Holiday Thoughts

December 27, 2010

This year, my husband and I decided (before my grandfather’s death) that we would not be travelling for the holidays. Every year, in the 13 years we have been together, we have driven all over to please relatives. Sometimes this meant traversing both California and Nevada. Battling holiday traffic and navigating winter weather (okay, I know our weather is nothing compared to other areas of the world) and putting up with family drama is just not the kind of “relaxation” I want to do during my limited time off.

So the foot was put down, and the families dealt with it. And we did everything (mostly nothing) we wanted. We spent time with neighbors and at hockey. (And of course each other.) Just the perfect time off! Because it was just us, the pressure to participate in excess was much lower. I think we’ve started a new tradition.

And for the new year: I’ve already begun to purge! I’ve pulled two trash bags of clothing from my closet to either garage sale or donate. We spent several hours going though paperwork and magazines and tossing away! It feels so good to dump all this stuff. I want to continue working on this at least one day each week. (Not the whole day, just a little bit at the minimum.)

Also for the new year, I want to be healthier. This includes eating at home more and exercising more. It also includes keeping the house tidier and cleaner. Not that we live in a hovel… but we definitely have room to improve. And this will keep us in a better place mentally, plus it will be nice to open our home to friends. I think the focus of simplification remains… We did well with not bringing more clutter into the home in the form of Christmas gifts, so I call that a win!

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If it’s not one thing…

July 15, 2010

…then it’s another.

We got our wall knocked down (still need to do some more work on it – mudding, sanding, painting, etc.). It looks great! I love the open feel. I also got my kitchen counter tiles cut & glued back on. Well, when I say I “got” them done, I did it, with some help from MIL. Next step is grout. Turns out we got the wrong grout color. Thankfully I realized this before I started applying it!

Then, we realize our oven isn’t working. WTF? It’s one of the little in-wall jobs. Only like 24 inches. Not easy to find. Oh, and a while back the door on our ice chute quit opening. So if you don’t stick your finger up the hole to hold the door open, the ice doesn’t come down. Key problem here is that it will eventually come down when there’s enough backed up pushing it out. Hubby seemed to  think that worked just fine. Until the ice melted & refroze into a solid block in the chute. NOT FUN!

So, I called out an appliance repair guy. The part for the oven (let’s call it the brain) has been discontinued. Seriously? The freakin thing is only 10 years old!! The part for the fridge is only $15. Labor is $69. But I’m stuck, so I tell him to get the part & come back. He also says he can find basically an aftermarket part for the oven. It will run between $300-375 to fix including labor. Well, this is AT LEAST halfway to a new oven. Thing is, I don’t want a separate oven & cooktop. I have three sections of counter top that are about 1 foot max. If I could get rid of the cooktop, I would gain another 36″ of counter, PLUS the area on either side.

My quandary now is what kind of range to get? I REALLY REALLY REALLY want a smooth top. That means electric. Of course, the kitchen is not set up for electric. We have plans to completely remodel the kitchen in the next few years. So, do I cheap out now & buy new then? Or do I just get what I want now and make sure it will work in the grand plan? I was leaning towards the latter, but the choices for electric ranges are slim. Sure you can find them online, but you don’t have a clue about what they REALLY look like. And all the stores charge a 25% restocking fee if you return it because you don’t like it. (I understand it costs them money to return, but how am I supposed to know how the racks slide? What the configuration is? How the door opens? All with just a photo – that is a thumbnail no less – to base my decision?)

The only one I could actually see was an Electrolux (you know, Kelly Ripa’s brand? LOL) and it was $3000. Before tax, delivery & extended warranty. The least expensive I could find online is $1200. If I just went with a freestanding gas model, I could probably get away under $1000. We’re fortunate to have a Sears outlet (scratch & dent) nearby, and I have the time to shop it daily if I have to. But they don’t even CARRY the electric models I want, so the chances of them getting a return is pretty darned slim.

Oh, and part of the reason I just want to get a new range is because the grates on my cooktop are basically destroyed. I called to see about replacing them (all four, because they are junk) and they want…. drumroll…. $95. EACH. I asked the guy if they were gold-plated. Or at the very least, self-cleaning. Unfortunately, neither.

Damn. I just need to win the freaking lottery.


The Program

July 8, 2010

*Just a note to say that I don’t get anything monetary from referrals to either the Break Free program or Saving Dinner. Just the satisfaction in knowing that it will help more people become healthier!

