Thursday, June 30, 2011

Packing crate table

My mom works for a shipping company, and they frequently have wooden crates to be discarded or given away. We have a big blue crate that we use for a sandbox, and a smaller one for a firewood box. About five years ago she gave me a crate that I think was intended to use as a planter on the patio; however, it went into the garage and became a junk-gatherer for awhile before it got dumped outside in the woodshed.

Every once in awhile I would think about what to do with that crate - it bothered me to have it just sitting there unused. In the meanwhile, I'd been pondering what to do with our porch area, and I'd acquired a wooden dining chair with the intention to paint it and put it out there. Then just the other day Papi came home with a wood rocking chair he found at an antique store, and we put that out on the porch too. It was clear we needed something else though, and that crate came to mind.

Last weekend I primed it with white primer, gave it a few coats of light green paint, and used some chalkboard spray paint that I had on hand from another project. It only took a few hours including drying time, and it was a fun project to do with Gabi. I had to accept the imperfections that can come from having a 3-year-old assistant, but that's what life's all about! Here's the finished table:

I'm so psyched about it - I think it turned out really well and I'm excited to be able to write little messages depending what's going on that day. It also feels great to have finally found a use for that crate that was haunting me for the past five years!

Spring Cleaning

Never mind that its summer, lately I've been in a serious nesting mood. The other day I decided to tackle one of our house's biggest disaster zones - the pantry. Now how a little closet like this one can become such a mess is kind of amazing, but here it is:

Pantry - Before
It starts out organized, and somehow over time things just get shoved back in any old way, and before long its a jumbled mess of opened boxes, bags of stale chips, spilled dry pasta, and god knows what else. I try to keep up the system, but frankly its three against one here, so its hard going. Instead, every so often I end up doing a complete clean-out.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Muffins, muffins, who wants some muffins?

Well, not really. Muffin tins, actually. Filled with decidedly non-muffinish food. Today was our latest go-round with Muffin Tin Monday, and it was a simple but good one:

From the top right: ham roll-ups, whole grain cheese fish, hummus, steamed broccoli and carrots, ranch dressing, pita triangles.
Both kiddos liked this, although the veggies didn't get too much play. Gabi ate her carrots but left the brocolli, and Little Buddy didn't eat either, although he did use them as a dip delivery vehicle. I'm trying to teach him to actually BITE the dip-coated vegetable, instead of just licking it clean and re-dipping. So far its a no-go, and so he always gets his own little bowl of dip (or muffin cup, as the case may be).

Next Monday is Independence Day, and I've got all sorts of ideas percolating about . . . we've got a busy busy day on the 4th but hopefully I'll be able to work in a muffin tin lunch! Otherwise, perhaps some other time this week. . .

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Too Much TV!

My kids watch too much TV. Way too much TV. Of course they think they watch not quite enough TV, and would I kindly please turn it back on again thankyouverymuch? But secretly, they know they watch too much TV as well.

I'm trying to cut down their habit - of course I know that I can just turn it off and that's it, but c'mon, that's not reality. Right now they're watching "show" (as its known around here) while I write this, and frankly I probably wouldn't be writing now if they weren't. We all need some help to curb the habit!

Lately I've been trying out a new system that works reasonably well. Every morning I make up "show tickets" that are worth a half-hour of TV watching each. They redeem them for the shows they'd like to watch, and when the tickets are gone, the TV goes off. I've been giving them between 4-6 tickets, which is still too much TV but better than where they were. The best part about this system is it gets them to ration the viewing themselves - they have to choose which shows to watch, and to turn the TV off if they're running low on tickets that they'd like to save for a later time. I haven't really let them save them up for another day yet, but I suppose that's a possibility. I'm sure there will be more conflict with this system later on when Little Buddy has more of an opinion about which programs to watch, but for now that's not an issue. At times the hardest part is holding firm when the tickets run out and they're still whining for TV, especially when its late and dinner needs to get on the table and I could really use the distraction!

I know this will be an ongoing battle, and it will probably only get worse, but I hope that if I can get some control over it right now, it will make things easier later on. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Meatless Monday - Leftovers to the rescue!

Last night we had a delicious Meatless Monday dinner! I was unprepared (as per usual) so I had to rely on the pitiful contents of the pantry and refrigerator. Luckily I had one last leftover from the weekend - about two cups of homemade olive tapanade. I boiled some pasta (angel hair and regular spaghetti) and tossed it with the tapanade, along with some of the reserved pasta water. Topped with fresh shaved Parmesan, it was a real treat!

