Friday, October 31, 2014

Um Waldo, Excuse Me But...

Where the heck have you been?!

Sorry guys, I kinda forgot to let you know I was having surgery last week.  I've been in the hospital and recovering and only just got the chance to sit down at the blog.  Sorry about that.  Hopefully you haven't given up on my completely, because in my down time (read: bored out of mind) I thought of a couple good topics to chat with you about.

I won't be writing about them today, sadly, because I need to get everything else in my life back up to speed but I may break my rule and write a Monday post to get the ball rolling again.

Thanks for being paitent and in case you were wondering, everything went fine and I seem to be recovering well.  The hubby is amazing and has really taken excellent care of me.   He was most frustrated in the hospital because there was so little he could do but watch me be in pain, etc.

Have a fabulous weekend and don't eat too much candy!!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Alert Post: Today only fare sale from Virgin Atlantic!

Go to the site!  From select cities until midnight tonight, they are selling one way fares for $47 each (which means round trip for $100 bucks, right?) 

I gain nothing from this post except the pleasure of knowing you might get an awesome deal to see some of the world (or at least the country)!


The Master Bedroom: From Storyboard to Reality

So, you'll remember me telling you that I design by using multiple techniques.  First, I figure out what style or look I'm going for, then I pick a color palette, and lastly I pull together a board of images that will create the look I want.

First example:  Master Bedroom

It's going to be our retreat and haven.  (Hey, there are kids in our house - no judging)  Most of our house will include our wedding palette in some form (dark magenta, peacock blue, and pale gold) but there are lots of gray tones, rich plums, champagnes, bronze, rich greens and aged woods as well.  The more powerful colors will be used judiciously, while the overall feel of the house should be soothing comfort and relaxation.

Ok - so ready for the reveal?  Tada!
Now you should know it took me months to pull this together - and even now there's still a mix of ideas on one page that have to be narrowed down - but I don't want to be too exacting unless it's something I am unwilling to negotiate.  Like the tufted wingback bed (check!) or the plum walls (check!).  The bedroom tables I have found are a curious mix of the idea tables.  The rug is, as of yet, undiscovered and the curtains are unmade.  But they will happen!  The nice thing about the board is that it reins me in when I see something shiny that distracts me, but gives me parameters I can wiggle in without compromising anything.  You'll notice the lack of lighting here?
That's a discussion my husband and I are still having.  He really likes having the fan (which I made him move from downstairs and it took a lot of work) in the bedroom.  I personally don't need it.  I want a chandelier.  The light will hang over the end of the bed.
We'll see, but in the interim - what do you think?  My goal is to have this room mostly together by the end of November.  However because I'm cheap unwilling to waste a dollar, I keep looking for the best deals that fit my vision!  I can't wait to take pictures of the final product for you.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Post Catchup

So last week, the wheels fell off the bus.  There was a death of a friend that took us all by total surprise, preparation for a medical procedure this week (I'll be away from the 23-27th, but I'll try to get an intermittent post or two up), and lots of research for the DIY posts I have on the horizon.

So - you know, life totally got in the way of my posting!

There will be a couple goodies tomorrow and Wednesday, so look out for those, but otherwise -

Happy Monday!!

PS:  If you haven't already gone over, check out the Sunday Sweets on Cakewrecks, they are gorgeous and gothic and inspiring!

Also, if you're a person that likes to decorate cakes (like me) check out this link: where they have a free buttercream course.  Even if you've been doing it for years, why not learn some more tricks, right? 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Egg Drop Soup Recipe

So this is super simple, super low-calorie / fat / sugar / yada yada, and gluten free. I'm also giving you the single serving recipe, so double triple etc. as needed.

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube  OR
  • 2 cups chicken broth (either storebought or homemade)
  • 1 egg
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Sea Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Soy sauce (low sodium) - optional
  • Siracha sauce - optional
In a small saucepan, bring the water or broth to boil.  Add in garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper to taste.  In separate dish, beat the egg.  When water begins to boil, slowly pour in the beaten egg.  It will cook almost instantaneously.  I recommend tasting a bit of the liquid here in case you need to add in more seasoning.  Let it boil for 30 seconds, then reduce heat.  Add soy sauce and siracha to taste.

Pour in a bowl and enjoy!

This is a pretty fast and easy (and surprisingly filling) meal.  You can even do it at the office!  Boiling water and an egg along with some basic seasoning - yum!  The better your chicken broth or bouillon, the better your soup.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

How to travel the world, and not break the bank

I love traveling.  Everything about it - from the confusion of the airport to the bustle and noise of a foreign city to the soothing sounds of the country in some exotic location.  L.o.v.e.i.t.   Luckily I married a man who is learning to love to travel as well.

Funny thing is, I've never been super wealthy where I can travel first class and stay at 5 star resorts on a whim.  I long to visit Dubai, but it's one of the few places I haven't figured out how to visit on a budget.

Are you someone that wants to see the world?  Have a limited set of mean?  Then pay attention.

