Meal Planning

I joined Toastmasters several weeks back.  It is a national (international?) organization focused on becoming better and more effective communicators, mostly through public speaking.  I recently had my 2nd speech.  It was supposed to be about organizing your speech – intro, body, conclusion, etc.  My mind went to a recipe because of its clear steps but realized it would be difficult without a real demonstration and that was more of an undertaking than I wanted.  My next thought was meal planning.  To me, there are clear steps you can take to become a better meal planner and some clear results.  My speech was ok, people seemed to enjoy it (oh yes, you get feedback!) but I also went quite a bit over time.  No matter, I feel like my topic was relevant for me and for all other busy professionals out there so I thought I would share my outline here!  (Well, a somewhat cleaned up and added to for clarification version of my outline.)

Meal Planning:  it’s not just for housewives and stay at home moms.  It actually makes life easier for busy professionals.

  1. You will eat healthier.
  2. You will save money.
  3. You will save time and become more efficient.

How to:

      1. stock your freezer and pantry.

  • Frozen veggies and fruits!  Fresh produce is wonderful but it has a life span and since frozen veggies are flash frozen immediately they often have more nutritional value.  If you have veggies on hand, fresh or not, you have no excuse for not including at least one per meal.
  • Canned items.  I like canned corn and beans and also some canned soups.  I am very picky about canned soups and find myself buying the gourmet brands in the new fancy pouches and plastic containers – so not really canned.  But there are some brands that keep the sodium low and the content hearty.
  • Non-perishables like brown rice, quinoa, pasta, etc.  I love the Uncle Ben’s 90 sec microwavable pouches but also have clear plastic containers filled with others grains and pastas.  I love the organized look in my pantry but also know when I am running low on something and need to refill.  Best places to refill are from bulk bins like from Earth Fare and Whole Foods – it is less expensive because you don’t have to pay for packaging.
  • Sauces like pasta sauce, BBQ sauce or salsa can add flavor and/or round out a meal.
  • Meats that you can take out the day before to thaw or put in the crockpot in the morn to cook all day.
  • Make ahead meals that you freeze and then can either put in the oven or crock-pot (do this seasonly), the occasional frozen pizza (the ones from Trader Joe’s are bound to be better for you than Papa John’s).
  • When you have a pantry and freezer that is stocked with convenient items to either make a meal or round out a meal, those evenings when you are too tired to cook and tend to get take-out, you can even faster microwave some rice, rinse a can of beans, and add some corn and salsa for a tasty, well-balanced meal.  And if you are stocked with healthy items you have no excuse to not put together a healthy AND convenient meal.  Saving money, thinking more healthy, and saving time.

2.  stock your fridge each week.

Stock your fridge with regular and or favorite items that you know will be great for go-to snacks or side dishes.  For me, I almost always have these items in my fridge:

  • Spinach, salad, and/or kale.  You can eat a salad with almost anything as a side and you know you’ve got your vegetable.  You can also sneak things like spinach into meals very easily even if you’re afraid of the green stuff.
  • Apples – having items on hand for snacking is also good so that you are more likely to go for the apple that is already sliced and waiting for you than for the brownie box that takes 45 min to cook.  Apples are easy to pack for lunches and I also like them sliced in oatmeal or salads.
  • Lunch meat is great for lunches – I send sandwiches for P’s lunches often.
  • Onions are great to flavor almost any savory dish.
  • Sweet potatoes are a very healthy side dish and also heavy enough that I can make them the center of a meal.  One of my favorites is kale and sweet potato hash with bacon and onions, topped with a runny egg.
  • Eggs – great source of protein, on sandwiches in salads, etc.  And there are so many ways to cook them!

3.  Plan out your meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) once each week.

I am a big fan of planning out our meals, dinners and lunches because I make a lunch for myself and P every day.  I typically send a granola bar or homemade muffin with P for breakfast and I eat at the office from my stash there.

