Tuesday, June 16, 2015

{Lifestyle} South Beach Diet - Why I'm Doing It

Since getting married in March 2013, I've gained 30-35 lbs.  I'm not the heaviest I've ever been in my life, but I'm heavier than I want to be.  

I probably gained the first 20 in the first year of marriage and the remaining 10-15 since then.  In January of this year, I finally stopped gaining and have been able to hold steady, but that was only half of what I wanted to be achieving.  I don't need to get down to my pre-wedding-weight (I was only at that weight for a short time before the wedding), but I would really like to get back to my comfortable weight (AKA: The weight I need to be at in order to fit into the majority of my clothes).  

The weird thing is, while I feel disappointed with myself for allowing this to happen, I'm conflicted, because the real reason this happened is that I'm HAPPY.  I don't need to blame anyone or anything - I have simply been enjoying life.  I've been spending time with family and friends (often over food and drinks), chatting over meals with my husband about things both big and small, having picnics in the parks with my puppy, cheers-ing to new jobs, new homes, new adventures... and I wouldn't take a second of it back - not even to fit into my best skinny jeans.

The issue for me really is that it's not the decisions I've made during these times that were bad - it's all the times in between.  I probably didn't need to have a bagel at work every morning for breakfast and I definitely didn't need those mid-day trips to the convenience store for a chocolate fix.  That's all excess and that's where the problem lies for me: I don't need to indulge at EVERY meal.  I can indulge when the mood strikes - as long as it's not all the time.  "Everything in moderation" is my mantra, only I have been completely ignoring that.

So, for the past six months, I've seen that I can very easily maintain my weight, without even much effort.  What I needed a plan for was losing enough weight to get to a point where I have a reason to open my third drawer and wear some of the many pants I no longer fit into.  Enter: South Beach Diet.

I don't generally believe in dieting.  I prefer to make lifestyle changes and look for ways to incorporate those changes in a way that they aren't a "fad" for me.  In other words, it should be something I can maintain on my own.  

I've used Weight Watchers with success (in fact, that's how I lost 35 lbs prior to my wedding), but I think I realized I didn't want to track points for the rest of my life.  I wanted to learn a new way of thinking about food that could sustain itself without an app or monthly subscription.  

I took a look at the way I tend to live my life and tried to find something that would allow me to do that, while providing guidelines I could follow throughout my life.  I'm not a fast food junkie, but I'm addicted to carbs.  I'm not a big boozer, but I love having a glass of red wine after a long week.  I'm not a chocolate fiend, but I love me some cheese.  I'm not extremely active, but I take my dog for long-ish walks at least once a day, sometimes twice.  And I walk to and from the train station, all of this resulting in what my Fitbit says is usually around 12,000 steps per day.

I started reading up on South Beach Diet and learned that it's heavily Mediterranean-based.  It takes a three-phase approach - Phase 1 (for two weeks) carb-free, with lots of lean proteins, vegetables, healthy fats and no sugars at all (including alcohol) to break you of your addiction to carbs.  Phase 2 (until you reach goal weight) which slowly re-introduces carbohydrates via fruits and whole grains (and red wine!).  Phase 3 is the maintenance phase, which is the "phase" you'll stay on for the rest of your life with the knowledge you gained from the other two phases.  If at any point you start slipping, you can revert back to Phase 1 or 2 to help get you back to where you were.  

I felt like this was something I could do.  To me, this was a logical way of living.  You eat as well as you can using wholesome, nutritious ingredients.  When life gets in the way or amps up and meals are a little more out of your control than usual, you compensate by restricting a little until you're back to where you need to be.  All I needed was a plan (and to get through Phase 1)!

In my next post, I'll go over how I prepped for embarking on the South Beach Diet, as well as logging a daily food journal for the duration of the plan for anyone who is interested in what my experience with it has been.  What was/is your most successful "dieting" approach?  Any words of encouragement? Help a girl out! :)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

How Exercising Got Me a China Cabinet for $25

This is a story about how exercise combined with being in the right place at the right time, got me a china cabinet for $25.   If you ever needed a little motivation to get out there and do your workout, this is it.