Okay, a few have asked about this diet program I’m on. It’s kind of a diet, but more of a “lifestyle change” – if I can say that without sounding too cliché. It’s called Break Free Boot Camp (BFBC). Some of the description sounds like a high pressure sales pitch. The only reason I trusted it is because I’ve followed Leanne Ely for years. She is the “Dinner Diva” and author of Saving Dinner among other books. She has a service where she puts together meal plans weekly, and includes recipes as well as the shopping list. I have used this service off and on for a while and 99% of the time, liked the food. I know she’s good about making healthful choices and still yummy meals.

What reeled me in was knowing I was totally addicted to certain foods. Coffeemate for example. That’s nothing but chemicals. And I used a lot of it. Wonder what that does to you over years? Eww. Also, I have been having some mild but annoying GI issues (think of the “Idiot’s Day In Church“). Okay, maybe not THAT bad! But more annoyingly, I have been having sinus/allergy issues that more often than not lead to migraines. Migraines lead to ingesting more chemicals or projectile vomiting. Sometimes both. This program (and other research I saw) says that food sensitivities can be blamed in most cases for both of my issues. Not to mention trouble sleeping and lack of energy. Plus, I knew I was eating like crap and a change had to happen. NOW. I was the heaviest I’d ever been in my life. I looked at weight loss as inevitable due to a change in eating (and having more energy), so that wasn’t my focus. However, it IS the most measurable result in a tangible sort of way.

BFBC is run by Leanne (who by the way is a Certified Nutritionist) and JJ Virgin, whom I’d never heard of before. It seems JJ is a celebrity nutrition expert and has worked with Gene Simmons among others. Whatever. She really knows the science behind food and how our bodies use it. She is a very good speaker and salesperson though, and just so you know, she’s got a whole store full of products she recommends. Not sure if they are HER products or what. I didn’t order anything yet, but I do have a gift certificate for signing up early. For me, the product pushing bordered on annoying. I suppose if the products are that good, then no big deal. I guess almost all of the participants bought stuff and from what I saw, everyone seemed happy with it.

Anyway, the idea is that you go through 28 days by removing gluten, eggs, dairy, soy and peanuts. This of course includes anything genetically modified and un-organic. High fructose corn syrup is the devil. The meals do tend to the spicy side, which made hubby happy and me quite sad. There is a forum (on Ning.com) allowing you to pose questions and converse with others in the program. Since that will be going away, we started a Facebook group so we could all stay in touch.

Following the 28 days, you re-introduce foods one at a time. For example, next week, I will reintroduce dairy. Start with a small serving (like greek yogurt) and see what happens. If nothing, continue for a few days and then leave it out for a few days. Nothing? Dairy is OK! Of course there’s more to it than this, but I can’t spill the beans for the whole program! (It wasn’t cheap, either. And hubby knew better than to ask.) And then the following week, you add another food, etc. If you find one that makes you feel explosive (in a bad way) then, Houston, we’ve got a problem. I love eggs and dairy and wheat, so I’m praying I don’t have issues with those. I could probably live without soy – or minimal soy. I don’t like any soy products like soy cheese, soy milk, soy burgers, etc. so that won’t be a problem. And peanuts – I could go either way. I guess we’ll see.

I feel like this program has been worth the money. Now, if you don’t need the classes (four total, plus other handouts) and the forum/access to wellness coaches, you can get a 28 Day Break Free menu from Leanne for under $30. I am considering doing this for my next four weeks while I add things back in. Oh, and if you don’t like chicken, prepare to learn to like it. And brace yourself for the expense in changing from conventional to organic foods. However, I compared this to my inability to get things done around the house and the expense of eating out as much as we did, and so far, it’s about a wash. The winter will be harder, because there aren’t as many veggie choices, but I am fortunate to live in SoCal where so many things are available year round. I couldn’t imagine doing this in England or something. Yuck.

I’m not going to kid you. It’s hard the first week. I had pretty bad headaches and was kind of cranky. I had some nasty cravings. I chalked it all up to detoxing, which basically it was. I have many fewer headaches now and the GI front is pretty quiet. I’ve only had one craving (thanks hormones) and that was satisfied with an ounce of dark chocolate. (Allowed, by the way.) So this program may just work!!

Soybean GMO info: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/07/08/genetically-engineered-soybeans-may-cause-allergies.aspx?aid=CD945

Other GMO info: http://www.nongmoshoppingguide.com/documentFiles/209.pdf


The Big 15

July 7, 2010

Yep – you guessed it! I’ve officially lost OVER 15 pounds. IN THREE WEEKS.

Before you go all “two pounds a week is the maximum amount to lose safely” on me, I can assure you, this is safe.