First things first, know the seasons in the place you want to go.  I am not talking about Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall but Peak, Non-Peak and Slow.   Because the rest of the world has cultures that differ from the US, you'll find that at times we are hopping with tourism, some places are pretty quiet.  Sometimes it means dealing with less events or perhaps less than ideal weather, but it can save you 50-90% on you trip in total if you time it wisely.   A key thing to remember: Some holidays are pertinant to Americans only - in another country, it's just a Tuesday.  You could go over a time when you already have a "day off" coming and save yourself some vacation time.

So, you've picked a place at a reasonable time of year.  Set up a farewatcher online to alert you to rises and falls in tickets from your airport to the destination and back.  With a little research, you can easily find out what the lowest tickets to certain regions are and plan for that in your budget.  For instance, you're not flying from Maryland to Japan for under $1000 without the help of frequent flyer miles and a possible miracle.  But you don't have to pay $3000 to sit in coach either.  Take advantage of discounts through your credit card, insurance, etc. when planning the tickets and lodging.  Be flexible with exact dates and nearby airports.  Being willing to drive an extra 20 minutes in another direction could save you hundreds.  Watch the price of gas, it will impact ticket prices.  Keep watch for package deals and programs.

So it's time to buy the tickets:  Know that the sweet spot for cheap tickets (if you're not picky about your seats or have more than 2 people traveling with you) is roughly 60-45 days before the trip if you're flying domestically.  If that makes you nervous, you can get them 6 months or so earlier, but you greatly risk paying a poor price.  The closer it gets, planes with seats sold but aren't empty want to fill up and sites that have repurchased tickets to sell at a "sale price" are interested in unloading as many as possible.  However, if you are within 2 weeks of the trip, you have waited too long.  These are the most expensive tickets that will sell.  They are for the last minute crowd.  It's almost like a punishment for poor planning.  Don't be that guy (or girl).  Check out this Huffington Post article for some more specific timelines for other country travel.  I agree wholeheartedly with the tips.  Also - make sure you're taking the trip and bypass the refundable tickets.  If anything, spring for the $40 insurance in case of an emergency derailing the plans, but otherwise - commit.  The ability to refund or change a ticket can double or triple the price you pay!  Timing - flying at off-peak hours, while inconvenient, are money savers.  Wee hours of the morning on a weekend (not a weekday, that's the commuter zone) or late at night on a weekday (not the weekend, that's the family travel zone) are great spots to find awesome deals.  Being flexible with your time is a plus.  I also, personally, like arriving in a new country in the morning.  It gives you time to put your things at the hotel (Even if you can't check in yet most places will hold your bags and deliver them to your room when it is ready and hostels often have lockers you can lock your things in until you can check in) and start to explore the city.  This tends to keep the jetlag in check.  Even if you come back and make an early night of it, you've already begun to reset your body to local time and not wasted a day of your trip resting.

OK, great - tickets are purchased, now where will I stay?  The question of lodging depends on 3 things:  Health, Planned Events, and Length of Stay

  • If you're pretty healthy and walking around or taking an extra 5 - 10 minutes to travel doesn't bother you, you'll find the suburbs of any major city to have cheaper lodging.  Look for convenient public transportation and grocery / restaurant / pharmacy availability.  If you're less healthy or have a chronic condition, that doesn't mean you can't have a great time.  Pick lodging near the best public transportation spot.  The larger station areas tend to be handicap accessible.  You may pay more for this area, but it's worth protecting your health.  Also, know where the hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies are in the place you're visiting.  I suggest buying a map and marking them ahead of time.  In an emergency, language barriers can slow you down when there is no time.  Also learn or write down phonetically key phrases, such as "I am a diabetic / hemophiliac / etc." so you can tell emergency personnel.  Let your hotel concierge or hostel staff know as well.  They can be a big help when you're unable to speak for yourself.
  • If you have planned events, keep your lodging within reasonable walking distance of the main events.  On the off chance you find yourself stranded after public transportation has ceased in an area, you want to be able to walk home in a reasonable amount of time.  In more rural areas, stay near a main thoroughfare so you can (at a minimum) find a cab or bus.  If you have no events, but want to see a lot of various attractions- stay near the point of main transportation.  You're going to be taking the subway or train everywhere anyway - why not stay near the airport or train station? Those lodgings tend to be much lower than the core city lodging.  Study the areas for the safest and most populated so you are never in jeopardy.  This changes with time, never assume because a place was pretty safe 5 years ago it still is today. 
  • As for length of stay, if you're going to be somewhere 4 days or more, try to find a place (hotel, hostel, B&B) with laundry facilities in it or nearby.  There's no reason to pack too many changes of clothing for an area you don't live in full-time.   No one will judge you for wearing the same pants or shirt twice - you're a visitor.  You can pack less and have more room for souvenirs and gifts if you pack judiciously and interchange outfits.  When picking a hotel or hostel - READ THE REVIEWS.  You'll notice I'm not recommending anything in particular because over time, places that were once great can change.  Check out the current reviews when choosing.  If you can read the other language, check out the local reviews especially to see what the natives think of the place.  Any place you book, call or email and confirm your reservation - then find a couple places that could be back up lodging in case something goes horribly wrong.  Write these down and keep the phone numbers with your travel documents.  Try not to pre-pay unless necessary - you may change your mind or itinerary and you can lose your money without sufficient notice.  Also - you may get there and not like the look of the place, which will leave you with one of your alternatives.  Some hostels have plans and will give you a discount for buying ahead of time from home - always look for a deal.  Also, don't fear a decent hostel.  You'll save money, it's like a B&B, and get to meet people from all over the world.