  • Use what you have.  I take several things into account when I meal plan:  portion size – P eats more than me, period – creating well balanced meals with a fruit or veggie in every meal, what is in the cabinet and fridge that can either be the base of a meal like frozen chicken breasts, and what we have that will pair with it.  The majority of my meals come from items we already have at home so that I don’t have to go to the store for little visits.  I’m bad about going in for one thing and coming out with 5 so I try to control my visits.
  • Be flexible.  Sometimes you’re not in the mood for the black bean & sweet potato burritos you had planned and you go for the frozen ravioli instead.  It’s ok to be flexible, listen to your body and mood and go for what you feel like cooking or really want to eat.  That’s why your kitchen is stocked with options.  And plan for one or two meals out if that’s what you like.  Tt’s your life and your plan
  • Plan for leftovers.  I technically cook for two but I am always considering leftovers or other ways to use the food I made for lunches.  I try to limit the amount of sandwiches I send Phil.  Keep it interesting and you’re less likely to get bored and start eating out again.
  • Think about how much money you would save each month by not eating out for lunch every day?  $50/wk, 4 wks/month – that’s easily $200 saved right there.

4.   shop according to your plan.

It is hard for me to stick to my list in the grocery store.  There is often at least one thing that goes in that I wasn’t planning on, but having that list and your plan really keeps the grocery budget down.  I can shop for 2 people who eat almost every meal, three meals a day, from home for about $200/month and that includes wine.  Occasionally I blow the budget but it a conscious decision to do so.  I will splurge on the expensive cheeses P likes so much or we need to do a major restocking of items.

  • I typically shop once a week but I know people who go every day and buy for dinner.  It doesn’t matter.
  • Think about the money you will save if you’re not just throwing whatever in the buggy while walking down the aisles, when you have a targeted plan and you’re not just wandering and picking up everything that looks good.
  • You will have less waste too because you didn’t buy too much food you couldn’t eat before it spoils.
  • You’ve also cut your time in the store down because you know exactly what you’ve come for.

To conclude: meal planning will help you eat healthier, save money both on groceries and eating out, and it will help you be more efficient.  So how are we doing these things:  stocking your kitchen with easy, convenient yet still healthy foods, plan out your meals in advance and shop according to that plan.

Easy peesy.  Any other tips you can share to make it easier for beginners??

Memorial Day 2013

Memorial Day weekend did not exactly go how we planned – it was bittersweet, with lots of highs and a big low.  I’ll start on a high note.  Friday night two of my best college friends came into town with their significant others for a nice dinner out.  I’ll have to do a separate post on the actual restaurant, Roost, because it was pretty disappointing.  I’d been before and had decent experiences but Friday night it took us hours to get through a lackluster dinner.  But it’s ok because we had lots to drink and who can complain about more time with their favorite people?  Cheers to triple dates (+1)!  After dinner we all came back to our house for more drinks which we enjoyed out on the new deck.  Funny story, P mentioned going back to Bar Cooke for more fun and my BIL, his brother, was like, where is that?  (Cooke is our last name.  Bar Cooke would be the establishment in our basement. Hehe.)  It was a great night and hopefully one that will be repeated soon and often.941374_736078176554_538785667_n

Saturday started well, two of our friends were staying for the weekend but had some family obligations so my whole plan was focused on the pool.  As I was getting into my bathing suit and P was planning on running some errands for the house, my mom called.  I actually had a little tremor go through me when I saw her name, what happened?, because we are more of a text/email family but she sounded chipper so that feeling quickly left.  She asked me where P was and to not let him leave – that should be have been my second clue.  I threw on a robe and ran outside to flag down my husband.  As soon as he was standing next to me my mom told me that my great-grandmother was not doing well and the doctor said she would not live through the day.  There is no real great way to say that.  Now, my great-grandmother would have been 104 (yes, she was born in 1909!) in August so no one can say that is was “unexpected” but it was still unexpected.  She’s been old for so long and hanging in there for so long I just kind of took it for granted.  My mom talked to P and I think basically told him to make sure I was ok and not to leave me alone.  I honestly did not know what to do.  I was standing in our front yard in my robe, crying, numb, not sure how to feel or what to do.  We ultimately decided to wait to head to Matthews, NC, where my family is, because no one, me included, wanted my last memory of my grandmother to be of her in the nursing home in pain.