This past April, I began running (I just completed the Couch to 5k Program!) and there was a relatively hot morning a few weeks ago when I was really struggling to get motivated and get out there.  I finally decided to just do my run (more like "Get it over with") and boy am I glad I did, because I stumbled on a Yard Sale right near my house that had a big china cabinet sitting at the curb.  I noticed it as I jogged by and made a mental note to mention it to my husband when I got home.  After my shower, we were getting ready to go grocery shopping when my husband agreed to swing by the yard sale to check out the china cabinet. 

Seeing it up close was a little disheartening.  It was very dusty, which was highlighted by the sun shining directly on it and you could really clearly see all the scuffs and scratches in the sun, including a chunk of missing wood, but instead of a price tag, there was a sticker that said, "Make offer."  The homeowner came over and told us it was a Broyhill and asked us to make her an offer.  Truth be told, we weren't in love with it seeing it so up close with the sun highlighting all of its defects, but we kept talking to her about it and I finally said, "I don't want to insult you."  She said, "Guys, we're moving and downsizing and I'm not bringing this thing back into the house, so how about $25?"  Neither of us could believe our ears, so we agreed and made arrangements to borrow my Father-in-Law's van to bring it to our house (which was literally around the corner).  

A couple of hours later, it was in our Dining Room in place of the sideboard that used to be on that back wall:

I used some Murphy's Wood Cleaner and Windex to give it a really thorough cleaning.  I even used Q-Tips to get into all the little corners and crevices, since there was dust in all those spots.  I was practically inside the China cabinet with the Windex, cleaning all the grime off the back mirror and inside of the glass.  Well, they say hard work pays off and I'd like to say they're right:
Here are some of the crevices where the Q-Tips really came in handy:

As far as that chunk of missing wood I mentioned earlier?  Enter, Minwax's Stain Marker:

These things are amazing.  I bought one in the shade 230 - Early American, for less than $6 from Amazon.  When it got to my house, I just shook it up and applied it to the bare wood.  No sanding, no nothing.

It made the huge blemish practically invisible.  Here is another place where I used it (you can still see the dent, but no discoloration):

Another thing I did to spruce it up a bit was spray paint just the hardware silver.  The rims on all the china inside are silver, so I thought it would be a nice update to all the tarnished brass the hardware previously was.

I just unscrewed the hardware and then placed the screws back into the backs of the hardware and punched holes into the top of a pizza box to stand the hardware up.  Then, I gave them all two nice coats of Krylon's Sterling Silver Spray Paint.  After they dried, I screwed them back into the china cabinet and was thrilled to see how it instantly updated the look.

After cleaning it, we were able to stock it up with all the beautiful china we inherited from my husband's Grandmother and the champagne, martini and cocktail glasses we got from our Wedding Registry last year.  

Stocked Up!

I love how it sort of makes the room seem more formal, but also so much more functional!  Prior to having a china cabinet, our china and glassware were in boxes in the basement.  We hadn't yet used them since living here, but since unpacking them into the china cabinet, we've already gotten to use them for Mother's Day Dinner.

Have you unexpectedly scored anything great lately?  Tell me in the comments!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A New Floorplan!

In my last post I talked about how we started off 2014 with a burst heating pipe and over $25,000 in water damage and how we made a split-second decision not to put the house back together exactly as it was.  Here I am with an update!

The renovation has been completed and we're pretty much done playing "Musical Chairs" with our furniture, shuffling it around from room-to-room.  Today, I'd like to introduce you to our new Living Room/Dining Room combo!

This is pretty much exactly what you see when you walk in the front door (courtesy of the panoramic photo capture mode on my camera):

Directly in front of you are the stairs to the second floor.  To the left is our new living room, which used to be a bedroom that was separated by a wall that we removed and to the right is our dining room, which used to be our living room.

Here's the new living room side:

And here's the dining room side:

Before this room was our dining room, it was our living room and was closed off to the room on the other side of the stairs:

Here is that same exact view now (with the front door closed):

Huge difference, right?! The wall that was separating these two rooms had a closet on the other side of it for the bedroom, but it wasn't a load-bearing wall.  We also had the railings for the stairs replaced and I just love that you can see through the staircase now.