Now you have a way to get there and a place to stay - great.

This is where a budget is IMPORTANT.  Know how much you have left to spend.  Balance that against all the things you want to do and research packages and discounts.  Students get discounts almost globally, there are often discount packages for local attractions with public transportation packages, and if you're traveling to more than one country - research the cheapest way to travel.  You may be surprised!  If you lock in a certain amount you can / will spend and only bring that with you (or put it on an international pre-paid credit card) you won't find yourself over spending.

As for food, I recommend eating like the locals.  Pick one place to splurge on, but otherwise if you can eat fresh or from the local grocery - I'd recommend it.  Check out the local eating establishments in the neighborhood your lodging is in, there may be some amazing places right there.

Lastly, never buy the first souvenir you see.  Nor the second.  Or the third.  Wait until the day before you leave to go buy gifts and such.  Mark down places you visited and what you saw and the price.  You may see it for less elsewhere or find a better item in another shop or town. 

In 2006, I toured France for 3 weeks for under 2500 - including airfare, lodging, and an extra suitcase worth of gifts for my soon-to-be godchild.  I've flown to Japan for 1/3 the cost of my coworkers because I found a deal and shopped at midnight on Tuesday online.  My sister and I did a "broke girls" trip to Spain in 2008, including a commuter flight to Barcelona from Madrid for a measly $40 euro roundtrip for both of us.  In 2012, we enjoyed a luxurious 5-star honeymoon for a week in Cancun because of a timeshare deal a family member was able to offer and taking advantage of packages to visit the ruins and local entertainments - for well under $2000.  While times have change and the dollar and Euro fluctuate, these tips still seem to work.  My husband and I use them - hopefully you will find them useful as well.

Here's a site with some awesome additional ideas, check out Nomadic Matt and his travel hacking guide!


Progress Report: We have a bed!

We bought a bed months ago that has leaned against the wall because the closet system and boxes we needed to unpack into the closet were in the way.  The closet system is 90 percent complete and most of the boxes have been unpacked into it.  Last night we put together the gorgeous gray velvet wingback bed.  Well, mostly.

There were a few moments of griping and groaning along with stupid instructions that conflict.  We also opted to skip the very last step (mostly because we could not get the stupid supplied bolt to actually work) and decided the bed was sturdy enough. 

After a wonderful night's sleep, I find myself invigorated and want to work on the next project.  Which one... which one....

Who knows?  Who cares!  It's just really awesome to see things coming together in our bedroom.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Making Friends: Part 4 - Fin

So, I've been putting off posting this one because it's something I struggle with and it makes me sad.  I'm, at heart, a person who wants everything to have a happy ending.  That, however, is not reality.

Making Friends:  Part 4
Knowing when to walk away

Much like allergies, some people are just not good for others.  You may know someone that likes another very well but for you, it's the same as your allergy to mold or strawberries.  Nothing good ever comes of contact with them. 

If you come to that spot in a relationship, remember that the first step is always communication.  Make sure you understand what's really going on before making a decision.  Pay attention to the things that are unsaid as well as spoken.  Trust your gut.  Learning to recognize when a relationship is worth fighting for and when it's worth leaving is super important.  Here are some examples:

Person lies to you or about you:  Leave.  That's a form of abuse no one should tolerate.  Trust is one of those things that is not replaceable in a relationship.  If you think it was a mistake, they get a single "second-chance*" but if it happens again, leave.  It sucks, but it's the best thing for you.  This is all part of betrayal.  Like a spouse cheating on you, lying is an absolute disrespect to you and the relationship. 

*I will amend this one with the Christian charity I feel I must impart.  My father used to say, "Trust is the easiest thing to lose, but the hardest to regain."  It is rarely worth the considerable amount of time and energy you will need to expend to try again with someone you can't trust.  Not that it can't be done, but it's rarely simple.  Parents and children seem to do it best, but beyond that - it's a tough choice.  It requires the other person actively choosing to change themselves and demonstrating that at all turns.  In which case, you must decide to take that risk and stay on your own.

Person is unreliable:  Fight for them.  Unreliability tends to be a result of events ongoing in someone's life.  It's very often a sign of distress.  Find out why they aren't reliable any longer (assuming you didn't make friends with a flake in the first place) or if they generally have some habits they don't realize are off-putting.  Communication and contact can help with this.

Person is in crisis:  Depends.  If a person is depressed / alcoholic / on drugs / etc. (in crisis!) then the last thing they need is to be abandoned, but they do need honesty and boundaries.  If they are insistent on not taking control of their own life and making healthier choices, especially if their behavior is starting to spill into the lives of others (be it yours, their children, etc.), the first thing I could recommend would be intervention.   Here's the catch - intervention is the final chance.  If they reject it, flat out make the choice to continue on a destructive path, you have to distance yourself from them. You will still care but sticking around from that point is enabling, and that's not healthy for either of you.  This is especially difficult with spouses, family members, and children - I'm not going to lie, it it heart breaking, but you can't help anyone else if you're being drowned at the same time.

