of kale in a blender with half-banana won’t sell you. And no, maple syrup won’t make it better.
  • Collards and spinach are the most neutral in taste
  • Add 1/4 to 1/2 of an avocado for extra creaminess and healthy fats
  • flaxmeal adds a boost of Omega-3s and fibre
  • Try using dates instead of sugar or other sweeteners if you need some extra sweetness in your smoothie

Try these combination or add to a current favourite. Mix and match your favourite fruits with a few greens and some add-ins to up the health benefits. Blend all ingredients (frozen fruit works best), adding water to desired consistency, and enjoy.

Banana Bread: 1/2 banana, 3 dates, greens, and 1/4 cup walnuts (soaked overnight)

PB & J: 1 tablespoon peanut butter, 1 cup strawberries, greens, and 1/2 banana (optional)

Tropical Twist: 1 cup pineapple chunks, 1 cup mango chunks, greens, 3 tablespoons hemp seeds

Our standby: 1/2 avocado, 1 cup fruit, 3 handfuls spinach, 1 scoop hemp protein powder, a date or two (depending on fruit)

Green tea: This is wonderful for its anti-oxidant properties. You can purchase green tea leaves/sachets/powder from your local supermarket. Steep the leaves/sachets in boiled water for about 4 to 5 minutes, strain the leaves and leave it to cool before using for your smooties.

Other supplements you can add, dosing according to bottle/doctor recommendations, grinding them and adding to smoothie after it is mixed (great way to get your daily vitamins in if you hate swallowing pills like moi):

  • Acidophilus, Bee pollen (yikes!), Brewer's yeast, Calcium powder, Chlorella powder, Chlorophyll liquid or powder, Lecithin powder or granules, Protein powder, Spirulina powder, Vitamin C powder, Wheat bran

I realize I am ignoring the pink elephant here....but.....now that we are back....can we pretend this whole year never happened and just move on to the next project? ;) Please? Yes?! I hoped you'd say that! Hopefully I can keep up something here as the year goes on...maybe not every week, but forward progress of some kind....

Less is more, my friends...keep it simple. ♥♥♥