Month : July 2010

scrapbook supply purge 2.0!

Etsy listings

It's the second round (of many to come, I'm afraid!) of purging through my scrapbook supplies. I've created several kits by theme and manufacturer and they are available for pennies on the dollar in my Etsy shop! Mint condition items at an average of 60% off retail cost. Please shop away and help me unload some of my stuff! 🙂

Take a look and even if there is nothing you can use, please feel free to pass the link along to a friend who might be interested! Happy creating!

YELLOW kid’s room!

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I just had to share this darling kid's room with you all! Our friends have a four-year-old, Gian. This is his bright and sunny yellow room. They recently made some updates (going from a toddler bed to a real Big Kid bed) and painted this huge chalkboard paint panel on the opposite wall. What a lucky kid to have such a fun and creative space to call his own! Love it.

what to eat? (part 2)

Vegetable-oils

I'm a huge fan of swapping recipes or even simple meal/snack ideas, particularly when I'm getting bored with those in my current rotation. When you're trying to eat lightly and healthfully, your recipe choices are narrowed a bit further. In the hopes that some of you will comment and tell me YOUR favorite healthy meals and snacks, I'm listing a few of my most recent faves as a follow-up to my original "What to Eat?" post back in February….

BREAKFAST:

I'm a one-trick pony when it comes to breakfast. I might opt for a Luna bar once in a while or a Bagel Thin with a little low-fat peanut butter, but otherwise, breakfast is the same for me every. single. day. I toast two Van's lite whole grain toaster waffles and while they're still warm, I sprinkle a small handful of dark chocolate chips on top. I slice a few strawberries on top of that, and add a dollop of fat-free whipped cream on top. Light and fast, and I get my sweet tooth addressed right off the bat!

LUNCH & SNACKS:

I tend to snack once around 10am, again at noon, and then maybe around 3 in the afternoon, rather than eat one big lunch. I mostly bring things from home and don't go out to eat during the work week. This is good for both the budget and the scale! Mid-morning I usually want fruit – a juicy peach from the local fruit stand, a crunchy apple, or a couple handfuls of grapes or cherries. Plenty of fiber to tide me over until lunch so I don't get so hungry I gobble everything in sight.

For my "lunch", I do have a fallback option in our office freezer – the spinach mushroom mini pizzas from Lean Cuisine. At 300 and some calories, these don't taste like a diet food, and the portion is controlled. They are actually very yummy for anything branded, "lean". I also make it a habit to bring healthy dinner leftovers to reheat.  A new favorite mini-lunch of mine is a handful of oversized whole grain crackers (I like the Archer Farms brand), each spread with a super thin layer of reduced fat cream cheese and seasoned with a bit of greek seasoning. I then fold a layer of deli turkey on top and eat them like mini open-faced turkey sandwiches. Five or six are plenty filling to get me through the next couple of hours.

By mid-afternoon, I'm starting to think about my workout for the day, so I like to go for protein. A piece of string cheese, a low fat yogurt (lemon is my fave!), or a small dish of cottage cheese is usually on the menu. I like to keep a stash of options in our office fridge, so I never feel cornered into one thing that I'm not in the mood for…and then end up at Panera's bakery counter instead. 🙂

DINNER:

Dinner is the one meal where I hardly ever count calories. Yes, I try to be as healthy in preparing as I can, and choose nutritious ingredients to begin with, but overall, it's a bit more relaxed in terms of tracking. 

Salmon and Shredded Zucchini

Page is not on board yet, but my new (very) recent love is SALMON. I can throw a filet on the grill with a little lemon juice and olive oil and have a delicious and nutritious dinner in just a few minutes. While it's grilling, I heat a small skillet on low heat with a little oil and use a veggie peeler to peel down an entire zucchnini. Add a sprinkle of salt and a spray of butter and this is DELISH. I am a sucker for veggies!

Grilled Veggie Orzo with Goat Cheese

Another favorite veggie-laden dish is one that I found through Jamie Oliver's site (ya know, the British dude who's helping America get its school lunch system on track?). This dish is super easy and heats really well for lunch leftovers. Cook a cup of orzo according to package directions, while roasting sliced zucchini, red and yellow peppers and yellow squash in the oven for 25 or so minutes with a little olive oil drizzled on top. Salt the veggies lightly, stir into the drained orzo, and a splash of basalmic vinegar, a sprinkle of basil, and 4 oz of goat cheese. The cheese makes the dish just creamy enough without adding a lot of fat, and you can easily serve 3 or 4 people. 