Person is drama:  Depends.  Do they know they are drama?  Can you tell them and know they will correct the behavior?  If yes, fight for them.  If no, leave.  It's that simple.  The best way I've heard it recently is, "You don't have to be in their movie."  You have your own life film going on, don't let them change the plot.

Person is negative:  Fight for them.  So, here's a tricky one.  The best way to fight for someone overly negative is to tell them and explain you won't be around it.  Distance yourself from them, but don't leave altogether.  Limit your contact.  Contol the interactions.  Leave when negative speech or behavior begins - immediately and without apology, though you should explain you don't enjoy being around the negativity so you'll see them later.  Negativity is a bad habit - like biting your nails - but you can control it.  You just have to want to control it, and usually realizing you're pushing loved ones away is enough of a catalyst.

Person is dangerous:  Leave.  Whether you're dealing with an abusive spouse or a member of a gang - if they are endangering you or your loved ones, leave.  There is a time to negotiate and give second chances, but this isn't one of them.  Broken and dead are states no relationship should leave you in - end of story.

If you find yourself having to walk away, say your farewells and explain but don't apologize for making a healthy choice for yourself.  You're going to mourn the loss if the relationship was real and valuable to you, but you'll find yourself happier and with space for more love and joy going forward.

Recently, I've had to evaluate some relationships I value a lot.  It's difficult because no one wants to hurt or cause hurt, but I have to do what's best for me and my family in the end.  The final decision isn't made yet, because communication hasn't happened.  But in the end, I know that I have amazing support in the others in my life - and tomorrow, God willing, the sun will shine.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Style storyboards: Creating you through design

I’ve done a segment or two on color before, but as I put my home together, I find myself returning time and again to my mental storyboard.  In the design world, whether it’s fashion, interior or graphic, we work with mood boards and storyboards as a way of life.
For instance, if you go to my Houzz ideabooks, you’ll see a lot of the same sorts of influences.  Vibrant and interesting gardens with texture woven throughout and useful features in every nook and cranny surround a surprisingly sedate home (on the outside).  I believe the contrasts and illusion in design are the most compelling.

So, for fun, I thought I would share how I created my home’s storyboard in case you’re attempting to do the same thing. 

I am fairly well-traveled.  It’s the blessing of a military childhood and a blessed adulthood.  Beyond that, I’m nosy inquisitive about everything around me, especially other cultures.  The idea of learning not only what people did in a society, but why and how that influences the current generation enthralls me.  I’m not one for watching it on television, but rather reading or visiting in person.  The internet is great for virtual travel, by the way.  So exploring it all to see what calls to you is important.

My explorations range from an Asian influence at birth to growing up around the globe but calling Louisiana home.  I am drawn to a certain level of intricate décor but refined and classic lines.  I can appreciate minimalism and sharp edges, but it’s not something that speaks to me. 

From the romance languages to their associated countries and a love for the vibrance of color used in Asia, it’s created an interesting mix of images for my idea boards.  PS:  All the pictures from france and Spain are my own... I forgot to take pics in Japan both times (work).
If it speaks to you, take a picture or buy a garment in the colors.  Have souvenirs of the places and things that grab you.  You may not understand the message they are speaking immediately, but if you let them pass you by, you’ll never have the chance to study them and figure it out.  This is the great benefit of things like the Houzz ideabook, Pinterest, and several other similar “pin” sites.  It gives you a virtual storyboard.  I also advise having a physical one, when it comes to interior and fashion design, at home.  I have tile samples, fabric swatches, paint samples, and flooring samples galore.  Why?  Because I need to know what the house will feel like as well as the visual impact.  Texture is important.
Visit my idea books to see how these are applied to homeideas.
Check out my review on color to see how it can apply toevery part of life!

As you curate your storyboard, some things will fall off your radar.  You’ll come back to it and while it may be intellectually striking, you’ll find it no longer actually speaks to you.  The color is just a little wrong or it doesn’t feel pleasant.  Discard those items so they don’t distract you from your core interests.  This is why samples and virtual boards are great; you won’t waste money and time on large pieces of furniture or artwork only to find you can’t stand it.

Mid-century modern = Helvetica Font to me.  They have their use and are not displeasing to the eye, but lack personality or originality (in my mind).  They are overly organized to the point of lack of character.  That may not be true, but it’s how I see it.  I would feel displaced in a home with this design.

Gothic or Victorian = Old English Font to me.  They are ornate and can only be used minimally.  They are accent pieces not a full paragraph or room of design.  If overused, they drown the senses and make anything beautiful difficult to discern.  Walking through Versailles was a stunning hit to the senses – great for a visit, but you can’t really LIVE there.  Which Marie knew judging by her little village down the road.
Arts and Crafts, Classic French, Italian, Moroccan, Tuscan, and Spanish however all seem to call my name.  Touches of the Industrial, Art Deco and Art Nouveau balance out the lushness of some of the design which leads me to the next element.