Since excercise wasn’t involved (um, what IS that anyway), this is all food related. Since I became jobless over nine months ago, I never realized how much I grazed. I knew I had a problem when I was buying a tub of frosting a week. No cake mix, just frosting. That was all I needed. Oh, and a spoon too. Add to that, eating out in drive throughs and pasta places and you’ve got a fat ass that’s growing.

I’ve written a bit about this diet when I first started. Unlike Weight Watchers (which I’ve done multiple times), I’m not COMPLETELY food obsessed. Just kind of. Because this program is all fresh and organic, and eliminated dairy, soy, gluten, eggs, peanuts and anything “GMO”, it’s been a challenge to find all the necessary ingredients. It’s enlightening to realize how much of our food is genetically altered and how random things can contain other random ingredients. Yellow mustard often contains gluten, as does some vinegars (red wine/balsamic).

So anyway, hubby has lost five pounds. He has not been strict on this diet (he eats whatever he wants for lunch and if we are out). And I can’t believe it, but I lost 15 FREAKING POUNDS. My energy is up, my skin looks good (thanks to this and Proactiv), my nails are growing like mad, and I’m not bloated or gassy. (You’d think gas would be an issue with all the beans and veggies, but it’s not!) We eat smoothies for breakfast (sometimes lunch too) and “square” meals for lunch & dinner. We have a “lean, clean protein”, a starch like brown rice, quinoa, lentils, etc. and tons of veggies. Thank GOD wine is allowed! The “rule” is 4 oz. per day. I call bullshit and drink what I want. It’s my only treat.

I think the lesson is moderation. That and to not use meat and starch as the main ingredient in meals. Oh, and the limits on wine – probably mostly to do with the carefree nature that comes along with drinking. I can’t believe my willpower – I haven’t cheated even ONCE. And I’ve had some of my favorite things (home-made from scratch chocolate cake, breakfast – french toast, pancakes, eggs, etc., peaches with brown sugar just asking to turn into cobbler, ice cream, freshly baked bread, and more) all tempting me – mostly from within my own kitchen.

The point of this whole excercise is not to lose weight, but that is a happy side effect. The point is to detox from the forbidden items, and then gauge reactions when they are added back in (one at a time, over the course of a week each). I’ve had some sinus/congestion issues that have been bad, along with a lack of energy and poor mood. It will be interesting to see if any of these are to blame!

We’ve eaten out a few times – especially since my kitchen was out of commission much of the holiday weekend. From Del Taco, I got three burger patties (they aren’t that big) and threw veggies on them. From Subway I got a salad. From CoCo’s I got a steak and a ton of veggies. I was the dork that brought her own dressing in her purse. I learned the importance when I was stuck in L.A. and had to use only lemons to “dress” my salad. Everything else was contraband.  While the burger patties were probably not a good choice (fried I’m sure, and too much meat) I did the best I could with the options at hand. And that’s all I can ask of myself, right?


Simplification: Check-In #2

June 22, 2010

It’s been a long while since my last check-in. What’s been going on?

  • Haven’t touched my sewing machine.  FAIL! I have, however moved it from the middle of the kitchen table to my nice guest room. (No, I do not expect guests to sew for me.)
  • I have been cooking more! Well, considering my diet, I kinda have to or I would starve! I have lost 11 pounds in less than two weeks. When I think about that, it’s kind of embarrassing because it just goes to show how terrible all the processed crap & fast food really are for you!
  • Less daytime TV – Check! More movement: FAIL.
  • Little chores: PROGRESS… Thanks to Flylady, I’m getting some basic stuff done (making the bed, keeping the kitchen sink shiny, etc.)
  • Remembering my reuseable grocery bags: I’m ROCKIN’ this one!! At Trader Joe’s, they give you a raffle ticket for a gift card drawing, and at Whole Foods, they give you a nickel off per bag. Little rewards are nice!
  • Clearing clutter: a little progress.
  • Gardening: my front planter box remains weed free and my container veggies remain alive. Yahoo!
  • Purchasing less: unless it pertains to something edible, or something to improve our house, I’m killing it!
  • Doing stuff that’s FUN: Check! I’ve seen one of my very favorite performers (twice) and have been taking walks with my borrowed doggies. Also, it’s been fun working with hubby on the house – kind of a bonding experience. We’re actually becoming quite a team when he’s more patient with whatever’s not going right, and as long as I don’t take his comments personally (they’re always directed at whatever isn’t working or himself anyway).

What are you doing/have you done to simplify your life? Are you struggling with any of the things I am? How are you decluttering your life?


So far, so good.

June 16, 2010

Yum, what a dinner!