Healthy Nachos

A third and final favorite dinner came from a fellow blogger whose sole purpose is to taste test Weight Watchers recipes. This one has been a hit at our house, and prepared several times over! Depending on how many people you're feeding, set a bunch of Baked Tostitos "Scoops" on a cookie sheet. Heat a pound of extra-lean ground beef in a skillet, drain if necessary, add some taco seasoning, a tiny bit of water and frozen corn and black beans if desired. Spoon the meat into the scoops shells and sprinkle some reduced fat cheese on top and bake at 350 until cheese melts (about 6 mins). Top with your favorite salsa and a light sour cream. Delicious healthy (non-greasy!) nachos that make a great meal or appetizer.

SWEET TREATS:

My biggest downfall is undoubtedly my sweet tooth. I can wave away red meat, pass on alcohol, but sugar and I have a love-hate relationship. Here are some things I've found to help curb the sweets appetite:

We have these small 6 oz juice glasses from Crate & Barrel. I fill one of these (to the rim!) with Horizon Organic 1% chocolate milk. The creaminess and heaviness is enough to fill my stomach, and the chocolate taste satisfies my sweet tooth.

After my lunch or main "snack" in the afternoon, I find myself wanting dessert of some kind. Now, if I allowed myself a "dessert" to every single meal I ate, I would be ginormous. So I trick my body by keeping a stash of Dove dark chocolates (individually wrapped) in my bottom desk drawer. One or two of these super-rich chocolates is the perfect amount of sweet, post-midday meal.

Especially in the summer, I like to keep Kemp's vanilla fro yo on hand. I'm not a huge ice cream lover, so a little goes a long way. I heap a couple spoonfuls into a small bowl and then top with sliced fruit, a couple mini marshmallows, and/or a quick drizzle of chocolate syrup. Except for the fruit, NONE of this is healthy haha, but as long as portion size is under control, it's alllll good. 🙂

So there you have it…would love to hear any and all of your favorite healthy snacks/meals/desserts!!

(very!) slow and steady…

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It's been a while since I blogged about my progress toward a healthier weight and lifestyle (and no, it's not nearly as dramatic as the photo above! ha!). You know the phrase, "Slow and steady wins the race"? Well in this case, it's been very slow and steady. As I've mentioned before, there are periods of time where life just gets in the way, and prioritizing time for exercise and energy to eat right just fall to the bottom of the list.

When Page left for a week earlier this month, an opportunity presented itself. For nine days straight, I had no one's schedule to work around except for my own, so I didn't miss a single workout, and I was able to solely focus on healthy meals based on my own cravings. It was an excellent kickstart to get me back on track. I'm happy to say I've only fluctuated a pound or two since hitting my 2010 low earlier this spring, but there is still much progress to be made and I needed to get the momentum flowing yet again.

I will say this – all the rain we've been getting hasn't helped! I've been aiming to get out and walk for a mere 30 minutes over my lunch hour 2-3 times a week. I don't count it as a workout, just a way to move more throughout the day, given I work at a desk job. I don't even break much of a sweat (unless it's really hot!) – I just stroll through the neighborhoods around our office and try to burn an extra 100 calories. As I said, the rain has been dampening my plans more often than I'd like, but I'm trying to stick to this nonetheless! For me, it's less about the eating, and much more about moving.

Here are some of the things I've found it easiest to stick with and that I'm really enjoying:

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I'm working really hard on changing my running form after picking up the book Chi Running. The changes are so small but when you combine them all together, running really does FEEL different – less effort and less pain – glorious. I'm working on everything from forward lean to picking up my feet instead of pushing off of them – all slight modifications that take pressure off the shins and knees – two common ailments of "typical" running. I've never been in track or had a coach watch my form or teach me a proper way to run, so this is all new to me! The bummer part of retraining yourself to run is that you start alllllll the way back at the beginning. As in, run for two minutes, walk for a minute, repeat, repeat, repeat. Fortunately that is only the routine for a couple of weeks then I can start spreading out the increments a bit. I still manage to end each run/walk session drenched, so I must be doing something right!