Combine the seemingly unrelated.  Somewhere in the mix of all the things you capture is the right mix that represents you.  It’s not formulaic; it’s instinctive and takes time, trial and error.  If you’re working on a space or home, consider not just yourself but everyone sharing the space.  This makes it a challenge at times, but it will be all the more rewarding when everyone in the house can look around and say, “Our home is perfect.”

Create something from scratch.  Repurpose something personal.  You must infuse yourself into anything you design because, much like theater, design only sparks when there is some personality infused.  When you’re working on a home, it’s a schizophrenic infusion of all the inhabitants personality, but it can be done.  This is the beauty of today’s intrigue with DIY, Upcycling, and inventive space utilization.

Looking into 2015, I see color trends after my own heart.  I love the idea of not reserving certain shades for Fall or Winter, but embracing them year round – much like nature.
Elle Décor’s look at Pantone Colors are a brilliant mix of rich and neutral.

Sherwin William’s ColorMix for 2015 is beautiful.  There are only a few colors I find jarring, but the rest flow together with a classic and cultural vibe.
Even Pantone’s glimpse into the fashion world’s colorpalette will make the spring designs a temptation for me!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Creative Inspiration: In the cupboard...

So, when I have a lot to do around the house (like finish unpacking and finding my Uggs), I like to distract myself with creative inspirations.  (We're going to pretend I purposefully distract myself and it's not my inability to focus when stressed.  Avoidance?  Me?  Never.)

Today's inspiration comes from the cheapest store ever: What is already in your home.

Specifically I find myself intrigued by aluminum foil, parchment paper and waxed paper.  I have two light fixtures to adjust in my family room.  (I have 3 already purchased to install - no four - but have been taking my time about it.  Why?  I have no idea.  Also, I have two of the same chandelier, but can't find my receipts to figure out why I would be so stupid as to buy two of the same thing.)

I also have some furniture pieces I need to finish and start using.  (Hello, bedside table and dish cupboard, yeah - I'm looking at you.) 

So here are some really cool things I've found while procrastinating ...err, researching.

Aluminum Foil
Antiqued Foil Monograms

Backsplash! This honestly may replace my vintage mirror backsplash idea for the kitchen. This with a little aging from the Masters collection could be stunning!

Parchment Paper
  Shoji Lamp  (For that matter, you could use a similar technique to make your own shoji screens!)
A floral centerpiece

Waxed Paper

 Capiz Chandelier
Have a metal shower rod?  Rub it with waxed paper and the rings will be soundless on it!
OK, back to ..researching... more to follow...

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Marriage Files #107: Sleep Correlations

I've come to the conclusion that the better rested my DH and I are, the better our relationship goes.  We listen better and work in harmony more; thus we argue less over misunderstandings and silliness.

Working fulltime jobs, taking care of kids, attempting to take care our health, managing the house, tending the dogs, and being a good son / daughter respectively can take a lot out of a person.  Add onto that all the other little commitments we give our time to and you suddenly have reduced sleep to an afterthought.

I am very guilty of this and know it's a habit I have to break if we're going to have a baby in the house ever.  For me, I shut down.  I do certain things by rote, but the more tired I get the less I can process emotionally; the less rational my decisions become; and the less productive I am in general.  I also find myself getting annoyed by things I wouldn't even notice on a normal day.  This leads to me being upset for no reason with my best friend and love.

Likewise, he also reacts poorly to too little sleep.  He compensates by overdoing exercise or plunging into activity without reading instructions or asking questions first.  Then he puts himself to sleep by playing a video game, watching sports, reading a book, or some other activity that doesn't involve communication with other humans.  For him, napping at random times seems like a solution but in my observation, it only makes things worse because it's not good sleep.  Like me he is less productive in areas and also more emotionally volatile.

This does not make for a good environment.  One wrong word and suddenly we're both two angry chipmunks chattering at one another for no reason.  By the time we step back, we're even more exhausted.  This is something we're working on in our lives, but maybe it's worth taking a look at in general for most couples. 

How much of the inability to move forward is due to physically or mentally exhaustion?

This article talks about the steps to a good nights sleep and it's affects on marriage.  Now, I don't know if you can actually sleep your way to a better marriage but you can give your household a more balanced atmosphere by ensuring everyone is well rested.

My few tips include:

Save the television for downtime during the day.  Use a DVR or OnDemand, but don't stay up to watch your favorite show (even if it's watched together) if it's eating into your 6-8 hours of needed rest.  (That's for those over age 30, the numbers increase with age.)  Take a few minutes to snuggle and chat before dozing off instead.  It will be worth it to wake feeling refreshed.

Skip the late dessert or midnight snack.  Not only will your waistline thank you, but everyone processes food differently.  Eating too close to bedtime can cause you to wake fully or pop in and out of REM sleep so often that your body never truly rests and rejuvinates.  If you're starving, have something small with strong protein chased by cleansing water (but not too much, bathroom calls in the middle of sleep aren't any more helpful than indigestion.)

