DIY dishtowel hack

5 things I’m loving right now

Trim Healthy Mama menu planning
Saturday morning menu planning.

The holidays are headed right for us, have you noticed? Before all the holiday preparations, excitement, and let’s face it, dread, fully envelope us, I thought it would be nice to pause and think about what I’m loving–what is working for me right now, in ordinary time.

  1. Going sugar-free. Yup. I did it. It’s been a couple of months now since I started the Trim Healthy Mama (let’s just call it THM, shall we?) eating plan to get my blood sugar issues under control. It has helped me get  out of pre-diabetes territory, which I find a huge relief.  The plan is simultaneously easy and hard to do. But the one thing that is definitely working is getting off of sugar,  with all its ups and downs and cravings. I do use stevia-based sweeteners, which I used to lump in with all other “fake sugars”, but in fact, after lots of research I have found that stevia is a natural sweetener, and thank goodness for that! I made it through my first Halloween ever eating no candy, and feel like I am free!
  2. All things British TV. I just binged-watched Poldark Season 3 and loved every minute of it. One day I am definitely going to need to read the books that started it all.  Other recent favorites include Victoria and To Walk Invisible: The Bronte Sisters. Long hours of sewing are even more enjoyable when streaming some lovely British TV.
  3. FlyLady. Have you done FlyLady? This one deserves its own post. I have started and abandoned FlyLady half a dozen times in my life. But I keep going back to it, not because I need help getting my house clean each week. I have that down. What I need help with is the deep cleaning. Making space in my schedule for all the little (or not so little) things that I don’t clean on a weekly basis. I’m talking about moving the furniture to vacuum, cleaning out the drawers and cupboards, cleaning the ceiling fans–stuff like that. And her Zone system, tackling one area of your home per week and knocking these tasks off 15 minutes at a time makes a lot of sense to me. I’m still struggling to implement it, but I will keep pushing forward.
  4. Morning Pages. I carry a lot in my head. I’m always thinking, thinking, thinking. And taking time every morning (or even just some mornings–no perfectionism here) to get what is in my head out on paper really helps me make sense of it all. Or at least it get it out of my head. I’m hoping to go into the holidays this with some clarity, purpose, and intention.
  5. The Next Right Thing podcast. I am no stranger to Emily P. Freeman’s writing–but her podcast resonates with me on a different level.  From her podcast intro: The Next Right Thing “is for the second-guessers, the chronically hesitant or anyone who suffers from decision fatigue.” Yes, yes, and yes. At less than twenty minutes per episode, it is just the kick-in-the-pants I need some days.

So that’s it for me. What are you loving right now?

DIY dishtowel hack

30-day challenge check-in

greek yogurt topped with strawberries and granola

Have you joined me in a 30-day challenge? I’ve heard from a few of you–taking on challenges of your own. I still have my streak going of tracking my food with My Fitness Pal everyday. It hasn’t been easy though. More than once I’ve had to “backtrack” the previous day –and we all know that is never going to be as accurate or effective as tracking your food as you go. But that was a lesson in itself.

My own challenge has brought to light several interesting insights. The first is, as expected, my portion sizes have gotten out of control. This always seems to be the case, no matter how long I’ve been at this. At some point I start deluding myself about what a reasonable portion size looks like. Weigh, measuring, and counting have brought this in high relief and it’s no wonder I’ve been gaining weight.

salad for lunch

The second is that on days where I would have said, “I had a good day. I ate very reasonably”, turn out to sometimes be my highest calorie days. For example, the day I drove down to San Diego to pick up Chloe for spring break I ended up eating two meals on the road. The first was a very calorically responsible breakfast sandwich from Starbucks and the second was a less responsible pita sandwich–but no fries or anything else with it. When we made it home, I had a (well-deserved) glass of wine and pasta and salad for dinner (no bread). This day clocked in at over 2100 calories! I had no snacks and what I thought were reasonable portions. Yet, it was one of my highest calorie days.

In contrast, the day we celebrated Chloe’s birthday at Cheesecake Factory, I did some decent planning. I ordered Chicken Tacos from the Skinnylicious menu and we all shared a few pieces of cheesecake. I tracked that I ate 1/3 of a piece of cheesecake and this day came in at several hundred calories lower that the day I picked up Chloe. It just shows that a bit of planning really goes a long way to staying on track.

roasted veggies

I haven’t dropped a bunch of weight (or really any) yet, but it is getting easier to spot the areas that I need to focus on to get some success in this area. One area that I am going to focus on is tracking in the moment (not leaving it to the end of the day) and being more accurate in my tracking. When things are hard to track I sometimes do a mental tally and then throw a big number at it–like 500 calories for a lunch out. At least I’m paying attention enough to do a mental tally, but this is happening to often and I need to get more diligent with tracking the actual foods.

So, how about you? Have you kept your 30-day streak going? What have you learned? Let me know in the comments.

DIY dishtowel hack

a little story about throw pillows

Can throw pillows change a room? Maybe.

I have never felt great about my decorating skills. Over time I think that I have created a home that is fairly cozy–but I have never decorated a room and thought, “Done!” It is always a piecemeal affair with grand plans for some future date when I will be more grown-up and confident in my decorating skills. Because of this, I always take advantage of the free interior designer service when we buy furniture. In the past, this has worked fairly well, but I never really completed whatever plans they set out–which usually involves buying $10,000 worth of furniture.

