Friday, February 28, 2014

It's All in the Prep

I had a blog post a few days ago entitled: It's All in the Details. Well, when cleansing, "It's all in the preparation" rings a little truer.

So far in this cleanse I've tried to prepare ahead of time for meals. On Monday I do the grocery shopping for Tuesday. On Tuesday night I chop the vegetables for Wednesday's lunch. And so on. The authors of the Conscious Cleanse stress this in the book. If you've got chopped veggies ready to go in the fridge, you're much more likely to eat those than to reach for a bag of chips.

Thursday's lunch

I was doing really well. Yesterday I even broiled salmon and made a fresh salad and drove it over to Ted's office for dinner because he had a conference to attend last night. A conference that offered free dinner afterward. That's how good we've been.

But, lest you think I am one of those dishonest bloggers who tries to make my life look and sound perfect on the internet, I have to tell you that today I was not prepared.

Today the plan was to come home after class and make lunch. I was just too tired to prepare it last night. I think in my heart I knew this plan would never work.

Sure enough, halfway home from work I realized I was famished. I needed food pronto, and a cold veggie salad was just not going to do it for me. Especially if I had to stand there chopping vegetables for 10 minutes to prepare it.

So I did the unthinkable.

I went through the Drive-Thru... at McDonalds. Clutch your pearls!!

I ate 6 Chicken McNuggets and a medium french fries - but the fry box was definitely not full! And, okay, full disclosure, I borrowed a dollar from one of my students this morning to get a vending machine mocha.

Yes, yes, I know, of all the things I could have eaten to break my cleanse, McDonalds is probably the worst. I feel like a smoker who keeps smoking even in the face of all the evidence that it causes lung cancer, asthma, black lungs, etc etc. I just couldn't help myself. Nothing else would do.

So. There you have it.

Tomorrow is another day. If anything, this little setback has cemented my conviction to do the purification weekend. Nuthin' but veggies for this gal over the next two days.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cleanse Day 4

I made it through my cravings yesterday, and today I'm feeling much better about the cleanse.

For one thing, my jeans feel loose, even fresh from the dryer! I doubt I've lost any weight, but some of my day-to-day bloat is gone. You know, the bloat that comes from eating cheese, drinking wine, and gorging on bagels?

Also, my appetite feels really different today. I'm not as hungry, and it takes less food to fill me up. I feel like I'm re-discovering my correct portion sizes. Living with Ted, it's really easy for me to overeat -  I usually find myself splitting dinner evenly between the two of us. But honestly, do we look like two similarly sized people who should be eating similar amounts?

Obviously, no.

Luckily, on the Cleanse, you can eat as many fruits and vegetables as you want. No worries.

Both Ted and I did have weak moments today; we talked it out on the phone, though, and we both stayed strong! It's nice to have someone to cleanse with - for support.

I haven't decided yet if I'm/we're going to do the optional purification days this weekend. During most of the cleanse, lean animal protein is allowed, but during purification you eat only vegetables and fruits with 2 Tbs of oil per day. I think I'm going to wait and see how I feel tomorrow before I decide!

In case you're wondering, the photo is from Holloko Castle in Hungary. We were there in… 2009, I think. "Throwback Thursday"

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cleansing Again

a big ol' pile of kale

It's that time again. Cleanse time. 

The semester got rolling, and Ted and I started falling back into old habits - (1) eating out and (2) not exercising.

We're always 'Too tired! Too busy! This one soda won't matter…' Except that one soda leads to craving more soda and so on.

So we're trying the Conscious Cleanse again, this time on our own (rather than signing up for the group cleanse). You may remember that we did this back in September, with some success and some failure, but we were interrupted halfway through by a family reunion. We just weren't strong enough to cleanse through family time.

Quick Cleanse rules recap:

  • no alcohol
  • no caffeine
  • no sugar
  • no common allergens such as gluten, dairy, soy, nightshades, eggs…
  • lots and lots of veggies
  • lots and lots of water

We're currently on Day 3, and I'm writing this post right now because I'm feeling weak! Not weak in my body from lack of nutrients, but rather weak in my mind because I really want to eat some bagels and potato chips!