Lay down together, even if you're not tired.  Just the act of joining the person you love in bed really seems to help align priorities.  If they doze off and you're awake, you have time to enjoy the person you love and think about whatever major events are occuring in your life (there's always something.)  With time, your internal clock will also realign and you'll find yourself drifting to sleep at the same time.

Handle the issue.  Much of the time, the things that keep you up at night are stresses in your life.  Talking it out with your spouse or taking care of an issue (pay the bill / figure out a plan / clean the kitchen) can relieve the stress immediately.  Ignoring it solves nothing.  Annoyed with your spouse, take a few minutes before getting in bed to address the topic.  I'm not advocating picking a fight, but sometimes at least expressing how you're feeling can help a lot.  Even if you don't resolve the issue right away, you can agree to readdress it later.  Not going to bed angry isn't just an old wives' tale, it's pretty darned accurate advice.

Edit (cause I forgot one):  Learn to say no.  If you're committing too much time to other people, events, causes that it's limiting the amount of time you spend sleeping, it's time to learn the art of denial.  You cannot be everything to everyone, but you ARE everything to you.  Sleep is important.  There is no argument to that and if you embrace it, you'll be happier for it.

Accept physical needs.  If you need a CPAP, special pillow, elevated legs, white noise, blackout shades, etc. - get it.  There is no shame in your bedroom with your spouse.  There should only be acceptance and love.  Just find a way to still touch one another before falling asleep because physical touch, much like with infants, is a bonding thing. 

Make out or love, often.  Some nights are school nights or early mornings are to follow and you can't commit to a full session but a little romance always goes a long way to sleeping well.  It raises the right hormones and chemicals in the body to relax and repair.  Even when you don't feel like it, you'll find it goes a long way to helping clear your mind because your heart doesn't change.  That's the great thing about being with the one you love and being in love, all the mental or emotional baggage can't change the fundamental truth of belonging together.

Last, but not least at all.  Pray together.  Whatever your faith relationships may be, take time to speak to that higher power and agree together.  Dream and plan and hope together.  As close as you may be, unless you're a superhero, you can't read minds.  Speaking aloud, together, your wishes for the future can be a bonding and healing event.  Some people will do devotions together, others will simply daydream together.  Whatever form this takes in your life, don't skip out on it.  It's the very behaviour that helped you find one another and can keep your connection fresh and new.  That hopefulness and joy is a delight to the resting mind and keeps your dreams united and sweet.

So, I'm no expert but I find that these things help us a lot.  Hopefully you will find them useful as well.

The Cleanse: Fasting and Purging

So, I'm going to have surgery in a few weeks.  I won't pretend I'm not a little scared and nervous about it.  Any time you're put under and your body is messed with internally, it's scary.  My hubby will be right by my side, which I'm thankful for, and I'm prayerful that all will go smoothly.

Leading up to the surgery, the advice has been that I reduce stress and do a physical cleanse to reduce possible complications under anesthesia, etc. 

I've been gradually getting myself ready for many weeks of restricted eating.  I'm almost ready to give up the carbs, etc. completely.  Almost :) 

I think one of my go-to substitutes will be these:
For an extra treat, take one and put it in the freezer for 30 minutes.  So much like ice cream it's sinful!  Also, hummus (spicy) and some interesting clean soups (more to come on these) will satisfy (I hope) most of my needs.  See, prepared!

What I haven't been prepared for is the sudden influx of personal stress in my life.  I've been writing the series on friendship, right?  Suddenly I find myself at a crossroads in one of my relationships.  The last piece of the Making Friends series is a tough one.  It will be out this week for sure, but I've had a hard time completing it because it involves making some hard decisions.

One of the realizations I've been forced to face is that just because I value and treat someone as a close friend does not mean I can ignore the fact that they don't treat our relationship the same way.  Trying to compensate for others or denying facts only has an impact on one person, me.  I know this, but like all psych majors - knowing doesn't mean I am always aware when I'm doing it.  The amount of stress induced has shown itself physically with me and cannot continue.

So yeah, fasting and purging.  Both are hard.  I know I will feel better afterwards and be all the healthier and stronger for it, but right now - it kind of sucks.  I'm actually not a big fan of change that I can't control or design.  Go figure, right?

My silver lining is the people who are truly amazing friends, family and loved ones in my life are on my side cheering me on no matter what.  Also, fasting should mean some major weight loss and as an American female - who would not be happy about that, right?

Additionally, I'm reconsidering my theatre life.  I love acting, singing and performing in general.  There is something so amazing about the creative process and the final results are different for every audience member.  Love it.

Lately, however, it hasn't been bringing out the happy in my life.  That's not ok.  I mean, work doesn't bring out the happy either but I need to do it to pay the bills.  I've learned to leave work at work.  With theatre, it's much harder because part of theatre is putting so much of yourself into your characters.  I've made no decisions here, but I'm thinking about it a lot.  Either it's the places I'm at or the people I'm associating with, but something has to give.

The lesson I am learning is that even when you like something, sometimes it's just not good for you and no amount of patience can change that if it's a truth.  I don't have all the answers today (as you can see) but I thought I would share with you some of the journey.  We all go through these moments and I just wanted to show you're not alone. 