Anyway, more on that topic later.  I have so many memories of my great-grandmother who has been a huge part of my life, especially  growing up.  We still went to the pool but P went with me.  It was weird doing something so normal when I was basically waiting on the phone call to say that she was gone.  I was definitely distracted and did not flip on my chair which resulted in a sunburn on my front, especially my stomach area.  Aloe has been my friend, clothing has not.  Also, I never realized how often P touches me around my midsection until it hurt every time! He was so sweet throughout the day and even went shopping and then cooked dinner on the grill.  We started with some fancy cheeses (and wine, of course) and he grilled bacon cheeseburgers, asparagus, and sausages.  I told him he needs to cook more often.
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Grandma passed around around 2:45am Sunday so P and I drove to Matthews for the day to be with my family.  We gathered at my parents’ house first then moved onto my great-grandmother’s house which my grandparents live in.  I won’t delve into Sunday but needless to say I felt so much better being there.

Sunday evening we were back in Greenville and went to a cookout at P’s boss’s house – so yummy.  We brought corn and ice cream with strawberries for dessert.  P’s parents were in town also and they came.  It was pretty funny to watch, P, his dad and brother, play croquette out in the yard.  We also saw several of the Freedom Weekend Aloft hot air balloons land in their neighborhood.  Food was delicious, company was great, and a distraction was welcome.251023_947348299569_201145196_n

P’s parents stayed for Memorial Day and my friends were still in town.  We had a full house!  We love having guests.  We spent Monday morning being lazy, hanging out on the deck.  We went to a shop P’s mom wanted to visit while she was in town – Cook’s Station – and then headed to the pool for the afternoon.  I sat in the shade since I was already cooked.  Relaxing by the pool with a book on such a nice day is probably once of my favorite things to do, ever.  We rounded out the evening with dinner at Olive Garden – always dependable and tasty.

So, highs and lows.  Memorial Day is about remembering those who have given their lives for our country, our freedom, and now it will also be a day that I remember a woman who was much loved and had a significant impact on my life.  Grateful for family and friends who surrounded me this weekend and the prayers that were sent up for my family.

Hope everyone enjoyed beautiful weather and even more beautiful memories this Memorial Day weekend.

Valentine’s Birthday

Ok, so my birthday was last week but that’s okay, it was so awesome I still owe it a post.  My birthday is Valentine’s Day, February 14th.  I was probably the best V-Day gift my parents ever had even after an extremely, extremely long labor.  But, I have mixed feelings about sharing my birthday with a holiday.  When I was single (5 years ago and intermittently through college) it was a blast.  My friends and I never had a reason to stay at home, gorge on ice cream, and pity our single selves.  We always had something to celebrate – me. :)  Of course, this also meant that when my best friends were not single, I took second place to the men in their lives but it was never really an issue.

As part of a couple, having a birthday on Valentine’s Day is difficult and it has taken me years to figure out how to not set expectations too high.  After all, V-Day and B-Day at once is really too much pressure on one man.  My birthdays with my, now husband, then boyfriend, were typically hit or miss and really it was all on me as to how they went.  P has never been a plan-ahead kind of guy, only on the big stuff like when he proposed (6 weeks planning went into that – impressed!).  Despite knowing this about him and loving what it conversely means – he’s spontaneous and fun – I struggled not getting upset when he waited for the last minute to make dinner reservations or to make some plans.  I love eating out on my birthday at a nice restaurant, trying some place new and too expensive for a normal evening out.  It’s my thing.  But it is hard to do because we always have the Valentine’s fixed menus to work around or work with – sometimes this is great, other times not what I want. Anyway, for years we ended up at the last place to have a reservation open and it was never the restaurant I wanted to try and I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.

This year I finally realized that enjoying my birthday was up to me.  I made the reservations myself weeks in advance to two places, one I love and another I’ve been wanting to try.  They didn’t have their Valentine’s menu up at that point so I waited to decide until we saw the menu and prices.  I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner, just make the plan – it’s one phone call or OpenTable usage, so easy.  It took the pressure off of P to read my mind (c’mon ladies, why do we expect this?) and we were both happy.