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Yoga has been one of the best things I've incorporated in the past year. Excellent for meditation, strength, flexibility, and ultimately, relaxation. A sixty minute class flies by and leaves you nice and sweaty. Love, love, love it! If you haven't tried a class before, look it up in your area, invest in a ten dollar mat from Target, and give it a whirl! Guys – don't write this off as a girly activity. I watched this huge, built guy at our gym the other day nearly fall out of a pose his muscles were shaking so badly. Make no mistake…yoga = hardcore!

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One of my new favorite workout additions is the Bender Ball (yes, as seen on TV!). It's this simple little green ball (similar to a child's toy you could buy for a dollar at the store) that you either place behind your back, between your knees, or under your butt when you do crunches, along with a bunch of other exercises. It comes with three DVDs of short workouts to engage all parts of your ab muscles. I love doing the range of exercises with the support of the ball – much less neck pain than regular crunches, and more entertaining. I've made it a routine to do the DVD after a run – the longest workout takes about 16 minutes and you can FEEL the burn!

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A good way to mix up the workouts is to incorporate this DVD, The 30 Day Shred with Jillian Michaels of The Biggest Loser. The workout is a mere 25 minutes but will have you sweating in no time. With three levels of workouts, you get plenty of bang for your buck (yes, I'm still on Level 1 by the way!). The workouts are i-n-t-e-n-s-e and involve some light weights, cardio and ab work. She drives me a little crazy, and I know there are entire followings of people who ONLY do this workout, every day, and have seen results. For me, that's just too much Jillian and variety is key for me, so this just happens to be a once-a-week, mix-it-up option for me on days when I would rather work out at home then go to the gym.

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Which brings me to my gym. When I look back at when I was in my best shape, it was when I had access to, and regularly visited, a gym facility. It's different for everyone, but for me, I love that I have a place I can physically go and block out all other distractions. I like being surrounded by others with health goals. I like being able to focus. I know some people get nervous about going to a gym because they think it will be all hard body marathon runners…believe me, you see all body types and ability levels!

At home, it's easy to get sucked into email, phone calls, the doorbell ringing, a TV show, etc, etc. I like that I can block out time to come here and be 100% committed to a workout. There's something about changing location that signals to my brain, "it's workout time now, get serious!". Rather than invest in one piece of equipment for our home, I like that I have every kind of cardio or weight machine I could ask for at my fingertips, depending on what I'm in the mood to do, with a track for indoor running (used frequently with all the rain and heat lately!) and also a great lap pool for swimming. (For those in the DSM area, check out Prairie Life on Mills Civic – the staff, equipment, and classes offered are all awesome!)

So there are my favorite workouts – would love to hear some of yours! After reading about another blogger's progress recently, I decided to record my current measurements (arms, waist, hips, thighs) so I have more numbers to track in addition to just the number on the scale, which can fluctuate for a number of reasons. Looking forward to watching these numbers get smaller! In the meantime, the progress continues… 🙂

kitchen: a breath of fresh (summer) air

When we moved into our townhouse early last spring, our kitchen looked like this:

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Aside from taking out a hideous flourescent light and replacing it with a more standard fixture, we didn't do much.

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Filling it with our favorite pieces made it warmer, but it's hard to be a renter sometimes…you can't justify making any structural improvements to your living space because you won't reap any financial rewards when you move out. You have to get creative, and make improvements that you can take with you when you leave.

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If I could magically make the changes to the kitchen at the top of my wish list, they would be:

1. Deeper/taller cabinets, or more of them (or both!)

2. Different flooring – the tile has a nasty peachy-colored tint to it and is always FREEZING.

3. Molding/accents – I hate that there is no backsplash tile, or something comparable, behind the counters and that there is no crown molding anywhere along the tops of the cabinets, or where the ceiling meets the walls. A little visual interest would be nice.

Okay, okay. Enough griping. One day, we will take the leap and buy a home that we can make any changes as we like. For now, we remain renters and overall I can't complain. Our kitchen DID get a facelift last fall when our fabulous landlord, prompted by a faulty stovetop, decided to replace all of our appliances with stainless steel versions. (Score.) A new faucet/sprayer soon followed. With these updates, some splashes of color, and some inspired organization, our updated kitchen now looks like this:


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We've been renting here for more than a year, and married (with all the registry stuff we – gratefully! – acquired) for almost three. In that time, I like to think I've figured out some tips and tricks to make a full-service kitchen for two FIT into a tiny renter's space. I realize that none of this is earth-shattering, it's just a short list of some things that happen to work for us – two food lovers in a very cramped kitchen! I present to you, the fruits of organizational labor…

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Kitchen Re-Org 2010!