To go along with the pasta, I cooked up some carrots with a bit of butter and sugar for some caramelized goodness.  The kiddos got plain pasta with Parmesan, which they gobbled up along with the carrots. I never know what they'll eat - they've turned up their noses at this exact type of carrots before, but this time they would have gladly eaten more - to bad for them I didn't make very many anticipating that they wouldn't eat them!

Muffin Tin Monday

We had a super Father's Day this past weekend, filled with lots of great food - a cookout Saturday night and a beach picnic on Sunday (never mind that it was in the mid 50's and threatening rain all day - hello summer!). Thus, there was only one thing to do come lunch on Monday - leftovers! Allow me to present our muffin tin meal from yesterday:
Clockwise from top right: cheddar cheese, pasta salad, grilled bratwurst, baked beans, Oreos, strawberry cereal bar.

As always, some things were more popular than others, depending on the kiddo! Little Buddy ate up all the bratwurst, cheese, and cereal bar, the Oreo filling, and maybe a bite of beans. Gabi ate all the bratwurst (my kids are such carnivores!), beans, salad, and Oreos. 

I'm finding that six choices seems to be a bit much for them - I'll need to get more creative about letting dips, etc. take up one of the muffin tins. We're all enjoying this though, so I'll keep going with Muffin Tin Monday!

Of course, thanks as always to Muffin Tin Mom for providing me with this creative spark and the place to share it!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Rotten Egg

My daughter loves the expression "last one there's a rotten egg". Unfortunately, she doesn't quite get the meaning, or rather that one might not want to be a rotten egg. For a long time she's said, "first one there's a rotten egg" and then raced to wherever "there" was. I kept telling her she wouldn't want to be first in that case, but all that did was get her to change her phrasing. Now she says "last one there's a rotten egg" and proceeds as slowly as she can to ensure she's the last one. So now, she's happy to be a rotten egg, and she's moving even more slowly. Not working out so well!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Gardening Check-in

Last weekend was beautiful out, so I was motivated to get out and work in the garden. Its been off to a slow start this year. The plants I've sown from seeds are just barely getting going, so I also opted to add some vegetable starts to have better results. I bought three tomato plants (Tom Thumb, Patio, and Early Girl), and some basil as companion plantings. Those went into tubs next to the patio (against the sunny south wall of the house).
Early Girl tomato plant with Purple Opal Basil

Patio tomato with basil
 I also potted up two pepper plants - Italian Roaster and Early Jalapeno. Those are in the same spot against the house - hopefully there will be just enough heat there to get something ripened. In the raised bed at the back of the yard (home of the carrots, turnips, strawberries, and Mr. Mystery) I added two cucumber plants.

I added some annual color to the patio as well - I potted five hanging baskets of petunias, fuchsias, and begonias, and added a few other spots of color to perennial planters with begonias and petunias.

Apparently I was feeling extra motivated at that point, so I dragged my old sewing table outside where its become a side table, and set up a little display with a sweet lavender plant my aunt gave Gabi and the sand dollars we found at the coast a few weeks ago. Initially I thought I might paint the table a bright color, but I'm liking the wood tone against the blue of the house so I might just wax and seal it instead of painting. I'm not sure which would be more time consuming - probably the one that will make it look better!

Finally, my husband's cousin was coming over for lunch, so I managed to throw a tablecloth on the patio table and even got a few blooms into a vase before he arrived. We ate outside all weekend, everything we ate came off the grill, and of course now its back to the usual June gloom and we're all in sweaters again. Will it ever be summer?

Losing It

I've always been chubby - even at my lightest adult weight (let's say at 18?) I had that well-fed look. Fast forward 18 years and two kids, and I was really heavy - if I wasn't technically obese, I was knocking at the door. I never lost the last 10 pounds of pregnancy weight after Gabi stopped nursing, and little Buddy left me with another 6 pounds as a parting gift (so sweet, my little guy!).

One day last fall I just reached my breaking point. Like I never had before, I just felt FAT. My face felt fat, my arms felt fat, my things felt fat, and lets not even mention my stomach/hips/ass. I got completely fed up with myself, and came up with a plan to lose some of my excess baggage. Here is the plan I came up with - it falls into three main areas: Mental/Emotional Health, Food/Diet, and Exercise/Activity.