I really embraced the birthday this year.  It’s been a crazy year and the last couple of months have been kind of stressful for multiple reasons so I decided to just take some time for myself.  I had a free hot yoga birthday class, a gift certificate for massage from Christmas, and a gift card to my favorite store.  I left work early, went to the chiropractor (which I’ve needed) then went to yoga, grabbed lunch and some treats from Whole Foods (next door to yoga), then went for a massage where they have chocolate covered strawberries for snacking.  Urban Nirvana was really nice – the facilities (and treats) were really wonderful and the service was great.  I’m used to Massage Envy, still nice, but it’s no spa.  Urban Nirvana is a spa: bath robes, nice shower products, hot tea and cucumber water…  After my massage and third shower of the day I walked around Shops at Greenridge until I made it to my favorite store, The Loft.  They were having a 50% off sale on select items and sale items.  So I shopped.  Deals, deals, deals.

I left The Loft feeling so pampered and renewed.  There was a slight niggle of guilt having left the office for that long but I refused to listen to it.  I’ve learned that taking time for yourself, whether on a birthday or not, is incredibly important to keep your mind and energy fresh.  I had been getting frustrated at work and we had a project that was really putting us under the gun and I needed to get re-centered, mentally and physically, and refocused.  My attitude and general well-being has greatly improved!

I should say that we kind of ignore Valentine’s Day.  I always get P a card and a treat, this year jalapeno fudge, in other years cupcakes or Skittles.  Something small but meaningful.  This year he really shocked me for my birthday. I had been giving him a hard time the night before about what he would have done if I hadn’t planned our evening out for us (I was just being snarky) and the whole time he knew he had a huge surprise up his sleeve.  He woke me up early on my birthday and dragged me out of bed … I was so shocked I didn’t even fight him.  Not a morning person here!  After crossing the whole house he covered my eyes before leading me into the living room.  Upon opening them I saw this beautiful shiny red bike (as in bicycle, not to be confused with motorcycle).  P has had an older cruiser that he found and we’ve been talking about how I needed one so we can ride downtown and to friends’ houses – all within a 5 mile range.  And there, sitting in our living room, was this gorgeous bike.  I was like a little kid on Christmas when you see one under the tree!  The thing with P is once you stop having these expectations he hits a home run, knocks you off your feet, makes me giggle like a little girl.  It’s like with flowers.  I had a bf in college that brought me flowers all the time and they stopped really meaning anything.  P brings them to me so randomly that every time they’re special.  I have even kept some of the most important ones, dried, in the house.  I have to also point out the bike’s colors, cardinal & straw, red and gold, that not only so nicely compliment his blue and white bike but are also my sorority colors.  I’m not a big sorority girl but those colors will also represent some of the best years and best friends of my life.

Anyway – February 14, 2013 was a great, great, great day.  I’m so thankful that my husband, my team at work, and my friends all let me have my day.  It’s really nice to feel that special.

Any great birthday memories for you?  Or is your birthday also on a holiday?  How do you compete?  At least mine isn’t on Christmas!

New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions.  It always seemed to me like people make this list because it’s the traditional thing to do but they rarely really stick with them.  I feel like goals should be made throughout the year and only when people are really ready to commit to them.  I bought a Groupon for a gym but I am going to wait until February or March to start going because January is by far the busiest month of the year.  But the number of people get smaller as the year progresses – just an example of the trend.

I do like that the New Year inspires everyone to think about how we want to improve ourselves or our lives.  I like the idea of starting a new year off on the right foot, in the right direction.  So this year, while P and I were being lazy in bed New Year’s Day, we jokingly made a list of Resolutions, kind of.  #1 – Be on time to church.  We are always late!  #2 – Quit spending so much money.  It was an expensive December!  #3 – No more Wendy’s.  It was our traveling fast food of choice and also had a few late night visits by the hubby.  #4 –  Get a dog.  Well, that was on my list and I’ve not really convinced P that he wants one too. So, we’ll see.  I went from dog to baby to see if he would settle for a dog but my plan didn’t work, just got a no to both.  I also tried to get him to agree to a more serious idea, go on a big trip together that requires a plane.  We’ve never done that before but P’s not one to agree to big plans quickly so we’ll see how convincing I can be over the next 12 months.  When we get back from our trip, we’ll get a puppy.  HA!