PANTRY:

I started by pulling every last item out of our pantry, scaling back a
bit, and moving (most) of it back in, organized by frequency of use.

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Why this works for us: Canned goods that I use on a frequent basis are right at eye level, with all labels facing forward, to quickly find what I need – or, what needs to be restocked. Our stash of cereals and pastas is right below it, also in plain sight. Appliances we couldn't do without, but don't need to look at all the time, are nearest the entry (panini grill, quesadilla maker). All other entertaining items – platters, crock pots, serving bowls, pitchers – are within reach without being in the way of more frequently used pieces.

GARBAGE & RECYCLING:

We briefly tried to use an under-the-sink smaller garbage can (I
would LOVE to have garbage out of sight). However, the plumbing under
the sink doesn't allow a decent-sized bin to fit underneath, and there
was nowhere to put recycling. Also, with so few cupboards as it was, we
needed every square inch for storage, not trash.

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Why this works for us: We bought black containers to blend in
with the fridge as much as possible. This is also a hard-to see corner
from most spots in the kitchen, so it was the best "out in the open
hiding place" for trash. The larger can holds garbage items, the smaller
holds recycling. Having one RIGHT next to the other has really helped
us step up the green thing – it's effortless to recycle when the option
is right there.

REFRIGERATOR:

As you can see in the photo above, we keep all family and friend
"fridge" items on the side of our fridge. We can see them when we come
in from the garage, but from most spots in the kitchen, they are invisible, keeping the front of the fridge clean and uncluttered. On the opposite side of the fridge we keep a calculator and checklist for grocery shopping trips. As soon as we run out of a staple item, we check it on the list to ensure we pick it up next time we're out.

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I realize that the fridge we have is indeed a standard size, and yes, it probably seems downright greedy, but I can't WAIT for the day when we can fit an XL one with double doors and maximum visibility! It's so easy to lose track of things way in the back, and bending over to hunt for something that has gone missing is not exactly easy. I've tried to make the best of it by giving certain always-on-hand items a "home spot" in the fridge (in other words, these items never move) and using typical cupboard organizational items inside the fridge.

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Why this works for us: A lazy susan keeps a lot of short-expiration items all in one spot and easily visible so nothing rolls to the back to expire and be discovered six months later. (Ewww!) Veggies have their own space (nothing else allowed) in the crisping drawer to max out their shelf life. Same with meats. Anything we have multiples of (bottles of beer, egg beaters, etc) are lined up in a single row (earliest expiration date at the front to latest date in the back) so it's easy to grab one and go. If it's a sauce or condiment of any kind, it stays corralled in the door shelf. Any and all leftovers are stacked in clear glass containers for easy identification and to keep the overall appearance of the fridge looking clean and tidy.

COUNTER SPACE:

In a small kitchen, counter space is at a premium. If you do ANY amount of cooking, you know you need some space for food prep if you're going to keep your sanity. We recently added this red hutch which offers, among other things, a secondary place to set things during meal prep. It also allowed me to clear a couple of existing things off our counter, and into the nearby three additional drawers!

 

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Why this works for us: Adding three extra drawers allowed us to spread out some of the things that were jam-packed into the too-few drawers we already had. Also, it may not be "counter" space, but I was able to fit all of our wine glasses PLUS all of our champagne glasses, which had been taking up surface space on a hutch near the kitchen table. A couple of frequent-use serving pieces rest on top within easy reach as dishes are ready for the table.

RECIPE BINDER:

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Another method by which we've condensed our kitchen stuff is by selling all of our cookbooks. We received some as wedding gifts, and I've collected just as many if not more on clearance tables at Barnes & Noble since graduating college.

The kicker? Each three-pound hardcover book housed maybe a half-dozen recipes we loved and repeated more than once. Take that book times twenty, and you have a lot of space and weight for a few dozen recipes. What's more, I'd think of a recipe and then go through every SINGLE book, not remembering which one housed the directions for the dish I wanted to cook. So I got to work scanning pages out of the books and copying down others, compiling everything in a three-ring binder. One thinner binder for everything dessert, and a larger binder for every other course. 8.5×11 page protectors for anything torn out of a magazine, and divided 4×6 slot photo protector pages to hold recipe cards. Suddenly the 100+ lbs of bulky books were scaled down to two 1" and 2" binders.