We will get through and be all the more valuable when we do, for the most precious and valuable are tempered and forged by fire, y'know.

Now, back to the bright side of life!


Happy Tuesday!

Happy Tuesday!  I’ve decided that until November (due to circumstances at work, etc.) I will not be posting on Mondays.  There’s just no time to get a decent post together and I’d rather skip a day than waste it on trivia or rambling. 

That’s what the rest of the week is for after all.

So this first post is a review of some new sites I have discovered.  I am not, by any stretch, the go-to for many topics but I can usually direct you to a good source.  Like Google.  Only less wealthy and all up in your business. 
First up is All Things Heart and Home.  The hostess, Robin, has done a lovely job with a mixture of DIY, recipes, and entertaining ideas.  One of my favorite things about her site is that none of it looks so difficult you couldn’t handle it, and it’s full of pretty unique design ideas - Like the wooden range vent hood.  One of the pieces I currently am enjoying is her curation of 2015 Behr Color Trends – love getting an early scoop on things!

Next on the docket is 11 Magnolia Lane.  While these ladies are brilliant with their entertaining, recipe and organizational posts, their DIY posts are among my favorite.  It’s written in a real and relatable tone.  Sometimes there are things in the DIY realm I want to try but am afraid to do, and they do it for me then tell me all the trepidation they felt and how it really turned out.  There aren’t always perfect projects, and I appreciate that.  Right now, I’m looking at an older post (several in fact) on how to paint fabric because I can’treupholster, but I can paint.  Check it out!
Farm Fresh Vintage Finds is Beth’s baby.  I admire her because she and her husband bought a dilapidated farmhouse (her words!) and have been making it into something stunning.  Her work really inspires my architectural salvage gears and makes me want to take all the old and make them new.  Her blog is sprinkled with tips and stories about farm life.  One of the things I really enjoy about her blog is her link parties and curated posts.  Everyone does them, they aren’t unique to this blog, but I’ve found hers to be more useful than many and the link parties go to blogs I haven’t ever heard of, thus expanding my range of connectivity.

Speaking of which, as an avid fan of – you know I can appreciate a well put together design and décor site.  What about a site that takes that one step further with gardening, home maintenance and repairs, repurposing and upcycling, cleaning and organization tips?  Thank you  I originally found this through Farm Fresh Vintage and it’s a great find!
The last site of my quick review is called Made2Style.  Cindy is a woman after my own heart.  (I think we even picked the same outdoor lighting fixtures!)  Her realistic (and affordable) ideas come from that creative “work with what we have” place.  For all that we have a large house and can do “more” with it, that’s still my attitude most of the time.  Her posting is about once per week, but the projects are ones anyone can do at home the same day for great results without breaking the budget.  Right now I’m latched on to one of her older posts on how to turn the crappy plastic blinds into gorgeous roman shades!

Now, just so we're clear - none of these people know me nor I them.  In fact, they have no idea I'm reviewing their sites.  No payment or anything is being exchanged.  These are honestly cool sites I've found that I enjoy.

Now, on to the next thing...

We've all been on Etsy, but I didn't know I could find gemstones there.  I won't admit how much time I spent perusing various sites looking at gorgeous gems.  (Or how much I may have spent, allegedly...)  But I will tell you to start checking out Etsy for those things you wouldn't expect to find there.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

Additionally, One King's Lane has gotten some recent dinero from me because they have some really cool stuff on sale right now.  I advise checking them out.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Healthy Snacking: Spicy Sweet Peppers Recipe

For as much as I enjoy baking, I have been really trying to live healthier.  To that end, I've gone back to some tricks I used to use for the workplace.  Figuring out snacks and quick meals that won't kill your diet is key.  I like to snack on sugar snap peas and frozen greek yogurt mini cups.  Sometimes, however, I like something with a little kick.

Spicy Sweet Peppers

·         1 Bag Sweet Mini Peppers (Usually Multi-Colored)
·         1 Wheel Laughing Cow Soft Cheese in Light Queso & Fresco Chipotle
·         1 Package of Wholly Guacamole Spicy Minis
Take 4 peppers, cut off the tops, clear out the seeds on the inside.  Insert ½ of one cheese wedge in the pepper – should be about ½ the pepper.  Add one scoop of Guacamole to fill pepper.  You’re done!  With one guacamole mini, 2 wedges, and 4 peppers – you have a healthy, affordable and easy snack.  From the packaging, you should be able to get 20 or so full peppers (possibly more!)
Each laughing cow wedge is 35 calories, the guacamole mini comes in at a whopping 100 calories, and the peppers are about 8 calories each.  So that makes each pepper about 51 calories each when complete.  I find that I actually use less than the full amount of guacamole and cheese, depending on the pepper size.  4 peppers means 200 calories that are filling, crunchy and healthier than anything in the vending machine.
If you change out the soft cheese for some gluten free varieties and fresh guacamole, then you can potentially reduce your calorie count, sugar intake, and exposure to allergens.  Don’t like spicy?  Switch out the cheese for an herbal variety and the guacamole for a non-spicy variety.  You can also skip the cheese and use hummus instead!
I do these at my desk for lunch or quick snacks when we are too busy to eat.  They are so pretty, in my opinion, that they would make lovely appetizers as well.  You could also halve the peppers, add the cheese and guacamole, and serve them that way for a lighter serving.  Yum!