I think these are realistic goals that we can set and keep for ourselves this year without making them too big of a deal.  But if we don’t keep them, it also won’t be a big deal.  It’s more about the big concepts, spend less, be healthier, etc.  Those are probably on everybody’s list so we’re not very unique!

So good luck to everyone with their goals for the New Year – see, not “resolutions”!  :)  Is there anything special on your list?

22 Days of Thanksgiving

Have you seen the latest Facebook trend?  I have several friends who are participating in a daily proclamation of what they are thankful for.  I think it’s a great idea to shout out to the world how much you are thankful for the life you lead.  I didn’t get involved on Facebook, but every time I read what someone has written I go through a little list in my head:  I am thankful for… It is a great exercise and I felt like this was the best outlet for it.  I’m not sure if the rules apply to all 30 days in November or just the 22 ’til Thanksgiving.  I’m going to start with 22 and go from there.  There is no order!  Pretend that every line starts with “I am thankful for…”

1 – Space heaters and extra blankets (and the body heat of my husband!). Our heater has been been broken for about a month now and we are looking at another 2-3 weeks until the part comes in to fix it.

2 – A beautiful, unique house despite the broken heater, faulty electrical (electrician is coming today!).  Despite the large mortgage payment and never ending list of things that need to be done or fixed, our house is stunning and I consider us so lucky to have found it.

3 – The ability to wear yoga pants or jeans to work every day – I may or may not have worn these same yoga pants the last 2 days as well…

4 – Owning my own business even though it is turning out to be a really challenging venture.

5 – On that note, paying clients.

6 – Two loving families, one that knows me so well and understands that I am an emotional roller coaster and another that has joined the ride.

7 – Two families to share holidays with.  Thanksgiving will be with P’s family and it’s bittersweet, I’m looking forward to being part of new traditions but sad to be missing out on my annual Black Friday shopping spree with my mom.

8 – Our little niece Elle.  I was there the day she was born and am excited to be a part of her life as she grows up.

9 – My new husband.  I feel our relationship continue to grow every day and I feel closer and closer to him every day (and not just for his body heat!)

10 – My husband’s ambition and work ethic.  He works so hard to make sure that our little family is taken care of and to secure our future.

11 – Nachos, especially with grilled chicken and real cheese.  And for Hinchy’s Chicago Bar & Grille in Hilton Head, SC that has the best ever nachos and was our first shared meal of the honeymoon.  (P.S. the trick is to make sure there are toppings throughout, especially cheese – hate it when the bottom is just empty chips!)

12 – Salads and veggies, especially after a day where my only meal was a huge pile of cheesy nachos.

13 – Emergen-c and Airborne to keep that sickness away!

14 – A good night’s sleep and sometimes a nap.  If I’m tired, I’m cranky and worthless.

15 – Amazing wedding photos from our amazing wedding.  Since I barely remember that entire day, the photos have helped restore some memory!

16 – Living in Greenville, SC.  A beautiful city with just nice people.

17 – The opportunity to make more money by dogsitting, babysitting, and working really fun events.

18 – Generous friends and family, especially with wedding presents!

19 – The internet! and Apple!  and basically all technology that makes me go, what did we do before without…. (i.e. iPhones, microwaves, indoor plumbing!)

20 – Thrift stores.

21 - Amazing girlfriends.  Nuff said.  Please move back to Greenville.

22 – and the last one… There is so much I could put here, people, items, places, etc. but to round it all out I’m thankful to be healthy.

I may have to add to this list periodically as they occur to me.  After all, we shouldn’t count our blessings just once a year.

Are you participating on Facebook, publicly telling the world what you’re thankful for?  Is it hard to come up with a list or hard to keep it down to 22?  