The book talks a little bit about detox and what it feels like to remove foods that you love from your diet. So I think what I'm experiencing today are the effects of detox. And I know exactly what my bod is detoxing from… gluten.

And maybe potatoes.

But back to gluten. I love me some gluten. Bread, bagels, tortillas, naan, pizza crust - you name it, I'll eat it as long as it contains gluten.

And don't get me started on potato products - chips, french fries, hash browns, mashed potatoes, tater tots (one of my students offered me a tater tot this morning and I almost accepted)… I love potatoes.

Anyway, I thought writing about my cravings might help. I already tried going for a walk (too cold), distracting myself with the final season of Breaking Bad (just released on Netflix! Don't tell me how it ends - I've still got a few episodes to go), and eating a baked chicken breast. None of it takes the place of a crunchy pita chip.

To deal with detox, the book recommends:  rest, drinking lots of water, a hot Epsom salt bath, a dry brush scrub, jumping up and down(???), and getting a massage.

I think I'll try the Epsom salt bath tonight.

If that doesn't work I guess I'll jump up and down. And fantasize about Monday, March 10th, when I can finally eat a potato chip again.

'til then...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

It's All in the Details

Along with buying cactus garden supplies on Saturday, Ted and I got a few little finishing details for the living room.

One of the things that's been on my to-do list for a while now is to put up some curtains. Our boring windows with cheap blinds just don't add a lot of character to our house and make it feel less 'homey.'

I decided I wanted tiered curtains in the living room to add a little depth and interest to that side of the room. Luckily, Target has cheap curtains in just about any style you could ever want.

I think these gauzy white curtains are meant for a little girl's room, but I like how billowy they look - they give some dimension to the windows. They don't block any light at all, but I like having lots of light in this room anyway.

Interesting sidenote: I ironed the curtain on the left before hanging, and I steamed the curtain on the right after hanging (just to see how the steamer compared to the iron). I'm really surprised at the difference between the two! Both curtains are wrinkle-free, but the steamed curtain hangs more limply than the ironed curtain. My theory is that ironing added a bit of static 'oomf' while steaming took out any dryness or static.

In addition to curtains, I picked up one more little plant that I didn't mention in my post yesterday.

By the way, that's the lamp from this post. I found a shade for it at Pottery Barn (there were cheaper shades at places like TJMaxx and Target, but none of them had the large diameter I was looking for).

Anyway, I love having living plants around. I figure I'll slowly acquire more and more as we settle in here.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Indoor Cactus Garden

It's still winter outside, but it's looking more like summer inside thanks to our new cactus gardens!

I've seen these little tabletop gardens on a couple blogs (here and here), and I thought this would be a fun way to add some life and color to our home.

Yesterday the garden guy at Home Depot said I was buying more cacti than they'd sold to all other customers combined, and he was intrigued to know what I was going to do with them. Turns out he had bought one himself for his tarantula cage.

My original plan was to get a large shallow glass bowl and put all of them in one garden, but I couldn't find a bowl to meet my needs. At TJMaxx I found two small glass bowls that I liked, though, so I decided to make two gardens. 

I named this one Sid Vicious, because he stabbed me every chance he got.

Along with the cacti and glass bowls, I picked up some quick-draining soil meant for succulents and some small white rocks. I layered the inside of each bowl with rocks, dirt, then rocks again. Before adding the top layer of rocks, I arranged the cacti inside the bowl.

What those other blogs don't tell you is that a pair of gardening gloves would really come in handy for this project! You will get poked with cactus needles a lot. And it will never be from the cactus you're actually handling - it will be one of the other ones that will get you right in the knuckle when you least expect it.

The second little garden bowl has feet, which I thought made it a little special. Try to ignore the cat butt in the following picture. It's really hard to take pictures around here without a cat photobomb.

If it wouldn't be such a hassle to do this one over, I would actually add more rocks to the bottom layer. This was the first one I made, and I was worried I would run out of rocks, but the proportion of rocks to soil could be more even.