Master Bathroom and my obssession with tiles

When my husband and I remodeled his old home to sell, one of my favorite parts was redesigning the bathrooms and kitchens.  More explicitly, pouring through countless styles of tile for walls and backsplashes.  Give me all the tiles.  They range from starkly simple to garishly ornate.  The artist in me sees something in all of them. 

Suffice to say that now we need to retile the master bedroom shower.  (Grr) I am back in my happy place looking at tile. (Yay)  We are still on a super strict budget and it needs to blend in nicely with the existing tiles.  (I love a challenge!)

I am currently inspired by this:

Our light beight blah tile has no personality and putting some of this tile combination in the shower will liven up the bathroom considerably, without making it seem over busy nor scare off future buyers if we ever sell.  It may change my paint plans for this room (peacock blue, but we'll see) and that's ok.  I love it.  If I can find a nice river rock tile pattern to put on the floor of the shower, I would be over the moon.

Now to see what the hubby thinks of it. (Muy importante)

As for the topic of tiles, they have come a long way.   From inkjet printed tiles that look like natural stone but are a fraction of the cost in ceramic or porcelain to wood plank ceramic tiles you can use as flooring in wet areas or basements.  They are gorgeous and creative!

We have a new store, Floor and Decor, in the Woodbridge area that is a mecca of tile.  From wood flooring to mosaic backsplash, they have it all.  I could spend a lot of time in that store... but they might think I'm weird.

I'm waiting for chalkboard or whiteboard tiles to become a thing.  I have a ton of ideas you could do with those interactive sorts of things.  The metal tiles need to be magnetic or at least hold magnets.  You could conceivably tile a wall in your office as your message board wall.  From cork tiles to metal to white board tiles (hey tile makers get on that!), the options are boundless.

Imagine an entire whiteboard tiled wall for the kids to draw on.  Yes, you could just use paint, but if you use tile and they accidentally use something that isn't a whiteboard pen - you could still wash it off the tile!

Am I the only one who sits dreamily staring at tile?  Hello?

Fortunately the Next Day... a miracle occurred!

First, let me say only one cake got baked last night.   There were not enough eggs in the fridge.  The last time I checked, I was certain there were enough eggs.  Apparently, I remembered The other one will happen tonight.  It may be cupcakes, I have not decided.  Suffice to say, this molten fudge cake looks pretty yummy right?  I hope the Chocolate Salted Caramel comes out as yummy!

Second, yesterday sucked.  Without going into gory details, I found out that apparently my name has been dragged through the mud by people I respect greatly.  I'm not sure if it is due to miscommunication or what, but it was startling and upsetting.  Now, these people and I aren't that close personally, but they are involved in several aspects of my life professionally.  Do you know how distressing it is to find out that people with that much connection have a completely different view of you than everyone else in your life.  (I know because I asked around last night - a lot.)  This morning, it turns out that there are others that not only agree with me and are trying to help.

I went home feeling a little sorry for myself, but then my hubby and I were able to spend time together.  I was reminded how much I love him and how much he loves me.  We both had bad days and just being together made it better.

This morning, I woke up with a spirit of thankfulness.   Thankful for my family, my friends, my dogs, my job, my health, our house and all the little things for which we often forget to be grateful. The fact that I woke up in a completely different spirit with a positive attitude is a bit of a miracle.  Usually something that big hits me hard and I internalize it and dwell on it and feel horrible.  Instead, I let it go and focused on the good in my life.

Today is going to be a good day!  Why?  Because I choose to make it one.

Now, let me get back to the actual blog post for today...

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Random Thought Post: Baking Tonight!

Tonight I am going to make a double chocolate cake.  I'm also probably going to make a salted caramel chocolate cake.  They may or may not have rum, I haven't decided...

I am not going to eat any of it.  Stupid diet.

But that's ok, at least the house will smell like cake tonight!  Pictures tomorrow :)


TimeSuck: Television and me

When you work full time, freelance, and have a family - you get a little busy.  Throw in the pets and projects, extended family, and friends - you get a LOT busy.

But then every now and then, you sit down and click on the television.  I have to admit there are some shows I really enjoy, but I have been actively trying NOT to watch many of them outside online streaming recaps. 

Do you realize how much time is lost in front of the television?  How many projects could get completed?  Games played?  Snuggles given?  Kisses enjoyed?  Friends visited and memories made?

There are some brilliant shows out right now (I won't list them for fear of tempting you) but none of them can be that important, right?

This includes you NFL.

So while it's a little distressing (but Walking Dead is coming back on!!!), I am going to try to continue not watching television for a little while longer.

We'll see what happens.

PS:  If you want to keep me up to date on Once, Castle, Haven, Revenge, How to get away with murder, Forever, Walking I probably wouldn't say no.  I read fast. :)