 

Married

Well, we are married.  (!!)  I have so much to write about the last two weeks, I don’t know where to begin.  I guess with:  It was perfect.  Not that everything went according to plan because it didn’t but it was perfect, the rehearsal dinner, the wedding, the honeymoon.  I want to go back and do it all over again.  I cannot believe that it is all over and I am back in the real world and P just left for a week traveling for work.

I feel different.  One of my fears of living together before being married, especially for so long (3 years), is that nothing would change.  I had a lot of people tell me that it wouldn’t.  We’ve waited to fully combine our finances so that is going to change but we already own a house together, we already share bills and a bed, we already live like a married couple.  But I feel differently.  My friend MC (now MH but will always be MC to me as I’m sure I will always be SW to friends) wrote me an email after she got married a year ago and I wish I could find it.  She was in the same situation, lived together for an extended period (although not as long as P and I), and then got married but she, like me, felt differently afterward.  Again, I wish I could find that email; she has always been so eloquent because it is hard to describe what I mean.  I love P.  I have loved him for years.  We, in a way, grew up together, became adults together.  We know each other really well, how can we not after 4 years dating, 3 of which we lived in sin?  I know there is more to learn but I guess there was always a little nervousness about that unknown, that learning.  I don’t know, there was always something being held back.  I remember after we got engaged I also felt a subtle difference, like something had clicked into place.  Now it’s like the piece that clicked into place is set, not moving. It has settled in and made itself comfortable.  I guess that is it, there is a deeper level of comfort, of ownership in a way.  I hate using that word but it’s like now I know I belong to him, no matter what, and him to me.  There’s just a deeper level of something there – not sure what to call it really but it is there.  I feel happier and more free. More secure and just solidly good.  Life feels right.

First dance

My dance with my dad ended too early for me at the wedding, I felt like we were mid-conversation and he was saying something when the music switched.  I wish I had asked him to continue but I wanted to also respect P’s dance with his mother.  And I’ve always struggled with the mushy stuff.  But before the song ended Dad was saying the things had fallen right into place with P and I.  It’s true.  We took the slow route but it was definitely the right route for us.

Father/Daughter dance

I got a little weepy last night knowing that our honeymoon time was coming to an end and he was leaving for a week and he told me that we had the rest of our lives to honeymoon.  I kind of laughed and scoffed at him, I mean, life is a roller coaster, but I also perked at the thought.  Letting the honeymoon be over is a choice, we can choose to make it last, to always make that effort to have fun and be relaxed with each other.  And even though I know we will argue and we will fight, at least I have the comfort of knowing that we are stuck with each other.

What about you – Did you live together before marriage?  How did you feel after you made it legal?

Babysitting

I’ve never been a big babysitter, even when I was younger.  I taught gymnastics when I was in high school and did some summer camps while in college but never really babysat.      I guess it is a little strange to me to be starting it at 26 years old especially at the same time we start dogsitting at our house.  In both cases it is great to have the extra money – we can easily cover our utilities with the extra cash.  I was talking to the mother of four I sat for last night about how it’s benefiting me to spend more time with children of all ages and personalities at this time in my life when we are thinking about starting a family.  We are not thinking of starting right now this minute, just know that it is in our future.  We probably won’t wait long.  (Scary!  That’s my body we’re talking about!)

Last night I stayed with four children.  While their mother was walking me around and going over their different schedules, the two younger ones were literally chasing each other around the house. I was a little overwhelmed, cannot lie, but as soon as their mom left they settled down and I had a very enjoyable evening.  I “played” Monopoly with one, took care of another sick one, carried the two year old around, and had a semi-adult conversation about why I wanted to get married with an eight year old.  I am always shocked as to what children know and ask, their ability to communicate and ask questions, and understand.  I was so shocked last week when the four year old I was with knew how to zoom in and out on my iPhone – then again, she’s used to playing with Dad’s iPad.  It is amazing how smart they are.  Not that I expect them to be dumb but I just never know what stage a child will be in at what age.  Last  night there was a two year old that could talk very well, walk/run very well, but was still in a diaper – I just have no idea when to expect these stages of development.