While I worried about running out of rocks, turns out I had an overabundance of cacti. You can't really plant them close together because of all the needles (they poke each other and you), so I ended up with one lonely little cactus who just didn't fit in. 

Don't worry, he got his own little place of honor in the windowsill above the sink. 

This was a really fun weekend project that only took about 30 minutes once I had all my supplies.  The supplies, by the way, were relatively cheap - each little cactus/succulent was $2.50 - $3.50, and you can buy glass bowls at TJMaxx for about $5. The most expensive materials were the soil and rocks (and I did shell out $15 for the fancy footed glass bowl, but I just couldn't resist!). 

I highly recommend that you make a cactus garden for your own home - just make sure to have a pair of tweezers on hand to pull needles out of your knuckles!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Closet Clean-Out: Transformation #2

While cleaning out my closet I hemmed and hawed over this knit dress:

It's a really comfortable dress, but every time I put it on in the morning, I'd end up changing before I left the house. In case you're thinking, "That doesn't look so bad," just know that it photographs much better than it looks in person. Even I'm sittin' here thinking, "Well, maybe I should have left it the way it was…"

Believe me, though, whenever I put this dress on I felt like my womanly paunch was too visible. I'd try to cover it with a wide belt, but without belt loops I was constantly readjusting the belt to cover the paunch.

Also, I couldn't wear tights or leggings with the dress because you could see the waistline elastic from the outside. This made it a little impractical since it's a cold-weather dress - I'm not going out in the winter with bare legs!

Originally, I tossed this dress into the Consignment box. But I pulled it back out because it's so comfortable. I thought maybe I could just wear it around the house…

Then I had an idea. I thought, "I can cut the bottom off the dress and turn it into a cozy knit top!"

In the name of Transformation I quickly became an expert on turning a sweater dress into a knit top by reading one blog post (it's both a blessing and a curse to believe you can do anything after watching one YouTube video…).

While wearing the dress, I marked with pins where I wanted the new hem to be. Then I laid the dress on the floor and put more pins in all the way across. I decided I wanted the back to be a little longer (to cover my bedonka-donk), so I shifted the hem down about an inch-and-a-half on the flip-side. 

Of course I had help along the way.

I gave myself a two-inch seam allowance, and marked that with pins. That bottom line is where I'll cut…

Before cutting I made a zig-zag stitch all the way around. Then I cut just below that stitch with the hope that that will ensure against any potential unraveling.

A couple times through the sewing machine (I did two parallel seams to make it look more finished), and voila! I now have a knit top that I actually feel comfortable wearing outside of the house!

One of the nice things about making this top was that I could control how long it is. I have a long torso, so a lot of shirts don't adequately cover my mid-section. Fine in summer, but in winter? Brrrrr!

So here we are! A little preppier than what I normally wear, but it will be nice to have a turtleneck on cold days. Today is especially windy, and I'm going ice skating with my students tonight, so I think I'll wear my "new" top on its maiden voyage!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Pot O' Gold

Finally, finally, finally it was warm enough to spray paint today!!! That means the temperature was above 50 degrees!

I have my painting projects practically lined up in the basement, each item patiently waiting its turn to be TRANSFORMED!

Today I was testing out a color for the little round table I want to paint:

She's all sanded down and waiting in the basement. But I wanted to test the color on something smaller - cuz you never really know how it's going to look 'til it comes out of the can, you know?

Enter plastic flower pot from the top of my neighbor's trash heap:

The yogurt container is just to hold it up for spray painting ease.

That's right, I'm not above taking my neighbors' trash. It's a perfectly good flower pot - just lacks character is all.

After a little priming and painting, however, I had quite a bold yellow pot!

I like the color it adds to our living room console.

Now my little plant just needs to grow a little more! I didn't fill the dirt up to the top because I don't want it spilling out when I water the plant, so I guess I'll just have to be patient while my little green boy grows up and fills out his new pot!

I think it will be fun to paint the circle table in this bright, bold hue. What do you think?

And coming up tomorrow…. well, here's a little sneak peek! ;)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Deep Thoughts From Mackenzie's Commute

When I think about what I'm grateful for, the usual things always come to mind: my health, a place to live, a great husband, family, friends… You've probably thought of some the same things at one point or another.