As I pieced together our family room over several years–one year replacing the sofa and a chair, another year another chair–I began realizing that this room was not coming together. We have a neutral sofa, and a dark brown leather chair. This was the first problem–I felt the sofa was too light and the chair was too dark. So we bought a “medium” chair to fill out the room and to help bridge the contrast gap. Well–that chair sort of read “gray” when the sofa was reading “tan”. Ahhh! This room was not coming together–even with the help of an Ethan Allan designer and a bunch of expensive furniture.

I can’t afford to start over–so I invited my friend Terri over for tea one day. She has a model-home perfect house and just has a knack for this type of stuff. I don’t know why I didn’t get her involved earlier. The first thing she noticed was that the throw pillows on the sofa were contributing to the problem–they highlighted the tan in the sofa instead of the gray than is actually in there.

netural sofa with colorful throw pillows
Though I love these pillows–this arrangement was just so–blah!

Next stop–Pottery Barn to look for throw pillows to solve my problem. (Full disclosure: this “next stop” actually happened about a year later.) This was actually a hilarious scene, as we found a neutral sofa in PB (not hard) and Terri started grabbing pillows from all over the store, trying them in different combinations. Several sales people approached us to help, but backed away once they realized that Terri seemed to know what she was doing. I fully expected that I would get some pillows that added some color to the sofa (isn’t that what throw pillows are for?!)–but ended up with more neutral pillows that actually bridge the gap between the tan and gray.

Pottery Barn throw pillows

Pottery Barn throw pillows

I was skeptical. I kept telling her, “There is no way  my husband is going to go for all these pillows! He hates throw pillows! The kids will just throw them on the floor! (Is that why they are called throw pillows?)

Pottery Barn throw pillows with neutral sofa

Terri assured me that these were feather pillows and made the sofa more comfortable (she was right! Our old pillows are as hard as rocks compared to these). Also, we realized that we have enough color going on in that room with the oriental carpet, brink fireplace, and paintings, that keeping the sofa a bit more neutral actually helped to calm things down a bit.

Pottery Barn throw pillows with neutral sofa
I really do think these pillows help the sofa and chair make friends.

My next neurotic fear was that now that we have five (!) pillows on this sofa that are all scrunchy, comfy–I was going to spend the rest of my life fluffing them. Because this is what it looks like when everyone leaves in the morning.

what happens to feather throw pillows

And I think it may be true about the constantly straightening (sigh). But they really are so comfortable and I now feel like I’m living in a PB catalog. And I was already folding all those quilts that everyone leaves on the floor each morning anyway–so what’s a few (5!) pillows.

I mentioned over on Facebook the other day that Terri also took down all my decor items in the family room and living room and put back half of them. And it all looks so much better now. Everyone should have a Terri.

Now that I have solved the Throw Pillow Problem, I guess I can move on to other life and death matters like why I can find a rug the right size for the living room. First world problems 🙂 Oh, and I found the perfect place for those pillows I love–in the living room aka my office. And Teddy loves them too.

netural sofa with colorful throw pillows

DIY dishtowel hack

how about a 30-day challenge?

Using a bullet journal to track habits

I’ve been thinking about goals lately. I know it’s getting to be late March and normal people think about these things in January–but this is about the time that most people have abandoned their goals. And I am not making progress on a few of the things that I mentally made a list of back in the dewy-eyed days of the New Year.

One of those goals is to lose some weight (original, I know). But as I passed a rather significant birthday milestone last year (I won’t say which one, but it rhymes with “nifty”), I have begun to think more about the health aspects of losing weight than the “I want to look good in skinny jeans” reasons. Honestly, my blood sugar has edged a bit into the pre-diabetic range and since my dad had Type 2 diabetes–this is a reality that I can’t ignore any longer. Clothes are tight, and my joints are getting achy and I don’t want to just accept this as inevitable.

I’ve had success losing weight, with Weight Watchers twice in the past. But obviously not keeping it off. I swore both times that I had learned my lesson and this would be the last time that I had lose weight. And both times I was wrong. This time there will be no grand gestures and overly restrictive plans. This time I want to build some solid habits–one by one. And the first one–as much as it pains me to say it–is tracking my food.

I hate to track my food (see Weight Watchers above). However, I do actually know that it works when I do it. It makes me stop and think before I eat something. Sometimes knowing that I have to stop and track it makes me realize that it’s not even worth it. I almost ate a half a piece of pizza at 10:30 am this morning–but because it was going to be hard to track, I just grabbed an apple instead. A much better choice.

So, I am committing to tracking my food for 30 days. I hope to keep it up even longer, but for right now I am only looking at 30 days. I’m using My Fitness Pal–which you can access both on your computer and as an app on your phone. I use it both ways. The app is nice because you can scan the UPC code of an item and it pops right into the food diary. I am on Day 2 and so far so good. I am not going to beat myself up if my calories are high–that is not the point yet. The point is just to track. Even if that means taking some wild guess on restaurant meals. Again–the point is just to record it. Here is what it looks like:

My Fitness Pal to track food

My intent here is to habit stack. Focus on one good habit a month and continue to build on them.  I already have a little checklist in my bullet journal (pictured at the top of this post) to help me remember to do things each day: devotions, exercise, vitamins, water, and now track. This works well for me because I love to check things off of lists and writing them down each day helps to renew my commitment to do them.

I will be sure to give you a progress report and hopefully this accountability will help me to actually do what I say I am going to do.

Anyone care to join me? Is there a 30-day challenge that you would get you on the right track for a goal that you want to achieve? Let me know!