I surprise myself with these children.  I’ve never met them, never met their parents, was set up with them through a service created by some other Furman Alumni, Smart Sitters.  So there is no connection there but I find myself with this wealth of patience and affection.  It’s kind of like with Lucy – they all steal a little piece of my heart.  I’m not the warmest of people, struggle with vulnerability and emotion, have a really hard time letting down my guard, but I feel absolutely maternal toward these children.  I find myself hugging them comfortably while I am not a hugger.  I find myself gently touching their foreheads when tucking them in.  Being around them, behaving or misbehaving, is pulling out these emotions in me and gently telling me that I want to be a mother.  I’m in no means in any rush.  We have a lot on our plates right now – we do not need to further turn our lives upside down (again) – but I know it is absolutely in our future.  I hope we will be as blessed with such wonderful children as I have been spending time with.  I believe they are innately good children but also are a product of great parents – I joked last night that the 4 were “well-trained.”  I hope I can be a good parent, a good mother, but I am focused right now on being a good wife.

Coasters

As I was cleaning out the desk that sits in a entryway, kind of as a catch-all for everything that comes in the door like mail and my purse, I found some decorative paper left over from my book making days in college.  I had totally forgotten all about these papers and it took me a while to remember/guess where they came from.  It has been about 5 years since I took a book making class.

The papers are really quite lovely – I posted them large on here so that hopefully you can see the different textures, not just the patterns.  There are 2 families I can see – blues & purples and greens & gold.  I laid them out on our floor trying to come up with a way to use them.  They’re only about 5×7″ so I thought framing them all to put on a wall would be a little overwhelming for their size plus not a large enough presence on the wall.  Then I thought well maybe I could modge podge them on canvas somehow – get crafty.  I was undecided and just put them away, back in the drawer with some other keepsakes like the postcard my dad sent my from France years ago and a couple of really special letters.

A few days later I was on Pinterest – who isn’t? – and landed on a great idea!  Coasters!

(source) Two Girls Get Crafty

The steps seem pretty simple and even though I don’t have any of the materials, I know where a Michael’s is.  And by buying them, maybe I’ll feel inspired to do more crafty things… I did paint those wine bottles (even though they’re not finished).

Wine bottle project (needs to be touched up with paint)

I was definitely sold on the coaster idea when I was getting into bed last night and didn’t have a coaster for my water bottle on the night stand.  These would be great in my house and also great for gifts.  Let’s see how long it takes me to do them! Have you found and completed any crafty Pinterest projects lately?

I Love Lucy

Lucy

This is Lucy.  Lucy is an 8 year old golden retriever that has been staying at our house the last week.  Lucy has stolen a piece of my heart and will sadly be going home today.  It’s strange how an animal can come quickly into your life for a very short period of time and make such a connection with you.  I kind of want to keep her but know that her owners (P’s boss) probably have missed her.

We offered to dogsit several weeks ago and had no idea what we were getting into.  We don’t have pets.  P’s never really wanted one and I’ve always been wishy washy.  I love the idea of a dog but am not sure I’m ready for the training and the expense.  I think P hoped that by dog sitting we would know for sure we didn’t want a dog.  Now, if we rescued one that was already house-broken and was as smart and awesome as Lucy (in a perfect world) we’d both have a hard time saying no.  Yes, we’d miss the puppy cuteness but we’d miss the puppy crazy too.  Of course, I imagine it’s very much luck of the draw with personality!

Apparently, Lucy was a wild puppy but you would never guess with how calm and well-behaved she is now.  She follows us around the house, understands commands, and basically does exactly what you tell her to when you do.  It’s pretty amazing.  I’ve hated having to close her up in a room during the day because she would be fine in the open house but I don’t trust the contractors who come in and out all day.  At least it’s a sunroom so she has a great view! Not only is she easy (well-trained) but she’s so sweet.  Several times I’ve laid down in the floor with her and she’ll just put her paw on me somewhere, partly to ask to be petted and partly to be connected.  A couple of times she just cuddled right into my body.  Last night she came upstairs with me even though there were 4 people downstairs and she just curled right up on her bed next to ours to sleep.  It made my heart hurt to know that was the last time she’d be sleeping so close or that I wouldn’t be hearing the jangle of her collar in the house.  I hope her owners let us keep her again when they go on vacation or maybe even bring her by to visit so we can go on our walks/runs.  I take Lucy out to walk but really it ends up being Lucy taking me for a run.  I have never been a runner but it was fun with her.