I'm still working on hanging things on the walls so they don't feel so empty, but I'm loving how it's coming along.  Here are some close-ups of some of my favorite details so far:

I springed-up my coat rack as much as possible with some bird decor:

I just loooooove this bling-y chandelier I got from Overstock.com:

Those frames behind the table are filled with some free botanical prints I found online, that I put into wooden frames from WalMart:

I'm on the hunt for a large ornate mirror to hang over the buffet in the dining room, so hopefully I find something great soon!

In the living room, I'm loving the colors introduced by the pillows and painting:

Check out this lamp that I spray painted and the red bird art I got from a calendar.  I replaced the art inside one of those square IKEA art frames with the bird:

I've still got lots to do, but I'm enjoying the openness and brightness of the space so much!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Wacky and Wet Start to the New Year

Four days after the start of the New Year (and less than five months after moving in!) we experienced our first disaster as homeowners.

We walked in the door from grocery shopping at about 5:30 in the evening to water gushing out of our ceiling into our Living Room, Bedroom and flooding our Basement.  Lots of panic and flying expletives ensued.

The Aftermath: Christmas comes to an abrupt end.
The same view after the walls were opened up for drying and mold prevention.
It turned out that the copper pipe that runs along the eaves of our 2nd floor carrying hot water to the baseboard heaters had burst in two places.  After turning off the water main, it still took a good 20-30 minutes for the water to finish pouring out of the ceiling on our main floor, which gives you an idea of just how much water was up there.  It had saturated our hardwood floors, walls and ceilings, as well as the walls and floors in our basement.

The Aftermath:  Walls are ripped open to find broken pipe.
One of Two Culprits.
I'll spare you the details, but there was approximately $25,000 in damages.  This included our sofa and brand new mattress, which didn't survive the incident.  After filing a claim with our insurance company, we're having a restoration company do the repair work.  But the most exciting thing is, we decided NOT to put things back exactly as they were.

Ironically, just prior to the New Year, we had sat down and talked about our plans for the house over the next couple of years.  We planned to spend this year prepping the upstairs for us to move up there to sleep and shower (re-finishing one of the upstairs bedrooms and the upstairs bathroom) all with the intention of converting our existing Master Bedroom into a Living Room and then moving our Dining Room into what was our Living Room.  We had planned on accomplishing this by knocking down the wall to the left of the stair case when you walk in.  We saw this layout once when we were house hunting and it was beautiful.  So nice and open.

The far wall adjacent to the stairs is the one I'm talking about removing.  That wall would have a banister to match the one that's already there, opening up the front two rooms to one another.
When the restoration company told us they'd be re-finishing our hardwood floors, the thought crossed my mind that now would be the time to knock down that wall.  We didn't want to have them re-do the floors, then in a year or two remove that wall and then have to re-do the floors again, since it can be a pretty disruptive process.  So, we asked them to just go ahead and remove that wall (since it wasn't load-bearing) and we'd shuffle our rooms around accordingly.

Here's where we are now.  
That same wall opened up to what used to be our bedroom
View from the opposite side, inside what used to be our bedroom.  This will now be a Living Room.
Another angle of the removed wall, facing the front door.

Same angle from other room.
View while coming down the stairs.
Those are some interesting wall coverings they used in the '50's, huh?

I'm really excited about this, because I think it'll change how we use the whole house.  I realize we'll be losing a bedroom, but right now it's only the two of us in a 4-bedroom house anyway.  And we have potential to add the bedroom back upstairs where we'd prefer it later on, anyway.  Also, there's still a closet in the corner of the new Living Room, so if we need to, we can put the wall back up and convert it back to a 4th bedroom.  Mostly, I'm just looking forward to getting our living space back and being panel-free in these two rooms!

I also hope that it will inspire me to tackle more decorating/DIY projects around here, because I was so preoccupied in the first few months of living here that I barely accomplished anything.  So, here's hoping a clean slate gives me a fresh pair of eyes to tackle this new space with!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How Craigslist has helped me make a House into a Home

Thanks to Craigslist, we now have a home for all our books! 