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(Don't you love the collection of cards you acquire as you receive recipes from different family members and friends?)

Why this works for us: I love having only the recipes we love on hand, organized by category/course instead of searching through endless bulky books. Anything that originally came with a photo has a scanned copy included, so I didn't lose any visual guidance, either! For ongoing recipe collection, each tabbed category from appetizers to beverages has a folder to hold cards from friends, or pages I tear out of magazines. If I don't have time to file them right away, they simply wait here in the meantime. If we save a recipe, make it and decide against it, I remove it from the binder right then so there's no confusion and only the dishes we love remain. This binder helped us to seriously condense our cookbooks, but is also seriously easy to use!

So there you have it…the tour de Smith kitchen. 🙂 If you have any small cucina tips to share, please post them – I'm always looking for new ideas!

Happy weekend!

jusssst wondering…

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…what this little black dresser (in desperate need of a new coat of paint anyway)…

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…would look like in a funky asparagus green color…hmmmm…..

This little dresser was my college nightstand and now has set up camp in the corner of our living room, serving as storage for our DVDs. The one constant color in this room, regardless of season or holiday, is green. Might be fun to try…I DO have all the paint supplies on hand now…

🙂

bathroom facelift.

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In the middle of the cold March "blahs" earlier this spring, I took a good hard look at the half bath off of our kitchen. This little room is the product of much repurposing – a set of sage and celery towels that were wedding gifts (back before I had learned you can appease both gender tastes AND still use color), and some somewhat random picture frames that all came to find a home in this bathroom.

I don't have much for the before photos, but here is a small glimpse. Opposite the wall you see here is a small white beadboard-style hutch that holds extra washcloths, TP, etc. On the wall behind the door hung a larger frame (you can just see the corner of it, sitting on the countertop) with one of our many wedding proofs. Overall, a mix of pewter, silver and charcoal metals, and various shades of khaki, sage and spruce….yes, a little dull and lifeless.

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To start, I knew I liked the idea of green, just more of it, and in a punchier shade. I scored some kelly green Lacoste towels at TJ's, which I knew would be a hit with my other half. This initial purchase set the tone for the room – clean, crisp and preppy. We rent, so I avoided changing the wall color simply because I didn't want the extra work of painting it back someday. I also decided that while I would maybe prefer a white wastebasket and accessories, that I could be frugal and make this pewter set we already had work just as well (adding a couple coordinating pieces to finish out the set).

I knew I wanted to lose the plate rack and the dark frames, and replace it with one bigger piece with a collage of photos. I originally wanted to try something similar to this photo project but in the end I decided to repaint a black collage frame that had been sitting in storage, to white — a project I finally got to this past weekend, armed with some new photos I wanted to display.

I challenged myself to do everything for under seventy-five bucks – and am pleased to say I just barely made it. Nothing major here at all, just a minor lift and tuck…

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Perhaps my favorite little detail is a shadowbox project inspired by the kids over at Young House Love. The idea is to document all the places you've lived together with a key. I had bookmarked this and stuck it in my "to make" folder of ideas, and pulled it back out when I recently happened upon the perfect shadowbox. Already white and lined with a taupe linen, it wasn't too girly, and the perfect size to hang above the white cabinet. We've only lived in three homes together thus far, and I actually cheated with a stunt key for our Evanston apartment (you do what you gotta do!) At the last minute, I decided to include the key from my first
post-college apartment in Charlotte from when Page was finishing school –
we practically lived together there as well, and it was the place where
he proposed. 🙂 I'm looking forward to rearranging and adding more keys as our married life unfolds in the coming years.

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(click on any photo to view larger)

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(And yes, I climbed up ON the sink to be able to get this opposite wall. Tiny rooms pose interesting photo challenges!)

Thanks for stopping by to check out the facelift! 🙂

summer means…

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Delicious seafood splurges…


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Warm breeze convertible rides…(sans makeup)….

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…(often ending at this destination)…

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…and lots of play time at the pool.

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Hope you are enjoying yours as much as we are enjoying ours.

Happy Summer! 🙂