We’re keeping another dog in a couple of weeks for another of P’s coworkers (word got around) and I’m worried this one will be a miscreant, that our luck has run out!  It will definitely be hard to compete with Lucy.  She is the best.

 

My Favorite Blogs

I’m finally almost all caught up with my favorite blogs. I didn’t start reading blogs until about 2 years ago when I found a link on Facebook to a blog written by a girl I went to college with.  I knew her but I didn’t know her, if you know what I mean.  Small school, we all kind of knew of everyone but we were not friends.  Of course, now I wish I had been her friend and kind of still want to be.  We’re social media buddies, which works for me.  Anyway, her blog is honest, cheeky, and fun.  Not to mention she is a yogi.  Early on in my reading, she posted some of her favorite blogs and I got sucked into many. So thanks, Katie, for getting me hooked.

Blogs aren’t only a waste or time or means of procrastination, I have learned so much from these ladies.  So here are some of my favorites!

I’ve started adding blogs about marriage and faith the last couple of weeks.  I don’t like blogs that are overtly religious but I love how these couples bring their faith into the strength of their marriages – I hope to have a strong one myself.
Today’s Letters - Such an inspirational couple both in their marriage and the adventurous lives they lead.  Short and sweet and feel good.
Live Simply Love - This one is a new one and I’ve not read much but I enjoy their openness and willingness to allow others to learn from their experience.
Please make suggestions for others on marriage!

Health & Fitness:  Strangely enough the majority of these women either just had a baby or are pregnant which probably doesn’t help my own baby fever.  Also, it’s so weird that almost all of these women either live in or have lived in Charlotte, NC where I’m orginally from.
Kath Eats - registered dietitian and soon to be mom.  Recently moved from Charlotte to Charlottesville, a city I cannot wait to visit.  Owner of Great Harvest Bread and eater of natural/organic foods – non-vegetarian.  Also, her baby blog, Baby KERF.
HTP - 
I’ve actually met Caitlyn in person at her husband’s clinic! Moved from FL to Charlotte and is a new mom and vegetarian.  Creator/author of Operation Beautiful.
Daily Garnish - Trained chef, vegetarian.  Currently living in Seattle via Charlotte and DC.  Also, a new mom!
Meals & Milesnormal girl working in events and social media (like me), living in FL, and also planning a wedding.  She’s the only non-pregnant/mother and has never lived in Charlotte.
These ladies often train for races, triathlons, marathons, etc. but I have to admit I have no desire to run or race so I typically skip these parts.  If you are interested they often post training schedules and advice.

DIY / Home Decor:
Young House Love – (duh) A super cute couple in Richmond, VA (where P’s family is) that are renovating/decorating house #2 room by room.  Great DIY tips!
The Lettered Cottage –  another married couple fixing up their house. Great DIY tips especially if you’re looking for shabby chic or a cottage look.
Style by Emily Henderson - Emily is a favorite HGTV designer (oh how I miss my HGTV marathons without cable, although it’s probably good because I don’t need to create more work for myself!).  Definitely great inspiration, she often posts about her best thrift store finds.

There are others I sneak peeks into semi-regularly but I love spending time on Google Reader catching up.  I also have a set of professional blogs that I try to keep up with that would deserve their own post – great content for marketing out there!  I’m not a daily reader by any means, I probably catch up 2-3 weeks at a time.  It’s a strange kind of voyeurism pervading our society these days, blogs, reality TV, social media.  I guess I relate, envy, or am inspired by all the blogs I read – I think it does add to my existence.  Maybe I just need more real friends!