In my last post, I mentioned how overwhelmed I was upon moving into our first home.  We weren't able to do any painting or renovating before Move-In Day, so the whole experience was rushed.  All we were able to do was some basic cleaning and pulling up some carpeting in what is currently being used as our bedroom.

Weeks after moving in, I was starting to get more comfortable, but there were still a couple of things preventing our house from feeling like a home to us.  One was that in a couple of rooms, there were still stacks of boxes that we couldn't unpack, because we didn't have anywhere to put their contents.  Specifically, boxes full of books and our China.

I quickly learned that buying a large bookcase brand new was going to cost a lot of money.  We weren't prepared to spend hundreds of dollars on a large piece of furniture just yet, so I started scouring Craigslist for something.  On a morning over Labor Day weekend, a listing popped up for a really nice, large, real wood bookcase.  They had it custom-built for their home, but when I measured the walls in our office, I saw that it would fit perfectly on one of the walls.  More importantly, they were only asking $50 for it!  They actually had two of them, but only one would fit in our office.  

After checking it out in person, we knew it'd be the perfect solution for our Boxes O'Books, so we scheduled a time to come back with a U-Haul to pick it up.  The U-Haul rental was actually more expensive than the bookcase itself, but we knew we needed to rent a truck at some point to go back to our old apartment to pick up some outdoor furniture we left in the garage and both locations were close to one another, so it was a good time to tackle that chore.

We came home and I immediately began unpacking all of those boxes and now you can see the floor in the office (I can see in this photo that the carpet needs to be shampoo'd)!

Other side of the room - with a cat in his tree

Another thing that was preventing our house from feeling like a home to me was not having anywhere to host guests.  We had a large dining table that we brought with us from my Husband's Grandparents, but we didn't have any chairs for it.  We wanted to be able to invite people over, so we started looking for dining chairs and almost fell over when we saw some of the prices.  I mean, $200 for a single chair that only gets sit on once a week (if that) seems exorbitant.  We needed 8-10 chairs (the table seats 10) and our max budget was $1,000 for all the chairs.  It became clear that this approach was not going to work.

I knew after a weekend of visiting different stores and coming up with nothing, that second-hand was going to be the way to go.  I checked both Craigslist and Ebay for a little over a week, when on my morning train ride to work, a posting popped up from someone in my area selling a beautiful cherry wood dining set.  It included a large dining table (with a leaf) with 8 matching chairs (two of which had arms), as well as a China cabinet, for $1200.  I had originally asked the seller if she'd consider selling us just the chairs, but then I realized that the chairs were too large/wide for the dining table we inherited from family and also, the chairs and table were meant to go together (we just didn't have room for the china cabinet).  We checked the table and chairs out in person and I offered her a little more than half ($650) for them and she accepted!  We borrowed a friend's truck and brought home our beautiful new dining table and chairs set for $650!  Way under our $1,000 budget, for chairs, alone.

Here they are in our Dining Room (sorry about the sun-squares):

A few scratches, but nothing terrible!
Just check out those legs!
Here is it without the leaf:

And there's one more thing Craigslist is responsible for in our house - our first piece of granite in our Kitchen!

Since we don't yet have a china cabinet, I had a ton of glasses that needed a place to stay.  I was so tired of pulling them out of their boxes every time I had company over.  I had this wall in the Kitchen on the Dinette side that had a small bookshelf there for a bit for extra storage, but I wound up moving it to the Living Room, since I needed storage there, too.  For a few weeks, this wall was blank and I had been searching for a Baker's Rack, because I knew it was the perfect place for one.  But holy moly are they expensive!  

Then, one morning on Craigslist, a beautiful granite and wrought iron Baker's Rack popped up with an even more beautiful price tag of $75.  Apparently, we were the first people to call about it and to come see it.  We borrowed my Father-In-Law's Van in case we liked it and sure enough, she came home with us and now lives in our Dinette, holding most of our beautiful wine glasses!  

The granite slab alone was probably 50 lbs.  It's such a nice addition to our Kitchen, especially since we looooove wine!

These are just a few reasons why I love me some Craigslist!

Happy Living!