Mental / Emotional Changes
  1. You've got to really want it - enough to make some sacrifices. If you don't want to lose weight more than you want dessert, its not gonna work. Come back next year. Except . . .
  2. You've got to love and forgive yourself. If you do eat the dessert enjoy the hell out of it and move on. Tomorrow is another day.
  3. You've got all the time in the world to do this. As long as the numbers trend down, you're golden. .2 pounds per week? That's 10 pounds in a year. Wouldn't you rather weigh 10 pounds less at this time next year? Unless you were prepping for a movie role, it took a long time to gain this weight, and its okay if it takes a long time to lose it.
  4. Use whatever mental tricks you need to. Every month during my period I gain 2-3 pounds of water weight, and every month it freaks me out. I do better for the next few days and once the water's gone I've usually gone down those 2-3 pounds, plus one extra. Is it a mindf*ck every time? Yes it is. Is that okay? Yes it is.
Food / Diet
I don't like to watch what I eat, so I had to find other ways to cut calories from my diet. Here's what I came up with.
  1. You don't need to finish the kiddo's meals. Its not wasteful to throw away that 1/2 sandwich. This is super hard for me, always, always, always. I almost have to throw leftovers straight into the trash or I'll eat them up. Also after dinner - if foods out on the stove, its liable to end up in my belly unless it goes straight into the fridge.
  2. No alcohol. I gave myself "special occasion" permission, and a lenient definition of special occasion, but the nightly wine with dinner or after work beer with the hubby are out of the question right now.
  3. No sweets. Again, special occasions excepted. See "forgive yourself".
  4. Drink green tea. I read about a study that showed people who drank green tea lost about one extra pound a month compared to the non green tea drinkers. I try for three cups a day.
  5. Drink more water. Obvs.
Exercise / Physical Activity

  1. Try to get some every day. I don't like to say exercise because it doesn't have to be that structured. Yard work, playground play, dancing wildly with the kiddos all count. I do more classic "exercise" type things now that my weight loss progress has slowed somewhat, and summer's here.
So now for the big reveal. Since October 2010 I've lost 24 pounds and 3 dress sizes (at least - haven't shopped for clothes in quite awhile). I've still got more to go, and I'd like to tone up more, but that feels pretty freakin' impressive to me!

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    A big win on Meatless Monday

    Wow! Last night I made a mushroom spinach lasagna that was out of this world! Of course Gabi turned up her nose at it, but Papi and little Buddy ate it right up and asked for more. I was pleasantly surprised at the way it turned out; I had a vague idea of what I wanted, but once I started cooking and throwing things together that strange alchemy occurred that transforms a mess into magic.

    Follow me below the fold for the recipe . . .

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    Mi travieso terrible - My mischiveous toddler

    English needs a word like the Spanish travieso. Travieso means mischievous, but in Spanish it's used as a noun as well and sometimes it just WORKS that way. I never considered the word travieso much before, but now I am . . .

    Suddenly, my 20-month old is completely mischievous. Almost every day he does something that leaves us just shaking our heads. This weekend he had a couple of real doozies - ones that left us wondering how he'll be when he's 4, or 14.

    Saturday was spring cleaning day, and I spent 4 hours shampooing the carpets. Sunday we were all in the yard - kiddos playing and Papi and I working. The kids were in and out of the house like usual, when Gabi came to let me know that little Buddy had dumped a shovelful of potting soil onto the freshly laundered, beige carpet! Now I'm far, far from a neat freak, and if he had done the same thing Friday I would have just shrugged oh well and cleaned it up. Sunday afternoon, however, it hurt my soul to see that black pile of dirt in the middle of the room. All that work! Why couldn't it have been in the playroom! Or at least the corner! I haven't had the heart to haul out the steam cleaner again - maybe next weekend.

    Now that's the kind of mischievous thing that any little kid might do, but Sunday night his more devious side came out. We were finishing dinner (nothing weird - spaghetti with meat sauce); both kiddos had refused to eat it at first, but finally Gabi had gotten up the courage and eaten about half of what was on her plate. Papi and I were making a fuss over her, that she had eaten a good dinner and could have a treat. I looked over to little Buddy and he was grabbing fistfuls of his dinner and shoving it under his place mat. I held back my laughter as much as I could and asked him "are you doing that so I think you ate a good dinner too?" He of course said "yes". Sooo tricky! Funny as hell, of course, but super devious too. Luckily he's still too little to lie to us!