But today as I was driving home from work I listened to NPR's noontime 'Fresh Air' show, which was all about the 'Sonic Wonders of the World'. The interviewee was an acoustic engineer, Trevor Cox, who has traveled the world studying sound phenomenons and recording sounds that most people never hear in their lifetime.

As they played these sound recordings over the radio I realized I had a big open-mouthed grin on my face. I was so rapt at the sound of bearded seals underneath the arctic ice and tadpoles nibbling on the hydrophone (the underwater microphone), the sound of sand 'singing' in the desert, and the sound of a gunshot with and without reverberation or echo.

It was all amazing!

And then it occurred to me how disappointed I would be if I couldn't hear these sounds and had to sit next to someone who could - assuming they had a big stupid grin on their face like I did.

So, today I am grateful for the fact that I have all my senses - the ability to see, hear, feel, taste, and smell. Can you imagine what life would be like without one of these? I know there are people who live without one or more - all the more reason to appreciate them and be grateful while I've got them!

These are the kinds of deep thoughts you can have when you drive 40 minutes to and from work along quiet country roads. Another blessing! ;)

If you're interested in listening to the forty-minute Fresh Air program and hearing the sounds for yourself, you can find it here:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Winter Wonderland

It's finally starting to warm up around here (high of 48 today!), and soon the snow may be gone.

My friend H and I took her dog on a little walk through the woods this morning, before the world turns into a big muddy mess.

Although it's always hard to leave the warm, cozy bed for an early-morning hike in the cold, it was worth it. We had the place to ourselves, and the sun coming up through the trees was very pretty.

I can't say that I'm not anxious for spring, though! ;)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Who's a Snow Shoveling Beast?

This gal.

It just snowed about 2 inches in the last hour, and I slid right through a stop sign on my way home from work (and no, I wasn't driving too fast, dad)! It's hairy out there.

Since I'm obviously not getting back on the road, my trip to the gym has been cancelled for the afternoon. Never fear! There are driveways to shovel! I got a nice little workout shoveling not only our driveway but our neighbor's as well! We take turns shoveling for each other - whoever gets to it first does both driveways. :)

UPDATE: I've now shoveled both driveways twice! The snow just keeps coming down! They look like they're due for a third shoveling, but it's dark out. I'm not that beastly. Plus, what will our neighbors think of Ted if it's always his wife doing the shoveling….

Our friends across the street aren't so lucky. They shoveled their neighbors' driveway a couple weeks ago. The neighbors wrote them a thank-you card, but the next time it snowed, the neighbors shoveled their own driveway without repaying the favor! Their driveways are connected, like ours with our neighbor, and they only shoveled their half! Plus, they carried all the snow over to our friends' yard rather than dumping it in their own yard.

Excuse my French, but WTF?

In other news, we discovered last night that Minnie loves Olympic skiing:

None of the rest of us can see anything, but she follows it closely. She even watches the post-run interviews. I think she's going to grow up to be a competitive skier! Proud mama, right here.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Crocheted Heart Valentines

After a little thinking, and a little inspiration, I decided to use my crocheted hearts for little Valentine goodie bags.

Since I only have 5 students in my class, and they had never heard of Valentine's Day until this week, I decided to really apply myself and make them some extra special Valentines this year! So I spent the morning sewing up these little muslin bags and zig-zag stitching the hearts onto them.

Each bag is half filled with a variety of candies - m&ms, chocolate, tootsie pops, cinnamon hearts, conversation hearts - and tied with a piece of ribbon.

I also dug out some old stamps I had and whipped up tags factory-conveyer-belt-style. I wish I had a pink or red ink pad, but as there is no craft store in town, I'm working with what I have!

Oddly enough, I also had this 4-pack of Chinese character stamps…? Don't remember why I bought them, but there happens to be one in the pack that means 'love', so I stamped it on the back of each tag.

I think my students will be excited to receive these, and hopefully it will make their first Valentine's Day in the U.S. special! I can't wait to give them out. :)