We’re working on Day Three of this crazy food plan. Hubby decided he’d participate Monday morning. Gee – thanks for the head’s up, pal! I sent him off to work with the first smoothie, and I made a second for me. He calls me, not two minutes after he leaves, to ask if there was garlic in the berry smoothie. Yeah, it was pretty gnarly. But we both sucked it up, so to speak.  Lunch consisted of a huge salad and some chicken with veggies. Dinner was salmon with veggies and salad. So far, with the exception of the smoothie, the food tasted good (not crazy about the salmon but that’s because it was salmon) and I was pretty full. One of the ideas is to limit snacking so the body goes into fat burning mode. I found I wanted sweets or something crunchy mostly out of boredom.

Day two rolls around and we’re supposed to have leftovers for lunch, except when it’s fish. (Fish only every fourth day – which is great because I HATE re-heated fish.) Or a smoothie. Since it was just me for dinner, I opted to keep the leftovers from lunch yesterday for dinner and just have a smoothie. Popped that in a skillet and gather some salad and I’m good. Added some almond butter to the smoothie and blended it longer – that made a huge difference! Still not happy about my coffee situation because, basically, it tastes like a car tire. This is even with some coconut milk and xylitol for sweetener. Oh, because I had the smoothie for lunch I ate dinner early. I was dying for something to eat around 7:30 so I had a green apple with almond butter. NUMMY. That snack is a keeper no matter what.  And believe it or not, it satisfied my craving for sweet. I guess natural sugars as found in fruit are ok as long as they are in moderation and eaten along with some protein and healthy fat. BONUS: I got to have wine! Wine is allowed – but only at 4 oz a day, and not the sweet stuff. It was amazing – the wine tasted better than it ever has, and since I used a different glass, I didn’t feel like I wasn’t getting a full serving. HAPPY HAPPY

Day three and I’m ready to attack my coffee with Stevia. Made all the difference in the world! Plus I used a bit more coconut milk. And now for the smoothie, I realized I can add a tsp of local honey to help with my allergies and give it a little sweet. Add FRESH berries instead of frozen and – wahoo – I’m in business! I liked it so much that I made one for lunch too! Breakfast was raspberries and lunch was blueberries. Dinner is some sort of asian stir fry with beef. We’ll see how that goes, but I’m optimistic!

The biggest bummer is that I have a terrible headache and am very lethargic. I honestly believe this is a little bit because I didn’t have my regular two cups of coffee (it was so ick) until today and plus I’m basically going through withdrawals for white stuff like sugar and carbs. And trying to get in as much water as I can means lots of excercise to the bathroom! lol


Yay for me!

May 25, 2010

Yippee! I got new dishes!

My mother-in-law asked what I wanted for my birthday (in March) and I told her that I wanted to replace a few bowls from my (hand-me-down) corelle set. Trouble is, the pattern has been discontinued probably longer than I have been alive. However, the outlet stores usually have open stock pieces that will match. She couldn’t find any over the last couple months.

She realized, perhaps with a tidbit from my sister-in-law, that I never actually picked the dishes. They came with the marriage. And since there was “service” for about 4,000, I couldn’t justify getting rid of it (plus the fact that the set had belonged to her mother, who unfortunately passed away in her early 50’s). Besides, I can’t complain about something that was free, and perfectly fine.  So she asked if I’d like to pick out a new set? OMG YES!!! The idea was to go to the outlet store about 2 hours away, but it seems the corelle store left that mall. That left one nearly 3 hours away. Well, for the money savings, that much driving didn’t seem to be worth the trouble. Off to Wal-mart, K-Mart, Kohls and any other place we could think of.

After spending a day zig zagging around the county, I settled on this set. We also picked up some open stock pieces like a square serving bowl, a round one, a few soup/pasta bowls and a funny rectangular flat dish. Oh and a couple platters too. (Note to self – must pick up more platters before fall holidays.) Why platters you ask? Because a big ass dinner plate just won’t hold all the food at special occasions! lol

We packed up the old stuff (except my cat’s breakfast saucers) and it was then that I realized she had an ulterior motive. There’s a man at her church that her daughter has befriended. Evidently, he has been divorced for many years and was laid off from is banking job some time ago. He made dinner for my sister-in-law, but didn’t have any dishes. Well, that’s an exaggeration. Dinner was for three people and he had only two plates. He ate off a pie plate. My MIL wants to give him the old set. In a way it surprises me because of the sentimental value. I’m all for it. I suppose she thought about it and realized that it won’t do anyone any good in a box in the garage – why not give it to this guy who cooks?

I’m happy to know that they’re going to a good home, and I’m really excited for my new set! Hubby doesn’t get why I’m excited, but hey, who cares?